Depression Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Stress

New Study Talks About Stress and Teen Girls

Adolescents experience a lot of stress, more than we may even realize. Stress can come from the natural ups and downs at school because of academic pressure, or via social circles, or from an overwrought family system. For some kids, one thing leads to another, and they find themselves trying to process all of that at the same time. How often are these kids who are struggling in this way, boxed into the at-risk nomenclature? Naming the problem and doing something about it are very different things. Further, if we tell these kids they are at-risk, it evokes a negative connotation. These kids are, in reality, under-served and often ignored.

I teach a yoga class to tweens/teens, and I was warned that one of my new kids was a “problem.” I was told she would be a “nightmare” because she was caught smoking last year, implying that she was also a “bad” kid. I chose not to view her as a problem, or a nightmare, or bad. Instead, I approached her with compassion and kindness and boundaries. I recognized that this kid doesn’t need to be judged; she needs to be seen. She has become one of the most dedicated students in my class. She looks forward to being there. She is kind to her classmates and respectful to me, the teacher. This young lady has allowed herself to be vulnerable enough to allow the process of yoga and conscious breath to disassemble her stress–even if it’s in incremental amounts. The shift has been profound.

A new study talks about teenage girls being more prone to depression when they are exposed to a lot of stress. My class is comprised mostly of girls, most of whom share that they are under stress.  In this recent study, “Jessica Hamilton a doctoral student in the Mood and Cognition Laboratory of Lauren Alloy at Temple University hypothesized that life stressors, especially those related to adolescents’ interpersonal relationships and that adolescents themselves contribute to (such as a fight with a family member or friend), would facilitate these vulnerabilities and, ultimately, increase teens’ risk of depression.”

Researchers examined data from 382 Caucasion and African-American students in an ongoing study. Their findings corroborated Hamilton’s theory, showing increased levels of rumination, depression and emotional vulnerability. Seven months later, when they did follow-up testing, the girls showed higher levels of depressive systems than the boys did. The study also showed that the girls had been faced with more stressors than the boys had. The theory is that if boys and girls faced the same amount of stress, the results of the research would have reflected higher rates in depression regardless of sex.

Stress can be a direct result of consistently not having one’s needs met, feeling disconnected or alone, and from unmitigated change at home: divorce, job loss, violence, poverty, or chronic illness. Additionally, the new independence that comes with the teen years can also be stressful. As much as teens want to individuate, the reality that they have to suddenly do many things themselves can be overwhelming for some.


How can we de-stress? Try one or all of these on for size:

1: Time outs are a time in. They are an opportunity for us to reset our minds and bodies.

2: Ask for help.  You don’t have to do this alone.

3: Get some fresh air: go for a walk, or find a way to get outside!

4: Take a media time out: unplug for an hour, and dedicate that time to self-care. If you really want to challenge yourself, turn your phone off for the day!

5: Breathe: 10 deep breaths, extending the exhale each time. Do three or more cycles of this.

6: Say no. No is a complete sentence. Remember this!

Each of these tools encourages an emotional reset. They help turn that fight-or-flight response off and help your body engage its rest-and-digest system. Sometimes, we have to consciously remind our bodies to slow down, but we have to practice. Studies like the one above are a good reminder, a wake-up call, telling us that we have to slow down and process our emotions in a safe, reflective way. Teens need to know they will be ok.

Anxiety Parenting Recovery Self-Care Stress

Is Your Teen Stressed About Graduation?

It’s time for Graduation!

During graduation time, it’s not uncommon for many teens to fall under great pressure from parents and teachers to exceed in academia or to get accepted into the ideal university. Stress tends to be high at the end of the year, no matter how you spin it. Often times, stress is somaticized (converted into physical symptoms) and it shows up in the form of : stomach aches, headaches, difficulty sleeping, eating more or eating less, and even mood swings.


