Works in Progress // Michael

Experiencing a panic attack for the first time back in 2007, Michael didn’t make the decision to get help until 2012. Living alone with his anxiety for five years, he welcomed this new chapter of life.

Recovering from anxiety, depression and agoraphobia, Michael has come out on the other side a kinder, more understanding, and stronger human being. Read Michael’s full story below.

 

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Name: Michael

Age: 26

 

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

In 2007, I experienced a panic attack for the first time. It wasn’t until 2012 that I decided I needed professional help. My decision to leave it for five years and to live alone with it, was one of my biggest mistakes during my battle. The first few years, I would have panic attacks and be able to get on with my day as normal, it wasn’t stopping me from traveling, working, having a social life. It was always with me but didn’t have a hold over me. In 2012, I went through a bad break up – this is when my anxiety went from 60% to 110%. This was the stage I first started to experience depression, even though the relationship was very negative and a big cause of most of my anxiety.

It was the first time I felt alone with my anxiety, even though I never told the person I was in a relationship with. I always just felt safe having her by my side. So now, I am alone, anxious, and depressed. I decided this was the time I really need to sort my life out and number one on my list was professional help for my mental illnesses.

 

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

Anxiety is now apart of my day to day life. From the moment I wake up, it’s on my mind until the moment I go to sleep. On bad days it keeps me up. My anxiety over took everything at one point – I moved back home with my parents, left my job, slowly distanced myself from all my friends and I went through a stage of about six months where I didn’t even leave my home. My anxiety and depression now had agoraphobia to add to my mental illnesses.

My life felt like it was done. I was very suicidal. So many suicidal thoughts, but I never really had the intention to follow through. I was at the point where I was so afraid of dying I stopped living. Help wasn’t coming to find me, so I found out you could have therapy session via Skype. My therapist was the first person that made me believe there was a way out. After an hour session I actually had hope. The first thing we worked on was my anxiety – how to cope with a panic attack. I was told to accept the panic attack, reassure myself I will be fine, like the other times and let it pass. Such a simple coping method, but for me so effective. Taking my phone out and playing a game is a coping method I still use now. Distracting my mind during an attack is the most effective way to stop me sitting and overthinking and making it a full blown attack.

I have social anxiety and healthy anxiety. The health anxiety always becomes effective during an attack. I always fear a heart attack, so I use a app called Calm and do some breathing techniques to bring my heart rate back down. My agoraphobia is something I’m still working on, but I have a few methods. I used to drink alcohol just to get me out the house, but this was helping my anxiety for that afternoon. The next day, my anxiety was 100x worse, so I stopped that.

My agoraphobia recovery is simple – I have to face it. It started out with a three minute walk to the end of my street – small steps nothing crazy. Some days I would turn back after 20 seconds. Walking with someone makes it easier for me, walking my dog or having my headphones in. All of these mental illnesses are still in my life, but I don’t fight them anymore. I accept them and let them pass. I face them, the more I meet them, the weaker they are become.

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

It has made me kinder, more understanding, and more grateful for my life. It has helped me become closer with my family and I have made some new amazing friends that understand and support me.

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness?

Talk about it. Get help as soon as possible. Don’t be ashamed that you have a mental illness and don’t be so hard on yourself – you didn’t choose this.

The dark hole you are in now is possible to get out of. I have seen and heard many people doing it and I am half way out myself. 

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below to be featured on the blog!

Keep It Grape Art // Self Care Pack Review

Today was a great day. I decided to attend an event in my area called San Diego Festival of Books, where I walked around and did some networking for the blog. I met fantastic, creative people and I’m so excited to collaborate with them.

Putting yourself out there is not only draining – it can be a challenging task. While everyone was thrilled to hear about Anxiety Erica, my anxiety can find it easy to get worked up about whether everyone truly is interested in what I have to say. Paired with the fact that one or two posts I did on my Instagram didn’t go over as well as ones previously in the week, my anxiety was looming over the fact that I wasn’t good enough. That not enough “likes” equates to the caliber of my writing, my healing process. That’s not reality. I fought it in my ANT journal, because this blog is way too important to me to let a silly, trivial thing like social media likes bring it down. But, I was still a little drained.

Then my Keep It Grape Self Care Pack arrived in the mail. Game changer. 

Almost like mental health mail from the gods above, this package came right at the moment I needed it most. It made me realize I am making a difference – I’m connecting with creative, sensitive, and strong women like Katherine. 

Located over at @keepitgrape, Katherine is one of the purest souls I’ve ever encountered. Just 17 years old, Katherine is a freelance artist with her own online store filled with positivity prints, self care packs, custom commissions, zines, stickers, and poetry. Pouring her heart and soul into each piece she creates, she does it all while battling paranoid schizophrenia.

In addition to her art, she has a blog where she interviews other bloggers on the importance of mental health, recipes and positivity. You can check out her interview with me here! 

Madly in love with her fire, I’m beyond grateful to know this young, talented treasure in some shape or form. She sent over one of her wonderful Self Care and Realization Packs and boy was it filled with some goodies! Take a peek at the photos below to see some of the beautiful artwork, prints, info, recipes, stickers, and helpful mantras she included:

Self Care & Realization Packs 

Intended to promote relaxation and self care, these powerful packs get you to understand the importance of caring and maintaining your body. Focused on the essential mantra that we all deserve self care, Katherine showers each and every customer with love, positivity, and encouragement.

