Mental Health Monday – Onward


Today is the last Monday in May – the month for Mental Health Awareness. Mental Health Mondays will be a bit more sporadic, but that doesn’t mean your own awareness of your mental health needs to be. Hopefully, in the last few weeks, I’ve given you some resources to pay attention to how you’re feeling mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and keep moving yourself forward one step at a time.

If you hit a block and need a little support, check out the “mental health” and “mental health monday” tags in the search bar.

Contact a mental health professional. (I am not one. I am simply someone like you, struggling, and trying to stay on top of it.)

All I wanted to do today was to sit in my backyard, in the shade, and listen to the nature: the birds chirping, the chipmunks chattering, bunnies stirring in the grass, and even the kids laughing and the cars driving by. And every hour, I can hear the church bells from over a mile away.

Unfortunately, my kids needed things, and I was the taxi. Once this publishes, I’m going to sit inside in the air conditioning and read a book and then I’m going to join my rosary group on the telephone.

I know how blessed I am.

I also know how fragile the balance is, and so I keep on it through awareness, lists, and the sound of music, whether that’s with instruments, voice, or nature.

Any way I can help, please ask. We are a community and we help one another.

Mental Health Monday – Meditation-Lite


Before I share some of my thoughts and suggestions, I’d like to inform readers that I am not a meditation teacher; I only know things that I’ve practiced in classes and what I’ve been taught as well as what seems to work with me. I have done centering prayer a few times, which I find hard to do for any length of time. Last week, for five days, I joined a Mindful Writing Challenge, which began with a five minute meditation that then proceeded to a writing exercise. I really enjoyed how this made me feel. It calmed me; it set my writing time as definitive; it motivated me to get something on the page. And it was consistent. I’ve used similar breath work from a prayer retreat to settle me in before bed. These are what I’m sharing with you with one or two links.

If you have any reason that you can’t do these breathing techniques or stretching, consult your doctor. You do not want to start ANY exercise program (even if it seems minimal) without checking with your health care professional.

I also want to remind readers that it really is okay to simply sit in silence for five to ten minutes. That’s enough for a recharge.

It’s okay to listen to music.

It’s okay to listen to the rain.

It’s okay to just breathe.

Find your center.

I’ll include the link at the end, but my new Spotify playlist dropped this morning, and it has a few musical selections, some with lyrics, some with only music that may help to calm your mind and let yourself go deeper or simply rest.

Try it out. Keep what works; ignore what doesn’t.

This is a 5 minute video with Elena Cheung. Sometimes it’s not the activity, but the person helping you with it. I played this one, and I really like Elena’s voice and personality. That may seem shallow, but if the person you’re hearing is creating stress for you (through no fault of their own), it’s not going to decrease your stress. Do your own googling to find what you like and what you’re comfortable with.

Another breathing style I learned on retreat is a simple Inhale-Exhale saying the words (prayer), Accept (inhale), Surrender (exhale). My teenage daughter was having a really bad day, and I breathed this with her, and it really did a lot to settle her down so she could get ready for bed.

A new one I learned last week is 4-4-8 technique. Breathe through your nose. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 8.

Sit in a chair with your back straight. Breathe deeply. Inhale slowly. Hold the breath. Exhale slowly. Do this for five to ten minutes.

Spotify Playlist for Meditation and Calming

Again, do what works for you, and leave the rest.

Mental Health Monday – Doodles & Scribbles


Sometimes, you just need a mindless break. But some of those mindless breaks can actually be mindful.

Yesterday, after mass, and the May crowning, and then praying the rosary in the garden there, I came home to my husband and daughter heading out for some Mother’s Day shopping, and I opted to stay home. What did I do with myself?

I sketched and I colored and I read.

The reading was a heavy, emotional book, and the coloring helped me through the traumatic chapter. As you can see from the photo, I wasn’t able to finish the coloring page. I plan to do some more tonight.

In addition to the sketches, I’ve included photos from this week. When I was in the depths of my depression, I’d drive a little bit and take photographs. At that time, my focus was on church architecture and really old cemeteries where the names were barely visible. Today, I take photos of nearly anything that catches my eye.

Drop some of your art and photos into the comments. And remember to breathe.

Mental Health Awareness Month


Celebrate what you want to see more of.

– Tom Peters

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’m not sure if that’s meant to be that we should be aware of the mental health struggles going on for the people around us and to give some space and grace or if it’s also supposed to be for ourselves to recognize our own struggles and be aware and self-aware of our own mental health and the triggers as well as the coping tools we carry with us on a daily basis.