Unfortunately, some kids turn to drugs and alcohol to attempt to quell the anxiety and physical manifestations of their stress, while others may sink into depression. Under stress, our nervous systems go on the fritz, thrusting the body toward a fight/flight/freeze response. If there is no healthy outlet to discharge that stress, it manifests physically.


At the end of the year, when graduation looms, there’s a very real potential for an increase alcohol and drug use, anxiety, and depression. We know that adolescent substance abuse tends to rise in the summer months of June and July. According to a report recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “approximately 11,000 adolescents use alcohol for the first time, 5,000 try their first cigarette, and 4,500 begin using marijuana” during the months of June and July. But facts aside, what can we, as parents, educators, and mental-health professionals do about it? Can you commit to this:

  • Create safe, open spaces for our kids to talk to us.
  • Create a  safe, open environment to facilitate healthy dialogue.
  • Be present for your kids, emotionally and physically.
  • Take care of your own needs and make sure your history is not spilling onto your kids’ present.

For teens already in recovery, managing that end-of-year stress around graduation is crucial:

  • Use your resources and ask for help from parents, teachers, your sponsor, mentor, or another safe adult.
  • Create prioritized lists, checking things off as you go.
  • Create a schedule.
  • Make time for self-care. Healthy physical activity is great for getting the endorphins going, a bubble bath is self-soothing, yoga or meditation will help you get grounded and settle in.
  • Take breaks. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take short 10-minute breaks every half hour and stretch, get up, walk around. You’ll notice an increase in your productivity.
  • Hang a picture of something or someone that inspires you near your workspace.

Try and remember that graduation is something to celebrate. It’s a wonderful accomplishment and something you’ve been working toward since childhood. All of the scraped knees, tears, trophies, reports, dissections and memorization got you to this place. Celebrate it healthfully!

Adolescence Mental Health Prevention Recovery Stress

8 Ways to Kick Stress to the Curb

Stress can be really high at this time of the year. Family reunions aren’t always easy, money can be tight, and if you are newly in recovery, the temptation to imbibe is high. The reality is, stress if everywhere no matter the time of year; it’s how we manage it that makes the most difference. Developing quality coping skills is an essential piece to managing stress. Here are 8 tools to help you manage your stress and have fun while doing it!


1: Create some healthy rituals: take a bath before bed, do yoga or meditation in the morning before you start your day or before you retire at night.


2: Get outside: take walks, go on hikes, do whatever you need to do to get some sunshine (even in December) and absorb some of that healthy Vitamin D. If going outside isn’t an option (say, you are in Maine and there’s an ice storm!), adding plants to your home or workspace can elicit a similar sense of calm and reduce stress.


3: Do something that is relaxing and which allows to turn off your head: do a puzzle, knit or crochet, read a book, draw, go surfing or skiing. Essentially, do something that focuses doing something with your hands or body.


4: Use positive imagery or meditation to ground (stay connected):


A: Check in with your mind and body and visualize a safe space where you are rooted to the earth, and connected to your breath and body. Find an image that is soothing for you and breathe into that heart space.


B: Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart: breathe into your hands for a minimum of 3 cycles of 10 breaths.


5: Exercise: go for a run, walk, or hike. Take a spin class, or go to yoga. Get your endorphins going. You’ll be amazing at the stress relief you find!


6: Breathe. Take long, deep breaths. The longer your exhale, the more efficient you are at activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Try this: breathe in for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 5.

Do this several times. In layman’s terms, the parasympathetic nervious system is what calms you down. It is essentially the emergency medical technician of your nervous system. The best thing about the breath: It’s portable, you do it all the time, and it’s easy to use.


7: Have a dance party.  Put on some silly tunes and rock out in your kitchen, or living room, or wherever the mood strikes you. The goofier, the better.


8: Say “No.” You don’t have to always say “Yes” to someone’s request. If your plate is too full, say “No”! Creating those boundaries will lesson your stress. You can only do so much.


