Category Archives: strategies for self-care

How to take care of your mental health during election weeks

How to take care of your mental health during election weeks

SCHEDULE
Remember to sleep, eat healthy, hydrate, exercise, ADLs, clean your house, and speak to your therapist. These things don’t change, the environment does.

NEWS
Define and create boundaries on your time exposed to news and social media.

Rather than watching or listening to coverage at random throughout your day, create a time block for catching up. This can be in the morning as you prepare for the day or in the evening as you wind down—whatever works best for your schedule.

Select your news sources beforehand so that you’re not bouncing around on the TV or scrolling Twitter or FB mindlessly. Find a few outlets you trust And always fact-check. Look for empirical evidence.
Then, turn it off. Absorbing constant news is not helpful, especially when the content is simply being repeated.

MINDFULNESS
Set aside a specific hour to journal or worry. Let your mind and your anxieties run full force, during this circumscribed time. If intrusive thoughts become prominent during the day, let yourself know that you will have this hour to let them have their reign.

CONVERSATIONS
The more involved you are with this election and results , the more likely you may disagree with family members or friends. Difficult conversations are inevitable; the important thing is that we know how to take care of ourselves in the aftermath.

I recommend using a breathing or relaxation app after engaging in these kinds of dialogues or getting outside for a walk and fresh air. Don’t bottle up your emotions or shame yourself for getting worked up—it’s okay to experience tears and anger. Rather than suppressing your feelings, nurture them. Breathe. Drink a glass of water. Allow yourself to rest. Please use meditation apps that have relaxation features, such as the Calm app,  which works well on Apple and Android. 

Holding feelings inside without ventilation can actually be harmful to our emotional AND physical health. When having these conversations with others, know your points and practice active listening. If the conversation begins to feel combative, consider bowing out or stepping away so that everyone can regain composure.

SELF-CARE
On the day of the election, start it with a moment of gratitude and self-care. This may look like journaling, exercise, a short meditation, or a morning walk. Election Day can feel cumbersome and stressful, so it’s even more important to put a self-care plan in place.

BOUNDARIES
When it comes to politics, I come from a family of divorce and strong opinions. I also have neighbors with varying political stances. Having these boundaries means offering one another the space to celebrate, mourn, and process feelings as needed.

FEEL
From anger to sadness or relief. It’s all to be expected, and these feelings are valid. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to embrace these emotions and then move them through and out of our bodies. Tears, exercise, creative projects, and fresh air can all help with this.

PROCESS
In the days pre and post-election, we’re all going to have a lot to process. Be kind and carve out more space for self-care than usual. Consider taking time away from the news and social media. It is okay to take a break, to retreat to nature, and to spend a few days crying or celebrating virtually with friends. To avoid political fatigue and to keep fighting for the causes we care about, we must allow ourselves moments to step away and breathe.

The Psychology of Hope

In Greek mythology, the familiar story of Pandora’s box is often cited. When she opened the mythical box, despair and dark emotions came tumbling out. However, at the bottom of the famed box was also the emotion of hope.

According to the clinical psychologist, Dr. Shane Lopez, who studies despair and hope, hope can be learned.
Hopeful people share four core beliefs, according to Lopez:

The future will be better than the present.
I have the power to make it so.
There are many paths to my goals.
None of them is free of obstacles.

Hope includes a range of emotions, such as joy, awe and excitement. But it’s not empty, tunnel-vision, blind enthusiasm. Hope is a combination of your head and heart, as Lopez writes. He describes hope as “the golden mean between euphoria and fear. It is a feeling where transcendence meets reason and caution meets passion.”

In my own doctoral research, I studied both optimism and pessimism. Pessimists actually had strong positive outcomes for performance, adjustment, and mental health. Hope is the belief in a better future, but it can actually come from expecting and preparing for the worst.

Hopeful people pick good goals, know how to make them happen, and spot and seek out the pathways that will move them forward. Research also indicates that picking goals that you’re excited about and align with your personal strengths is absolutely crucial.

Importantly, hope is also contagious. Your social network, friends, role models, colleagues, family, and community, also share in the experience.

Being able to have hope allows us to connect with our deepest human roots, our BEING in this world.

Surviving A Relationship Break-Up

Surviving a relationship break-up can be one of the most difficult things we ever do and on an emotional level can be one of the most painful processes in our lives.

