Doing Life Together
Doing Life Together
The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal on the state of mental health in Americans. You’ve been limited to how you can celebrate birthdays, graduations, and weddings. You’ve seen loved ones hooked up to a ventilator fighting for their lives. You’ve got an entire hygienic routine every time you leave the house: Wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, and repeat. Here’s what you can do to protect your mental health during this ongoing pandemic.
Get Some Exercise
You don’t have to go to the gym to stay in shape. There are plenty of exercises and routines that you can do from the comfort of your living room. That includes activities like push-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, and even going for a nice jog around the block.
On top of building your endurance and strength, exercise can trigger the release of endorphins in your system. According to the Mayo Clinic, these are known as the “feel-good” hormone and will naturally boost a low mood during such trying times.
Stay in Contact With Loved Ones
Not being able to meet with those you care about can be detrimental to your mental health. Prolonged loneliness and social isolation can increase your risk of certain mental health disorders, substance abuse issues, or even suicide.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that loneliness in older adults increases the risk of dementia and other serious health disorders. The best way to avoid these consequences is by staying in touch with loved ones via daily or weekly phone calls, video calls, or text messages.
Leave the House
Most states still have limitations regarding where you can go, what you can do, and who you can see. Yet, at this point in the pandemic, you realize that your mood declines, and you feel fatigued the longer you stay put in the house.
In a study published in Issues in Mental Health Nursing, vitamin D, which the body can absorb from sunlight, is a great mood booster and is used to treat depression. So, if you’re feeling down and lonely in the house, spend some time in the backyard or go for a walk at the park before your fellow citizens get there.
Reach Out to a Therapist
If you were already struggling with your mental health before the pandemic, there’s a good chance that your situation has worsened as the months continued. Luckily, most mental health facilities' forced closure doesn’t mean that you currently have no access to care. Many counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists have moved to telemedicine for the time being. Scheduling an appointment with a therapist via video call is a great way to process your emotions and learn how to cope.
Get a Pet
Most people would appreciate coming home from work every day to be greeted by a friendly dog or cat. But when loneliness and sadness become excessive during quarantine, a pet may be exactly what you need to feel better.
Even better, you may be able to help empty your local animal shelter. The connection between pet ownership and mental health has been long studied. In fact, a survey conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, mental health improvements were seen in about 74% of pet owners.
During a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, you must prioritize your mental health. Not only will this make you feel less lonely and like you have a greater purpose, but it’ll also save you from a ton of emotional turmoil that you’ll have to sort through once COVID-19 is gone for good.
"Do not touch your face!"
"Wash your hands if you do! Wash your hands if you don't!"
"Don't forget to use hand sanitizer as often as possible!"
At this point, your nerves are frayed, and your hands have become so chapped from all the handwashing and sanitizing.
We understand; it has been a lot.
These practices, however, are nothing compared to those who have fallen ill, passed away, or those 'recovered' but are carrying life-long effects.
The preventive practices and the outcomes are directly related because if we only stick to the "tiring" and "repetitive" methods, we can definitely prevent the latter thing from occurring.
Amidst this health scare and worries about what else is to happen, it is undoubtedly an excellent way to mitigate the risks…
The kids are at home; many schools are yet to return to "normal;" many people are now working from home, or worse, laid off. We aren't meeting our friends and family in person. And for a time, the grocery shelves were wiped out, and we'd spend at least an hour in line in hopes of ticking our list complete.
Life has changed- big and small- due to COVID-19.
The only highlight of this pandemic is that everyone else is going through it, too.
The same tumultuous event is affecting us all, and we're all in it together.
At least, we should be.
And because there is nothing funny about being in a pandemic, it's essential to stay grounded.
Yes, the process of being "ok" is complex, but it's essential to accept reality and not catastrophize about what hasn't happened yet.
We all cope differently with horrible situations, and we all struggle with our locus of control.
Watch this video
COVID and PTSD
Tammy Flynn of the On-Air-Advocate and I had a discussion about PTSD and COVID.
Accept Our Reality
There are things you can do to wield control in this situation and focus on those to reduce the risk of being infected by the virus. It's crucial that you sleep well, eat well, and move often. These are the basics of life that can stand true through both the "normal" and pandemic times.
Social distancing is also one preventive practice.
If you must get physically near with other people, then do so, but do it with utmost safety. You can wear a mask, practice proper handwashing, and sanitize as often as you can.
A skosh of anxiety can be productive if it's causing you to take proper precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. During a difficult worldwide circumstance like this, if we didn't have a reasonable worry level, no one would take the appropriate measures to protect themselves and others.
Be Aware of Unproductive Anxiety
Often, we allow ourselves to spin out of control by imagining what would happen if we catch it, our child in the situation, or even someone we see on the television.
We understand that it's difficult to mask what we are feeling. The fact that it's happened to other people, it can happen to you or any of your loved ones, anytime also. We are not saying that it is vain to put yourself in this complex emotion; however, you can counter thoughts by focusing on your present. Remind yourself that you are safe at home as you cook dinner, snuggle with your partner, play with your kids, or complete your workday.
You can think about it all day, but it won't change anything. It won't make you feel better.
What began as a tragic story on the news has become a substantial real threat to our world. In all likelihood, you know someone who has been touched by COVID-19, if not you personally. By staying grounded, you are not only contributing to lowering the severity of the virus attacking the world; you are also doing yourself a favor of protecting your mental health.
Are you able to accept the reality of the pandemic
while not becoming unproductively anxious?
What steps you have taken to protect your emotional
and mental health during this challenging time?
What are you going to do to make sure that you stay grounded?
Hard questions to answer, right?
I'd like to help. Let's get started today!
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By Karima Leslie
In times of crisis and transition, we long for our previous normal. We gravitate towards what is familiar, even when what is familiar and "normal" is killing us. We crave fast food and long for the job back that was burning us out and running us into the ground. And none of that is bad. Seeking comfort in familiarity is completely normal. But this season of life is calling us to create a new normal. A better one. When all of this is done, we could have dancing in the streets, we could get to know our neighbors and be active in our community. We could come together, united because of this shared hardship and love like we never have before.
Top 5 tips to Coping through COVID-19
#1: Pay Attention to How You Feel
Pay attention to the warning signs your body & mind may be giving you. Are you finding yourself easily irritated? Overly emotional? Going back to bad habits? Having a hard time concentrating? Experiencing unexplained headaches or body pain?
These are all signs that your mind & body are asking for an intervention.
#2: Dealing with Isolation
When finding yourself in a new environment or working within new parameters, such as lockdowns or self-isolation due to the pandemic, it is important to give yourself a clear sense of purpose. Decide how you want to use this time. Will you be working from home or have time-off? How do you want to schedule your days?
To avoid boredom, discover new activities to enjoy, forgotten hobbies, or pastimes that you had previously gotten too busy for. Learn something new. There is a plethora of free classes on design, marketing, art, languages, music, etc. Learning something new can help you level-up in your current career, bring peace to your spirit, or excitement to your life.
You get to decide what you use this time for and do not feel guilty if what you need during this time is simply to rest. We all require breaks, that is what makes us human.
#3: Take Care of Your Body
It is easy to lie awake worrying about all the things going wrong in the world and in our lives. Choose a time one hour earlier than when you would like to go to bed, say 9pm, to start winding down your day. Find activities that are truly calming and that put your mind at ease (not just a distract you). Turn down the lights, put on some calming music, turn off any screens or devices and do something relaxing before bed.
Try and get your nutrients. This one I know is tough for lots of us since many of us have had to change our budgets as work dynamics shift. Usually common grocery items may also be sold out from time to time. But our mindset has everything to do with our ability to adjust and cope. Take this as an opportunity to cook with new ingredients and learn new recipes.
