Embrace Your “Crazy”: Mental Illness Awareness Week

*Edit to add: Clare kindly let me know that Mental Illness Awareness Week isn’t actually until October. But honestly, we don’t need to wait until October to chat about this :)

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This morning, one of my favorites posted about this week being Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Like I posted about in January, I live with anxiety. I originally typed suffer from anxiety but that’s not accurate anymore.

I’ve found that anxiety is almost impossible to describe to someone who has never experienced it.

You feel crazy trying to explain the unshakable tightness in your chest, the constant worry that something bad is going to happen, the fact that although ev-er-y-thing in your life seems to be going right – you can’t fully enjoy it.

You feel guilty. Out of control. Wrong. Embarrassed that you just… can’t… seem… to handle it.

I’m here to remind you that you are not alone in this.

You’re not alone, and it’s time that we embrace our “crazy.” The more we talk about this kind of stuff, the less scary and stigmatized it will become.

It’s easy to feel ashamed by a big, ugly, scary MENTAL ILLNESS; but I ask you, if you had diabetes and your body couldn’t control your insulin levels, would you feel embarrassed and out of control? Ashamed for having to take medication, possibly for the rest of your life?

Probably not.

So, let’s change our focus.

Let’s change our perspective.

Let’s talk about this kind of stuff.

Let’s embrace it.

Let’s support others.

Let’s accept ourselves.

“Shutting Off” Your Mind During Yoga

Ever since I’ve started publicly loving on yoga, I’ve heard the same thing from so many people: I can’t do yoga because my mind just doesn’t stop! 

First off, I am the Busy Body Queen of the Type A folk, so if I can benefit from yoga, anyone can.

The biggest suggestion I have goes for any type of fitness tip: you have to want it. If you think yoga is a waste of time, you won’t benefit. Just like if you went to a Body Pump class and didn’t use enough weights to push yourself, you’d fail to see results.

I had gotten to the point where I needed yoga to work. I wanted yoga to work. I was desperate to find a way to slow down and calm my thoughts while still challenging myself at the same time.

I have come to find that yoga doesn’t require “shutting off” my mind. It simply requires me to focus my thoughts on the present. For me, while practicing yoga, that means focusing on my breath, the way my body feels, and what the instructor is saying.

aaaaaaa

It’s taken work, but I have simply had to learn to refocus my mind from worries and distractions to the present.

If you’re a “my mind doesn’t stop” type of person who wants to try yoga, just know that it takes time! Don’t make up your mind after one or two classes. Work at it, and I promise you’ll reap the amazing benefits!

Nuggets of Wisdom

If you’ve been around for a few weeks, you know that lately, I’ve been loving yoga. (Please note that “love yoga” and “am good at yoga” are not synonymous.)

(According to the newest Men’s Health issue, Adam loves yoga, too.)

Before this year, I poo-poo’d yoga. I’ll admit – I didn’t think it was a “real” workout. But since I’ve started, I’ve noticed something: 90% of the yogis I’ve come across are lean and toned. So maybe there is something to this yoga thing…

I’m still keeping up with Body Pump, but the “yogi” status is a new fitness ideal that I’m chasing, and I’m genuinely enjoying the challenge (and savasana ;) )

While I’m loving the physical challenge that is yoga, I’m also enjoying the wonders it’s doing for my mental health. Each practice, the instructor always offers such valuable nuggets of wisdom, and I find myself having constant “ah-ha” moments.

Here’s yesterday’s “nugget” that stuck with me. I hope it resonates with you!

Have a great weekend, my friends!

Dealing with Anxiety

Disclaimer: I like to keep this a happy, funny blog, but I also know I have a pretty solid readership and I like to use this platform to discuss serious things sometimes. I hope you can dig it.

I had been intentional about not posting about my New Year’s goals in January, because honestly, I wasn’t ready. Although many exciting things happened in December, it was personally a very difficult month for me.

I’ve been anxious for as long as I can remember, but it was “normal” for me.

