Tag Archives: health

Improve Your Mental Health: Tips for Sleeping Better

Man sleeping

Photo via Rawpixel

Sleep Better for Your Health

Sleep is very important to improve our mental health and well-being. Try some tips to sleep better and make a difference in your quality of life. Sleep disorders are common among people with mental health conditions. Depression and anxiety are also common with many sleep problems like insomnia or sleep apnea.

Although insomnia can be a symptom of some mental health disorders, the relationship between sleep problems and mental illness is complex. Research suggests that poor quality sleep can contribute to mental conditions. Treating sleep problems can be one way to relieve some symptoms you may be struggling with.

Improve Your Sleeping Environment

The bedroom sleep environments have a much greater impact on our quality of sleep than most people think. Common things that disrupt sleep include noise, clutter, heat, and even small amounts of light filtering in from outside or inside your home.

Using your bedroom for stressful activities like work or studying can also contribute to sleeplessness. Consider giving your bedroom an upgrade to promote better sleep. Hang some blackout curtains, get a white noise machine, and move electronics into another room.

This is also a good time to check your bed and make sure it is comfortable. If your mattress has visible sagging, lumps, or tears, it’s time for an upgrade. A good-quality mattress is essential to provide the comfort and support your body needs to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep during the night.

Before going shopping, take some time to learn about different mattress types and materials so you can choose the best option for your needs. For example, memory foam mattresses can be great for many different body types and sleeping styles since they’re available in numerous firmness levels. If you like a little bounce to your bed, you can even get hybrid memory foam mattresses that contain both coils and foam.

Stick to a Sleep Schedule

Sleeping on an inconsistent schedule can also cause sleep-related issues. Your body runs on a kind of internal clock called the circadian rhythm. This regulates your sleep-wake cycle, helping you feel awake during the day and tired at night. However, fighting against this natural process can leave you feeling tired and groggy in the mornings and wakeful at bedtime. Try to go to bed and wake up at the about same time every day to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm.

Care for Your Body

What you do during your waking hours will also affect your sleep. For example, studies have found that moderate aerobic exercise can increase the amount of rejuvenating deep sleep that you get, according to John Hopkins Medicine. At the same time, eating a balanced diet focused on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help your body regulate your sleep cycles. Try to limit your consumption of caffeine since it is closely tied to sleep problems.

If you want some extra help to learn how to treat your body right, you may want to work with a nutritionist, dietitian, or fitness professional. Fortunately, you can find these wellness specialists through online freelancing platforms. Simply, search for the service you are looking for, read the reviews and talent details. Then, choose a specialist that fits your needs and budget.

Try Relaxation Techniques

Many people with mental health conditions can benefit from learning a few relaxation techniques to quiet the mind before bed. The National Sleep Foundation recommends breathing exercises and guided imagery to promote sleep, but you may also want to try progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness meditation. Find relaxation exercises that work for you and then start a habit of practicing them every evening to help your mind and body wind down.

Get Mental Health Help

For anyone with an underlying mental health issue that is getting in the way of quality, restful sleep, professional help is worth it. For example, if you have depression and experience difficulty sleeping, consider seeking treatment for depression. Mental health counseling can be effective at relieving the symptoms of depression.

Learn More about Sleep and Recovery

Health Vista has many resources for health and well-being.  You can find a How to Sleep Better handout on the Recovery Education page, with a few more tips for you. Browse the website to find ways to improve your quality of life whether or not mental illness is a problem for you or a family member. A Coping and Relaxation Workbook is also available to download and print free. Using coping techniques can help you to fall asleep faster, and to avoid over-reacting with anxiety when you wake up during the night.

Remember How Important Sleep Is

Sleep plays an essential—yet often overlooked—role in our physical health and mental wellbeing. Don’t settle for poor-quality sleep. Try improving your bedroom. Upgrade your mattress, if needed. Pick up some healthy habits and routines. Start taking steps to sleep better today, so you can wake up to a happier and healthier tomorrow.

Blog Post # 25  added 2-25-21 by Guest Contributer Sheila Olson of fitsheila.com.  Edited by Mary Knutson.

Recover and Thrive after Major Life Challenges

Man and woman relaxing

Strive to recover after addiction or other life challenges

Those who commit to to it can recover from addiction or other life challenges. They have a priceless opportunity to thrive and create a better life. To optimize your life, you may need healthy lifestyle choices, a supportive social life, and the drive to take charge of your life.

Remember that in 2020, there were many more changes and challenges than usual for individuals, families, and communities.  The year 2021 continues to be difficult for people with addiction or with mental illness, but recovery is possible.  Be kind to yourself as you realize all you have been through and survived. Both good and bad life changes can sharply raise your level of stress.