#4: Take Breaks from the News
The constant barrage of breaking news, especially when it is presented in the most pessimistic light, can cause overwhelm and trigger anxiety. Humans do not have the capacity to absorb everything that is going in the world at all times. Every breaking news story does not equally deserve your attention and there is a line where informing ourselves turns into obsessing over things we cannot control.
It is important that we do our part to be loving, contributing citizens of planet earth. Educate yourself about the facts, the many ways to stay safe and help others, and then take a break from the covid, police brutality, and world disaster news. As a mental health & chronic illness advocate, I may bring up covid from time to time on my platforms, but I do so with a purpose to provide resources, skills, & activities on How to Cope, how to still have fun, how to find peace, be social, laugh, & enjoy life in this new context. I am here to kick fear to the curb and help you deal with this thing.
Check out my page at www.ariseandthrive.ca for more resources on getting motivated, organized, and back on track!
A chronic illness warrior herself, Karima Leslie has battled with debilitating chronic conditions as well as anxiety & depression that came along with them.
Now a champion for mental, spiritual, & emotional health care, Karima Leslie practices as a Spiritual Life & Business Coach providing virtual wellness sessions and business coaching to help women kill overwhelm, boost confidence, & conquer fear. She is currently accepting new clients looking to gain more energy, simplify recovery, find new joy in forgotten passions, and healing for the mind, body, & soul. She is also working on a group program for women entrepreneurs struggling with chronic illness.
Founder of Arise and Thrive Co., check out her services & resources on her:
or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in on a free session and find out your next step to making 2020 a better year!
The world that we are living in today is anything but peaceful and predictable. It seems that every day there is some new tragedy or cause for fear that demands every ounce of our attention.
These incidences come from every direction and in all shapes and sizes. Whether a personal issue arises that completely disrupts your peace of mind but seems only to affect you personally or a global event transpires that uproots the happiness and joy of millions of people simultaneously, our world can be a very uneasy place to exist.
With everything going on around you, maintaining a sense of security and order in your mental environment and personal life can feel like an ultimately futile effort.
Try as you may; there seems to be something that always comes along for no other reason than to fill you with fear and worry. While you can’t change the dynamic nature of the world you live in, there are thoughts and strategies that, when implemented effectively, can help you stay grounded when life gets hectic.
You Cannot Bear The Weight Of The World On Your Shoulders.
One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to realize and come to terms with the fact that you are a single human being that is tremendously incapable of bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders.
At first glance, this may seem like a sign that you should just give up and let the waves toss you of each new tragedy. However, becoming aware of your limitations can serve as one of the most significant sources of peace you could ever hope to find.
The reason for this is that when you take the time to identify the things that are out of your control, the list of things that you actually can influence becomes much more apparent. Instead of feeling overwhelmed at every single problem going on around you, you can focus your efforts on only the issues you can change.
Not only does this give you a much-needed sense of authority over your circumstances, but it also frees you from the burden of trying to manage the problems of the world by yourself. In the raging war that is our world today, you must pick your battles wisely.
Another common issue that many of us have when it comes to all the things going wrong in the world is that we automatically feel as if these things directly affect our personal lives.
While this may seem insensitive, the truth is that not only are most of the issues we notice daily through the media or online things that have little to no effect on our existence, and they are also far out of our hands. Expending your time and energy to solve the problems that affect your immediate environment is a much better investment than worrying about a conflict or issue on the other side of the globe.
Supporting a worldwide cause for the sake of charity is fantastic, but not if doing so means ignoring the conflicts that are staring you in the face.
Maintain A Sense Of Order
Finally, you must maintain a sense of order in your own life, regardless of how messy and cluttered the things around you become.
If you allow your internal state to mimic your external environment, you fall victim to the chaos. Whatever your day-to-day life entails, always strive to develop systems and routines that provide you with a sense of peace and security. If you are looking for these things in places other than your own life, you will not find them.
We're all just trying to live our lives and make the best of what we have.
But it seems like there's always something in the way, some new tragedy or cause for fear that demands every ounce of our attention. Sometimes it feels like life is one long emergency, with no time to stop and think about how things might be better if we could only take a step back.
That’s where I come in. As your life coach, I will help you find clarity so you can get unstuck from whatever has been holding you back from living a full and happy life. Together we'll work on building skillsets that will allow you to feel more confident in yourself and your abilities - so that when an emergency comes up, instead of feeling overwhelmed by it all, you'll know exactly what to do next.
Click the box right now! Schedule a free consultation with me today!
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Isn't it incredible to think that just a few months ago, we'd never heard the term COVID-19? While coronaviruses have long existed, this coronavirus did not. That didn't stop it from transforming our entire world, though. Life has now changed beyond recognition, professionally and personally. Some people have been on lockdown all on their own, unable to see their loved ones at all.
While others have been working from home surrounded by their family, regardless of your lockdown state of play, you have likely gone to extra effort to connect with the people you can't see.
You may have stocked up on dry goods, hoping to ride it out without leaving the house. Perhaps you felt comfortable taking regular walks while masked. We have all had our paths to walk during COVID-19. Some people will have had a more challenging time.
1. Your Red Flags
As well as knowing the red flags of cognitive and emotional overwhelm, you should get to know your red flags. Think about past stress you have experienced, whether it's been work or relationship-related. What type of event or situation triggers a feeling of overwhelm, and how can you manage that more efficiently? By getting to know yourself better, you will better understand your red flags and handle the load.
2. Know Your Brain
You know how you react when you're in love. You know how your brain responds to stress. You recognize how your brain acts when you're anxious, fearful, excited, etc. Understanding your brain can help you manage your cognitive and emotional load. Your brain on stress will cloud your judgment. The positive chemicals that come with falling in love are as powerful as the stress chemicals that come with emphasis.
You should know yourself well enough to recognize when even the slightest stress creeps in. Know the physical symptoms you experience when stressed outdo your palms grow sweaty, is there an eye twitch, do you itch, do you get a headache, are you experiencing acne breakouts, or are your bowels off-kilter? We all have our signs of stress, but knowing what they are will help you cope.
3. Abundance > Scarcity
What type of mindset do you have? Do you believe there is enough for everyone or that you have to grab what you can to protect yourself? If you're the former, you likely bought what you need to stock up for COVID-19 lockdown. If you are the latter, you probably have enough toilet paper and bottled water to carry you midway through 2021.
It might not sound like much, but with a scarcity mindset comes the idea that things are okay. Nothing will get better. That's not going to help you cope with a heavy emotional and cognitive load.
4. Listen to Your Body
One of the most effective ways to manage distress is to identify the physical and emotional symptoms, as well as the thoughts you tend to experience before spiraling into overwhelm. If you are confused by whether you're coping with your load, then you have to listen to your body because it holds the clues to your truth.
A body scan or check is a great daily tool to check in with yourself and get ahead of any red flags. It's easy. Simply sit quietly for a few moments, practice deep breathing, center yourself, and scan each area of your body. You can also ask specific questions about what you're dealing with to determine whether your body responds. Do you feel fearful? Are you tense or tight?
Are you feeling struggling emotionally?
You’re not alone. We all have our paths to walk during COVID-19, and some people will have had a more challenging time than others. If you are looking for someone to help you navigate the emotional toll of COVID, I can provide the support that you need!
Let me be there for you when life gets tough so that together
we can find new and more peaceful and enjoyable ways of living in this challenging world.
Reach out today!