People are not well equipped to deal with break-ups, because we rarely are taught anything about healthy coping after a break-up.

By using these suggestions, it will not stop you from experiencing the pain of the loss, but instead, will help you move through the grieving process as quickly as possible and let you move on to ultimately have more satisfying relationships in the future.

1. Don’t Fight Your Feelings
A break-up is often accompanied by a wide variety of powerful and negative feelings including sadness, anger, confusion, resentment, jealousy, fear and regret, to mention a few. If you try to ignore or suppress these feelings, you will likely only prolong the normal grieving process, and sometimes get totally stuck in it. Healthy coping means both identifying these feelings and allowing ourselves to experience these feelings. As hard as it is, you cannot avoid the pain of loss, but realize that by experiencing these feelings, they will decrease over time and you will speed up the grieving process. The stages of grieving frequently include: shock/denial, bargaining, anger, depression and eventually acceptance. Extreme grief feels like it will last forever, but it doesn’t if we cope in some healthy ways.

There are several conditions that will likely intensify your negative feelings, including:

    • Not being the one who decided to break up.
    • Not seeing the break-up coming.
    • This being your first serious relationship.
    • Your ex being your only real close friend.
    • Continuing to run into your ex.
    • The relationship having made you feel whole or complete.
    • Your ex starting to date someone right away.
    • Thinking about your ex being sexual with their new partner.
    • Believing that your ex is the only one in the world for you.

2. Openly Discuss Your Feelings
Talking about your feelings related to the break-up is an equally powerful tool to manage them. As we talk to supportive friends and family members, we can come to some new understandings and relieve some of our pain. Holding all of these negative feelings in just doesn’t work, although there may be times when this is necessary, such as in public settings, at work, or in class. As we talk to others, we usually discover that our feelings are normal and that others have survived these feelings. Above all else, don’t isolate yourself or withdraw from those people who can give you support.

3. Write Out Your Thoughts and Feelings
In addition to talking to others, it can be very helpful to journal your thoughts and feelings related to the break-up. People are not always available when you need to get out your feelings and some feelings or thoughts may be too private to feel comfortable sharing with others. The act of writing your feelings out can be very freeing and can often give you a different perspective about them. The psychologist, James Pennebaker, found that writing out your thoughts, stream of consciousness, in a journal, 15 minutes a day, had significant therapeutic effects that were commensurate with therapy.

4. Understand That Break-ups Are Often An Inevitable Part Of Loving/Dating.
Remember that many of our dating relationships will end up in a break-up. This is the very nature of dating. Until we find our best match, we are going to be moving in and out of relationships, so expect it. This way, we won’t feel so devastated when it does happen. Relationships usually end for some good reasons and they should end if we want to find our most suitable partner. Of course, no match will be perfect and we have to decide how long to keep looking and what we can live with. Finding a complementary partner is more than about love and therefore, it is going to likely take many dating relationships to find.

5. Don’t Personalize The Loss
It is natural after a break-up to blame yourself, but try not to personalize the loss for too long. Much of the pain of a break-up comes from seeing the loss as your fault and regretting the choices you made while in the relationship. This process of self-blame can go on endlessly if you let it.
It is far more helpful to see the ending as a result of conflicting needs and incompatibilities that are no one’s fault. Each person in a relationship is trying to get their own needs met and some couples are able to help fulfill each other’s needs and others are not. One of the biggest issues is being able to communicate and negotiate those needs. It’s not easy to learn, so don’t blame yourself and try not to blame your ex. He or she is likely also doing the best they can, given their personalities and life history. No one goes into a relationship with the goal of making it fail, or hurting the other person.

6. Prioritize Basic Self-Care
Self-care refers to ensuring that your basic needs are being met, despite the fact that you may be feeling upset and depressed due to the break-up. You may not feel like eating but do it anyways, and try to make some healthy choices in what you eat. Give yourself ample time to sleep, particularly since this may be difficult for you. The short-term use of some herbal alternatives or sleep medications may be necessary to ensure you get the sleep you need. Sleep deprivation will only compound your suffering. Keeping up or starting an exercise routine can also make you feel better both physically and psychologically. Remember, exercise causes the release of endorphins, which can make you feel better.

