Take a Deep Breath for Your Brain, Mental Health

Here's What's Happening on the HealthyPlace Site This Week:

'Take a deep breath.' Have you heard that when you're stressed or upset? There's a good reason for that. Discover why you should take a deep breath at HealthyPlace.

Take a Deep Breath for Your Brain, Mental Health

Have you ever noticed that people tend to advise, “Take a deep breath” when you're stressed or upset? That's for good reason. When you need a mental health reset, pause, and breathe. It may be just what your brain needs.

Benefits of a Breath

Given that the brain is only two percent of our total body weight, it’s costly to operate; the brain uses 20 percent of our oxygen (Raichle & Gusnard, 2002). Slow, deep breathing helps your brain function properly. A 2006 study (Jerath, et al.) showed that it helps:

  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Decrease the stress response by keeping the brain calm and preventing it from signaling the release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline
  • Increase theta wave production, the type of brain activity associated with relaxation, creativity, and calm
  • Enhances neural plasticity, the ability of brain cells to adapt to change

Breathe Like This for Your Brain

To maximize your brain health and functioning, simply get intentional about the way you breathe. Throughout the day, pause for breathing breaks

  • Inhale slowly through your nose and feel the air expand your chest and belly
  • Hold for a few seconds
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth
  • Repeat as desired

To boost your brain health, keep doing what you already do: breathe. Just do it slowly, deeply, and with purpose.

Sources

Jerath, R., Edry, J.W., Barnes, V.A., & Jerath, V. (2006, April). Physiology of Long Pranayamic Breathing: Neural Respiratory Elements May Provide a Mechanism That Explains How Slow Deep Breathing Shifts the Autonomic Nervous System. Medical Hypotheses, 67(3): 566–71. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2006.02.042  (Note: The link takes you to the summary. Months ago, I rented the article and read it in its entirety.)

Raichle, M.E. & Gusnard, D.A. (2002, August). Appraising the brain’s energy budget. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 99(16): 10237-10239. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2006.02.042

Articles Related to Breathwork, Breathing Exercises

Your Thoughts

Today's Question: In what ways has deep breathing helped your mental health? We invite you to participate by sharing your thoughts, knowledge, and experiences on the HealthyPlace Facebook page.

------------------------------------------------------------------

The Torture of Being Stalked-Facebook Live

There was no romantic interest. When they first met at church, Sandra just thought they might be friends. Two months later, he was stalking her day and night. The torture lasted 4 years and left her mentally and emotionally crushed. She'll be sharing her story and the therapies that have helped her heal on Thursday's HealthyPlace Facebook Live. I hope you'll join us.

Thursday, January 21 at 4p ET / 3 CT. We welcome your comments and experiences and our guests always answer your questions.

You can watch last week's Instagram Live on what it's like living with skin-picking disorder here.

------------------------------------------------------------------

From the HealthyPlace Mental Health Blogs

On all our blogs, your comments and observations are welcomed.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments at the bottom of any blog post. And visit the mental health blogs homepage for the latest posts.

------------------------------------------------------------------

From HealthyPlace YouTube Channel

Parental Burnout Doesn't Mean You're a Bad Mom

Parental burnout hits hard when you're raising a child with mental illness (and even when you are raising a child with no mental health problems). But you aren't a bad mom for feeling it. Get some reminders in this video. Take a peek.

Subscribe to the HealthyPlace YouTube channel

------------------------------------------------------------------

Most Popular HealthyPlace Articles Shared by Facebook Fans

Here are the top 3 mental health articles HealthyPlace Facebook fans are recommending you read:

  1. Verbal Abuse in Work Relationships
  2. Going Off Bipolar Medication -- Almost Always a Bad Idea
  3. Too Depressed To Work? Here's What You Can Do

If you're not already, I hope you'll join us/like us on Facebook too. There are a lot of wonderful, supportive people there.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Quote about Feeling Alone

"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others."

Read more quotes about being alone.

