Refresh Your Mind and Body This Spring!

Spring is here and it’s time to do a little spring cleaning. No, I’m not talking about cleaning out the pantry or the bookshelf. I’m talking about us. With our busy lives it can be hard to carve out time to take proper care of ourselves and push out all the toxic energy in and around us. We need to completely cleanse our system every once in a while, and Spring is the perfect time for a fresh start. Here are some ways we can detoxify the body, mind and soul.

 

Cleanse Your Body

Unfortunately our bodies can’t hide a toxic lifestyle. It’s very easy to see the effects of a stressful life on our bodies, often showing as low energy, inability to sleep and so on. What can we do to get that spring back in our step?

Detoxifying Exercises

High energy exercises: I.E. cardio! Although cardio exercises might seem like an impossible feat for those of us already struggling with low energy, it’s actually the best thing! Increased heart rate during cardio exercise can release endorphins, also known as the happy hormone, which amps us up and keeps us happy.

  • Tai-chi: This slow, controlled form of martial arts with powerful breathing techniques is very relaxing. It helps to lower blood pressure and is very easy to incorporate into a busy life.
  • Yoga: This is an obvious remedy for refreshing the mind and body. It is a guaranteed stress reliever (talking from experience!) and also a very good way to get into shape!

Give some of these detoxifying exercises a try:

5 Stress Relieving Stretches
Workouts for Stress Relief
20-Minute Workout for Stress Relief 

Detox Baths

  • Sea Salt Detox Bath: This detox bath has been around for hundreds of years. This is a very relaxing bath that helps pull out toxins from the body. It livens up our skin and leaves us with more energy throughout the day.
  • Ginger Detox Bath: This is similar to a sauna. Sweat out toxins with this great bath that will leave us with a lot more energy to use. It also helps with knocking out cold symptoms.

Check out more bath ideas and recipes here:
10 Detox Baths to Cleanse, Relax and Rejuvenate You
5 Easy DIY Detox Baths

 

Refresh Your Mind

Our thoughts and mind state control our well-being a lot more than we think, so a relaxed mind will most likely lead to a relaxed everything else. How can we break away from our toxic minds and keep anxiety at bay? Here are a few tips that have worked for me:

  • Keep first things first: Prioritizing our schedules can really keep us on track and stop us from having stressful breaks throughout the day. When we know what we have to do, when we have to do it and how much time we need for it, our mental boats can sail a lot smoother.
  • Give yourself a star: Treat yourself like you’re a little kid again and give yourself a star. Keep track of your improvements regularly so you can see how far you’ve come to realizing any of your goals. Also, be sure to celebrate all of your victories – no matter how small! This is a good way to ward off anxiety when you think you’re not doing enough to get to where you want to be.
  • Complete it from A to Z: Finish what you start. It’s a very simple thing that could shed loads of anxiety. Whenever we complete something we start, we don’t have to worry about it later, instead we can just sit back and relax.

More ideas for a mental detox:
10 Steps to a 10-Day Mental Detox Diet
Want to Be More Effective? Try a Mental Detox

 

Recenter Spiritually

My top tip for feeling re-centered spiritually is to remind myself to be thankful for what I already have, rather than continuing to focus only on the things that I want. A great idea for this is to keep a gratitude journal. Giving thanks is something we tend to overlook. The power and peace that comes from just appreciating what we already have can clear our minds of negative energy. We all need a little encouraging advice on this spiritually healthy habit. My Tips for Journaling:

  • It’s not a competition: Don’t compare your journal to anyone else’s. It’s YOUR journal! It doesn’t need to be a J.K. Rowling book. Write what you feel as if no one else will ever read it.
  • No word count: You can write as much or as little as you want, it doesn’t have to be a five page essay. Remember, it isn’t about how much you write, it’s about the meaning each word has to you.
  • Turn off your timer: Most people, if not all, need time for their words to flow out of their brains, through their pens (or keyboard) and onto their paper (or computer) and that’s okay. Don’t make writing in your journal a timed affair. Write until you have put down everything you wanted to.

Tips on keeping a gratitude journal:
How to Maintain a Gratitude Journal for Stress Relief
11 Tips for a Powerful Gratitude Journal
5 Steps for Creating a Gratitude Journal to Cultivate Positivity

 

Guest Blogger:

Komilla Karim

Communications Intern

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

How I Like to Put #MeFirst

February is not just about Valentine’s Day. This time of year serves as an excellent reminder that we should all take time out of our busy lives and show ourselves some love as well. As Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Here are my tips on self-love and putting #MeFirst sometimes.

