Let’s Talk About Stress

Today is National Stress Awareness Day.

Stress is physical, emotional, or psychological tension felt as a result of an event or thought that causes feelings of frustration, anger, or anxiety.  In short bursts, stress can be helpful, like in getting you out of a dangerous situation or helping you meet a deadline. When chronic, however, it can be harmful to your health and contribute to the development of conditions such as 

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Skin problems, such as acne or eczema
  • Menstrual problems

Common causes of stress include

  • Getting married or divorced
  • Starting a new job
  • The death of a spouse or close family member
  • Getting laid off
  • Retiring
  • Having a baby
  • Money problems
  • Moving
  • Having a serious illness
  • Problems at work
  • Problems at home

Signs of chronic stress include

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Forgetfulness
  • Frequent aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Lack of energy or focus
  • Sexual problems
  • Stiff jaw or neck
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Upset stomach
  • Use of alcohol or drugs to relax
  • Weight loss or gain

Sometimes stress can be managed by getting the right amount of sleep, talking problems over with a trusted friend, getting regular exercise and proper nutrition, and generally taking good care of yourself. Other times if you find yourself having panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed for weeks on end, or unable to function at work or home, you should probably contact your doctor or mental health professional for some help. 

Source: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003211.htm

How do you cope with stress in your life?

How to Deal with the Mental Health Provider Shortage

With mental health providers already in limited supply the increase in the need for services due to the stresses caused by the pandemic has made finding help extra difficult as of late.  If you are just starting out with problems, your primary doctor or ob-gyn might be a good place to start. In addition to doing an initial assessment, taking a history and prescribing medication, they can refer you to the appropriate mental health professional, if needed.

The obvious way to find providers is to check your health plan provider list. Consider those outside your area who offer teleheath services via the phone or computer. This could widen your options quite a bit. 

Seeing providers out of network or paying out of pocket may be other options to facilitate access to providers, which unfortunately are more costly and not possible for many people.  Although, some providers may offer a sliding-fee scale for those who are self pay that allows them to pay based on their personal income and what they can afford.

If you or your spouse are employed, you can check to see if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) which is separate from the medical plan. Typically you can access counseling at no cost on a short-term basis. Check with your HR department. 

If you are a student, take advantage of any free campus or university resources.

Your local church might offer pastoral counseling from a trained clergyman or woman which is usually free.

Some teaching colleges and universities may offer low-cost therapy provided by grad students who are supervised while they gain counseling experience. If there is such a school in your area, contact the psychology or behavioral health department and inquire.

SAMHSA is a government organization that is the go-to resource for locating affordable mental health care nationwide. Contact them at 1-800-662-4357 or online https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov

Online therapy is another option with chats with actual therapists from places like Better Help, TalkSpace or 7 Cups.com.

Theravive is a resource directory you could investigate for low cost therapists by state. 

Open Counseling is another resource for attaining accessible care. The site indicates if providers are accepting new clients and many list their rates. 

Open Path connects low-cost therapists to patients. I think you pay a lifetime membership fee and then get access to discounted rates on therapy sessions in the future. 

You can also get professional help getting professional help by contacting NAMI support services. Call their helpline, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) to find a chapter or services in your area. 

If your mental health puts you in an immediate crisis, help is always available by going straight to the hospital emergency room. All emergency rooms have access to psychiatric care. 

Are you having trouble accessing mental health services?  What are you doing about it?

Looking Back at Ten Years of Blogging at Write into the Light

Ten years ago today I posted my first blog here at Write into the Light. Ten years!  I feel like that is such a long time.  

I started off writing daily meditations because I couldn’t find any meditation books specifically written for people with mental illness or mental health issues. Over the years my writing has evolved from those meditations to journal-type entries and poems, to essays and opinion pieces, and finally, reports on mental health research articles. 

Regardless of the type of writing I post, all of it helps me process and cope with my own mental health symptoms and I hope helps others with the same. Writing has been one of my biggest coping skills when it comes to my mental illnesses, hence the name of this site. 

There were many months I was inactive and even full years where I only wrote a few blogs at most depending on my health status. Several times I almost closed the site down but I never did because even though I would go periods without writing, the stats showed that people were still viewing my posts on a daily basis.  And I thought, if the blog was helping someone by just being there then it was worth leaving up even if I wasn’t adding anything new to it at the time. 