------------------------------------------------------------------

That's it for now. If you know of anyone who can benefit from this newsletter or the HealthyPlace.com site, I hope you'll pass this onto them. You can also share the newsletter on any social network you belong to by clicking the links below. For updates throughout the week, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, subscribe to the HealthyPlace YouTube channel, or follow us on Instagram.

Thank you,
Deborah

Community Partner Team
HealthyPlace.com - America's Mental Health Channel
"When you're at HealthyPlace.com, you're never alone."
http://www.healthyplace.com

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, January 20). Take a Deep Breath for Your Brain, Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, January 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-health-newsletter/take-a-deep-breath-for-your-brain-mental-health

Last Updated: January 20, 2021

Outthinking Bipolar Disorder

Posted on:

I thought for a very long time that I could outthink bipolar disorder. I thought, if bipolar disorder is in my mind, then my mind can defeat it. I thought that if I just read the right book, learned the right coping skill or understood the right philosophy, I could outthink the bipolar disorder. And this is not an uncommon feeling. It's one of the reasons that people refuse medications or go off their medications -- whether they express it in those words or not. People think -- errantly -- that bipolar disorder is all in their head, and so their head can fix it.

But there's a major error in this thinking that people, my previous self included, fail to recognize -- yes, bipolar disorder is in your head, but the part of your head it's in is your brain. Of course, psychology plays a part in bipolar disorder, it's critical, in fact, but the biological aspect of bipolar disorder has to be dealt with first before psychology even has a chance.

Why Would Someone Think They Could Outthink Bipolar Disorder?

I'm a smart gal. I'm also an intellectual. And I can tell you that my intellect has protected me and healed me from many of life's difficulties. And on some level, I really thought it could do that with bipolar too. I didn't understand why my brain couldn't control my brain. I mean, there's so much pop psychology that tells you that you can "turn that frown upside down." There are so many lifestyle "cures" for depression (although not so many for bipolar) out there. And it really doesn't help that some people say they have actually done this. It doesn't help that there are people out there who claim to have "cured" their own mental illness just by using a certain philosophy, religion or thought process. It doesn't help that there are people out there who capitalize on this very real desire and tell you that they can teach you how to do it, too.

So it's understandable that people have this notion that they can outthink bipolar disorder because they want it so badly, and people around them affirm that it's possible.

Outthinking Bipolar Disorder Doesn't Work

But the trouble is, and the thing that everything from bad psychology to a charlatan isn't telling you is that bipolar disorder is (partly, and importantly) biological in nature. The brains of people with bipolar disorder simply aren't the same as the average person's brain.1,2 Asking a sick brain to fix its own sickness isn't logical. It's like using a broken car to get to a mechanic or asking a surgeon with broken hands to operate. It only makes sense when you don't understand the nature of the illness. And, unfortunately, it can also make sense to a sick brain. (Keep in mind that anosognosia [a neurological lack of insight] -- common in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia -- keeps people from realizing they are even sick.)

In the end, it's quite simple -- until you start to address the biological issues behind bipolar disorder, you can't hope to deal with it effectively psychologically. Yes, this means taking medication. If you're in an acute bipolar episode, there are few other options, and you need to understand and internalize that.

You Can't Outthink Bipolar Disorder, But You Can Use Thought to Fight It

All that being said, while you can't outthink bipolar disorder, you can think against bipolar disorder once your biology is being addressed. That means that things like therapy are, indeed, very important. Learning about different coping skills that incorporate how you think and act really matter. 

So if you've had the idea that you should be able to outthink bipolar disorder, take heart -- you aren't the only one. I know the pressure I put on myself to make that work, and I know how much I beat myself up for not being able to make it work. If you're in that state right now, I get it. But please stop beating yourself up for not doing the impossible. I'm relieving you of that burden right now.

What it comes down to is understanding that bipolar disorder is big and scary, and you can't fight it alone. You need weapons in the form of doctors and medication. It's only once you arm yourself that way that thinking has a chance. And you will need every ounce of controlled thinking you can muster because the biological weapons alone rarely work either. So while you can't outthink bipolar disorder, you can fight it, and you can even, from time to time, win.

