meditation therapy

4 tips for coping with mental illness

When it comes to anxiety and other mental illness self care isn’t always easy. For me some days are better than others, some days I just don’t have the spoons for self care. I’ve found that these 4 lifestyle changes help me a lot.

1. Planning

Every Sunday night I spend 20min planning 3 things to do each day for the next week. I like to use a planner, but putting them in your phone or even sticky notes on your mirror will work. accomplishing 3 simple but essential tasks helps me stay focused and motivated without feeling overwhelmed. On good days i usually accomplish more in a day, on bad days finishing 3 tasks makes me feel like I accomplished something huge. It makes me feel good to be productive and seeing days or weeks where I finish my 3 tasks makes me want to keep going. This week my tasks went:


MON: art project with Oak, pay phone bill, phone call
TUES: 2 loads of laundry, therapy appt, go outside
WED: phone call, library with Oak, clean vanity
THURS: bake with oak, 2 loads of laundry, banking
FRI: go outside, clean makeup brushes, do facial
SAT: clean room, blog, Skype date with BF
SUN: clean out car, pick up oak, take room dishes to kitchen


For me some tasks like making important phone calls, cleaning and going outside actually take a lot of emotional energy. i usually wanna take a nap if I have to make more than one important call. some people include showering, cooking a healthy meal, or keeping appointments. It helps to split up the big tasks and its not so overwhelming.

2. Eat low carb

Science has found that the bacteria in your gut is directly linked to your limbic system. Anxiety can upset the bacteria in your gut and mess with your digestive system, I was diagnosed with anxiety triggered IBS (irrital bowl syndrome) because of this. My cortisol levels (chemical that produces fight or flight response, often produced in place of adrenaline in people who have suffered traumatic events) have become so high that my body will read processed and refined foods as poison and force it out… quickly. I have been on a low carb diet for a month and have found that while it doesn’t “cure” my IBS it cut the number of trips to the bathroom from 12 to 5 times a day. some days i do better than others, pizza, takis and pasta are my weakness and some days i say fuck it! eating junk food can also go  the other way too! when your body reads the processed chemicals as poison it triggers you fight or flight and releases   cortisol. Cortisol is released for a long period of time and can build up and lead to a panic attack. I will continue to post my favorite low carb meals for inspiration… and cause i like taking pictures of my food.

3. Yoga and meditation

I always feel silly suggesting this one because it seems so bull shit. Positive thoughts and stretching alone will not take away your anxiety and for some people yoga and meditation are frustrating. Finding a physical activity you like and creating a safe place to recenter your mind are the key points here. Exercise will temporarily numb your limbic system and release endorphins and burn off cortisol . My most helpful methods are running, meditation and yoga. I found a specific 20 minute “heart opening” flow (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC_dvBnRKn4&t=1528s) I especially like this this one because i carry allot of stress in my shoulders and back. With yoga its important to focus on breathing, breathe into the stretch inhale and pull your self in, imagine gathering all your anxiety and insecurity and as you exhale slowly release into the stress in and imagine pushing all that you gathered out and push it away. When i first started it was hard and i hated it but after the first 5 or 6 times I started to feel more refreshed and positive. if i have time like to meditate i start by laying on my yoga mat with a rolled up towel under my spine. i focus on my breathing again keeping it slow and deep. every exhale imagine myself sinking deeper and deeper grounding myself firmly. I work at clearing my mind by reciting affirmations or following a guided meditation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0EQEiecSxs&t=321s). when i don’t have alot of time i like to use affirmations by first thanking myself for making the time to re-balance then repeat 3 affirmations over and over.
I never make weight loss the goal of my eating or exercise habits. I’m slightly over weight by medical standards but my doctors aren’t concerned so i try my hardest not to concern myself with it. I struggled briefly with an eating disorder in middle school and I want to keep my relationship with food healthy so i avoid scales and other ways of monitoring weight loss. I feel that society puts pressure on women to look a certain way to distract them and I don’t want to fall into that pit. there are so many other things to be than “pretty”.