Be kind to yourself this holiday season and beyond and Kick Stress to the Curb. As the Buddha said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”


Feelings Holidays Mental Health Prevention Recovery Self-Care Stress Wellness

Compassion and Kindness Over Holiday Hustling

We are neck deep in last-minute holiday madness! Traffic is catawampus, and the stores

are loud and overly crowded. I am noticing and experiencing a real hustle and bustle to get things done for the upcoming Christmas holiday, but for many of us, holidays can represent added stress and perhaps anxiety.


How about flipping the holiday coin, so to speak, and leaning into the recovery work you’ve been doing around stress and anxiety? Try taking a look at this holiday as an opportune time to work with your discomfort and begin to hold some internal space for it. You may begin to notice some of the other amazing things that occur during this time of year: joy, friendship, abundance, and generosity, community and togetherness.


Here are some thoughts on how to do this while also taking care of yourself at the same time:


Self-care: You need to care for yourself first before you can care for others. You can’t do anything effectively if you are pulling from an empty well. So, what does that self-care look like for you?


Be of service: Do one random act of kindness every day (more if you are inspired).


1. Buy a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks.


2. Buy a homeless person a meal.


3. Help someone with their groceries at the market.


4. Volunteer at an animal shelter.


5. Offer to help an elderly neighbor or with their groceries.


6. Take a commitment at a meeting. The greeter commitment is a favorite because you get to meet new people.


Be kind (to yourself and to others), even when you don’t want to.


Practice compassion. “Sympathetic concern for the sufferings and/or misfortunes of others.” There’s a difference between pity and concern: Compassion isn’t a way to feel sorry for someone. It’s an opportunity to show care and kindness to the suffering of others.


These small acts of kindness and service during the holidays may actually decrease our focus on stress and anxiety created around the holiday itself. Acts of kindness and compassion facilitate connection with others and allow us to let go of some of that stress and anxiety we are holding onto. Connected action allows us to reconnect with the roots of what the holiday is really about: community, love, and togetherness.  Ironically, all that running around to get last-minute items actually makes us disconnected.


So, I leave you with this: a video of two 16-year-olds engaging in random acts of kindness. They dress up as superheroes, wearing tights and capes, and running around paying for people’s food, giving tips to waitresses without even ordering, helping people out when they see they’re struggling to pay for something, and feeding a homeless guy. What can you do this holiday season to practice random acts of kindness? You don’t need a cape and tights, just some willingness to be kind.



Mental Health Mindfulness Recovery Trauma

Finding Resilience Within

jumping (Photo credit: Coubert)

What is resilience anyway?

To be resilient/to have resilience is to be able to quickly “bounce back” or “recover from” a traumatic/stressful experience. It’s the ability to self-regulate, self-soothe, and get grounded when times are tough.

How do you find your resilience?

Resilience develops when we learn to effectively self-regulate. When we develop the ability to recognize the interconnectivity between our minds and our bodies, noticing their effect on one another, we give our nervous system a chance to reset itself. As we gain resources, our resilience increases, allowing us to “bounce back” more readily than when we are dysregulated. Ultimately, your resources should come from within, because wherever you are, there you are. You can’t escape yourself (trust me, I’ve tried).

Tap into your resources:

  • Breathe – Breathing is our most magnificent resource. It’s portable and it’s always with us. Exhaling longer than your inhale can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, our internal ER.  Try this simple breathing exercise:

Sit in a quiet space where you can relax. Softly close your eyes and begin to notice your breath:

Inhale – one

Exhale – two

Inhale – three

Exhale — four

Do this until you get to 10. Repeat 3 times.

This is a simple mindfulness technique that invites calm. Your parasympathetic nervous system can jump in here, slowing the heart beat and cooling the breath.

  • Meditation and yoga: both of these are contemplative practices that invite you to get back in touch with your internal mechanisms. With practices like meditation and yoga, your internal resources have permission to flourish.

Do we all have it?