7. Get Back Into A Routine
Since going through a break-up can create a sense of chaos in many areas of your life, continuing on with your routines will give you a better sense of stability or normalcy. Although taking some expectations off yourself temporarily can help, returning to routines shortly after the initial blow can help calm you down and give you a returning sense of control. This might include routines around wake-up and bedtimes, meals, educational or work related activities, exercise, and time with others to mention a few.

8. Indulge Yourself
If there was ever a time to pamper yourself, it is after a break-up. You need to do something that will actively make yourself feel better. Indulgence can take many forms, depending upon what you really enjoy, but could include: going to a special restaurant, going to a movie with a friend, having a hot bath, trying a massage, going on a short trip, buying something new, taking the weekend off, taking a yoga class or reading your favorite book.

9. Give Yourself Some Slack
Expect that you are not going to be functioning at full capacity for a time due to the distress you are experiencing. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to lighten your load for awhile.

10. Don’t Lose Faith In People Or Relationships
Since you may be feeling very hurt after a break-up, it is easy to assume that all men (or women) are bad or untrustworthy, but this just isn’t true. By holding on to this belief, you will be denying yourself all kinds of opportunities for a great relationship in the future. We can’t over-generalize from relationship history and assume that it will never work out.

11. Let Go Of The Hope You Will Get Back Together
Unless there is some very strong evidence that you will reunite with your ex, try to let go of this possibility. Bringing closure to the relationship is impossible if you continue to hold onto the hope that the relationship will be resurrected. This means don’t wait by the phone for a call, or try to e-mail or text them to try to have a little more connection, or beg to get back together, or make threats to get them back (i.e., you will commit suicide). These options will only perpetuate your emotional distress in the long term and make you come across as desperate, which will further impact your already shaken self-esteem. Life is too short to wait for someone to come back to you after a break-up.

12. Don’t Rely On Your Ex For Support Or Try To Maintain A Friendship
It’s not helpful to depend on your ex after a break-up, especially to help you overcome the pain of the break-up. It makes it a lot harder to get over someone if you’re continuing to see them or trying to maintain a friendship. After a significant period of no contact, a friendship might be possible, but wait until you’re feeling very emotionally strong again.

13. Avoid Unhealthy Coping Strategies
There are several ways of coping with a break-up that are considered quite unhelpful and will likely only compound your problems. These include such choices as drinking excessively, doing drugs, overeating, self-harm, gambling or shopping excessively, or becoming a workaholic. You may be tempted to do whatever you can to avoid feelings of loneliness and pain, but it is essential to find healthier ways to cope.

14. Make A List Of Your Ex’s Annoying Qualities
If you have been feeling bad because you keep thinking about how much you miss your ex or how well suited you were to them, it can be helpful to make a list of all of their less endearing qualities. Particularly if you didn’t initiate the break-up, it’s easy to focus on everything about your ex that you will miss, which can only magnify your suffering. If you spend some time reflecting, you may come to see incompatibilities in the relationship that make it easier to let go and come to see that there is likely a better match out there for you.

15. Avoid The Temptation To Take Revenge
The idea of retaliating against someone who you feel may have hurt you significantly is very tempting, but making this choice may have unforeseen consequences.

16. Examine What You Can Learn From The Relationship
We can learn a lot from all the relationships we have been in, particularly ones that are painful. It’s very helpful after a relationship ends to spend some time thinking about and writing down what you have learned so that you can have better relationships in the future. However, don’t use this as an opportunity to beat yourself up or blame yourself for the relationship not lasting. Learning promotes growth, while self-blame (i.e. feeling you’re a failure) only extends your suffering.

17. Make a List Of All The Benefits Of Being Single
Although being single again may be an unwelcome event, if you were not the one who chose to break-up, it is worth reminding yourself there are some definite benefits to being single.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    • You are now much more able to put your own needs first.
    • You will soon have the excitement of dating again, even though this may feel a little
      scary.
    • You will have more control over your daily routines, not having to negotiate these with someone else.
    • You can spend more time with friends and family, who may have been feeling neglected.
    • You can do some traveling, that you might not have been able to do with your partner.
    • You can eat what you want, when you want to.
    • You can go to bed and get up on your own schedule.
    • You will be able to meet lots of new people, since you now have more time to do so.
    • You may now be free of criticism.
    • You will have much more individual freedom.
    • You have the whole bed to yourself.
    • You now have more time to read.
    • You can be as messy as you want.