 

How to Fall In Love with Yourself

1. Say “No” to comparisons: No matter what, there will always be someone who seems smarter, stronger, prettier, livelier, wealthier (the list goes on and on) than you. The most important thing to know is that there is only one “you.” So instead of beating yourself up over your perceived shortcomings, accept who are and keep on trying to be the best you can be.

2. Eat with love: Healthy food = a healthy body. You don’t have to eat at five-star restaurants or spend your whole paycheck on a fridge full of 100% organic foods to be healthy. Be conscious of what you eat and make better choices. Love your body enough to feed it the best you can.

3. Treat Yourself: Every once in a while we deserve to spoil ourselves. So yes, it’s okay to get that fancy purse you’ve been eyeing for months or indulge in that box of chocolates you’ve been day dreaming about. You’ve worked hard, so you should get to enjoy a few simple pleasures.

4. Be kind to people: Simple acts of kindness toward the people around us can really increase our “happy vibes.” Holding a door open, giving a compliment, helping someone carry their groceries, these are all easy ways to brighten someone’s day. Just imagine how you would feel if someone was kind to you for no reason. Pay it forward.

5. Say “cheese:” Even if you have to fake it. Smiling is a natural, contagious way of boosting your mood, and of course it makes everyone look better. Take some photos while you are at it. It is always fun to look back at pictures and smile.

 
Let It Go

1. Physical clutter: A clear mind can never be developed in a cluttered environment. To create a clearer and happier life, our space must be clear and happy as well.

2. Resistance to change: Change is inevitable in life, we are constantly evolving. We need to embrace change so we can improve and help others improve as well.

3. Need for control: To all the self-proclaimed “control freaks:” let go of the reigns! It is unhealthy to try to control everything around us. Life has a crazy way of changing our plans.

4. The past: The past will always be what it is. We cannot go back and change it no matter how much we want to. All we can do is embrace what has happened in our lives and use those experiences to become better people. The best is yet to come!

5. Expectations: The things people expect from us and the things we expect from ourselves can cause us to put too much pressure on ourselves shoulders and make life seem like a rat-race. We should always try to keep pushing ourselves to become better but do not let the line between positive expectations and “over-working” blur.

 
How to Put Yourself First

1. Accept that you deserve “me time:” Without a doubt, each and every person should be able to accept the fact that they deserve some guilt-free time completely to themselves. Once we can accept that then it becomes very easy to actually carve out time to do so.

2. Say “No:” It is absolutely alright to shake your head and say “no” to people’s requests. We should allow ourselves time to breathe and take care of the things we need to do for us, and not what others want us to do for them.

3. Spend a few minutes a day doing what you like: Whether five minutes or 20, spend some time each day doing something you love. Whether it’s listening to music or reading a book, it will breathe some fresh air into your daily schedule.

 

Guest Blogger:

Komilla Karim

Communications Intern

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

Keep Your Cool Now That the Kids are Back in School

It’s time to say goodbye to sand, beach and weekend barbecues. Back to carpooling, soccer practice, study schedules… ahh! This exciting yet hectic time of year can push stress levels to warp speed. But as always, we’ve got you covered with tips to help keep the back-to-school stress to a minimum.

Stress less

Create a direction for your day
Create meaningful goals to guide your days that contribute to your bigger picture. Since we know we may not get to accomplish everything that we want to, prioritize your goals to ensure you complete everything that absolutely needs to be done for the day.

Let go
If we could steer the course of our days there would be no such thing as traffic and lines at Starbucks would be nonexistent. But the reality is that most aspects of life are simply out of our control. Learn to accept what we can’t control, and let your worries over those things go. Instead, focus your energy on the things that you do have control over.

Realize that you can’t do it all
Do you begin the day with an enormous task list and find yourself only halfway through it by the day’s end? That’s perfectly okay. There will always be one more spot that needs to be cleaned, one more email that needs to be written before going to bed. At the end of the day sometimes we need to tell ourselves, “You have done enough today.”