Get enough exercise and rest

Whole-body wellness means balancing the right amount of activity and rest.  We need both physical and mental strength to fight for recovery every day and to replace bad habits with good ones. Exercise has proven to be an effective recovery tool because “working out” affects the brain in a positive way.

If you want to add exercise to your life during recovery, think small at first. The goal is to identify and start an activity that is sustainable for the long haul, so you can stay self-motivated. Hitting the gym hard for 30 days until you burn out is not especially helpful. But, walking a little bit every day is an activity that can last a lifetime. Other low-impact exercises could include lightweight muscle workouts using small dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands. If you don’t have weights, you could put water into milk jugs until they are the weight you want to use. Muscle exercises and the active movements are important to jumpstart metabolism and help to strengthen your core muscles.

Improve your nutrition

Besides adding physical activity, improving your diet also supports your overall well-being. Eating healthy foods and getting balanced nutrition are key. Destructive habits like substance abuse can take over your life if it seems like getting high or drunk becomes more important than eating. Recovery is an opportunity to start over and refuel the body with much-needed nutrients.

Switching quickly from an extremely poor diet to a healthy one can be difficult because your habits can be powerful. Consider small, impactful changes to your eating. Some healthy changes can include:

  • Eating regular meals on a schedule.
  • Cut down on caffeine, if possible. Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat foods that are lower in fat, higher in protein and fiber
  • Add vegetables to your plate. (Try covering half the plate in garden colors, then dividing the remaining half into a quarter of protein and a quarter of whole grains.)
  • Experiment with different flavors to add excitement to your meals. People often reach for junk food because it tastes good, but healthy food done right can taste even better.
  • Plan meals in advance and have a big cooking session. If you can spend a few hours in the kitchen on a Sunday, you can make your lunches and dinners for the entire week and avoid the temptation to grab a quick unhealthy bite during the week.

Find Positive and Supportive People

Healthy living includes spending positive social time with people and having fun. For instance, healthy cooking “parties” can be a way to meet new people or connect with old friends. The key to your social life— and the struggle — is to disconnect from negative influences that may trigger a relapse. To have a better “road to recovery”, you may need to find new friends. If you are an alcoholic, instead of going to bars, “hang out” at coffee shops or other places where they don’t serve alcohol.

Social support is crucial to recovery because you may not be able to manage triggers on your own. Supportive friends and family can help you stay on track and to keep busy enough so there is no room in your life for bad habits.

Take Control of Your Life

Taking your life “by the reins” is like steering yourself away from stress and addiction toward recovery. Problem-solving will be needed after you figure out what is bothering you the most. Perhaps your financial situation is the current source of your stress. Or, maybe you’re not totally satisfied at your job, but don’t feel financially comfortable enough to leave. Maybe you’ve recently lost your job and don’t know what your next move should be. Think about what you would most like to do in life, and then pursue it. This life change could be an opportunity to do something you love. You may want to start a “side hustle” or launch your own business.

If you are considering forming a business, a good way to protect your personal assets and qualify for more tax breaks is  LLC filing. Like most states, MN allows a company to be structured online with affordable services. First, you would need to spend some time brainstorming to choose a unique business name, and then start making a business plan.

Learn How to Cope

It could be scary to jump into starting a new business, a new job, or new relationships after a major life challenge. Your confidence is usually low, and your future may look uncertain. But, when you choose something you really want to do, it will help motivate you toward a more successful and stable future.  Make sure you talk about your plans with your family and friends, they can advise you and support you as problems come up.

In recovery, your emotions may change quickly, like an emotional “roller coaster”. It helps to have a coping plan to help you and your family deal with negative thoughts or behaviors.

Health Vista, Inc. has a Coping and Relaxation workbook you can download and print. You can also find many local and online addiction resources, and recovery resources to use.

Through healthy living, people in recovery can thrive. Rather than following a downward spiral, start making improvements in exercise, diet, positive social support. Follow your passion to help propel you to a better life as you recover from addiction or other life challenges. .

Finding success involves planning and a high level of self-knowledge, but it is easier than you might think. Get active and healthier. Laugh with good friends. Manage your life and learn to cope with the stress that comes with big and small life changes.

Blog # 24  Added 2-11-21 written by guest contributor Dylan Wallace.  Edited by Mary Knutson, Health Vista, Inc.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

 

 

How to Cope with Election Results

Traveling under series of arches

Stress and anxiety are normal

During an election year, stress and anxiety can be expected. Particularly when you have strong feelings about one of the candidates or a certain issue, an election can seem all-consuming.

Once an election results ends, you may be stressed about what’s going to come next or how your friends will react if you voted for different parties or candidates.

Everyone deals with stress differently. The important thing is for you to identify healthy ways to address election results and move forward.

Understand that you are not alone

Election campaigns, election events, and post-election updates have put people on edge. One study found that 38% of people reported that they lost sleep over the 2020 U.S. presidential election and 25% of people felt rage when they thought about the election.

