5 Bonus Habits to Adopt for Mental Wellness | Mental Illness Awareness

As I was writing the 5 Habits for good mental health, I started to remember other habits that I have adopted over the years.  So rather than make one very LONG post, I decided to make these the bonus five!

I call them a bonus because really that’s what you get if you adopt them… a big supply of bonus mental energy, if you will.  Over the years I have adopted each as they have become needed for my recovery and good health and also when I found that I gained so much from them.  I have just continued to try and do them.  Mind you, I am FAR from perfect at any of the habits including the first five that I shared.  But boy, do things look and feel brighter when I’m managing my health in this way.  Also, remember that all of the things that I am suggesting are not easy when you are really struggling, so just take baby steps.  They are not meant to replace medication, that’s something you and your Dr. should discuss.  Just take it one day at time.  So here we go!

  1. Start Journaling– (this one I recommend doing daily if possible) I have been a journal writer for a long time.  Even in my teen years.  I have books and books of ramblings that probably will never make it off my dusty shelves, haha.  But it has never been more apparent to me than it was almost 4 years ago when I had my second Manic Episode* that landed me in the psyche ward, how much a journal can help you through out your life.  I have been able to look back and see patterns and signs that have been especially helpful now.

Your journal doesn’t have to be anything special, most of mine are just spiral bound notebooks that I like because they were pretty or had a nice positive quote on the front.  If you know me, you know I’m easily distracted by shiny pretty things, haha.  I love me some pretty little bling.  But I digress.  The importance that a journal can have in your life in a situation such as Bipolar, for example, is immense.  I wish that I’d done a lot more than ramble in mine. But at least I have dates and times documented that I can look back on.  What I have started doing now that has been especially helpful is first, write a small sentence about how I am feeling maybe even rate how I’m feeling on a 1-10 scale.  One being completely down like the worst of the worst, and 10 is thinking that your on fire (I aim for between 6-8. 9 and 10 are danger zones for me).  Some people have even said that putting a small arrow in the corner.  Pointing up=good day,  pointing down=bad day is helpful.  But for me the scale tends to give me a better idea of where I’m standing.

Second, make a list of 10 things  that you are grateful for that day (If you can only do 3 then do 3 and work up). I write in the morning so I always put down things that happened the day before. But if evening works best for you that’s awesome!  Gratitude is an Attitude and before you know it, the gratefulness and love that pours out of you from this small act will amaze you.  One word of advice, these should not be the exact same things everyday.  Look for small seemingly insignificant things that you can appreciate each day.  Maybe some days the best you can do is, “I didn’t trip over the laundry again today!”  Seriously, if we can learn to recognize that there is good in the darkest of days, we can make it through.  As I said before, I am not perfect at these things and there are PLENTY of days that get missed (usually the days that I’m feeling the worst, but hey that’s a pattern you can use later ;)).  Speaking of days that you feel the worst, if you can make yourself do just a few of the things I’m sharing, you are moving in the right direction.  There’s always a way!

2. Find a Friend – It’s not as hard as we make it out to be, however it is difficult.  Yes hard and difficult are two different things ;).  What I mean is, Friends are everywhere, literally (not hard to find),  we just haven’t done the difficult part of reaching out to those around us that could be potentially the best friend you’ve ever had!  Support when you’re hurting can be the best healing balm you can find.  Even if this friend turns out to be someone you’ve never met that you found through a blog online, haha, that went through the same things you are going through.  I promise you, if they are posting online, they are open and willing to talk with you. However it is much more lucrative for you to find someone near you, and spouses and family members can sometimes be the best.   What ever the case, these people can be there IN PERSON to lift you on days that seem impossible to make it through.  To pop by unannounced with a little treat.  Or be there at a moment’s notice when you’re really desperate. Or just to call or text you to let you know you’re on their mind.