Learn to say “no”
Your time is a precious commodity and it must be protected. There’s just no way that you can accomplish your own goals if you are constantly completing tasks for others. Before you commit to doing something, ask yourself if it’s realistic to add to your work load. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for what you just don’t have the time to do.

Shut it down
Set a cut-off time each day for working and using technology. Shut down your laptop and TV and give your mind and body the time needed to unwind before falling asleep. If you like to go to sleep by 11 pm, set a 10 pm cut-off time. You may find that you sleep a bit more restfully and become more motivated to complete your day’s work in the hours before your cut-off time.

 

Take time for yourself every day

It isn’t hard to forget about your own needs in between making sure the kids have eaten and that your deadlines at work have been met. But it’s crucial to make sure that you’re taking time for yourself.

 

Click through below for a few ideas for mental health moments throughout the day:

Kids’ Mental Health Matters

During back to school time, parents make sure to get all of the necessary immunizations and physical health check-ups kids need, but ensuring that your child is mentally healthy is just as important.

If you notice any changes in your child’s behavior, it could be an indication of a mental health issue. Warning signs to keep an eye out for that interfere with his or her daily activities include:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Avoidance or disinterest in activities
  • Avoidance of eating, or weight loss
  • Low self-esteem
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Drastic personality changes

Keep an open line of communication with your child. Don’t be afraid to ask children how they feel with direct questions like, “Are you sad?,” or open-ended questions like “What was the best part of your day?” Make sure you REALLY listen. Read more about what to do if you think your child is struggling with a mental health issue here.

 

Guest Blogger:

Jasmine Berry

Communication, Education & Advocacy Coordinator

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

Taking Time for Yourself During the Summer

Summer is warm and exciting, with plenty of fun activities to participate in. But summer activities and jobs can get overwhelming. Year-round jobs during the summer (while everyone else is sunbathing) can get pretty overwhelming and depressing, too.
Therefore, it’s just as important as ever to take your occasional mental health days, or to set aside some time for you to relax by yourself, or with others.
 
Here are some of the ways I like to spend my own mental health days:
 
1.) Coffee and a good book. 
 
 
Don’t underestimate the power of an extra cup of iced coffee or tea to accompany that new young-adult, romance or science-fiction novel, while sitting near a window, or outside if possible. I recently read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, one of my favorite childhood authors, and it helped distract me from everything that usually stresses me out during the work week.
 
2.) A date with your laptop or TV.
 
Let your mind relax while you watch a movie in bed, or binge-watch a couple of the new “Orange is the New Black” episodes.
 
3.) Explore your town or city.
 
As someone who has been living in Washington, D.C. for the past year, I can honestly tell you that I have barely explored any of it. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that many of us live places where there are areas we have yet to venture out to. Take a break and explore your surroundings. Take it all in and let your mind wander. 
 
4.) Petsmart trip.
 
 
 
If you don’t have a pet of your own, consider relaxing by going to Petsmart. Look at all of the cute little kittens or the weird looking birds and guinea pigs. Also, studies show that watching fish swim in fish tanks can help relieve stress and anxiety. 
 
5.) Youtube pet videos.
 
If you can’t go to Petsmart, take a look at some of these online cat and dog videos that are sure to make you smile.
 
6.) Take a break from social media.
 
Uninstall Facebook and Twitter (if you can) from your phone for a day. Sometimes social media stresses us out more than we can tell. Social media is great, but it’s important to maintain your mental health while using social media 
 
7.) Listen to instrumental music.
 

 
I love listening to rock, country and pop music. However, I have come to realize that sometimes lyrics can stress me out. When I really need to calm down and relax I turn to my favorite pianist, Yiruma. I also enjoy listening to the Scottish instrumental band Mogwai
 
8.) Go for a swim.
 
 
 
 If you live in an apartment complex with a pool, or if you live near a pool, take a swim every now and then. Swimming can help clear your mind.
 
9.) Redecorate.  
 
Sometimes, all you really need is a change of scenery. Move around some furniture in your home or hang up a few new pictures and interior decorations here and there. Need help? Check out Apartmenttherapy.com, which is one of my favorite redecorating blogsCurrently, this article about temporary and removable adhesives is my favorite.
 
10.)  Try a cold shower or a warm bubble bath. 
 