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By Holly Miller
“Are you ready for the new school year?” is a question I hear every year earlier and earlier into my summer break. It always makes me squirm with anxiety in a regular year. This year, when the questions started coming in July, I answered with “I can’t even get my head around that yet!” I spent the good portion of August ignoring it. Even as I woke to attend my first in-service, I was still in denial that the new school year was starting. To say the start of this year has been challenging is an understatement. Teaching always presents new challenges from year-to-year, but with all of the Covid restrictions, seeing my classes for only 88 minutes once a week and coming up with digital lessons for the rest of the week for them, managing students in-person as well as live on Zoom, ensuring I am covering all of the high school math curriculum at the same pace in this platform, and trying my best to keep my students and myself safe with sanitizing, social distancing, and mask-wearing, I do not recognize what I am doing this year as teaching. And I have 100% NOT been ok mentally. I have sobbed every day after work for at least an hour when I got home up until last week. I wrote this social media post in the height of my anxiety:
I’ve had 5 panic attacks in the last 5 days. I am 100% convinced I cannot do my job. The only way I could convince myself to leave my house today was to mobile order a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks. Something good waiting for me outside of my house. I picked my drink up and headed to work. Except I didn’t. I went the complete opposite way. Trying to get myself turned around and heading in the right direction, I drive by the place where we found Murdoch after 3 weeks of hopeless hell. I am taking this as a sign that there are things I was convinced were impossible but they came to be and it can happen again. I’m completely lost. But I’m going to do the next right thing.
"I've seen dark before, but not like this
This is cold, this is empty, this is numb
The life I knew is over, the lights are out
Hello, darkness, I'm ready to succumb
This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
You are lost, hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing
Can there be a day beyond this night?
I don't know any more what is true
I can't find my direction, I'm all alone.
How to rise from the floor?
But it's not you I'm rising for
Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing
I won't look too far ahead
It's too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I'll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And, with it done, what comes then?
When it's clear that everything will never be the same again
Then I'll make the choice to hear that voice
And do the next right thing"
- The Next Right Thing, Frozen 2
Murdoch in this story was our beloved dog my husband and I had before we were married. A friend was watching him in 2012 when we went to New York City for the day. He was a very anxious dog and when she went to let him out, he snapped his leash and ran off. Murdoch was lost for 3 entire weeks. 21 days. Over Christmas. We did absolutely everything we could to bring him home. We barely slept, barely ate, and were out in the cold and snow non-stop posting flyers, talking to people to ask if they saw him, checking out reported sightings, trekking through wooded areas, streams, and fields to find him. While we felt so hopeless, we never gave up. I never prayed for something harder in my life. 21 days later, down to the hour he escaped, we got a call that he was sighted near a housing development in a field. We were able to secure him. We got him back 6 miles from our house. It was an unbelievable miracle that came true. I always look to this as my personal miracle and proof that with God, all things are possible.
I bring up this story because often when I read in the Bible of Jesus performing miracles and his disciples doubting him, I always get kind of frustrated with his disciples at first. “Um, He is JESUS! You’ve witnessed this man do miracle after miracle! How can you doubt him?!” And then I realize I do the same in my own life. When I got lost on my way to work (seriously, how do you get lost on your way to a place you have driven to over and over again for years) and drove by the spot where God granted me the biggest miracle of my life, I knew it was no mistake. I was being reminded of who is in control when I feel out of control. Despite how terrible I am feeling mentally, how difficult I am finding it to do my job and even just function as a human being, despite my fears, doubts, and worries, I know I have already won this mental battle.
“No, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” – Romans 8:37-38
I sometimes get so caught up in drowning that I forget to look up to see that I’ve been rescued all along. While starting the school year has been tough on all of us, teachers, students, and parents, I am trying my best to remember that this battle I am trying so hard to fight has already been fought and won. Not only will we get through this rough patch, we will more than conquer it.
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life. Holly can be reached email@example.com
By Chou Hallegra
No matter how much we deny this – we all have a desire to be loved. Often, it's a romantic love that we crave. We are caught up in our loneliness and it's normal to have a want for companionship. Although romance isn't everyone's struggle or desire – it may be a familial want, as is platonic friendships. And maybe you want and/or need both, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
For most of us, rejection and hurt leave us feeling unfulfilled and disillusioned with how we expect relationships to play out. When they don't go as we want them to, we often blame ourselves and wonder where we went wrong... that's not what it's about.
This is where learning to love yourself comes in. As much as it is nice to be loved by others, unless you learn to love who you are, you will continue to chase after the wrong thing or people. When you learn to love yourself, then you feel whole no matter who is in your life - and that comes with some incredible benefits, here are six.
1. You'll Be In Charge
Instead of making bad choices because you're being led by shame, guilt or fear – you will be empowered to make choices that truly make sense for who you are – meaning you will be living your authentic life. You will no longer be caught up with people pleasing, instead you will live a life that brings you satisfaction. Self-love means trying to honor yourself because you know your needs are just as important as others.
2. You Set Boundaries & Stick To Them
Once you get the hang of honoring your needs, you start to feel more confident; which helps you become more assertive as well. Of course, this results in a more purposeful attitude, especially when it comes to dating. You start to see who is wasting your time and you're strong enough to move forward without them. More importantly, you are strong enough to set clear boundaries with people and stick to them.
3. The Approval Seeking Will Stop
When you truly love yourself, you stop worrying about what everyone else thinks about you – which means you're a less defensive person and more confident about living a life that is authentic for you. Why would you need acceptance from everyone else when you truly accept yourself? For those of who are Christians, we find our true value from our identity in Christ. We love ourselves because we are already loved by God and what people think of us does not change how we see ourselves.
4. You Will Be A Conscious Decision Maker
Loving yourself gives you the courage to cut things from your life that don't truly bring you joy or provide you with ample space to grow. It's easy to make courageous decisions when you value yourself and actively make choices that are intended to honor you, rather than risk harming you.
5. You Will Enjoy Alone Time
A lot of people get caught up in keeping busy schedules simply because they're terrified of feeling or being alone. You surround yourself with people, throw yourself into work, and make decisions that help you avoid that loneliness. Why would you do all of the things that you don't love? You could be filling that time with things that you actually enjoy doing – whether it’s meditation, swimming, writing or watching a movie. It doesn't need to feel scary to spend time alone, you should enjoy time with yourself. Self-love brings more comfort when you're spending time in your own company.
You don't need to find happiness in relationships, whether they're romantic or not. When you start taking responsibility for it and stop giving your power away to everyone else, you will naturally feel happier. If you're not in a romantic relationship you will find that you aren't as desperate to be in one as you once were. When the right person shows up, you will be ready for that love.
Now that you know loving yourself will benefit you, check out my course that will get you started on that:
By Holly Miller
As a rule, when I am on Summer Break, I put up personal barriers so I can relax. I do not allow myself to dwell on the past school year or worry about the upcoming one. The 2020-2021 school year, however, causes more anxiety than usual. “Are we going back to in-person instruction? How will social distancing work? Are we really expected to enforce mask wearing for students of all ages? If we go to a hybrid schedule, how will I have time to teach in person and online all in one day? Students are going to be eating lunch in my room?! How do I space 30 desks 6 feet apart in a 20 by 20 room?” All of these thoughts and more started seeping into my relaxation time once summer break began. I threw up my barriers again because, as a teacher, I have no say in what this upcoming school year will be like, so why stress about it? I do want to write this month’s blog to frame this upcoming school year in hopes of insight and easing some worry.
If you are a parent of a student, I know you have so many questions. I know there was so much that you would like to see improved upon if we are doing online education again. I realize what a hard choice it will be to send a student to school or continue distance education if you are given that option. But here is the number one thing you can do to help your student. Have a positive attitude. Children are VERY perceptive. They can instantly pick up on how you are reacting to hard news. When schools closed in the Spring, did you huff and puff and complain? Then I guarantee your children did the same. If you tried to give it your best effort and tackle what you could with what you had, I bet your children were willing to at least TRY to follow your example.