18. Perform A Closure Ritual
At some point in the process of letting go and grieving the loss, it can be very helpful to have a closure ritual. This symbolic gesture can be very meaningful if it is well thought out and considers the right timing. This could involve such things as: writing a letter to yourself or to your ex with your final words regarding the relationship, removing all of the photos you have of your ex, or burning some reminders of your ex in a ceremonial fashion.

19. Remember That You Can Survive On Your Own
It is important after a break-up to remind yourself that you were able to survive on your own before you entered the relationship and you will be able to survive on your own now that you’re no longer together. Relationships do not and should not make us whole, even though they are a part of our life and our happiness. We all need to be able to stand on our own and meet our own needs, regardless of the status of any one of our relationships. Remember, the healthiest relationships are with two people who are able to meet their own needs.

20. Start Dating Again
Although it is often hard to decide when the best time to date again is, don’t jump right back in and don’t wait forever. You do need to grieve the loss and discover what you can learn from the past relationship, but you also have to move on, which means beginning to date again. Keeping the dating more casual at first might be wise, rather than jumping right into a deep, meaningful, long-term relationship. Dating can help you see that there are lots of other possible connections out there, if you open yourself up to this possibility.

Lucid dreaming

Lucid dreaming is the experience of achieving conscious awareness of dreaming while still asleep. Lucid dreams are generally thought to arise from non-lucid dreams in REM sleep.

An obstacle to experimental studies of lucid dreams is that spontaneous lucidity is quite rare. However, some participants in studies can be trained to become lucid via pre-sleep autosuggestion.

Subjects often succeed in becoming lucid when they tell themselves, before going to sleep, to recognize that they are dreaming by noticing the bizarre events of the dream. Often after a lucid dream, they are asked to document the dream in a journal.

Some research has pointed to potential benefits of lucid dreaming, such as treatment for nightmares. However, other studies argue lucid dreams may have a negative impact on mental health because they can disturb sleep and cause dreamers to blur the lines between reality and fantasy.

While normal dreams can occur during different stages of the sleep cycle, studies have shown most lucid dreaming takes place during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep constitutes the fourth and final stage of a normal sleep cycle, and is considered essential for consolidation of memory and learning. With REM deprivation, there are a variety of negative psychological effects that occur. A number of studies on REM deprivation have indicated psychotic like symptoms that occur, including hallucinations, visual phenomena, and severe anxiety.

Lucid dreaming strategies have been used with people who have PTSD and other trauma conditions. The most common are:
Reality testing: This technique requires participants to perform tests throughout the day that differentiate sleep and waking. For example, a participant may ask themselves whether or not they are dreaming during the day; since self-awareness is not possible during non-lucid dreams, being able to answer this question proves they are in fact awake. Reality testing is based on the notion that repeated tests will eventually seep into the participant’s dreams, allowing them to achieve lucidity and distinguish between the dream state and waking.

Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD strategy): This technique involves training oneself to recognize the difference between dreams and reality during sleep. Subjects wake up after a period of sleeping and repeat a variation of the following phrase: “Next time I’m asleep, I’ll remember I’m dreaming.” Researchers will induce lucid dreams using the MILD method by waking up subjects after five hours of sleep.

Wake back to bed (WBTB): Some people can induce lucid dreams using this technique, which involves waking up in the middle of the night5 and then returning to sleep after a certain amount of time has passed. WBTB is often used in conjunction with the MILD technique. When these two methods are used together, the most effective length of time between waking up and returning to sleep appears to be 30 to 120 minutes.

Lucid dreaming appears to have a mix of positive and negative outcomes.

At Embolden Psychology, we have put forth a number of recommendations for managing feelings like stress, boredom, anxiety, depression, fear, and loneliness during social distancing, including:

Shifting the mental framing of social distancing- believing that one is “safe at home” versus “stuck at home” can have a profound effect on sense of agency, and reduce feelings of helplessness and fear. Agency matters.

Maintaining remote social contact with friends and colleagues can help limit feelings of loneliness. Text, FaceTime, call.

Enjoying simple physical comforts, like a hot shower, sipping a hot beverage, cuddling a companion animal, or wrapping oneself in a blanket may reduce feelings of loneliness.

Please spend time outdoors. Our bodies cannot store vitamin D, and we need this essential nutrient for mental health and wellness. Whether it’s taking a walk down your street or sitting on your deck, sunlight is essential.

