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.

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!

Jesus Took Mental Health Breaks

I mentioned in my introduction that maintaining good mental health is a goal of mine. I believe there are many things you can do to keep your mind healthy, but the most important thing is to withdraw and pray, as Jesus did.

In reading through the Gospels right now, it’s amazing to me the sheer amount of miracles and wonderful things Jesus did during his ministry on Earth. The Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were all close friends of Jesus, and they all testify to his supernatural powers of healing, intuition, and provision (He fed 5000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish). It seems He was constantly surrounded by people – large crowds, the 12 apostles, small groups – that all needed His touch.

Another thing that the Gospel writers all mention is his tendency to withdraw from the crowds and pray.  Mark 7:46 is one example: “After leaving them (he had just finished feeding the 5000), he went up on a mountainside to pray.” Luke 22:39 describes his “usual” routine of going to the Mount of Olives to pray.

Jesus taught us many things, but the thing I’m learning right now from reading the Gospels is that Jesus withdrew and prayed…possibly when He felt overwhelmed or when He was preparing for something big. (I won’t pretend to know how He felt but I can only comment on what the Bible says.) He even withdrew from his closest circle of friends.

How many times do we feel anxious or overwhelmed?  Psychology Today cites that the average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s. (see the whole story here.)  With all the “noise” in our lives, I feel it is important to turn it all off by withdrawing and praying.  I usually start my day off with a cup of coffee, my Bible, and a prayer to God.  On days that I don’t, I often feel like I’m already behind and I’ll never get caught up, everything goes wrong, I don’t have enough patience for my own child,  I’m irritable, and I usually make poor food choices.  Weird how it all connects, huh?

On the flip side, how much better do we feel when we pray before going through a stressful situation?!  Often we don’t recognize the stress as we go through it.

Jesus taught the importance of withdrawing and praying through His example.  Let’s learn from the Master Teacher.  Blessings to you as you make progress toward your mental health goals today.