Stressful events happen…to all of us. How we recover from them and process them is contingent on our personal histories.  For example, if we are raised in an environment where we are silenced and unheard, then managing stress will be reminiscent of that: we may squash it, bury it, or set it aside. We will try to “deal with it.” In reality, we aren’t dealing with anything when we do that; in fact, we are denying it and allowing it to fester.  At the same time, if we are raised in an environment where communication is encouraged, and feelings are met with understanding, one’s resilience to stress will tend to be higher.

Is it easier for some to access resilience than it is for others?

I believe that most people can develop resilience if they have a support system in place and encouragement to work with their shadows and unpack their traumas. However, there needs to be an opportunity available to do this work, or the desire to seek help.  If one comes from an impoverished environment, their ability to resource would be limited. At the same time, someone with more options would be more likely to have access to resources, making resilience more easily attainable.  I often use myself as a reference when talking about overcoming adversity because I wasn’t provided with the best hand of cards. I definitely had a few jokers in there.  What I did have was a deep desire to change my circumstances. This gave my resilience a chance to develop and for that I am grateful. Being an at-risk teen didn’t provide me with a lot of outside resources.


At Visions, we have a remarkable staff of trauma-informed therapists to help families develop resilience. We are forward thinking in our approach to trauma, recognizing that each person requires an individualized process, and understanding the challenges people are faced with when doing this work. At the core, we are lighting the internal fire of hope and healing in our families, empowering each client to discover their ability work with their difficulties in more sustainable, healthy ways. Our nervous systems respond well to kindness and compassion, and with support, these actions can begin to come from ourselves. It means we have to muddle through the shame and grief that plagues us, and give ourselves permission to heal. Recovery is possible; resilience is possible; you are possible.

Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Stress

Stress: Take the Reins Back

Most of us have stress in our lives. It comes with being a human being in a busy world. As parents, we have the stress of running a home, working, and raising children. As teachers, we have the stress of providing safe, nurturing, educational forums for our students. As therapists and mental-health workers, we have the stress of the role of caretaker. All of these are wonderful and virtuous roles and the stress that comes with them is tolerable when there are outlets to discharge it and refuel. Where stress becomes intolerable is in situations where there is no relief. Long-term stress will eventually create larger issues like:


  • Headaches
  • Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Digestion issues (stomach aches, heartburn)
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Compromised immune system
  • Depression
  • Worry
  • Irritability and/or anger
  • Eating too much or not enough


There are many ways in which we can manage stress. We can:


Breathe. Our breath is one of the most magnificent tools we have. It is something we can do without effort, but it is also something that can be done with focused effort. When we practice controlling our breath, and raising our consciousness around it, it can greatly benefit our nervous systems. Taking deep, meaningful breaths nourishes and invokes our parasympathetic nervous systems, the part of our brains responsible for relaxation and calm. In fact, if our nervous system had a fire department, the parasympathetic nervous system is it. We have to engage in activities that support our parasympathetic nervous systems so we can learn to self-regulate.


Slow down. Do you really have to do everything RIGHT NOW?  Prioritize your to-do lists and figure out what needs to be done immediately and what can wait a little bit. Do one thing at a time. Multitasking, though it may seem efficient, can sometimes slow you down.


Exercise. Take more walks, do yoga, go surfing, jog. Do something that gets you into your body and allows your mind to rest.


Get enough sleep! 5 hours a night won’t cut it, folks. Your body and mind need time to recharge. Anything less than 6 and more than 8 hours of sleep increases inflammation in the body, which will increase your levels of stress, and decrease your ability to self-regulate.


Turn off your electronics and go outside! Vitamin Nature is a phenomenal way to get grounded and recharge.


Be silly. Laughter is magical. It really is. A good case of the giggles can be incredibly liberating.


Stay in the present moment. The more we can accept where we are and what we are dealing with, the better equipped we will be when it comes to managing our stress. My favorite quote from Ajahn Sumedo really illuminates present moment awareness: “Right now, it’s like this.”