Keeping to routines. Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, as much as possible. Make sure you eat at regular time intervals. Keeping to a schedule helps maintain mental health.

Resources that rock:
1. SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters–call 800.985.5990
2. 7 Cups: A free online text chat service that connects individuals with a trained listener for emotional support and counseling – visit: www.7cups.com
3. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Those who are experiencing suicidal thought and impulses can call 800.273.8255 or text HOME to 741741 for support

Indigenous Americans, youth, and mental health.

Indigenous/tribal communities face significant behavioral health challenges and disparities. For Indigenous Americans, multiple factors influence health outcomes, including historical trauma and a range of social, policy, and economic conditions such as poverty, under-employment, lack of access to health care, lower educational attainment, housing problems, and violence.

These disparities have important consequences. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Native American youth ages 8 to 24. Also, while there is general awareness that Native Americans experience higher rates of alcohol and substance use, the scope of these behavioral health problems is not fully understood.

With 564 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN, is the designation currently used by the Census Bureau) tribes, 100 state recognized tribes, and over 200 languages, there is a great need for the development of mental health programs aimed at AI/ANs that center culture as a dominant aspect of treatment. The deficit in culturally relevant treatment programs aimed at Indigenous Americans people living with mental illness is glaring. These communities cope with intergenerational trauma which has a historical context, occurring when exposure to trauma takes place in an earlier generation and continues to affect subsequent generations. The stress of intergenerational trauma contributes to the erosion of family structure, tribal structure and even spiritual ties. It can affect one’s identity, relationship skills, personal behavior, transmission of traditions and values, and attitudes and beliefs about the future. The stress of these traumas combined with the complex and ongoing mistreatment of AI/AN citizens contributes to the rates of mental illness in AI/AN communities and can manifest in a high rate of substance abuse disorder, PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Additional stressors such as a lack of access to health insurance, pervasive poverty and unemployment, and higher suicide rates exacerbate these issues.

I have compiled this list of resources for indigenous clients. Please note that the hours of availability may have changed, but they are all in service at the present time.

Mental Health Resources For Native And Indigenous Communities:
–  Indigenous Story Studio creates illustrations, posters, videos, and comic books on health and social issues for youth.

–  Suicide prevention.
–  National Alliance on Mental Illness.
–  One Sky Center: The American Indian/Alaska Native National Resource Center for Health, Education, and Research; mission is to improve prevention and treatment of mental health and substance use problems and services among Native people.
–  WeRNative: a comprehensive health resource for Native youth by Native youth, promoting holistic health and positive growth in local communities.
–  Ask Auntie: similar to an advice column – type in your question and it will pull up similar ones; if none answer what you’re asking, Auntie Amanda will write up an answer and notify you when it is posted.
–  StrongHearts Native Helpline: The StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-762-8483) is a confidential and anonymous culturally-appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT.

#WorldMentalHealthDay

Today is #WorldMentalHealth day.

I grew up in a South Asian family that didn’t believe in mental health, even with numerous family members with generally undiagnosed eating disorders, depression, anxiety, ADHD, personality disorders, suicides, and PTSD.  Intergenerational trauma is a term that describes how oppressive events that impacted one generation and remain unaddressed are carried over to later generations.

BIPOC Individuals are much less likely to receive support for mental health awareness and treatment. Racism, stigma, financial hardship, unfamiliarity, and lack of trust make it much harder for people of color to receive or even seek mental health services. As a community dedicated to mental health, we must persevere to change this. #EmboldenPsychology is dedicated to making mental health more accessible. 

Black Americans have higher rates of depression, anxiety, learning differences, and sleep and digestive problems, studies have found. Racially discriminatory events have led Black people to be in a state of high arousal — which means a heightened level of situational awareness and vigilance. This hypervigilance is harmful, medically and psychologically, and has very similar effects as studies on PTSD on brain and developmental functioning.

Asian Americans are discriminated against for their looks, languages and culture. They also face a great amount of family and social stress by having to represent their family and embody two cultures: that of their heritage and being “American” in the US. Depression and anxiety have skyrocketed in the community. 
Native American communities are often geographically disconnected and are significantly underserved, with a disproportionate level of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, sexual assault, and domestic abuse.
Microaggressions for BIPOC individuals cumulatively take their toll, and so do emotional and physical responses to vicarious and direct experiences with racial violence and racism. In the mental health industry, there is a significant lack of education, availability, and research regarding serving people of color. In a 2015 national survey of the mental health professions, close to 90% of all therapists were white. Very few training programs integrate diversity training as part of their broad curriculum.

