Inspiration, mental health

What if?

I’m sure you’ve heard of affirmations and positive self-talk by now. I am sure you know that on some level, they are useful tools to build your self-worth and self-esteem; however, I am also sure that there are times in which the statements are too much of a stretch for you. If the gap between your current mentality and the positive affirmation is too wide, you are likely to give up and avoid practicing. So, what’s the answer???

The answer is “what if”.

What if you believed them. What if you added “what if” to the beginning of the affirmation as a bridge to cross the wide gap? Take a look at the affirmations below and I’ll show you below how to implement the “what if” strategy!

You may struggle to believe “I have the power to control my thoughts”, especially if you struggle with anxiety and rumination. If it feels like Susie Sunshine is harassing you in reading that first affirmation, try reading git like this:

“What if I have the power to control my thoughts?” …does that feel any more realistic? I feel like it can make a huge difference in the choices you make because if there is a chance that you DO have power and control over your thoughts, you might be less likely to give into your next impulsive urge!

Let’s look at the last one on the pink page for a second example: “I am worthy of good things”. If you are struggling with that idea, try stating internally “what if I am worthy of good things?” and let your day unfold from there!

What do you think…are you more likely to use affirmations if you could add “what if” as the bridge?

anonymous young lady paddling boat in lake during trip in mountains
DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

I cannot express enough, the power and efficacy of progressive muscle relaxation. By and large, it is one of the best treatments for stress and anxiety.  For my clients struggling with chronic anxiety, difficulty falling asleep, and the stress of a chaotic lifestyle, I routinely recommend this type of meditation.  I encourage you to utilize this video as a way to sink into a calm mental place and enjoy the peace it brings.

If you tend to be an anxious person, progressive muscle relaxation is a simple and easy tool that can take your baseline from an 8/10 to a 5/10 which will improve focus, improve sleep, decrease racing thoughts, release muscle tension…all for free!

Modern technology is quite a blessing in this regard. Gone are the days when you would have to purchase relaxation CD’s…using YouTube, it’s quite simple to find a guided meditation that works for you and your style.  Consider searching terms such as “progressive muscle relaxation”, “paced breathing”, loving kindness, and/or relaxation meditation. 

accomplishment action adult adventure
Inspiration, mental health

Do 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 or Hulu! 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. We reach for and pay for a marketed quick fix and (shocker) it doesn’t actually work, we never change our core habits related to our physical health and thus end up on a viscous cycle. If you actually want physical health, you have to live a physically healthy lifestyle every day.

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. 

photo of white and purple painting
Inspiration, mental health

A short list of ways to increase happiness at anytime

1. If the task can be completed or mess can be cleaned up quickly, do it

2. Drink more water

3. Text someone (or 5 someones) “hey, I was just thinking of you! How are you today?”

4. Hug someone, if no one is available: hug a tree

5. Get 8-9 hours of sleep

6. Don’t watch TV

7. Go outside for 5 minutes and just observe nature, in whatever form you can (sky, birds, blades of grass, tree branches)

8. Eat a balanced and healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner

9. Wake up 20 minutes before you “have to”

10. Exercise. Even 10 squats before climbing into bed.

11. Look at funny memes/comics

12. Read something

13. Reflect on one happy memory

14. Fantasize about travel

15. Eat a piece of candy or chocolate

16. Unsubscribe to/unfollow something that annoys you

17. Subscribe to/follow something that inspires you

18. Write down 3 things that don’t suck today

19. Call a relative

20. Dance

21. Choose a few items you can donate

22. Tell yourself, seriously, that you are doing a great job

23. Open your mail instead of throwing it into a pile

24. Meditate (consider trying an app or guided meditation on Youtube if you’re new to it!)

25. Play a board game

26. Sing along to your jams from a simpler time

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Breaking Down the Confusion Surrounding Mindfulness

Mindfulness is not only a hot topic in our culture today; it is a fantastic tool that anyone can utilize to gain immeasurable benefits.  Many people equate mindfulness to meditation.  This is accurate and inaccurate at the same time.  Mindfulness is a large umbrella concept, meditation does fall under the umbrella; however so do many other techniques.  Mindfulness is merely choosing to focus all of your attention on one thing, one task, or one thought.

Under the mindfulness umbrella, there are two main techniques:

  1. Focusing your attention ON something or some task.
  2. Clearing your mind

Frequent feedback that I get is that the first type of mindfulness is easier.  In our culture, focusing on something is much more acceptable than focusing on nothing.  There is a judgment that focusing on something is still accomplishing something, while clearing your mind is a “waste of time”.

Focusing on SOMETHIING can take almost any form:  purposeful conversations with eye contact and no cell phones, choosing to read a book with limited distractions, painting, doing a puzzle, breathing techniques, body scan, yoga, fully throwing yourself into a sport or exercise etc.  The goal is that you control your attention as opposed to blowing through the breeze at its mercy.  When being mindful, you may notice distracting thoughts or urges; however you choose to let them pass.

