Emotional Spring Cleaning

Finally, after what seemed like an endless winter, spring is in full bloom. No more long grey days and no more snow! (At least for a few months)

I don’ t know about anyone else, but when spring comes I always feel the need to clean out the clutter. Out with the old, in with the new!

While I was thinking about my spring cleaning plans and all the organization I was going to be doing, I thought this is the perfect time to do some personal spring cleaning! A personal reflection, if you will.

As I was reflecting on my own emotional health and thinking about the stressors in my life, I was reminded about this article I read a little while back on toxic family members. You check this article out here.

Personally, I found this article a little comforting because I have some strained relationships with certain family members in my life and often would feel guilty for distancing myself. It made me realize that just because they are family doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my own mental or emotional health. Sometimes keeping a good amount of distance is the best thing you can do. Does anyone else struggle with this?

Now that I have my mental health in check, it’s time for me to get back to cleaning out closets. I should also probably get to work on my yard or those dandelions are going to be taller than me soon!

Here’s to good mental health!

-L

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Eye Opener

Disclaimer: Uncharacteristic Serious Post 

Yesterday I put my father on a plane back home to Kansas City. I walked him to his terminal, bought him a burger and fries for lunch, and waited with him until it was time to board. As we said our goodbyes, while I knew things would be much less stressful at home, I was sad to see him go.

I have mentioned this in a previous post, but for those who don’t know my father has early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It is in the very early stages, he still knows who we all are, and he can still take care of he basic daily needs, but there are many things he is no longer able to do. He can no longer drive himself, he has extreme difficulty reading, he can’t cook like he used to, and he is much slower than he used to be. His short term memory is pretty much nonexistent, he asks the same question over and over again, and he has picked up some habits that he never had before. But thankfully he is still the same dad I have always loved.

Since he lives at home with my mom and sister I decided that I would take him back to Chicago with me after my latest trip to KC. My sister and mom needed some time to relax and get things done around the house so I thought he would enjoy a few weeks with my husband and I. While I knew he had some difficulties and could tell his memory was getting worse, from our regular phone calls, it wasn’t really until he was living with us for a few weeks that I realized how much worse he really is. I think part of me never really accepted the Alzheimer’s diagnosis and just kept the facade that everything was still perfectly fine. As I said before he isn’t completely helpless, but he does need help with a lot of things.

First off, I am going to say that caregivers are fucking SAINTS. I was only with my dad a few weeks and I was completely exhausted. Before work each morning I had to make sure he ate and took his medicine and then make sure his lunch was made so that all he had to do was heat it up in the microwave. I can’t even count the number of conversations we had about how our Keurig works. He really wanted to work it, he just couldn’t get there. Luckily I work from home a couple days a week so I only had to worry a few days that he was alright at home while I was gone. Totally nerve wracking. At least he had our two dogs to keep him company and I think they enjoyed his daily naps as much as he did.

Since he doesn’t get to do too much back at home, we tried to show him a good time. We went out to eat a few times, he hung out with my father-in-law, whom he really enjoyed, and we even had a cookout with some of our friends.

While we had a good time, I am ashamed to say that at times I was extremely annoyed. I knew he couldn’t help it, but at night after working all day sometimes I just couldn’t hear the same question over and over. Thankfully I have a loving husband who was there to help me.

The scary thing for me is that unfortunately, he is going to get worse. I know this and I am terrified to death. Right now he still knows who I am, but there will come a day when he won’t and that is something I can’t even deal with right now. I never thought that I would be taking care of my parents, parents are suppose to take care of you. However, this is where we are at and it is something I will gladly do.

 

 

Ooohhhmmm….

Once again life has been extremely crazy. Work is as busy as ever, I’m getting ready to move out of the city, and most recently I got engaged so wedding planning has been added to my never ending to do list. I am beyond thrilled, but I never realized how much went into planning a wedding. (Ecstatic in fact!)