When we are rigid around our issues, we resemble a stiff, inflexible tree with brittle branches that break with the least amount of pressure. But when we are grounded and our needs our met, those rigid branches become fluid and move with the rustle of the winds. We become simultaneously grounded and flexible. Stress is considered the “silent killer,” but it doesn’t have to be. We can actually restructure our brains by being kinder to our nervous systems with mindful practices of self-care.

As the Buddha said, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

Mental Health Prevention Recovery Self-Care

People Pleasing: It’s Time to Put Yourself First

Do you engage in people pleasing behaviors? Many people do, and they suffer as a result.  They have more stress, lower self-esteem, and less time for self-care and healing. Recovery is a breeding ground for people pleasing behaviors. The old tapes that tell you that you are not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, wise enough, pretty enough, or fill-in-the-blank begin to kick in, and people pleasing behaviors feed into it. Those tapes fuel your emotional demise.


Are you concerned that you won’t be liked if you disagree?


People pleasing behavior leads to a persistent need to keep the seas calm. People pleasers subconsciously want to be perceived as positive, generous, willing, and available. Agreeing with everyone around them doesn’t rock the boat. It also doesn’t honor one’s own perspective. This will lead to resentment, which leaves one sitting with silent rage and frustration. Internally disagreeing breeds resentment and ekes out as passive aggression: sarcasm, rude comments, or pleasantries with a side of salt.


The remedy? Use your voice! Speak up so you can be heard. As you find your voice, you will discover that more often than not, people will respect you for it. When our actions are determined by a false perception of the outcome, we create an environment of low self-esteem and resentment. Both are dangerous states in recovery. In other words, don’t please others at the expense of your well-being.


Do you rely on outside validation in order to make a decision?


If you find yourself saying yes because it will make you look “cool” to someone else, or “no” for the same reason, you are again creating grounds for low self-esteem, frustration, and resentment. What others say or think about you doesn’t matter; how you feel about you is most important.  Finding ways to honor yourself and your authenticity is going to be your biggest asset.


Boundaries? What boundaries?!


The desire to be liked often trumps the desire to be heard. Not having boundaries also puts you in a place to be taken advantage of. If your go-t0 answer is always “yes,” then you are setting yourself up to be overwhelmed. Do you often find yourself overcommitted? This creates stress, which can lead to other health problems like depression, heart trouble, high blood pressure, and headaches. The way to combat this is to slowly start setting some boundaries. Practice saying “No.” Practice taking care of YOUR needs before taking care of the needs of others. You are important!


Is “I’m sorry” your go-to response?


Someone bumps into you, but you say, “I’m sorry.” You trip over a crack in the ground, and you say, “I’m sorry.” This is a common phrase found amongst those who are prone to people pleasing and it stems from a couple of things: Low self-esteem, a desire to please others, and a disregard for oneself. I used to be guilty of overusing this phrase, and have since stopped. First I noticed when I would say it. Then I began to stop myself before I said it. And now, if it slips out, I audibly correct myself. “Actually, I am not sorry that you ran into me!” Creating firm boundaries does a couple of things: it is a way of protecting ourselves, it is a form of respect for others, and ourselves, and it is a form of self-care. Being human is messy; we don’t have to live our lives apologizing for it. A well-placed “excuse me” is sufficient.


Is someone else’s welfare always more important than your own?


Sacrificing yourself at the cost of helping someone else is par for the course for most folks who people please.  Pushing yourself to the point of too much stress compromises your nervous system and makes you feel overwhelmed, tired, depressed, and frustrated. Remember the analogy you are given on flights:
In case of an emergency, give yourself oxygen first, and THEN help those around you. We are no good to anyone when we are depleted.

21 Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser – PsychCentral

Are You a People Pleaser? – Psychology Today

Addiction ADHD Adolescence Mental Health

ADHD Meds: Not Relief for Teen Stress!