We often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of rushing to get ready for work on time and rarely ever take that time to relax. If you get a moment later in the day, try a cold shower (you know—for when it’s INSANELY hot outside and your commute home involved walking) or a warm bubble bath (because when was the last time you actually took a bath? What about one with bubbles?) with a book to read or music to listen to. 
 
11.)  Window shop! 
 

 
Whether it’s the book store down the block, or the consignment shop two streets over (or maybe you have returned to take another look at the fish in Petsmart), window shopping is a nice (and free) way to get your mind off of daily stressors.
 
12.) Creative expression.
 
Have a few hours to relax in between jobs or obligations? Try a quick and easy outlet like creative writing, sketching, journaling, painting or singing. Personally, I tend to prefer writing or painting to help express myself. This article is one of my favorite guides to painting for stress relief. 
 
13.) Go on a road trip. 
 
If you have a car and gas money to spare, road trips can be really fun and are great for taking your mind off of work. It doesn’t have to be long, either. Maybe you live two hours away from the beach, or three hours from the mountains. Pick a friend or family member, your favorite CD and hit the road! Driving down country roads with the windows down, while listening to “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas never fails to make me happy. 
 
14.) Go kayaking or canoeing.
 
If you don’t have a canoe or kayak (I don’t have either), you can still take part in this activity. There are many businesses along rivers in cities and towns that let you rent a canoe or kayak for an hour. I like to kayak on the Potomac on Saturday mornings when I’ve had a really bad week. The wind and the smell of the fresh, river water helps me relax. Plus, it’s a great work out. It can be a little expensive ranging from $15-$20 an hour, so I only do it occasionally.
 
15.)  Rant. 
 
Find someone willing to listen to what you have going on in your life—your best friend, your mother, your significant other, your dog, the Internet…and just rant. The rant could be about annoying coworkers or your detail-oriented boss, but they don’t have to be. Rant about the weather. Rant about climate change and social justice issues. Rant about how silly you think it is that a museum in Kentucky decided to keep a sinkhole as a tourist attraction. Just rant For me, I am constantly ranting to myself about these subjects in my head, but since I’m not letting any of that anger out verbally, it just bottles up. After getting all of those rambling, raging thoughts out of your head, the weight on your shoulders starts to feel a little lighter, and it really does help. 

Guest Blogger:

Rain Freeman, Summer Communications Intern

@_RainFreeman

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

The Other Side of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, and it does not discriminate.

A year after the Boston Marathon bombing, it has come out that more than 10% of the children who witnessed the event are likely to exhibit symptoms of PTSD.

There are three types of PTSD symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal.
Common symptoms under these three categories are:

· Flashbacks, recurrent and persistent distressing thoughts and effort to ignore or suppress such thoughts
· Difficulty falling or staying asleep and/or recurrent distressing dreams/nightmares
· Avoiding places, objects or events that may remind a victim of the trauma
· Guilt, depression, mental numbness and worry
· Loss of interest in activities once enjoyable
· Difficulty concentrating and memory difficulties
· Hyper vigilance, irritability or outburst of anger

In addition to the children of Boston, the victims of Hurricane Sandy are suffering from the mental and emotional repercussions of such a traumatic event.

Other well-known victims of PTSD include veterans and active duty military members. One in three American troops returning from overseas experience PTSD, but less than 40% will ever receive help.

Victims of sexual assault are even more likely to suffer from this common mental condition. Almost 31% of sexual assault survivors develop PTSD at some point in their life, and 11% of those survivors are still experiencing symptoms of PTSD.

Anyone can experience a traumatic event and at least 70% of Americans do. Twenty percent of those who experience such events develop PTSD as a result.

Nancy Brisebois-Good LCPC, NCC is a licensed bilingual mental health therapist with the N*COMMON program at the Mental Health Association of Montgomery County. She works with newly arrived French-speaking, multicultural clients, who have mostly come from countries in West Africa, and are in the U.S seeking political asylum. Many of her clients suffer from PTSD, as a result of severe trauma and torture.

“Some of my clients have lost their families and everything they owned and they are here because they are being persecuted in their country,” says Brisebois-Good.

These clients frequently suffer from nightmares, insomnia and constant fear. The triggers are sometimes hard to distinguish.

“Sometimes there’s no trigger at all because they are constantly thinking about their trauma,” says Brisebois-Good. “A slight noise can lead them to be jumpy and scared.”

