Therapy Helps

Since first recognizing I had anxiety disorder in that college psychology class my freshman year, I have seen a few therapists over the years. Some were helpful. Some were not. But that is not the point to this post. When … Continue reading

Let It Go (Part 2)

It has been four months since I’ve last sat down to write a post. How can that be? Where did the time go? I spent the last four months nannying for an infant whose parents were visiting scholars to the … Continue reading

Perfection Doesn’t Exist

  This title has a lot of different meanings, but what I am referring to here specifically is overall health. I have driven myself nuts in the last year to ensure everything my family eats and does is healthy. I … Continue reading

Ask for Help: Mental Health Awareness Month

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While many of us are focused on our physical health, we should also be concerned about our mental health, and those whom we love. Make May the month you check in with yourself, your friends, your family, and see how they truly are doing mentally. If you are struggling, ask for help. See a therapist. Talk with a friend. Make an appointment with your physician. Just reach out. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. We aren’t meant to combat life on our own.

Teach your children to be mindful of others. If they see a child playing alone or retreating, teach them to reach out and at least say hello. We certainly can’t make our children be friends with others, but we can teach them to be friendly and thoughtful. Same goes with us adults. A smile. A nod. A wave. Any of these greetings could seriously make someone’s day, even save a life. In the last 4 years I have known two people to end their lives. Young men. Both were hurting in their own ways. One was a former student of mine, and while his family was trying to help him forge through the darkness, not enough was really known about the severity of his mental health. In general not enough is done in regards to mental health. Sometimes it is taken too lightly. People are afraid to talk about it, and therefore they either go undiagnosed or don’t ask for help when they really need it, and continue to struggle with their demons. There continues to be a stigma and we need to break it through education.

It is best not to ignore or downplay signs of mental illness, as they can lead to grave consequences without proper help. According to the Mayo Clinic some examples of signs or symptoms of mental illness may include:

Feeling sad or down
Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
Withdrawal from friends and activities
Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
Alcohol or drug abuse
Major changes in eating habits
Sex drive changes
Excessive anger, hostility or violence
Suicidal thinking
Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headache, or other unexplained aches and pains.

Be kind to one another. Reach out. Ask for help.

Inside Out (The Effects of Exercise Inside the Body)

I joined the local gym last August in an attempt to combat my anxiety and in general, my mental health, as well as to keep physically fit. I knew if I paid the money up front for one year, I would hold myself accountable to going most days of the week. I notice when I skip a day or two I am short tempered and irritable. Anyhow, in the eight months since I have been going to the gym these are some of the “motivators” I hear during class:

“It’s almost summer. Let’s get bikini ready.”

“It’s almost tank top season. Let’s pump up those arms.”

“It’s almost shorts season. Let’s work on those legs.”

“We work out so we can eat that cake/drink that wine.”

“Let’s burn off those extra calories from the weekend.”

“Let’s burn off those calories we ate this week from Thanksgiving/Christmas/Passover.”

Why do people exercise? Work out? Participate in sports or any physical activity? Is it out of vanity? Is it to look good? Maybe. Is it so they can eat whatever/whenever they want? Maybe. Society/social media tends to  focus  on how we are supposed to LOOK, instead of on how we  should FEEL inside (emotionally and physically). This needs to change. Not every person is ever going to be a size 2, nor should they be. That is below the norm and for some people, that is not a healthy size.

Let’s face it. Some people that go to the gym, are never going to wear a bikini, tank top, or shorts. And if they choose to, and they are not what society deems a “beach body”, I applaud them for having great self confidence. It doesn’t matter what one looks like, but how one feels inside. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. I believe a lot of gym goers, like myself, are at the gym because they want to be healthy. They are not at the gym striving for a “beach body”. Well, I’m not, anyway. I go to release tension, keep my anxiety at bay, and stay heart healthy.

Physical activity promotes good health in many ways. In an earlier post I wrote about the effects of exercise on mental health. We can physically see what exercise does to the outside of the body (tones muscles/keeps figures slim), but do we really know what it does to the inside of our body? Here are twelve effects physical activity has on the inside of the body:

1. Boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This helps the blood flow smoothly and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

2. Delivers oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and helps the cardiovascular system work more efficiently.

3. Boosts the immune system.

4. Significantly reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure and can help to lower blood pressure in those who already have high blood pressure.

5.Prevents and helps control type 2 diabetes. Exercise helps insulin to work better and also makes the cells more sensitive to the effects of insulin.

6. Aids in digestion and promotes regular bowel movements.

7. Helps to prevent the build-up of plaque on the walls of arteries decreasing the risk of heart disease.

8. Weight-bearing exercises help preserve bone mass and thus protects against osteoporosis.

9. Builds and strengthens muscles, which can protect the bones from injury, and support and protect joints affected by arthritis. Strong muscles also give stability and improve balance and coordination.

10. Lubricates the joints, and reduces joint pain and stiffness. It also helps people with arthritis by increasing flexibility and muscle strength.

11. Improves respiratory efficiency.

12. Improves quality of life. Decreases risk of strokes, cancers, diabetes, heart disease. Slows the aging process and allows us to live longer.

Some of my friends are exercise instructors. I hope they still will be after this post. I am just trying to point out another way social media influences all of us, especially women. We all have to love the body we have, even the parts we don’t like. Big calves. Big butt. Wide hips. Flat chest. Round tummy. We need to stop focusing on what we wished we looked like and accept the body we have. Forget about burning calories and toning our bodies so we’ll look good in a bikini, tank top, shorts. Focus on how physical activity will make us FEEL. How it will prolong our lives. I hope to live a long time. I’ve only been given one body to live in, and I am going to do all I can to take care of it INSIDE and OUT!