Tip Cards 

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Self care is important, but what if you don’t know what that means? While it’s different for each individual person, Keep It Grape has some great starter tips to delve deeper into what works for you!

Recipes

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This was a wonderful reminder for me, honestly. While I can be really good at self care involving reading, bath time, and relaxation – I’m lacking in the food department. I can be pretty lazy when it comes to cooking or prepping of any kind, so these recipes were a welcome sight. I plan to try this one out!

Prints 

Positivity can be hard to find sometimes. Not only great reminders to love ourselves, these prints are just gorgeous. Promoting and symbolizing self care and relaxation, I will be hanging them on my cork board next to my bed – that way I see the important words when I wake up and fall asleep at night.

Drawings 

I won’t lie, these were my all-time favorite. I adored everything in this package but these small, simple drawings were perfect. Encouraging self love and growth, they are beautiful and tiny enough to keep in your car, purse, tote bag, or on your bookshelf. Anywhere you are, there is a constant reminder of love, hope, and positivity!

Personal Thank You Note & Sticker 

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As if all of the goodies in the package weren’t enough, Katherine sneaks a lovely, personal note and sticker into my Self Care Pack. Reading through it filled me with inspiration, hope, and honestly eased my anxiety from the day. Job well done. 

 

With a combination of creativity and heart, Katherine makes it her full time job to bring others happiness with Keep It Grape. From opening up her package today, it was clear just how much she lives and breathes this work. She gives each person a piece of her heart. I’m proud to know such a talented, motivated and beautiful young woman – she is truly the future of mental health.

 

To learn more about Keep It Grape and Katherine’s art, visit http://keepitgrape.tictail.com/. Head to her blog and Instagram to see her latest pieces! 

Works in Progress // Beata

Misdiagnosed with depression, Beata heard the words “bipolar disorder” for the first time in 2008. Finally given a name to her struggle in her thirties, she’s thrived on a detailed plan for mental strength and wellness.

Building a blog, Tickle My Mind, that shares her own journey – as well as the stories of others – Beata preaches a message of self care, support, and sustaining your goals.

 

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Name: Beata English (pronounced Bee-ah-ta)

Age: 44

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time? 

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008 and recently diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).  My first symptoms reared up in my teens. I spent a lot of time in my teens and early 20’s living the party life and living life on an emotional roller coaster. 

In 2008, I heard the word “bipolar disorder” for the very first time. I never felt more alone than I did in that moment sitting in my car outside my doctor’s surgery, looking down at my prescriptions with names I couldn’t pronounce, to treat an illness I had only ever heard bad things about. When the word bipolar was first mentioned to me as an illness, I immediately froze. I did not know anyone who had bipolar and my only experiences with the term had come from overly exaggerated and stigmatizing representations. In that moment I immediately rejected my diagnosis. I didn’t feel comfortable with it. 

I didn’t get properly diagnosed until I was in my thirties. I think I was late in getting diagnosed for a number of different reasons. My psychiatrist and doctor always refer to me being ‘high functioning’. Throughout my journey from undiagnosed teenager to diagnosed in my thirties, my mental health affected almost every area of my life. Education, career, my self-image. 

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?-

I was first misdiagnosed with depression only. I was prescribed anti-depressants to treat it and ended up suffering a severe manic episode. In most cases, prescribing anti-depressants only to a person who has bipolar disorder can trigger a manic episode. That was the moment the doctor realized it was more than only depression. Honestly, I did not know what it meant – but I learned pretty quickly. It meant I was very sick, that I was self-medicating an illness I had no idea I had, and that unless I sought and accepted treatment, my life would not be as happy and productive as I had planned or dreamed it would be.

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

Yes I still experience episodes, but these full-blown episodes are now very rare.  

I have created a mental wellness plan that helps keeps me stable and well. I’m constantly learning more about myself and my illness, and any new research – my plan is a living document that can be improved and refined when needed. 

My wellness plan did not get created overnight. It was a process of trial and error over a period of time. To be honest, it’s still a work in progress. Some of the things my plan includes is taking my medication as prescribed every day, visits to the GP, healthy eating, exercise, meditation, tracking and monitoring my triggers and mood, no alcohol or illegal drugs, a strict sleep routine, practicing self-care, gratitude and journaling. 

Positive psychology has also played a big part in my wellness strategy. Scientific research has shown that there are strategies and skills that allow you to navigate the challenges of life more effectively and enjoy life despite the upsets.  It may seem like a lot of hard work, and it is – but it does get easier. I have been diagnosed with a chronic illness and like any chronic illness, there are a number of lifestyle changes that need to be incorporated into your daily life. 

Another important thing that I need to mention – you can’t do this on your own. You need to reach out for help. Your friends, family, GP, mental health organizations – they are all there to support you. With the right combination of lifestyle changes, and medication, I have been able to manage my illness successfully. 

Preventing a relapse requires motivation, a commitment to your own health, discipline, structure, courage, and more importantly a belief that you can get better. Make yourself a priority.  Every battle with a mental illness is different, my message is, be patient. There will be setbacks, sometimes big ones, and possible relapses, but there will also be moments that take your breath away for all the right reasons. My motto is to hold on. It took me a while to learn this and that’s okay. Everyone is on their own journey moving at their own pace. Everyone will have their own ways of coping and their own ways of dealing with their illness – but please don’t be afraid to seek help, or to talk about how you feel.