To deal with election-related problems, it might help to remember that they impact many people and that you’re not alone. You don’t have to feel as though something is wrong simply because you’re upset.

There has been a lot of unrest over the election and other issues in the United States. There are least two sides in an election – and everyone feels as though they are on the right side. Some people will get angry or upset when others do not agree with them. While this might not be pleasant, it is normal.

You can identify yourself as passionate. That is fine unless you let your passion blind you to alternatives, or if your passion leads you to compromise your honesty and integrity. Or, you can identify yourself as empathetic. As you start to understand and share the feelings of others, it’s easier to see the similarities and differences that you have.

Many highly empathic people learn to use their skills for good. You can start conversations to understand more about people. Remember to listen and state your views, but don’t argue. With empathy, you may be able to inspire change, allowing you to feel as though you have more control over what’s happening in the world around you.

Learn how to process stress

When elections seem to be taking their toll, remember that there are healthy ways to cope with stress. Try to identify what you’re experiencing, whether it’s stress, disbelief, shock, helplessness, other emotions, or a combination of these. Know that physical and emotional symptoms can be stressful on your body.

Practicing self-care is of the utmost importance. Think about what you can do to help yourself. You’ll want to get a good night’s sleep, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and take breaks.

Particularly when it comes to election stress, the media can be your worst enemy. Try avoiding the news for a bit if it’s bothering you. If you feel that you absolutely need an update, limit yourself to 10 or 15 minutes of news.

It’s also a good idea to unplug from social media for a while. Give yourself a break of a few days or a week. When you’re not constantly dealing with your friends’ arguing over issues and candidates, you might find it easier to relax.

If you continue to feel stressed and worried, it may be time to talk to someone. Start by talking to friends and family about your feelings. If needed, discuss the problems with a psychologist or other trusted professional.

Similarly, if you’re dealing with election-related stress by using alcohol or drugs, seek help at drug or inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers. Professionals at those facilities can treat addictions as well as stress, depression, anxiety, and other factors that could contribute to addictions.

One of the most important aspects of managing stress is knowing when you’re at a breaking point. There’s no need to burn out simply because an election didn’t go in your favor. You cannot stress on things that are out of your control.

Take a deep breath and remind yourself that there are other things that you can change. If you’re still struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Identify your behaviors

You might tend to isolate yourself and feel sad.  Or you might reach out with more anger and irritability that makes other people uncomfortable. Either way, it makes it harder to get the support you need.

It’s easy to become addicted without realizing it. You may pour a drink as a way to relax. Maybe you went through half of the bottle before you knew it, because you still weren’t able to relax. This might happen night after night, and before you’ve fully comprehended it, you’ve developed a drinking problem.

Alcohol and drugs are unhealthy ways of numbing pain, though.

If you find that you’ve developed problematic behaviors, work to stop them. If you encounter setbacks or withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop, it’s important to know that there is help available, including online resources for recovery or addiction.

The sooner you identify unhealthy behaviors, the sooner you can get them under control. Although election results might trouble you, they shouldn’t consume your entire life. It is OK to step back and watch things unfold.

Focus on what you can control

There are plenty of things that you can do to gain control of your life. If you’re stressed about election results, think about what you can do locally:

  • Join a group so that you can talk about politics with others who have similar views or debate others with different perspectives.
  • March for your rights to ensure your voice is heard.
  • Volunteer for causes you find important.

When you’re able to build support systems and find outlets for your emotions, it can be easier to manage stress in all aspects of your life. Remember that you’re not alone and that others are willing to help.

Sources:

prnewswire.com – Mental Health Survey: Rage, Election Worries and Covid-19 Fears Plague Americans

greatergood.berkeley.edu – Six Habits of Highly Empathic People

cdc.gov – Coping with Stress

Blog # 23 added 12-14-20 by guest author Patrick Bailey (with minor edits by Mary Knutson).

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Website / Blog URL: http://patrickbaileys.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pat_Bailey80

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-bailey-writer

A Great Way to Plan Ahead: Use a Coping Plan!

Thoughtful woman looking toward a bright path

Your path ahead looks uncertain, and it will be full of ups and downs.  Most people struggle with how to cope when their emotions may tend to get out of control.

What is a Coping Plan?

I would like to share a simple worksheet that was developed to help with that.  It will guide you to put some thought into what “triggers” you, and what warning signs would be seen by others when you are upset.

It also helps you explore what is helpful and what is not helpful if you feel like you are losing control.   The Coping plan can be shared with others, so they understand more about you and your needs. And, you will be able to be more prepared  for successful coping if you plan ahead.

