Is It Time to Take a Mental Health Day? (Hint…Yes!)

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Often when we talk about taking care of our health and wellness the first things to pop into our mind is food and exercise. Of course taking care of those things are essential to being healthy, but just as important (and possibly more) and less talked about is making the time to take care of our mental health.

Sometimes talking about mental health can almost hold a stigma – like if we are taking the time to focus on improving our mental health there is something wrong with us or we’re broken in some way. Think about this. You are talking to a friend and ask them what they will be doing today. If they say, “going to the gym” you think, “good for you!” If they say “meeting with my therapist,” you think, “uh oh. Something must be wrong…”

It’s because of this stigma that I believe a lot of us don’t even really pay attention to our mental state until it does feel like we’ve reached some kind of a breaking point. But taking care of our mental well being should be part of our regular health routine just like eating healthy foods and getting moving.

Recently I did a series of interviews with women about their greatest challenges when it comes to their health and wellness. While some challenges relating to food and exercise certainly came up what was fascinating to me was that almost across the board challenges relating to mental health took center stage in our conversations.

Things like wanting to feel more positive and more confident, worries about a lack of focus and direction, wanting to spend less time comparing themselves to others, struggling to feel like they are enough they way they are, feeling overwhelmed and scattered, feeling like they are worth spending time, money, energy on…

Let me just say that all of these women are amazing, whole, intelligent, beautiful, inspiring women and are in no way broken. I think if we are really honest these are real struggles most of us face.

So what are a few simple things that we can do to take care of our mental well being?

  • Meditation – You probably know by now that I will always suggest meditation as an truly effective way to take care of our mental well being. There are lots of resources out there to get started. Look in your community for in person classes or try this great free app that I love.
  • Yoga – Yoga is great because most classes are a blend of exercise and paying attention to our mental state and will incorporate meditation and relaxation techniques. If you are looking for a way to try yoga for free at home check out the YouTube channel for my favorite online Yogi Adriene.
  • Gratitude Journal – I love gratitude journaling because it is such an easy accessible way to shift us into the positive mindset. At the end of each day jot down three things that you are grateful for and make you happy. As you fall asleep your mind will focus on these positive things rather than all of the worries and stresses of the day.
  • Digital Detox – This is one that I personally struggle with at times. But taking time away from our screens to look up and pay attention to the world around us and take a break from being bombarded with all of the information on our news feeds can do wonders for helping us to feel less stressed and more relaxed. It can help us reconnect with what’s important in our lives including the people around us.
  • Write Down Dreams and Goals – Feeling swept up in life or unsure about decisions is very common. The antidote to that is to take time to carefully create a vision of what you want your life to look like. Once you have a vision your creative brain will start coming up with ideas for how to get there – your goals.
  • Creativity for the Sake of Creativity – This one I love because I think it’s one we don’t talk a lot about and can be so wonderful for out mental health and happiness – especially if we can let go of our expectations for the final result. I love watching my preschoolers immerse themselves in their art projects. They aren’t trying to make something to impress the world. They are just truly in the moment enjoying the experience of creating.
  • Exercise and Eat Healthy – Ha! The irony is that it’s all tied in together right? I know for me personally sometimes exactly what I need to get into a good mental state is to break a sweat and eat better.

These are just a few ideas. There might be others that work better for you. I like taking informal surveys when I talk to people to see how they attend to their mental well being. For some it’s making time for a quiet cup of tea. For others listening to their favorite music at full blast in the car with their eyes closed. Try picking just one thing to do a day for your mental health (just like you would for your physical body) and experimenting with it. Tune into your thoughts and notice if you feel happier, more focused, confident, settled afterwards. I’d love to hear your favorite ways to take care of your mental health.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

starting-4_1_17Would you like some help creating a beautiful vision for your life and goals to get you there? My next Crafting A Wellness Vision workshop starts in just a few weeks. Register now to be one of 20 women in this supportive, coach-guided workshop. Each day you will spend 10-15 minutes completing exercises and journaling prompts that will guide you in the creation of an intentional vision for your health and happiness. Check out my workshop page to hear from past participants about the program.