That said, moving is one of the top 10 life stressors, and that alone could have put me over the edge. Add it to filming for a TV show, several family illnesses, and over-filling my Life Plate, I ended up in the ER a week before Christmas.

My stress had morphed itself into a nasty, relentless anxiety that I could not shake. Long story short, one morning while I was at the gym my heart went out of control, and I knew immediately that something was wrong.

I attempted to drive myself home, but soon realized I was too shaky and lightheaded to drive. I pulled over and called 911.

I had never, ever beed so terrified in my entire life.

I ended up in the ER and when I left, I was told to follow up with a cardiologist.

A sonogram of my heart was ordered, and I was hooked up to a 24-hour EKG.

After a slew of tests and doctor’s visits, my cardiologist said: I have one piece of advice for you, and it’s to seriously get your anxiety under control. If you don’t, it will end up getting the best of you – in the worst way. 

What I heard: Stop stressing, or it’ll kill you.

Oh. Great. Thanks. That helps a lot. What’s that? Yes – I would like a paper bag to breathe into. 

I’m a mental health professional. I KNOW what stress and anxiety can do to the body. That’s why I’ve been so frustrated with myself. I help people everyday who experience anxiety, but I had been struggling to help myself.

So now what?

Great question.

I really do believe that everything happens for a reason, but I’ve been grappling with why I was given this lesson of unshakeable anxiety, and as a result, the most terrifying experience of my life.

For me, it’s been a tough lesson to learn (thank God my friends love me), but I can honestly say that, now, I feel really, really good.

 

I’ve seen a therapist, which has been awesome and I highly recommend the service.

I’ve been serious about my yoga practice, which has been amazingly helpful.

And I started taking medication, which has been the BEST DECISION I’VE EVER MADE!!!

The medication is NOT a forever thing, actually it’s quite short term, but it’s helped me think clearly, free of anxiety, for the first time in years.

(If you have something negative to say about medication, please don’t do it here. I’m taking the time to mention it because I’m constantly trying to do my part to help demolish the stigma that “therapy” and “medication” are only for “bad, crazy people.”)

Like I joked about earlier, 2013 is my “Year of Zen” and I’m taking my mental health seriously. I want you to know that I’m not a basket case. I’m not talking to walls or hearing voices. I’m just dealing with stuff.

In my opinion, anxiety is impossible to explain to someone who has never experienced it; But for someone who is familiar with that tight-chest-for-no-reason feeling, I know you understand, and I want you to know that you’re not crazy, and that you’re not the only one.

*As always, if you have questions or need someone to relate to, you can always email me at lunchboxdiaries[at]gmail[dot]com.

A Different Kind of Hoarder

Have you ever seen that show Hoarders? It’s quite an appalling show at first glance. People have literally buried themselves in filth; old newspapers, take-out food from 1996,  dead cats.

I’ve watched this show and thought, Oh good God. HOW does that HAPPEN?!

But not too long ago, it hit me: I’m a hoarder.

Don’t worry, I don’t have my pet hamster from 3rd grade (Rose Bud – what a name for a brown piece of fur) somewhere under my bed. I can walk easily from one room of my home to another. I’m married to a minimalist, so really, a divorce would come before a hoarding situation.

I’m not a hoarder of tangible, material items, but of shoulds and obligations. I constantly bring new obligations and I should(s) into my life, even if I don’t need them or want them, or worse yet, when I can’t handle them (due to aforementioned hoarding.)

Join a club? Sure.

I should volunteer more.

I hang on to relationships that don’t fulfill me. I mean, that’s what “good” people do, right? 

I have trouble asking for help. Not on a I-can’t-stop-drinking scale. More like a, I-need-help-with-making-dinner scale

And then? I can’t let go. I don’t have the take-one-let-one-go mentality. I’ve felt buried and attached to obligations and shoulds that should (see, there I go again) be easy to let go of.

Just like a hoarder you see on TV.

I know I’m not the exception. I’ll make a sweeping generalization when I assume that most women are like this. We like to please people and we care what other people think about us.

For what would happen if someone (who didn’t know our entire story/filled-to-the-brim planner) thought we were a failure?! Or a quitter?!