4. Get help

No one should ever have to battle mental illness alone. I know for people with limited options this step can be the hardest. the easiest way to find free help is to join an online community with people battling the same things you are. its important not to completely isolate yourself and sometimes connecting with others like you can be more validating than you think. if you have the access to a mental healthcare professional I would urge you to utilize them, i believe EVERYONE can benefit from a good therapist. If money is an issue (lets face it, having the means for therapy is a privilege) many are willing to work on a sliding scale and some clinics offer free sessions. Google free mental health care in your area. I meet with my therapist weekly and i feel like in many ways it saved me! I had to meet with a few different people before i found a good fit with Nona. She is easy to talk to and bases her methods on science which i find incredibly comforting. i have share my struggles and life goals with her and she keeps me healthy and moving forward. She has also helps me find my voice and shape my thoughts when it comes to my activism.
Another big help I’ve found is medication. After years and years of struggling with accepting the use of pharmaceuticals I finally realized mental illness is nothing more than a chemical imbalance in your brain. if you do not make your own neurotransmitters store bought will do. I don’t like the pill “haze” that some meds give and many have horrific side effects. I shared my concerns and issues with my doc and she prescribed me a daily dose of Wellbutrin for my anxiety and depression. i also have a small dose of Addivant to take as needed during panic attacks and use birth control to help balance out my hormones, some times a bad day with PMS is enough to send me into a suicidal slump. I also use cannabis to help calm my IBS, it helps with the tummy gurgles and calms me down enough to enjoy a meal without rushing to the bathroom half way through.

No one method works alone, coping with mental illness is a constant battle. Making these lifestyle changes takes time, its taken years and a huge breakdown for me to find what helps. its important to know your worth putting effort into yourself. It ins’t selfish to prioritize your mental health, you can’t pour from an empty cup. I cant promise that these things will change your life but I hope it will lead you to a path to finding your best self care methods.

Stay golden friends,
Madison

SACRED GEMS: QUESTION & ANSWER

What Gemstones are Beneficial to Promoting Loving Relationships?

AMETHYST

Amethyst enhances peace, understanding, and humility. It brings contentment, healing, happiness, and love. Wearing this beautiful purple stone calms the mind and opens the heart. Amethyst is “A Master Healer” and is known to heal the Heart at the highest spiritual levels. It purifies negative emotions and promotes feelings of flexibility, cooperation and peace. Amethyst provides protection and balance during major personal transitions and reduces feelings of being victimized by others. Amethyst supports all aspects of spiritual growth with peace and calm to fulfill one’s mission on Earth, Amethyst helps you love again, and again.

GREEN JADE

Green Jade is considered one of the most precious stones of the East. It strengthens love and happiness and fortifies the physical body. It is a stone of the heart, both physically and emotionally. It is said to fulfill dreams and encourage long life. Green Jade is “A Stone of Fidelity” and is well known in Asia for soothing the emotions and protecting your health. Jade keeps the peace in family relations, improves self-worth, and self-sufficiency. It promotes peace, harmony and tranquility through emotional detachment. It can protect love from straying away and helps build dreams into reality.

KUNZITE

Kunzite supports calm and balance, and enhances good fortune and spiritual equilibrium. It is the stone for finding true love, harmony, compassion, and inner peace. It is a delicate pink ornamental stone known to be a symbol of romance and marriage. The main power of Kunzite is said to be its ability to reduce stress and depression. It is often used by those suffering from a wounded heart. Kunzite is an ideal gift for someone you love, to signify eternal love. Kunzite is “A Consciousness Elevator” and opens the Emotional Heart to the highest level. It Relieves emotional distress (this gemstone has a high lithium content). Kunzite provides peace, dissolves negativity and stimulates sensuality. It dispels loneliness and allows you to surrender rather than resist and is excellent for physical heart problems.

MOONSTONE

Moonstone holds protective energy and is balancing for the emotions. Moonstone is thought to be powerful with regard to love and passion. The name itself is somewhat romantic; in ancient times it was believed that it drew moonlight, some cultures even thought it was created from solidified moonbeams. Whereas rose quartz is the gem of love, Moonstone is most definitely the gem of passion, with powers that are thought to cause fervor and create sexual energy, often stoking arousal and provoking feelings of eroticism. It is also believed that Moonstone can help lovers to predict the fortune of their relationship, indicating good or bad times ahead, and some even used it to promote fertility. Moonstone is believed to be best used in stoking the flames of passion. Combined with other stones, Moonstone can be used to intensify physical relationships. Combining Moonstone with Sunstone is thought to increase sexual energy and amplify attraction. Combined with Rhodonite, Moonstone is said to help bury old feelings and memories of past affairs, further increasing the passion in current relationships. With Rhodochrosite, Moonstone will encourage creativity and eroticism, promoting a sense of adventure and spontaneity between you and your love.

