Actively showing support for anyone with a mental health challenge is … well … challenging in and of itself. But doing this for a spouse or significant other can seem to add an additional layer of difficulty. As if living with your significant other/spouse is not challenging enough, you may find yourself at wit’s end trying to deal with his/her mental health condition effectively while balancing other areas of your life like job and kids. Can you learn to deal with it and still show them how much you care? Of course you can!
Sometimes others do not understand the entire issue of a mental health challenge or illness, because their symptoms are not always on the outside for others to see. However, you probably sense conditions before you can readily identify them outwardly. That is why it is important to see a competent health care practitioner who is experienced also with mental health, and if you obtain or have a diagnosis for your spouse, it is a good idea to understand exactly what the diagnosis means. It is also helpful to understand that people with real mental health challenges are not behaving, thinking, and feeling the way they do on purpose. It often seems beyond their control.
However, help is available whether it be by therapeutic intervention, medicinal intervention, or holistic intervention involving lifestyle changes.
It is a good idea to research various ways to deal with mental health conditions … for example, if your significant other has an anxiety disorder, it’s not especially helpful to simply tell him/her things will be okay when their experience tells them things are not okay. If your significant other has depression at a clinical level, it’s not helpful to tell him/her to just snap out of it. No, it’s not in their heads. (It’s in their biochemistry.) Try instead, what can I do for you?
It almost goes without saying that you absolutely need to practice self-care. How can you deal with life’s issues if you don’t take care of yourself? If you burn out trying to balance dealing with mental illness, work, kids, home, etc., then you wind up needing care yourself. So be proactive and make sure you make enough time to do for you, yourself, what you need in order to stay healthy and above all else – balanced.
Many people find solace in seeking spiritual guidance, whatever the form. For many it’s religion and reaching out to God. For others, it can be yoga and meditation to get centered (i.e., mindfulness activities). Spirituality and religion are considered separate phenomena. If you are seeking counseling for yourself, make sure you include your own brand of religion and/or spirituality and have your practitioner incorporate that into your sessions.
Think about what helps keep you going in difficult times. Thank about what is important to you in life. Do you feel safe? What things make you feel supported and happy? It’s important for you to feel valued and worthwhile to continue and make this experience a positive one!
So, no matter what the manifestation of the mental health challenge is, make sure your spouse/significant other knows that you care. You can use words of endearment, you can keep your temper under control, you can advocate for him/her, and you can get a mentor, etc. to help you navigate the daily challenges. Remember that people are role models for each other, as they are for kids, so if you are taking care of yourself, that may end up inspiring your spouse to do the same!
At times, mental illness occurs because of physiological issues. In any case, getting you and your significant other on healthy nutrition will assist both of you equally and your kids as well. Certain supplements can be extremely helpful in improving symptoms and moods, too; it is scientifically well established that diet and supplements can make a huge difference in restoring health, and that includes mental health. Energy medicine (Reiki, Tapping, Emotion Code, etc.) is another promising avenue to explore. It is a great idea to work with a competent health care practitioner, but it’s helpful for you to also do your own research. Please remember that although there aren’t many, some supplements and medications do not play well together so be sure you are aware of possible contraindications.
As always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
You betcha! Most of us are aware that life in the 21st century is a lot more complicated than in the last one. We are connected with the rest of the world like never before, and we have constant stimulation, morning to night. This contributes to our everyday stress and adds an unhealthy layer to our already over-stressed lives. There are stressors beyond our control such as the traffic (!), and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of minor stressors that occur daily at home and at work. If you come home from work (or at least out of your home office) drained from having worked for hours, and you see a pile of laundry that needs to be done, well, this can cause you to explode even though it’s an everyday type of task.
So, if your home (or even your office) is very cluttered, then you might not even have any time or place where you can unwind. Wouldn’t you rather try to relax in a nicely organized space? Of course, if you are used to having clutter around you, an organized area might not seem normal. However, once you achieve organization and acclimate to it, you will see it has been proven to be a stress releaser!
We know that an organized space can help you relieve stress. Cleaning up and organizing your space can also give you a sense of achievement, something to be proud of. Going through all of your things, you can decide what you need to keep, what you can give away, and what could also be thrown away. A keepsake memento to remember someone in your past or an event/achievement you’re proud of is something that would be healthy. But it doesn’t have to be much to keep that cherished memory alive. You might have some pictures of ex-partners and other people and you can ask yourself if you really need to keep those. You might have some kitchen paraphernalia you once used, but don’t anymore. You might have some older clothes you haven’t been wearing for some time. Letting go of things from the past, outside of some small mementos, can help free you emotionally and enable you to move forward with greater ease. This can even help boost your self-esteem.