I know I’m making it sound easy, and trust me, I know from experience that NONE OF THIS is easy.  But having someone to talk to is so essential for recovery.  Getting better is never a straight line up.  It is filled with ups and downs and curves and hills and it is so much easier to navigate all of that with someone in your corner to support and lift you.   So make a list of people that you feel close enough that you could reach out to them.  I promise you, there are people waiting for you to ask.  Put away your pride and be vulnerable for a minute.  I believe that there are no coincidences in this life.  Everything happens for a reason.  And that person for you, needs you as much as you need them!

3. Find quiet time– Oh how I wish that I’d known this one years ago.  It’s  hard with 4 littles under the age of six, to find an ounce of peace and quiet.  But it is so essential to good mental health.  If you have to ask your significant other or a friend or family member to watch the kids for a few hours a week, do it.  Ultimately 15-30 minutes a day that you can take time out to refresh would be best.  Whether it’s to read or meditate or just tune out for a few minutes.  It is so good for your mind and body to just get a few minutes to think and contemplate how the day is going.  But like I said, if you are unable to do this daily, at least find time during the week that you can take a time out for yourself.  In general most of us tend to do so much for everyone around us, neglecting ourselves.  However, if you are having a hard time functioning, how can you possibly be 100 Percent for everything and everyone else you have to take care of.  Take care of you, then it is much easier to take care of those around you.

4. Find an outlet or hobby– None of the things that I am listing are easy when you have 900 million things to do in a day.  But if you want to have good physical and mental health, these things are so helpful.  I guess if you wanted to, you could consider your workout as hobby, or your daily walk as you time out.  Getting a two for one sort of effect.  But if you want to be really effective, find ways to work these into your schedule.  Again, some things like hobbies don’t have to be worked into every single day.  Once a week can be very beneficial for your psyche.

So let’s just take a look at some of the things that you could do as a hobby and please don’t say social media!!  I’m talking about things like finding time to read that book you’ve been wanting to read since last summer.  Or working on that creative project that you just never seem to have time to get to.  Or writing that book that you always wanted to start, but something else always comes up.  Maybe you’d like to try something new like watercoloring or hand lettering.  Something that really takes you away into another world for a period of time and gets your mind off of the things that you’re struggling with.  There are literally millions of hobbies that you can take on and try.  You’re bound to find something you really enjoy that gives you something to look forward to.

5. Do something for someone else quietly and Intentionally– This is one that has really helped me when I’ve been at my lowest.  When I’m in that spot (you know the one where you just can’t seem to make your self do anything), I don’t exactly feel like getting out and helping someone move, or making dinner for someone (I care barely get that done for my own family!).  However,  doing small things quietly and intentionally, like sending a card, or sending a text, just to let someone know your thinking of them can take the pressure off of thinking about yourself and how bad you feel.  Believe me, I know it can be difficult.  That’s why I say “intentionally”.  Even when you don’t feel like it, make yourself do it.  Don’t just be random about this, honestly try to think of someone else and how you can brighten their day.  I promise you that in doing it, you will get an instant bump in gratification.  You actually got up and did something really nice for someone else.  And the more that you do things like that, the more it will come back to you and the better you feel.  At least for the moment. The reason that I say quietly, is because for most of us who suffer from mental illness, the last thing we want to do is draw attention to ourselves.  So doing small and simple things that you can do by yourself on your own time, without anyone really noticing can be very uplifting and gratifying.  I heard a story of someone that would intentionally place penny on the ground in a specific place that they could follow up on.  knowing that for someone (maybe even a child), it would bring a smile to their face.

So there you go.  5 more habits that you can add to your life to make it better, and to help you be more mentally and even physically healthy.

* One of the first questions that people ask me when they find out that I have Bipolar, is: What is a manic episode like? So I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot and have decided to write a post about it.  It will be  from 2 different perspectives.  Mine and my husband’s (since he has been with me for 2 now).  It will be informative and useful for those who have or are suffering with what they think might be Bipolar.  And also for those of you that have friends or family that you think might have Bipolar and you want to be a support system for them.  So if you’d like to be notified when my posts update.  Just follow me!

