Fall is upon us! Apple picking and all-things pumpkin spice may be some of your favorite things about this season. But for some, the change in seasons can be tricky: cooler, shorter and darker days can be a recipe for poor mental wellness and overall health.
Sleep is often one of the most overlooked factors when it comes to talking about our health and wellness. However, it is one of the most important to discuss. Our culture values productivity and defines success in this manner. The more we do; the faster we do it, the better. Unfortunately, this means bad news bears for our sleep cycles, especially during the Fall season. Shorter days, along with Daylight Savings Time, can be enough to disturb our circadian rhythms and the quality of sleep we experience. When we do not experience good quality, restorative sleep, our functioning can quickly become affected in negative ways. Difficulties with concentration and memory, along with reduced energy levels and lower moods, are only a few examples of some of the complications we might experience. In more severe situations, hallucinations and an inability to perform daily tasks may occur.
In order to combat the changes we are moving through during this season and prevent serious side effects, we MUST maintain our sleep hygiene. Make sure to have the same 'bedtime routine' every night! Do your best to go to sleep and wake in the mornings at the same time. Physical exercise is best to do in the morning. Ensure restorative sleep by leaving the stress of the day out of the bedroom!
2. Commit to Your Routine
The Fall season can be a time of adjusting to new or even old routines. Kids are going back to school, extra-curricular activities are starting and work hours are changing. Suddenly, we are finding ourselves pressed to do perhaps even more than before with less time. Because of this, we may be feeling anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted and even less motivated to do what needs to be done. These feelings can quickly lead to more significant emotional difficulties if they are not addressed.
Sticking to a routine is a great way of effectively managing responsibilities and the stressful emotions that may result. Schedule yourself (and your children) for the number of activities that is appropriate for you and your family. Try not to 'over-commit' as this may increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Give yourself permission to schedule YOU TIME! We cannot constantly function for other people: we MUST care for ourselves and our well-being. Scheduling this time can help to ensure our health and wellness during a busy time!
3. Have Compassion for Yourself
Practicing Self-Compassion can be helpful all year round. During these cooler months, it is important to remember our humanity: we are human, we do our best as best we can and it is OKAY if and when we make mistakes. The Fall and Winter seasons can be trying for us all: remember to be gentle with yourself and mindful of your own needs!
Best wishes for a happy and healthy Fall season!
Our culture is filled with messages . We are constantly bombarded by thousands everyday. Some may be helpful, but many are not. Most reinforce a self-critical attitude that we are told is necessary for success. This attitude, along with a strong value placed on competition, can be incredibly destructive. But how would it be if things were different?
Imagine a world where we treat ourselves with the same love and kindness we show our loved ones. How might our environment be different from that which we experience today? Well, before we can change the world, we must first understand what it means to be kind to ourselves. Learning about Self-Conpassion can be a great way to start!
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-Compassion, developed by Kristin Neff, PhD, is a concept that emphasizes the importance of being kind to oneself in times of failure or self-perceived inadequacy. Rather than criticize ourselves when we make mistakes, we can have compassion for ourselves and our abilities. For example, let's assume you have come home from a stressful day at work and are feeling down due to a mistake you made on a work project. This project will be reviewed by your supervisor. How might you display compassion toward yourself to help relieve the discomfort you're experiencing? One option may be to validate your feelings and assure yourself of your abilities. Make it a point to talk to yourself in a healthy way: "I made a mistake and that's okay, This mistake does not define me. I will do better next time." Another option is to write a letter to yourself, expressing acceptance of this mistake and compassion for yourself. Regardless of the exercise you use, the important thing to remember is that you are treating yourself with kindness and compassion. Having a non-judgmental attitude toward yourself can go a long way!