It is so appropriate that today of all days, the first of May, and the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month that my day got unexpectedly set on its head. It was nothing outlandish or incapacitating, but change is hard, especially for people like me who like their lists and like their day mostly planned out.

Today was my non-day. I was going to sleep in late and then attend to the mess that is my dining room table. That’s where I work and the last two weeks have been filled with so many things the table got away from me. Again. As always. And then I was to tackle the list my daughter and I made last night.

I awoke to a poke in my side and my son standing over me.

Son: Do you want to drive me to school?

Me: Do I want to drive you to school? No. But I will, I laughed. When do you need to be there?

Son: 2 minutes.

Needless to say while his school is not far, it is also not two minutes away.

His regular ride hadn’t come and he couldn’t reach him by phone. These things happen. Of course, growing up a not-popular, bullied kid, my first reaction is to wonder if they’re still friends because his friend can’t have simply overslept or forgot; he must hate my son for some unknown reason and now they’re no longer friends. I did not express any of this out loud. Even in my internal despair for my kids, I know how irrational this is.

I did break the land-speed record for getting dressed and got to the car. He drove. He was a few minutes late, but he drove under the speed limit; he’s a careful driver and he’s still learning. (As an aside, he’s the exact opposite of my daughter who is also learning to drive – she drives a bit faster, stops a bit too slow, and just is more cavalier about the whole thing. Not that she’s unsafe; she’s not, but their personalities really show through on their driving styles.)

Once he was at school, I could go straight home and begin work (and know that I’d get nothing written) or make a different plan.

I made a different plan.

I grabbed breakfast through the drive-thru, and went to the library, where I am currently sitting in the new local history room typing on my Kindle.

I could have let the sudden change defeat me, I could have gone back home, curled up on the sofa, and went back to sleep, and it would have still been okay. Even though I was interrupted, I had planned on sleeping late. I could have gone back to sleep and not even felt an ounce of guilt. I could have started over tomorrow and that also would have been okay. But I made a different choice, and that was because I reevaluated my day, my priorities, and my mental health.

I admit to being hyper self-aware of how I’m feeling and what my triggers are when they happen, but you can recognize the things that set you off down a path of stress and anxiety and readjust. Use your tools. Think about what tools you have in your own mental health toolbox. Some of mine that I used today include:

1. Take a deep breath and reevaluate. In today’s scenario, I wasn’t able to do that until my son was dropped off at school, so I sat in the parking lot for five minutes to regroup (and readjust the mirrors).

2. Did I want to buy breakfast or eat at home? If I ate at home (whether or not I bought breakfast), would I be able to eat and then seamlessly move into my day’s work? I didn’t think so.

3. What were my alternatives?
a. Eat at McDonald’s (or elsewhere)?
b. Eat in the car?
c. Eat somewhere else?
d. I chose to eat in the car and then drive to the library.

4. I found a nice quiet corner in a new room and I’m writing.

5. Before I leave, I’ll make the plan for the rest of the day. Dinner, two kids off to work, put my teaching stuff in storage until the end of summer. It’s not much, but it’s doable, and today that’s the most important part. My list would include a master of everything that needs to be done, and then sort out what is the most important and what can be done easily and quickly.

And of course, all of these coping tools and compromises will depend on how stressed and anxious you are. I have an underlying anxiety about not having a therapist. I think I’ve decided to look for another one because it was helpful, but is that because of seeing a therapist or seeing that therapist for eleven years? I’ll need to figure that out.

Every Monday this month will be a Mental Health Monday on the website, and there will be other posts throughout the month talking about mental health – yours and mine. I am always happy to give voice to the readers so if you have something that works for you, please add it in the comments. While this isn’t a social media, it is a community, and especially where mental health is concerned, we need to support one another for wherever we are in our continuing journeys.

Awareness is half the battle.

Mental Health (Madness) Monday


Mental Health Madness?

I hear a lot about March Madness, but for those of us with schoolchildren and working/living on a school calendar, it’s definitely May Madness.

Well, it’s not that bad, but I am moving into a very, a ridiculously, very busy section of spring. The next four weeks or so are going to try my patience and my limits and my family’s. Not to mention all of the people around me.

The good news is that I am very aware of this.