 

Proud to share my story

I am a guest blogger over at MilitaryOneClick! Please share this post to help erase the stigma of mental illness!

http://militaryoneclick.com/erasing-the-stigma-of-mental-illness/

Let it go….

As most of you know one of the reasons I began this blog was because I want to become a health coach. While I like the idea of being a health coach, and I LOVE writing this blog and sharing information, I am not entirely sure health coaching is the right “job” for me. I realized the other day after spending 2 hours with a friend discussing and exploring ways for her to add  healthier options to her life, I walked away with a sinking feeling. I don’t like to sit still. I NEED to be moving around. Multi-tasking. Doing busy work. One of the reasons I chose a health coaching certification as an option (I am a few weeks away from my certification exam) is that I felt like it was a good use of combining my degrees in psychology and athletic training. I felt like I needed to stay within those realms or it would feel like a waste.

With my youngest approaching full time student next year (hello First Grade, finally!) I figured I would be stepping back into the real world of a paid job. I want to work. I like to be busy. I’d like to know, I, too, can help support the family. But I am struggling with the idea of just getting a job to fulfill these needs, versus finding a career within the scope of my degrees. I mean, what was the point of attending a 4 year college and studying psychology (and art) and then a 2 year graduate program studying athletic training, and never really using either degree? I am sure this is something many stay-at-home parents struggle with as they re-enter the work force after many years of not working (outside the home raising children). What did you do? How did you look at it?

My husband continues to say (every time I bring up this subject on the waste of my degrees), “Let go of the past. We never would have met if you hadn’t gone to grad school”. True, but that was one expensive dating service! I get what he is saying and I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, but even if he and I had never met, married, had children, and I became the stay-at-home parent, I think I would have found myself in this predicament.

There are times I wish my parents let me defer that year between high school and college.  Maybe I would have used that time to figure out what I wanted to do before I spent time, money, and effort on my college degree. (Sorry, still in this mode of thinking.) Graduate school was my own idea after spending nearly 3 years as a snowboard and tennis instructor/waitress/bartender/nanny. Honestly, I would have continued this lifestyle, except that I didn’t have health insurance from April to November, and I was in a bad car accident which left me with a degenerative cervical vertebrae. At that time I didn’t think I could continue instructing snowboarding since my neck and the rest of my back were in bad shape.

From the time I graduated from college I have felt this internal pressure to find a career within my field of studies. But a lot of responsibility and the fear of being held liable deters me from any medical/health related field. As an athletic trainer I was anxious every time I was on the field or assessing an athlete. I don’t miss that aspect at all. I do miss the busy work of taping 20 ankles in a row and the athletic training room banter, but other than that I would not jump back into the field, nor could I after being away from it for years. While I am still interested in health coaching, I realize I need more hands on work that keeps me moving around. Work that doesn’t involve me obtaining professional liability insurance.

So I am trying to just “let it go” and relax. My education has served me well in other ways. I use my psychology degree every day  rationalizing with my children, trying to understand the behaviors of others, and in general, communicating with people in the real world.  I use my athletic training degree often when it comes to medical issues within my family. I don’t pass out at the sight of blood (even when it is pouring down my 6 year old’s face), I treat minor strains/contusions/abrasions on my own, rather than rushing to see the pediatrician, and I am calm when it comes to most medical issues we have seen thus far as a family. My education has served me well.

Now if I can just find a decent paying job that is fun, low stress, and keeps me busy, I will be a happy girl! I might just go work at Trader Joe’s! It’s an upbeat, friendly place and the staff always seems to be busy doing something. Maybe I could so some health coaching on the side. That and give talks around the country in regards to mental illness, and write a novel. Oh yeah. Lots of ideas floating around in this head!

 

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Unplugged

I have currently been off Cymbalta now for over 3 weeks. I spent somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks weaning because I read horror stories of people coming off this medication. Every two weeks I experienced horrible headaches for a … Continue reading

Effects of Exercise and Nutrition on Mental Health

I promised a blog about how exercise and nutrition affected mental health. I broke it down as simply as possible. Effects of Exercise on Mental Health: 1. It releases feel good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins) that ease depression, make … Continue reading

It is what it is.

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Holidays. My favorite time of year. NOT. Ok, sorry that was lame, but really I hate the holidays. I always have. Maybe because my parents divorced when I was a toddler, and then my mom and adoptive dad divorced when I was a freshman in college. I never really had the pull between households that most divorced kids have had, but I’ve always felt guilty this time of year. And stressed. And anxious. Just call me the Grinch. Bah humbug!

However, in the last few weeks I have developed a new mantra. “It is what it is”. Some things just can’t be helped. Or fixed. Or made better. Some things just “are”. I am learning to be okay with this. This being life and what life may hand us. I may get angry at first. Raise my voice. Stamp my feet. Use wild hand gestures. But then I take a deep breath, shrug my shoulders, and think to myself, “it is what it is”.

In the last few weeks I have been working for my friend who owns a small business. She called me in a desperate panic to act as her “customer service” rep and respond to customer’s emails. I was appalled at how rude some of the customers were despite my cheery responses letting them know we were “busy little elves” and were knitting their orders as fast as our little fingers could and assured them their orders would get to them in the “Nick” of time. At first I would get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I feel guilty or anxious, but then I realized these people needed to adopt my mantra. We were not canceling their order. We weren’t telling them we would never send it to them. We were just letting them know it might be a little later than originally noted. I mean, what did they want us to do? It is what it is.

Gym Days and Recess

My son started Kindergarten this year and I was thrilled to find out he would be participating in Physical Education classes, as well as music and art. In the past Kindergartners were not given the opportunity to participate in P.E. … Continue reading