Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why Taking Care of Your Mental Health is an Important Part of The Healing Journey: My Personal Thoughts and Helpful Resources

While this blog is primarily about food, if you do keep up with my posts, you will see I share about a lot of other things here too…because life is more than just food and recipes (and chocolate).  There are so many other components of healing.  Food and nutrition are important and critical pieces for sure, but there is so much more. 
Today I am going to talk about why I believe taking care of your mental health is a critical part of any healing journey, and share some of my favorite resources with you.  Throughout this post you will see the art work of a healing/nurturing artist named Rita Loyd.
As you might know if you follow my blog, I am a licensed therapist (L.C.S.W.) which stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker (also known as a psychotherapist, mental health clinician, or simply, a therapist).  I have to say that becoming a licensed therapist was a dream come true for me. I’ve worked with many different populations over the years, dealing of course with different mental health issues.  Currently, I work three days per week with children and families, and every other weekend at an inpatient mental health hospital.  I talk in detail with my clients and patients about the importance of taking care of their mental health, which translates to coping with depression, stress, anxiety, anger, etc.  It’s coping with the big emotions we encounter on a daily basis.  
I’ve been on my own healing journey for many years.  It’s a journey that will never end and a journey I never want to end.
My mental health is directly related to my physical health.  When I am overrun with stress, anxiety, worry, or just going TOO fast…my health suffers and I flare.  My immune system cannot compete and it shuts down.  Inflammation takes over in the many forms it does in my body, which is through the Crohn’s Disease or my Lupus symptoms (inflammation that attacks my heart and lungs, sometimes face).  Depression is not my vice.  My type A tendencies and high energy leave me vulnerable to irritability, mental fatigue and anxiety.  
So I must be in constant communication with myself.  Doing this allows me to identify when I’m losing control and when I need to switch my focus.  Coping skills are no joke.  We all need to know how to cope with the many stressors that bombard our body and mind.  I urge you to take a moment to reflect on how you deal with stressors in your life and make a list of your coping skills.  
Here are some of my personal methods for self care and coping:

1.  Deep breathing (a underestimated first defense in calming down)

2.  Laughing.  I love watching comedies and in general, anything funny.  I like to nurture my sense of humor.  

3.  Wait – don’t react right away

4.  Talking with my husband or a trusted friend 

5.  Being in nature 

6.  Hugging and cuddling my children

7.  Keeping a clean, uncluttered home and keeping things well organized and easy to find

8.  Making sure my to-do list doesn’t get too long.

9.  Playing guitar

10.  Keeping a one-sentence journal

11.  Getting shit DONE! I don’t procrastinate.  

12.  Gardening 

13.  Letting it go

14.  Dancing

15.  Cooking and blogging.  Blogging allows me to connect with others about food and health

16.  Being a total goof ball (I’m not a very serious person, so this comes easy)

17. Yoga

18.  Being alone, taking time for myself

19.  Reading self-help books or other uplifting books

20.  Asking for help

21.  Visualization.  I do have a happy place.  I have calming balancing images that bring me back to the present.

   #1 truth to self: 
“My physical health will never be well if my mental health is suffering.”
Here are my truths, promises and affirmations to self that I take with me everyday on my journey:
1.  I will never give up on healing from past experiences
2.  I will forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made in life
3.  I will work on those automatic negative thoughts that we, as humans, all think (like our default setting)
4.  I will continue to work on self-love and self-appreciation
5.  I will forever work on improving myself as a person; work on mindfulness, self-awareness, being cognizant of my behavior, my feelings…my thoughts
6.  I will become the captain of my own mind and be in control of my thoughts and actions
7.  I  will not be held hostage by the past, and I will not worry about what I cannot control in the future
8.  I will say NO
9.  I will try and live more in the present
10.  I will be my own best friend and nurture the difficult parts of myself that are too easily suppressed
Do you think about this stuff too?
Is it scary?
Sure it is.
It takes courage to wake up everyday and be so aware of ourselves.
 
But the single most important thing you can do for yourself on your healing journey is work on self love, self care and acceptance.
 This can be difficult if the messages you received as a child or at some point growing up were telling you that you weren’t good enough and didn’t deserve love.  You might be riddled with shame and guilt.  You might have deep seeded negative core beliefs about yourself.
But this can change.  Your thinking can change.  You can change.
You just need to be ready and willing to take this journey with yourself.
We all possess the capability of change…
But YOU are the only one that can make this decision.
You must set this goal for yourself.
Here are a few books I’ve read recently that were very helpful on my healing journey: 
 
1.  Feeding Your Demons
-by Tsultrim Allione
(this book was a tremendous help a couple years ago
when I was struggling with some difficult issues).
2.  The Gifts of Imperfection
-by Brene Brown 
(Brene is a shame researcher and in this book provides us with her own personal accounts of shame and improving herself, as well as sharing her years of research on the subject).
3.  Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
-by Daniel G. Amen
(this is my favorite resource.  I teach and lecture from this book in my groups.  I also use it to address stress and anxiety.  It’s fantastic and I HIGHLY recommend it)
4.  The Happiness Project
-by Gretchen Rubin 
(this is a fun, lighthearted book that’s easy to read and PACKED full of great tips on how to improve your mood.  I have been referencing her book in my therapy groups).
This is Water
-by Davis Foster Wallace 
(an incredibly inspiring, raw, honest, and funny speech given at a graduation commencement about living a compassionate life)
 
Here are some self-help resources you can work on at home:
With Compassion,
–Amber
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Labels: Holistic healing, mental health.

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