 

Gratitude starts with an attitude

It’s interesting to me that within the word “gratitude” lies the word attitude (without the extra “t” of course).  Isn’t it ironic that this character trait of Gratitude, that is so important to have in our lives would be intertwined with another important characteristic?  I don’t think so, I believe it really is intertwined for a purpose, that it is all in our attitude as to how much we value and use gratitude in our lives.  I sincerely try to be grateful for all things.  Even the events that I can not understand and the hard experiences that I go through, such as my illness.  I “choose” to experience them with a heart of gratitude.  You see, we each personally get to choose our attitude.  Thereby making it possible for us to have an attitude of gratitude daily in what ever comes our way.  Now it’s certainly not easy, in any sense of the word.  But if we can try to “live in thanksgiving daily”  as it states in Alma 34:38 of the Book of Mormon, we may find that it makes our days significantly better;   …and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.

After I went through my divorce, I really struggled with this concept.  I felt lonely, betrayed by some and I was bitter.  I had a hard time choosing to have a grateful heart.  I knew that it was up to me and that I needed to change my attitude and when it came right down to it, it wasn’t difficult to find things to be grateful for.  I had 4 amazing healthy children, whom I love with all my heart,  I had a roof over my head, and most thankfully I had a good enough relationship with their father that made it much easier to deal with the divorce and all that comes with it.  I know that not everyone gets to experience a divorce in that way.  Like I said there was plenty for me to be bitter about, but I chose to look for the things that I could be grateful for during that time and that’s how I was able to survive it.

Elder Wilford W. Anderson of the Seventy said something in a recent BYU address that I found very important he said: “Gratitude will inoculate you against pride and make a way for your escape from the pride cycle,” 

So the opposite of Gratitude is pride!  He goes on to say: “There is a prevalent pattern of behavior in the Book of Mormon commonly referred to as the ‘pride cycle,’” he said. “It is repeated so frequently that one begins to sense that the Lord and His prophets are trying to teach us something important—that perhaps its inclusion in the record is meant to be a warning from the Lord to each of us in our day.”

One of the ways that we can experience more gratitude and inoculate ourselves against pride in our lives, is to reach outside of our little circle and find ways to serve others.  The Christmas season is a great time to begin that habit.  We just had Thanksgiving and hopefully you got to spend time enjoying those closest to you.  Now it is time for us to look for ways that we can help others who may be lonely, hurt, lost, or in need in some way.  The LDS church of which I am a member, has a great program designed to do just that!  It is called #lighttheworld I would invite you to participate in this great program with your family throughout the month of December who knows, maybe it will become something that you can do all year round!

Elder Anderson ended his remarks with this statement “Recognize that all good things come from God,” he said. “He is the source of every blessing you receive. Fill your heart with gratitude for His merciful kindness. Treasure and follow the counsel of His servants. Your gratitude will inoculate you against pride and make a way for your escape from the pride cycle.”

Let’s let go of our pride this Christmas season and look outside ourselves and find the one who needs YOU!  Sometimes YOU are the one that is called to touch another.  Don’t let that opportunity pass you by!

Use this calendar put out by the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for inspiration in coming up with ideas and activities that you can do for #lighttheworld

https://www.mormon.org/christmas/25-ways-25-days-calendar

Adversity and the Adversary

Note:  This post is referenced in this previous post where I said I would share the story about finding my Doctor.

praying hands

It has been almost two years to the day that I lay on my living room sofa in a complete pile of tears.  I had all but given up on finding the right medication and a good Dr. to take me on my journey to wellness.  I had been put on waiting list after waiting list to get in to see a psychiatrist.  I had a scheduled appointment, and the day before I was to see the Doctor I ended up back in the hospital following another manic episode.  The Dr. I was supposed to have seen said that since I was unable to make that appointment,  that I would be scheduled for another 6 weeks out.  I felt so beaten down and forgotten.  Why was God not helping me in this? Where was He when I needed Him the most?  And why am I so broken?  These were the questions that I asked myself over and over again.