When it comes to treating these issues, Brisebois-Good is one of many who prefer Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a method of treatment that addresses dysfunctional emotions and thoughts and the impact of these thoughts and feelings on a person’s behavior.

Another method of treatment used by Brisebois-Good is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) which involves that the client filling out a sleep journal. Later on, the therapist can look at the journal to see what is most likely causing the insomnia and decide from there how it should be treated.
Exposure, Relaxation, & Rescripting Therapy (ERRT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment for trauma-related nightmares also used by Brisebois-Good.

Most of Brisebois-Good’s clients have nightmares. By using ERRT, the client is able to (if they agree to do so) relive and discuss their nightmares with their therapist, where they feel safe.

When they do so, they discuss disturbing details of their nightmares. ERRT helps to re-script these details by supplying clients with the tools to empower themselves.

Brisebois-Good described a scenario where a client might have a nightmare about someone violently chasing them. She would tell them to imagine what they would do if they had all the superpowers in the world, and then she would ask them what they would do next.

“And that’s when you start to see them smiling,” says Brisebois- Good.

Over time, the clients are able to use ERRT techniques to create a more positive outcome in their nightmares. Soon, Brisebois-Good says, they are able to feel more assertive and confident while awake as well.

Several other techniques are used in these therapy sessions, such as narrative therapy, Gestalt, and relaxation techniques.

“Sharing their experience in a safe environment allows the clients to process the trauma,” says Brisebois-Good. “Learning tools from all these modalities, provides them the knowledge and psycho-education necessary to be able to live in a more functional and comfortable way.”

PTSD can often seem and feel very debilitating, but with treatment, recovery is possible.

If you think yourself or a loved one may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the most important measure to be taken is to offer emotional support.

For additional help:
National Center for PTSD: 1-802-296-6300
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE
Suicide Prevention Lifelines: 1-800-273-TALK, 1-800-SUICIDE
MHA Military/Vet Resource Line: 1-301-738-7176

Guest Blogger:

Rain Freeman, Summer Communications Intern

@_RainFreeman

Rain Freeman

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

Mindful Eating and Your Mental Health

Hello Beautiful Blissful Readers! Katie here all the way from The Wellness Wonderland! I thought I’d drop by to share a secret from wonderland to make food tastier. The secret is quite simple: awareness.

Since we all lead such busy and stressful lives, lunch is commonly eaten while working at a desk and breakfast is usually taken on the go. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re fueling our bodies.

Office worker eating at deskEating in a stressful state is directly linked to digestive problems. I’ve found in my own personal journey, this process served me well when it comes to food addiction, emotional eating, and eating disorder recovery.
 When we are eating when we’re not hungry and we’re not present with our food we are simply using food as a coping mechanism to not have to feel a feeling we’ve avoiding. Humans use many coping mechanisms from drugs to shopping to sex to food to avoid feeling. When first starting to make a change just bring awareness to why you are eating when you’re not hungry. You don’t even have to stop just bring awareness of knowing what it is you’re avoiding doing or feeling and why you’re choosing to eat instead. Then see if you can use that awareness to use this tools. Eat your food, sitting down, calm, and present instead of standing in the kitchen, fridge door open, right out of the container, quickly so no one sees. Put it on a plate for gosh sakes, enjoy it and don’t judge yourself with your mind just be aware of what’s going on mentally. That is the first step to changing it.

While not every meal has to be eaten this way, aim for once a day. Here are the eating awareness guidelines. Download them and hang them on your fridge or in your eating area to remind you to tune in and mindfully feed your body – it will allow you to truly enjoy your food. (Download the pdf here: 2EnlightenedEating-Final)

- Remain seated.

- Refrain from conversation while chewing.

- Place your utensil down between each bite. Wait until food is completely chewed & swallowed before picking up your utensil your next bite.

- Refrain from external distractions, including reading, watching TV, listening to music, phone, etc.

- Put no more than two handfuls of food on your plate at a time. Finish eating your two handfuls, then wait 3-5 minutes before taking more food.

- Wait until food is completely digested (2-6 hours) before your next meal or snack.

Bon Appetit!

 

Guest Blogger:katieheadshot (1)

Katie Dalebout

Wellness Wonderland

A Walk a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

 

shoe

Opportunities to get “well” are all around us. They are shouted from billboards advertising gyms, hidden in community education catalogues, and “sold in a store near you.” It’s exhausting.

