5 Rules for Mental Strength

It is not always easy to be mentally strong. I struggle with this a lot. I’m still working on this one. There are days that I feel fantastic and days that I can barely get out of bed because I feel so badly about myself. I’m sure that many others feel the same.

How does this “being mentally strong” thing work? It’s a little different for everyone, but here are a few ideas:

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Being yourself. This is number one for me. I have fought very hard to be accepted for who I am by my own husband and that’s something nobody should have to do.

People change, and sometimes people can’t accept that. When you are comfortable with yourself, it’s much easier to be strong, because you have more faith in yourself. You know you can get through things. You know that you can tackle what is in front of you.

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Trust yourself. Many of us tend to underestimate ourselves, including me. I’ve made many decisions and second guessed myself, even on picking clothes, shoes and maybe even mascara. This tends to occur when you have low self-confidence.

I’ve learned to trust myself a lot more through therapy-working more to shut down that voice in my mind that says “That’s a bad idea, Wrae. Don’t do it. You can’t pull this off”. When you trust yourself more, you will believe in yourself more. You will make decisions with a lot more confidence, even about the small things.

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Build confidence. As Demi Lovato once said, “What’s wrong with being confident?” First of all, I love Demi. She has an amazing voice, has great style and she’s one of my sobriety role models.

She had a point with that lyric. What is wrong with being confident? I’m not talking about crossing the line and being all-out cocky or anything like that, but knowing what you are capable of and what your limits are.

Everyone has them, physically and emotionally. Don’t feel bad about those limits. For sheer example, I hate spiders, extreme heights, and public speaking.

I had to take public speaking in college and almost had a panic attack once. I was also hugely pregnant with Cameron. My professor wasn’t in the mood to send me into early labor, so he allowed me to give my speech from my seat and things ended a lot better than I had anticipated.

Confidence is good. This also helps with looks and body image- I’m a size 14 now and weigh in at around 170. I do not care to disclose that. I weighed 125 in 2015 before my life imploded and I was a size 4. I have been confident both sizes and weights.

Like every other woman in existence, even the awesome Tess Holliday (my favorite model), I have days where I think I look like crap, but then I remember what my body has been through and will continue to do and move on.

This took a lot of work because, at some points, I didn’t take my 60 lb weight gain well. This confidence can be hard to attain, thanks to social media and Photoshopped images of models. It’s tough to look at, so I tend to look at body-positive models.

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Daily reminders. I remind myself daily to take care of myself- this is a must do. If I don’t take care of myself, who will? I have two chronic illnesses and self-care is a must for both. I also remind myself “One day at a time” because that is how I have set my life up.

I just can’t plan far in the future anymore. Whether it is a phrase, app, or something else that helps, once you set your mind on something daily, it becomes a daily habit to take care of yourself and that leads to and supports mental strength.

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Not caring so much what others think. My mother is 62 and does not care what anyone thinks of her. She has always been like this. She’s small, very feisty, and hilarious. Clearly, these genes have passed on to me.

It took me a very long time to get to the point that I really didn’t care what others think of me, but that’s where I am sitting. It’s not healthy at all to care so much what others think of you, because it will break you down in the end. It erodes your self-esteem when you don’t meet their standards.

Your individuality will fade as you try to be more like others and less like yourself. This isn’t good for anyone.
These tips may be what you need to move forward onto becoming stronger. Take them and consider what else you may need to form more strength within yourself.

A Better Version of You

Self-improvement has become an important topic in the last few years. Many of us are taking a deeper look at ourselves and what we can do to lead better and happier lives. We are realizing that our emotional wellbeing is incredibly important to the rest of our lives.

How can we improve our lives and become a better, potentially, the best version of ourselves?

Think big. Think of where you are now and where you want to be.

