Daily Meditation – Fantastic Things

depressed

Life can often seem so mundane. We drag ourselves out of bed to carry on the same old routine day after day after day. When will it ever end? When will something exciting and new come our way?

What we don’t realize is that it is our own mind that makes these tasks boring and unassuming. It is our own preconceived ideas and unconscious conditioning of going through life without gratitude for what we have, what we are capable of doing.

Did you know that in most places in the world there are no indoor toilets? People go in the streets, in front of everyone else! Did you know that millions die of starvation each year? Many do not have running water for drinking or bathing.

Today, let us do something fantastic for ourselves. Take a warm shower, eat a meal, flush a toilet, visit a friend, brush your teeth. Be grateful for every little thing that you can do, for every little thing that is available to you. These are fantastic things! Things which are hard for us with mental illness to do at times – to eat, bathe, groom, socialize – but nonetheless, fantastic. Rejoice and delight in this fact.

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.

Facebook and Its Negative Effect on Mental Health

no facebook

I gave up my personal Facebook activities last week. Note: You can still find me on Write into the Light’s Facebook Page, but, I have pushed my personal profile account to the side. Deleted the app from my phone. Haven’t checked status updates in five days which means…

I have no clue whose kid just made the honor roll, who is having a bad day at work, what everyone is having for dinner tonight, or how everyone’s nieces and nephews are doing in sports. I haven’t seen one photo-quote, inspirational or humorous. Not one recipe or emoticon from friends of friends whom I would probably not even recognize if I ran into them at the grocery store.

Top 3 Reasons to Give Up Facebook

1. The People in My House are More Important to Me than Those I Hardly Ever See

It is hard enough to filter through the minute details of my own life, let alone those of acquaintances. And that is what the majority of those on my friends list are: acquaintances. Knowing of their daily happenings makes no difference in the quality of my life. On the contrary, it wastes time and energy that would be better spent on the people with whom I actually live and on my own mental health.

2. I am a Highly Sensitive Person

Since I am a highly sensitive person who picks up on and internalizes the emotions of other people, I was finding myself being negatively effected by the sad events being shared on Facebook, from political cries to save the abused animals posts to the depressing events in people’s personal lives.

I am not saying that I don’t want to hear about the death of a dear friend’s father or the house fire of another. What I am saying is that I would rather hear about it through a phone call than on Facebook. As far as the political and social movement stuff – I don’t watch the news so as to avoid those things, so I definitely don’t want to see them in my Facebook feed.

And if you are that old friend from high school whom I haven’t seen in twenty years who has lost your job or been in an accident or gotten a divorce…I feel bad for you, but if it wasn’t for Facebook I wouldn’t even know what you look like now, let alone about the happenings in your life. No offense.

3. My Mental Health is More Important than Knowing Things About People I Haven’t Spoke to in Decades

My decision to cut Facebook out of my life came shortly after a high school classmate committed suicide, which triggered many negative emotions in me due to losing a very close friend to suicide two years ago.

After hearing about my classmate on Facebook, I grieved for a week, barely able to get out of bed some days. Grieved not really for my old classmate since I haven’t seen him in 15 years, but for my close friend all over again. It was very difficult to go through, and it could have spiraled my depression out of control.

(Thankfully, I did some mindfulness practice, talked to several people about my feelings, prayed, and wrote about it here, knowing that as long as I didn’t ignore or cover up my feelings, they would eventually pass and I’d feel better. And they did.)

However, I realized that if it wasn’t for Facebook, I never would have heard about my classmate’s suicide, and therefore, would have avoided a week of suffering because of it. No one called me, no one even directly told me about his suicide. I merely happened upon it by accident…on Facebook.

So, no more Facebook for me. How does Facebook affect your mental health? Have you ever even thought about its effects on you?

Bipolar Disorder and Memory Problems

memory

A recent study in Bipolar Disorder found that those with the disorder had prospective memory impairments compared to those without the disorder. Prospective memory is the ability to plan to do something and later remember to carry it out.

Just today my prospective memory failed me as I had plan to make a crock pot meal for supper which involved combining the ingredients and turning the crock pot on low five hours ahead of when we planned on eating. I became engaged in other tasks, namely watching TV and stressing about getting my house cleaned for company this weekend, before I realized it was four hours before dinnertime and I hadn’t even started preparing the crock pot meal!

Now this isn’t as tragic as forgetting to take an infant out of the car before going into the store, or leaving a scalpel inside a patient after surgery, which are both examples of failing prospective memory, but it was annoying nonetheless.  Next time I will set the timer on my microwave to remind me when I should have started the meal prep.

Here are some other ways to improve your prospective memory:

  • use checklists
  • write out when and where you intend to complete a future task
  • use calendar alerts on your cell phone to remind you to do a task
  • do not put off important tasks for later; do them now
  • write the reminder on your hand
  • tie a string around your finger
  • leave a note on the door you exit everyday

How do you remember to do something later?

10 Simple Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

bluesIf you are like me then winter is not your friend. The cold, dreary days tend to drag on, as cabin fever sets in and depression, boredom, lack of motivation and lethargy begin to choke the life out of me.

I came across this entertaining, well-written article on Psych Central by author, Therese J. Borchard. Borchard lists these suggestions to help you battle the winter blues.

1.  Be of service to others

I started cooking new-to-us, healthy recipes as my husband and I committed to losing weight before bathing suit season arrives. I feel like I am doing something extra special for my family as I spend an hour or more each night chopping, dicing, and slicing fresh fruits and vegetables, and preparing scrumptious home-cooked meals. The weekly planning and execution of such dishes (compared to a box meal or popping a pizza in the oven) alone helps to battle my boredom as well.