 

In my role at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, I manage a group of wellness programs called the Healthy Communities Partnership. Every day, I hear many, many messages about wellness, and I’m constantly working with my team to come up with messages and strategies to help people find the information they need.

 

But maybe we’re over-thinking this. Is it possible that there is a simple answer? A recent video by Dr. Mike Evans promotes a single therapy that has been clinically proven to:

 

  • reduce depression and anxiety
  • reduce progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • reduce progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes
  • reduce hip fractures in post-menopausal women
  • reduce overall risk of death
  • reduce fatigue
  • increase quality of life.

What is this miracle drug? Walking. Walking 30 minutes during the day has been proven to accomplish all of those things.

 

I like this idea because almost anyone can do it without spending a lot of money or dramatically changing their lifestyles. The problem with most of the wellness strategies I hear about is that they just don’t fit my life. I can do anything for a few weeks, but I’ve got a son to raise, a job to do, a house to maintain and a television to watch! I’ve got priorities! But I can walk. All I need is a pair of sneakers and a few minutes.

 

We recently competed in an internal walking challenge here at the Penny George Institute. It wasn’t complicated. We divided into four teams, and the team with the most steps at the end of six weeks wins. We measured our steps with high-tech pedometers called Fit Bits.

 

During those six weeks, I figured out how to walk 10,000 steps a day without compromising other parts of my life. I walked my dog every day, something I wanted to do anyway. I worked in short walks during the day. We had some walking meetings. I took the stairs more. And I felt better!

 

You can take or leave the pedometer. I found it useful, personally, and you can get simple ones for less than $10. But the goal is to walk. It’s the easiest way I know to dramatically improve your health.

 

Guest Blogger:

Nathan Kreps, Healthy Communities Partnership Program Manager/ Live Well Blog Writer

Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Stress-Less and Plan Your Wedding With Finesse

image001Although you’ve been planning your big day since age 6, the task becomes a heck of a lot more daunting when it actually arrives. Between uncooperative bridesmaids, overeager moms and aunts, and the fact that you just can’t seem to find that right shade of cerulean for your gift bags, your stress meter is maxed out! First of all, exhale. Whooo. Ok, good. Now take a look at these tips to help you plan your wedding with finesse instead of stress.

 

Meditate

Take a moment to clear your mind of all of your worries and just focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Sit in a quiet part of your home and focus on taking deep breaths, write down your thoughts in a journal, take a bath – anything that gives you calming time to yourself to clear your mind and reflect.

 

Get Physical

Although you’re busy, don’t let your workout routine fall to the wayside, as it can be a huge outlet to relieve wedding planning stress. Exercise relieves those bottled up emotions, improves your mood and gives you energy to tackle wedding tasks.

 

Stay Focused on What’s Important

There are hundreds of details to attend to when planning a wedding, but keep the bigger picture in mind. It’s unlikely that your guests will come up to you at the end of the night and say, “I absolutely loved the design on the handle of my fork, it made this wedding unforgettable.”

The feeling of love shared between you and your fiancée on your big day is the memory that will last, not the pattern on the silverware. Spend some quality time with your spouse-to-be, or whatever it is you need to do to remind you why you’re going through this in the first place!

 

Designate a Wedding Day Contact

Give someone the authority to make last-minute decisions. Even if you have a maid of honor, make sure that you have explicitly communicated this authority. Issues with the caterer or seating arrangement 30 minutes before the ceremony should be the last thing you’re worrying about on your big day.

 

Take Care of Yourself

In the pursuit of an unforgettable day, don’t ignore your own needs. Make sure that you’re still eating well, getting enough sleep and most importantly doing the things that you enjoy and that make you happy.

 

Your life is not a movie…

… and neither is your wedding. Be realistic.

 

These tips won’t alleviate all your stress, but they will help; and when you’re planning a wedding, all you need is some really good help. Think of us as your virtual bridesmaid J.

 

Don’t know where to start? Still need more ideas? Bridal showcases are a great place to start your wedding planning; luckily, they occur year round. The next showcase, The Washington Wedding Experience, will be at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, VA on Sunday, April 13th. For more information, click here!