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

I created Tickle My Mind, which is a place for me to write about my journey with mental illness and a place to empower as many people who have been touched by mental illness to live a healthy, happy, rewarding and balanced life. I am currently writing my first book, part memoir, part mental wellness guide and I’m studying a Diploma of Positive Psychology. I am also a Community Ambassador for RUOK? Day. 

I now find happiness in writing, a pastime I never thought I would be doing. I love spending time writing and promoting mental health awareness. Tickle My Mind is a place I share stories, lessons and tools that helped me to succeed, become well and to continue to stay well. Now, I advocate mental health wellness and I hope the things that I have to share will help someone else – somewhere along their journey. One thing I know for sure – it truly is possible to live a happy, meaningful and productive life despite what it throws in our path.

Without my mental illness, I doubt I would have become the strong, determined person I am today. I have learned to be non-judgmental and I have developed a strong burning desire to help others. I met my husband and soulmate, who is the single most joyful and important thing in my life.

Would I feel so deeply? Would I make the most of every happy day and squeeze as much into them as possible, the way I do now? Would I have created Tickle My Mind and studied Positive Psychology, which means the world to me without the experiences I have had to inspire me?  Would I have learned who my true friends and family are, those who have stood by me no matter what and who make my life so blessed and fulfilled? Would I be the person I am today, who I am so proud to be, without all of those experiences and without my bipolar disorder? I don’t believe any of those things would have happened without my illness. I don’t believe that I would be the person I am today, without what I have been through.  

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

I want to be honest, and say that managing bipolar disorder isn’t easy.  At times you may feel defeated, find yourself discouraged, and want to stop treatment. Every time I feel that way, I need to remind my that my brain isn’t functioning properly. I don’t resent having bipolar disorder, it’s part of the person I have become. I made sure that I continued to reach out to my friends and loved ones for support. 

Looking after myself or self-care, is important in helping me stay at the top of my physical, emotional and mental well-being. When things are getting a bit tough, it becomes so important for me to take good care of myself.  Whether it’s a stressful period at work or home, taking time to focus on self-care is essential to my well-being. Self-care helps me function at a higher level, and feeling good enables me to take on life’s challenges.

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below and you could be featured on the blog! 

3 Ways To Embrace Uncertainty

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase – the only certainty is that nothing is certain. In life, we come face to face with uncertainty on a daily basis. Whether it’s not knowing the outcome of a romantic relationship when it’s hit rocky terrain or feeling unsure about the stability of your job, the “not knowing” makes us uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. 

But you know what comes from being uncomfortable? You guessed it – growth. Before I started my own journey with therapy, I had a very hard time with this. Uncertainty and change were swear words to me, I didn’t embrace the idea – I either ran from it or ruminated to the point of exhaustion.

Anything from not knowing the outcome of a job interview, test, paper, or even not hearing back from a person about plans made would send me into a toxic cycle of obsessive thoughts and crippling anxiety. It was only through speaking with my therapist that I’ve come to this realization: Uncertainty is a natural part of life…and it can be a positive. 

It’s all in how you think about it. Then again, that’s usually the case with most situations. Like I always say, how you think moment to moment matters. This is no different.

I think the hardest part about dealing with uncertainty is the attachment we give to any specific outcome. When an event or situation has a genuine significance to us, it’s almost a knee jerk reaction to get comfortable with one way things could turn out.

While many attempt to control or avoid it, let’s talk about some ways we can embrace uncertainty and learn to tolerate it.

Cut off the control

When things don’t go our way, or have the potential not to, what’s the first thing anxiety holds onto? Control.

Through uncertainty, we learn that control is tricky. While we cannot control the situation or others – how they react or feel to certain situations – we can control ourselves.

Take control of your language and the words, thoughts you use. Negative talk is not going to help you grow through an uncomfortable situation. Thinking thoughts like, “I’m just going to fail,” “This is killing me,” or “Worst day ever,” are just fueling your negative automatic thought spiral. Instead, get in the driver’s seat of your own mind. Control the questions you ask yourself:

“Why is this happening?” 

“How can this be a good thing?”

“What can I do – or think – to help my situation?”

 

This is known as cognitive restructuring – a very powerful way to get more comfortable with uncertainty. When we no longer blindly accept the automatic negative thoughts that have come so easily in the past, we are developing the skills to battle them.

Another example would be if the thought, “I can’t handle this uncertainty” goes through your mind, challenge it with “Uncertainty is less than ideal, but I accept it and I can handle whatever comes my way.”

Your inner monologue is really the only thing you can truly control in an event of uncertainty.

See the future as open, not empty 

When the unknowns in life are looming like a dark cloud, it can be so easy for our minds to go straight to the negative. Whether you are just graduating college and starting out in the “real” world, experiencing a breakup, or any other form of change you don’t have a handle on, do not allow yourself to see the future as a wasteland.

Interpret the future as open, not empty. While we may think worse case scenario, there are endless possibilities waiting in the unknown, and that is kind of exciting. From one door closing, or an event ending a chapter of your life, something bigger might be just around the corner – it’s all how you perceive it.