How to Use a Coping Plan

Please go to to my Coping Plan webpage to read more about using the worksheet and about Trauma-Informed Care.  It was developed to help prevent people from being re-traumatized because of the reactions of others to their behaviors. To summarize:

Trauma can shape people’s mental, emotional, spiritual
and physical well-being.  Nearly every
family is impacted in some way.  Instead of asking “what is wrong with you?” ask “what has happened to you?” Reduce the blame and shame that some people feel. Build understanding of how the past impacts the present and help you progress
toward healing and recovery

The original link used for the information above was:

WI Dept. of Health Services. (2012). Wisconsin State Trauma-Informed Care (TIC)
Educational and Media Campaign. Retrieved 7-15-12 from
http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/mh_bcmh/tic/index.htm 

A current link for more information about Trauma-Informed Care is https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/resilient/trauma-informed-practices.htm

You will probably also learn that your behaviors are not so different than many other people who we interacted with as we developed the worksheet.

The coping plan worksheet is available here >>>

Find successful ways to cope

My goal is to help people who are struggling with anxiety, anger, depression, addiction, or other behavior problems to cope better.  There are lots of ideas on the worksheet!

Share your coping plan with people around you

Allow  family, friends, and community be able to help you more.   Things usually seem easier when they are discussed ahead of time and they know what to expect.  Stronger relationships can happen with better coping.

Hopefully,  life’s path will look brighter as you feel more prepared and in control.  I hope this information is helpful to you!

 

Blog Post # 20  written 6-25-20 by Mary Knutson

Balancing Fitness and Self-Care

Fitness training. Muscular man holding weights in one armed plank positionpushing up

Are you balancing fitness with self-care?

Is your New Year’s resolution still going strong? Are you still spending every spare moment improving your health and fitness? If so, congratulations to you. It’s hard to keep up the progress toward self-improvement long-term. For many of us, there comes a point where we push a little too hard and become burnt out.  Even if you feel like you could keep at this rate for weeks to come, your progress may stall. If you don’t have enough self-care, you will more likely decide you want to give up.

Developing a fitness routine has become a cornerstone in the lives of many. For some, exercise has been a saving grace—a way of coping for those suffering from depression, anxiety or addiction. It can help refocus their lives as they strive for recovery. But as with anything in life, the benefit is limited if we start to overdo it.

How We Burn Out on Fitness

In our efforts to become better people, we may push our minds and bodies to their limits. Self-improvement requires insight into ourselves to see if there is something wrong. Maybe it’s that we are overweight, can’t run as far as we’d like, or that we rely too heavily on an addictive substance that’s ruining our lives. When we see room for improvement, we set goals and start an action plan of what we think would help us meet those goals. We may spend more time at the gym, improve our diets, or change our lifestyles, all in the name of personal fitness.

Over time, as we see improvements, it fuels us to push a little harder. We push and push until one day we notice that for some unknown reason the scale begins to tick in the wrong direction, or something happens to cause discomfort. Even something small that could be gut-wrenching and upsetting. Suddenly, we may realize how much time and energy we’ve spent focused on losing weight or gaining muscle mass. That tired feeling we’ve been pushing off is back and we decide to maybe skip the gym today. This is what burning out can feel like. It can mark the end of our progress for better fitness and self-improvement.

Importance of Balancing Fitness with Self-Care

So how do we avoid burn out and sustain a fitness routine for the rest of our lives? The answer lies ultimately in our ability to love ourselves and care for our needs. Self-care is about taking a moment to pause. Start by appreciating who we are and what we’ve acheived. Instead of always striving for self-improvement and always pushing to be better, we can decide to reward ourselves for simply being who we are. Personal acts of self-care may include taking a day to get a massage, lounge in the spa, sleep in on a weekend, or meditate. If you enjoy meditating, consider finding a quiet space in your home where you can create your own meditation room. These acts of treating ourselves reward us with rest and relaxation can be just as motivating as “sticking your nose to the grindstone” with your fitness routine.

Make Time for Fitness and Self-care

The key to finding the right balance between your fitness routine and self-care activities is by setting aside time for both. Perhaps you’ve already discovered your physical and mental limitations when you pushed yourself to be fit. Decide to never push yourself to do more than you can handle. Whenever you feel strained or discouraged, allow yourself a day or even a weekend to indulge in self-care.

By scheduling some self-care days throughout your calendar, you give yourself small pauses in your procession of self-improvement to reflect and catch your breath. Knowing that you have an upcoming day for self-care will help motivate you to keep pushing yourself in your fitness routine and prevent you from burning out along the way.

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Posted 10-5-18 Blog article by Guest Contributer Shiela Olson.

Shiela has been a personal trainer for five years. She believes the best way to achieve physical fitness and good health is to set and tackle small goals. She encourages her clients to stay positive and incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions.  FitSheila.com was created to spread the word about her fitness philosophy.

Updated for readability 5-25-20 by Mary Knutson

Additional link suggestion:  https://faithcenteredfitness.com/