What Meditation Can do for Your Mental Health

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Meditation is an interesting concept.

Reaching a calm spot in your mind can be hard, especially if life is busy. Your mind is racing with thoughts and slowing down can seem almost impossible.

There are meditation apps on both Apple and Android platforms, even on YouTube. It’s up to you. I prefer an app, Insight Timer. I like the selections- some are led by a person, some use music. I prefer the person.

I started meditating as part of running a group at a former job. I got really into the quiet time to gather my thoughts and just relax. Everyone knew that was my group. The patients also loved it- the group was usually packed.

I’ve gotten out of the habit and need to restart.

Less than five minutes can change your whole day.

Feeling Good All Over

Meditation can help your mind get into a better place, which can help the rest of your body.

How can you get to that place?

  • Find a comfortable space. I prefer sitting on my bed or couch, but this is entirely up to you. Some like sitting on a yoga mat on the floor as part of a yoga practice. It’s all about what makes you comfortable.
  • Quiet is a must. It is hard to meditate if there is a lot of noise in the room you are in, so try to find a good time/place to try this. It can be an almost impossibility with children, pets and/or other people, events, etc, but it’s possible.
  • Do you need a timer? Some do, some don’t. I’ve tried untimed and timed, and I prefer timed. Otherwise, my mind tends to wander off and it defeats the purpose.
  • It’s okay if your mind wanders. If you’ve never tried meditating before or you are coming back to it, your mind will tend to wander. It’s natural. It’s hard at first to let your mind just be. If you’re listening to meditation with words, it can be hard to listen to and connect to the meditation. This is why I suggest short ones at first. As you get deeper into practice, you can work up to longer ones, if you decide it is for you. Everyone has different needs and preferences.
  • Don’t force it. Meditation isn’t for everyone. If it isn’t for you, you will realize it.

Calm sky

Meditation can help you in the following ways:

  • concentration
  • relaxation- as you meditate, your breathing slows and deepens, helping you relax. Also, your mind clears. This is helpful in many situations.
  • pain management- keeping your mind off severe pain, even if for a short while
  • anger management- thinking through things before adverse actions, using relaxing breaths
  • stressful situations/anxiety
  • can help children and adults
  • sleep

Self-care is vitally important. I’ve covered this topic many times on this blog. It’s not just a passing fad or something to do when we’re bored or just when we have time, but something we should find time to do every day, even if it’s just five minutes. I entirely need to get better on the meditation- I love it. It helps me center my thoughts for the day. Restarting an old habit can be a pain sometimes. How do you do it?

For further reading:

Self-Care Isn’t Just Bubble Baths

Alone Time Is A Wonderful Thing

Is It Time for A (Mental Health) Break?

Book Review: “Fall to Pieces”

I love to read memoirs. For some reason, I really enjoy reading memoirs of those with addiction, and this was before my drinking became a problem. I’ve read “Life” by Keith Richards, which was fantastic but took three weeks because it’s over 500 pages.

I’ve also read Nikki Sixx’s book, “The Heroin Diaries”. It was a bit wild, but still very interesting. I’m just waiting for a member of Fleetwood Mac to come out with their memoirs. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.

I”ve read “Fall to Pieces” before, but it was a bit different re-reading it this time. This book was written by Mary Forsberg Weiland, the first wife of Scott Weiland.

He was the lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots, one of the best rock bands of the 90s. If you’re too young to know who this band is, you might want to go on YouTube. They were a great band. Scott died in December 2015, unfortunately from an overdose.

Book cover

The book opens with a very descriptive explanation of her childhood in California, a bit in New Jersey after her mom’s remarriage and, of course, when she met Scott.

Mary also became a model while moving around and became quite successful while still a teen. She also met her best friends during this time. She became friends with Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers. They have remained friends for many years.

It wasn’t until I read Scar Tissue, his autobiography, that I understood all the while Anthony was being my true friend, his own soul was being badly shaken.”

This stood out. We don’t always know what our friends are going through, much less anyone else. People hide things but still make things look at least bearable. I’ve been there for my friends through their own issues but yet struggling through my own.

The story of her relationship and later, marriage, with Scott, is so well detailed. She tells of the good, bad and in between. They were together off and on nearly a decade before marrying, and they had two kids together- a daughter and a son.

During this time, Mary drank and used a lot of substances. She knew it wasn’t the best way to live, but it took multiple attempts to finally stop using.