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Stepping Stones to A Happier You

  1. Decide to truly love yourself. For some, this can be a difficult step. It is important, however, to conquer this step before the others. You can find ideas on how to love yourself more in Thoughts on Self-Love and 5 Ways to Conquer Self-Kindness . Loving yourself can be an inspiration to push yourself further than you have in the past. You are able to believe in yourself a lot more, and even when you fail, you forgive yourself a bit easier. Loving yourself can help with happiness and satisfaction. Also, love yourself for who you are. There isn’t another person who is exactly like you and that is the cool thing about being an individual. Don’t let your bright light burn out by trying to be like someone else. Let those quirks out and others will appreciate them.
  2. Allow yourself to heal through forgiveness. Learning to forgive yourself can be a long, sometimes not-so-easy process, but it can be done. It also may require the help of a therapist and this is okay. Having an extra set of ears to help process your thoughts can be a good way to process and move forward. Either way, you will definitely thank yourself later. The freedom of forgiving yourself will allow you to potentially forgive others for things they have done to you. It also lifts what can be a heavy burden.
  3. Say goodbye to your inner critic. My inner critic sits inside my brain and even with two years of therapy behind me, she is still there. I have a hard time making her go away sometimes. On the bad days, it’s all I hear. This is where learning to be kind to yourself kicks in. Remind yourself of your strengths, not your weaknesses. Remind yourself of how far you have come in changing your life and thoughts, that you are moving into a better, brighter area of your life.
  4. Take care of your body. This step can be a fun one- find something healthy and new to do. I enjoy yoga, even though my body may not always enjoy it later. (My hips really do not like the pigeon pose, even with modifications. I struggle a lot with the airplane pose because my balance is awful, but it’s fun trying.) It’s my hour and a half a week in which nobody bothers me plus there’s a 12 Step meeting involved. Some prefer hiking, running, baking, whatever works. Everyone is good at something- you may have a talent that you aren’t aware of. This also can include making a precise plan for more/better sleep, eating better, or all of the above.
  5. Create a life that you want to wake up for. I’ve honestly struggled with this one. I have no idea where I am going, career-wise, because I do not know what kind of job would make me happy. I’m no longer able to physically perform the job I loved in the past. I do love my blog, so I’m working on sponsored posts again. I’m also back at work on my e-books, and at some point, before the kids are out of school, I want to have them up on Amazon and Smashwords. These goals help me get out of bed on those really bad mornings. I’m sober, so that is something else to get out of bed for because drinking creates a rough life. My kids have always been my biggest reason to get out of bed, even when I just wanted to stay in bed and let the world go on without me. What inspires you? What makes you happy? What would you want to add to or take out of your life to make it easier? These are the things you want to think about when creating the life you want to wake up for.

This information can be found at MindBodyGreen

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Being Kind Can Take You Far

There are stories every day about shootings and other types of violence. Like most others, it greatly disturbs me. What happens if people decided to be kinder for a day or two? This could definitely help make us all better people. We don’t have to go on an all-out mission to be kind.

Something as small as holding a door open for someone that is struggling with a load of things in their arms, buying coffee for the person behind or in front of you, or a similar act can make someone’s day. We don’t know what another person is going through and this can change how they see the world around them. It can also help us- being kind to others does make us a bit happier.

Do you have any ideas to add to this list? Have you decided to become a better version of yourself? Please let me know in the comments.

Pics courtesy of unsplash

Processing a Panic Attack

Living with anxiety is not fun, nor is it close to easy. It can be helped and somewhat controlled, with or without medicine, but it seems as if anxiety sits in the background just waiting to strike.

Is it just me that sees it in that way?

I’ve discussed my own issues with anxiety in other posts A Letter to my Anxiety and Depression and Social Anxiety: Mistaken Identity. I try to tackle them with yoga and meditation. I also color and watch funny movies (my new fave is the Ken Jeong Netflix special) to help.

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How Panic Attacks Work

Panic attacks can happen without an obvious trigger, basically out of nowhere. Talk about scary. If these happen with a change in behavior with at least one month of worry about another attack happening, this crosses over into panic disorder. These attacks start with the well-known “fight or flight” response. When this response occurs multiple times, our bodies misinterpret what is going on- whether the event is a true threat or not.

At this point, it becomes a “fear of fear” situation and this makes for a vicious cycle. In other words, you become scared of the reactions in your own body- the increased heart rate, sweat, etc. It is not a good situation. These usually last 30 minutes or less, but to the person having the attack, it can seem like forever.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack:

  • A sudden increase in intense fear and/or discomfort
  • Racing heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling/Shaking
  • Shortness of breath/feeling of choking
  • Chest pain/discomfort
  • Nausea/other stomach issues
  • Fear of dying

What Can Others Do to Help?

