Mental Health (Madness) Monday

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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

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I was sick all weekend. I can always tell when I’m slightly better because my family, who have been extremely helpful and tolerant of me suddenly have earphones in, my bedroom door remains closed, and I am once again on my own; abandoned. And clearly melodramatic.

That’s not entirely true; I mean I’m definitely being melodramatic, but I also have a good family even if they can be a bit argumentative, but aren’t all families that way?

And I whine when I’m sick. I can’t help it. Fever, chills, whine. I’m a four year old.

I told them today that a little better is not not-sick. I’m still sick, and still need some help. They were happy to go to school and work.

Despite that, I was very busy today! And I really wanted to put a couple of things off, but I couldn’t because this is the only day I’m home all week. When did everything get so busy?!

What did I do today, you ask:

Continue reading

Mental Health Monday – Let It Go

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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.

Mental Health Monday, Delayed

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First, a note about Press Freedom Day, which is today. Election Connection – Press Freedom Day will appear tomorrow. Mental Health Monday seemed to be more essential to post this morning.

Mental Health Awareness Month began on Sunday, a day that for most of us gives us some breathing room from the rest of the week. I am aware, however, of the many people who don’t get Sunday off and work in jobs that are so haphazard that they need second supplemental jobs and barely have time off from work. It’s important to recognize them and acknowledge and assist their mental health struggles.

I had intended to write something for publication yesterday, but after the shocking news of the Supreme Court leaked document, an Alito written draft overturning Roe v. Wade, I couldn’t sit down and write about mental health solutions when my mental health was on the verge of cracking.

All over my social media, I’ve seen women angry, upset, frightened. I won’t be getting pregnant again, and I feel the same way. I described it on Facebook as FURIOUS. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe the feelings and these feelings have been growing exponentially since November 8, 2016. It may sound melodramatic to say but that was a day of mourning in our house. We walked around with shadows across our faces, our eyes unfocused, muddling through the subsequent days; going through the motions. It felt very familiar, much like we acted during 9/11. We had also been mourning the sudden death of my mother in law, so that may have played a role in how deep our depression went.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade is a several faceted quandary. As I saw described on Twitter, the Republicans are the dog who caught the car. Now what will they run on? They’ve won the one thing they claimed they wanted. For Democrats, will this be demoralizing or will this energize us? Will we continue to be held hostage by apathy and the Manchin/Sinema power plays and/or the Collins/Murkowski concern Olympics complete with pearl-clutching and ‘oh mys’ with or without fainting spells?

And I know that some of you are wondering what this has to do with mental health?

A lot, in fact.

For women, this is a dark day. Some remember the days of back alley abortions. Are we merely chattel in a man’s world? Don’t we have the ability, the intelligence, the know-how to be able to know the best for our own bodies and mental health? The men passing the laws (and voting to overturn our constitutional rights) don’t even understand the biology of when a fetus is viable, when it is a new life, what a heart that holds a heartbeat is, or the difference between ectopic pregnancies, viable pregnancies, and high/low risk pregnancies.

They trust us to raise these children born, often alone and with no resources, but somehow we can’t be trusted to decide that the pregnancy should go forward as if our bodies are merely incubators.

No one suggests sterilizing men, who can create fetuses several by the day where as a woman can only bring one pregnancy to term a year.

I think we should have a general woman’s strike where all women stay home, and women who work at home or are homemakers or stay-at-home moms take the day off. Show the men that without women, things stop. I’d hazard to guess that everything stops.

Where does mental health fit in?

First, take care of yourself. If social media is too much with too many angry, dystopian posts, get off for a bit. Hours, or even days. You don’t have to be a part of that circus while it’s so raw for you.

Second, be aware of the amount of posting and news that will revolve around abortions, reproductive rights, the undermining of women’s rights and equality. Give yourself a trigger warning before you engage with social media and even some family members and friends.