Got the Blahs? – 5 Simple Steps to Help Get You Out of Your Funk

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I know the feeling. It’s that feeling of overwhelm, like there is so much on your plate that you just might get swallowed up and yet with so much to do you don’t quite know where to start or have the energy to do it if you did. You start to get grumpy with the people around you, it feels like the universe just might be conspiring to make you crazy. Is this what you signed up for?

Listen, I’ve been there. So if you are feeling that way right now, today’s pep talk is for you. If not tuck this formula into your back pocket for when you need it. We are going to kick that blah feeling right out of here! Here is your challenge today:

  1. Start the day by doing something loving for yourself – It’s not selfish or self indulgent, it is setting the tone for the whole day. This could be brewing yourself a cup of tea and making time to just sit and drink it quietly, taking a shower with new soap that you love, getting some exercise, meditation, journaling, reading a chapter of a good novel. Whatever it is that feels like self love to you do it! Here’s the catch. If you have kids that wake up at the crack of dawn or you have to be in at work by a certain early hour this might feel impossible. I’m telling you now. It’s worth setting the alarm clock earlier.
  2. An act of love for someone else – Okay, you’ve gotten up. You’ve reminded yourself that you are a human worthy of love and done something to prove it. Now it’s time to spread that around. Tell your children specifically why they are amazing, make your husband a cup of coffee when he’s not expecting it, text your friend to let her know you are thinking about her. It seriously takes almost no time at all, but can make a huge difference in that person’s day and magically I promise it will make a difference in your day too.
  3. Do one small thing – Here is the thing to remember. Sometimes just getting started is worth a lot more that starting in the “right” place. In fact I personally am not convinced that there is a “right” place. I think sometimes we get so hung up on getting it right that we just get paralyzed instead. Sometimes any progress is enough to break us free of paralysis and get us moving. So stop and think about the big picture for a minute and then pick one thing that moves you in the right direction. One drawer to clean out, one chore to complete, one phone call to make, one email to send and see where that takes you.
  4. Go outside – Now you’ve made a little progress. Good job! It’s time to go outside and breathe some fresh air. I know that you think it’s too much work to get the kids bundled up, or that you can’t pull yourself away from your desk and computer. Listen. It is ALWAYS worth it. It might be pouring outside. You are still going to feel better after getting out and moving. In the workplace there can be this funny culture where people are worried that others are going to think they are shirking their duties. I even felt that when I worked for an environmental education organization whose whole point it was to get people outside more! But do it anyway because not only do we all deserve breaks, being outside and moving for awhile will actually clear your head and make you more productive and creative. Take your boss with you on a walking meeting if you have to.
  5. End the day early and with gratitude – You’ve done a good job. Top it off be taking some time to appreciate the good parts of the day. Take it one step further and write them down. Recognize the ways in which you are truly blessed. Now turn off the phone and get to bed early so you will feel rested enough to get up and make time for yourself again in the morning. Repeat from step 1.

We all have times when our energy is low. When it feels like inspiration hasn’t visited for awhile. That is totally normal. But when you get to the point where you don’t want to feel that way any more it’s time to make some changes and you have the ability to do it.  They don’t always have to be major. I know sometimes it might feel like you need to overhaul your entire life and move to Italy to study bread baking (whoops, that was one of my fantasies), but often the smallest shifts in our actions and thinking make the biggest difference in our lives.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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Making Peace With Missing Out

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I think one of the most common struggles when it comes to taking care of our health and well-being is the feeling that there is not enough time in the day. It’s so true that we all have the same 24 hours. How is it that we are are supposed to do our work, spend time with our family and friends, take care of household chores, exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, manage our stress, AND find time to do things that fuel our souls and make us feel alive and inspired. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and like we’re being charged with an impossible task!