Get some extra support

Dealing with uncertainty is tough and while our normal support system can be comforting – sometimes you need a little extra help.

My own therapist has some great tools and mantras for me when uncertainty crowds my thoughts. She suggested repeating the Serenity Prayer to myself in times of high anxiety during change, or uncertainty. While I am not religious, when taken in an empowering way, this prayer can be helpful (this is a section of the prayer, not the entire thing):

“Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.”

You can even write it down. Create a list of what you believe is in your control and take action with those activities, if you need to do something to ease your anxiety. Also, make a list of what you cannot control, and visualize yourself handing it off to whatever you deem a higher power – or just releasing it. It doesn’t have to be handing off. For me, I visualize writing the list and then just actively letting it go. Allowing it to float away, into the sky. It’s calming and empowering to let go. 

That extra support doesn’t always have to be a therapist though. While I lean on my therapist in trying times, I also have researched and found other, smaller ways to ease my anxiety. One of those is Simple Habit. A guided meditation app with exercises tailored for any kind of situation, I have a specific session I always find myself going back to when I’m high anxiety. It’s called Dealing With Failure and one of the mantras that they have you repeat goes like this:

“I do not have to be perfect and I learn from situations that have outcomes other than what I anticipated.” 

Whenever I find myself anxious from an outcome I didn’t envision, I repeat this to myself over and over again, until the reality of the statement overpowers my irrational thoughts. We can learn from uncertainty and change, if we chose to.

 

Uncertainty is inevitable. No matter how hard we may try, controlling it doesn’t work – and can even make our anxiety even worse. Change or “not knowing” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or something to wish away. It’s merely calling on us to practice acceptance, learn healthy control, and let go of created expectations.

 

 

Do you struggle with uncertainty? Share your story in the comments below! 

 

Automatic Negative Thoughts // The Power of Journaling

Since I was making up stories as a kindergartner, writing has always been my outlet. When I started therapy, my therapist began to realize just how essential it was to my life, and how it could be not only a form of expression, but emotional. Cathartic.

She suggested I buy a small journal just for my ANTs, which are Automatic Negative Thoughts.  These thoughts are cynical, irrational and come through our brains all by themselves. We experience them every minute of every day of our lives, and for the first time in a long while, I was taught how to combat them head on. Writing in this journal made me realize just how important thoughts are. They can either help or hurt you. If the irrational ones are left unnoticed, they can start to affect relationships, work, and your entire life. First, we need to notice them. If we catch them the moment they occur, we chip away at their power.

 

When a negative thought goes unchallenged, your mind believes it and your body reacts to it. 

 

For example, if I would walk into work, sit down, and my boss wouldn’t say good morning, my brain automatically thinks, she’s angry with me, or I’ve done something wrong. These are negative thoughts that need to be confronted with reality. Whenever thoughts like these would cross my mind, I would stop and write it in my ANT journal – didn’t matter where I was. I literally brought it everywhere. First date, out with friends, a concert – you name it. 

 

Here’s an example of the ANT form:

 

Step 1: Event – Write out the event that is associated with your thoughts and feelings. 

Step 2: ANT – Write out the Automatic Negative Thought.

A few examples of typical ANTs are: 

“You never listen to me.” 

“You don’t like me.”

“This situation isn’t going to work out. I know something bad will happen.”

“This is stupid.”

“He doesn’t want to talk to me.”

“I should have done better. I’m a failure.”

 

Step 3: Species – Identify the type of irrational thought.

Here are the different labels for ANTs: 

“Always or never” thinking: thinking in words like always, never, no one, every one, every time, everything

Focusing on the negative: only seeing the bad in a situation

Fortune telling: predicting the worst possible outcome in a situation

Mind reading: believing that you know what another person is thinking, even though they haven’t told you

Thinking with your feelings: believing negative feelings without ever questioning them

Guilt beatings: thinking in words like “should, must, ought or have to”

Labeling: attaching a negative label to yourself or to someone else

Personalization: innocuous events are taken to have personal meaning

Blame: blaming someone else for your own problems

 

Step 4: Kill the ANT – Talk back to the irrational thoughts. 

 

Now, here’s an example of a real-life ANT being written down and corrected. This is one from my very own ANT journal:

 

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How you think moment by moment matters. It plays a large role in how you feel, behave, and the way in which your life turns out. Negative thoughts can cause you to feel internal discomfort or pain, leading you to behave in ways that alienate others. Hopeful thoughts can influence positive behaviors and lead people to feel good about themselves and be more productive in the day to day.

Listen, I’m not saying that we should just snap our fingers and wash away all the negative thoughts because that’s just unrealistic. I’m saying that these automatic negative thoughts are completely irrational. The ones that seep into our minds and convince us we are failures, pathetic, and that everything is our fault – that no one wants us around, everyone thinks we are too much. Do they though? Is that reality? Nope, it’s not. It’s time to fight against that for a stronger way of thinking.

Honestly, at first I thought writing these thoughts down was a little dumb. I didn’t think it was helping me but a year and a half later – I don’t even need to write it down anymore to correct my thoughts, and that’s exactly what my therapist intended. Since I’ve written it down time after time, whenever I have one of these thoughts, I do these four steps in my head in a matter of seconds. It takes a lot of practice to get to that level, but it’s so worth it.