Sources

  1. Neuroscience News and Research, "Bipolar Brain Biology a Bit Different." May 2017.
  2. University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, "Area of Brain Linked to Bipolar Disorder Pinpointed." ScienceDaily, January 2017.

Asking for Help Can Build Self-Esteem

Posted on:

Poor self-esteem can make it difficult to ask for help. You may feel that you are not worthy of other people's time and assistance. Maybe it's because you are not in the habit of prioritizing yourself and keep pushing your needs aside. Whatever the reason behind the difficulty, everyone needs help sometimes, and practicing how to ask for help is a good exercise to build self-esteem.

I have always had trouble admitting I need help. I felt that asking for help was a sign that I wasn't enough on my own. Sometimes I was afraid of showing my need because that meant acknowledging to myself that I wasn't a superwoman. These past couple of weeks showed me that it's time to put this fear behind me and figure out how to teach myself a way to ask for assistance without feeling like a failure.

Poor Self-Esteem Kept Me from Asking for Help

There have been times in my life that I have been in difficulty and could have used help but was unable to ask for it. I was sure that the reason I needed help was my own shortcomings and that I wasn't good enough. Sometimes, in a manic period of my bipolar type 2 disorder, I would over-commit and then frantically scramble to fulfill my responsibilities. Other times, I would find myself falling into financial problems because spending money was a way of self-soothing.

I have memories of fighting with my mother over little things like her buying me pantyhose for a couple of dollars. She meant it as a gift, and I saw it as a sign that she thought I couldn't afford to take care of myself. When I was struggling, I put up a prickly barrier that made it hard for people to offer help without me asking first, and I never asked until I was in critical need.

Sharing My Need is a Sign of Strength

My body doesn't react well to stress. Some unexpected occurrences caused my stress level to skyrocket and it put me into a precarious health situation twice, both times over the weekend when my doctors' offices were closed.

The first time it happened, I panicked because I live alone and far from my loved ones, and I'm considered high-risk so I don't mingle with others. I was unable to think clearly because of my fear and not feeling well. Luckily, a friend I felt comfortable sharing with eventually talked me into calling to speak to the on-call doctor. Relief came quickly, both from the medical issue and the fear.

The following weekend the stress manifested itself in a different health problem. After the previous experience, I didn't wait and called the doctor. I am learning from my experiences, and that's a good thing. I also shared my concern with my family about my fear of emergencies like this while I'm living so far from them. Being honest and transparent with my family is a part of my current self-esteem work.

I spoke with my therapist about all this, and we came up with a plan to help me feel more secure. Today my women's group will discuss creating an emergency plan based on my suggestion. The group is made up of women over age 55 who live alone like me, so it will be pertinent to us all. Sharing my concerns with the group is a way to build self-esteem because it is a way of asking for help.

In the future, I will practice asking for help when I need it as a form of self-love and self-care. They are the building blocks of healthy self-esteem. Has poor self-esteem stopped you from asking for help? Share your stories in the comments.

School Closed. I Still Have a Child with ADHD to Raise.

Posted on:

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, my local school system has closed until further notice. The problem is, I still have a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at home who needs to learn, grow, and stay busy. I still have a full-time job and a pile of bills that aren't going anywhere. And I still wrestle with a lot of depression and anxiety that makes it difficult to hold everything down without the reprieve of an eight-hour school day. So what's the trick? How have I learned to take care of my child's ADHD and education and all of my other responsibilities in the face of such unpredictable school closures?

If you asked yourself those questions, then you're in luck because I'm about to answer them. I'll lead off with this, though: this school year has been a haphazard process for me and my family. We've never been through something like this before, so we've done more than a few things wrong. I'd like to think, though, that I've done some things right. Here they are.

School Closing Means That My Child's Education--and His ADHD--Are Solely My Responsibility

As you can probably guess, I don't have a degree in early childhood education. I'm not a child psychologist, either, so when it comes to raising and educating a child with ADHD by myself, I'm only so prepared. To top it off, logging in for my son's virtual classes has been harder than I imagined. However, I've done my best to continue his learning and teach him how to sit still long enough to learn something. Here are a few tips to do the same with your child:

  • I play classical music when we work on activities. The soft background noise keeps my child's ADHD busy.
  • We play games. Memory games and counting games are easier for my kid to focus on than workbooks and flashcards.
  • We read books. As I read, I run my finger along the page to hone his attention on the letters and words.
  • I walk him through writing letters to people. Everyone gets a kick out of it.