  • Most importantly, stay calm. Please don’t judge the person having the panic attack- that is one of the worst things you can do because we judge ourselves enough. We don’t need the extra judgment. It also isn’t helpful. The feelings are real, please treat them as such.
  • Help them focus on their breathing by taking them to a quiet place (wherever possible) and guide them to take deep, slow breaths for a few minutes. You can also try gentle exercises to burn off some of the stress- even light stretches can help. Even a quiet chat about a shared interest or naming five things around them can help them break out of the thought pattern they are in.

What Can I Do for Myself?

  • Self-care is a very important tool to combat panic attacks. If you realize that you have triggers to your attacks, try to modify or avoid them whenever possible. If this isn’t possible, develop a plan to make things easier on yourself. Why set yourself up to have another panic attack if there is a way to prevent them?
  • Learn more about anxiety and panic attacks. You might be surprised to learn that the feelings you experience aren’t signs that you aren’t going “crazy” but are normal. This can be a source of relief.
  • Cut back or avoid nicotine, alcohol and/or caffeine. All of these are known to be stimulants or somehow cause personality changes that can cause panic attacks.
  • Try relaxation techniques. This is where meditation comes in, for example, or yoga. There are other ways you can try to relax or control your breathing. Exercising is also a good way to help with anxiety. It releases endorphins that help you feel good.
  • Sleep. Getting enough sleep can reduce anxiety- getting to sleep can be an issue, however, so there are things like calming music, melatonin, white noise machines, etc, you can try to get the sleep you need.

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Treatment and Medication

There are two main ways that anxiety and panic attacks are treated.

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is used in many different ways. It helps change thought patterns by looking at how you currently think and learning to look at them realistically.

Medications used to treat anxiety and panic attacks include SSRIs, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines act fairly quickly, within about 30 minutes, but do have a risk of addiction.

This Is Treatable and Tolerable

Panic attacks are something that can be treated and worked through. If you have them, please know that there is help and information out there. Please see my Resources page for more information or see these links:

anxiety.org

helpguide.org

RA and Me

I wrote a post a while back about having chronic illnesses and being a mom. Chronic Conditions and Momming was written before my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.

1. My older sister has lupus and we had the same rheumatologist at one point. Once we discovered this, we thought it was hilarious. There’s a lot of rheumatologists in Louisville, and we ended up with the same one?

2. My grandfather had severe RA. He died in 2016 at the age of 83. His hands were curled up from the severe joint deformities. He took medications for it, but still had issues that weren’t able to be reversed.

3. I am currently taking a mild medication daily. I had to wait for my thyroid meds to be regulated before I could start RA meds. That sucked but things are good in this area. (Short version: I’m on Levothyroxine due to a partial thyroidectomy in 2017.) Joint pain is REAL.

4. My biggest issues? Joint pain in my hands, knees, and hips. Like many others, I’m super stiff in the mornings and it takes at least an hour to loosen up. Hot showers help. Moving around does help but also hurts. Eventually, the stiffness goes away. Usually. If it doesn’t, then it’s a bad pain day, which leads me to #5.

5. I don’t like taking pain meds. They make me tired and nobody has time for that mess. I usually won’t take them unless I can barely move. I’ll use a heating pad, massage, stretch, etc. The pain meds I do have, however, are non-narcotic.

My doctor is pretty smart- probably not a good idea to prescribe a recovering alcoholic hardcore narcotics. She probably enjoys having a license to practice.
Rheumatoid arthritis sucks. I hate missing out on things because I’m tired, hurting, or both.

Pic with Cameron

It’s possible to live life with chronic conditions. I have two. Some days are just worse than others. I can get through them with humor and my support system.

If you have a chronic condition, how do you get through it?

After Thanksgiving Goodies

This is a good month- I love Thanksgiving. I am so happy to see Demi Lovato, one of my sobriety role models, out of rehab. Enjoy the posts and leftovers!

The Road to Authenticity

5 Ways to Conquer Self-Kindness

Healing Through Creativity: Art and Hippo Therapy

Broken Wings Part 5: What I Wish My Spouse Knew

Song Lyric Saturday with Britney Spears