Just looking at my calendar is giving me hives, not to mention that I have just discovered that I apparently have some newfound allergies and I am miserable. It’s like a cold, only constant, and there is a croaky frog in my throat. I have been very fortunate not to have had allergies thus far for my entire life, but I guess I dodged that long enough because if this is a cold, it’s nothing like I’ve ever had. Allergies – yuck. insert emoji of yucky face

I belong to a non-profit that is closing its doors, and in these last, waning, sunset, state-legal requirement encroaching days, I have been asked to take over as vice president. Can I say no? No. We’re also in the midst of cleaning out decades worth of papers from the borrowed offices. insert emoji of praying hands

I interviewed last week for a job. It went well. Although they are still looking, I am still in contention. If I were to be honest, after twenty-plus years of being my own boss (apart from my kids), I’m worried both about getting the job and not getting the job. I will wait and see what the future has in store for me. At this point, it’s at the bottom of my anxiety, so that’s a good thing. It’s kind of nice not to be excessively worried about the outcome.

The ending of the school year includes two kids who need to learn how to drive, get summer jobs, take on more chores (what fun!), and one is graduating from high school. How did that happen? I’m not ready. Fortunately, he seems to be, but we’re having a house-guest (my brother) plus coming up with meals for that entire week (and the entire time between now and then), the actual graduation (and parking and seating and what not). There is the school district transportation breakfast that I volunteered for, Ascension Mass, a second Synod listening session (this one for LGBTQ+ issues), finishing up my presentation for my Cursillo team, continuing my spiritual journal (which is coming along nicely), one more writing class, and at least a dozen more things that haven’t come up yet, but they will, I just know it!

As you can see, this is one of my ways of coping:

Write it all down.

Yes, it is on my calendar, so I won’t (shouldn’t) forget any of my appointments, and I have a master checklist, but just spewing it here and getting it out of my system is one step in several of coping with the onslaught of the coming anxiety. I highly recommend it.

My second piece of advice and one of the most important items in my toolbox is water. Drink lots of water. I’m drinking water right now. Stay hydrated. This benefits you two-fold: 1. water is good for you, and 2. when you’re hydrated you are less likely to get a headache. Avoiding headaches will always help with everything else.

Third, stock up on pasta, sauce, and cans of soup. Macaroni and cheese in the blue box is also highly recommended. These are all easy and fast to make, good to eat, and simple to clean up. Even if you don’t want to eat, you need to eat, so for several days a week, make it simple. You can always dress up pasta with frozen meatballs and bread with butter (with or without garlic).

Fourth, find one or two things to skip this week. I can’t tell you what – they would be personal to you, but I’m sure there is something that won’t be a problem missing out on. You decide. Oh, and it can’t be sleep. No missing out on sleep. Rest is just as important as water. Naps are great even if you’re older than three!

Fifth, and last, start your week on a positive note. For me, I’m going to Sunday Mass. Church feeds my soul. I miss it when I’m not there, and I enjoy it when I am. Besides the sacraments, it is truly that simple. Sunday is also the May Crowning for Mary. I may also stay after that and pray the rosary. I know this isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a church person, don’t start your week there – it will only make you miserable. What do you like though? Cup of coffee on the porch? Get out early before the oppressive heat, but you can get out. Tea? A good book? Just quietly sitting while a breeze floats by? Tell me your go-to.

As we keep reminding, May is mental health awareness month, and when May ends in a week or so, we will still need to remain aware of our mental health and how to keep coping during the rest of the year. I’d be happy to hear how you cope and we can share our advice, hints, and tips with each other in the comments.

Wait! Did I forget the haircuts?! Oh well, I guess I’ll add it to the list!

Have a lovely week!

Mental Health Monday – Let It Go


Sometimes, you just need to let it go and start again.

Small things, big things, medium things. We all get behind and then we get overwhelmed, and then we start to feel buried under the burden, but what we fail to remember is that each day is a new day.

A new day to wake up, leave the past in yesterday, and start again.

Isn’t that what we tell our kids when they have a bad day? Or a frustrating day?

I’m not suggesting ignoring important things. That will only make it worse. What I am saying is that each day brings us a newness to start again, to do better, to be better, and we should give ourselves that breathing room.

I’ve been going non-stop since about 9 AM this morning, and once this is posted, I’m going to sit down, be quiet, and read a book.

Actually, I’m going to make my checklist, and then I’m going to sit down, be quiet, and read a book. And more importantly, I’m going to stay off Twitter.

We may feel that this is procrastination, but this is not procrastination. This is taking care of ourselves, and while these busy days are very productive and lead me to wanting to do more, I can’t forget that I don’t want to crash and burn; I want to be healthy and taking time out or time off is a strategy to take care of our mental health and stay well.

Even for just fifteen minutes.