They're small actions, but as long as I keep trying, they will pay off.

Finding Balance Between Parenting a Child with ADHD and Staying on Top of Everything Else

So my kid is at home right now--all the time. I can't be Mommy all the time, though. I still have to be Sarah. How do I balance raising a child with ADHD and doing everything else I need to do when I can't send my kid to school? 

First and foremost, I have to take care of myself. Am I burning myself out? Am I neglecting what I need to do to stay healthy? Am I making time for things that make me happy and keep my own mental illness under control? Am I burying my feelings just because I don't have time for them? Trouble rolls downhill, so if I'm not healthy and happy, my child will feel it. Chances are, it'll impact his ADHD, too.

Taking care of everything else in my life is a matter of time management. I'm flexible with my work schedule. I clean the house when I can, and when I can't, I don't beat myself up over it. When I get a little free time, I try to pay a few bills or fold some clothes or get some writing done. I take advantage of random spare moments so life doesn't build up into an overwhelming mess that aggravates everyone's mental health issues.

School Closing Has a Silver Lining When You Have a Child with ADHD

The situation I've found myself in isn't anywhere near ideal, but it has a silver lining. Being the mother of a child with ADHD--especially in the middle of a global pandemic--requires constant monitoring on my part, and now I can really do that for my son. I can keep track of where he goes, who he's around, how close he gets to people, and whether or not he's wearing a mask. I know what he touches when he's out of the house (he touches everything) and if he cleans his hands after touching it. I can protect my kid--all the time.

If my son gets COVID-19, it'll probably happen at school, anyway. Home is the safest place for him to be right now. Eventually, schools will open back up, but in the meantime, I can find ways to keep everyone happy, healthy, and busy doing the things we need to do.

Do you have a child with ADHD or another mental illness who can't go to school right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic? How are you handling it? Let's talk about it in the comments.

Also, if you're worried about your child having to repeat a grade because of how the 2020-21 school year has progressed, check out my video below.

What You Need To Know About Pandemic Trauma and Depression

Posted on:

Here's the thing: I had trauma or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) long before the pandemic; it's one of the reasons my depression is chronic. According to Dr. Alok Vinod Kulkarni1, "at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was half-expecting people to present with PTSD symptoms following recovery from COVID-19, and I wasn't wrong. I have observed a steep increase in the number of patients presenting with PTSD in the last six months. Typically, the onset of clinical symptoms is within three months of the traumatic event, but sometimes they begin years afterward." In my opinion, the pandemic has led to PTSD even in people who haven't contracted COVID-19. I say this with confidence because a) it's the reason my PTSD has become more intense since last year and b) as a member of mental health groups, I have seen people exhibiting PTSD symptoms. And yes, one of the symptoms of PTSD is depression. 

How I Knew Something Was Amiss

Firstly, I realized I was easily irritable and anxious -- and the frequency of my PTSD flashbacks had increased. I was more depressed and tired than usual. Even a good night's sleep was hard due to trouble falling asleep and later in the night, disturbing nightmares. Everything began to feel like one pointless obligation after another and I just wanted to give up and hibernate. 

It took me a while to figure out that my PTSD was being directly triggered by the pandemic. And when I did realize it, it made perfect sense. From lockdowns, fear of a painful death, and a suffocating lack of freedom to global civil unrest, unemployment, pay cuts, and a growing sense of helplessness, PTSD and depression are the most logical response to the pandemic. After all, if there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that COVID-19 has invaded our mental and physical world and made survival harder, perhaps irrevocably.  

What You Can Do To Cope With Pandemic Trauma and Depression

If you feel you are in the same boat as me, do not panic, and more importantly, do not ignore your suffering. Acceptance is key. Don't expect yourself to "get over it" as you can't get over trauma by wishing or willing it away. The same rule applies to depression as well. Learn to be kind to yourself and like me, consult a mental health professional as soon as possible. The mental distress we are experiencing may never quite go away, but with therapy and self-care, it can be brought down to manageable levels. 