In this time period of COVID-19, a significant national uptick in mental disorders, and great unrest, mental health awareness is more important than ever.

Psychosomatic Symptoms: The Mind-Body Connection

I was recently asked by a patient to explain psychosomatic symptoms.  A psychosomatic illness originates from or is aggravated by emotional stress and manifests in the body as physical pain and other symptoms. Depression can also contribute to psychosomatic illness, especially when the body’s immune system has been weakened by severe and/or chronic stress. Symptoms that my patients have experienced include unexplained swelling and pain in feet or hands, difficulty moving limbs, neck and back pain and spasms, difficulty walking, and non-epileptic seizures, which used to be known as pseudo seizures.

A common misconception is that psychosomatic conditions are imaginary or “all in the head.” In reality, physical symptoms of psychosomatic conditions are real and require treatment just as any other illness. When you go to your doctor with physical symptoms, they will generally look first for a physical explanation for your pain, which may include physical examination, MRIs, and lab tests/bloodwork. If there is no obvious physical cause that they can easily test for, coming up with a diagnosis and plan of treatment may be complex.

One of the most hurtful thing for patients who experience somatic complaints is being told that their very real distress is not based on any actual facts. When this happens, people might feel like their doctor is not taking their symptoms seriously, thinks the person is making it up (malingering), or that it’s “all in their head.” When your doctor can’t find a clear physical cause for your pain (such as an injury or an infection), they may ask you about how you feel emotionally. The hope is that if a source of stress can be identified, it can be treated (just as you would get treated for an injury or illness).

Symptoms caused by stress that you feel in your body are very REAL, they are just caused by a different mechanism that, say, if you broke a bone. For example, people with somatic, non-epileptic seizures, are often prohibited from driving. Your doctor may want you to talk to a mental health professional, but that’s not to say that your physical symptoms only need psychological treatment. It is important to learn how to effectively manage stress, but that is often a process and can take time. In the meantime, you need to treat your physical pain and other symptoms. For example, if you have severe pain in your neck or back, learning to cope with stressful triggers can certainly help prevent from happening—but the pain is not only in your mind. It’s entirely real.

While it might start in your brain, stress causes a cascade of neuro chemicals in your body that produces inflammation in the muscles of your neck, which in turn causes you pain. You may need anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers, or another type of treatment, such as massage and physical therapy to manage your pain. The mind and body are inextricably and reciprocally interactive. 

How to beat the Monday morning blues

1. Be with loved ones. Set aside some time over the weekend to enjoy your social connections. That could be hanging out with your family, watching a movie with a loved one, going for a walk with a friend, or meeting your bestie for a picnic or brunch. The trick is to do something that is socially oriented, and carving some time in the day to accomplish that. This creates good feelings, that spill over into Monday.

2. Sweat. Even 10 minutes of high interval intensity training will give you the energy you need. You can also go for a hike, or a nice brisk walk. A dose of nature or fresh air is relaxing to body and spirit.

3. Do not sleep in. Sleeping late one day, and having to get up early the next day is very dysregulating to our biorhythms. Sleeping in sounds great, especially on a lazy Sunday morning. Don’t be tempted to sleep in for more than an extra hour, otherwise you will get up feeling rushed and anxious with everything rolling around in your mind about what errands need to be done, on top of family and work obligations. The last thing you want or need is an extra undesirable shot or two of the stress hormone cortisol beyond what is needed to get you truly motivated to accomplish the things you need to do. Getting up at pretty much the same time seven days a week actually helps your body run better.

4. Set intentions for the week. An intention could be any particular phrase or mantra that can help to quite your mind. It can be something like ‘I will have a peaceful day ahead of me,’ ‘ I can get this done,’ or ‘I am grateful for my friends and family’.

5. Meditate. Even for ten minutes every morning before you start your day. Research benefits demonstrate positive changes in the brain even up to 2 to 5 minutes of meditation a day, done on a consistent basis. Learning how to breathe properly can help you feel calmer, center your mind, and maintain a sense of focus.