Clearing your mind may indeed be more difficult; however the benefits are life changing.  What I hear most often is that it’s weird or the people don’t “know how” to do it.  Clearing you mind can happen in many forms.  Zen mindfulness suggests sitting upright and comfortable in a meditation position.  The only goal is to sit upright and still.  Thoughts will rise and fall, we don’t judge or cling to them if possible.  Sitting periods can be anywhere from 60 seconds to hours at a time.  There are of course other ways to meditate: prayer, reciting mantras, contemplating an issue, chanting, listening to classical or calming music etc.

So why should you buy into this? Because it works!  I will admit I was a skeptic at first.  I thought people would make fun of me or judge me (and perhaps they do…). I didn’t think I could “make time”…I was too busy!  I began practicing as to not be a hypocrite.  The benefits I experienced are right in line with the numerous studies out there and include: boosted mood, mental clarity, improved ability to problem solve, increased feeling of connection, increased wisdom, improved productivity, optimism, and confidence to name a few.

I urge you to give it a try.  Start with stopping several times per day to intentionally focus your attention on the task at hand.  If you are walking, walk.  Feel the knee swing through, the weight transfer from foot to foot, and stop ruminating.  If you are working, work.  Stop multi-tasking, pay attention to the ink on the paper, to your fingers on the keyboard, to the voice on the phone.  If you are watching TV, watch TV.  Stop eating, stop folding laundry, put your phone down and just watch TV.

Once you feel confident in your ability to control your attention in those ways, begin several times per day to stop and breathe.  Just stop what you are doing and take 10 deep, slow breaths.  Center yourself, and then carry on with the task at hand.

Finally, intentionally choose to block out time in your day to practice a formal sitting meditation practice.  Whether 5 minutes or 50 minutes, just take time to sit and be still.  What have you got to lose?

Uncategorized

GIVE IT AWAY

Read to the bottom if you want some #freestuff

Did you know that today, July 15th, is officially #givesomethingawayday? I must tell you that I am here for it! Most people that know me personally know that I am not the most sentimental person when it comes to keepsakes and storing away items that once meant something to me. I accept this about myself and I do not see it as a fault; rather, I see it as a nod to sustainability, minimalism and whatever the opposite of greed is. I believe that less is more and that if something doesn’t serve a purpose in my life, then it is better off being loved and used by someone else.

I don’t take it as far as some (ahem Marie Kondo…); after all, I do have two totes of keepsakes from my childhood (my old girl scout sash, my first rosary, a high school uniform, my first “cool” watch featuring Tweety Bird, my piggie bank, etc) stored in my basement! I kept all of my Barbie’s and their accessories from childhood and my girls currently play with them! I think there is value in being able to pass down and reflect back on these items; however, as the present moment is where I choose to live, I want to minimize the likelihood of falling into the past accidentally.

In honor of #givesomethingawayday I am asking you to do a few things for me and then I will gladly give you a SIGNED copy of my book, shipping is on me as well!

  1. Share one of my blog posts to a social media account of yours. Any post is fine, whichever you prefer. Bonus points if you tag someone else who might want to read it.
  2. Go follow me on another social media platform (links below) and interact with one post. Bonus points if you tag someone who might enjoy the content!
  3. Actually read my book if you are chosen and then tell someone about it!

If you want to be entered into the drawing for a free, signed copy of my book Adulting Well, please comment a self care action you enjoy below on this post and then follow me on any of these pages in addition to following my blog here on WordPress!

https://www.facebook.com/yourmentalrestoration

https://www.instagram.com/yourmentalrestoration/?hl=en

on TikTok @your.mental.restoration

https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriaberesford/

Inspiration, mental health

Are You Burnt Out or Overwhelmed?

I have had a lot of life happening over the past three months…

  • I published my first book
  • I quit my corporate job
  • I launched my own business as a therapist
  • I launched Wellness Boxes on this website
  • I started selling at local vendor fairs
  • I launched a Podcast
  • I joined TikTok

I’m sure there were more but that’s enough to think about right now! In all of the chaos, I don’t feel like I ever properly introduced my Wellness Boxes!

What is a Wellness Box?

A wellness box is a gift box of mental wellness items, targeted at a particular demographic. This could be a gift for yourself (my favorite reason you should purchase one!) or a loved one.

I have two wellness boxes established (and more planned…)

  1. For those who are anxious. This box is sourced from USA women owned businesses and is luxury self care kit! If you like pampering yourself and need a reason to unwind, this box is for you. This box has 8 items within it, a retail value of $62, yours for $38.
  2. For those who are burnt out on life and need a little bit of fun, a reminder to smile and a box full of levity, this box of 13 items, with a retail value of $44, is yours for $30!

I would love to launch my third wellness box; however, I’d like to see a little bit more interest in the concept first! I chose to go with my own Wellness Box idea instead of subscription boxes because I don’t want to be a part of anyone being roped into a monthly fee. I have also personally subscribed to a few subscription boxes to see what was out there and I was sadly disappointed – they didn’t seem to follow any sort of pattern or theme! I want you to know that I hate wasting my money and I do not want you to waste yours!