Source

  1. Alok, K., "After Recovering From COVID-19, Don't Ignore the PTSD Symptoms." The Wire, January 2021. 

Living with BPD Is Harder in a City

Posted on:

Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is harder in a city. Coping with the condition is difficult at the best of times, but living in a chaotic city environment makes my BPD symptoms worse. I live in Lima, one of the largest cities in the South American continent, and it plays havoc with my BPD.

Living with BPD in a City

Being in a noisy and chaotic environment makes it difficult for me to feel level and calm. I have constant traffic noise outside my window because I live on a main road. Several times a day, I hear giant trucks thundering past or the wail of a police car.

This constant stimulation keeps my anxiety at moderate levels throughout the day. I wake up anxious and usually fall asleep in the same state. If I want to try to meditate, I will regularly be interrupted by sounds from outside. This makes it very difficult for me to stay in control of my emotions.

Living in a city like Lima also has its unique challenges. Despite living in one of the safest neighborhoods, I always have to be on high alert when I walk out the door. This constant vigilance and general suspicion also have a toll on my mental health. If I have to walk my dog at night, I feel consumed with paranoia and anxiety.

I also do not feel like I am really living when I am in the city. Because of the stressful environment, I fall into patterns of eating, sleeping, working, and watching movies. The heaviness of the city hangs over me and prevents me from feeling positive or optimistic emotions.

Living with BPD Outside the City

I notice the difference immediately when I am outside of the city. When I am in the mountains or the countryside, it feels like a heavy blanket being lifted off my shoulders. Away from the city's stress and chaos, I feel more grounded and in control of myself.

I also notice that it is easier to live healthy outside of the city. I naturally fall asleep earlier and wake up earlier. I don't spend several hours a day ruminating on my mental state and my responsibilities, and I can simply exist. Away from the constant stimulation and movement, my brain is a lot more still.

When I am living healthy patterns and resting in nature, my mental health immediately benefits. I can escape from my own mind and focus on practicing mindfulness. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, I can also appreciate the situation I am in and feel more thankful for my life.

How I Cope with BPD in the City

In the following video, I discuss how I cope with my BPD symptoms in the city. I also talk about why I have ultimately decided to move to a small countryside town.

Do you notice that your BPD symptoms are worse in city environments? Have you ever moved to a different place to cope with your symptoms better? Let me know in the comments.

Breaking the Cycle of Shame in Relationships

Posted on:

Feeling shame in a relationship can begin a cycle of shame that's debilitating to mental health. An ex-boyfriend once told me I was a liability. My mental health was a risk against his future, and he didn't want his professional friends to know that he dated me. He made it clear that he was ashamed of me. 

I know I am not the only one here with an experience like this, and I'm sure that you, like me, have plenty of similar stories to tell. In my fragile early 20s, I shamed myself like it was my job. I tried to hide my anxiety, panic attacks, and depressive episodes, but in a college dorm setting, privacy was scarce. People who barely knew me called me attention-seeking and manipulative. A neighbor once overheard me and a friend celebrating a small success over my anxiety and said, "Do you think you're special for doing something other people can do normally?"

That one stuck with me for years.

Sharp words can cut deeply if they hit you where you're most vulnerable. These words only fed my shame and negative self-talk. Of course, healthy relationship patterns are not born out of shame and low self-esteem.

A Cycle of Shame Harms Relationships

I always attempted to be as agreeable and non-confrontational as possible. I believed that keeping people happy with me would somehow hide my problems, compensate for the cost of putting up with my mental illness, and avoid any more anxiety-producing conflict. When the strategy inevitably failed, the only solution in my mind was to become even more agreeable at any cost to myself. I ignored my own needs and shamed myself further for my declining mental health and toxic relationships. I became stuck in a cycle of shame, people-pleasing, and self-neglect that poisoned me slowly, taking me in the opposite direction of mental wellness and the healthy relationships I sought.