Whenever I noticed an ANT entering my mind, I trained myself to recognize it and write it down. When we write down our negative thoughts and talk back to them, we start to take away their power and gain control over our mood. Kill the ANT by feeding our emotional anteater. 

Whenever we need to be in control of our mind – times when we’re feeling anxious, depressed or frazzled – it’s essential to turn to something that works. I allowed these negative thoughts to control every mood I had, every friendship I was in, and basically every relationship. It’s time to stop giving these thoughts any more power. Don’t believe everything you hear, even in your own mind. 

 

 

 

Do you use the ANT journaling method? How does it work for you? 

 

 

Self Care Sunday // Wisteria Fox

I’ve always been a believer in the beauty of a great bath. Soothing and relaxing, it can help to heal the stresses and anxiety of a bad day. That being said, I also don’t believe that throwing a bath bomb in the tub solves all your issues associated with mental illness. Self care – however you practice it – is just one part of the picture. Therapy, journaling, cognitive behavioral tools. All of these things together is how I battle my anxiety.

Suffering from anxiety and depression, Alyssa Vicari –  the woman behind Wisteria Fox – truly understands the importance of self care. Baths always had the ability to calm, relax, and escape Vicari away from the stressers in life, so she created beautiful bath products that could help distract and benefit her skin. Eventually, she began selling her products so others could have this escape as well.

Researching different brands that spread the important message of self care, I stumbled upon Vicari’s shop and got to speak with the woman herself. A kind, gentle soul with a passion for healing others, I was all too happy to purchase a box.

Not only does Vicari sell these wonderfully scented products – she hand makes them. Vegan and cruelty-free, all the products are completely natural, using SLSA, an alternative to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. But don’t worry, the bath bombs still foam and fizz to your heart’s desire. Derived from coconut and palm oils, they smell heavenly.

This month, Vicari unleashed a new idea: Self-care boxes. For June, the theme was, “Goodbye Negative Mind, Hello Positive Life.” Loaded with a potential mix of bath bombs, bubble bars, bath soaks, body scrubs/shimmer scrubs, the box also comes with tips and tricks for coping and dealing with mental health issues/anxiety/stress, handmade stickers, drawings, and quotes.

While my box was a little bit different than the others, here is what was inside!

Amber Sunset // Mind Over Matter Bath Bomb

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A soothing, salmon colored bath bomb, Mind Over Matter is scented with base notes of raspberry, cantaloupe, and watermelon, middle notes of jasmine and violet, and fresh top notes of grapefruit and kumquat.

To say the least, it’s a serious plethora of scent. Last night, I used this bath bomb and it made for an extremely calming, content experience. I finished up watching GLOW on Netflix, and just soaked in the tub, smelling like an array of wonderful scents, it was great.

As an added bonus, once your bath bomb is all fizzled out, there’s a Carnelian stone inside of it! While I’m not super informed about the healing benefits nor do I practice, I’m always up for learning new information!

Providing protection from negative emotions from others and within yourself, the Carnelian stone is a great guide to a renewed love of life, increases inner strength, and grounds energies to the present. I even received a little note in the box on tips and best practices for using the stone!

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Wild Spirit // Essential Oil Bath Bomb 

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Scented with lemongrass essential oil and topped with dried lavender buds, this bath bomb is the perfect recipe for a Saturday night in. Notes of eucalyptus and spearmint are included for the utmost of relaxation.

On top of the beautiful bath products, I also received two adorable tips and reminders for my mental health:

The first was this super cute ornament saying, Without rain, nothing grows. I just love it! I ended up hanging it on my cork board next to my bed, so I can see it when waking up and falling asleep at night.

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And lastly, there was a really creative activity in the box! I received a bunch of cut out, white paper butterflies with a note that told me to write a negative thought on the butterflies, place it under a thin layer of soil, water, and watch as that negative statement or word turns into something beautiful. What a wonderful message, I absolutely loved the idea and will be trying it out soon.

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I absolutely loved all the different products and activities in my Wisteria Fox Self Care box! It was so beautifully packaged – I would definitely consider ordering another one. It brought some excitement and healing to my day in a simple way. It’s so essential to practice self care and when a company – and its founder – are part of this wonderful mental health community, it seems like a no brainer.

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If you want to treat yourself and learn to practice more self care, order a Wisteria Fox Self Care box to help heal your heart and soul.

Visit https://wisteriafoxshop.com/ to shop the many soothing smells.

 

Do you have a specific routine for self care? Share your practices in the comments below. 

The Magic of Mindfulness // Get Outta Your Head

I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t always convinced on mindfulness. Before starting therapy, I didn’t think much of it and had judgements of people who practiced it, merely because it was different and I had no understanding of it. Things are much different now.

I was first introduced to the idea of meditation and mindfulness when I started attending therapy over a year ago. In my therapy, my therapist focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy to help with my anxiety. This means treating mental illnesses or anxieties with solutions, encouraging patients to challenge distorted realities and actively change destructive patterns of behavior. One of the solutions I was given was to practice more mindfulness.