So no matter what is decided for the upcoming school year, realize those decisions are pretty much out of parents’, students’, and teachers’ hands. What we CAN control is how we react to these tough decisions. We can change our attitudes to meet challenges head-on. Will this upcoming school year be all rainbows and smiles? Probably not. Be willing to roll with the punches, expect the unexpected, and be ready to adapt to multiple changes. Children learn by example, so we must lead by example. I’m not saying we can’t be sad or disappointed if things don’t go how we would want, but we have to meet this school year with a ‘can-do’ attitude and I know it will go much better than those who find something to complain about at every twist and turn. If I hear the word ‘unprecedented’ one more time, I might scream, however, these times are truly unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. I NEVER would have imagined my school year would have ended the way it did. We all must realize that while we are all in the same storm, we may not be all in the same boat. So have a great summer break, do things that make you and your family happy, and be ready to return to school rested and ready to rise to the challenges we will be facing. We can do this if we BELIEVE we can do this!
By Cherie Faus Smith
I have always considered myself a strong woman. After all, I’ve survived three abusive relationships involving intimate partners, am a melanoma cancer survivor, and clawed myself out of the trenches of depression and anxiety that left me with dirty fingernails.
Do I feel sorry for myself? NO!
Why don’t I? Because I have a strong woman in my life who has shown me what it takes to be a survivor, I call her mom.
Looking back on my childhood, I realize that my strength came from watching her persevere.
As a teenager, it was a tough transition. I left my friends and moved to a neighborhood full of strangers.
My brother and I made the best of it even though we found trouble or trouble found us (shh…that’s a secret).
There is a saying that my parents often repeated, "If things aren't going your way, punt. It's not the end of the world." That has stuck with me my entire life because life isn’t always easy – there are lots of lessons to be learned along the way.
Thanks to her, I’ve grown into a strong and confident woman. But what happens when that woman breaks?
Recently, we said goodbye to our precious dog, Sadie. It was unexpected, and she has left an enormous hole in our hearts.
When I found her, she was standing on the side of the road, eating pebbles. I wasn't supposed to be on that road that day. The path that I usually take was under construction, and there was a large orange detour sign. I was annoyed knowing I was already late, but then I saw her - this beautiful creature with black fur, cream paws, and tan markings above her eyes.
I stopped and opened the van door. She immediately hopped inside, walked to the front, and plopped herself on the passenger seat, looking at me as if to say, "Hey, let's go! Floor it, lady."
We did everything we could to find her owner, but after a month of no luck, we made her part of our family.
She instantly became my shadow and was by my side during my cancer diagnosis and recovery, depression, and anxiety bouts. Most importantly, she was there day in and day out for the last nine years to provide constant companionship. She was the best dog ever, and I miss her every day.
The day after we said goodbye, I sat on the sofa, bawling my eyes out while my body shook. I was inconsolable, and even my husband couldn’t help. I’m sure he felt extremely helpless, watching me fall apart.
I distinctly remember saying, "I'm breaking."
She was going to be my riding partner once I bought that Jeep that I’ve had my eyes on for the past year.
She was going to fill that void when our son moves into his place this fall.
I had so many plans for the two of us. Life isn't fair, and I wanted more time with her.
I’m a fighter.
I'm a survivor.
I'm a tough cookie.
But even strong women break.
I have a passion for supporting women and created a Facebook Group called Sisterhood of Fabulous and Fearless Women. Would love for you to join.
By Holly Miller
Our brains are amazingly powerful. That brain power can do some astonishing things to our bodies. It has caused me to shake uncontrollably for weeks, make me feel dizzy for days on end, overwhelm my body to the point of passing out, and pack on weight. When harnessed for good, my brain helped me to calm myself, clear my skin, and lose weight. There is this chemical in our brain called cortisol that can change your life for better or worse. If you want to read more about it, here is a quick guide: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol
If you don’t believe in what our brains can do to our bodies, take a look at the picture that accompanies this blog post. That picture is of the same woman, in the same classroom, 4 years apart. Look at the lady on the left. Blotchy red skin, round face, glassy eyes, defeated expression. She looks nothing like the lady on the right who looks bright, happy, and ready to tackle life! But both are me! After I got some medical help from my doctor, I began to re-evaluate how I let my brain speak to me. “You are worthless.” “You always fail at everything you do.” “You will never truly feel happy.” Would you let anyone say these things to your best friend? No? Then why do we say them to ourselves?! The way we speak to ourselves (self-talk) can affect our cortisol levels. Your brain has that kind of power. Look at that photo again! The woman on the left was not kind to herself in the least. The woman on the right looks like someone I would want to give me a pep-talk. We cannot allow ourselves to speak in a way that we NEVER would to someone else.
I was struggling to write a blog this month. I realized it was because I was slipping back into negative self-talk. I think so many of us don’t even realize we are doing it. We need to be more aware of how we talk to ourselves. Our brains can be re-wired for our benefit. I love this article: https://brainspeak.com/how-negative-self-talk-sabotages-your-health-happiness/ It talks about how we can literally change our brains to affect our bodies for good health. It seems so cliché to hear, “Just think positive!”, but our brains depend on it for our health, mentally AND physically.
Next time you have a negative thought about yourself, I challenge you to change it. Whenever I find a bad thought coming into my head, I picture a loved one in my mind and make myself say that thought aloud to that person. I immediately come to that person’s defense. “You can’t talk to her like that!” “She is an AMAZING person.” “BACK OFF! Why are you being so mean?!” Why do we not champion ourselves like that? YOU are the most influential person in your life. It’s time to take back that powerful brain of yours and use it for good!
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life. Holly can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks and we are all impacted at one level or another. Dealing with the emotional (and other) toll of corona was hard enough and now the issues of social injustice, racism, and safety are front and center. Many have lost their lives in the past week and beyond.
In the past few days, I have had many courageous conversations in diverse circles. I talked with my church small group on what the church can do to be the solution. I have also had friends who asked me what they could do to help. Emotions are high and so is helplessness.
And I understand both but I want to remind each of us that we need to have faith and hold on to hope. We also need to remember thatchange starts with each one of us. In order to change the world around us, we need to first change ourselves.
Furthermore, I want to tell you personally that I see you. I see you wanting to do your best and feeling like it's not enough. I see you having so much to say and not sure if it's the "right" thing to say. I see you wanting to make a difference and not sure where to begin.
I see you being filled with anger, frustration, sadness, confusion and even despair at times. And I see you. I see you because I too, am dealing with similar emotions and I have been working hard at recentering myself.
I see you and I want you to know that you are not alone in what you think and feel.
I see you and I'm only a click away if you need a safe place to be heard.
I see you and I want to hold space for you!
The recent events have been affecting my emotions big time and I needed to center myself in prayer this morning, maybe you need this as well. If you would like to pray with us on a regular basis, join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/PrayWithChou/
BY Holly Miller
I have prayed for things that have miraculously, against all odds, have come to be. The moment of answered prayer is truly extraordinary. I have experienced overwhelming joy as an impossible prayer has been answered. It affirms your faith and gives you confidence that there is good in this dark world. But has God ever answered a constant prayer with a gentle but firm “no”? What then? I have prayed for many things that God has tenderly turned down. Miracle denied. These moments can rattle your faith to your core. Mourning with loved ones over a miscarriage, watching a dear family member deteriorate and die from a terrible illness, finding out a student lost his battle with depression and having to attend his funeral, saying goodbye to someone who left us far too young. These moments shatter hearts and turn even the most faithful to doubt. How can a supposed ‘loving God’ allow so much suffering, sadness, and, and pain?