Mary also has had a long battle with bipolar disorder, possibly beginning when she was a teen. It’s hard for her or anyone else to know. She wasn’t diagnosed until well into adulthood, and this is well documented in the book. She struggled to accept this diagnosis along with being an addict.

Many people with either issue do. I will say she is being treated and is sober, but I won’t spoil the ending for you on how she got there.

Mary shared a quote from a community college class:

“In recovery, we look for progress, not perfection.”

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This is very accurate. Nobody is perfect, and anyone recovering from any kind of addiction certainly isn’t. Progress is what counts the most. It is not close to easy, and anyone who tells you it is- they are not entirely correct.

One of my best friends, Tyson, once asked me if I was okay while sitting at dinner and the talk to turned to beer for a while. I wasn’t a fan of beer to begin with, and he knows this, but he was making sure I wasn’t thinking about having a drink.

I wasn’t, but I am very grateful that he asked. It took a year before I could even go into a sports bar. “One day at a time” is the best quote I have ever heard that applies to recovery.

As many of us know, Scott and Mary did not work out (the section about the end of their marriage is a sad one) but they were able to co-parent, at least as of the writing of this book. I’m one of the millions of fans that were saddened to hear of Scott’s death. He was incredibly talented, like many others, but yet, he had an addiction that he was never quite able to end.

Pic courtesy of Google

What You Can Do when Mental Health Affects Work

Part of adulting means working, for most of us.

Our careers are meant to give life a chunk of meaning, reflect part of who we are. For example, I chose psychology because I like helping people and I’m curious to know what causes (at least in part) why people do the things they do. My Career in Psychology reflects this choice and the different jobs that I have taken on this path. It’s been interesting. Real Stories of a (Former) Mental Health Worker is a slightly funnier reflection on the best job I have ever had. If you’ve worked in psychology, especially at a mental health facility, you’ll get a few laughs.

Stressed at work

However, when our emotional well-being takes a negative turn, most aspects of our lives are affected. This includes work- it’s hard to concentrate or even show up when you don’t want to get out of bed, get dressed or leave your home.

A Few Interesting Facts

According to Mental Health America, clinical depression is one of America’s costliest illnesses. If it’s left untreated, depression is as costly as heart disease or AIDS in the cost of lost productivity, absenteeism during a person’s prime working years. Most people, which is around 80%, can be successfully treated and live a full life with clinical depression. It’s about the same with anxiety. Other mental illnesses may have lower rates due to their severity and other factors.

  • Most of those who take short term disability due to depression are female.
  • Many of those with depression will not seek treatment because they are worried about confidentiality (a large issue in the medical field) and/or the effect it will have on their employment.
  • Untreated mental health issues can lead to strained relationships with co-workers.
  • Around 50% of those surveyed say that anxiety has diminished the quality of their work. (I have had this issue and it is not pretty.)
  • Once this becomes an issue, many do not want to speak to their supervisor about their stress because of fear of how they will be seen- as weak, not willing to work, etc.

Work

How Can I Tell There is a Problem?

Do you dread going to work?

Are you always the first out the door when your shift/day is over?

Do you feel like you have too much on your plate at work but feel you can’t say anything?

Have you lost the “spark” in your work?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of those, it might be time to step back and think for a minute. If you have additional stressors like anxiety, depression or another mental health issue, it may be time to re-evaluate your job.

You may already be trying to handle the issue without knowing it by doing things like:

  • taking longer to complete tasks
  • calling in sick/coming in late frequently
  • having issues with co-workers

How can you handle this in a healthy way?

  • Make a to-do list. This can help with overwhelm in general but can be very helpful at work. It feels good to check things off a list after staying on track.
  • Take frequent breaks. Work for an hour, take a five-minute break- even if this means just walking down the hall for a few minutes. Moving around can help a bit. This may need a tweak depending on your environment, but make it work for you.
  • Try not to take on too much. This can be difficult, especially if you like to help out, but it may lead to the overwhelm you are trying to avoid. Think carefully before you take on another project or committee.
  • Set small goals. You can break down big tasks into smaller, manageable things so that it doesn’t feel so scary.
  • Add personal items to your workspace. I had pics of my kids all over my locker in the breakroom at the mental health facility I worked at. You could barely see the inside of the locker door. It was a bit of a boost on the hard days.
  • What are your triggers? What bothers you? I am a huge fan of finding these things out. Everyone has something that sets them off- what is it about the job that stresses you out the most? Try to do something calming before that, if possible, even if it’s just deep breathing. When I was a substance abuse counselor, I kept a bottle of bubbles in my office. If I knew I was about to have a difficult session, I would close my office door and blow bubbles for a minute or two before and after. It helped.

