5 Ways To Stay Sane Through Health Issues

Over the last two years, I faced a lot of physical health problems that at times, have really devastated me and taken a huge toll on my mental wellbeing. But since I’ve been dealing with health issues for so long, I’ve learned a few lessons about how to cope with it.

  1. Treat your body kindly. It’s saddening to think how many times over the last year I’ve cursed my body for not functioning the way it’s supposed to and leaving me going from doctor, to doctor, to doctor. But no matter what’s wrong, our bodies still do so much good for us and it’s important to continue being kind and compassionate with ourselves.
  2. Go ahead and cry. While it’s definitely important to remember to stay positive, sometimes you just need to sit down and let yourself admit that it really sucks. It’s okay to feel those feelings.
  3. Find an outlet. Whether it’s writing, yoga, hiking, painting or screaming into a pillow, find a healthy medium to cope with your frustration.
  4. Find someone you can talk to. At times, I’ve felt like I burden my loved ones. I worried that I was annoying them talking so much about my prolonged sadness and frustration toward my body. But if you talk to the people who know you would be there for them if the roles were reversed, they will help carry you through.
  5. Meditate. I’ll admit upfront that I’ve always been bad at this one simply because I forget. But when I’ve committed to meditating regularly, it’s definitely made me feel better about tackling my health. It’s important to continue feeling centered in your body when you have a chronic problem and more important to minimize stress, as that makes everything worse.

How have you stayed sane through health issues? Let me know in the comments!

Seasonal Mood Swings Or Something More?

Sudden warm weather tends to make me absolutely ecstatic.

But the last few weeks in Nashville have brought some wild weather, from terrible thunderstorms to beautiful 70 degree days, to a dramatic drop to an icy 20 degrees, all within two weeks.

I tend to forget the serious impact that weather changes can have on mood. But this bout of insane weather gave me a big reminder of the reality of seasonal impacts on both depression and hypomania.

When the sun appeared out of nowhere last week I found myself suddenly in an almost manic state — cleaning my house, getting all my projects done, starting new ones and feeling almost euphorically confident. Then as the rain and cold set in days later, I became withdrawn, unmotivated and struggled to finish my work or post the blogs I wanted to. I went to my psychiatrist wondering if I was having bizarre several-day-long bipolar episodes. Thankfully, she told me the answer was more likely my mental health responding to the changing weather.

I was so glad to have this clarity about my last few weeks. But with another couple months of potentially temperamental weather before summer, I need to make sure I am prepared to deal with the mental impact on the seasons.

So here’s what I’m doing to stay sane. To start, I’m looking into buying a special seasonal depression light, which helps mimic the effects of the sun on your brain while you’re at your desk. I’ve also found that I need to make sure I get out of bed early and kickstart my day with caffeine on the colder and drearier days. Honestly, if I don’t force myself to get working, I may end up lying in bed for hours doing nothing while it rains. On the sunnier days when I suddenly feel like superwoman, I’m making sure to take time for mindfulness and meditation, to help balance out my suddenly hyperactive brain.

Most importantly, we all need to have a little grace with ourselves during this time when our mental health may be a bit less reliable.

What do you do for seasonal mental health? Let me know in the comments!

I Can’t Focus: Now What?

I knew I needed to post something today so I tried to start writing last night. But as per usual, I got distracted in minutes and ended up getting nothing done. So I planned to get writing today after a morning meeting. Instead, I stayed to socialize and then went shopping for things I didn’t need.

When I finally got home, the day was almost over and I had nothing written. I felt too scattered to even come up with an idea and any kind of advice blog I thought of felt insincere since I was struggling so much with my own ADD today.

To be honest, even when I feel or look like I am thriving, my ADD never goes away. It’s not something I will ever cure (and I wouldn’t want to) — it’s something I sometimes can embrace and sometimes have to really fight and work around.

Today is one of those days where my ADD makes it feels like a challenge to do normal things like homework, cleaning and keeping up with my schedule. And I think it is crucial that those of us with ADD can admit that when it happens and ask for help when we need it.

I try to remember that it’s important not to shame myself on days like today, but I always feel really defeated if I realize at the end of the day that I got nothing done. So here are some things I’ve found to do when I really can’t focus on the task at hand.

