Strategies To Sleep Better In The New Year

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I have never been considered a “good sleeper”. When I was little, I had horrible night terrors and now, as an adult, I find that I am still having problems getting a good night’s sleep. I toss and turn and no matter how tired I am, I can’t seem to fall sleep at a “normal” time. Sleeping well has a huge impact on our mental health. Have you ever had to shut down a computer or phone in order to fix a problem? That is what sleep does for our brains. It’s a reset for better functioning. When we sleep well, we have better concentration, reduced stress, and improved memory. Along with a slew of other health benefits.

                So why is it that something so important, like good sleep, is difficult to achieve for many people? There are studies that show that screen time can play a role in not getting a decent night’s sleep. I know many people, myself included, find it relaxing to play on our phones right before sleep or watch some television to wind down. But, it can be hard to turn it off when we need too. We often say to ourselves “One more episode” or “One more level of candy crush and I will go to sleep”. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. It’s so easy passing time on our phones that we forget that we have to take care of our own needs. One way to get into the habit of getting more sleep is to set a time limit on your phone, computer, and television. There are many folks that cannot fall asleep without the television on or music playing for some background noise. If you need sound to fall asleep, maybe put on a show that you are less invested in. Re-runs of a comforting show are a good option. Another solution could be to try a sound machine with calming music, or nature sounds. I personally listen to the sounds of a thunderstorm from an app on my phone every night. It has been helpful on days where I have difficulty getting to sleep.

                While searching for ways to get a better night’s sleep, I found a large amount of articles insisting upon getting 30 minutes of exercise a day. For some, 30 minutes can feel like a lot. Many people struggle with finding the time, don’t know how to get started, or may not even like to exercise. I find that I am the type of person that needs a distraction when I exercise. Some people read, other people may listen to music that gets their energy flowing. For me, I find that watching a little TV makes it feel like the exercise is going faster. I try to break it down for myself. 30 minutes is approximately the same amount as one episode of television. It’s helpful for when I really don’t feel like getting motivated to exercise. Another way I get some motivation to get up and move is to reach out to friends, family or other supports. If I make plans with them ahead of time it’s hard to say that I just don’t want to when the time comes. With my friends, we like playing some exercise games to make it more fun. In one game, we write exercises down and put them in a cup and whatever we pull from the cup is the one we have to do. My advice is to experiment with different workouts and find something you actually enjoy doing and not what you think have to.

                Sometimes when I lay down to sleep, it’s the first time all day where I’m not busy. I’ve noticed that’s when my thoughts start rapid firing with worries, lists things I need to get done, and overthinking about everything. Like when I thought someone was waving to me and instead they were saying hi to someone else. It’s like my brain is saying “how embarrassing that was. Let’s think about that at 2 am and not sleep because of it”. It’s hard to shut our thoughts out as we try to find peace to be able to get some rest. One way I conquer my thoughts is, I let myself think of whatever thought is bothering me for 5 minutes and I let every thought about it flood my mind. After the 5 minutes, I don’t allow myself to think about it. When the thought comes back up I say “I gave that a thought and now I need sleep more than thinking about this.” It becomes a little bit of a mantra or phrase to help me get to sleep. One other way I do this is by free writing down all the thoughts in my head and just letting it all out on paper. Once it’s all on paper, I tell myself “It is out of my head for this very moment so I can take care of myself and sleep”.

                Sleep is such a wonderful way for us to take care of ourselves. Sometimes it’s just not easy to get a good night’s sleep. It can feel like an almost impossible task no matter how hard you try. When you start feeling like you’re tossing and turning, maybe turn on some peaceful sounds or music. This is a good alternative to being on our phones scrolling for hours. It’s also helpful to take some measures to ensure you get better sleep by exercising regularly. And on those days where our brains just won’t quit thinking about our worries, then allowing ourselves time to think about what is bothering us but then, when it’s time to get some sleep, repeating a phrase to ourselves when negative thoughts arise to block them out. Finding the right tools to get better sleep is different for everyone. These are just some of the strategies I find helpful in getting some extra sleep at night. Sleep well! 

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Emotional Support Animals

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When you think of animals helping people you may think of service dogs for the blind or animals that help rescue people in dangerous situations. Sometimes animals serve us in an emotional way too. They can be our companions that help us though distress caused by mental health symptoms. These animals are known as emotional support animals. The most common animals are dogs and cats but people also have lizards, birds, horses, bunnies, and all kinds of different species. These animals may not have special skills like service animals but they comfort us and let us know that we are loved. Sometimes when you’re going through something hard with your mental health, having a companion by your side can improve your thoughts and feelings.