When I was unable to hide my anxiety, I was so ashamed for inconveniencing others with my problems that setting boundaries felt like another inconvenience I was imposing on them. I didn't realize that denying my own needs caused more problems in my relationships. I thought I could repress my emotions and pretend to be fine, but I wasn't as skilled at hiding my anxiety as I thought. The people close to me could see that I was not well, but because I would not take care of myself and communicate my needs, the tension hung awkwardly over us. I was effectively doing the exact thing I was attempting to avoid -- I was putting the weight of my anxiety onto others by refusing to address the problem myself. 

Opposite Actions: Self-Compassion, Boundaries, and Self-Care to Stop the Cycle of Shame in Relationships

The shame, people-pleasing, and self-neglect cycle is an infinite downward spiral that is all too easy to enter as a person with mental illness. Unraveling the spiral requires opposite actions: self-compassion, boundaries, and self-care. "Opposite action" is an emotional regulation skill part of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) that consists of doing the opposite of your typical action.

Talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend. Would you shame your best friend the way you shame yourself? Remind yourself that you can be imperfect and still deserve happiness. Decide on your boundaries and communicate them to others, even if it feels hard. Remind yourself that boundaries benefit everyone, and each boundary you set is a step closer to a healthy relationship. I am still working on breaking the cycle myself. 

Do you find yourself in this shame cycle in relationships? What helps you?

Partnership Between Families and Mental Health Professionals

Posted on:

The partnership between families and mental health professionals is often a key component of adequately supporting a loved one with mental illness. I see this every day in my working life as an occupational therapist -- when there's no buy-in from the family, chances of an intervention being successful are dramatically reduced. When my brother developed chronic anxiety and depression seven years ago, I had to practice what I preach and actively foster a good relationship with his medical team. Here are some points about that experience that I wanted to share.

What It Takes to Create a Positive Family/Mental Health Professional Partnership

Partnership Means Communication with Consent

A partnership between families and mental health professionals should always be in-line with the wishes of the person at the center of the care -- in our case, my brother. There are certain components of his mental health treatment that he wants the family to be involved in.

Particularly in the early stages of treatment, we had family meetings with his mental health professionals to discuss what was working and what wasn't. We've found it's always best to use the principle of "nothing about me without me" -- my brother is always in the room when we're discussing his case and we have never attempted to organize a meeting where he isn't present. One of my brother's symptoms is paranoia, and the idea of people talking about him without him being present could be very damaging to the relationship he had with both family and professionals.

Of course, if you have immediate concerns about your loved one's safety or their risk to others, you might have to contact their medical team without their input -- but this should very much be the one-time exception rather than the rule.

There are components of my brother's care that no one in the family is a party to -- his cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions, for example, are something that he organizes and attends without family input. For us to attempt to instigate communication with my brother's CBT facilitator without his consent would be inappropriate and disrespectful.

Partnership Means Welcoming Constructive Criticism

A family member receiving a mental illness diagnosis can be a vulnerable experience -- and vulnerability often leads to defensiveness. I used to find it difficult to accept constructive criticism from mental health professionals about how to approach my brother, especially because I work with mental illness in my day job.

I have since realized that supporting a family member through mental illness is worlds away from supporting a client through mental illness. I'm so emotionally invested in my brother's wellbeing that it can be difficult to see the wood from the trees. Because of this, I am now grateful for the guidance of mental health professionals who can take a step back and provide objective observations. This shift in my attitude has been key to fostering a helpful partnership between my family and the mental health professionals that support my brother.

What has your experience been like with the family/mental health professional partnership? Does your family have much involvement in your loved one's treatment? Let me know in the comments.

How I Coped with Hospitalization for My Mental Health

Posted on:

My mental health caused me to visit a psychiatric hospital when I was 19 years old. I had never experienced hospitalization for my mental health, nor did I have adequate coping skills going in. In addition to my mental health deteriorating, I had just come out as a lesbian. I was searching to find my place in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community. I found ways to cope once in the hospital, though. Read further to see what helped me cope during this dark time in my mental health past. 