  1. Get out of bed. The longer you lie there, the more time you really will waste, which can leave you feeling guilty and ashamed.
  2. Go for a walk and clear your head.
  3. Try a guided meditation for focus.
  4. Run errands. Even if you’re not doing the most important thing on your to-do list, it will feel good to get something done.
  5. Clean and declutter your workspace as much as you can. Set a tone of positivity and efficiency.
  6. Call a friend for a pep talk.
  7. Take a shower.
  8. Avoid falling down the social media rabbit hole.
  9. Read an interesting book if you can focus on that.
  10. Cook or bake something.
  11. Write a letter to a friend.
  12. Go to a park.
  13. Use an energizing essential oil if you’re into that.
  14. Go to a coffee shop to get your work done. The change of scenery may be what you need.
  15. Have a little grace with yourself. You are enough and you’re doing your best.

Yes, in some capacity all of these are just distractions to put off what you need to do. But sometimes, we need a little time doing something else before we can settle down to do what’s important. And if nothing else, you will feel a little better at the end of the day knowing you at least used your time to achieve or create in some way.

What do you do when you can’t focus? Let me know in the comments!

Taking Time To Breathe: A Work In Progress

Breathing exercises have been a part of my toolkit since high school when I first began dealing with severe anxiety. If nothing else worked, my last resort was to close my eyes and just try to breathe through my panic until I felt normal again. Some days it worked better than others but if I didn’t have a panic medication on hand, breathing was really all I had. One exercise in particular really helped carry me through high school – breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 7 counts and breathe out for 8 counts. (I later learned that tapping your leg along with the count in your head can really help as well!) But as I got older and my problems seemed to get bigger I began to minimize the value of breathing exercises to combat anxiety. They were so simple that it started to feel like using a glass of water to put out a forest fire. But in the last few months, I’ve tried to reconnect with the power of breathing exercises and meditation and it’s been a game changer.

I have a hard time remembering to carve out time to breathe and sometimes my brain feels so busy I can’t will myself to slow down for a few minutes. But I learned from my doctor last year that, in order for breathing exercises to really work when I am in the middle of panicking, I have to practice them when I am feeling more neutral. So one easy way I implement this without having to carve out time is using my commute as a time to breathe. I’m not trying to talk to or impress anyone in the car, so I can easily sit at traffic lights and focus on breathing – typically breathing in for 4 counts and out for 6 until I reach my destination or feel a bit of release. When I lived in New York, I even did this on the subway to pass the time.

Making time to meditate is a little trickier but try to get in the habit of avoiding excuses. It’s okay to forget sometimes when the idea of sitting outside and resting your brain feels impossible. I definitely struggle with remembering and making time for meditating, but when I remember to include it in my day, I always notice a difference. My focus is improved and I feel more centered, which can really make a big difference when my ADD feels out of control.

Do you take time to breathe? Have you found value in meditating? Let me know in the comments!

2 Self-Help Books That Will Actually Change Your Life

I used to feel a little lame rushing to the self-help section every time I went to a bookstore. Cliché titles turned me off and I worried people would judge me for being so obsessed with trying to better myself. But it continued to be my favorite section so I’ve learned to embrace my love for the sometimes cheesy genre.

I will be the first to admit that a lot of self-help books are garbage nonsense. But here are two I’ve read recently that have actually impacted my life in a tangibly positive way.

“The Healing Self: A Revolutionary New Plan to Supercharge Your Immunity and Stay Well for Life” by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tansi

This book found me right when I needed it most — when my stress was taking a serious, visible toll on my health. “The Healing Self” offers the perfect balance of simple tips and science to back them up and inspired me to take charge of my health today in order to help shield me from diseases like Alzheimer’s later on. The book not only helped introduce me to meditation but also gave me practical ways to change my thought processes to avoid stress and chronic inflammation. If any of you tend to be compulsively stressed like I am, this book will be a game-changer for you.

Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential AND HOW YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOURS” by Shirzad Chamine

I was skeptical of “Positive Intelligence” when I began reading because it seemed too simple. But the huge endorsements of some of America’s biggest leaders and Fortune 500 CEOs on the cover were too intriguing to resist. And I’m glad to say that “Positive Intelligence” really did allow me to dramatically shift my perspective. In fact, I loved it so much I frantically called my family to tell them to read it. I begged my friends to grab a copy. In an unusual way, the book tackles self-sabotage and helped me identify my biggest weaknesses so that I can really leverage my strengths. It allowed me to name my saboteurs so that I could recognize them in action and prevent myself from getting in my own way. It also offers a number of incredibly tangible strategies to help strengthen a more positive thought process going forward. “Positive Intelligence” was a huge catalyst for inspiring me to really improve myself.

It’s always a good time for self-improvement. So why not start now with these great reads? Comment what books have helped you grow!