Mental health Mondays: Build your self esteem

A lot of us struggle with low self esteem. Fortunately, there are changes we can make to improve our feelings about ourselves.

1. Identify your triggers

Think about the situations and conditions that impact your self esteem in a negative way. It could be stressful situations at work, a challenge with a spouse or changes in circumstances (such as moving to a new place or changes within a relationship).

2. Boost self-awareness

Once you identify your triggers, think about how you feel about them. Think about your thoughts toward those triggering situations, even if they’re negative. Then, ask yourself: are these thoughts really realistic? Would I say these things to a friend? And if the answer is no, then don’t say them to yourself.

Another helpful idea may be to spend some time journaling how you feel about the trigger. Sometimes getting our thoughts on paper helps us to better confront them.

Finally, remember your thoughts and feelings are valid. You aren’t wrong for thinking them.

3. Try to focus on the positives in the situation

I am really bad about measuring my self worth by how much I complete. For example, “I got everything done except for the ironing, so I have failed.” I’m also really bad about seeing only the negatives in a situation and forgetting to focus on the positives.

Another bad habit of mine is mistaking feelings for facts. For example, “I feel that I failed at this, so I must be a failure.” My solution here again is to journal what I’m thinking or feeling and then challenge myself to find the positives. I didn’t get everything done, but look at how much I did accomplish. Or, “maybe I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, but I did better than before.”

4. Consider the outcomes

If something didn’t go as well as you’d planned, what would you do differently in the future? If something didn’t quite work out the way you’d hoped, what about it did go well?

There are also small things you can do to boost your self esteem. Some of my favorite things include the following:

5. Put together a favorite outfit

Put together an outfit that makes you feel beautiful and wear it often. You don’t even need a special occasion to wear it. Just put it on for instant confidence.

6. Focus on your talents

Make a list of all that is good about you. What do you do well? What are your talents? Everyone has an area where they shine- what is yours?

7. Surround yourself with the right people

People who really care about you want to see you successful and happy. If someone constantly puts you down and is always negative, you can choose to limit your time around them.

What are your favorite tips for increasing your self esteem?

Mental health Mondays: My story

Today’s post will be a difficult one to write, but a necessary one. Transparency is difficult in the best of times, but more so when the topic of discussion is something that is so stigmatized. I do not write this post to seek pity or attention, but to bring awareness. If mental health were more widely discussed and less stigmatized, I believe more people would seek help for their mental health issues.

To some degree, I have struggled with anxiety my entire life. I have always had struggles with perfectionism, what others thought of me, and social anxiety. I was still able to accomplish a lot in life, but I do believe that my anxiety struggles have also held me back from trying new things or doing things I wanted to do. While others may notice an increase in problems and difficulties as a teen, or with the onset of puberty, I can honestly say mine peaked as a young adult.

Me, second year of college

My first year of college was a difficult one. I was 275 miles away from home for the first time ever. I had a hard time adjusting to this and my GPA reflected it. I threw myself headlong into a social life with people who really weren’t good for me. I dated and became engaged to someone who didn’t have my best interests at heart. We had a very codependent relationship on which I heavily hinged my self-worth. In my second year of college, my freshman 15 weighed heavily on my confidence and I began to abuse laxatives and extreme dieting. I lost forty pounds, and it wasn’t until a close friend and family member realized what was happening that I acknowledged an eating disorder. During this time, I also stopped attending church or having anything to do with the things of God. My faith had been a constant in my life up until this point, and I think my lack of faith also contributed to my struggles.

I lost two family members I was somewhat close to, I graduated college, and finally, through a lot of prayer and self-searching, I found the strength to end my toxic relationship and engagement. It was a painful decision, but I knew it was the right one. I also began working my first job out of college- it was nerve-wracking. I was very young, very immature, and not really ready for my entrance into the adult world. I made lots of mistakes.

Eventually, I found my way back into church at a church that loved and accepted me. I met a new man who proved to be just as toxic as the one I’d broken things off with. I decided to leave my love life in the Lord’s hands and just pray for what might be. I met a man who loved me, flaws and all. We got married and are still married today.

We birthed two beautiful, healthy little girls but lost three babies as well. My dad and my grandfather, to whom I was very close, both passed away four days apart. My dad’s death, which was from metastatic colorectal cancer, was expected. My grandfather’s was not. This is when my mental issues took center stage and began to derail my life as I knew it.