Your brain actually likes organization! Clutter can be damaging to your brain’s health. Clutter can interfere with your sleep, and it can certainly make you anxious or even depressed. It can also adversely affect your ability to focus. If you are one of the many emotional eaters, clutter can trigger you to reach out for more food than your body actually needs, plus you might choose unhealthy, junky foods. Researchers have found that people who have a cluttered home have higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), leaving you in a low-level fight-or-flight mode, a constant nagging stressor. Researchers have also examined the positive effect of decluttering – it does indeed help improve focus, and it makes your productivity better, whether it be at work or at home. Organization helps your brain process information.
If decluttering seems overwhelming, by all means reach out for help from trusted friends and family members. You can also do it in smaller steps – perhaps 10 minutes at a time, to be increased as you are able. Some things are very emotional, and you should take good care of yourself while in this all-important process of letting go. And if it seems like you just can’t do it at all, it might be time to seek some professional counseling. A change in diet (to a healthier one) and other lifestyle habits could also be pivotal in helping you handle so much stress during the decluttering process and help release you to move forward in all areas of your life.
As always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
If you’ve grown up in fast-paced America, you, as an adult, may find it particularly challenging to learn how to be more mindful. Mindfulness, which started out as being considered New Age (a little crazy?!), has now been validated by a great deal of scientific research. Being mindful means you have slowed down enough to have a second-by-second awareness of your experiences without being self-judgmental. Being mindful means you are alert and relaxed. You can achieve mindfulness by noticing your emotions, thoughts, and physiological sensations – all in order to be able to focus on the present moment in time.
You may be wondering why this is now considered to be such a good thing. Well, being mindful helps to relax you, is especially helpful when you are stressed, it can help if you have heart disease, it assists in lowering your blood pressure and even pain, it can help improve your sleep, and even helps with gastrointestinal ailments. And don’t forget that about ¾ of your immune system resides in your gut! Some examples of mindfulness techniques are meditation, doing art or music (for some, even many), Bible study, yoga, tai chi, etc. Mindfulness can be a very individual thing – so if you’re trying to do this once or twice a day, do something that helps you relax and be able to focus more on your senses, feelings, and thoughts.
If this is challenging enough for many adults, then it may be challenging for kids. It is helpful if you are a parent trying to teach your kids to be mindful if you have mastered the art of it yourself. Remember, your role model is extremely important and perhaps the most prominent type of teaching that your kids will want to emulate! There are some books with stories that help teach about topics like mindfulness, so that may be a good way to start, especially if your kids are young. You can read them aloud, and be in a comfortable, quiet place while doing so.
Another way to teach your kids mindfulness is to have them sit still and notice their emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations, while saying them out loud. Make this age appropriate. You can give examples like, “When I think about taking a test, my heart begins to race.” “I love spending time with you.”
There are also CDs available for helping develop mindfulness skills for kids – this will help them lower their stress levels, calm down, and be able to focus better. (Think ADHD!) There are also CDs available specifically for kids doing yoga.
One interesting exercise that might work with some is to hug your child, and together take 3 breaths at the same time. Focus on relaxing parts of your and their bodies that might be tense, like the shoulders, specific muscles, etc.
Also, if you and your kids are eating a snack, you can use this as a mindfulness exercise by observing the food, noticing how it looks, smells, feels in your mouth, and how it tastes. Say all of this out loud. And please enjoy that!
As you teach and practice mindfulness techniques with your kids, remember that this can also help them (and hence, you) academically. Anxiety and depression and stress are powerful distractions and hinder being able to focus on schoolwork. This works equally well for you as a parent regardless of whether you have high stress at work, or perhaps interact often with others who seem to both evoke and invoke anxiety, anger, etc.
You can never start too early to teach your kids mindfulness. That means that you will also benefit by you and your kids being more mindful. In fact, if it becomes the norm, how much better will you and your kids be able to move forward in time, with lowered stress and more coping ability!