This information is from Learn How to Become

HR talk

A Word About Human Resources

If all else fails, please speak to your supervisor. Things do and can happen. Mental health is not a joke or meant to be taken lightly. If you know that things are going badly for you, no matter what your diagnosis, even if you don’t have one, please talk to your supervisor. If you don’t feel okay doing so, then go to Human Resources.

They have ways to help you out, and even more, these people want to help you. That’s why they’re employed! There’s an interesting program that most employers have called an Employer Assistance Program that offers FREE counseling for up to six sessions, depending on the company. Sometimes it’s six sessions period, sometimes it’s six sessions per issue. Again, this depends on your company. I highly advise looking into it. After those sessions are up, they can refer you out to long term therapy if you are into that.

You’re worth it and so is your career.

Most employers want their employees to succeed and are catching up (slowly) to their needs. It may be scary as hell to ask for help, but again, you’re worth it. I’m willing to bet that you are not the first or only person at your job to ask for help.

Sometimes, losing your mojo completely may be one of many factors (long commute, extreme work conditions, etc) that play into work dissatisfaction, and if so, maybe it is time to leave. Mental health can be a large one, however, and should be looked at. How do you feel every day going into and leaving work? That’s a question only you can answer.

Has mental health been an issue where you work? Have you left a job due to stress/anxiety?

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

Talking About Pride

Coming Out of the Closet

I decided to use an actual definition for this one, because I understand that not everyone may be clear on this one. I also think it’s the respectful thing to do. I’ve got friends and family members in the community, so I’m very clear on what this term means. Planned Parenthood- Coming Out Definition

It’s a hard process. Some people choose to wait until a certain time, some never do. It’s an individual choice, and should be respected. If someone comes out to you, please respect that person’s decision to tell you, even if it isn’t within your own values. It takes a lot to say “I’m a lesbian” or “I like guys”, or however it is said.

There is a lot of fear in coming out, however. Many people fear these things:

  • not being accepted. If there is a history of hearing homophobic slurs throughout life, it’s going to be hard to go against that.
  • getting cut off financially/becoming homeless- especially in teens and college students. Some wait until after college for this reason.
  • anxiety, depression or other mental health issues worsening afterwards due to above issues.

There is so much more support these days for the LGBTQ+ community. I feel there is a long way to go in the legal world, but it’s coming.

Marriages were a huge issue a couple years ago and I shed tears when they became legal everywhere. I believe some states are still trying to fight that one. Macklemore had it right when he said in “Same Love”- “No freedom until we’re equal/ Damn right I support it”.

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Pride Events

Have you ever been to a Pride event? I have been to quite a few. Louisville is a big city and every June, there’s a huge Pride event. The event has lots of food (my main requirement for anything), music and a lot of other fun things.

I usually see a lot of friends while I’m there. It’s so much fun. If you’ve never been, and you’re comfortable going, go. If you aren’t sure if there is an event near you, try looking on Google “pride events” and your city or the nearest city to you. Not everyone lives in or near a big city.

These events began as a way for people to get together, have fun, be themselves, meet others and not fear being judged or getting hurt. Of course, this didn’t always go well but over the years, the events have become safer. There will always be those that oppose these events.

The Kid Version

I have a friend, Kate, that is happily raising a son, with her wife, Christy. Lucas just turned two, and he is the happiest toddler that I’ve seen in a long time.

I hope he stays that adorably happy. They got married in Hawaii a few years ago and the pictures were adorable. I know they have struggles like everyone else, but they’re one of the cutest couples I’ve ever known. Lucas is like every other toddler out there- he just has two loving moms.

I wrote a post not long ago, LGBTQ Kids: A Guide for those who need a bit of help figuring out how to navigate the waters of having a child that identifies as LGBTQ.

This is becoming more common than people realize and I wanted to bring that to your, my readers’, attention. If you know someone who could benefit from it, feel free to send them the link.