2.  Join a gym

I did this – Yeah!!! The problem?  I never went! A gym is a great idea for some, but not for me. Because of my anxiety, I have a hard enough time getting out of the house for essentials like doctor’s appointments. I am more successful with a mile walk around the neighborhood where I can take my time and hide behind my sunglasses rather than going to the gym and risk having to interact with anyone.

3.  Use a light lamp

I do this, and it helps a lot. After 45 minutes in front of my light, I feel energized and ready to get off the couch and do something productive (like make those dinners.) I use my light twice a day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. It really does work.

4.  Wear bright colors

I am an earthy kind of girl, wearing lots of browns, blacks, and greens.  Neutral colors fill my closets, so I have not tried this suggestion out, but it makes sense that bright colors could lift your mood.

This morning, I walked into a new doctor’s office and the walls were painted a dreamcicle, creamy orange, and adorned with bright impressionist paintings.  It was a breath of fresh air.  I literally felt calmer and happier as I sat there, surrounded by these bright, yet soft, colors.

5.  Force yourself outside

I step outside when I let the dogs out, mainly to have a cigarette, but hey at least I am getting out!  I also go for walks outdoors.

6.  Hang out with friends

This is a tricky area for me.  I meet with a small group of women once a week and overall, it helps my mood.  Having face-time with close friends definitely enhances my emotional well-being, but too much of it drains me physically and mentally.  Migraines often follow visits that last too long.  My limit for any type of social situation is about two hours.

7.  Head south

We have always taken our family vacations during the summer months when the kids are out of school.  Last year, however, I convinced my husband to head south during the month of December specifically for this reason – to battle my seasonal depression.  It worked…for that month anyway.

We will probably do it again next year, but will shoot for January or February instead.  The December trip was great, don’t get me wrong, but I think my depression really takes a nose dive after the holidays, so a trip in January would be more ideal.

8.  Learn something new or start a home project

This winter I have been editing our home videos.  I even splurged and bought a software program to add fun effects to them.  It takes me several hours to do a ten minute video, but the results are very cool and satisfying.

Creative projects like video editing, painting, and photography keep my mind off the bleak weather conditions.  When my hands are idle, my mind wanders and that is never a good thing for me.

9.  Limit sugar intake

Sugar-crashes and weight gain….’nuf said.

10.  Take Omega-3’s

My suggestion on this is to talk to your doctor.  I take them, but I don’t feel they make a huge difference (if any at all) on my emotional health.

What do you do to battle the winter blues?  Share your tips in the comments.  Also, while you’re here, I invite you to subscribe to this blog.  Thanks and have a blue-free day.

The Princess, the Pea and the Holidays

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

The holidays bring with them extra family, travel, food (usually the not-so-healthy kind), money-spending, crowds, and stress. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time managing my stress on a “normal” day.

I require a low stimulating, non-demanding environment in order to remain relatively sane. I call it the “Princess and the Pea syndrome.” If you recall the children’s story written by Hans Christian Andersen, there was a princess sleeping on a dozen or so soft mattresses, and the only way to know if she was a true princess was to test her physical sensitivity by placing a pea under the bottom mattress to see if she felt it while trying to sleep.

If you are like me and the princess, then keep reading as I share the ways in which I limit stimuli to my hypersensitive system, thereby managing my holiday stress:

Family Events:

Show up late. Leave early. Tell them you have diarrhea. Who’s going to try guilting you into staying if you say you have diarrhea? Ha ha! Just kidding – don’t lie.

What I say is that I am not feeling well, which is true if my body and mind have reached their limits. Fatigue, tension in my neck and shoulders, headaches, and chills or sweating are all signs that I am beginning to experience anxiety and it is time for me to scadaddle.

Travel:

If in the car or airport for any length of time, make sure you have ways to block out extraneous sensory input, which to me is anything beyond someone honking their horn at you for weaving into their lane, or at the airport, the attendant calling for finally boarding on your flight.

Some ways I block out extra stimuli when traveling include listening to relaxing music through earphones. Sometimes I leave the ear buds in even when there is no music playing because strangers or even my kids are less likely to make small talk or bother me if they think I am listening to something.

Bring sunglasses! I don’t have a problem just shutting my eyes no matter where I am – in the airport, a restaurant, or on someone’s couch. Closing my eyes, even if just for a minute or two, really keeps me from becoming visually overstimulated.

Food:

Eat a carrot for every cookie you inhale. Do I do this? No. But it’s a good idea, right?

Shopping crowds:

Online, baby! Unless your lap is overpopulated.

I hope some of these suggestions help you manage your holiday stress this week. What do you do to decrease stress during the holidays?  Please share in the comment section below.

Thanks,
Wil

P.S. December 31, 2012 is the deadline for submissions to Turtle Way‘s next issue. Turtle Way is Write into the Light’s online mental health journal. See submission guidelines here.

Writing Moment by Moment #23 and #24

#23 – A beautiful person gave me permission to accept help without feeling guilty and to take extra-special care of myself because I am “going through a healing period” which I need not minimize.  A weight lifted from me in that moment.

 

#24 – I think that I finally get what “mindfulness” means versus distraction.  Here’s a fun fact:

“Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density…in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”  ~Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jan 30;191(1):36-43. Epub  2010 Nov 10

Now, to practice it…

What moment are you grateful for today?  I had three wonderful “in the moment” moments today – the above two and a third which I posted here.

For more on “Writing Moment by Moment” click here.