One thing I have prayed for most of my life is for God to lift my anxiety and depression. Just completely wipe it from my life. Some days it is such a heavy burden and I would love to set it down for good and never have these disorders show their ugly faces in my life ever again. I have prayed numerous times for this cup to pass from me. And I have been met with an answer to that prayer. It is a definite and heart-breaking “no”. It has been made abundantly clear to me that God intends me to carry my anxiety and depression all of the days of my life. And at one point (and I am sure there will be many similar times to come) I was so sad and angry about it. I even walked completely away from my faith for a few years because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t granted relief from my torturous brain.
When I was younger, under my anxiety ran a river of rage. It was silent, pushed deep down inside my heart. Many people would probably be surprised to know how angry I sometimes got; that I felt the way I did. Even now, my anxiety and depression is sometimes too much to bear. There are days when all I can do is cry and yell “why have you made me this way?!” over and over to God. Sometimes I am too numb and calloused to even argue with Him. I just sit in stunned silence while my brain attacks me. But as I started feeling a gentle nudge to tell my story, my struggles, my triumphs, and my gritty life of living with General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder, I have found encouragement as well. When someone pulls me aside to talk about mental health or sends me a message saying “me too”, the solidarity and love I feel for that person outweighs all of the pain. People who have thanked me for being so open and sharing my story have touched my life more than they know. Many who share their lives with me have given me the strength to carry on; to keep writing my story no matter how ugly or painful it can sometimes be. In sharing my struggle, I have found that I am spreading awareness and saving lives. That alone makes the battle worth it (most days). Being able to reach out and show others that they are not alone in the sometimes-scary thoughts that reside in our heads helps me carry on and fight my fight.
I have always loved the Lord of the Rings series with its themes of bearing burdens. If you are not familiar with the series, a young hobbit named Frodo is tasked with the burden of carrying an evil ring on a long journey to its destruction. The effect the ring has on Frodo often makes it too difficult for him to move forward. He finds encouragement from his friends along the way, one being a wise wizard named Gandalf.
Frodo: 'I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.'
Gandalf: 'So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides that of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
I always loved this conversation and it has helped me to carry on as well. While I would never ask for anxiety and depression disorders that often debilitate me, it is encouraging (as strange as that sounds) that I was chosen to bear this load. I was granted this journey, whether I want to take it or not, to show the world that one CAN stand up under these diagnoses. I don’t claim to know the inner-workings of God or understand why the world is sometimes in the sorry state it is. I don’t know your struggle, your pain, your life. I can’t explain away every instance of “why would You let this happen God?” But I do know for me, He will not let this cup pass from me no matter how earnestly and endlessly I ask him to take my mental health struggles away. And I truly believe that is because I am meant to bear this burden, to show others it can be done, and help light the way for those who struggle like I do.
In Matthew 11:28-30, it says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We are not promised a burden-free life. In this scripture, we are granted rest in the Lord, but if you read it carefully, there is still a burden to bear. “My burden is light”, yes, but it is still a burden. Even light loads can get heavy when you don’t take time to put them down and rest. We all have burdens we carry. Mine is my anxiety and depression. Although I asked God to take them away, He said “no”. And sometimes a “no” to our prayers isn’t a slammed door or an abrupt end to hope. It is a re-direction into a new, albeit still challenging journey.
If we don’t have darkness, we can’t see the light. I was meant to carry this darkness inside of me so I can show my light to the world. And as Gandalf says to Frodo, “that is an encouraging thought.”
By Julia Morrissey
In addition to the normal stressors in life, quarantine also has psychological impacts. This is why it is more important than ever to check in with ourselves. The pandemic has left many of us feeling isolated, less productive, and disconnected. Some people may also be experiencing new or increased feelings of anxiety or depression as well as patterns of negative thinking. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to strengthen and improve mental health. It is possible that some of us may even have more time now to spend practicing self-care. This extra time can also be an opportunity to seek out new self-care tools that work well for you. One practice that has been shown to be effective for improving mental health is self-discovery.
In addition to eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep, working to improve self-awareness is an important part of self-care. Practicing self-discovery by taking the time to answer specific questions honestly and without judgement can really help individuals gain a better understanding of themselves and cope better with stressful situations. This ultimately helps to reduce the mental and physical toll of stress on the body.
By practicing self-discovery we can improve our emotional intelligence, assess our strengths and weaknesses, improve communication, and make better decisions. This practice can also help us create action plans, which will allow us to solve problems and get closer to achieving our goals.
Depending on what you are looking to address in your life, there are specific questions you can ask yourself. These questions can help you find clarification, grow, and ultimately succeed. Below are some sample questions you can use when you are looking to learn more about yourself and your relationship with your family. At the end of this article you can also download printable personal and family self-discovery questions to start practicing now.
Questions like these can help you learn more about your relationship with yourself:
Questions like the following can help you learn more about your relationship with your family:
Julia Morrissey is a content creator for University of St. Augustine Health Sciences and she works to develop helpful guides and compelling stories. Her passion for creative writing has led her to cover unique topics ranging from business to lifestyle. She calls New York City home and enjoys spending time with her rescue dog, running in Central Park, and finding new vegan dining options around the city.
By Holly Miller
Everywhere you look in the past weeks has been the same coverage in the media. And I struggled whether to acknowledge the same thing on everyone’s mind for this month’s blog. But I feel I have some insight when it comes to anxiety. I know it well. I’ve battled it for years. Anyone who knows me knows I am open about my anxiety, and during this uncertain time, many people checked up on me out of concern, hoping I am dealing ok. Many of these people were very surprised to have found a calm and certain person on the other end of the call. While others have been feeling extreme anxiety for perhaps the first time in their lives, I have found that others like me who have struggled with anxiety most of their lives are actually doing well! I believe this is because I have coping mechanisms in place when experiencing feelings of fear, uncertainty, and stress. There are times where I do feel overwhelmed and hopeless. But I have ways of dealing with these feelings, practiced over years and years of dealing with anxiety, that may be helpful. So if you are new to uncertainty and are struggling right now, here are some ways I have been coping.
1. Get dressed
Yes, even if you are not going anywhere. I promise you will feel better. Even if you change from pajamas to yoga pants, changing your clothes and getting ready for the day can change your whole outlook.
2. Stick to a schedule
You don’t have to have every minute planned out and you can keep it relatively loose, but have a general plan for each day. Chunk off time to eat, clean up, get work done, and also time for leisurely activities. Having a plan will help keep you going.
3. Lower your expectationsI know this sounds negative, but this is more about granting yourself (and others in your household) some grace. This is a stressful time. There is so much unease. It’s ok for things to take longer than normal. Put in a good effort every day to accomplish what you need to get done and then let the rest go for another day.
4. Set and keep boundaries
If you are working from home, have a set time you will start and stop work and hold yourself to that. Have a specific place where you do work and leave the rest of your house for your life outside of work. It is easy to blur the lines between work and leisure when you are stuck at home. Eventually, you will be “on” all of the time and will sacrifice the rest you desperately need (mentally and physically). If you are stopping work at 5 PM, shut down email, close down all work-related tasks, and physically leave your workspace for the rest of the night.
5. Do some type of physical activity / go outside
When I am feeling particularly anxious, taking a quick walk around the block can do wonders. Find a yoga video on Youtube and follow along. Put on your favorite song and dance! It doesn’t have to be long or strenuous, but getting up and moving around every day helps. Some days the weather isn’t great, but getting outside, even for a few minutes, is proven to help your mentality.