 

 

Guest Blogger:

Halley Henry, Communications Intern

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

 

Maintain Your Mental Health As A Social Media User

Do this. Open your search engine. Start typing in “social media makes me.”  What are the top search results that you see?

Here’s what I saw:

social media makes me lonely

How many happy days have been destroyed by Facebook posts about your ex and the new girl/guy? How many relaxing nights alone at home have been ruined by Instagram pics of friends out on the town, having a great time while you’re downing pints of Ben and Jerry’s in your zebra onesie?

Social media is an incredible tool. It has the power to reconnect us with friends we haven’t seen since we were kids, to share good news with millions of people worldwide in seconds, to even make dreams come true. But it also has the power to control our lives and our moods – if we let it. Like any powerful tool, use it wisely we must.

 

use it wisely

 

I’ll share a few tips on maintaining positive mental health as a social media user found around the web, as well as a few tips I’ve picked up from friends’ experiences and from some of my own.

 

Is your social media use cutting into the real-life things that make you happy?

  • Talk to your friends – Make sure you’re connecting with your friends in person, or at least via phone or video chat. Constant liking, sharing and commenting can make it seem like we’re always connected to friends. Social networks are no substitute for having actual, meaningful conversations.  Meet up for a cup of coffee or give a friend a call who you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  • Set Time Limits – Set boundaries for yourself so you don’t end up checking your accounts continuously throughout the day.
  • Be in the present – Scrolling through your feeds all day means that you miss out on the greatness happening right in front of you.
  • Remember that Facebook friends DO NOT equal real friends – Your roommate has more than 1,000 friends on Facebook. You have 250. That means she’s more loved than you, right? It’s easy to get sucked into this way of thinking, but there’s no way she can call on those 1,000 people to vent at the end of a long day. Think about the real people that you can depend on in your life. Those are the friends who count.

Are you trying to keep up with the Joneses?

  • Keep in mind that people share selectively – When checking your social media updates, it seems like everyone’s getting engaged, everyone’s getting promotions, everyone’s doing something exciting. Remember – people only choose to share those spectacular moments in life. No one shares about being short on rent or getting into a fight with their spouse.
  • Don’t use social media to seek validationIt feels good when people like your posts and pictures. It’s tempting, but don’t utilize your social media accounts to seek validation. When you share a picture of yourself that you think is cute or a post you think is hilarious, your lack of likes can be a blow to your self-confidence and a serious downer. Don’t give your networks that power over you. Self-confidence and true happiness comes from within, not from some acquaintance of yours giving their stamp of approval on your outfit.

Do you need a social media vacation?

  • Delete social media apps from your phone – Has that 4 inch screen growing out of the palm of your hand taken over your life? (Side note – that much hunching over your phone cannot be good for your neck or posture.) Consider removing social media apps from your cell phone to limit your access to your accounts and cut down on the time you spend posting and perusing feeds.
  • Remind yourself why you’re using each social media platform. There are a million social media applications available. Do you really need to be on all of them!?

 

We love social media – it’s what allows us to connect with you! Just make sure your mental health isn’t being negatively affected while using it.  

 

And follow us, we promote positivity, won’t spam your feeds and share really great articles on mental health and wellness.

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Guest Blogger:

Jasmine Berry, Communication, Education & Advocacy Coordinator

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

A Healthier, Happier You in 2014!

What is it about the beginning of the year that suddenly makes us want to be our greatest selves? More than 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Of them, only about 8% keep them. In fact, most people have broken theirs before the end of the first week. Remember January 2012′s promises to eat healthier, save more and be more adventurous, only to spend the majority of 2013 eating two pound burritos (extra sour cream, please), not sticking to your savings plan and spending your free time doing the same old thing? Yes, we’ve all been there time and time again.

This year, My Mental Health Day offers these tried and true tips to help you be in the top 8% and stick to your resolutions. We intend to keep our resolutions and invite you to join us. We’re going to provide you (and us) with quarterly challenges that revolve around keeping our minds, bodies and spirits healthy and happy.

Here’s the game plan for winter:

Mind
Choose three goals: Two short-term and one long-term. Remember, when setting goals they should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). We’ve established the “T” in the short-term goals with our plan – to achieve by the end of 2014.