Third, give yourself time to mourn. Spend quiet time. Have a cup of tea, knowing that the cup of tea will not cure this crisis, but it will give you some time to sit, relax, reflect, and simply do nothing for a little while.

Fourth, when you’re ready, plan how to combat this assault on our persons. We are the ones with heartbeats, and they will listen to us. We will make them listen.

Fifth, as part of doing something productive: if you have the money, some good places to donate are:

Mental Health Monday – More Lists

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I mentioned earlier today that I participated in a scavenger hunt this past weekend. The hunt consists of a long list of items to find, do, create and then submit for judging which occurs way in the future. Today with the hunt long over, I completed one item from the kids’ section of the list. These are items geared towards younger ages, usually for lower points because of their level of difficulty or ease. I made a bookmark (see below).

I might be asked why did I make this bookmark when the hunt was already over. It was one of the items that I wanted to do; I don’t know why, although it does do to remind myself and others of the importance and benefit of lists. They are certainly a valuable part of my mental health toolbox. Sometimes, I’d say they are essential and a powerful way to keep track of what I’ve done and what I’ve still yet to do.

Seeing it all laid out in brainstormed order with no numbers or priorities lets me see it all, and allows me to choose one or two to get done even on a bad day. Crossing each item off after they’ve been completed is a positive reinforcement that is beneficial to those of us with anxiety or depressive disorders as well as ADHD, autism, and a whole host of things that slow us down and get in our way, whether we’re overtly aware of them or not.

I’ve written previously of journals, and one thing I’ve done this season is use a small spiral notebook/journal that fits inside my purse to keep my master list. It’s handy and it’s easy and unobtrusive to sneak a quick look at. It also leaves me space to keep a master list and a grocery lists separate and along side it. At the moment, filing my taxes should be at the top of every list.

I wrote recently about my intense enthusiasm for the Amelia Peabody books, and one of the things that attracted me to Amelia and her style is her use of lists. Whether it’s for packing and travel, or solving the murder, or planning a dinner party for her archaeologist friends, her lists are indispensible.

Mine are too.

Some of my past publishing on lists you may want to revisit:
1. Mental Health Monday – Lists
2. Mental Health Monday – Lists & Listmaking

I also discovered two items that I think readers will enjoy:

What is another word for a list of items? (This is for all you word obsessives out there.)
Macmillan Dictonary’s Types of Lists (It states this as a function of the thesaurus, but I saw it more as a suggestion of what lists I could and possibly should be keeping, either for mental health, necessity, or for fun.

Lists can be fun. They can.

Post-BookBash Bookmark. It folds over the page like a magnetic bookmark, but no magnets and no dog ears either.
(c)2022

Mental Health Monday – Post Holidays

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As the holidays have wound down on the calendar, they may not have wound down in our persons and our homes. We need to take a moment, or several, and give ourselves time to rest. To breathe. To do nothing at all.

It’s hard to do nothing, isn’t it?

There are very few times I can recall when I set out to just sit and think of nothing that I was able to accomplish that. My mind wanders. It jumps and leaps around, making lists for everything under the sun.

It’s hard to turn that off.

I did manage it in the early days of covid. I’d set up my camp chair on my front lawn, bring my journal and my Kindle, and my prayer shawl. I’d sit in nature, and when I was finished with my readings and any note-taking, I’d just sit for awhile. I didn’t notice the time passing. In a couple of instances, I’d refocus and realize that hours had passed. I saw neighbors, I returned waves to kids passing by. I listened to the birds. I could hear the church bells from a couple of miles away. It was very peaceful, and it was its own reward.
I didn’t feel guilty about spending so much time in unconscious thought. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. There was also a he amount of stress and uncertainty hanging heavily in the air. I was surprised that I settled into quiet thought, but I did not feel guilty. I looked forward to the next time I’d sit out there. For days, even if I didn’t go out, I left my camp chair outside, not folding it up and putting it in the garage, so it would be ready when I was.