Anyway, last week I was able to escape work to attend a meditation seminar and I thought I would share some information I learned about meditation and a little article I wrote about the seminar. Because why not? Everyone can use some relaxation and rejuvenation. I know I can!

Here are some things I learned from the session:

Life can be extremely stressful. Each day we are met with multiple responsibilities from work, family life, and even social engagements. Week after week we try to cram everything we can into our already jam-packed schedules; leaving us exhausted, worried, and honestly at times, completely overwhelmed. While you can’t quit your job or neglect your family obligations, there are some things you can do to help relieve some of your stress.

One thing that many people have found to be very helpful at stress reduction is meditation. Originally meant to help individuals gain a deeper understanding of life, today meditation is used for relaxation and stress reduction. In fact the practice of regular meditation is linked to many benefits including increased self-awareness, increased focus and discipline, stress and anxiety reduction, increased emotional stability, helps you think more clearly, and helps your overall physical health. When you take a little bit of time out of each day to meditate you can begin to clear your mind from the abundance of information that tends to build up each day and causes us stress.

Through techniques such as meditation,  you learn how to quiet your mind so that you can break free from overwhelming stress and get what you really want out of life.

On Monday February 16, 2015, I attended a meditation session at the Junior League of Chicago (JLC), where we learned about a few different types of meditation. These different types of meditation only take a few minutes of our day, but can do so much for our emotional health and overall well being. The four different types of meditation we covered included breath meditation, guided visualization, mantra or affirmation meditation, and finally yoga nidra, or sleep yoga. Each one is discussed in more detail below.

Breath meditation: The overall purpose of breath meditation is to calm the mind and develop a sense of inner peace. With some simple breathing we are able to change the chemistry of our minds, creating more space and making us think more clearly.

Guided visualization: Based on the concept that the mind and body are connected, this technique uses thoughts and suggestions that guide your mind toward a relaxed, focused state. When you imagine the details of a safe, comfortable place you are able to reach a state of complete relaxation. To help with the visualization it is common to use an instructor, tapes, or scripts.

Mantra or affirmation meditation: In this type of meditation you silently repeat a thought or phrase over and over in your mind to help prevent distracting thoughts. Mantra meditation is more challenging, but it is good for building strength and power in your thoughts.

Yoga Nidra: Also known as sleep yoga, this type of meditation brings about an incredible sense of calmness, quietness, and clarity. It is one of the deepest types of meditation where you go into a deep sleep, past the dreaming state, but still remain awake.

At first you may find that no matter what you do you are unable to keep your mind focus, but the idea is to start small and gradually add more time as you go. You will never be able to completely stop certain thoughts from entering your mind, but with practice you can create more space or focus, giving you more control over your mind.

So if you are looking for a way to focus better, stress less, get better sleep, and be a better partner meditation may just be the answer.

Here’s to Better Mental Health

Most of you have already been going strong with your New Year’s resolutions and while we are already halfway into January, it’s never to late to come up with some additional goals for the new year. After all, there are always ways in which we can improve ourselves.

It has been a little while since I have posted anything mental health related so, with the start of a new year,  I thought it was the perfect time to take a minute and talk about improving our mental health. More specifically, what can you do this year to improve your overall mental health? Well, I’m going to tell you…

With the commencement of 2014, it is a good time to step back and take a look at the past year and identify some areas of your life that you would like to improve over the next year. No matter if you are suffering from a pre-existing mental health condition or not, everyone can benefit from a resolution to improve one’s overall mental health. Many individuals think that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time because most people will end up failing to keep them anyway. However, even if you were unable to keep them for the whole year you still made some sort of progress toward bettering yourself and that in itself should be praise worthy. Transition and reaching new goals isn’t going to happen overnight, but when you put your mind to it and keep a positive attitude it can be done.