I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about mindfulness and nutrition. It makes sense that you can be more mindful if you are making healthier food choices. As most of us already know, fresh (preferably local and/or organic) produce is a given. If you or your kids balk at eating veggies, get creative about fixing them in a very appealing way! Sometimes you just need to hide them in other foods. Eat healthy, clean protein choices, and don’t be afraid of eating healthy fats. Don’t eat too much junk food as this type of eating is pro-inflammatory and will help you increase anxiety, depression, etc. rather than help you relax (although it can feel particularly good in the moment – be aware of after-effects). Be appreciative of what you eat – remember to notice tastes, textures, smells, and pay attention to how full your tummy is getting. Also notice food colors, and even sounds the foods make when you eat them! Take your time chewing and eat more slowly. So, eat when you’re hungry but please not when ravenous! Be grateful for all the bounty you have, and it can be very relaxing to share your high quality, health-giving foods with others. Then notice how good that feels!
And as always – please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
Most everyone has heard that sleep is important to your health. That’s true enough! But did you know that poor sleep, both in quality and quantity of hours, is linked to your being overweight?
In fact, those who sleep more healthfully tend to consume fewer calories in a day. This is because sleep deprivation disrupts the hormones responsible for appetite and may cause poor regulation. And yes – it’s been documented – those of us who sleep poorly have more of a risk for heart disease and strokes. Yikes!
Sleep deprivation can also reduce insulin sensitivity, as well as putting you more at risk for depression – something none of us needs. Poor sleep seems to have a major impact on your body’s levels of inflammation. Remember, there is always inflammation present when you’re sick with anything. More specifically, poor sleep has been correlated with long-term inflammation of the digestive tract (where about ¾ of your immune system is located), and you may be more prone to inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease). Sleep deprivation takes away from your ability to interact socially in a positive way.
But enough of the bad news – let’s get into some good news! With good, healthy sleep patterns, all of the above can be reversed. Getting a good night’s sleep can help boost your immune system, and in this day and age, we need all the high-quality immunity we can get to fight off internal (poor diet, stress) and external invaders (like coronavirus). Don’t forget that a healthy diet (one that is healthy for you specifically) will indirectly help you get a good night’s sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can also help to prevent weight gain, not directly, but by suppressing the hormone ghrelin, which boosts appetite. Better sleep, both in terms of quality and quantity (i.e., number of hours), can help give your overall mood a boost. Being well rested helps your energy levels. With a good night’s sleep behind you, you’re less likely to get into a car accident. Your productivity at home and at work can also be better with a good night of Z’s, as sleep is linked to better concentration and higher cognitive function. Getting a good night’s sleep can help you perform better with exercise, and it can even help improve your memory.
Are you interested in getting into a healthy bedtime routine? A few great suggestions are to keep a consistent schedule when you go to sleep. You can set a bedtime which can help you reach for 7 hours of sleep. Avoid going to bed if you’re not sleepy (unless it’s time of course!). Make sure all lights are out and that your room is sufficiently dark. Turn off computer screens and any other LED lights. Play some soothing music, turn on binaural beats (sound waves), and diffuse some essential oils. Perhaps a few minutes of meditation are helpful to you. These can all be very calming and relaxing. Find out what works the best for you … then do it regularly.
Try to use a high-quality mattress, one on which you feel relaxed. Make sure your pillow is also very comfortable. Your spine needs proper support for optimal relaxation and to avoid aches and pains. Your sheets and pillowcases can also make a difference. There are some made specifically for people with allergies and these can help you relax more if that is one of your issues. It goes without saying that keeping noise to a minimum is a must-do. If you fall asleep with your television on, perhaps you can program it to go off at a reasonable hour. Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is exactly right for you – not too warm and not too cool.
If you’re into essential oils, certain scents may help you get drowsy. Lavender is known for relation, chamomile can help by lowering anxiety and depression, and sweet marjoram oil is also known for calming qualities. Bergamot oil, which is a citrus fruit derivation, is known to be calming (whereas other citrus scents are known for stimulation); it can help to lower heart rate and blood pressure. Valerian oil works on similar principles as drugs prescribed for sleep – it inhibits the breakdown of GABA, a neurotransmitter which helps induce sleep. Another favorite is jasmine oil is known for assisting with insomnia, and peppermint oil has an anti-inflammatory effect and assists in clearing airways and reducing snoring. If you have serious health issues, please check with your competent health care provider!