My husband Joe, had come home to check on me during his lunch break.  He gave me the news that he was finally able to land me an appointment with a strongly referred psychiatrist…. for 6 weeks from that day!  I was torn, I knew this was a good thing but I was completely devastated that I had to wait so long.  I am not going to make it another 6 weeks I cried, I’ll end up in the hospital again, I just knew it.  Joe could see that I was near my breaking point.  We were both at a loss of what to do.  The adversary was working so hard on us, trying to break us down.  I think he knew that we were nearing the fork in the road where we would be required to make the choice of whether to try and do this all on our own or put our trust in the Savior  and let him carry us.

The Savior said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30)

I know I’ve used that scripture previously but it describes so perfectly what I was experiencing, and what I needed to know.  And although at the time I was probably further from God than I had ever been, I also knew that he would hear my cries.  I think the important point to remember is that we all have our loads to bear.  Each one of us goes through hard things, each of us experience opposition and trials that can lead us away from God.  Or they can build and strengthen us if we will trust in His plan for us.

Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles once stated, “Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness.”  Adversity, then, is essential to our success!

Joe calmly took my hand, and said I think we need to ask God for some help on this.  Can we pray? (This is my non-religious husband whom I had never seen pray before).  Of course, I said a resounding “yes, please pray for us!”  He then poured out his heart right there in front of our sofa.  I don’t really remember the exact words he used but I know that he truly pleaded with a true and honest heart that God would exercise his hand in our situation and somehow bring us peace and comfort and help us get through this hard trial that we were experiencing.  He closed the prayer and I felt a peaceful calm settle over me.  Joe went back to work and I fell into a deep sleep, which was unusual during that time because of my condition.  I awoke to my phone ringing about an hour or so later.  The woman on the line explained who she was, the receptionist of the highly referred Doctor that Joe had spoken with earlier, she explained that they had had a cancelation and knew that I was in desperate need to get in to see him.  “Could you be here at 8:30am tomorrow morning?”  “YES!”  I exclaimed, “I’ll be there.”  I hung up the phone and dropped to my knees,  I knew this was truly God’s hand working a miracle in our lives!

That phone call changed everything for me and for us.  We were now at least “on the journey” towards me becoming healthy again.  The Doctor turned out to be exactly who I needed and has helped me throughout the past couple of years to get and stay well.  However it has been, and continues to be, fraught with many obstacles along the way.  Once we chose to lean on God and get on the right path in that fork in the road the adversary started throwing fiery darts, it seemed, at every turn.  We are told in the Book of Mormon that there is opposition in all things  “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15).

Although trials come, we must remember that opposition permits us to grow, it strengthens us it helps us to learn to trust God even more and to …lean not unto our own understanding Proverbs 3:5.  And let Him direct our path!  Because even though we may think we have a great plan.  He sees more and His plan is better for us!

President Henry B. Eyring stated in the October 2017 General Conference address “… as much as we have already built faith and courage in our hearts, the Lord expects more from us—and from the generations after us. They will need to be stronger and braver because they will do even greater and harder things than we have done. And they will face increasing opposition from the enemy of our souls.”

So we see that the obstacles that the adversary throws at us our necessary so far as we are leaning toward and trusting in the Lord to guide us through these obstacles.  Life is not easy, it was not meant to be easy.  As Elder Bednar stated. “Happiness is not the absence of a load…”.  It’s what and how we deal with that load that really matters.

Joe and I were recently commenting about the length of this trial and how we just didn’t think it would take “so long” haha.  But I can honestly say that without experiencing the ups and downs of these past few years, we would not have grown so close to our Savior.  We would not know God the way we do now.  We would be floundering wondering which way to turn and how to move forward.  But through the strength of our Savior and  Redeemer we have learned that we CAN have happiness even amongst the loads!