ROSE QUARTZ

Rose Quartz promotes romantic love as well as self-love and acceptance. It is the stone of forgiveness, humility, and patience. It teaches us to open our hearts and to be tender, peaceful, and gentle. Perhaps the most infamous love stone is Rose Quartz, which is known to be the stone of unconditional love. Its calming energy is thought to help give one a sense of inner peace and love for one’s self. Rose Quartz also encourages sensitivity and compassion, even helping us to build trust in others, all attributes that are harmonious with the act of falling in love. Essentially, Rose Quartz puts you in a state of mind that allows you to receive love. If you are suffering from lost or unrequited love it will help to comfort you; if you have been betrayed in love it will help bring back faith and trust, as well as a sense of self-worth and self-esteem; if you have simply never been in love, it will open up all the possibilities of falling in love. Rose Quartz opens the Heart for love, and gives love to the wearer who might other wise have trouble giving love to themselves or to others. Rose Quartz shows you the power of your emotions and of the ability of Love to “Conquer All”. This crystal brings softness to hardened Hearts, teaching you to Trust Your Heart. It dispels negative emotional states, such as gloom, despondency and possessiveness, and promotes harmonious relationships. Rose Quartz is very calming and loving.

RUBY

Ruby, “A Stone of Love and Endurance” is another ancient Love Stone which encourages romantic love and promotes the ideal relationship. This crystal brings focus to the Heart and releases disoriented, trapped love energy. It protects the Heart from unnecessary love-suffering and promotes the attainment of love objectives: health, happiness, wealth, spiritual knowledge The luminous Ruby is associated with romantic love and love of self. Ruby brings integrity, devotion, and happiness. It is said to strengthen both the physical and the emotional heart, bringing courage to the wearer. Confidence, vitality, stamina, and strength are all qualities associated with Ruby. The Ruby is filled with love. It also helps sexual love to be more passionate. Persons lacking in self-love should have and meditate on the Ruby. It also gives the courage to be the best potential that a person has.

Psychotherapy works by going deep into the brain and its neurons and changing their structure by turning on the right genes. Psychiatrist Dr. Susan Vaughan has argued that the talking cure works by ‘talking to neurons,’ and that an effective psychotherapist or psychoanalyst is a 'microsurgeon of the mind’ who helps patients make needed alterations in neuronal networks.
—  Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself

Grounding (what I do to help ground myself):

  • Cleaning and changing my bed sheets 
  • Doing laundry
  • Dancing and/or singing
  • Baking and/or cooking
  • Take a shower and finish off the last 5 min with a cold rinse
  • Wash your face and rinse with cold water and moisturize
  • Brush your teeth (make sure you get your tounge) 
  • Drink ice cold water
  • Walk barefoot (in grass or the woods preferably)
  • Work with plants and animals – garden, walk your dog, volunteer at a shelter/humane society
  • Pet therapy – yes that’s an actual thing, talk to your therapist and or look up online to see if there are any options for pet therapy in your area
  • Somatic therapy
  • Grounding meditation of your choice
  • Breathing techniques
  • Put pressure on your chest by hugging a pillow or putting something heavy on your chest while you lay on your back – your cat, if willing, would work perfectly (I have a purple pillow so it’s perfect for this sort of thing)
  • Weighted blanket / weighted vest
  • Go out into nature and explore! No matter what time of year.
  • Go for a jog/run
  • Do yoga
  • Any other form of exercise
  • Writing about your day / how you’re feeling in the moment (journaling/blogging)
  • Massage therapy / scalp massage (if anyone is willing to help you)
  • Cuddling with loved one or animal loved one
  • Sensory modalities
  • Mindfulness activities using a sensory cue
  • Creation of a personalized sensory kit (bin of rice/beans/beads that you can run your hands/feet through and other physical stimming tools/toys)
  • Go swimming (natural body of water preferable)
  • Watch something funny that’ll make you laugh your ass off
  • If you’re too cold try and get warm, if you’re too warm try and cool off a bit
  • Eat something really healthy – my go-to grounding meal is spinach, romaine, roasted red pepper hummus, fresh guacamole salad with freshly chopped green bell pepper and scallions with some fresh minced cilantro, cumin seeds, and dried oregano. With a side of carrots. It’s heavy but also healthy. And then a keto dessert of choice (low carb – high fat). 
SELF-CARE TIPS:

•*•*• 5th April 2017 •*•*•

- Breathe. (Most important one!)

- Sit alone (or with someone, if isolating yourself would have a negative effect).

- Buy a cheap face mask and put it on.

- Read a book.

- Watch a movie.

- Video chat with someone.

- Call someone.

- Clear up your contacts and consider removing people you don’t need.

- Write a journal.

- Write a letter (to yourself or someone else).

- Drink some water, herbal tea, hot chocolate or juice.

- Eat a healthy snack that you like.

- Jog/swim/cycle/etc.

- Drive aimlessly (but safely).

- Write a poem/song.

- Draw.

- Listen to music.

- Be with a pet.

- Cry, then do one of the others.

- Give yourself a massage.