2 Ways I Coped with Mental Health Hospitalization

Mental Health Journaling Helped Coping with Hospitalization

Once inside the hospital, I spent the first 24 hours crying and begging to be released. Due to an incident of self-harm, I was told my stay would be 72 hours long. I had to divulge some of the emotions I felt surrounding this mental health crisis to cope with my hospitalization.

I began journaling in a composition notepad provided by the hospital. I wrote my confessions and thoughts in the present moment. I used this journal as a way to describe the feelings that I had bottled up. Journaling taught me to articulate my mental health needs instead of bottling them up.

Coping with Hospitalization by Finding LGBTQIA+ Support

I had entered the LGBTQIA+ community just weeks before my mental health deteriorated. I believe coming out added an extra layer of stress that my anxiety and depression just couldn't handle. Being admitted to the hospital left me much time to think about what I felt and what I needed. I had an aching need for a sense of belonging and support surrounding my recent coming out.

The hospital allowed us to go online during free periods in between groups. I was able to search out LGBTQIA+ support groups during this time. I even found LGBTQIA+ support groups specific to those of us battling mental health concerns. The social worker I was assigned to while hospitalized helped me arrange meetings with these groups. She also helped me secure ongoing sessions with an LGBTQIA+ mental health counselor. I left the hospital with 10 times more support for my mental health and LGBTQIA+ identity. 

Being hospitalized for your mental health can be a scary and confusing time for most. If you are struggling to stay calm while inside, remember to search for coping skills that may help you pass the time or process your emotions. 

How have you coped with past mental health hospitalizations? What coping skills did or did not work for you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

How to Track Your Moods

Posted on:

Mood tracking makes understanding your mood triggers or patterns and talking to mental health professionals easier. If you see a therapist, one of the questions they might ask you is how you would rate your level of anxiety and/or depression. Answering this question can be difficult, as moods change all the time. If you had a terrible week but feel good at the time of your appointment, you might be tempted to say that your depression is low. However, the best way to manage anxiety and depression is to acknowledge your overall mood from a specific time period (such as a week or a month). An effective way to rate your moods accurately is to track them every day.

Things to Remember as You Track Your Moods

Be Mindful About Typical Triggers and Symptoms

One reason it is so difficult to track your moods is that life is really busy. Even if you know your triggers and mental health symptoms, it is impossible to count the exact number of times you experience all of them.

For instance, if your job requires you to interact with hundreds of people, you might get frustrated with someone or notice your muscles tense up every few minutes. You do not have to count the number of times you notice your triggers and symptoms to know that you struggle with them. By being aware of them, you can gauge your overall mood at the end of the day.

Remember Every Day Is Different

Even if you encounter certain symptoms and triggers every day, it is important to remember that every day is different. The things that upset you one day might upset you a little less the next day. Some days, something good might happen to lessen the impact of frustration. For instance, if you have a difficult class, talking to a friend beforehand might help you feel more relaxed.

Being mindful of changes can show you that you might not struggle with anxiety all the time. Or at least, a high level of anxiety will not remain constant. If you have some free time throughout one of your days, you can get a better idea about your moods by tracking them at different times.

Avoid Stigmatizing Yourself for Your Mood

Do you ever feel ashamed for struggling with a mood disorder? If so, you probably engage in negative thinking and self-talk. For instance, you might tell yourself to stop feeling sorry for yourself because other people have it much worse. The truth is that all your moods and struggles are valid.

By avoiding self-stigma and harsh judgment, it will be easier for you to accept your thoughts and moods. Being honest about how you feel and what triggers your emotions will help you identify the severity of your moods.

Find a Mood Tracking Method that Works for You

Using a mood tracking method that works for you is important for you to identify your moods accurately. If you are a visual person, using different colors for high and low moods can help you distinguish them from each other. If you enjoy writing and using technology, you can utilize mood tracker apps and keep a mood journal. Just remember that mood tracking method preferences are different for everyone. Choose the method you think will benefit you the most.

Hopefully, this post will now make it easier for you to track your moods. Do you have any advice or insight about mood tracking methods? If so, go ahead and share in the comments.