Examples of resolutions for mental health

When you actually sit down to write your new year’s resolutions identify some specific goals you have about improving your overall mental health. This can be anything that is important to you, there are no resolutions that are better than others. In order to get you started here are some ideas that you could include in your 2015 New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Make a commitment to develop better sleeping patterns: When you don’t get enough sleep it can exacerbate many health problems, which includes mental health issues. Getting higher quality sleep will have a more positive effect on your mood.
  • Consider eliminating toxic people from your life: Surround yourself with good friends who are going to be supportive and not bring you down. Identify those who are beneficial to your happiness and are not going to bring about constant negativity or any type of physical or emotional harm.
  • Don’t sabotage yourself: We are the strongest cause for our own unhappiness due to our own thoughts and beliefs that we have about ourselves and the world around us. Changing the way in which you think about yourself and view the world can do wonders for your overall emotional well-being.
  • Identify ways to reduce stress: Daily life can bring about a lot of stress, which can exacerbate the symptoms of a mental health condition. Write down some ways that can help you relax and when you find yourself becoming overwhelmed take a break from the day to relieve some of that stress.
  • Make peace with the past: Many individuals have things in their past that are keeping them from living the happy life that you want to live. Make it a priority to move past those old issues so that they are not able to hold you back anymore. In some instances it may be a good idea to go see a therapist, if you don’t already, to help you work through any issues that may be getting in the way of achieve overall good mental health. A therapist can help you develop a plan that to work through all of these issues and to allow you to take on 2015 as a happier and healthier individual.

Remember that a new year is a chance to start over and to reach personal goals that we have set for ourselves. It is a time for personal growth where we can independently work on our overall well-being, it should not be a stressful time filled with guilt.

RIP Robin

With the death of Robin Williams I thought I would share a press release I wrote today about his battle with addiction and depression and how important it is for those who are struggling with mental health issues to get the help they need in order to prevent tragedies such as this one.

Robin Williams’s Apparent Suicide and its Relation to Depression & Addiction

Our hearts go out to one of the great comedians of the era

Aug. 12 – Yesterday, Robin Williams passed away of an apparent suicide. As we remember the many amazing ways in which he enriched media and culture with his comedy and acting, we should also take a look at what drove Robin’s actions to his untimely death.

Robin identified as an alcoholic early in life, all the way back to his days in his hometown. As he gained celebrity status, he also came to battle with cocaine addiction. His drug and alcohol abuse ran rampant until the death of John Belushi – also from drug addiction – in 1982, after which Robin said he remained sober for 20 years. In 2006, Robin entered rehab for drinking, and sought treatment again as recently as June of this year. Questions that come to mind to all of us:

Why did this happen, especially to someone who seems to have had everything? Alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as mood issues such as depression have genetic, physical, and environmental triggers. There is no one single cause. A core precept of alcohol recovery is that alcoholism is a disease; you are always in recovery, never cured.

Did no one see the kind of place Robin was in? He did go into treatment multiple times. This highlights the importance not only of communicating regularly and deeply with our loved ones, but being able to identify signs and symptoms that indicate the need for care. Related to this, it is critical to have a full continuum of care: from 24 / 7 help in inpatient or residential treatment environments for crises and acute situations and aftercare programs that offer ongoing support and maintain recovery.

How did the addiction and depression issues interrelate? There is concept in mental health treatment of “co-occurring disorders”. A person can have depression or anxiety issues from a young age, or develop them later in life as a result of a traumatic event. Some men and women then turn to drug abuse as a coping mechanism. That is why modern treatment focuses on addressing all elements of a person’s mental health, to get at the root of the original issues. Treating only the addiction without the mental health component leads to higher rates of relapse. Robin himself, in a 2009 interview, said he had previously failed to confront the core issues at the root of his addictions, contributing to his own return to rehab.

All mental health and addiction treatment programs offer free, confidential screenings that you should take advantage of if you feel even the slightest need, and will help you find the most appropriate care for yourself or your loved one. Inpatient programs also offer immediate services for those battling with suicidal ideations.

Our hearts go out to Robin’s family. This is a reminder to all of us to remember to communicate with our loved ones regularly, and seek professional care and support when it may be needed.