6. Work. If you must work, aim to set between 1-2 hours over the weekend to organize your emails, respond to only urgent work related matters, and write a list of your work/personal goals for the week ahead with a detailed plan of how you will tackle them. This does not have to be all in one shot. Breaking the time up will be quite easier. Designating some work time will prevent you from feeling more blue, or anxious later on in the day on Sunday, so you can truly relax. That sense of control can be quite powerful, and uplifting.

7. Read. Read something that is not work oriented, preferably before bed, or early in the morning if you are one of the first to wake up in your household. It is a healthy escape to indulge in, and might subconsciously help you relax as an alternative to screen time.

8. Meal prep on Saturday/Sunday. This makes planning your meals throughout the week a lot more manageable, less time consuming and more economical as well. Even something as chopping up many vegetables to be sautéed, or added to any side dish to a weeknight meal will be quite helpful for your meal planning strategies throughout the week.

9. Organize for the week ahead. Finish laundry, do online shopping, pay bills, clean the house. That way those things will not be in the back of your mind as the week starts.

10. Explore. At least once or twice a month, plan something that is out of the ordinary. Getting out of your mental set, going somewhere new, trying new food, hiking somewhere novel, going to an art show. Try activities that you don’t normally do. It recharges the brain.
(Art: G. Benson)

Small but mighty hacks to improve your mental health

According to the World Health Organization “mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health.”

Here are a few small but mighty hacks to improve your mental health.
1. Open up and depend on others more emotionally, sharing vulnerable feelings, like sadness or fear or loneliness.

2. Check in with others regularly. Having connections, even sending or receiving a simple text or a good morning, has been shown to improve mood and decrease anxiety.

3. A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from virtual learning or zoom office meetings to stretch, a half-hour lunch break at work, or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’.

4. Do something you’re good at. What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.

5. Helping others. Volunteering, helping an elder or neighbor, even taking the time to help a friend with tech support, pet sitting, or picking up groceries: caring for others boosts our mood, a win-win.

6. Emotional eating, in a good way. Boost brainpower by treating yourself to a couple pieces of dark chocolate every few days. The flavanoids, caffeine, and theobromine in chocolate are thought to work together to improve alertness and mental skills. Marine based omega-3 foods are also great for mood, attention, and alertness.

7. Spend some time with a furry friend. Time with animals lowers the stress hormone – cortisol, and boosts oxytocin – which stimulates feelings of happiness.

8. Set your morning foundations. Meditate, yoga, work out, check in with loved ones, check your to do list, pray, read. It creates the tone for the rest of the day.

9. Let it all out…on paper. Writing about upsetting experiences can reduce symptoms of depression. The psychologist James Pennebaker did a series of elegant studies that found that writing stream of consciousness in a journal even 10 minute a day, reduced acute symptoms of depression commensurate with taking an antidepressant.

10.  Relax in a warm bath once a week. Try adding Epsom salts to help soothe aches and pains and help boost magnesium levels, which can be depleted by stress. Taking a hot shower or a warm bath before bedtime, followed by the cooling of the body, actually mimics REM sleep, during which time your body temperature drops and creates a sense of relaxation.

11. Take time to laugh. Hang out with a funny friend, watch a comedy, or check out cute animal videos online. Laughter helps reduce anxiety.

12. Go off the grid. Leave your cell phone at home for a day and disconnect from constant emails, alerts, and other interruptions. Spend time doing something fun with someone face-to-face or alone time.

13. Take 30 minutes to go for a walk in nature – it could be a stroll through a park, or a hike in the woods. Research shows that being in nature can increase energy levels, reduce depression and boost well-being. Sunlight synthesizes vitamin D which is not naturally stored in the body. When it is depleted, it can contribute to feelings of depression.

14. Practice planning.  Try meal prepping or picking out your clothes for the work week. You’ll save some time in the mornings and have a sense of control about the week ahead. 

15. Organize. I have my clients keep a master day planner, not just Google Reminders and calendars. Using different colored pens, account for all of your activities: work, academic, social, medical, family, recreation, and self care. Having it all in one place is powerful, and a reminder to be mindful to all different aspects of life.

16. Practice my clinical strategy, stones across the river. Pay mindful attention to the small things that happen every day that can bring moments of satisfaction or joy. When they are strung together, they provide a path that doesn’t seem obvious at first, but can ford the rapids.

Embolden Psychology
Embolden

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

Thank you for contacting us.