It might be helpful to you, personally, as well as your health care provider, to keep a sleep diary. Note medications (and supplements) you may be taking, how many caffeinated beverages you consume, as well as how much alcohol you drink during the day and night (list the amount and time), whether you exercise, if you feel sleepy during the day, if you nap, etc. Also, note the food you consume during the day and especially within 3 hours of your bedtime. (Are these foods healthy [i.e., fresh produce], are they stimulating [i.e., sugar and especially processed grains like wheat], etc.?) By analyzing the results, you may be able to start to narrow down elements which might be inhibiting your ability to get enough high-quality sleep each night.
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of your taking care of yourself so you can be fully available for others, like your family and friends. Don’t neglect or ignore it!
And as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
Well, another year has ‘bit the dust,’ and January has come along with wintry weather, the blues, and resolutions that you may or may not have kept! (This is true for so many of us – no shame, no blame.) Now you find yourself in the month of February, and along comes Valentine’s Day, a day that is thought to celebrate a romantic kind of love, although this does not appear to be true of its historical origins. No matter – what a lovely thought to have a day devoted to the one you love!
One problem is that such a holiday can remind you of something you never had or someone you lost. Perhaps you had somebody but had an extremely negative experience. You might end up feeling out of sorts. Very traumatic memories and feelings can also arise. This can happen if your loss was from a romantic partner, a spouse, another family member, or a friend.
In any case, if you’re feeling anxious and/or depressed, you might want to try journaling – write your thoughts and feelings down on paper (real or virtual). This can be therapeutic for many. If you start to go downhill in your feelings as you pen them, get up and take a break. Go for a walk, do something else – put your mind on something else. This is where distraction can be a good thing!
If you’ve lost a special person, perhaps you can conduct a private ceremony to say goodbye. Or bury something that means something to you about this special individual in the ground, as a way to say goodbye, see you later (according to your beliefs), and allow yourself to move forward.
During such times, you may not be sleeping well, you may be eating poorly both in quantity (i.e., too much or too little), and your food quality choices may suffer. Many people want food items with sugar and refined flour to try to find comfort or compensation, or to distract them from the difficult feeling. So, try to choose more wisely, as it makes no sense to bring your health down if you’re grieving. Instead, support it with good nutrition. You’ll likely cope better!
There are many tools to help people cope with difficult and powerful feelings such as these. For example, many find benefit to engage in tapping (emotional freedom techniques), emotion code (using muscle testing and a magnet), reiki, binaural beats (sound waves), diffusing essential oils, and don’t forget to include your support group during these trying times. If need be, please reach out to a competent counseling professional. There are health and wellness coaches, counselors, psychologists, social workers, case workers, and more. While working with a knowledgeable health care professional, perhaps you can assess your needs for supplements. During trying times, our bodies seem to use up our stores of vitamins, minerals, etc. more quickly.
An older study revealed that there are some jaw muscles (Duchenne) which are involved in laughing. The study showed that laughing hard (not smiling or laughing a little), exercising these muscles, provided some therapeutic respite from grief! So, if possible, try to watch or listen to something that will make you laugh. You don’t need to feel guilty about laughing – it’s good for you and will help you cope with your grief! Of course, you won’t be laughing non-stop and your anxiety and depression will not vanish overnight, but it’s a great bit of knowledge to have in your mental health toolkit.
Above all else, be kind and compassionate toward yourself, as you likely would be to others. Please practice excellent self-care; you are definitely worth it.
And as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
By Quinton Kiser
So, it’s a new year. It’s 2021, to be exact. For some of us, it is a little hard to believe that we are actually in the year 2021. I can remember when the year 2000 was an exciting, futuristic year that many people were looking forward to. I can remember when the year 2010 was a vague year that seemed far off in the future, and I couldn’t imagine what life might be like when we finally got there. But now we’ve arrived. If that doesn’t amaze you (even just a little), you’re probably at least glad to be done with 2020. That year was definitely a year for the history books, and I’m sure many of us are hoping that 2021 is better.
The good news is, you don’t have to merely hope that 2021 is a better year. You can do certain things for yourself to help make this a decent year. Granted, 2020 was filled with all sorts of things that most of us had little control over—COVID-19, a rancorous presidential election, Tiger King, and depleted store shelves. Nevertheless, much of our well-being is still in our control. We just need to take the initiative to self-reflect and decide specifically what we need to work on in our lives and how can go about doing it. Here are some ways you can take better care of yourself in 2021 so that it is better than 2020.
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.