You see, my entire life I have tried to bury my mental struggles or simply just “deal with them.” To me, this meant ignoring them or pretending everything was ok. This is the wrong approach because you simply can’t deal with everything on your own. Sometimes, you need a break, or extra support, or an impartial third party to help you get through things. My inability to correctly deal with my dad and grandfather’s deaths caused me to slip into a fog that nearly cost me my job, my marriage, and my life. Almost five years later, I can’t think about that time in my life without my stomach knotting up. Watching her mother go through a nervous breakdown caused a host of mental struggles with my oldest daughter. My husband came home each day to a messy house and a woman who resembled his wife in appearance, but in no other ways.

After reaching what I believed was the end, I desperately met with two trusted people at my job. Admitting just how bad things were gave me the strength I needed to seek help. I began attending therapy weekly and taking SSRI’s. Sadly, I determined later on that I cannot take the medication due to some horrible side effects. I have learned to use exercise, mindfulness and journaling to support my mental health instead. Even today. I attend therapy biweekly.

If you get nothing else out of this post, I want you to hear this clearly: there is NO shame in mental health support. This includes therapy, medication, taking breaks, practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, etc. You are not everyone else and everyone else isn’t you. No one else gets to decide what you need and what is best for you. PLEASE don’t worry about what others think, or what others might say. It’s not important, but YOU are. Find what works for you and make a commitment to making it happen. YOU ARE WORTH IT.

I am not a therapist. I am not a mental health professional. Anything I have learned about mental health has largely been through my own experiences. If you’re struggling, PLEASE find the help you need.

Mental Health Monday: Small opportunities for self-care

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Each Monday in May, I am going to share something mental health related.

Most people would agree that a little self-care is good for our mental health…but self-care means different things for different people. Some people aren’t really sure what self-care even means. Today, I’d like to share a few ideas as to how you can practice self-care effectively and easily.

1. Exercise

You don’t have to spend a lot of time exercising or do strenuous exercise. It’s amazing just how much a 20 minute walk outside can do for your mind. When my children and I were on virtual school (I was teaching virtually and they were learning virtually), we would make it a point to walk for thirty minutes during our break each day. It helped us to recharge, refocus and not feel so mentally exhausted.

2. Get enough rest

I type this with transparency- no one in my house gets an adequate amount of rest. We are definitely trying to improve in how much sleep we get. So far, I notice lots of positive changes.

3. Pamper yourself

Everyone needs hobbies. Do something every day that makes you happy. Get a pedicure. Try a new lotion or hair product. Buy something small that you love just because you can. Every Sunday night, I take a bath with an exfoliator and a face mask. It makes me feel relaxed and ready to take on the week.

4. Disconnect from the internet

OK, this one is hard. Sometimes I just need to put down the phone and take a break from it. Turn off your social media notifications for an hour each week. It’s not a big deal and you’ll be glad you did it.

5. Eat a serving of vegetables each day.

This one isn’t so much for your mental health as it is for your physical health. Studies have shown increasing your greens leads to lower weight, healthier colons and better blood sugars. Ideally, you should eat a serving with each meal, but even eating one a day yields a lot of positive changes.

6. Delight in the simple things

I tend to find that the things that bring me the most joy are the things that don’t cost a dime. Conversations with good friends, spending time with my family, and working in my garden are some of my favorite things to do. My greenhouse is sometimes an escape from everything that stresses me out.

Have a wonderful week. Don’t forget to practice self-care.

Simplify Saturday: Finding Peace on a Daily Basis

We live in a fast paced, stressed out world and sometimes it’s hard to find a moment’s peace. Who else sometimes finds that they are spread thin, with too much to do and you feel like you have no time to breathe?

There are a few things I’ve been trying to do to relax and destress. They work well and they don’t cost a thing!

1. Pray daily

Prayer makes your day much less stressful. Anytime you’re struggling or stressed out, just talk to God about it. I find that praying about my stressors is a major source of relief. You have a confidant who is always available to listen 🙂 Prayer for me is often instant peace.

2. Stop and notice the beauty around you

Take a moment to stop and notice the beauty in the world around you. I took this picture while traveling to my grandma’s house. Sometimes, we have to struggle to see the beauty around us, but if you’re willing to pause and look, you can usually find it.

3. Spend time in the company of those who bring you the most joy

If you want to find peace and contentment in your life, spend some time in the company of your family or friends. Actual time- no phones, no TV; just conversation and good fun.

4. Forget about what people think and just do something that makes you happy

Is it silly to get in a giant kiddie pool with your children? Sure! But I don’t care. I did it, and my kids loved it…and seeing them happy makes me happy.

5. Do something nice for others

What brings you more joy than doing something nice for someone else?

6. Get a hobby that you enjoy and spend a little time doing it each day.

My garden gives me a lot of joy. I love to water it and spend time working in it. And I love to eat the food it produces. Working in this little garden gives me a lot of peace.

What brings you joy and peace?