The #1 Way to Stay Mentally Healthy

I attend a ladies Bible study each week on Tuesday mornings.  It’s a good opportunity to get out of the house, to let my daughter interact with other children and other caretakers, and it’s a wonderful time of spiritual learning/growing for me.  Since I have experience in teaching music, I was asked to lead the singing for the group, and I was also asked to be a group leader at my table, where I lead the discussion based on the questions in the material.  I really enjoy the time away from my daughter, I love the ladies in my group, and I like absorbing other people’s experiences about the topics we are studying.

There was a time when I couldn’t say I was happy about going.

There were many weeks when I just didn’t want to go.  I’ll just be honest.  I didn’t have the time to plan out which songs we were going to sing, and I sure didn’t have time to sit down and read through the lesson well enough to lead others to critical thinking!  For two months, I quit going and abandoned my responsibilities to the group.  (There were some physical roadblocks that aided that, but I was relieved when I had a good excuse to quit going.)

After we got our car fixed and I could get out of the house at will again, I jumped at the chance to participate.  Now, several weeks later, because I know how much it encourages me, I look forward to going and actually plan time to review the lesson and the songs before Tuesday morning arrives.  Planning is half the battle, so when I am prepared, I feel relaxed and ready to lead, instead of feeling stressed and unwilling to use my talents.

I’m glad I’m not that person anymore.

In the first article since my overhaul, I laid out what my healthy goals were – staying physically active, eating healthy foods, and maintaining good mental health.  Today, 3 months after the new year began, I can say that in each area, I have succeeded sometimes and failed at other times.

Above is a prime example of my victory over poor mental health.  The times I was relieved when I didn’t have to participate in the Bible study were times when I felt drained, like I was just giving, giving, giving of myself and not getting much back in return.  It’s hard to keep others afloat when you are sinking.   Click here to tweet this

In looking back on that time, I also realize I was battling mild depression about a friendship that wasn’t meeting my expectations.  Again, it was a mental health issue but it affected my physical health in many ways.  I had a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings.  Any free time I had, I wanted to sleep.  I began eating more comfort food than normal – breads, etc. – which meant that I put on a few pounds.  Those extra pounds contributed to my low self-esteem, and on and on the cycle went.

I’m really glad I’m not that person any more.

In the Bible study lesson this week, we discussed how God commanded the Israelites to set up altars as memorials to remember the ways He moved in their lives.  What kinds of markers do we have in our own lives today?

Journaling is my marker.  It’s my way of looking back at a picture of myself.  It’s my way of remembering how God brought me through whatever trial I was facing.  It’s my way of remembering the lesson I learned from that trial.

Journaling is my way of staying mentally healthy.  The times I keep a journal are the times I feel the best.  I can write my thoughts down without showing them to anyone, and I can identify what is really bothering me.  I wrote a post about it a while back – you can find it here.

Next time you feel like something’s just not right, or when you fly off the handle at the littlest thing, try taking a few minutes to write in a journal of some sort.  It will help you sort out your feelings and discover the underlying cause (is it the wasted food you’re crying about, or is it the fact that you haven’t slept a full 8 hours for more than a week and you have a sinus headache?).  I used to use Penzu, a free online journaling website.  Now, I just create a new document on my computer.  I even keep a small notebook beside my bed so I can write down anything that is bothering me at bedtime.  I usually have weird dreams if something is on my mind at bedtime.

I hope this is helpful to you, reader.  I’m just a fellow traveler on this journey toward good mental health.

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My Apologies to You, Dear Reader

Let’s begin with a story.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was the light of her mama’s heart.  She had a beautiful smile and always made her mama and dadda laugh.  IMG_5091

 One day, the little girl learned when she dropped her food in the floor, her mama gave her more food.  Also, when she threw her food on the dog, the dog jumped and ran away, so that made the little girl laugh. 

Then the little girl learned how to whine.  She got reallly good at whining, so much so that her mama would give her whatever she wanted just to make her quit whining.

Her mama was worn out.

When mealtime came, her mama took care of the little girl first, then was too tired to fix healthy foods for herself.  Her mama ate whatever quick, easy food she could find, even foods that made her sick, like wheat and dairy.  Mama was too low on energy and creativity to plan good, healthy meals, so macaroni and cheese became the go-to lunchtime food.

Sadly, I am the mama in that story.  As you may have noticed, I have become lazy in my blogging and have reposted several things in the last couple of weeks.  I simply don’t have the energy or creativity or desire to keep myself healthy, much less maintain a blog right now.

Until last night…

I don’t know if you were fortunate enough to take part, but Michael Hyatt did a fantastic webinar about reaching more people with your blog posts.  My husband is an avid blogger and Michael Hyatt follower (see hubby’s at www.stidhammusic.com and Michael Hyatt’s at www.michaelhyatt.com), so he knew about the webinar, planned on it, and invited me to watch it with him.  If all I had to do was sit and absorb, I’d be glad to participate, I told him.

I am so glad I did!  There were so many jewels of wisdom in his presentation.  You can find the printable version or the slide version of last night’s presentation on Michael Hyatt’s website.  The title was something about a recipe.  It shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Anyway, after watching his presentation, I realize that I need to apologize to you, the reader/follower of Making Progress.  I have given you only half of my heart, my time, and my energy the last couple of weeks.  I’m sorry for short-changing you and for possibly even wasting your time.

I’m going to start being more “real.”  I am motivated to plan the time to write new, authentic blog posts.   Although I still feel low on energy, I have a hunch that being more real with one or two posts is better than slapping a half-hearted effort down just to meet my weekly posting goals.

I won’t waste your time any more.  I won’t give you undercooked ideas or advice.  I’m just going to share with you where I am on my journey toward health.  I’m going to show you how I’m making progress toward my healthy goals.  Real-ly.