- Have a bath/shower.

- Volunteer with something that means a lot to you.

- Treat yourself (not impulsively, but something you want).

- Allow yourself to feel how you feel and talk to a therapist/mental health charity.

- Do your makeup/nails.

- Meditate/pray.

- Go to a park and watch the world go by, either paying attention to the details or releasing all focus (except safety).

- Watch relaxing videos on YouTube.

- Forgive yourself and others (this does not mean allowing people to mistreat you).

- Say no (sometimes it’s necessary or you’ll be worn down).

- Embrace your “flaws” and remind yourself that things we see are usually edited.

- Lightly learn some interesting trivia.

- Unplug for a little while (but be safe).

We do so much to help our friends, family and others, but often forget about ourselves. Take 10+ minutes a week to do something to make yourself feel refreshed. Things may be tough right now. They may get better or it may be something that doesn’t, but you are worthy of happiness and support. There is no shame in seeking therapy and it would benefit nearly every person on earth. Taking care of yourself is not giving up or being selfish - it’s incredibly important.

Grounding Meditation

So, meditation has a scientific background.  The practice of mindfulness meditation has been put into active practice in psychotherapy for over 40 years now, because it has been shown to meaningfully help people become aware of (and, thus, control) their thought processes.  I am borrowing from that proven method for my grounding, and am thus utilizing methodology from The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook.  For the record, however, that is merely because I already have that book in digital PDF form.  Mindfulness meditation is also commonplace to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and many other psychological therapy practices.


Mindful Grounding

1.) Find/secure/make a place you can meditate.  This is a broad statement, for a reason.  Lots of meditation how-tos are ridiculously exclusionary.  Not everybody can hold a singular position for a long time, or sit in silence, or stand bare-footed alone in a forest.  So here’s what you need to do, in the most general form - find somewhere where you can be focusing on yourself as best as you can for a good length of time.  If that’s walking, because you have ADHD and can’t sit still, that’s okay.  If that’s laying down, because you can’t sit without discomfort, that’s fine too.  If that’s sitting next to a laptop in your room because you need music to drown out noise from family or neighbors, do what you must.  Just try to make sure you’re able to focus on your thoughts and feelings, whatever it takes to get there.  My own personal meditation pose is in a chair, listening to low-BPM non-vocal music and/or nature sounds on a laptop through headphones.  You do what you need to do to get to where you can actually do the meditation.  That’s the important thing.

2.) Focus your attention on your breathing.  Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth.  See what speed it is, then try to slowly lengthen the amount of time you take with each breath.  Doing so triggers a mirror effect in your mind - when you are calm, you take longer breaths.  Thus, taking longer breaths brings your mind towards a calm state.  When you are able to easily exhale each breath for three to four seconds, or at the very least as long as you are comfortable maintaining, you are ready to move on to the next step.

3.) Give the Earth your trust and permission.  This planet of ours is ancient and powerful.  In a very real, literal sense, we are born of it.  Everything we are comes from molecules and elements that reside within or upon this floating sphere sitting in the vastness of space.  Everything within us will eventually return to it.  It’s entirely capable of handling our energies, as it does so every day in everything we do.  Give it active permission to do so now, and trust in its capability to bring what you need back to you.

4.) Shift your focus to your thoughts and feelings.  Imagine that they are falling balls of light, drifting down in front of you.  Each time you think something, or feel something, or recognize a sensation - that is a ball of light.  You don’t have to visualize this, if that is difficult or impossible for you.  Just consider them as if they are something outside of your own core being, because they are indeed only temporary visitors inside you.  Thoughts pass, emotions wane, sensations cease.

5.) Identify your thoughts and feelings, as they happen, and then release them into the Earth.  Each time you think or feel something, give it acknowledgment.  Don’t judge it, don’t attempt to suppress it - just recognize it for what it is.  Then let it go.  Allow each and every little ball of light to sink into the ground around you and absorb into the patient, powerful Earth.  Every thought can pass.  Every emotion can dwindle, given enough time.  Release everything after you have recognized it for itself.  You have already given the world permission to return to you what you need in the future, and you can trust it to do so - as it gives you the air you breathe and the water you drink.  With each individual spark you release, you make room for more.  Then, when you release those, still more… until you have let everything slip away.

6.) Relax, for whatever time you have left to meditate.  By releasing your negative thoughts and emotions into the Earth, you have created more space for the beneficial things you wish to keep as they are returned to you.  You have also bridged the artificial gap mankind creates between itself and the surrounding world which sustains us.  This link may bring you a sense of peace, or wholeness, or other positive energies.  Take the time you have to soak up this feeling, so you can use it for constructive ends in the future.