Mental Health Matters

2022 is upon us! Many people look forward to a new year with anticipation. We aim to leave the past behind and to move towards new goals that often include better health. I am sure that you have heard the term health is wealth. What comes to mind when you think of health? If you are anything like me, you may have only thought about the physical aspect. Everywhere we turn, we are reminded to exercise, eat well, and drink enough water on a daily basis. While those things are important, there is another area of our health that should be prioritized as well.

Mental health is a subject that many people shy away from. If you suffer from poor mental health due to stress, financial issues, or relationship problems, you are perceived as weak. So, what do most people do?

They suffer in silence.

They smile when they’re hurting.

They throw themselves into activities to numb the pain. (drinking, sex, exercise, or overeating etc.)

None of these things help us with the underlying issues. While both men and women can be affected by poor mental health, men are often affected more due to the societal pressures to be masculine and strong. If the issues go unaddressed for too long, it can lead to suppressed emotions, medical issues, feelings of despair, and lead to extreme measures to stop the pain. I have read too many stories where mental health was the culprit behind someone taking their life. Suicide is not the answer. We can all strive towards improving our mental health by:

  • Avoid self-criticism- value yourself
  • Take care of your body.
  • Talk to someone if you need to. Therapy does not equal weakness.
  • Practice mindfulness- meditate or practice yoga.
  • Change up your normal routine. Try new things.
  • Set realistic goals. Don’t over commit.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.

Remember, everything starts in the mind, and our mind needs to be healthy too.



Managing Holiday Grief

The holidays are upon us and while many people are decorating and taking advantage of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, others are not as excited. They may be grieving the loss of a loved one. As a certified Grief Specialist, I was invited to speak on this topic recently.

First, let me define grief. It is the normal and natural response to any type of loss in a person’s life. Of course, death is what usually comes to mind initially, but we can grieve due to divorce, the end of a relationship, employment changes or even health status. (I had to grieve for what Lupus changed in my own life.) Regardless of who or what it is that we grieve, we don’t have to shy away from what we feel. We may feel loneliness, sadness, anger or even anxiety. The reason that holiday grief can be more difficult is because we are exposed to all of the stimuli that makes us more aware of the change that has occurred in our lives. For example, songs, certain smells, or places that we visit can evoke memories of what was.

So, how do we deal with those feelings? Do we rely on short term behaviors that numb the pain such as overeating, drinking alcohol, shopping or throwing ourselves into work? I have done a few of these things at various times in the past and not only are they unhealthy, but they don’t help us. The key to healing our hearts is to address and complete what is emotionally unfinished within that loss. This is how I help grievers.

No one has the right to tell you how long to grieve, but my suggestion during this season is to embrace your strength and courage that has led you thus far. If you’re living in a new body due to chronic illness, every day is a victory. Yes things may be different, but you are a warrior! If you need to cry, shout, curse, or journal about it, do that, re-adjust your crown and continue walking tall. If you’re missing a loved one, try and focus on the good times shared with them, the blessing that they were to your life, and the memories you will forever cherish. Family traditions may not be the same, but you can create beautiful new memories with those you do have. After all, your loved one still resides in your heart and they always will.



Self-Care Is Essential

What comes to your mind when you hear the words self-care? Often people think of massages, manicures/pedicures, or shopping. While these are definitely great forms of self-care, there are so many other forms that are equally beneficial for us.

Let’s look at the definition of self-care. It involves doing things that promote good physical, mental and emotional health. All of these areas are important in our lives and are the keys to overall wellness. When we don’t feel good, it impacts so many parts of our lives. Add in the daily challenges of life including coping with a chronic illness and you have a mounting amount of stress.

Practicing self-care is NOT selfish. It’s necessary! I like to think of it as maintenance. We have to be able to look at ourselves and notice when we need a little fine tuning. Don’t feel bad about doing what you need to do in order to feel better and function better. If you wait until you are depleted, you won’t be able to do anything at all.

Remember, it’s not just our physical health that matters. Our emotional and mental health matters too.

Do you often feel the need to say yes when you really want to say no to something?

Do you refuse to set boundaries?

What about ignoring your needs?

None of these are examples of self-care. As a matter of fact, they are just the opposite of what we should be doing. Learning to say no, setting healthy boundaries, and paying attention to what we need emotionally and mentally is saying yes to ourselves.

Self-care helps to balance us out. When you are feeling stressed or your emotions are getting the best of you, take a few minutes to breathe deeply. Maybe get outside for some fresh air and take a walk. Have a cup of coffee or tea. Practice positive affirmations. One of the biggest things for me has been having access to a counselor.

Yes, a counselor. Having someone to listen to you outside of friends and family makes a world of difference. It doesn’t mean that you’re crazy. With depression and anxiety increasing by the day, we need to normalize therapy. There are so many of us who need support without the fear of being judged. We all want to be heard right? Another thing that I’d like to remind you of, is to allow yourself space to just be. Embrace the quiet moments for they will often bring us back to our center. We all need love and self-care is where it should begin.