 Although most support animals don’t have a set of particular skills to save you from a dangerous situation, they may still save your life. I have read countless stories where people say their pets saved their life because without them, they felt like they wouldn’t have had their mental health improve. Animals also distract us from mental health symptoms because you’re taking care of something other than yourself. When you are forced to take care of another life, it can drive you to take better care of yourself. When I have struggled with my symptoms of depression, taking my dog on a walk and getting out of the house helped me a lot. It allowed me to feel safe to leave the house because I had a companion and it allowed me to get a little exercise which is proven to boost one’s mood. Just petting your animal can boost your mood too. It fulfills a basic human need of love and caring for someone.

For me, having an emotional support animal is necessary for my mental health but it’s not for everyone. Sometimes it can be very difficult to take care of someone else when I am struggling with my symptoms of mental health. Having to play, walk, feed, and care for a pet can feel draining at times. Pets can be pretty expensive, as well. Food, toys, and vet appointments can add up and become costly. So having a plan of how you will be paying for these expenses will help with the shock of the cost of caring for a pet. That being said, I do think that having an emotional support animal has immensely improved my wellbeing and I am very thankful for my doggie. She helps raise my mood, comfort me, and gives me unconditional love but it has to be the right support for you. If you don’t feel like having a pet is right for you but you want to be involved with animals, volunteering at animal shelters could be just as rewarding and could still gain the benefits that animals can give.

Having an emotional support animal myself, I do believe in the power of their support. In my journey my dogs have been blessings. I have someone to take care of, to love and to be loved back. My dogs allow me the comfort of a companion that I don’t have to explain my hardships to but it feels like they somehow still understand and care for me. Its great coming home after a long day and having someone wag their tail and be excited to see me. It keeps me going on tough days. Although it can be difficult caring for and paying the expenses for a pet, I find the company to be very important part of my mental health journey and could be for yours too!

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Seasonal Changes and Mental Health

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I’ve noticed a trend with some of my mental health symptoms. Why do I always experience depression when cold weather hits? A while back, I started researching why my symptoms of mental health worsen around a seasonal change. And to my surprise, many people experience this phenomena, it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD (the acronym is ironically fitting). Some symptoms include depression, loss of interest, low energy, problems with sleeping, feeling agitated, or difficulty concentrating. Many people experience symptoms associated to Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months because the loss of sunlight during that time. But Seasonal Affective Disorder is not exclusive to winter time. It’s a pattern of symptoms that change with the seasons. Living in Michigan, we know that cold weather is just around the corner. To combat my mental health symptoms during the cold weather months, I have developed a couple of self-care techniques that I personally use whenever the weather changes. Hopefully you find them as helpful as I have.

When my winter blues start, the first thing I like to do is make a list of activities that help me feel better. For my list, I usually like to order my helpful activates to how difficult I find the task being vs. how much it helps me cope when times get hard. For example, I love painting and it helps me express my emotions. Although I truly enjoy painting, it can be so hard to find the motivation to paint when I am not feeling well. So I might put painting in the medium or hard section of my list of activities. On the other hand, I find a good cup of tea and a moment of peace and quiet to be helpful too, but that isn’t as hard for me to accomplish so I put that in the easy section of my list. The reason why I label how hard my coping activities are, is because it’s hard decide how to help myself when I am in think thick of being depressed or having anxiety.

The second thing I do to help myself during the season change is, try to remind myself of the good things about the change in weather. I typically start feeling more depressed in the fall going into winter. So I try to get excited about the things that happen during those seasons. Like in fall, I love the leaves changing colors, Halloween, bonfires, and scary movies. During the winter, I love Christmas, spending time around a fire with hot cocoa, and buying presents for my friends and family. I think it’s important to have something to look forward to. It’s a reminder that the season change might not be as bad as it can feel and to be grateful for new things to come.

Another way I fight off some of my symptoms is to remember that I have gone through a tough time before. I have also gone though many of hard seasonal changes and I have survived them. Although the change in season may still be hard, I have the confidence to say that I will overcome my negative experiences with seasonal changes because I have done it before! I also talk to my supports about this too. My supports help me remember that sometimes I just have to give myself the experience of not being okay. I have to allow my symptoms to pass on their own, because I know one day, I will start feeling better. 