6. Keep a list of hobbies and activities that are ‘screen-less’
Most of us are using technology to stay connected and to complete work. When you aren’t working, take a break from your computer, tablet, and phone. I personally like cross-stitch, painting with diamonds (you can order these kits off of Amazon), reading, and puzzles. If you have an ongoing project to work on, you can pick that up when you are feeling restless.
7. Stay connected with loved ones
Call or better yet, video chat with friends and family outside of your house. It raises everyone’s spirits to hear and/or see a friendly face. If you don’t have a lot to talk about because you don’t have a lot going on right now, have a theme night! Make yourself a cocktail or mocktail, make up funny toasts to each other, and have a happy hour. Have everyone paint along with Bob Ross and show your masterpieces when you are done. Read trivia questions to each other. Play charades. Start a book club - agree on a book, and discuss it when everyone finishes it. With video chat, the possibilities are endless! We may be socially distancing, but that doesn’t mean we have to be socially distant.
It’s ok not to be ok right now. It’s ok to feel lost, uneasy, and even disappointed. Acknowledge these feelings and know that you are not alone. So many of us are feeling unease. What we considered normal are now things we can no longer do (for now). And that is hard. And this lifestyle may have to go on longer than we want. But realize that this will eventually end. When life returns to normal, take time to appreciate all of the little things we once took for granted.
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” - Kitty O’Meara
By Karima Leslie
Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay
The Problem: Science Says We’re Kind of Suckers for Pain
Our brains are wired to seek out- and pay more attention to- unpleasant news. Termed “Negativity Bias” in Psychology, this pursuit of knowledge of negative things has helped us survive life threatening situations for generations.
But as our society evolves and the accessibility of information grows, we become bombarded by everything that’s going wrong in the world which can leave us thinking that the world is an awful place.
But I Have Good News:
In reality, the world is filled with just as much beauty & compassion as it is with ugliness & hate. It’s all a matter of what we pay attention to and what we’re fed. Reporting on positive news is rare in occurrence because bad news sells, not because there’s less of it. The world is still a wonderful place, the end is not nigh, and our planet is not past the point of saving.
Step 1: Be Realistic
If we want to be informed, then we have to open ourselves up to the good as much as we do the bad.
Having a “realistic” view of the world does not equal cynicism or skepticism but a balanced understanding that both good and bad events occur all the time. Be mindful of your thoughts this week and be honest about acknowledging if you’re biased towards negativity.
Try This Exercise to Find Out If You Have A Bias
Read the following scenarios and close your eyes as you think about your reaction. Really envision each scenario and go through possible thoughts & emotions that you would have:
How did the above scenarios make you feel? Were your thoughts & emotions mostly negative, positive, or neutral?
The happiness, love, & beauty in the world can be overshadowed by the anger, darkness, & sadness which has a bigger platform. Because of this we must be diligent in seeking out joy. Below are some great resources to get you started and remember that for every bad news, there is good. Check in again next month for the next step you can take to make 2020 your best year yet!
By Holly Miller
As someone who lives with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), there are some days I have to convince myself that I do indeed know how to be a person. If you don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, I acknowledge how strange that sounds. When I open my eyes, many days I have to convince myself that I am physically able to get out of bed, brush my teeth, shower, make a breakfast (that I usually feel too sick to eat), drive to work, and function at my job. I force myself to stand in front of large groups of teenagers and teach math. I grit my teeth and lesson plan, grade papers, and drive home. And the whole time, there is a voice that whispers or sometimes screams “you can’t do this.”
GAD is something that I have learned how to live with. I have learned techniques to quiet this nay-saying voice and strong-arm that voice into submission. But some days, I’m just too tired to fight it. Sometimes these wrestling matches only last a few hours but they can go on for days or even weeks. And unfortunately, the only way out of these anxious spells is to push through them. I just have to “keep on keeping on”, armed with the knowledge that I won’t feel this way forever. It will eventually pass.
In the meantime, I just have to fake it until I make it. Navigating the terrifying voids of anxiety and grappling with your own mind can be so isolating. You are convinced you will never feel normal again. The ordinary is confusing and the normal-every day functions that others seem to be able to perform are somehow impossible for you to carry out.
I, however, am very lucky because I have an amazing husband who helps me through every terrifying episode as well as family and friends who strengthen my will and help me push through. This month’s blog is dedicated to all who support me when my world doesn’t make sense, when I must wrestle myself. These are tips that you can use when someone you love is struggling through a rough anxiety-induced patch.
Most people tend to do this naturally with those they love. When I feel anxious, it helps SO MUCH to hear someone else tell me “everything is going to be ok.” My husband is really good at recognizing my anxiety patterns. When my grades come due four times a year, he will remind me that “You feel this way at the end of EVERY marking period. It’s normal for you to feel anxious around this time of year”, and knowing that my anxiety has a pattern is somehow comforting to me. It helps me understand my anxious feelings that don’t make logical sense to me. I KNOW everything is going to be ok, but when my brain is waging war against me, it helps to have someone else on my side reassuring me of this.
2. Listen/don’t be dismissive
I am the FIRST to admit that when I get anxious, it doesn’t make logical sense. And that is what is so maddening about it all! But my friends listen to me when I am having a hard day. They don’t make me feel invalid for having illogical feelings. They do all they can to make me feel accepted and listen to me when I want to talk about my anxiety. My husband has the patience of a saint. He will solve my illogical problems with no judgement and a sense of ease. Here is an example of a recent conversation - Me: “I know we don’t have food in the house right now, but I feel like I will actually die if I go grocery shopping.” Him: “How about I pick up stuff to make dinner tonight?” He doesn’t tell me that I sound crazy. He will just solve the problem. My husband makes me feel like a valid part of our team. There are days when I just can’t seem to function. He understands that and the leadership shifts to him that day on decisions. We share all errands, chores, and housework and he helps out even more when my brain convinced me that I can’t do something simple, like cook dinner or wash the dishes that day.
3. Help set and keep boundaries
I tend to give too much of myself to others in my life. Before I learned how to set and keep boundaries, I would go into work at 6 AM and stay until 9 PM. Friends who needed me for one thing or another would call at all hours of the night and I was always available to talk. I would say yes to every social obligation, not wanting to let others down. Most of my family lives over 2 hours away from me, so I would drive every single weekend to ensure I didn’t miss time with them. And then I started getting really sick. After many tests and doctor visits, I found I was having panic attacks. I was giving too much of myself and I was getting physically and mentally ill from it. After years of experience, I have learned to set boundaries to keep my mental health in check. I’ve made these boundaries much clearer to others over the years, and my loved ones know and respect these boundaries. Learning to say “No” to loved ones was so hard for me. But when they let me know they understand and respect my boundaries, it is much easier to keep myself healthy.
4. Let them feel what they feel and don’t try to fix it
When I am having a hard time with my anxiety, well-meaning people who don’t know me well often try to solve my problems for me. “Aw, cheer up. It could be worse.” “Go for a run, you’ll feel better.” “Make a to-do list and accomplish it! It helps ease your mind.” While these are all great suggestions, I know my anxiety best and I know what I need to do to feel better. Those who offer to just listen or ask me what I need to do to feel better and offer to keep me company until I feel more myself are the ones who help me the most with my anxiety.
Every time I make it through a rough patch, I cling to the gratefulness I feel for my support system; people who love me despite my GAD. I am so thankful for my husband, family, and friends who love me unconditionally. There were points in my life where my anxiety felt too unbearable to live. But my loved ones helped shoulder my burden and got me the help I needed. I know there will be rough times in my future, but knowing I have people in my life who ‘get it’ helps me carry on.