We want to be good parents, good children, good employees, good friends, good people. We want to make sure we are meeting everyone’s needs. We want to say yes when people ask us to do things.  How do we do it all and still meet our own needs? Have you ever noticed that taking care of ourselves is often the first thing that falls to the wayside when we are stressed and busy?

Here is the thing. There will always be more. There will always be more things vying for your attention, wanting your help, asking for your time, your money, your energy. It’s a big world out there!  As incredible as it would be to be an inexhaustible resource to every person, every cause, every job opportunity it’s just not possible. We need time to rest, recharge, replenish, reflect. It’s critical. The other choice is to become run down, exhausted, broke, stressed, burnt out.

If you are looking for another way here is what I would suggest.

Make peace with missing out.

Here’s how. Take some time to sit down and think about what things in your life that are really important to you. Don’t make that list too long – maybe just 3 or 4 things. Write them down. Read them every day. Think about them. Talk to people you love about them. Then ask yourself every time you are faced with an opportunity or asked to do something, “how does this serve my list?” Get really really clear on how your decisions are serving your top priorities in life.

In a recent blog post I wrote that we make about 35,000 choices every day. Imagine what our lives would feel like if the majority of those decisions moved us in a direction closer to being in alignment with those 3 or 4 things that are most important to us.

When I was a newish mom I used to subscribe to an email list that would send me a weekly email with all of the events going on around town for kids. I wanted to make sure that I was being a super mom so I’d write everything down on our calendar and try to take the kids to as many as possible. I’d feel a little stressed if we were running late or if the kids were dragging their feet to get somewhere. If we missed an event that I had on the calendar I’d feel downright disappointed and frustrated. Like I failed that day.

Right at the top of my list of things that are important to me is Family – so I did some thinking about what that really means for me. For me that means connection, that means time together, that means laughter and mealtime conversations. It does not mean me using my scary mom voice to force all of us to get into the car and rush to some event around town that the kids really don’t care about anyway.

I’ve unsubscribed to that email list. I know where the website is when I need it. These days I’m getting better at making peace with missing out.

So how exactly do you say no?

When I was younger I was a serial people pleaser. I thought that was the best way to get people to like me. I thought saying yes to everything that came my way was the best way of saying yes to the universe. I tried to be open to every opportunity, every exciting new thing, every request for my time and energy. Being open is good right? So why was I feeling so frazzled and overwhelmed?

Then one weekend I was at a weekend-long meditation retreat. The teacher was an older woman. She was so peaceful and calm. Something about just being close to her made you feel more relaxed. One meditation was particularly emotional for me. Afterwards she came and sat next to me. She asked me what was going on and I told her I just felt totally stretched thin and like I was letting people down around me because I couldn’t do it all and do it well. She just rested her hand on my back and said, “You know Brooke, it’s okay to say no to people.”

I don’t think anyone up to that point had ever really told me that.

I want to share a little trick with you that I recently heard on a podcast that for me as a recovering people pleaser has been great. It’s these six little words.

“Let me get back to you.”

When you are face to face with someone who is asking you to do something it can be really hard to say no.  In that moment you might not know if it resonates with your most important things or not. You may need some time to process the request. When that happens you just use these six magic words! They give you time to think about it without closing the door but also without committing. They buy you time to figure it out and make a thoughtful decision. Ultimately if it’s not the right fit for you, it might not feel like it but you will be doing everyone a favor by saying no.

I still sometimes struggle with saying no to people, but I do it a lot more frequently these days because even though I worried for a long time that by saying no I would be restricting my life and missing out on things what I’ve found has been just the opposite. Instead I’ve opened up space and time and resources for the things that really matter to me most. I have more quality time with my family. I find I have more time for taking care of my health and well-being.   If anything my life feels more expansive.

I’d love to hear if there have been times in your life when you’ve been really happy you’ve said no to something. Are there times you wish you would have said yes?

Be happy, be healthy, be well!

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