I know that a sudden change in weather can often be daunting for many people who experience mental health symptoms, but there are some favors you can do for yourself to make it easier. You can build a list of activities you are able to do when you’re not feeling well, remind yourself of all the good that can come from change, and to remember that you’ve experienced these changes before and got through them. These are some of my best practices to make myself feel better about an upcoming seasonal change. What helps gets you through a difficult time? I would start thinking of this now as the cold weather will blow in before you know it.

 

 

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Journaling: A Step Closer To Knowing Yourself

Journaling

Journaling has a ton of benefits to coping with mental health challenges. Journaling is a coping skill that I personally have found myself turning back to time and time again in my mental health journey. Doodles, misspelled and smudged words are welcomed as it enhances the experience.

The reason I journal is because it relaxes me. Journaling permits me to release my emotions without fear of judgement. I let my emotions pour out onto the page – good or bad. Which is healing to give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling in the moment.  It’s a form of meditation because it allows you time to reflect on your day or things that you could be dealing with emotionally. Writing about something that I am struggling with allows me to slow down and take time to process what life can throw at you and deal with those feelings in a comfortable and safe way.

Journaling can help you feel more – you. Creative writing allows you to understand yourself. In my mental health journey, I have struggled with a sense of self. I would constantly ask myself “Who am I?” and “What do I want out of life?” While I realized these are some hefty questions to be asking myself, I didn’t even really know where to begin to answer questions like that. Through journaling, I discovered that I am constantly changing and so are the answers to those big questions. So it’s okay to not always have the answers right away and it takes time to learn about yourself, your needs, and the world around you.

 

 

I have found that being able to write down and reflect on my thoughts gives me confidence to speak my mind. A common obstacle for people struggling with mental health symptoms, myself included, is being able to voice our opinions. Journaling lets me practice speaking up because I can explore my opinions about something without feeling like I’m on stage. It just takes the pressure off having to immediately understand my thoughts on a particular subject or I can dig deeper as to why I do feel a certain way. I don’t just do this with big issues either. Sometimes I will just write about random things like music or books in order to feel comfortable about forming an opinion and expressing it. I am often surprised at what I discover about myself. Over time, I think it gets easier to express myself to others because it’s been practiced in my journaling.

If you have journaled before and found it difficult to get into, I suggest doing a bullet journal. A bullet journal is different from regular journaling because it can be just quick sentences or a way to organize your thoughts. When I bullet journal, I usually draw a little happy face or sad face depending on my mood for the day. Then I will just jot down short sentences about my mood or symptoms. I also write down things that may have affected my mood like the weather or how much sleep I got. It’s a tool to recognize my feelings and be able to track them. Sometimes I will share my journal with my doctors so they can better understand what is going on with me. If you have never journaled before, I suggest giving it a go. You will find how to make journaling work for you. For me, it’s the combination of free writing, drawing, and bullet journaling. Journaling is a custom way to express yourself, thoughts, emotions, and moods. It has helped me in my mental health journey and I believe it could help others experiencing mental health symptoms too.

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Talking About Mental Health with Your Supports

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A support system is group of people and organizations who positively impact your life. Support can come in a variety of ways. It could look like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, a peer, friend, or even a pet. Research shows that having a positive and understanding system of support is an essential piece of recovery. Unfortunately, it is all too common for people to avoid talking about their mental health challenges with their loved ones.

It’s not easy to do. Many people are fearful to admit that they’re not feeling well or that something is “off.” This is often due to stigma. People may wonder if their friends and family will see them differently or judge them harshly for the challenges that they’re experiencing. Instead, they try to mask what is going on, causing isolation and making the individual feel even worse.

If you are having trouble talking about mental health with the people in your life, you may be wondering how you could possibly tell someone. This is completely understandable. How can you put how you’re feeling into words? How will this person respond? If this is the case, these tips might help you to feel more confident and prepared to have this conversation.

 

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Talking About Mental Health with Your Supports

Talking-About-Mental-Health-Featured

 

A support system is group of people and organizations who positively impact your life. Support can come in a variety of ways. It could look like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, a peer, friend, or even a pet. Research shows that having a positive and understanding system of support is an essential piece of recovery. Unfortunately, it is all too common for people to avoid talking about their mental health challenges with their loved ones.