If you are reading this blog right now, know you have the ability to help those you love who may suffer from any kind of anxiety condition. Just educating yourself about mental wellness is the first step. There is a wealth of information out there. Although anxiety disorders are the most common of mental health conditions in the United States, many people are unwilling to talk about it. I am hoping that people who are telling their stories just like me are helping break that silence. We need to normalize anxiety conditions because each year, we lose too many people who are too exhausted to keep wrestling themselves. Being there for someone who is wrestling with themselves is a priceless, life-saving act.
Holly can be reached email@example.com
It' easy to be grateful when things are going well, but do you keep that gratitude going when things get tough? Here are 3 ways to be grateful for the hard stuff. I also have a gratitude journal to help you cultivate an attitude of gratitude no matter what you're going through. Get it at http://bit.ly/gratitudejournal2019
We’ve come to the end of our mini-challenge, and we’ve covered quite a bit of information. You’ve learned why acknowledging, embracing and expressing gratitude is so important. You’ve also learned a few specific ways to begin a practice of gratitude in your own life. I’d like to expand on that as we end our challenge to provide you with a more in-depth list of helpful tips to tap into the power of being grateful. You can use these ideas as you move forward in creating your own routine.
Take a Gratitude Walk
Going for a walk is a great way to relieve stress and gain perspective. It offers a number of advantages. You leave your regular environment, get out in the fresh air and move away from distractions. It’s a form of physical exercise that comes with all sorts of health benefits. Walking can even be considered a form of meditation. It’s a fabulous way to focus on gratitude. During this particular jaunt, pay special attention to the things you encounter along the way. Chances are, you’ll discover plenty to be thankful for during your walk.
Make a Gratitude Collage
A fun way to acknowledge your gratefulness in a visual way is to create a gratitude collage. This process works in a similar way as a vision board. You can cut out pictures from a magazine or add personal photos. Your collage can simply be laid out on a poster board or you can get more creative and decorative. You can even keep your board electronically on Pinterest or some other app. The point is to collect images that move you to consider your good fortune. It’s a good idea to put your board in a place where you can see it or access it daily. You might even want to add to it to keep its momentum going.
Hold a Friendsgiving
Friendsgiving is like Thanksgiving, only with friends and chosen family instead of biological family. This special occasion is often held in place of traditional Thanksgiving for those who don’t have family physically nearby or who aren’t emotionally close with their relatives. Sometimes it takes place near the actual holiday. You can get creative, though, and hold your own special gathering, customized to your needs, any time you wish. A gratitude party or get-together can remind you of the people who are most important in your life and enhance existing bonds.
Look for Gratitude in Challenges
Let’s turn things around a bit. You probably know how easy it is to focus on the bad stuff. Sometimes we get stuck in the negative and allow it to weigh us down. That’s natural, but you can interrupt that cycle by consciously working to find the gratitude in life’s challenges. Look for the lessons or the silver linings. Be sure to write them down in your gratitude journal or make a note of them in some formalized way so that you can look back and remember the good that came from adversity.
One of the most impactful ways to gain perspective and be grateful for what you have is to help others in need. This can be through a formal volunteer effort with a philanthropic organization or it can simply be something like helping a neighbor you see who could use a hand with his lawn. No matter what the effort, you’ll reap the rewards when you pitch in to give to others. Try to do something to help someone else at least once a week, and you’re sure to experience a boost in gratitude.
Give these ideas a try. Research or brainstorm some additional ones on your own. Just get started so you can see just what a difference embracing a mindset of gratitude can have on your entire life.
We’ve talked about the process of writing in a gratitude journal and the kinds of benefits that activity can offer. Writing is a powerful process. Sharing your written words of appreciation with others can have an even bigger impact than journaling privately. Personal notes can really brighten a person’s day, and make many positive impacts in the lives of those receiving them and those giving them.
Writing Has Power
In a busy world, we can get caught up in ourselves and the things we absolutely must accomplish each day. It’s easy to forget to acknowledge the important people in our lives. It’s for precisely this reason that receiving a note of thanks or appreciation is so very meaningful. People simply don’t receive these spontaneous offerings on a regular basis. That’s why setting aside the time and taking the effort to write such a message is so powerful, for both you and the receiver.
Sharing Gratitude Strengthens Bonds
A personal note or message goes far to show you care. Words have meaning, but it’s often said that actions speak louder. The recipient of your note will be surprised to receive it. A positive surprise almost always improves someone’s day and mood. This can be especially impactful if you intentionally send your message to someone you know is going through a rough patch. Regardless, this small gesture will go far to strengthen existing bonds because it’s such a customized act. When people feel a personal attachment, they tend to experience feelings of closeness and meaning. Your written acknowledgement of their importance in your life will surely affect your relationship in a positive way.
Ideas to Get You Started
Your words of gratitude don’t have to be in hand-written form, though it truly is a nice touch that’s a rarity these days. You can send electronic correspondence, if you prefer. Your message doesn’t have to be long, either. Any written words of appreciation will be a start and can be quite meaningful.
Here are some examples:
***Grab my new gratitude journal and start cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
If you’re still on the fence about starting a practice of gratitude for yourself, I’d like to issue you a simple challenge. Just for today, find just one random thing in your environment to be grateful for. This is a low-stakes activity that can be a great way to jumpstart your pursuit of gratitude
What to Look For
It’s easy, really. There are things to be grateful for, even on the difficult days. In fact, it’s even more impactful when you discover little rays of light in the darkest times. You can look for anything within your daily routine that inspires you. If you don’t leave your home that day due to sadness or inability, perhaps the very roof over your head could be your source of gratitude. Even a beautiful flower out your window might be enough to influence your mood for the better. Find just one thing and focus on that.
What You Can Expect
Let’s be realistic. Taking a minute to notice one thing you’re grateful for in your day probably isn’t going to completely change your life. However, it could be a significant jumpstart toward moving you in the right direction. This is especially true when you’re going through a difficult period. Turning a long-standing low mood around even slightly by acknowledging one small good thing can be quite meaningful. Remember, our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviors.
Sometimes all it takes is one small catalyst to spark major change. Some consider this the “baby steps” philosophy. Every habit or practice begins with one small step. Taking a moment to be grateful for just one thing in your environment today can improve your mood, even just a little bit. You may notice a weight is lifted from your chest or that some of your anxiety has eased. Hold onto that feeling. Notice whether your perspective improves after reflecting on gratitude just once today. This lift in your mood and brightened outlook can lead you to feeling better, which then influences your actions in a positive manner. You might just notice it’s a bit easier to find that one thing to be grateful for tomorrow.
Give it a try. Find one tiny spark to light the flame of gratitude today. Be intentional in noticing the effect it has on you. You may find it’s simpler and more rewarding than you realized to begin your gratitude practice.
*** Are you keeping track of what you are grateful for? Here is a journal to help you do that!
You’ve probably heard of both meditations and affirmations, though you may be uncertain of just what they are and how they work. These two practices are actually quite simple to add to your routine or even to use in a particularly stressful moment to gain perspective. Let’s take a look at how to use gratitude meditations and affirmations to boost your spirit anytime.
What Are Meditations?
A meditation is really just a practice of taking some quiet time to be mindful and focus your attention on a particular thought or issue. It’s a moment of silent reflection that focuses you on the here and now. Gratitude meditations involve focusing your thoughts on being grateful for the particulars of your life or situation, even the ones that may not seem so positive. Your gratitude journaling can be considered a meditation, even. Any contemplative, purposeful time spent focused on being grateful can fall into this category.
What Are Affirmations?
Affirmations are short, concise and positive sentences that are meant to purposefully affect the ways in which we think and feel. These can be in both conscious and unconscious ways. What we think greatly influences how we feel and behave. Introducing these positive messages into your life on a regular basis can help you to internalize them and begin living accordingly. Gratitude affirmations focus specifically on being grateful and appreciative.