Brain stress structures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The pressure on our kids starts early. I’m talking pre-school early. For many parents, their child’s pre-school becomes a status symbol. The kids, on the other hand, could care less. They just want blocks and naptime, really. What they don’t need is pressure. But as our little ones advance in age, they are introduced to the latest standards and school becomes less of a place to become intellectually enriched, and more of a place to try and attain the highest test score. Sure, great test scores are a wonderful achievement, but they are not everything. Unfortunately, the pressure to do well and to be the best puts a great deal of pressure on our kids, and honestly, most pre-teens and teens couldn’t tell you in earnest what they want to be when they grow up, let alone what college they plan on attending. For most kids, adolescence is similar to the hormonal version of Survivor: full of surprises and unexpected whirlwinds of emotional adventure (with some added fear-based scenarios tossed in for good measure.).

By the time they reach middle- and high-school age, pressure from parents and school administrators can really gnaw at the edge of adolescence. The pressure increases and kids start to fall apart in various ways: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug use, and other forms of teen stress.  An example of this are the kids who push themselves so hard, they use stimulants like Adderal or Ritalin (typically prescribed for ADHD) just to make it through their end-of-the-year finals. This is troubling. Those who truly suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder benefit from these drugs and need them in order to balance out their brain chemistry. But when someone without this disorder takes these drugs, they experience a classic amphetamine high. Their brains don’t need chemical balancing. Adolescence is prime time for brain development; the last thing it needs is to play the part of a petri dish just to do well on a test.

I wish we could eliminate this pressure and the inevitable teen stress, but realistically, we can’t. What we can do as parents, teachers, therapists, and mentors is encourage a sense of propriety in our kids. We can teach them early on to ways in which to manage their stress, and perhaps even avoid some of it altogether. When my son was a toddler, having tantrums and doing toddler things, I started teaching him breathing techniques to help him self-soothe. I often think going back to those basic self-soothing skills we learn when we’re young is beneficial for managing life as we get older. If you didn’t learn to self-soothe as a tot, you can pick up the pieces now. Learning to be gentle with ourselves when we’re under stress is an invaluable tool. Teens, in particular, need to find ways to manage stress without sinking into the negative patterns so common in adolescence. So, what can they do?

  • Breathe. Stop and take 10 deep breaths.
  • Take a break. 10 minutes of solace won’t destroy your chances for a good grade. If anything, it will allow your brain to recharge.
  • Eat something. Fruits, veggies and high-protein snacks keep your brain fueled. No fuel=foggy thinking.
  • Ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone.
  • Read something light and entertaining. In other words, take a break from the intensity of academics.

I think you get the idea. If we stop and take care of ourselves, we are less likely to take the risks of using someone else’s prescription to pass a test or to study. Sacrificing mental health and safety for good grades is self-sabotaging behavior. It’s not worth it.

Mental Health Stress

Stress: Too Much Pressure

When I think of stress, I think of a rubber band being stretched beyond its limit and its eventual ruptured demise. Though our bodies are provided with a natural alarm system, designed to protect us during perilous times, that same fight-or-flight response becomes erosive if it’s engaged for too long—much like that rubber band.

The body isn’t meant to live in a persistent state of fight-or-flight. The result of too much stress results in a concurrence of innumerable health problems. Still, our bodies are remarkable machines, having inbuilt mechanisms that help us move through our lives, and when something stressful occurs, our bodies jump into action.