Find yours here!

photo of woman looking at the mirror
Inspiration, mental health

Three Ways to Increase Self-Esteem

  1. Get a hobby –

Seriously, find something – anything – that you are good at or want to be good at and that you enjoy or want to enjoy. Don’t overthink this step. We live in a diverse world with diverse offerings and there is a place for you. Do you have a “weird” idea…GREAT! Do you have a “basic” idea…GREAT! Take off with it.

When you spend time doing a hobby, it starts to give you an identity. If you could see yourself being the guy that makes birdhouses, the girl that bakes or the person who knits kittens with adorable little noses, then gather your supplies and make time in your schedule to get it going.

I enjoy going to vender markets and craft fairs. It never ceases to amaze me the creative and unique things people come up with to sell! This past weekend I went to one and saw booths selling:

  • Bookmarks made from parts of old books
  • Journals made from old kids books
  • Candles poured into teacups
  • Birdhouses from repurposed wood
  • Thrift store finds being upcycled again at a “sustainable boutique”
  • Maps cut into shapes and framed

I like to follow crafters and unique hobbies on social media and some of them include:

  • mudlarking (look it up)
  • repurposing furniture
  • podcasters
  • poets
  • doodlers
  • fitness experts
  • dieticians
  • mental health advocates

I tell you this so that you have a very small set of examples available to you. You could try anything from fencing to stamp collecting! The more you engage in the hobby, the more it will give you the message that you are interesting, you have things to talk about, you are worthy of people’s time and attention and you have a purpose!

2. Treat your body with kindness –

Low self-esteem generally leads people to degrade their bodies and personalities. I hear self-deprecating jokes, no self-love and I see people engaging in harmful habits, because they just don’t care. They don’t seem to think that they are worth their own time, attention and kindness.

Harmful habits include (but are certainly not limited to) being promiscuous, smoking/vaping, avoidance of exercise, not eating in healthy ways, overspending, self-harm, making jokes at your own expense, not trying new things, and binge watching television series.

Treating your body with kindness is a skill that takes time to develop. Making choices to nurture your body instead of damaging your body will feel foreign and uncomfortable initially. Kristin Neff’s work on self-compassion is a great place to start. Just like learning any new activity, you might not feel very successful initially; however, with practice you will develop a stronger set of muscles.

Treating your body with kindness might include:

  • drinking more water or hot tea
  • meditating
  • taking a bath
  • using those face masks you have gotten as gifts
  • going for a walk on your lunch break or after dinner
  • eating vegetables
  • putting lotion on your skin
  • telling yourself positive messages
  • using affirmation cards
  • stretching
  • reading
  • creating art
  • organizing your area

Give yourself the message that you are loved and worth of your own love, time, and affection.

Change what you see

I believe that television and social media can be visual toxins. If you see people complaining and judging on social media, if you follow “The Jones” or “Suzie Sunshine” and feel you will never be enough, if you watch the evening news and/or violent and vulgar shows, then you might find your thoughts turning to darker topics more often than you’d like. It might be trendy to take in these negative viewing options and it may be topic of conversation commonly; however, these types of shows generally fuel judgmental chatter.

Judgment begets judgment. If at first you start judging others (i.e. from watching the news or social media), it’s only a matter of time before that judgment turns inward toward yourself. Judging then leads to anger (at others) and shame (at yourself). Taking in negative will make you negative.

I urge you to unfollow and/or block pages and people that make you feel badly about yourself on social media. Delete social media accounts that are only used for comparison or unhealthy habits. If you are going to be on social media, be sure to follow positive accounts that inspire, encourage or amaze you! You can follow artists, mental health advocates, friends and/or pages that educate you. If you are going to watch television or movies, be sure to watch content that is funny, heart-warming, or educational.

Try these three steps for a month and see how you feel about yourself then!

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?

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Mindfulness and Hot Tea

I was sitting here reflecting on what to write about when I noticed my mug of tea.  To some, it may seem irrelevant; however I try not to do things that aren’t on purpose (meaning, I like to be mindfully awake to my life: what and why I make choices).  Mindfulness means that you happen to your life, not the other way around.  When I used to be less aware and less mindful, I would often go all day without drinking anything…or i’d be half way through a frappachino before I realized that I had ordered it.

Being mindful and tuning into my body, my emotions, my urges, my sensations…has allowed me to notice when I am thirsty, when my body needs a hug, when I am feeling overwhelmed.  This is not a bad thing or a thing to fear as many believe; rather, it allows me the chance to make wise-minded choices.

Hot tea is like a warm hug from the inside.  When I sip my tea, I feel nurtured and cared for.  It reminds me to slow down.  The process of making tea can be a mindful practice on it’s own: experiencing the smells, sounds, sensations, etc.  Hot tea is not something I drink fast either, which makes it a lovely reminder to slow down and enjoy this one moment. The reality is, that all we have is this one moment. Now is now. You might as well enjoy it!

The reality is that my moment currently doesn’t look as beautiful as the photo above…yet when I close my eyes and take a sip, I can transport myself to that photo each time!