Self-Compassion & Mental Wellness
So what does all of this have to do with our mental wellness? Great question! Consider the definition of Self-Compassion: how might your emotional health be affected if you do NOT show compassion toward yourself and your needs when necessary? Well, if we're not showing kindness toward ourselves, we may be treating ourselves in very harsh and unhelpful ways. Thoughts such as "I'm so stupid, I shouldn't have done that" or "I made a huge mistake, how am I going to live with myself?" are a few examples of self-criticism we may experience. These self-critical thoughts may also trigger feelings of anger, frustration or even depression, which can ultimately impact our overall functioning. When we show kindness toward ourselves, we allow ourselves space to recognize mistakes and mishaps are a natural part of the human experience. We all experience failure at some point in our lives: this does not mean we are all inadequate or incapable of succeeding. Making this connection then enables us to learn from our mistakes and apply the information we have gained.
Now that we know a little bit about Self-Compassion, we can get to changing the world!
Neff, K. (2016). Self-Compassion. http://self-compassion.org/
In the United States, counseling and anything mental health related has a bad rep. When the idea of therapy is mentioned, responses often include words such as "weak," "crazy" and sometimes even "shameful." Perspectives about mental health and counseling can be so strong that people may not seek the assistance they need as a result. What happens if we do not receive the help we need? We don't get better! If we don't get better, our health and well-being can begin to suffer and in some instances, we can struggle to function on a day-to-day basis.
So what do we do? Answer: Fight this stigma and change societal perspectives about mental health and counseling!
Now, you may be thinking to yourself "Sounds great, but easier said than done." Yes, changing our viewpoints can be difficult. We all grow up learning unique sets of standards and being exposed to different experiences. These standards and experiences inform our thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward the outside world. But remember: we are human! We are capable of change! Change can be frightening but it can also be the catalyst for new and fulfilling experiences. What's that saying? Change is the only constant? 😊
Counseling as a superfood for your mind, body and soul
Despite the stigma that surrounds mental health, the counseling process offers a number of benefits that impact our minds, bodies and spirits in healthy ways. These benefits transcend the stigma that exists and help people of all ages to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives.
Think of therapy as a superfood. By definition, a superfood is a " nutrient-rich food" that helps to improve an individual's overall health and well-being. Though therapy is not a food in the literal sense, we can think of the counseling process as one that aims to enrich our minds, bodies and souls with new information. Below are a few advantages of therapy that ultimately help to improve our overall functioning and well-being.
1. Development of New Perspectives
Therapy allows us the opportunity to process our thoughts and feelings that surround our life experiences. Through this process, we are able to shed that which no longer serves us, including unhelpful or maladaptive perspectives . Gaining fresh insights helps us to adjust our behavior in healthy ways and make healthier choices in our lives.
2. Opportunity to Build "Healthy Skills Toolbox"
One highly important benefit of counseling is the opportunity it provides for us to learn and practice healthy coping strategies that can be used day to day or when difficult situations arise. These skills can include relaxation techniques, mindfulness exercises, distraction methods, etc. We can learn new coping skills while in therapy and experiment with a variety of techniques to learn which ones will best help us. Once we know which strategies are most helpful for us, we can keep them in a "toolbox" that we carry everyday so that we can access the tools we need at any time. As a result, we are better equipped to handle that which comes our way.
3. Time to "Get That Monkey Off Your Back"
Counseling is a journey. Each session is time that is set aside for you and only you. This time can be spent in whatever way works for you (online shopping excluded). You may choose to discuss an experience from your childhood, problem solve an issue with a co-worker, or focus on improving your communication skills to better your relationships. No matter the topics discussed, relief from feelings of discomfort (whatever those may be) can be one of the most important benefits of the therapeutic process. Therapy can help to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, improve self-esteem, help to improve relationships, process traumatic events, etc. All of these experiences can create great distress emotionally and physically. No matter the focus, therapy can help to improve one's emotional and physical health.