I went searching for new ways to calm my mind and landed on Simple Habit – an app that gives you endless meditations for literally any possible life situation. There are several mindfulness apps on the big wide web, and it’s about finding the one that works best for you. This particular app just clicked with me and I started listening to the different meditations. It wasn’t until I was using it for a few months that I discovered one specific session that spoke to me most: Dealing With Failure. In that session, there was a meditation called “Shame” that had me repeat several mantras to myself, the very last being: I am good enough. Being good enough is a huge insecurity for me – and many others who suffer from mental illness – so being forced to say that to myself over and over was essential.

From that point on, this meditation became a lifesaver for my anxiety. The very first time I noticed that it saved me was when I had an anxiety attack at work. It was a particularly bad day, and I ended up having a terrible argument with a coworker where intense things were said, and that brought me right over the edge. I found myself in a fit of tears that I didn’t think I would recover from. It was then that I stopped, got up, and took a walk around the building. I took out my phone and started playing “Shame.” I repeated the words, brought myself back to reality, and went back inside.

Another example was more recently. I had a triggering conversation with a close friend where she called me out on my angry behavior since my breakup. I was defensive and hurt, so I escalated and personalized the situation. Once I got back to my car, I ended up having a full fledged anxiety attack in the parking lot. What did I do? Turned on Simple Habit. Just me and my mindfulness, blasting from the speakers of my car. To me, these aren’t just a few sentences strung together – it’s a form of magic.

With my newfound passion for mindfulness and all that it can bring, I’m honored to officially announce that I’m a brand ambassador for Outta! A Canadian based company with a message to get out of our heads and into our hearts, I just knew this brand was part of the sensitive, strong community that I’ve been so excited to know these past few months.

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Using their passion for fashion to show everyone that finding your purpose is possible, they are bringing mindfulness to the masses. I’m proud to be part of it. 

Even better? The products are all mindfully made too. Eco-friendly and they give back 10% of the proceeds to the mental health community.

If you need a daily reminder to get out of your head, use my code MINDFULERICA to get 10% of your purchase!

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What has mindfulness taught me?  Not just that I’m good enough, but that your thinking can be changed. Mental illness blurs my thoughts, making it hard to see reality  – meditation is just one way I arm my mind against anxiety.

A regular part of my self care routine now, mindfulness is not something you practice occasionally. You work at it every moment of every day. I have to play that “Shame” meditation over and over and over again until it becomes second nature to think:

I AM GOOD ENOUGH. 

 

 

 

How do you practice mindfulness with your mental illness? 

5 Mindful Apps For Mental Health

While I wrote a blog post on unplugging from social media a little bit ago and the benefits that can come from disconnecting from your device, technology can also be a wonderful tool for mental health.

What if we had a way to harness the power of our screens when we were feeling anxious, depressed, and every range of emotion? Close to 19% of adults in the U.S. are affected by some kind of mental illness, so using apps as a supplement to in-person therapy is a welcome idea. While these apps don’t replace professional therapy, they can boost your mental health and overall well-being.

Swipe out of Candy Crush and Angry Birds and learn more about technology that’s a little more mindful in these apps below.

 

Simple Habit 

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My love for this mindful meditation app is probably biased – check out my blog post on it here – but that’s because it really works.

Great for busy bees that don’t always have time to pause, Simple Habit is an app that gives you mindfulness on the go. Donned the “Netflix of meditation,” this helpful app offers guided audio meditations anywhere from fifteen to five minutes long so that you can squeeze some serenity into your daily routine.

Personally, I’ve been using this app for close to a year and I can safely say that it’s my lifeline. Whenever I’m feeling high anxiety – or in the middle of an anxiety attack – I have a “Dealing With Failure” meditation I listen to. I get those headphones, press play and go for a walk to let the words really soak in.

 

Talkspace

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If you’re feeling really overwhelmed or need some help controlling your anxiety, waiting the days – or weeks – until you see your therapist can be difficult. With this important technology, anyone can get therapy without traveling to an office – and for significantly less money than traditional therapy.

While I personally need to have therapy in-person in order to benefit from it, this is a great – and cheaper – option. Allowing users to connect with licensed therapists anonymously in order to chat about what’s on their minds, the program has a bunch of different payment plan options, from unlimited message therapy for $25 per week, to 30 minutes of live video therapy for $29. Not being able to afford therapy is no longer an excuse – take the time to do what works for your lifestyle and mental health. 

 

Lantern

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Created by a team of researchers, technologists and clinicians, Lantern transforms cognitive behavioral therapy techniques into simple exercises. When I looked into this app, I was so excited because my own therapist focuses on cognitive therapy for my sessions. It’s a wonderful technique and has been really working for my anxiety.

All about removing the stigma and barriers that prevent people from strengthening their emotional selves, this app delivers a holistic approach to making each day a better one.

 

Pacifica 

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An app that lets you rate and track mood over time, provides guided deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, health goals and it’s free? Sounds too good to be true. Think again.

Also based in cognitive therapy, Pacifica attempts to break the cycle of anxiety using tools that target each of its components. Day by day, you’ll learn to manage your feelings at your own pace. Users can record their own thoughts to help analyze and understand their thinking patterns, as well as discover and track possible triggers.

 

Headspace

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Treat your head right with Headspace, a “personal trainer” for the mind. With 10-minute meditation lessons catering to different areas of life ranging from health and performance to relationships, this mindful app is on a mission to get people everywhere to look after their mental health with the simple activity of meditation.

While it’s the more pricey of these apps requiring a subscription, it’s also the most popular. Used in over 190 countries since 2010, Headspace is on its way to improving the health and happiness of the world – one meditation at a time.