Palco What?

My co-worker and I (messy hair and cigarettes) recently wrote a press release for our ob about this new product that is trying to get approval for distribution. I found this topic and product to be interesting, especially since it is creating such a stir so I thought I would share what we wrote:

Concerns Surrounding New Powdered Alcohol Product

Valdosta, GA: “Palcohol,” is a powered alcohol being produced by an Arizona based company Lipsmack LLC that has hopes of hitting the shelves in the near future. Recently this new product has been getting a lot of media attention; while it was initially approved, federal regulators have now rescinded that decision. Mark Phillips, the creator, designed this powdered substance for use in situations such as camping or traveling when carrying around large bottles would be difficult. With Palcohol all you need to do is mix the powder with a little water and you have a drink. However, with the development of this new substance many are worried about the consequences surrounding the misuse of powdered alcohol.

“As is true with the introduction of any new substance, there is always the risk of unanticipated negative consequences. People may look at powdered alcohol as being safer than drinking regular alcohol because it is being diluted in water. That fact, along with the ease in which the product allows people to take alcohol with them wherever they go, increases the likelihood that the substance will begin to become overly abused. Similarly, it is not unreasonable to hypothesize that the likelihood that the rate of alcohol addiction will be on the rise as well.”

Most of the current media buzz has been focused on the abuse potential of Palcohol. Since it is in powdered form many are concerned with the fact that it can be snorted. The reason behind this concern is that snorting this substance could possibly get you drunk instantly and potentially cause damage to the nasal passage. However, the company has stated that they have added volume to their product so that it would take more than half a cup of powder to get the equivalent of one drink up your nose. This however has not lessened the fear that some individuals will choose to abuse Palcohol in this manner.

Another concern is about the convenience of having alcohol in a powdered form. One packet of Palcohol only weighs an ounce making it more portable than a flask of liquor. Alcohol is already a problem at many sporting events or concerts, and Palcohol would make it that much easier to sneak alcohol into events. Additionally, the packets contain anywhere from 30% to 60% ethanol, which is almost twice the amount in a can of beer. This leads many to fear the outcome that would result from consuming more than one packet at a time.

“Using a substance like Palcohol can cause major health risks for individuals within our community. The results from alcohol poisoning are already well-known, so by adding in the fact that people may not be aware of just how much of the substance they are ingesting, people may actually be putting their lives in even greater danger. If this product becomes widespread, it would not be surprising to see an increase in the amount of alcohol poisoning incidents that result.”

Many parent groups and addiction experts are strongly opposed to the approval of powdered alcohol because they believe that the product can be easily obtained and abused by underage drinkers. Many hold the view that this is just one more thing for adolescents to get excited about and try because it is the newest trend on the market.

Sunday Guilt

Most Sundays you can find me curled up on the couch, watching mindless television shows, drifting in and out of sleep. I may get up long enough to order a pizza or walk my dog to the back courtyard, but then I head straight back to the couch.

I don’t do my laundry that has slowly piled up throughout the week. I don’t wash the small pile of dishes. I definitely don’t work out. I don’t socialize with anyone. And I usually have to eat out for lunch on Monday because I don’t make my lunch the night before.

Basically on Sundays, I do nothing…

While I honestly believe that everyone should have a lazy day to themselves I simply can’t shake the feeling that I should be doing something. I work all week, usually have things scheduled on Friday and Saturday, so why can’t I have one day to myself where I do nothing?

Why do I feel so guilty about not doing anything for a day?  Why I can’t let myself completely relax and just quiet my mind? Just when I am about to let myself go and allow myself to put my daily responsibilities to the back of my mind, the anxiety monster rears its ugly head. I try to ignore it and usually can remain lounging on the couch for the rest of the evening, but then it sets up for a difficult Monday. Since I did nothing the day before I sometimes wake up Monday morning feeling guilty and like I am the laziest person ever. My brain screams at me: Why did I just waste a whole day?

screaming brain

Why are you so lazy??!!