I think it could help parents who aren’t sure what to do. We don’t always know what to do as parents, or even aunts, uncles, and so on. That’s okay. That’s why we ask others for ideas and read up.

Kids are pretty smart. They can tell who accepts them and who doesn’t. They’ll stay closest to those that do. All kids, no matter their sexuality, need someone who loves and accepts them exactly for who they are. They don’t need or deserve ridicule for who they love. They have enough to worry about.

Mental Health Issues in The Community

Anxiety and depression are common in many people. When you are struggling with hiding who you are (or feeling like you have to), losing someone you love and having to start over in a small pool of people and not feeling fully accepted,things can get very hard.

Drugs, alcohol and self-harm are three coping skills that are used by this population. Sometimes it can be deadly. There are therapists that specialize in LGBTQ issues.

This may be a good time to look into how you can become an ally or otherwise support the LGBTQ people in your life. How can you be an ally?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

LGBTQ Kids: A Guide

Parenting is full of challenges. We face them everyday- food allergies, mental and/or physical disabilities, bullying, and the list goes on.

There’s a point in life in which our kids decide to date and none of us are ever ready for that- it freaks us out. This happens as early as 12 or 13 or can be years later.

Most of us don’t blink an eye at who they will date, because we just assume they will date someone of the opposite sex, right?

What Happens When They Don’t?

I’ve already thought this one out. I don’t care. As long as my kids find someone that loves and supports them, I honestly don’t care who they date. Race isn’t an issue for obvious reason, and that’s not the topic of the post.

I just want my kids to be happy with whoever they love. That’s it. If Lily brings home a girl and they get married, then I get to watch them say yes to the dress or whatever they wear.

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Being a teen is hard enough as it is today. There’s so much pressure to get great grades, fit in, get into a good college, work, and so on.

When you’re a 16 year old girl who likes other girls, it gets a bit harder to be “normal”. You wonder if others would still like you, even your own family. You grew up hearing slurs about homosexuals and you know it’s not going to be great if you tell your parents.

Then there’s the boys who want to date you and you know they won’t stay away forever. All you want is to find a girl that likes you and that you like back, but how does that work? It’s confusing and scary. Bullying is a thing, and LGBTQ teens have it harder.

Stats hrc.org, kids, LGBTQ

Coming out is scary. It’s rough. The average age is 17, much younger than it used to be according to a British study found on Everyday Feminism

Teens are smart- they know the risks of telling their families something this big. Some families are accepting, and some families are ready to kick their kids right out of the house, which is a shame.

It’s heartbreaking to know that some kids feel they have to hide this part of themselves, because it can lead to drug and/or substance abuse issues, along with mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. A kid can only mask so much for so long. It does get better, time goes by, people do open their minds to new things.

Sometimes the people they think will have horrible reactions will have the opposite reaction. The negative messages are also an issue- they can send a message that a kid is a bad person, or is “going to hell”, etc. This can just add to already negative thoughts that a kid can have about themselves.

It gets better when LGBTQ kids find others like them- online, in school, through other friends, in other ways. It does help that many LGBTQ kids are out to their friends and classmates. Those friends and classmates, for the most part, are accepting, and can be a great source of support.

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What Can Parents Do?

  • Let them know you love them. I’m pretty sure this is the biggest part of accepting your child, no matter what. They need to know this. The scariest thing to many LGBTQ kids is coming out. Once they know they have parental support, there is a huge sense of relief. Be as open minded and present as you can be, even if you aren’t quite sure what to do.
  • Research. Parenting requires a lot of thinking and reading. We don’t always know what to do. That’s why the Internet exists. There are quite a few websites for parents of LGBTQ kids, including Hopkins Medicine
  • Talk about it. This doesn’t mean hound about their sex life, because that’s definitely awkward for everyone involved, but let them know you are there when they need you, if they have questions, etc.
  • Remember this is not a “phase”, there is no “cure”, and there is nobody to “blame”.
  • Watch out for bullying at school. It’s a reality that LGBTQ kids are bullied at school and other places. If you need to, get involved with the school. You can read Bullying: A Closer Look for more ideas and resources.
  • Talk to someone if you feel overwhelmed.

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The world of teenage dating can get pretty complicated, this is just a different road. It’s possible to walk together with your child. Cheer them on!

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Statistics pics courtesy of hrc.org

Info can be found on:

Everyday Feminism

Hopkins Medicine