When Outside Factors Affect Our Mental Health

bully

I’m usually an even-keeled kind of person. Properly medicated, I’m a laid-back gal. There are, however, a few things that will get me riled. The major one is witnessing someone being bullied or being bullied myself.

Last night, at a meeting I was bullied by a controlling woman who is known for doing what she wants when she wants regardless of what the rest of the group says or needs. I stood up to her, we had words, she cut me off mid-argument and refused to talk it out with me, stating that she was “setting a boundary” when I think she was merely, once again, taking full power over the situation. I was left reeling with overwhelming anger, hurt, and frustration, not to mention embarrassment from the witnesses who were present.

Looking back, I was not in a good state of mind when I went to the meeting. I have been anxious about the kids returning to school today, as this major change in my daily schedule usually brings about some level of depression in me each year.

Also, like many, I have been negatively affected by the suicide of Robin Williams. It has been on my mind; has made me cry; has reignited a immense fear of my own illness, and has sent me to my knees in prayer for his family, for those who die everyday from suicide that we don’t hear about and their families, and for myself and for all who live with mental illness.

I was extremely tired and had also skipped dinner before I went. (What was I thinking?!) Before the meeting even started and she bullied me, I was irritated about something else as well.

All is all, I ignored 3 out of the 4 rules of H.A.L.T. -

Never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

I always add an S. to the end of this for Stressed and Sick as well…and in my case Smoking because I am trying to quit and going through nicotine withdrawals.

Hmmmm…come to think of it, that woman’s lucky I didn’t slug her! ;)

3 Simple Ways to Combat Worry

worry

I am a worrier. Worry is one of the major symptoms of depression, and I have come to accept the fact that worrying is a part of who I am. Some days are better than others, but overall, my mind is usually running amuck with worrisome thoughts. Here are some ways in which I try to combat the worry in my life:

1) Practice Mindfulness

I try to stay focused on what is happening in the present moment. I asked myself, What am I seeing right this very second with my eyes? What do I hear? What task am I performing and how does that feel? For example, the laptop is hard and flat on my legs. The keys are small and black, and the cursor blinks methodically as I sit and think of what to type next. I am staying in the moment, not thinking of past or future events – not worrying! Being mindful by engaging in productive activity is one of the best ways I know of to stop worrying.

2) Prayer

I am not a religious person, per se, but I am a spiritual person. I believe in a higher power that gives me strength to deal with what comes my way in life. I have a plaque hanging on my wall that says, “God doesn’t give us what we can handle, He helps us handle what we are given.” I truly believe this, if we only ask for His help via prayer. It has always worked for me. Not always in the time frame that I want, but has worked eventually, nonetheless.

3) Talking with others

When I share my worries with others, especially others who have had similar fears, it seems to unburden the worries from my mind. It’s as if naming them aloud releases the power they have over me. By telling trusted friends how I am feeling, I also get the benefit of their insight and wisdom on how they dealt with the same worries, and their now broader perspective on the issues. It is also just nice to know that I am not alone in my struggles.

Are you a worrier? Is there a particular worry you can’t shake? How do you cope with worry?

This post is linked to Write into the Light’s Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Worry.

Daily Meditation – Fear Not

fear

Fear can dominate our lives. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the past. Fear of the future. Fear of all that is, of all that isn’t. It is an agonizing state in which to live. It is a state of mind, not a state of reality, in most cases.

If we can train ourselves to stay in the present moment, in the moment of what task is at hand, then fear cannot survive. What are you doing right this moment? Reading this meditation perhaps. What fear is there in this task? When you are making your bed, doing your dishes, taking your shower, what fear is there in that? None. It is the thoughts you have outside of those actions that cause you fear.

Keeping our minds focused on exactly what we are doing in the moment can eliminate much of the fear in our lives. It is not easy, but it is simple. It is worth striving for if only to gain a little peace in our day, minute by minute.

Daily Meditation – The Present Moment

fear

Life sometimes seems life a series of accidents, like things are spinning out of control. Scary, anxiety-producing, unknown. It can cause us to freeze in our tracks like a deer in headlights, just waiting for the impact take us out. Rarely does this ever happen. Our fears build up scenarios in our heads that make things more unbearable than they really need to be.

If only we could take a moment to stop our thoughts and concentrate on our breathing. Take a deep breath. Do the next right thing. Take it one step at a time. Have faith that if we only take care of what is in front of us – whether it be a daily task, a job responsibility, a self-care activity, a social commitment – the future will take care of itself.

For the future is never with us, only the present moment is. It is only in the present moment where we can take the actions that will make a difference in our quality of life. It is only in the present moment where we can find peace.

How to S.T.O.P. Anxiety

stop

When I have a stressful event coming up, such as a holiday, a trip, or out-of-town company coming to visit, I usually spend the days leading up to it preparing myself physically and mentally by scheduling very light, easy days. I make sure not to book any doctor’s appointments or other trips too far away from home. I make sure to get plenty of rest, and may even get a massage. I leave plenty of time to clean my house, pack, or prepare meals for the event, or whatever may need to be done; always asking for help from others, and always doing a little each day and not all at one time or at the last-minute.