How to Use Them
Both meditation and affirmation are easy to put into practice. They can be used almost any time and anywhere. When you think of meditation, a long, intensive ritual may come to mind. In actuality, you don’t need to spend a lot of time meditating in order to reap the benefits. Simply sitting quietly for a few minutes and contemplating on what you’re grateful for can help to center you and to provide new perspective, which often will lead to feeling better. If you want something more structure or have more time, you can look up guided gratitude meditations online or grab a meditation app to try. I personally use Abide and Headspace.
When it comes to affirmations, a good practice might be to combine them with your gratitude journal. Write down positive messages that apply to your life and help to inspire or motivate you. Perhaps you want to keep them in a separate journal or store them online. Then you can pull out your collection of affirmations for a pick-me-up when you need one.
Gratitude meditations and affirmations are simple tools that offer a big return. They take only a few minutes to practice, and you really don’t need any special equipment. Give them a try when you feel you could use an injection of gratitude in your life.
***You can write you affirmations in your gratitude journal.
Once you get into the habit of contemplating what you’re grateful for each day, it’s time to consider making it a written activity. This can be intimidating for people who don’t like to write or who feel they may not have time to dedicate to such a practice. In all honestly, it really doesn’t take much more time to write it down than to simply think on what you appreciate, and you don’t need strong writing skills in order to jot down three sentences. Let’s see if we can’t make the process seem less stressful. There truly are some amazing benefits that come from the physical process of creating a record of gratefulness.
More About Gratitude Journals
While it’s called a “gratitude journal”, it’s actually a tool or a record. You don’t have to write in a paper journal. The important part is that you take the time each day to record a few things that make you feel fortunate. Doing so can actually help to manifest more positive things. Writing down what you’re appreciative of each day brings that sense of gratefulness to the forefront. It allows you to focus on the positive, helping you to spot opportunities you might otherwise have missed. Keeping a gratitude journal gives you a written record to pull out and look back on any time you’re feeling less than fortunate. It can provide you with motivation in the toughest of times.
Benefits of a Gratitude Journal
There are many benefits to keeping a gratitude journal. Instilling a writing practice in this way ensures that you maintain a focus on positivity. Sure, sometimes bad things may happen, but this overall emphasis on finding the good can help to provide you with the resilience to keep going. Your stress levels will decrease as you begin embracing an attitude of gratitude. Plus, the act of writing can be therapeutic in itself. Writing also helps to give you a different perspective on things that you might not see as readily without engaging in the process. You can identify patterns and insight into your life that might help you to find opportunities and to grow.
Tips for Using Your Journal
The most important thing when it comes to a gratitude journal is consistency of practice. Some journal twice daily. Others prefer once. Regardless, it will only be effective if you use it regularly. One of the best ways to help yourself want to use your journal is to choose a format you enjoy.
Don’t force yourself to write in a journal by hand if you prefer to use electronic methods. You can keep your records in a simple word processing spreadsheet or use one of many apps that are available for this purpose. On the other hand, if you are inspired by a beautifully-bound paper journal, find one that speaks to you and start writing your thoughts down immediately. No matter what you use, keep it handy by your bedside or on easily accessed devices.
Turn your routine into a ritual. Make it a process that feeds your soul. Incorporate your morning coffee into your journal writing or light a candle with a lovely aroma to accompany your routine. Just make it yours.
A gratitude journal can be an insightful and life-changing tool. Remember, you only have to write three simple things you’re grateful for. There’s no need to make it complicated. Start your record keeping practice today and see what it can do for you.
One really easy way to get started on a gratitude practice is to make a habit of counting your blessings both morning and night. You don’t even have to write them down, as in a gratitude journal, if that seems too overwhelming. Simply taking a few minutes when you wake up and before you go to bed is enough to begin cementing this new practice into your routine. Before long, you’ll be easily noticing that blessing abound. Here are some tips to help you begin.
Easing into any habit is usually the best approach. By making it easier on yourself, you’ll be more inclined to continue moving forward. So, try not to put too much pressure on yourself to come up with grand examples of gratitude when you’re just starting out. Just appreciating the bed where you’re starting and ending the day can be something to add to your initial list. Sometimes simply recognizing a tiny blessing can have a big impact.
Add It On
A helpful method for remembering your new gratitude habit is to add it on to your existing routine. Whatever you normally do in the morning and night, be sure to include a few minutes to think of what makes you feel fortunate. For example, if you have tea every morning, this would be a good connection to make. Sitting down for tea will soon become a reminder to contemplate on your three things.
Create Visual Reminders
If you find yourself forgetting to do it or skipping out on your new task, add some visual cues to your environment. Post-it notes are great for this. Stick one on your nightstand. Add another to your bathroom mirror. Technology comes in handy for reminders, as well. Set an alarm on your phone so that you don’t leave the house or fall asleep without taking time to consider what makes you feel thankful.
Turn It Around
You can also try the opposite. Turn complaints around into something positive. Maybe you wake up with a sore back and don’t want to get out of bed. It may seem obvious, but reminding yourself that you’re in overall good health and that you have a safe place to sleep can do wonders for your outlook. Try to find the silver lining. It really works.
A good habit can be jotting things down during the day as they happen. It only takes a few seconds to make a note of what you feel grateful for in that moment. You can reflect on it later during your quiet bedtime routine.
Hopefully, you now see how getting into the habit of recognizing the good thing in life really isn’t all that difficult. A few small changes to your routine and you’ll find it’s actually quite easy to implement this practice.
Gratitude can be simply broken down to appreciating the good things in your life. It doesn’t always seem simple, though. When things are hectic or stressful, finding the silver lining can be challenging. However, learning how to embrace gratitude can significantly boost your happiness. Being grateful offers a host of other benefits you’re probably not aware of, too. Let’s take a closer look at the concept, ways it can improve your life and how to practice it.
There are many definitions of gratitude. Some people believe it’s a feeling or emotion. Others look at it as more of a mood. Still, some folks believe gratitude is a personality trait a person exhibits. These can all be correct. In essence, gratitude elicits satisfaction and appreciation in a person through feelings, actions or even inherent qualities. However, even those of us who may be more inclined to feel grateful on a regular basis through our glass-half-full-optimism likely need to work on evoking such an outlook. Gratitude can be viewed as a practice or something you perform regularly. Most people practice something because it benefits them. This is true of gratitude. As with other practices, you’ll get better at demonstrating gratitude the more you work at it.
Benefits of Embracing Gratitude
There are many benefits of gratitude; many of them have been scientifically proven. Once you begin to understand these, chances are good that you’ll see why it’s so important to develop a grateful mindset. Gratitude can have a positive effect on both physical and mental health. Research has shown it to improve relaxation, sleep quality and energy levels. Being thankful for your blessings can enhance your emotional wellness. You’ll deal better in crisis situations and find you’re more resilient when you’re able to look on the bright side. This can contribute to better relationships, too. Appreciating the positives in life can simply make you feel happier.
Ways to Practice Gratitude
Recognizing your blessings may not come easily at first, but there are some ways to help make it a habit and a regular part of your routine. One of the most convenient and impactful methods for cultivating appreciation is through keeping a gratitude journal. In this practice, you’ll write down three things each day that you’re grateful for, which makes it easier to notice and recognize those good things. Meditation has also been shown to help. Also, making an effort to thank someone each day, for even the smallest thing, opens your eyes and heart to abundance. Giving back and doing good for others can provide tremendous perspective, as well.
Now you have a better idea of just what making a concerted effort to count your blessings can do for your life. Embracing and expressing gratitude are more important than many of us realize.
What gratitude strategy will you practice today?
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