 

 

Stuck in the Vicious Cycle…Again

Recently, I dealt with some emotional distress and I found myself stuck in a vicious cycle.  You know the one – where you find yourself

Dealing with an emotional/physical problem

Eating comfort food

Sleeping more than normal

Not exercising

Gaining weight

Reinforced laziness

After a week of this, you find yourself 5-7 or maybe even 10 pounds heavier than normal!  Am I right?

I wrote about this vicious cycle in a previous post, but I want to remind you (and myself) of how important it is to GET OUT OF THAT CYCLE AS SOON AS YOU CAN.

One of the biggest reasons we need to exercise is to take away stress and anxiety.  Most of the time, I don’t even realize I am stressed or anxious until I start exercising and feel how tight my muscles are, especially around my jaw and face (where I have been clenching my teeth).  Clenching and grinding are signs of inner turmoil, like anxiety – see this article.  Once your emotional stress has been knocked out with exercise, your physical cravings for sleep and comfort food will diminish, and you will be able to return to your normal diet and sleep schedule.  Your emotional issue may not be completely gone, but at least you will have the mental strength to deal with it in a positive way.

Another sure way of knowing that exercise is just what we needed is the natural high we experience post-workout.  Personally, I am happy and optimistic, I feel emotionally stable again, and I feel like I can handle whatever today throws at me!

As far as dealing with emotional eating, I can only refer you to this article by WebMD and tell you that I was on #4 for the past week.  I was (at one point) 10 pounds over my goal weight this past week.  Once again, my scale was a useful tool in helping me gauge my progress on this journey.  I realized I was WAY off course and needed to get back to what works for me: walking 3 miles 3 times a week, eating a plant-based diet, and getting off the couch!

We are all affected by an emotional or physical issue that hinders us from gaining forward motion in pursuit of our healthy goals.  It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN.  It is my sincere hope that when you are faced with an emotional or physical issue, you will remember some of these words of encouragement.  We’ve all been there.  But the sooner you get off the couch and back to your routine, the sooner you will blast out of that vicious cycle that keeps you down and out.

Best wishes to you as you make progress on your mental/physical/health journey.

Want To Boost Self-Esteem After Weight Loss? Sell Your Clothes!

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One of the best things about losing weight on the Eat to Live plan is how great I feel. I feel better physically, but I also have a higher level of self-esteem.

One surefire way to boost that self-esteem: SELL YOUR FAT PANTS! Originally, I was going to list them on eBay, on our store’s page, JMS Music (@JMSMusicStore on Twitter), but I actually found a buyer for them before the auctions even began!

I was surprised at how therapeutic it was for me to take pictures of my clothes, write descriptions about them, and determine a value for them as I listed them for sale. I also couldn’t believe that it was not long ago when I remember those buttons being a little snug, or which shirt I had to wear with those pants because they were too tight in the rear end, and etc.

What was REALLY freeing was looking at the tags, listing these size 12 pants, knowing I’ll get to go shopping for SIZE 8 PANTS very soon! FOUR PANTS SIZES. That’s how much girth I’ve lost…and that was BEFORE I got pregnant and had a baby!

Sorry if this sounds like a brag post, but I wanted to share how much my self-esteem has increased through this process. I hope you are or will experience similar things on your journey toward health and wellness.

Feeling Frazzled? Talk to Yourself

By now, you have probably figured out that life is a balancing act.  We all juggle the responsibilities of being adults, parents, spouses, colleagues, friends, siblings, etc. When I am needed in many different areas, I have discovered the best way for me to stay mentally healthy – balanced, so to speak:  I have a conversation with myself.

I know, it’s weird, right?!  But it’s not the sit-down, dialogue kind of conversation.  It’s just me and my computer, writing in my journal.

Journaling is my time to “catch up” with myself.  We catch up with friends over drinks, we catch up with our mom on the phone once a week, we catch up with our spouse at the end of a busy day, so why don’t we take time to catch up with ourselves?

Writing in my journal helps me voice concerns, doubts, worries, fears, joys, successes, failures, heartaches – in short, all of the emotions that would make me vulnerable if I mentioned them to someone else.

Writing down my thoughts helps me clarify them.

Writing in my journal provides a chance to look over a particular entry with another point of view.

Writing down my thoughts clears them out of my brain, where they take up precious real estate.  After I finish journaling, I usually have much more patience, better problem-solving skills, ability to handle stress, and a general feeling of peace that carries into all the other parts of my life.

So if you are feeling frazzled or pulled in a thousand directions and just can’t seem to stay balanced, try talking to yourself via journaling.  When you finish writing, take time to read what you just said.  Then enjoy the glow of peace that will radiate into all the other aspects of your life.

Good luck as you make progress toward your mental health goals!

Are You Making Progress?

It’s January of a new year: we have all made our New Year’s Resolutions.  Some of us have diligently stuck with them, and some of us have already broken them.  The rest of us, I feel, are making progress.

In case you are new or may have missed this, God has blessed me with good physical health and the knowledge of Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat To Live plan.  Naturally, we write about what we know, so in this blog, I will share with you what I’m learning along the way as I make progress toward my healthy goals of staying physically active, eating healthy foods, and maintaining good mental health.  I’ll give you my tips and tricks for success, as well as my suggestions to avoid failure.  ***DISCLAIMER: I am in no way a physical fitness expert nor a dietician.  Talk to your doctor if you are planning to make any lifestyle changes.***

I don’t adhere to New Year’s Resolutions.  I set a healthy goal for each new phase of my life and I make progress in that direction.  Currently, my goal is to be physically active 3 times per week (currently, I walk at home using Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home workout DVD’s), to eat healthy foods (I’m a part-time vegetarian), and to maintain good mental health (I do crossword puzzles every day).