Over the last 10 years I’ve written over 360 posts and have had over 44,000 visitors and 65,000 views. I have close to 900 readers on WordPress, a tad over 300 Twitter followers, 1200 and something Facebook fans, and 25 email subscribers. Definitely not a big outfit by any stretch of the imagination, but a small little part of the mental health community that I hope is contributing enough in a way that is making a difference in someone’s morning, afternoon, or evening every once in a while. 

I wonder who is out there who has been blogging for ten years or more. I am in contact with no one from my early days of blogging because their blogs have been dead for years and I miss some of them so much.  

I am happy to have found new bloggers throughout the years, however, and thank every one of you for taking the time to follow, read, like and comment on my posts. I appreciate you and always enjoy connecting with you. 

If you haven’t already, please follow this blog or subscribe via email and

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Can Being Too Busy Cause Anxiety?

The short answer to this question is yes, for sure. All it took was four doctors’ appointments in the span of two weeks and planning a birthday party for my mom on top of my normal daily tasks of running the kids to school and activities and keeping up on housework to bring me to DEFCON 1 anxiety.

My anxiety tends to present itself as irritability towards anyone whom I hold near and dear to me, most notably my beloved husband, poor guy.  I not only become dissatisfied with everything that is going on in the house, but I also can’t stand the way anyone is doing anything around me. 

It is usually best if I retreat to a quiet room on my own to chill out with something to read, watch or listen to. Sometimes it does help to talk it out with my husband as well. 

Also here is a great list of dos and don’ts when I find myself too busy and filled with anxiety. 

  1. Don’t over commit.  For example, I rescheduled some of my doctor’s appointments for a time when I wasn’t so busy. 
  2. Do prioritize.  I found that I could let laundry pile up a little that week and catch up on it the following week when I wasn’t so busy so I could make it to my appointments.
  3. Do delegate so you don’t have to push yourself so hard.  I asked for help in driving the kids to some of their activities that week to give myself a break. 
  4. Don’t forget to treat yourself for working so hard.  Mocha lattes every other afternoon for two weeks!

So, as you can see being too busy can cause anxiety especially in someone who already has an anxiety disorder.  However, there are ways to cope with it and decrease it if you take the time to make the appropriate adjustments to your schedule and approach. 

Keep an eye on your busyness before anxiety has its eye on you. 

Grateful for Some Normalcy, I Think

The kids get to go back to school full-time in my county and play sports, and we get to watched them play, too, with some restrictions like social distancing and wearing masks. I feel so thankful for being able to do these things especially when some counties only a few miles away from us are not able to.

However, like every fall, due to the change in schedule from basically no schedule during the summer to now carpools and sporting events and small talk with other parents and loud gyms and small group social events, my anxiety is very high.

I take a lot of breaks at home, try not to schedule too many things on the same day, know that the high school sporting season only lasts a short time, although then club season begins! Take my antianxiety medicine when needed, get plenty of sleep – I need 11-12 hours a night to feel good mentally. Physically I don’t need that much sleep but mentally I do. I feel like that is weird. Drink plenty of water. I don’t exercise no matter how much people advise it it just isn’t part of who I am. I will go for walks in the evenings if it’s nice out several times a month but nothing on a regular basis. I also have a few hobbies I like to do that distract me from my anxiety.

How is life in the year of covid-19 going for you right now? How do you cope with your anxiety?

When Mental Illness Takes Away Your People Skills

Part of combating a mental illness is making sure that you have meaningful activity to participate in on a regular basis. Even those without mental health conditions need to have meaningful, purposeful tasks in their life to make life worthwhile.

There are very few tasks that don’t involve interacting with other people. Even something as solitary as writing a book eventually involves submitting it to editors and publishers and dealing with them, as well as critics and readers.

As a result of my bipolar disorder, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and severe social anxiety disorder, I have the most difficult time interacting with people. This limits my range of productive activities that I can do outside of the home. I cannot hold any job that involves interacting with others for any length of time outside of my immediate family. I do short stints of volunteer work, an hour here and there, and that is it.

It makes me sad to think my life will be void of being of sustained service to other people for the rest of my life due to my mental health conditions. However, I can do nothing else but accept this reality and move on.

I do take satisfaction in the fact that I can at least blog here and write about my experiences and provide information and encouragement to those who may be in the same situation as myself.

Current Event’s Effect on an Empath’s Mental Health

I am what you call a highly sensitive person or an empath. These types of people are highly attuned to the emotions of others, have a hard time blocking out the emotions of others, and often are adversely affected by the negative moods of other people. Being in a large crowd of people is exhausting for me especially if it’s in a type of setting where emotions run high like a large church gathering or a wedding reception or a funeral. Even something as simple as a medium-sized family gathering is too overwhelming for me at times because the social dynamics are often too tension-filled for my empathic tendencies to handle.