It’s not easy to do. Many people are fearful to admit that they’re not feeling well or that something is “off.” This is often due to stigma. People may wonder if their friends and family will see them differently or judge them harshly for the challenges that they’re experiencing. Instead, they try to mask what is going on, causing isolation and making the individual feel even worse.

If you are having trouble talking about mental health with the people in your life, you may be wondering how you could possibly tell someone. This is completely understandable. How can you put how you’re feeling into words? How will this person respond? If this is the case, these tips might help you to feel more confident and prepared to have this conversation.

 

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Putting Yourself First: Self-Care

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Self-care is about caring what happens to you. It means doing something that is creative, fun or good for you. In other words, purposefully making your needs a priority. Self-care may mean exercising and eating well to maintain physical fitness and good mental health. It can also mean spoiling yourself a bit—something as simple as indulging in a piece of your favorite candy or playing the guitar for an hour. Anything that helps you be you and stay you is considered self-care.

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Putting Yourself First: Self-Care

Self-Care-Featured-Image

Self-care is about caring what happens to you. It means doing something that is creative, fun or good for you. In other words, purposefully making your needs a priority. Self-care may mean exercising and eating well to maintain physical fitness and good mental health. It can also mean spoiling yourself a bit—something as simple as indulging in a piece of your favorite candy or playing the guitar for an hour. Anything that helps you be you and stay you is considered self-care.

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LifeWays Annual Celebration 2017

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Segue, Inc. is proud of all consumers and staff, and we are delighted to celebrate four very important people who have been recognized by LifeWays at their 2017 Annual Celebration last month.

 

 

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LifeWays Annual Celebration 2017

LifeWays-Annual-Celebration

Segue, Inc. is proud of all consumers and staff, and we are delighted to celebrate four very important people who have been recognized by LifeWays at their 2017 Annual Celebration last month.

 

 

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

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Mental Health Awareness Month was started in the United States in 1949 by the Mental Health America Organization to shine a light on the importance of mental health and wellness. Each year in the month of May, advocates and activists across the country participate in activities to increase awareness, educate the public, and give a voice to individuals who have mental health challenges.

Why is it so important to bring mental health to the forefront? 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness and nearly 1 in every 25 individuals live with a serious mental illness in the United States. One of the most vital reasons we talk about mental health is because mental illnesses touch the lives of just about every single American – whether they themselves are experiencing mental health symptoms or they have loved ones who do.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month was started in the United States in 1949 by the Mental Health America Organization to shine a light on the importance of mental health and wellness. Each year in the month of May, advocates and activists across the country participate in activities to increase awareness, educate the public, and give a voice to individuals who have mental health challenges.

Why is it so important to bring mental health to the forefront? 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness and nearly 1 in every 25 individuals live with a serious mental illness in the United States. One of the most vital reasons we talk about mental health is because mental illnesses touch the lives of just about every single American – whether they themselves are experiencing mental health symptoms or they have loved ones who do.

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How to Stop Stigma from Stopping You

How to Stop Stigma from Stopping You

Stigma is when a person is misunderstood, shamed or discriminated against due to things that are out of their control. This is something that many people with mental health challenges face on a day-to-day basis. For people with mental health challenges, sometimes stigma comes in the form of mocking and cruelty. Other times it is subtler: family and friends misunderstanding you, avoiding you, shaming you and blaming you for your challenges. Unfortunately, our society sees people with mental health challenges as strange, lazy, or even violent.

 

Because of all the negative beliefs surrounding mental illnesses, we begin to internalize those feelings – believing that they are true. We get frustrated, blame ourselves, or try to hide the issues that we face. This often takes an even bigger toll on our mental health. But there are things that you can do to change the way that you think of yourself and learn to speak up to those who lack understanding and awareness.

 

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How to Stop Stigma from Stopping You

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Stigma is when a person is misunderstood, shamed or discriminated against due to things that are out of their control. This is something that many people with mental health challenges face on a day-to-day basis. For people with mental health challenges, sometimes stigma comes in the form of mocking and cruelty. Other times it is subtler: family and friends misunderstanding you, avoiding you, shaming you and blaming you for your challenges. Unfortunately, our society sees people with mental health challenges as strange, lazy, or even violent.

 

Because of all the negative beliefs surrounding mental illnesses, we begin to internalize those feelings – believing that they are true. We get frustrated, blame ourselves, or try to hide the issues that we face. This often takes an even bigger toll on our mental health. But there are things that you can do to change the way that you think of yourself and learn to speak up to those who lack understanding and awareness.

 

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