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?

green leafed tree
Uncategorized

Using Social Media for Good, not Evil

Social media may seem unavoidable in the 21st century.  I want to show you how you can use it for mental HEALTH instead of mental anguish.   There is an analogy that everyone has a good and a bad dog within them (although I dislike the judgments there).  This is similar to the angel/devil on your shoulder analogy…however take a moment to consider which dog you feed more often? If they are your pets, which one do you spend more time nurturing?

Social media can be used for both good or evil.  You can subscribe to blogs that fixate on negativity, make you feel worse, and fuel your pity party or you can subscribe to those that are POSITIVE!

As a challenge, on all sites you are on, I want you to intentionally follow pages, hashtags, and topics that uplift you:

  • mental health
  • wellness
  • kindness
  • hobbies
  • nature
  • encouragement

On all networking sites, the users and topics that you search, subscribe to, and follow are up to you. Try following inspiration, funny pictures, cute animals, users that make a point of being encouraging, and/or appropriate family members.  There is even a sub-network called “Fitspo” which is a type of posts that are fitness inspiration, these would be an example of something great to follow.  Most sites even give you the option of “blocking” other users or “hiding” them so you don’t have to worry about hurting their feelings.  A big NO-NO here is following triggering topics, users that bring you down, encourage behavior you are trying to stop doing, or highly judgmental users, and topics that normalize behavior you don’t want to continue.  If a user or topic makes your conscious put up a red flag or if it’s something you feel ashamed to follow…REMOVE It!!

*these statements are made after my own investigation and use of each site.  This may or may not be the policy of each website and/or app.

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!

woman girl animal dog
DBT, mental health

How to Meditate

Everyone has questions about meditation. How to do it, why to do it, when to do it…

Formal Zen meditation is the specific type that I practice and encourage my friends, family, clients, etc. to practice also.  Notice I said practice…yes, sitting upright and still requires PRACTICE! In fact, most people avoid meditation because they’re afraid they will do it wrong or they will be bad at it (just like any other hobby); practice is required with any new task before you can feel competent at it.

The basic components of Zen meditation are:

  • Sit upright and still on meditation cushions (zafu and zabuton) with three points of contact with the floor to stabilize you.  I often sit in the position shown below “on a stool” but using cushions instead of a stool. My three points of contact are shin, shin and butt. Any position you choose needs to be a comfortable position and should not cause straining.  For example, if you cannot get yourself into lotus position, don’t! It is encouraged that you find a position that you can hold for the duration of the meditation without discomfort or your legs falling asleep. Having your rear end elevated (by a cushion, stool or chair) is recommended to reduce any blood flow issues.  Frequent shifting is discouraged, I recommend that you experiment with different positions in your first few weeks.
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  • Clear your mind as best you can and focus on either nothing or your breathing. When you are anxious, your mind and body are detached from one another. Focusing on your in breath and outbreath can help realign them.
  • Practice non-attachment and non-judgment when you notice your mind drifting (as it will) by gently bringing your attention back to your breathing. The reality is that your mind will wander and it will wander more when you are new to meditation and/or when your stress is higher.  We can acknowledge this without judging ourselves or the practice.  It is simple, not easy! Many people complain that they feel MORE anxious when they try to quiet their mind…which may be true because they have removed all of the distractions that they normally put between their feelings and their consciousness.  Ride that wave, calmness will follow. It reminds me of snorkeling in choppy water…the water is only choppy until you put your head under the water to see the reef below! Meditation is more about strengthening your “coming back” muscle than your “staying present” muscle!
  • Length of meditation varies, the magic isn’t in the number of minutes; rather it is in the willingness to practice steps 1-3 over and over and over.  Meditation is a muscle that most of us forget we have, thus it is out of shape and needs to be worked consistently over time. I encourage you to start with ten minutes and stay with that time frame until you get comfortable, then challenge yourself to 20!

The benefits of sitting practice are innumerable.  Science finds that:

Benefits-of-Meditation

You can really meditate whenever your want, where-ever you want, with whoever you want. I recommend group meditation in the beginning (look up group meditations in your city and/or on Zoom). Think about how much you cognitively know about exercising and eating healthy vs what you actually do in your day-to-day life, I find that group meditation holds you accountable and achieves better results just as group exercise does!

Inspiration

Books I forgot I had

To be honest, I have not forgotten that I have these books; however, I haven’t read them in a while. When I find an author that speaks to me, I will buy and read everything I can get my hands on by them. It is no secret that I have a passion for reading and writing. It brings me a great sense of peace to settle into a good book, so much so that I can truly block out the whole world when I’m in a good place.

Mitch Albom is one such author. I don’t have his complete set any longer because I am chronically giving his books away to loved ones as gifts! He was originally a sports writer (which shocked me as I am not a “sports person”) and achieved most notoriety for his book, and the subsequent movie adapted from it, Tuesdays With Morrie. Intriguingly that isn’t my favorite book from him. If I was forced to choose, my favorite books of his are The Time Keeper and The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It pains me to say that though because they are all so good! His most recent book, Finding Chika, had me in tears as it is a true account of him falling in love and adopting a little girl from Haiti with a terminal brain tumor. All of his books carry SUCH strong “take home” messages, you cannot read them without learning something about yourself.