Unfortunately, I don’t even have to be face to face with people in order to be affected by their emotions. Reading comments on social media, watching news stories on the television, or hearing people talk about current events on the radio or podcasts, all affect my emotions and mood.

As you can imagine, the past couple months with the pandemic and all of its complications and discussions and controversies over whether people should wear a mask or not or whether people should still be staying home or not or whether businesses should be opening or not have had a negative effect on my emotional stability.

But now, even more so, with racial tensions running high due to the death of George Floyd, my mental health stability has been pushed beyond its breaking point and I find myself feeling anxious and depressed and worried and upset and at times filled with despair about a situation in which there seems to be no viable solution.

I am not black, so I do not wish to take away from anything the black population is going through right now. I am a person with severe mental illness who is going through something, not the same as what they’re going through, but something negative due to the racism and hate currently brewing in the United States.

I don’t know what to do with these horrible emotions that come about from witnessing the hate and racism and conflict going on between the citizens of this country except to block it out from time to time by signing out of my social media accounts and turning off the television so as to not listen to the news reports. It seems to be the only way to protect myself from all the negativity, because I can’t seem processes it in a healthy manner if I let any of it in otherwise.

Does anyone else out there have this issue as a highly sensitive person? How do you deal with it? What coping skills do you use to manage the emotions that come up from witnessing the hatred and violence that are going on in our nation right now without becoming filled with anxiety and despair?

Serotonin: What Is It and How To Get It Naturally

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is related to depression. It is thought that those with depression are lacking in serotonin. Some antidepressant medications block the reuptake of serotonin leaving more available for use by the brain, thereby decreasing depression symptoms or so the theory goes.

Besides medication, which has been proven in clinical trials to have a significant effect on depression symptoms, there are anecdotal treatments some people say increase serotonin in the brain. These “treatments” aren’t always backed by scientific studies and should be discussed with your doctor before being tried especially if they involve any sort of supplement or exercise, but most appear relatively harmless and may even be helpful in relieving some depression symptoms in some people. These serotonin-producing ideas include the following:

  • Get more tryptophans from foods like lean meats, eggs, and dairy.
  • Get a massage.
  • Boost your vitamin B.
  • Soak up the sunshine or use a light therapy box.
  • Add more magnesium to your diet with dark, leafy veges, fish, bananas, and beans.
  • Be more positive, practice gratitude.
  • Reduce sugar intake.
  • Meditate.
  • Increase exercise.
  • Increase vitamin C.
  • Practice self care to reduce stress.
  • Keep a journal or practice some form a regular writing.

Don’t try to make all the changes at once, if it seems overwhelming. Tackle one or two items a month. Eventually you will get to feeling better and better and before you know it all of these things will become second nature, if you tackle them like a marathon not a sprint.

Play the long game. These changes are lifetime goals. You have all the time in the world to reach them, but start making them one or two at a time. You can do it and will be glad you did as you begin to feel better and better little by little until it adds up to be quite a lot!

It took me over ten years to get to some real solid stability in my bipolar depression. I did it by addimg a lot of coping skills and healthy habits to my life year after year. Trauma work in therapy and constant medication management was a huge part of it, too, but the anecdotal cures were essential and still are. They may be for you, too.

As always, comments are open for any questions you may have for me and for any shares you have regarding your experiences. Thanks for reading.

How to Know if You Have Depression and What to Do About It

How do you know if you are depressed besides the fact that you feel depressed? I’m talking “clinical depression.” The kind for which you need to seek professional help. The kind that if you let it go you may end up hurting yourself.

The kind that leaves you laying in bed most of the day wondering what the point of life is and how the hell you’re going to make it through another never ending insufferable day. A day that was just like yesterday; that will be just like tomorrow. One running into another like one long slow song playing in slow motion through quick sand under water on repeat.

According to the medical people there are several symptoms you need to have almost every day for two consecutive weeks to meet the criteria of being depressed. These include:

  • “Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)” (source WedMD)

If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your doctor about it. Depression is treatable. Many people take medication for it and many do not. Some go to therapy. Often people do both. You and your doctor will decide what the best course of action is for you.

Personally, I do both. I figure hit it with all we’ve got. What have I got to lose except some nasty symptoms that lead me to thinking about my own death. I can’t have that. I have a family. A life. A purpose for being here. We all do. You do!

Get the help you need if you think you have depression. You deserve it.