Well, this weekend we are going out-of-town for a stressful social event, and due to circumstances out of my control and to prior commitments made I have major plans every day this week, leaving me not one day to rest my body and mind in preparation for our trip. Because of this my anxiety level is through the roof!

I fear I may not be able handle this weekend very well because I will not have had the proper time to prepare mentally and physically for it.

My anxiety plays out in funny ways. It makes me a bit hypomanic. I can’t sleep. I become obsessed with cleaning and organizing my environment, as if by making my surroundings perfect I will somehow feel more put together on the inside, too. I become irritable and agitated; I start eating poorly, and I get headaches.

I suppose I could go through the rest of the week like this OR I could S.T.O.P.

Sit still.
Take a deep breath.
Observe my feelings.
Permit them to be.

I tend to “run away” from uncomfortable feelings like fear. I used to run from them by abusing alcohol. Now, I become too busy cleaning or shopping or doing things for the kids to pay attention to my feelings, and become just as sick as when I used to drink, only you could call it an “emotional hangover” instead of a physical one.

I find that when I am able to take a conscious moment to be quiet, breathe, acknowledge what I am feeling, and allow myself to feel it, the feelings lessen, if not dissipate all together. It is when I ignore them, run away from them, or fight them that they become more intense, and sometimes unbearable.

It is now time for me to S.T.O.P.

How about you?

What to Do When the Holidays Trigger Mental Illness Symptoms

christmas stress

I am facing the peak of the holiday season as today is my children’s last day of school before their two week winter break. Not only does the stress of Christmas shopping, increased social engagements and family get-togethers, and the intense hustle and bustle of the general public wreak havoc on my mental health, but having school-aged children home for two weeks cooped up indoors is enough to drive a mama crazy! What to do? Here are some borrowed sayings I try to live by:

First Things First

My first instinct is to climb into bed, draw the covers up over my head and go into hibernation until it is all over. Obviously, I can’t do that so instead, I ignored the dishes in the sink and the presents needing wrapped, and took a two-hour nap this morning. I’ll do the dishes and the presents this afternoon after I write this post. No big deal.

Easy Does It

Tomorrow I am going to get a massage. I think it will help me de-stress and also prepare my body for the upcoming added stress of family engagements, especially since I am hosting Christmas dinner at my home. I plan on drinking a lot of water, and getting plenty of rest as well.

K.I.S.S. – Keep it Simple Stupid

I plan on cleaning one or two things/rooms a day and not the whole house in one afternoon as is my tendency. That way I don’t overwhelm myself to the point of tears and a complete mental breakdown; that and a crabby attitude toward the rest of my family, including playing the martyr role. Oh yeah, and I will not be doing everything myself…I will ask my family to help!

Practice an Attitude of Gratitude

I did a wonderful guided meditation on gratitude yesterday. I’ve never felt so relaxed while awake and not on some kind of drug! I will try it again throughout this week, and I will also be making gratitude lists whether on paper or just mentally each day to keep my thoughts positive.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Overall, I have learned that I have to take care of my body, take care of my thoughts, protect my time and my personal space, take my meds, abstain from alcohol, exercise, get plenty of rest, and keep some PRN Ativan on hand at all times.

How do you cope with holiday stress? I hope everyone is doing well. I know the holidays are a rough time for many. Please reach out if you are struggling. I would love to hear from you.

Four C’s of being a Parent with a Mental Illness

parent mental illness

I was driving my ten-year-old daughter home from her friend’s house one cool summer night. The car windows were down, and the wind whipped through our hair as the radio blasted one of her favorite songs. We sang along at the top of our lungs, laughing and screaming with delight. Just behind the excitement in her eyes I saw a touch of hesitation, a worry, and rightly so. I was manic, and while she didn’t know specifically about my bipolar disorder, on some level she recognized the signs, and it scared her…

Read the rest of my guest post today over at Dispatches From the Mad Parenthood Front.

River of Emotions

river

When I am feeling sad or depressed, or anxious and afraid, my first instinct is to get rid of these emotions either by doing something unhealthy like smoking or overeating, or something productive like cleaning the house or exercising. The goal in both cases is to block out the emotion; to ignore it; to purge it from my system; to eradicate it.

What if rather than trying to kill the emotion, I sat with it; let it flow through and around me, believing all the while I am safe, because it is my actions, not my emotions, that have the potential to harm me.

I find that when I do this, the emotion tends to dissipate on its own. It’s as if giving it recognition somehow facilitates its disappearance.

Today, I will acknowledge the emotions within me. I will validate their existence, keeping in mind that feelings are not facts. They cannot harm me. Like a river they will flow towards me, through me and then out of me, and I will know peace.

Video Post on DBT Distress Tolerance Skills of Self-Soothe Five Senses

Hi, guys. Here is a very short video post on the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Distress Tolerance skill (developed by Marsha Linehan) called Self-Soothe through Five Senses.

After watching the video, let me know what you do to soothe your senses by leaving a comment below. Thanks, and I hope you have a soothing day!