A perceived threat will trigger the hypothalamus (a tiny region in the brain which sets off the body’s alarm system). This system prompts the adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. While the adrenaline increases the heart rate, raises blood pressure, and creates an energy surge, cortisol (the body’s primary stress hormone) increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances the brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.(1)

Cortisol has a huge job to do: it keeps the nonessential or potentially detrimental functions at bay during the flight-or-flight response, adjusting the immune system and even suppressing the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes as it does its job. This systemic stress response is self-regulating: when the threat passes, the body begins to normalize itself.  However, when there is too much stress—too many perceived threats—over an extended period of time, the adrenals and cortisol  lose their ability to work efficiently. A persistent overexposure to stress hormones can “disrupt almost all your body’s processes,” increasing the risk for a number of other physical or emotional difficulties:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Fatigue
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness or depression
  • Irritability or anger
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Social withdrawal

These difficulties are merely a sampling of what is often a long, detailed list of reactions to stress. Left unattended, stress can have negative long-term effects on a you.

So, what do you do when the pressures in your life are mounting with no end in sight? More than you think and in simpler ways than you can imagine. It’s not like you need a vacation to a tropical island to feel better (though that would be amazing!).

Start simply, but be consistant:

  • Exercise. It raises your endorphins and releases tension.
  • Meditation. Start with 5 minutes a day sitting in silence is too much. Work up to longer periods; before you know it, you’ll be sitting for 30-45 minutes at a time!
  • Yoga. It’s a wonderful way to work with your body and breath, creating a synergistic energy that is both energizing, heart opening, and calming.
  • Tai chi. Another wonderful way to move y our body in time with your breath. Slow, mindful movements bring you into the present–something that’s easily lost when stress is in charge.
  • Relaxation techniques. One of my favorites is a breathing exercise in yoga where you breathe in for a count of five and breathe out for a count of six. As you continue, increase the count on the in-breath while increasing the count on the out-breath. It’s been shown to relax the brain and body as you exhale for a longer count than on the inhale.

Stress isn’t something to shrug off. It’s quickly become a major health concern for an increasingly larger population. It’s time to stop. It’s time to take time every day to do something for yourself. The old adage of “I’m too busy to…” is nil. The reality is, we don’t have time not to take care of ourselves.

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Mental Health Recovery Self-Care

Self-Care = Kindness

Image via Wikipedia

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Isn’t that how the saying goes? Well, what if you suffer from alcoholism or addiction, or a mental illness, and the thought of self-care never even enters your mind? What if a bowl full of lemons merely represents the puckered, sour taste of your life?

While performing acts of self-care is a learned trait, it’s invaluable once you integrate the practice into your life. I think of the instructions you’re given in an airplane in case of an emergency: “Secure your own mask first before helping others.” Because we can’t always control our environments or the stressors that come and go in our lives, it’s important to have a means of caring for ourselves so we don’t get “knocked over” by life itself. Essentially, if we don’t learn to care for ourselves and ensure our well-being, we become bereft in our abilities to care for others.

You can start small, but I encourage you to start. Pick one or maybe two of these and see how it makes you feel!

  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation has a slew of negative side effects, including: irritability, reduction in alertness, memory problems, daytime drowsiness, stress and anxiety.
  • Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals adds stress to the body and increases irritability and moodiness.
  • Exercise. Go for a hike, take a walk, do some yoga, go surfing, et cetera. Moving your body raises endorphins and lifts your mood!
  • Read a book or watch a funny movie.  Sometimes taking a mental break and doing something purely entertaining is a great way to take care of ourselves.
  • Do one thing at a time. Yes, this might mean putting the kibosh on multi-tasking! The irony is, you’ll probably get more done.
  • Find a way to “do nothing” for 10 minutes…everyday. It’s a recharge for the brain. Seriously. Yes, that may mean logging off of Facebook for 10 min so you can take some deep breaths. I promise, you won’t actually miss anything.
  • Ask for help if you need it. I honestly think this is the hardest and yet most valuable component of self care. We can’t recover on our own, not from addiction, alcoholism, or mental illness.

As we begin to invest time in ourselves and create space for nurturing and self care, we fortify our hearts. Being able to recognize our needs is paramount in recovery. It’s not selfish to take care of ourselves; it’s an act of kindness.

When in doubt, remember this: “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” (Buddha)

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