First thing about feeling guilty about taking care of your mental health is do not feel guilty. This is not as easy as it sounds. We are ingrained from a very young age to be there for others and to neglect ourselves. This is especially true of women, but men are not excluded from this.

For a long time in recent years, we were bombarded with self-care to the point that now there is a backlash with many saying that we are indulging ourselves and softening. None of this is true. Think back to times that you took care of yourself. Whether it was an extra hour of sleep, a cup of tea, reading a book, or simply just watching the flowers move in the breeze, these slow-downs help us and really do make us better at doing the work we need and want to do.

The few things that I’m going to try to do now that the holidays are over sound simple, but actually doing them takes an effort. Self-care is an effort, but it is well worth it.

1. Enjoy my Christmas tree. It is still up and I love looking at the lights. Whenever I come to my living room for the day, the first thing I do is turn on the Christmas tree.

2. Make lists. They helped me immensely through the worst of my depression and they are not only an important tool, I find them a great mental health tool.

3. Drink more tea.

4. Read more. I do read quite a lot, but I want to be able to tell myself to sit down, take out a book or my Kindle, and enjoy exploring new places and events through books.

5. Keep my dining room table cleaned so we can eat at it. This has always been a problem for us, and I’ve noticed things are much better when the phones are away, the television is off, and we are sitting together for that one meal. (This works for my family. If it doesn’t work for yours, that’s okay.)

Note: This was completed and ready for a last go over before my son came down with covid. So far, his symptoms are mild and he fluctuates from seeming fine to falling asleep on the couch. This has obviously changed our plans for the weekend and the coming week, with most things being cancelled despite all of us being vaccinated. With my oldest contracting covid last week (from work; my second son was exposed at school), my feelings on the intentionally unvaccinated will remain mute for the moment, but there are no guarantees that reticence will last. The point is we need to constantly readdress those things that just happen and reevaluate what our response to them will be. For my daughter who had her weekend plans cancelled through no fault of her own it’s McDonald’s. For me, it’s writing and Diet Coke. For the moment.

Mental Health Monday Lite

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It’s the beginning of the second full week of January and the best laid plans…

I got in my car thinking that I’d take my Starbucks card that I got for Christmas (from Santa) for a spin and get this post posted. It wasn’t until I pulled into the parking lot that I realized the draft was on my laptop and not on my Kindle.

This was a good reminder that not everything will work out the way I want it to; these include minor things (like a misplaced draft) and major things (like my oldest getting covid).

My planned Mental Health Monday will happen, whether that’s later today, later in the week, or next Monday. We’ll see.

I have decided to prioritize my mental health, although I’ve tried to do this in more recent years, it is an ongoing process. So far, I’ve set my schedule, I fixed the lights on the Christmas tree, I made a fantastic dinner last night (check out my instagram, recipe coming in a future post), spent my daughter’s birthday doing stuff with her including seeing Spider-Man: No Way Home (the third time for me and I’d see it again – really, do yourself a favor and see this movie) and having breakfast at our local crepe and coffee shop.

Think of someting that you can do for YOURSELF today, before you go to bed, before you settle in for the night. Is it reading a chapter in the book you’ve been putting off? Is it a cup of hot tea? Is it just sitting and doing nothing for fifteen minutes? You decide.

Mental Health Monday – Back to School Edition

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For many places all across the country (and the world) it is back to school season. Some started at the very tail end of August and some of us began right after Labor Day. There is so much going on at this time of year – end of summer holidays, school days, fall weather and traditions, the Jewish Holidays, and of course, Christmas is a mere fourteen and a half weeks away. I just mentioned to my husband that between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day there are only four weekends for shopping! I’m sure that did nothing for his mental health!

Parents, teachers, and kids all have something going on in their heads that is taking control of their senses, their insecurities, theirs plans. Some things are insurmountable; at least they seem to be. Sometimes all we need is a little support, and sometimes just from ourselves.