Next, identify two concrete steps toward accomplishing each goal. For example: “By October 1 (time-bound) I will be able to run a 10K (specific – does not say ‘I will get into better shape.’).” You have to determine for yourself if it is attainable. If you’ve never run before, maybe you should try a 5K first. You will also decide if it’s relevant, it’s your goal.
- Step One: Register for the Marine Corps Marathon 10K.
- Step Two: Create a training plan.

 

Body
Decide on your choice method of exercise for the winter. Then pick a backup exercise. (Meaning, if your plans change and you aren’t able to make it to your pilates class, you can still get in a core workout in the living room with a DVD.) Need ideas? Check out sites like Groupon or Living Social for deals on exercise classes in your area.

Choose three healthy foods/drinks (that adhere to any dietary restrictions you may have) to incorporate into your everyday diet. Then choose three not-so-healthy foods/drinks you want to go cold turkey on. Need ideas? Adding more water, dark leafy greens such as spinach, and fruits are simple starting points. We like this list from Fitness Magazine.

Spirit
Work on letting any hurt, disappointment or anger from 2013 stay in 2013. Write down all of the things you know you need to let go of as you enter the new year, and one thing you learned from each experience.

That goes for people as well. Think of relationships that leave you feeling more drained than uplifted. It is important to appreciate how well they served you once, and understand that it is okay your life paths are no longer intertwined. Life is too short to surround yourself with people who give you anything but love. If you find you’re having a difficult time in accomplishing this, seek a mental health professional to talk you through it.

 

Check in with us on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to share your progress with us using the hashtag #MMHDhealthierhappier. 

Click here for a MMHD Winter Challenge printout.

We’re here to support each other!

Holiday Survival Tips!

 

holiday-stress-294x300

The holidays are a time for family, friends, food and fun, but this time of year can also be hectic and stressful. The hunt for the perfect gift… Feuding relatives… Freezing cold weather… Endless hours in the kitchen… Don’t let the holiday season stress you out this year!

The holidays present unique challenges in maintaining mental health, so we’ve compiled some tips to make it easier for you this year.

 

Limit Stress and Anxiety
Don’t let your holiday to-do list take over your life.

Set limits.
Establishing boundaries on what you will do and what you won’t do in advance of family gatherings will make it easier to say “no.” Understand that it’s okay to refuse last minute additions to your already full holiday to-do list.

Ask yourself do I really HAVE to do this?
If we all had unlimited time, energy and resources this season, the holidays would still not be as shiny and perfect as a Macy’s winter catalog. Use your time and energy wisely as to not burn yourself out. When looking at your to-do list items, ask yourself is this something that HAS to be done? What are the consequences of foregoing this task?

Don’t dwell on how things could have been, accept them for what they are.
If you couldn’t afford to get your kids that super expensive game console they wanted, it’s okay. If you ran out of time to cook your aunt’s favorite dessert, it’s okay. Set realistic expectations for yourself and loved ones. Understand there are things beyond your control, and that’s okay.

Take time for yourself.
The holidays are generally about family and doing for others. Despite all that’s on your plate this season, don’t forget to ensure that your own mental health needs are being taken care of. Take time for yourself when needed.

 

Fight the Winter Blues
Days are darker and colder and we’re spending a lot more time indoors. Incorporate the following into your routine to battle the low energy levels and down feelings we often experience during winter months.

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol.
• Alcohol is a depressant, and can make an already low mood even lower. Limit your alcohol intake, and avoid binge drinking.
• Try replacing your coffee with caffeine-free tea, as caffeine can suppress levels of serotonin and negatively impact your mood.

Plan Activities.
• When it’s cold and dark outside, it’s easy to get sucked into the pattern of work, couch, remote. Try to plan at least one outing each week. Whether it’s by yourself or with friends – get out of the house!

Eat Healthy.
• Avoid processed foods like white breads, rice and sugar, which can lower energy levels and affect your mood. Remember to drink lots of water and eat more fruits and vegetables.

Exercise.
• Aim to get moving for at least 15-20 minutes a day, whether it’s simply taking a walk around your neighborhood, stretching while catching up on TV shows or exercising with your favorite workout video on YouTube.

Light.
• Soak up some sun! Get out of the office for your lunch break, sit by windows whenever possible and keep the curtains open in mornings and afternoons.
• If you aren’t able to get any natural light, try light therapy with artificial light boxes.

 

Click here to print our Holiday Survival Tip Sheet!

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