Mental Health Monday – Sleep


I don’t know anyone who gets enough sleep. Like my kids, I stay up way too late, and even with intentional naps, there is no way to catch up on missed sleep.

I slept very late today. I hadn’t intended to. I went to bed early with a stomachache, and slept until I was refreshed, which was quite late. I needed the sleep apparently. I was surprised at how much I needed it considering I actually got a lot of sleep over the weekend.

I had the privilege of attending a weekend retreat guided by Terry and Darlene Wildman. You’ll hear more about them (and the retreat) in an upcoming post. The retreat was centered around the First Nations Version of the New Testament, and the weekend was filled with music, Scripture, prayer, and really good, deep conversation. I usually have a difficult time settling down on retreat to sleep. Even though, I’m very comfortable at the retreat house, I just can’t quiet my mind. This retreat gave me the exact opposite experience. I went to sleep every night before midnight (sometimes long before) and woke up refreshed at around seven in the morning, with an alarm, and the sunrise out of my window.

At the end of the retreat, I had another event through the Cursillo movement. I had to drive out, and on my way, I decided to take a quick stop at the St. Kateri Shrine. I was so close, and after the weekend enveloped in Native spirituality, I felt the pull to sit on that holy ground, near to where St. Kateri was baptized. I decided to face the seven directions that we prayed with (East, South, West, North, Above, Below, Inward), and after a few more moments, I proceeded with my drive.

I wasn’t tired. I was refreshed. Except for last night’s stomachache, I felt great, and didn’t think I needed any extra sleep or naps.

My body told me something different.

This is my reminder to you that even though you may feel fine, feel rested, feel awakened, your body may tell you something different. Try and take the opportunities when they arise to get the rest you need, whether it’s deep sleep, resting your eyes, sitting in nature with no other thoughts. Rest, not only your body, but your thoughts.

The photo below is the (four) directions I faced at the St. Kateri Shrine. East begins in the top left, and follows the direction of the sun, what we now call clockwise.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine,
Fonda, NY

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 Monday – Overwhelmed?


I don’t know about you, but at the very end of Passover and Easter, I crash mentally. There is still so much to do, but it’s not scheduled between multiple church visits per day and cooking from scratch for Passover most nights, I still have to continue with life. And until this coming Thursday, everyone in the house is working, and we’re trying to save money by not eating out, even cheap fast food, which isn’t so cheap anymore.

I have returned to my lists (especially for today and the rest of this week), and on days like today, I needed a very specific list to make sure I hit every place I needed without too many, if any, U-turns.

The first thing I would recommend is a multi-level list when you’re beginning to get overwhelmed:

Draw a horizontal line across the middle of a piece of any-size paper, and then draw two columns from the top to that middle line.

Like this:

Fig. 1

The left is for the must-do’s, the right is for the would-like-to-do’s, and the bottom is for everything else. I’d also draw a line on the bottom right for a running shopping list.

I’ll give you an example for today and tomorrow.

Continue reading

Mental Health Monday – John Fetterman Edition


It’s extremely difficult to ask for help. No matter how big or small the problem, for many of us our reaction is often, “I’m good, I can do it, It’s fine.” Is it really? Whether we like to admit it or not, this can be more difficult for men, especially a man who is considered the head of his family, who just went through a health crisis, who is adjusting to unexpected changes in diet and lifestyle, who is being ridiculed for seeking help for a serious medical issue, whose family is mocked for nothing more than being his family, who went through a tough political race, and began a new job mere weeks ago.

It’s a lot.

It can be a lot without all of that going on.

For myself, I ignored a lot of my anxiety and depression. It didn’t occur to me that there was a problem. When you feel that something is off and search for help (today through Google), the wrong questions are asked. Do you skip out on work? Do you sleep a lot? Do you want to harm yourself? If your answers are no, you’re fine.

But you’re not.

I’m talking about myself, and not suggesting any of this is true for Senator Fetterman. Please don’t use this as an implication to some secret knowledge or diagnosis of the Senator. It’s not.

Continue reading

Mental Health Monday – January 2023


I spent today with my family, and when I got home realized that this post wasn’t ready. I was going to put it off until mid-week when things would be seemingly calmer, but I thought about that for a minute, and realized that our mental health can’t be put off.

We need to take the time needed and focus on our mental health when we need to. It will never fit into a schedule. Things come up with mental health that we need to cope with just like things come up everyday in our lives like an overflowing sink or a backed-up toilet. Some things just need to be taken care of right away.

One thing that I have been struggling with is my prayer life. My faith is strong, but I’m having difficulty praying, so I’m looking at new techniques. If it doesn’t improve, I may resort to a finite-timed checklist. And for me, not being prayerful affects my mental health. I am hoping to attend mass tomorrow before I begin the rest of my day.

Before I give you my quick list, please…. if you are in distress or having an emergency, contact a mental health professional or call 9-1-1.
The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is 988 and they are there to help.

Here are five simple suggestions for coping with mental health and the anxieties that accompany it:

  • Focus on something neutral, something ordinary. The breeze blowing the leaves outside. The clouds drifting by.
  • Take some quiet time and listen to music. Instrumental music is often good for this because there are no words to distract you, but if you like loud, blaring music, play that and sing along.
  • Read a book.
  • Write in a journal. You can write what you’re feeling, what you’re grateful for, what your plans are when you’re feeling better.
  • Watch a movie you’ve seen before. That way you don’t have to give it your full attention, but you’ll feel as though you’re doing something if that’s what you need.

Here’s another helpful action you can take.