4. Be A More Confident You
Working through that which troubles us can be very helpful with improving how we feel about ourselves. Counseling offers us a unique opportunity to process difficult situations with a neutral, non judgemental guide. Remember the therapist is the guide! Therapists offer objective feedback that can help us to gain awareness about changes we may need to make to be more effective in our lives. This may mean feeling more confident in our ability to handle difficult situations more effectively, such as disagreements with colleagues or loved ones or working through fears that have prevented us from living more fully.
5. Learn Who You Are
A powerful effect of the therapeutic process is the potential to learn more about yourself and what is truly right for you. We may have a general sense of who we are as a person, but there might be some things we're not sure about. We are constantly changing so it's no surprise that we might feel confused about the kind of person we are from time to time. Counseling can help us to sort out those things that are clouding our view and help us to solidify our personal values and spiritual truths.
So, you ready?
You may be thinking to yourself "It's summertime, why do I need to think about self-care?" Good question! Self-care is important all year round; no matter the season. In fact, the summer season can be a great time to experiment with new self-care strategies and perfect your self-care plan!
Need some ideas? No need to worry, I've got you covered. Below are a few therapist-approved techniques to try to vamp up your self-care routine this summer!
Six Self-Care Strategies for Summer 2016
Regardless of the techniques you experiment with this summer, the most important thing to remember is that your self-care is a priority! Without it, our physical, emotional and spiritual health decline. When your self-care suffers, you suffer. Make your self-care a priority this summer!
The idea of living healthier and more fulfilling lives is not new. For decades, American culture has been obsessed with finding ways to look, feel and live "healthier" lives. We have been, and continue to be, bombarded with messages that claim to have the secret to living well. Sadly, these messages brainwash us to believe that living a healthy lifestyle means doing those things that are, in fact, very unhealthy. As a result, we have become confused about what health and wellness truly means and now have even more difficulty trying to lead a genuinely healthy lifestyle. The question now?
How do we define health and wellness and how do we get there?
The term health is usually defined as the state of being free from illness or injury. This definition might sound familiar as most of us have probably heard this described to us by a physician at some point in our lives. In many respects, this definition of health is very true. If we don't see or feel a problem with our physical bodies, then everything must be ok! Sometimes this is the case. However not all health issues can be seen with the naked eye. In addition, we can struggle with health issues that are not directly caused by any biological factors. Feeling stress as a result of a conflict with a colleague or experiencing difficulty during a significant life change can have a profound effect on our emotional and spiritual well-being. We might feel depressed, worried and even hopeless. We might also find ourselves questioning our spiritual beliefs and whether we might need to make some adjustments. This emotional and spiritual distress can have a direct impact on our physical health. Feelings of tension, stomach and body aches, headaches and difficulties sleeping are only a few of the physical sensations we might experience when our emotional and spiritual health is compromised. When talking about health and wellness, we need to consider more then our physical bodies!
What does health and wellness truly mean?
According to the World Health Organization, health and wellness is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This definition differs from the former in that it recognizes people are more than just their physical bodies. Health and wellness also includes the well-being of our emotional and spiritual selves. As a therapist, I further expand on this definition as I believe our social and occupational parts also influence our overall well-being. This idea is emphasized heavily in my practice: I strive to use a holistic approach with my clients, also emphasizing and encouraging my clients recognize their own Inner strengths and how their strengths may aid them through the healing process. Now that we know what health and wellness means, we need to know what we can do to improve our emotional and spiritual well-being.
5 Steps to Mental Wellness
Below are five suggestions for improving your emotional and spiritual well-being. I believe these suggestions are essential to living a healthier and more fulfilling life. Remember! Health and wellness involves all aspects of ourselves. We cannot lead healthier lives if we do not pay attention to the role all aspects of ourselves have on our functioning.
So there you have it. The true meaning of health and wellness and how to achieve a healthier mind, body and spirit! Use these five steps or create your own as you work toward a healthier life and overall wellness.
Health and Wellness: Definition and. Dimensions. Artem Cheprasov. http://study.com. May 22, 2016.
Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.
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