 

It’s time to look to technology for helpful tools on improving mental health. While they aren’t substitutes for professional treatment, it’s nice to know there are options to get help and relaxation at your fingertips.

 

What apps do you use to boost your mental health? Share what tech works for you in the comments! 

 

 

 

 

How Simple Habit Helps Me Slay Anxiety

I know I like to call myself really self aware when it comes to my anxiety, but I didn’t always used to be that way. Before I started the journey into therapy last June (almost a year ago – nuts!) I was thinking irrational, insecure thoughts and having trouble keeping the people in my life because of the intensity level of my anxiety. Once I got into my sessions and felt comfortable talking about my insecurities and coming to realizations, I began to want to know more about why I was the way I am.

I delved deep into self help books, podcasts, and also guided meditation. When I first thought of the idea of mediation, I was entirely too judgmental of it. I thought it wouldn’t help me, and I’m not capable of shutting off my brain for any length of time…but’s that’s not all it is. From exploring yoga, guided meditation at my old work, and different podcasts, I discovered Simple Habit. Donned the “Netflix of meditation,” this helpful app offers guided audio meditations anywhere from fifteen to five minutes long so that busy people can squeeze some tranquility into their daily lives – and anxious ones can have a vital resource.

I used Simple Habit for months before I made the leap into paying for the app. Unlocking the premium level allows you to listen to any of the meditations with specific scenarios such as having a tough day to happiness at work. None had such a profound effect on me as the “Dealing With Failure” meditation. The session, “Shame” is one that I turn to on my worst days of anxiety, stress and fear. The reason I do this is because within that session, the narrator, Quentin Finney, teaches you to approach failure with ease and compassion – rather than fear and insecurity. He does this through a guided meditation and the use of repeating six key affirmations that can be applied to any kind of anxiety or specific situation in your daily life. Whenever I’m feeling severely anxious or like I’m not good enough, I grab my phone, break open the Simple Habit app, and get outside for a walk and a guided meditation.

Here are the six key affirmations that continue to help me each day:

I am worthy of happiness

Say this to yourself over and over and over until it’s memorized in that anxious brain of yours. I’m very guilty of forgetting that I’m allowed to be happy. Sometimes we can get caught up in all the negative thoughts and personalizing, that we forget to just stop and enjoy the things and people we have as a constant in our lives. Cherish them and realize you’re worthy of happiness.

I am worthy of appreciation from myself and others

When someone gives you a compliment – don’t just shrug it off or say, “don’t lie.” Accept it because guess what? You’re worthy of someone appreciating you or your awesome style. Even more importantly, appreciate yourself! If you’re feeling your outfit, hair, face, ass, boobs – whatever, voice that to yourself. Or if you know you rocked an interview yesterday or nailed a presentation at work – celebrate the small victories!

I am worthy of forgiveness for my mistakes and i recognize that others are worthy of forgiveness for theirs

This is a tough one for most. Like most people with anxiety, I can be incredibly hard on myself. Making mistakes are shrouded in anxiety and insecurity for me. Whenever I slip up or do or say something wrong, I don’t just apologize – I think about it for entirely too long.

How could I be so stupid?
I’m the worst.
I’m not good enough.

These thoughts should be sweating they run through my mind so much. Ruminating on negative thoughts is just a common part of having anxiety, but it’s crucial to combat these thoughts with reality. That’s why this phrase is great – it forces your mind to think about what is real. You aren’t perfect, you make mistakes and that’s okay. And guess what? You can forgive others when they make mistakes too.

I am worthy of being seen and heard, my actions and voice have value

As a woman in the workplace, it’s so important to know this affirmation. For years, I was not aware of the idea that my thoughts and opinions mattered at work, or really in general. I wouldn’t speak up in meetings or in social situations because I would just think, “well they don’t care what I think.” I’m here to break it to you – they do care. Turns out your opinions have value and sometimes you can have an amazing idea that no one else has thought of, you just have to speak up!

I do not have to be perfect and i learn from situations that have outcomes other than what i anticipated

Personally, this one hits home. I’ve never really considered myself a perfectionist or a control freak of any kind, but my anxiety flares up when things change. I can get a plan into my head and when something diverts from that, my anxiety has a hard time dealing. More recently, I’ve been able to battle this specific part of my anxiety and it’s been incredibly rewarding.

I am good enough

Sing, rap, whistle, scream – SHOUT this from the rooftops because you will literally never say it enough. You are good enough. I am good enough. I was never told or didn’t tell myself this mega important affirmation so I’m making up for lost time. I listen to this session daily and repeat this last phrase to myself over and over until I feel it. Whether I’m driving to work in the morning or going to bed at night, it’s the best way to end or start a day.

UPDATE: I’m beyond proud to say that Simple Habit (being the fantastic and dedicated company they are) saw this post and reached out to me and now it’s officially featured on their blog, check it out: https://blog.simplehabitapp.com/2017/02/21/guest-blog-how-simple-habit-helps-me-overcome-my-anxiety/

This is how I battle my daily bouts – what tools do you use to slay anxiety? Tell me, I want to know!