We all have our little go-to’s to get through the day, the month, the school year, and I would love for you to share them in the comments below for the rest of us. We are a community, and we move forward by helping each other in our own little (big) ways.

Here are a few of mine:

  1. Every day is a new day. Don’t let yesterday beat you up. Forget it and move forward.
  2. At some point you realize that the supply list is a suggestion. Somethings can be substituted, especially if your family can’t afford an item. Speak to your teacher or school social worker. They are there to help you and not embarrass your child.
  3. Give your kids some time to unwind when they get home in the afternoon. There is something to be said for milk and cookies or an apple after school, including for your too cool teenagers. No one is too cool for milk and cookies. During this unwinding time you can ask non threatening questions like how was your day and do you have any homework. Save the pop psychology for dinner time – did you make any new friends, how did this thing go that you were worried about? A simple how was your day works also.
  4. This one is a tough one especially in our family: try not to have dinner too late in the evening. There are days that we’re eating dinner at 9pm and it is kind of rough for everyone. If dinner is that late, how late is bedtime? When is homework? Is there any downtime for television/family time? Sometimes you have no choice on the timing, but keep in mind the needed downtime, not only for your kids, but also for you.
  5. Be present. Whatever you’re doing in your day, if you’re home when your kids get home, be sure that you’re there for them 100% when they walk in the door. It won’t be for long – they’ll grow tired of you faster than you’ll grow tired of them and they’ll disapear into their rooms – for homework, video games, phone calls/texting with friends. For those of you not home, and there are many parents who are at work when their kids get off the bus, leave them notes, have a snack prepared and in the fridge or on the counter, call them from work (or have them call you) to check in on their day. You will hear them roll their eyes through the phone, but they will still appreciate it. Trust me.
  6. Keep your expectations in line. Be flexible. Things will not always go as planned. Work around it.

And screaming into your pillow is always a good technique.

We will all get through this time together, and we will be better for it.

Mental Health Monday – One For The Road

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While May’s Mental Health Awareness Month concluded last week that doesn’t conclude our need to be aware of our mental health and to remember to remain open to our feelings and release any stigma that remains in talking about our mental health, our ongoing recovery, and accepting our responsibility as allies to one another. I was made painfully aware of a Twitter friend’s struggle that he’s been very open about online. He has a good support system and he’s a somewhat well known personality, and he’s receiving complaints about his openness. That is not helpful when someone is going through a particularly depressive episode that’s lasting more than a week. We must remind those people that the stigma must be abolished; we are here for each other, and it is one reason that I try to be open with my own journey through depression, and my recovery through it (as I refer to it).

Posts and blogs like this (and Twitter) are no substitute for seeking professional help when its needed. As much as I offer my insight, I still have therapy and medication, and all of it combines in balancing my tools in coping. Remain vigilant and don’t be afraid to ask for help when it’s needed.

We’re also moving out of pandemic mode, many are not wearing masks, not keeping social distance especially as more and more of us receive the vaccine, so I would suggest being aware and accepting of other people’s boundaries.

About a week ago, I wrote about how beneficial lists can be, and that was proved again for myself today. I would not have survived today’s activities without my lists. I had no less than twelve things to get done. Some were drive-thrus, some were curbside pick ups, and one or two were phone calls, and I’m happy to say that I got it all done! Lists are your friend. Remember that as your days get a little busier.

And if you prefer not to get back into everything you did pre-pandemic, that’s okay too. Learn to be okay with saying no. I’m sorry, but I have another commitment. School is winding down, and my kids need me home. I can’t leave my dog alone (if you say cat, they’ll know you’re lying!)

But also normalize just saying that you need to stay home and take care of yourself, and then do that.

One of my plans for this week (or early next week) is taking some contemplative time at a local labyrinth. I’d like to do this before the kids are out of school, and I will wait until it’s not oppressively hot or expectant thunderstorms. I’ll bring my journal and clear my mind.

What’s something you can do for yourself this week?