Oh, I’m certain the sky would certainly fall.

Or then again, would it? ;)

Evaluating Your Life Plate

We live in a society where the most popular New Year’s Resolution is weight loss. Many people are so concerned with what they put on their plates, that other important things tend to fall by the wayside.

But speaking of keeping your plates healthy, I wanted to focus on a different kind of plate: your Life Plate.

I think of Life as a huge buffet busting at the seams with wonderful people, places, opportunities, and choices.

And like at you’re favorite Chinese lunch buffet, you have a choice as to what you put on your Life Plate.

You can choose to fill your plate with things that make you immediately happy, but end up leaving you feeling empty and tired.

You can lose all willpower and fill your plate with facades and lose sight of who you really are.

You can also choose to fill your plate with shoulds (things you think you should do, be, say, etc.) that ultimately end up making you feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Or, you could think of your Life Plate as a balancedhealthy plate filled with people and things that fuel you and make you feel your best. (Always remembering to save room for dessert ;) )

As 2012 comes to a close, I encourage you to take a look at your Life Plate. Is it full of junk, or is it full of things you need?

Like a huge serving of faith (whatever that looks like to you), a heaping helping of family and meaningful relationships, all heavily seasoned with compassion (for yourself and others), genuine relaxation, and FUN.

Think about it.

Let’s chat – What’s currently filling up your Life Plate? What could be dumped into the garbage disposal, and what could be added? 

Sleep Hygiene Tips

I tend to think I’m a pretty good sleeper.

As a kid, I was always – always – the first one to fall asleep at slumber parties; in high school, I abided by a self-imposed bedtime; and even as an adult, I’ve been known to fall asleep in the middle of a party.

Like, say, at a bar.

Or, like, in a car.

Sleep happens.

But as of late I’ve had a little trouble sleeping. I toss and turn all night, have the weirdest/most stressful dreams and I wake up tired.

I see clients who have a similar issue, and because the topic was brought up over a dinner conversation last night, I thought, hey – maybe it’s time to write a post about sleep hygiene. 

Here are some tips I suggest to clients, as well as tips I do my best to follow in my personal life.

  • Set a schedule – Don’t just stay up as late as possible so your body has no other choice but to collapse on you.  For a lack of a better term, set a “bedtime” and make your best effort to stick to it, give or take 30 minutes. Our bodies like routine, so we might as well give in ;)
  • Don’t make naps a regular thing – Sometimes naps are totally necessary. Like, on Sundays when your husband is watching football. But when you nap regularly, it becomes difficult to stay awake during the day, as well as sleep through the night.
  • Nix the nighttime snacking – I tend to suggest avoiding sugars and carbs 2 – 4 hours before you go to sleep. Simple as that.
  • Turn off the TV. And the computer. And the cell phone. – Let’s be honest, our brains are over-stimulated all day long. “Unplugging” 30 – 60 minutes before bed allows our mind to calm down, resulting in less weird dreams and “thoughts that keep me up at night.”
  • Release the worry – If you’re a worrier like myself, it helps to keep a notepad bedside. Why? Rather than replaying a worry or thought, simply write it down and roll back over. Releasing worries from our mind is essential for a good night’s sleep!
  • Your bed is for two things: sleep and sex – When you make your bed your office, your dining room, and your living room, your body doesn’t recognize it as a place of rest.
  • Avoid alcohol – It’s a common misconception that alcohol aids in sleep, but it actually does just the opposite. Alcohol may make us pass out (like, in a bar, or in a car), but as it metabolizes and leaves our system, it acts as a stimulant.
  • Lastly if you can’t sleep, GET UP – Don’t lay there hoping you’ll fall asleep. Get up, get a drink of milk, or read a book for ten minutes. I like to think of it as “hitting the reset button.”

Let’s chat – Do you have any specific sleep hygiene habits? While I try to abide by all of these tips, the one I won’t compromise is my sleep schedule. If I stay up too late, get up too late, or don’t get 7 – 8 hours, I’m all out of whack!