Create Your Own Calm: 7 Steps to Building An Anxiety Reducing Playlist

We all have that one song that calms our nerves, makes us feel at peace. Sometimes, it can be an entire playlist. If you find yourself feeling extra anxious about anything, whether it’s that big meeting at work tomorrow, or just knowing you have to talk on the phone later, it’s important to find an outlet for that increased stress.

Personally, I’ve found that music can be a powerful tool to calm my anxiety. With my anxiety, I will ruminate on my thoughts for hours unless I do something to distract or refocus my mind, so music is a great way to accomplish that. Music not only absorbs our attention, it can help us to explore emotions we haven’t even paid attention to yet. It aids in meditation and helps to prevent the mind from wandering too far.

Too busy for it? Music can be played anywhere – whether it’s in the car on the drive to work (that can be a stressful time) or for me, poppin’ in some headphones and listening to my playlist while walking my furry friend. There’s no excuse for having no time – make time for your mental health.

If you don’t know where to start on this magical, musical journey; I’ll be your anxiety spirit guide. Let’s do this!

1. ADDRESS YOUR EMOTIONS

When you blast a beat as you’re cleaning your room or listen to an upbeat song during your morning routine or workout, you’re using music therapeutically without even realizing it. When we are thoughtful about the selection of our music, we can build a powerful playlist that combats stress, anxiety and depression while increasing motivation and evoking positive emotions.
To start the process, let’s talk about those emotions. Sometimes this can be a hard step. Personally, I’m very self aware with my own emotions or anxieties, but if you have trouble – don’t be hard on yourself. Do what makes you feel comfortable. If you can, ask yourself:

 

What’s my current emotional state? Am I anxious, restless, or sad? 
 
How would I like to feel instead? 
 
With those questions in mind, you can gradually bring yourself to whatever state of mind you would like to achieve through music. You just need music that’s cathartic for your current mood and slowly guides you to your desired emotional state.

2. FEEL THAT FAMILIAR FUNK

Start combing through your own collection of music, whether that be your CDs (ha, I know these are obsolete by now, but who knows) records, iTunes, or the popular Spotify, to discover what genre or specific songs really resonate with you. Personally, I’ve been building my “Anxiety Playlist” for a few weeks now and whenever I stumble across a song, whether it be on a Spotify pre-made playlist or just through exploring, I immediately add it to my collection of calm. My favorite feel good song on my playlist happens to be “Why Should I Worry” by Billy Joel, and I’m not one bit ashamed of it. It’s one of my favorite Disney movies and it gives me a feeling of complete and total ease. Even hearing the words, why should I worry, gives me such a instant shock of relief and reality that my life is pretty great: why should I worry?

 

Memories, especially emotional ones, are stimulated by music and can transport us back in time instantly to the moment we experienced that specific song – and how it made us feel. Be aware of how songs make you feel and label them as happy, energizing, disturbing, etc. Most importantly, trust yourself and how you believe songs make you feel. Only you know what emotions you have and how to combat them, it’s all about finding that trust within yourself. Place different songs into categories according to your common moods like depressed, tired, anxious, stressed, and so on.

3. ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE

You know when your mom cranks up that country radio station and says, “you’ll love this song”? I love you mom, but I can guarantee you I won’t. If it doesn’t seep into your bones and feed your soul, don’t bother adding it to your playlist. You know what you like – explore your options and match those songs to different moods.

4. LET IT SPEAK TO YOUR SOUL

Music is the ultimate form of empathy. As humans, we’re constantly striving to be understood. This could explain why we enjoy music that’s relatable or that speaks to our soul. Certain lyrics of songs can validate our feelings and even provide comfort when they are suited to our current mood. For example, when you’re listening to sad music it actually causes your brain to produce the same neurochemical that’s released when you cry. This chemical, prolactin, helps to elicit feelings of comfort, which means that listening to a sad song when we feel depressed or down not only provides empathy, it’s causing our brains to begin the process of feeling better.

5. MATCH YOUR MOOD

Think about how you’re feeling right this minute. How fast are you moving? Is your heart racing? Are you feeling sluggish? Heavy? How fast are you breathing? There are many questions to consider before changing your mood with music. It can be easier to wade through matching your mood with the beat when you explore different musical elements such as tempo, volume, and harmony. Keep these things in mind when you’re creating your playlist. A great example is volume. If you are overstimulated and feel like you need to turn the world off, find a song with soft lyrics and instruments.

6. LOSE THE LYRICS

While I personally always attach myself to specific lyrics in song, I’ve found that songs without any lyrics have done wonders with my mood and anxiety. Lyrics leave a little less up to the imagination because someone else is telling the story. When lyrics are included in a song, our brain has to work even harder to process them. They could also stimulate more memories – good or bad. If you want to ease stress, allow your mind to wander without so intensely focusing on the music.

7. TRUST YOUR INTUITION

If you’ve listened to a song and felt yourself on the edge of tears (Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra – every time) or motivated to run that extra mile, you know the power music can have on your emotions. When we make a conscious effort, music can provide emotional comfort during the struggles of anxiety and depression. We have a serious knack for picking songs that soothe and heal just for us, without thinking too much about it. Trust the way you feel because it’s real and it’s valid. 
 

Well kids, that’s my advice on the matter. The amazing article on Anxiety.com also seriously helped with the organization of this post, because sometimes I need help. Now, I’ll leave you with my very own Anxiety playlist. Enjoy: