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Get Registered Today: Teaching Elementary Students About Self-Love Will Change Their Lives!

If I told you to describe yourself in 3 words, what would you say? Growing up, I would have said “shy, kind, and lonely.” Only one of the three words were positive. Why? Because elementary school was a time where other kids started teasing each other for all the things that made them “different.” Today, the things that make me different are celebrated by me and so many others, but back then, the criticism, teasing, and judgement broke me down.

In third grade, I had to get eight teeth pulled, because I could not lose my teeth and instead had two rows of teeth. People called me “sabertooth and can opener,” which made me feel like something was wrong with me. It was not anything I could control. I was not doing anything wrong, yet people made me feel so different, like an outsider. I was also very passionate about reading, which made me a “nerd.” Other kids laughed at me and called me names for always having a book in my hand. My love of reading is an important part of my success today, but back then it felt wrong for being interested in escaping through stories.

Why am I telling you this? Because kids can be mean, and other kids can develop insecurities that make them afraid to be who they are. So many of us grow up feeling like we must hide a piece of ourselves in fear of others not understanding or judging us. And so many of us carry these insecurities throughout our lives preventing us from finding pure happiness, fully connecting in our relationships, and being true to ourselves, our goals, and our needs.

I developed a workshop titled, “Learning To Love Yourself” for Elementary Students in grades 3-5 to help them learn to love every piece of who they are despite what their peers or society tells them. We are surrounded by other people’s opinions and social media has influenced the way we perceive friendship, validation, body image, and happiness.  If I could go back in time, I would do anything for someone to have taught me about ways to show kindness and love to myself rather than attack myself for not measuring up to expectations others have or society has created. And I would do anything to have had the tools I needed to cope with the insecurities, because we are all vulnerable to them, but they do not have to overpower our minds if we know how to manage them.

Therefore, this workshop is broken down into five sections, based on my workbook, “You Are Not Alone: The Workbook.” The sections are Affirmations, Choosing To Love Yourself, Emotions, Coping Skills, and an Emotional Wellness Toolbox.

Section 1: Affirmations.

Affirmations are a form of self-talk. Automatic negative thoughts pop into our heads. It is normal. But do they need to be the only voice we hear? No! We can use affirmations to combat those negative thoughts. We can reframe those negative statements:

 I am not smart enough to pass this math test. à I am studying as hard as I can, and I am doing my best. I believe in myself and know I will give it my all. No matter what the outcome is, I am proud of myself and my effort.

I am not a good basketball player. I suck and it is my fault my team lost the game. I let everyone down. à I am training and constantly bettering my skills. I can and will grow my talent. Every game I do better. I know I will score a basket next game.

The section ends with the youth participant working with their adult attendee to develop 3 affirmations they can tell themselves every day. Then, practicing saying them out loud in breakout rooms.

Section 2: Choosing To Love Yourself.

Choosing to love yourself means prioritizing yourself. We are taught that loving and prioritizing ourselves means we are selfish. That is a huge misconception! When you love yourself, you trust yourself, give yourself a break, celebrate yourself, listen to how you feel, say no if you do not feel comfortable, and stand up for yourself. By teaching youth how to love themselves, we are teaching them to be aware of their feelings, acknowledge their achievements, have patience with instead of criticizing themselves, respect and enforce their boundaries, and advocate for their needs.

This section ends with the youth participant working with their adult attendee to identify ways they can show themselves love, why they are proud of themselves, and why they love themselves.

Section 3: Emotions.

Everyone has emotions, in fact we all experience the same emotions in different ways. We all feel happiness, sadness, gratitude, anger, etc. The difference is how we express ourselves. Sometimes, anger can come out in breakdowns or violence. By learning different ways to express our emotions, we can find healthy ways to feel without holding it in or misplacing it in inappropriate situations.

This section offers the youth attendee a space to express different emotions through art, music, and entertainment, while sharing additional ways they can express themselves like verbally, writing, and movement. We may not always be able to find the words to express ourselves, but we still deserve a way to communicate our emotions. This section helps form different ways of communicating that we are not ok!

Section 4: Coping Skills.

Coping skills are the tools we use when we feel overwhelmed by emotions to manage them. As you know, we all have emotions, and we all feel overwhelmed sometimes. That is ok! But there are also things we can do to get through those times. Even if you feel not ok, you do not have to stay feeling that way. What makes you smile? What makes you feel calm inside? What makes you feel strong? This what we explore throughout this section.

This section provides the space for the youth attendee to work with their adult attendee to identify coping skills they can try when they feel various emotions like anger, anxiety, burnout, sadness, overwhelmed, and lonely.

Section 5: Emotional Wellness Toolbox.

What is in your emotional wellness toolbox? This toolbox is a set of tools we can pull from when we need extra support. The toolbox the youth attendee will develop in this presentation includes:

  • People you can talk to
  • Ways to express your emotions
  • Coping skills
  • Positive affirmations
  • Reasons you love yourself

This section ends with a conversation between the youth attendee and their adult attendee on where they can go and what they can do when life feels tough.

As you can see, each section creates the opportunity for the youth attendee and their trusted adult attendee to engage in open dialogue together to open honest communication about how they are feeling and what they are experiencing.

“Learning to Love Yourself” workshop is available exclusively to upper elementary school students (grades 3-5). All youth registrants must have a trusted adult present, whether it is a parent, guardian, caregiver, adult family member, or another trusted adult in the participant’s life. The intention is to create the space for the youth attendee to share in a safe, vulnerable conversation where they can be supported as well as give the adult a glimpse into what the youth attendee is experiencing and the type of support they may need.

This workshop was developed to offer youth a space to fall in love with who they are and offer support to themselves before the world gives them every reason not to. The takeaways from this workshop are everything I wish I had learned when I was in elementary school.

Register Today: Peer Support Coalition of Florida (

You can learn more about the workshop as well as additional workshops at

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Get Registered Today: Why We Must Teach Our Youth About Positive Self-Talk and Coping Skills

Who are you? This is a question that I struggled with for years. Trying to distinguish who I was from who I thought I had to be and who people told me I was felt like an impossible task. I mean, how was I supposed to love myself when all the messaging around me told me that I shouldn’t? Everywhere I looked, commercials, entertainment, social media, I saw ads for beauty and weight loss. “If you get this injection or take these pills, you too will be this beautiful.” As a result of the messaging around me beginning at a young age and the lack of conversation around what it means to love and care for yourself, I hated myself, I criticized myself, and I mentally tore myself apart. And unfortunately, this is not just my story, but the story of so many young people around the world.

We are growing up in a world where life has become a comparison game and validation has been attached to strangers online. The pressure to have enough followers on social media has consumed many of us. When I was younger, I remember posting a picture on Instagram then holding my phone in my hand for hours refreshing to see who would like it and more importantly who wouldn’t. I spent hours trying to get the perfect picture just to end up deleting it because I did not get an “appropriate” number of likes. I remember crying for hours in my room telling myself how I am ugly or stupid or not cool enough. I criticized every aspect of myself to rationalize why my posts did not get more likes.

I wish someone told me back then the secret to loving yourself was talking to yourself with love. I wish I knew then what I know now about self-talk. We are constantly talking to ourselves, but not usually with kindness. Take a moment and reflect on the messages you tell yourself. For me, before learning how to reframe my thoughts, every negative thought I could possibly tell myself echoed through my mind like a broken record. No wonder by the time I was in college I began feeling hopeless. If only I had access to a conversation that taught me not only how to talk to myself but also how to cope with the negative thoughts when they come, maybe I would not have ended up hospitalized in a psych ward or spending countless hours falling apart questioning why I was not good enough.

This is why I am beyond grateful to announce that I have created that resource I desperately needed when I was in middle school. “Positive Self-Talk and Coping Skills” was developed specifically for middle school students to teach them how to reframe negative thoughts into positive thoughts and how to cope with negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions. The goal is simple: giving our youth the tools they need to navigate the journey of life.

Based on my workbooks, “You Are Not Alone: The Workbook” and “I AM,” the workshop is broken down into 5 sections: Who Are You; Reframe Self-Talk; Positive Self-Talk; How Do You Feel; and Coping Skills.

Section 1: Who Are You focuses on separating yourself from the labels given to you. We live in a society where everyone is trying to label who they are and labeling everyone around them, which can feel overwhelming and confusing. How does a human being fit into a single box? In this section, we focus on opening the box by removing labels and identifying ourselves as the multifaceted individuals we are through positive adjectives. I am not simply a girl, I am passionate, hardworking, kindhearted, loving, empathetic, strong, and so much more!

Section 2: Reframe Self-Talk focuses on rewording the automatic negative thoughts we experience. We are not failures for making mistakes, we are humans who are learning and growing each and every day. When speaking to friends, we often encourage them and offer support. When speaking to ourselves, we often use criticism, judgement, and punishment. In this section, we focus on becoming friends with ourselves through reframing how we talk to ourselves.

Section 3: Positive Self-Talk focuses on affirmations. When we are feeling down, insecure or overwhelmed, affirmations are a way to offer the emotional support we need to ourselves. These are definite phrases of “I am, I have, I will, I can, I believe, and I deserve.” Affirmations are how we can change the narrative from questioning what is wrong with us to knowing that we are more than enough as we are.

Section 4: How Do You Feel focuses on identifying how you feel. Emotions can be tricky, sometimes we are feeling sad, but we respond out of anger. But how do you change your response if you do not know how you are feeling? In this section, we are practicing connecting our current feelings to their origin to better understand and take a step toward learning how to cope with them!

Section 5: Coping Skills focuses on building a coping skill toolbox to manage overwhelming emotions. When you are feeling overwhelmed, what is one thing that helps you to breathe? When you are exhausted, what helps you get the rest you need? When you feel sad, what is one thing that helps you to smile? This section is all about making the connection between feelings and support so that youth are equipped with the tools they need before they need them.

Each section contains breakout rooms, practice exercises and/or group discussions to keep the audience engaged in building the tools they need. And most importantly, each section creates the opportunity for the youth attendee and their trusted adult attendee to engage in open dialogue together to build honest and supportive communication.

“Positive Self-Talk and Coping Skills” workshop is available exclusively to middle school students (grades 6-8). All youth registrants must have a trusted adult present, whether it is a parent, guardian, caregiver, adult family member, or another trusted adult in the participant’s life. The intention is to create the space for the youth attendee to share in a safe, vulnerable conversation where they can be supported as well as give the adult a glimpse into what the youth attendee is experiencing and the type of support they may need.

This workshop is designed to equip the next generation with all the tools I wish I had when I was their age!

Register Today: Peer Support Coalition of Florida (

You can learn more about the workshop as well as additional workshops at

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Get Registered Today: Why Mental Health Conversations Are Essential for Our Teens!

Between December 2018 and March 2019, I attempted suicide to end my life 3 times. I felt empty and hopeless inside. I wanted to give up. Why didn’t I? What happened to get me there in the first place? How did I overcome? Let’s back up…

By the age of 5, I was struggling with my body image. I was a competitive cheerleader at the time, back in the day where the young kids also wore the tiny uniforms. My belly hung over my skirt, and someone made a joke that I looked “fat” in my uniform. It was not meant to be a malicious comment, but rather teasing between siblings. However, I took it to heart. I also felt pressured that I had to be a flyer, and a flyer had to be tiny. This was the beginning of compulsively checking my stomach in the mirror. It was also the beginning of anxious distress around the notion of being “good enough.”

As I got older, the fear of not being “good enough” deepened. Throughout elementary school I had panic attacks if my homework was not completed by 3:30p or if I did not get an A. By middle school, I felt inferior anytime someone scored higher than me, which resulted in countless breakdowns. I still remember hiding in the back of my closet in a basket under my stuffed animals so that my parents would not hear me cry. I was terrified of disappointing them. I had all these feelings, but never had anyone to talk about them. Whenever I tried, I always ended up crying, which resulted in comments like “Stop acting like a baby; get over it; suck it up; big girls don’t cry; etc.” Finally, I decided I needed to express it somehow, so I started a blog, which resulted in more teasing and bullying. Throughout high school, my mental health just got worse. My mom would have to pick me up from school frequently because of panic attacks causing severe chest pain. My breakdowns just got worse, but no one around me knew. I was a high-energy kid excelling at school to everyone else.

Throughout college, the fear of not being good enough continued to grow inside of me. I would vomit before exams and lose a week of sleep. By the time I graduated, I was beyond exhausted and overwhelmed. And, around that time, I lost my grandfather in a fatal car accident and my uncle to suicide. My heart was consumed by the tragedy in addition to the built-up distress I was experiencing. I ended up in the psych ward after attempting suicide 3 times.

Why am I sharing this personal story? Because my story is evidence of how a mental health conversation could have changed everything for me. Looking back, if there was a form of mental health education available to me or conversations or resources, I may have had access to support or learned the tools I needed to cope with life’s stressors. And therefore, I am so happy to have developed a workshop called “Mental Health Conversations” for high school students to teach them how to validate and support someone reaching out for help and more importantly how to reach out for help if they are struggling.

The full workshop is divided into three parts: Checking in With Others, Types of Support Available, and Reaching out for help.

The first part teaches the attendee how to check in with those around them. The five steps we discuss are:

  1. Check-in with yourself first
  2. Ask non-judgmental, open-ended questions
  3. Actively listen
  4. Validate their feelings
  5. Follow Up

To effectively learn how to utilize the five steps, attendees will practice with sample scenarios through group engagement and breakout rooms.

Next, we move into the types of support available. The five types of support we discuss are:

  1. Encouragement
  2. Community
  3. Emotional
  4. Informational
  5. Physical

To practice identifying the type of support, the attendees will learn the difference between I have, I want, and I need then learn how to connect what they are feeling to the type of support they have/want/need.

Lastly, we will bring it all together with taking what we learned about conversation and support to develop the language needed to reach out for help. The attendee will learn how to connect what they are feeling to the type of support they need to who/where they can reach out to for that support. During this section, not only will the attendee learn the following 5 steps to self-advocacy, but also practice utilizing the language to reach out through group engagement and breakout rooms.

  1. Know yourself and your needs
  2. Create goals for your conversation
  3. Express yourself clearly
  4. Be honest and vulnerable
  5. Be persistent

As you can see, this workshop is designed to teach the next generation of leaders all the tools I wish I had when I was their age!

You can register for this workshop at: Peer Support Coalition of Florida (

You can learn more about the workshop as well as additional workshops at

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Panic Attack or an Anxiety Attack?

woman holding her head

The words “Panic Attack” and “Anxiety Attack” are often used interchangeably. The main difference is that experiencing panic attacks is considered a disorder by the DSM-5. The DSM-5 is the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It classifies the experiencing of recurrent unexpected panic attacks as a “Panic Disorder.”

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is defined by the DSM-5 as “an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which time four (or more) of the following symptoms occur:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling or shaking,
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering.
  • Feelings of choking.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Nausea or abdominal distress.
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chills or heat sensations.
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations).
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself).
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy.”
  • Fear of dying.”

Anxiety Attack

Anxiety Attacks, on the other hand, have triggers. Common triggers are stress, trauma, and excessive worry or fear about a certain situation. Anxiety attacks do have symptoms that overlap with panic attacks. These symptoms include an elevated heart rate, shakiness, nausea, and lightheadedness. Although physical symptoms are common during an anxiety attack, the more common ones include elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, and pain in stomach. Whereas, in a panic attack, many people compare the experience to one of having a heart attack.

Regardless of the type of attack you are experiencing, you deserve support. There are many methods of support available. Some may be as simple as learning to avoid triggers. Others may include learning new coping mechanisms, exploring and processing trauma, and/or medication. One treatment option is not better than the other, the best treatment depends on the person and their specific needs. Mental health professionals can help you assess and form a treatment plan that is right for you.

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Child Development According To Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological System Theory

In 1977, American psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner conceived the Ecological Systems Theory to explain how children’s development can be impacted by social environments. Bronfenbrenner hypothesized that by studying children in multiple environments (ecological systems), we can have a better understanding of their development. According to this theory, every ecological system that a child interacts with will influence the child’s development. (2019)

Bronfenbrenner breaks the influence down into 5 ecological systems: Microsystem, Mesosystem, Ecosystem, Macrosystem, and Chronosystem.


The microsystem is the most influential level of the ecological system because it encompasses those with direct contact to the child. A few examples include parent(s), sibling(s), and teacher(s).


The next level of the ecological system is the mesosystem. The mesosystem refers to how a child’s development is influenced by the intersection of the microsystem. The relationship between different individuals or settings that the child interacts with can have an indirect impact on the child. An example would be how the home environment interacts with the school environment.  


The ecosystem is encompassed by events that are not directly related to the child’s participation in the environment. This ecological system emphasizes how situations outside of a child’s decision-making process can impact their development. An example may be a child growing up with a parent working extra-long hours or a parent enlisted in the military. (Bronfenbrenner, 1979)


It is no surprise that the economic, cultural, and political environment a child grows up in can play an active role in their development. An example is the difference in development between a child growing up in a third world country versus the United States. (2019)


The last ecological system is the chronosystem. The chronosystem utilizes the dimension of time to understand phases of a child’s development. A few examples are parents’ divorcing, moving, and parent(s) losing a job.

How can this theory be applied to counseling?

I think the answer to this question will differ based on who you ask. In my opinion, I think the best way to assess an individual (whether minor or adult) is through a comprehensive background of their social environment growing up. I believe the best way to understand someone is to understand the factors that contribute to who they are and what they believe in.

One trend I see a lot is the idea that people do not change. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I believe every single person has the ability to change, to learn, and to grow. Yes, someone has to be willing to change. But another extremely important factor is connecting with people on a level they understand. Someone genuinely may not understand why arguing with you all the time is a big deal if that is the home environment, they grew up in. Likewise, if someone grew up in an area full of danger and fear, they may be on edge most of the time.

In counseling, a therapist can collaborate with a patient to form a treatment plan that respects the environmental factors that have contributed to their overall brain health, starting with the early development years. As a psych student, I truly value learning how to build comprehensive treatment plans that are in collaboration with the patient and offer support for why they reached out for therapy in the first place. However, never overlooking the developmental factors at play. If we do not acknowledge how the past shaped someone, then how do we expect to help break maladaptive behaviors or help the patient enforce boundaries, etc.?

What are your thoughts?


Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

(2019) What is Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory? The Psychology Notes Headquarters.

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My Guide To Building A Coping Toolbox

photo of woman lying on floor while painting

This blog comes directly from pages out of Francesca Reicherter’s “You Are Not Alone: The Workbook.” For more content and exercises, this workbook is available for purchase on and amazon.

Coping mechanisms are tools we use to help us through when our emotions feel overwhelming. There are many different types of coping mechanisms! One that works for you may not work for others, and that is okay. Everyone will have different things that help them at different times for different emotions and situations. Sometimes coping mechanisms that worked in the past do not work in the future, and that is okay too. As we grow and change, what works for us may also change.

Coping Mechanism Examples:

  • Art (Examples: coloring, painting)
  • Breathing (Examples: breathing exercises, meditation, yoga)
  • Cooking (Examples: bake, cook a meal)
  • Exercise (Examples: run, walk, sports)
  • Music (Examples: listening, dancing, singing)
  • Read (Examples: affirmations, books, magazines)
  • Writing (Examples: in a journal, poem, song, story)

Note: This is not a complete list of coping mechanisms. There are many different coping mechanisms, and the goal is to find what works for you.

My Guide To Building A Coping Toolbox

Determine which coping mechanisms you are already using. What helps you feel better when you are sad or angry or jealous? If you know the answer to at least one of these, this is a coping mechanism that you are currently utilizing. Now, ask yourself this, is this coping mechanism helping or harming me? What do I mean by that? For example, if you are engaging in a form of self-injury to numb your emotions, this coping mechanism is not truly helping you.  But, if you are journaling and expressing your feelings in a safe manner, then this coping mechanism may be helping you to process, feel, and heal.

Next, make a list of 5 coping mechanisms. You can either choose from the above list, the answers you have from the above question, or research other coping mechanisms! I want you to take the coping mechanisms 1 at a time and practice. Practicing our coping mechanisms when we do not need them is important so that we are ready to use them when we need them!

Write down the name of the coping mechanism and how you are feeling before trying it. Then, practice using the coping mechanism. Afterward, write down how you feel. Did you feel different? Was the difference positive or negative? If you noticed a positive difference, add this coping mechanism to your coping toolbox. (Repeat this 4 times, 1 for each coping mechanism.)

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A Guide To Enforcing Boundaries

concerned black couple sitting on bed in misunderstanding

Real Talk: There is absolutely no reason to set boundaries IF you do not enforce them.

Let’s face it: setting boundaries can be terrifying! If you are a “people-pleaser” or “go with the flow” personality type, the act of setting boundaries can be a challenging step to take. If you are willing to protect your space and set boundaries that help you build healthy, meaningful connections with others, then you deserve to reap the benefits of those boundaries.

If I create boundaries, won’t people just respect them? This is a multifaceted question. First, you have to share your boundaries clearly and explicitly with the other person in order for them to know where your boundaries are. However, secondly, people do not always believe that the boundaries apply to them, so they may not listen and act accordingly. Moreover, there are also people who will cross your boundary line simply because they can. If you do not enforce the boundaries you create, then many may feel inclined to exploit you and your boundaries.

But here’s the thing: you are allowed encouraged to draw a line between what makes you feel comfortable and what makes you feel uncomfortable. You deserve to feel good about yourself and your relationships. It does not make you a bad person for creating boundaries. Just remember to also respect other people’s boundaries as well!

So, once you decide on what your boundaries are, how do you enforce them?

Here’s my mini guide:

  1. Share your boundaries with the other person. Be clear and explicit. Examples:
    1. “It makes me feel uncomfortable when you touch my leg. I would appreciate it if you would not touch me without my consent.”
    2. “I feel hurt when you make fun of my intelligence. I understand you intend it as a joke, but I do not receive it that way. I would feel better if you would not make fun of me anymore.”
    3. “I am here for you, but right now, I am not in the right headspace to provide the support you need and deserve from me. I would love to help you find someone else who can be there the way you need.
  2. If they do not listen to your boundaries and cross the line, then remind them. Be forceful but polite. People do not often respond well when they feel attacked.
    1. “I told you before that this makes me uncomfortable. Please do not touch me again without asking if I am comfortable first.”
    2. “Please do not make fun of me. I have clearly explained that it makes me feel hurt.”
    3. “I am not in the right headspace as I mentioned earlier. I cannot provide the support you need right now.”
  3. Recognize that “no” is a full sentence. You do not have to explain yourself. We often feel like we need to give a reason after the word “No” or phrase “I do not want to.” You do not owe anyone an explanation. If you are not comfortable, if you do not want to, if you cannot, etc., you do not have to explain why. No is a full sentence and does not require justification.
    1. If you do not want to go out, you can simply say “No.”
    2. If you do not want to engage in an activity, you can simply say “No.”
    3. If you do not want to buy something, you can simply say “No.”
  4. Do not be afraid to change the nature of a relationship to protect the boundaries you have created. This may be an unpopular opinion, but it is okay to end or change relationships with people who do not respect you and your boundaries.
    1. It is okay to not spend as much time with someone who is emotionally draining you.
    2. You do not have to hang out with someone who is disrespecting your boundaries or even inadvertently causing you harm.
    3. Even if they are a family member or longtime friend, you do not have to compromise your own emotional health, space, or boundaries to satisfy them.
  5. Respect the other person’s boundaries. People tend to respond better when they also feel included and important. Someone is more likely to respect your boundaries when you also make the effort to respect theirs. Do not be afraid to ask them about their boundaries too!
    1. I want to also respect your boundaries. What are your boundaries?
    2. Is there anything I have said or done that has made you feel uncomfortable?
    3. How can I respect your boundaries?
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What Does It Mean To Be Kind To Yourself?

child s hand on a puzzle

This blog comes directly from pages out of Francesca Reicherter’s “You Are Not Alone: The Workbook.” For more content and exercises, this workbook is available for purchase on or amazon.

Being kind to yourself can be super hard! As humans, it is normal to be critical of ourselves. Often times, we are harder on ourselves than we are on others because we are afraid. Sometimes, we fear what other people will think of us if we gain weight, do not wear the coolest clothes, or do poorly on a test. But, the truth is, we judge ourselves more harshly than others judge us. This is an example of how we bully ourselves. What if instead of being mean to ourselves, we choose to be friends with ourselves?

Be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friends!

Examples of showing kindness to yourself:

  • Forgive yourself for a mistake. “It is okay to make mistakes.
  • I forgive myself for . . . “
  • Positive affirmations. Look in the mirror and say 3 nice things about yourself. “I am . . . I can . . . I will . . .”

Exercises to try:

  • Write down 3 affirmations you can tell yourself every day.
  • Tell me 3 ways you can be kind to yourself today.
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What We Know About Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers And Mental Health?

Please note that this blog contains no original writing. Each section and statement is directly from the aforementioned source.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

According to John Hopkins Medical, “hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, is a type of treatment used to speed up healing of carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene, stubborn wounds, and infections in which tissues are starved for oxygen. If you undergo this therapy, you will enter a special chamber to breathe in pure oxygen in air pressure levels 1.5 to 3 times higher than average. The goal is to fill the blood with enough oxygen to repair tissues and restore normal body function.”

In an article shared by Derrick Walker under Advanced Wound Care Systems, Discovery, Dr. Sherman Johnson, Hyperbaric Healing Center, Walker stated that, “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) appears to be a safe and effective treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post‐ Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression.”

How does HBOT work? According to John Hopkins Medical:

  • HBOT helps wound healing by bringing oxygen-rich plasma to tissue starved for oxygen. Wound injuries damage the body’s blood vessels, which release fluid that leaks into the tissues and causes swelling. This swelling deprives the damaged cells of oxygen, and tissue starts to die. HBOT reduces swelling while flooding the tissues with oxygen. The elevated pressure in the chamber increases in the amount of oxygen in the blood. HBOT aims to break the cycle of swelling, oxygen starvation, and tissue death.
  • HBOT prevents “reperfusion injury.” That’s the severe tissue damage that happens when the blood supply returns to the tissues after they have been deprived of oxygen. When blood flow is interrupted by a crush injury, for instance, a series of events inside the damaged cells leads to the release of harmful oxygen radicals. These molecules can do damage to tissues that can’t be reversed and cause the blood vessels to clamp up and stop blood flow. HBOT encourages the body’s oxygen radical scavengers to seek out the problem molecules and allow healing to continue.
  • HBOT helps block the action of harmful bacteria and strengthens the body’s immune system. HBOT can disable the toxins of certain bacteria. It also increases oxygen concentration in the tissues. This helps them resist infection. In addition, the therapy improves the ability of white blood cells to find and destroy invaders.
  • HBOT encourages the formation of new collagen (connective tissue) and new skin cells. It does so by encouraging new blood vessel formation. It also stimulates cells to produce certain substances, like vascular endothelial growth factor. These attract and stimulate endothelial cells necessary for healing.

HBOT for Mental Health? What science says:

Psychiatric disorders are prevalent, debilitating mental and behavioral patterns, usually with a complex biopsycho-social etiology, eventually leading to irreversible brain changes. These changes are comprised of chemical and anatomical alterations in neurotransmitter signal transduction pathways which also serve as the pharmacologic target of most current drug therapy. Accordingly, other mental disorders with a solid pathophysiological base of knowledge, such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, etc., may benefit from the use of HBOT as well. In the same manner, as to disorders discussed in this article, research into PTSD and depression does not stand on its own and is always related to physiological insults with biological mechanisms of ischemia, hypoxia, and inflammation. Thus, perhaps these have more potential for improvement with HBOT. [The Role of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Psychiatry: A Review of the Current Knowledge Shani Raphaeli, MD,1 Erez Carmon, MD,2 Boaz Bloch, MD, MHA,3 and Eyal Fruchter, MD, MHA1]

What Brain SPECT Imaging and Other Research Reveals About Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy From Amen Clinics:

Brain SPECT is an imaging technology that measures blood flow and activity in the brain. It reveals areas with healthy activity, too much activity, and too little activity. Brain imaging studies have found that HBOT has several benefits for the brain.

Increases blood flow.

Brain imaging studies using SPECT show that people who have had HBOT have marked improvement in blood flow to the brain. Adequate blood flow in the brain is vital for mental health. SPECT scans reveal that low blood flow is commonly linked to mental health/brain health issues, such as ADD/ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addictions, and more. In fact, low blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that an individual will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Improves functioning in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Low blood flow is also linked to ASD. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has helped improve cognitive and behavioral functions in people with autism by compensating for decreased blood flow in affected areas of the brain. A 2009 study showed that children with autism who underwent HBOT had significant improvement in overall functioning, eye contact, social interactions, cognitive and sensory awareness, and receptive language. People have also reported improved sleep and reduced aggression in people with autism who undergo HBOT.

Improves cognitive and psychological function after a concussion.

One study from 2017 showed that 29 military veterans with blast-induced concussions found that they performed better on physical, psychological, and cognitive tests after 40 sessions of HBOT. In particular, the veterans who underwent HBOT showed improvements in memory, attention, anxiety, depression (including a reduction in suicidal thoughts), PTSD symptoms, intelligence quotient, and more. They also reduced their usage of psychoactive medication.

Improves PTSD following a traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) increase the risk of several mental health/brain health conditions, including ADD/ADHD, anxiety and panic attacks, PTSD, suicide, and more. According to research, treating the underlying TBI with concentrated oxygen can promote the healing process. A brain SPECT imaging study from 2011 involved 16 military personnel with PTSD following a TBI. The soldiers underwent neuropsychological testing and brain imaging and before and after 40 sessions of HBOT. After treatment, they showed significant improvement in mood, impulsivity, anxiety, quality of life scores, and more. Their SPECT brain scans after HBOT showed remarkable overall improvement in blood flow.

Improves brain metabolism in Alzheimer’s disease.

A 2019 brain imaging study involving SPECT and PET scans is the first to document improvements in brain metabolism in a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. The subject of the study was a 58-year-old woman whose cognitive function had been declining for 5 years. She underwent 40 sessions of HBOT. After just 21 sessions, she reported better moods, a boost in energy, and better ability to perform routine tasks. She even said it was easier to do the crossword puzzle. After 40 sessions of HBOT, she reported improvements in concentration, memory, sleep, and ability to use the computer. She also noted a decrease in disorientation, less frustration, and her anxiety was gone. The brain scans showed 6.5-38% improvement in overall brain metabolism, prompting the researchers to suggest HBOT could be a potential therapy for Alzheimer’s patients. “We demonstrated the largest improvement in brain metabolism of any therapy for Alzheimer’s disease,” says the lead study author Dr. Paul Harch. “HBOT in this patient may be the first treatment not only to halt, but temporarily reverse disease progression in Alzheimer’s disease.”


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Wait, I need boundaries for myself too?

reflection of finger in a mirror

What Are Boundaries?

In social studies, we are taught that a boundary is what separates state lines. Personal boundaries, on the other hand, are the line that separates our physical space, feelings, and needs from (ourselves and) others. These boundaries are used to share how we want to be treated by ourselves and others.

Boundaries are often formed to help protect our mental health. These boundaries can be made both externally and internally. The simplest way to explain boundaries is learning to say “no” to things that make you feel uncomfortable, invalidated, unimportant, or overextended.

External vs Internal

External boundaries are boundaries that we create to protect our space, feelings, and needs from other people. These boundaries may include telling someone not to touch us, saying “no” to taking on someone else’s responsibilities, or managing our time. It is important to remember that boundaries interact with other people’s boundaries. This means, a healthy relationship is built on respect between both parties’ boundaries.

Internal boundaries, on the other hand, are boundaries we set with ourselves to honor ourselves. We often overwork and overwhelm ourselves with expectations that exceed our limits. These boundaries help us to acknowledge and respect our limits and values.

Benefits of Internal Boundaries

Internal boundaries allow us to love and respect ourselves from the way we treat and honor our bodies to the way we treat and honor our minds. Internal boundaries are formed to help boost our own self-worth. These boundaries allow us to be mindful of the way we care for ourselves.

  • Are we criticizing ourselves constantly? Or are we taking time to celebrate all we have accomplished?
  • Are we overextending ourselves? Or are we respecting our own personal limits as well as time constraints?
  • Are we invalidating and suppressing our emotions? Or are we allowing ourselves space and time to feel and heal?
  • Are we blaming everyone else for our discomfort? Or are we honoring ourselves by being honest with our own mistakes?
  • Are we disrespecting our personal values and beliefs to fit in with society’s expectations? Or we are acting in line with who we are, who want to be, and what we want to offer?

Internal boundaries will follow the second question in each of the above bullet points. The boundaries we set impact what we feel inside. Boundaries that honor who we are and what we want offer encouragement and support. On the other hand, boundaries that ignore our limits and do not align with our values create a disconnect within ourselves.

How Do I Set Internal Boundaries?

Ask yourselves the following questions:

  • How am I overextending myself?
  • How am I hurting myself? (Think emotionally too!!)
  • What are my values?
  • Who do I want to be?
  • Where am I not being honest with myself?

Now, create boundaries that align within these questions. Examples of internal boundaries are shared below.

4 Internal Boundaries Examples:

  • Reframe your negative thoughts to encouraging thoughts.
    • “I always make mistakes” à “I am constantly able to learn from each mistake”
  • Tell yourself “no”
    • “No, I am not going to add more to my to-do list today. I do not have enough time or energy to take on every responsibility today. I respect my own limits. That is okay.”
  • Validate your emotions.
    • “I am feeling sad today. It is normal to feel sad. I am going to let myself feel sad.”
  • Be accountable to yourself.
    • “I did not enforce my boundaries in the past. My partner was not respectful of my boundaries, because I did not enforce them before.”
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woman holding pink and white love print board

The information in this blog comes directly from RAINN (

National Sexual Assault Helpline: 1-800-656-4673

Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 25 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 women in the US are raped or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

Despite ignorant comments such as, “They were asking for it. What do they expect to happen dressed like that? They should not have been drinking.”

Here are the statistics on what the survivor was doing when the crime occurred:

  • 48% were sleeping, or performing another activity at home
  • 29% were traveling to and from work or school, or traveling to shop or run errands
  • 12% were working
  • 7% were attending school
  • 5% were doing an unknown or other activity

The impact of sexual violence extends beyond physical trauma or injuries.

Many survivors struggle to come to terms with what happened, regain their sense of safety and trust, and move forward with their lives. Survivors often blame themselves. They often feel ashamed, in fact, a high percentage of survivors do not speak up or seek legal action.

Below are common results of rape or sexual assault:

  • Pregnancy
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)
  • Feeling Afraid, Ashamed, and/or Alone
  • Experiencing Nightmares or Flashbacks
  • Feeling Unsafe, Lack of Trust in Others
  • Reduced Self-Worth
  • Blaming Themselves
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Dissociation
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Depression
  • Self-Harm
  • Eating Disorders
  • Substance Abuse
  • Suicide


Depression occurs when an individual experiences feeling of sadness and hopeless for extended periods of time. These symptoms often cause an disruption in their daily lives. It can have negative affects on not only your behaviors but also your relationships with yourself and others.

Survivors often experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness; however, if the feelings continue for long periods of time, this may indicate depression.


Flashbacks are memories of the trauma that feel like they are currently happening all over again. They can make it difficult to distinguish between the memory from reality.


PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) is characterized by feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and nervousness. In more extreme cases, survivors may feel as if they are constantly in danger. Common symptoms include re-experience (ex: flashbacks), avoidance, and hyper-arousal (ex: on edge”)

In summary

A survivor of sexual violence is likely to experience mental health symptoms. The trauma truly extends far beyond the physical aggression. Survivors can often benefit from the help of a professional.

Here is a great resource for learning how to cope with or help a loved one cope with sexual violence:

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A Message of Hope In The Form of Paper

Did you know patients hospitalized in psych wards are 100-200x more likely to die by suicide upon discharge?

This is commonly due to lack of emotional support and understanding. Therefore, to combat the lack of emotional support, at Inspiring My Generation, each month we donate hundreds of encouragement cards to behavioral health facilities to be distributed among patients.

When I started this initiative, I was looking for a way to offer emotional support to people who were inside behavioral health facilities. I wanted to offer a burst of light and hope in a dark time. This initiative started with 1 donation of 100 encouragement cards to the psych ward I was hospitalized in following my third suicide attempt.

I wanted to share some hope to the individuals who were in the same position I was a year and a half earlier. I wanted someone out there to know that they are truly not alone. I wanted someone out there to know that someone else understands. I wanted someone out there to know that it gets better. I prayed that out of the 100 cards that were mailed out that first month that one person’s life would be changed for the better. I desperately wanted the chance to save a life.

As someone who has been there, an encouragement card from someone on the outside would have meant SO much. It’s a beautiful feeling to know that you are truly not alone— that someone out there understands and believes in you, especially when you don’t believe in yourself.

But how does an encouragement card save a life?

This is one of the most common questions I get when I ask people to volunteer and make cards.

If you haven’t experienced feelings of hopelessness, feelings of complete and utter loneliness even when surrounded by 100 people, or no feeling at all just completely numb, it’s a very dark and petrifying time. When you cannot find a single reason to keep going, a message of hope and encouragement from a complete stranger means more than you can ever imagine. For the first time in a very long time, you feel seen and understood. You feel important — you may even find a piece of hope within yourself.

Imagine feeling so hopeless, so depressed, so lonely that you feel dying would be better than living. Imagine attempting to take your own life. Imagine waking up in a hospital wondering why you are still alive. This is the reality for MANY individuals hospitalized in a psych ward.

Imagine feeling like no one could possibly understand what you are going through. Imagine feeling like you are alone, and you have to suffer in silence. Imagine being afraid of opening up because someone may judge you. Again, this is the reality for MANY patients hospitalized in a psych ward.

One small encouragement card may seem like a small meaningless gesture, but that card can change someone’s world. That card is a message of support and love. That card is a reminder that you are not alone. That card is the realization that someone out there understands and believes in you. That card is the hope you lost long ago. Every card is a hug in the form of paper.

Creating a card takes less than 5 minutes, but those 5 minutes can save someone’s life. In a moment where they want to disappear, you let them know they are seen. In a moment, where they are debating whether or not to keep going, you offered them hope. You gave them the encouragement they needed to continue on.

A small gesture, yes. But when you feel like you have nothing, something as simple as a card can remind you that you deserve to live.

So, how do these cards save lives? They offer a burst of light in a dark tunnel.

How can I get involved?

Go to to learn more about the program. The program page has example messages and cards as well as printable coloring pages you can submit. After you create the cards, simply mail them to us. We will add them to our monthly distribution.

I ask you to please take 5 minutes and make a card. We need you. People out there who are struggling need you.

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Humans Need Humans: The Impact of Human Connection

men s white button up dress shirt

“Man by nature is a social animal.”


According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a sense of love and belonging are one of our most basic needs as human beings. Why? According to a TEDx presented by Neuroscientist, Matthew Lieberman, as mammals, we are not born with the ability to care for ourselves. In fact, Dr. Lieberman offers an insightful perspective into the power of connection: The only reason any of us survive infancy is because of someone else’s desire to connect with us and care for us.

What does that mean? In simple terms: humans need humans.

Human beings are wired to find a sense of belonging.

Many of us search our whole lives trying to find a place where we belong. Many find that the feeling of belonging within family, friend groups, workplace, community groups, or places of worships. We find a sense of belonging when we feel seen, heard, and understood by those around us.

What is true human or social connection?

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Brene Brown

According to an article written by Donna Pisacano Brown, “Human connection is an energy exchange between people who are paying attention to one another. It has the power to deepen the moment, inspire change and build trust.” Human connection is more than connecting through having a conversation. Real human connection is how we understand and support other human beings. Similarly, it is how we are understood and supported by another human being. Connection comes from our ability to listen, learn, evolve, empathize, help, and love. True connection is not made when we are talking over others, gaslighting their experiences, or invalidating their feelings. It is certainly not made when we speak more than we listen.

The connection we know and utilize today is our kryptonite. Today’s connection is overflowing with arguments, ignorance, and lack of empathy all committed through a digital screen. Humans need humans. Humans need human connection. Yet, we have transformed the means of human connection into the birth of human disconnection.

Why disconnection? Because instead of listening to other people’s (or even our own) needs, we are fighting against it. Everyone is so focused on their opinions, values, and beliefs being the “right” ones, we have forgotten how to appreciate different perspectives. Perspectives that differ from our others are what helps the world to evolve. It is what incites positive progression. If we all thought the same things and believed the same things, nothing would ever change. Nevertheless, instead of appreciating everyone’s differences and learning why people believe in what they believe in, we tear each other down, promoting ourselves and our beliefs as superior. The lack of open communication that stimulates learning and compassion has created a world of disconnect.

Are we truly living in a time of disconnect?

Disconnection develops every time we refuse to listen. You do not have to agree with someone to listen to why they have certain values, thoughts, or beliefs. Engaging in a conversation does not suggest agreeance. Listening and asking non-judgmental questions is not a sign of agreement. In fact, it is simply called a conversation. Conversations do not have a winner. One side is not right while the other is wrong. That is called an argument, which we have normalized as how to have a conversation.

All of this has been amplified by technology. Technology is diminishing the power of human connection. The intent of social media sites was to expand our reach; to communicate with people around the world. The progress of this technology was aimed at unifying the world by magnifying our ability to join in conversations with people around the world and learn new perspectives.

“The true value of technology is the human outcome it produces.”

Tim Kobe

If you have been on social media lately, then you know the use does not match the intent. What started out as a beautiful opportunity to breakdown echo chambers has essentially resulted in a global fight. People around the world are utilizing social media as a way to silence other people’s voices and opinions. There seems to be an urge to be heard with no desire to listen. Honestly, we so badly want to feel heard that we forget other people have that same desire and basic need. And, if we will not let anyone else’s voice be heard, then how do we expect ours to be heard?

As a result of the disconnect, many are living in isolation and fear. Many are hiding behind nameless and faceless accounts. People feel more inclined to communicate solely behind a screen than to engage in the same conversations face to face. This has led to a new generation growing up with an understanding that connecting through social media is the same as “social connection.”

The power of social networking extends beyond social network sites.

“Connection is not an exchange of information. It’s an exchange of humanity. It’s an exchange of emotion.”

Sean Stephenson

In a world fueled by information, it is no wonder that we seek connection through validation and information. We want to be told everything and we want to tell everyone everything. What we do not always remember to do is share emotion.

Deep connections are formed on the basis of vulnerability. Feeling vulnerable enough to share our innermost thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement is the essence of a pure connection. As much as we want to believe that connecting with someone virtually is just as powerful as connecting with someone in person, it is just not true. Virtual connections have allowed for an expansion of opportunities, and it helped us communicate with loved ones during a time where physical distancing was required. However, nothing will ever be able to replace the impact of a face-to-face conversation.

Social networking is not just “connecting” with people on LinkedIn or “friending” people on Facebook, or “following” people on Instagram and Twitter. Social networking is creating social connections with those around us, forming a bond that makes us feel safe and loved.

Human connection is the most powerful tool at our disposal, especially when it comes to our mental health.

The secret ingredient to life: social connection.

Money may not buy happiness, but human connection can.

One of the most common symptoms of someone experiencing a mental health condition or crisis is isolation. How many times do we have to hear someone say. “I have no one to talk to”? Did you know that in 1985, a study was conducted that found the average American claimed to have three close friends they felt comfortable confiding in? That same study was conducted in 2004, but the number dropped significantly. In fact, the average American claimed to have only one close friend they felt comfortable confiding in with 25% admitting they have no one to confide in.

How does that impact mental health? For starters, having someone to confide in helps offer a sense of belonging. When you know that no matter what happens there is at least one person who will be there with you through it, it creates a feeling of hope. Knowing that you never have to go through it alone can help make you feel like you matter. On the other hand, imagine experiencing many tough situations and desperately needing someone to tell you that it is going to be okay, except you do not have anyone there. Imagine feeling so down that you feel hopeless or worthless or simply numb, and there is no one there to comfort you. Then, imagine feeling like no one would care if you were not here.

Social connection has the power to save lives. When we feel accepted by others, it boosts our self-confidence. It reduces the question of “Am I Enough?”  When we feel connected to others, it serves as a reminder that we are not alone, and we do not have to go through life alone. Life is a lot fuller and a lot more meaningful when we share it with others.

None of this means that you cannot be there for yourself. It simply means you do not have to be the only one there for yourself.

Final Thoughts

To wrap it up, I am going to simply share a powerful quote given to Emma Seppala by Brene Brown in an interview for an article called Connect To Thrive.

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” We are profoundly social creatures. We may think we want money, power, fame, beauty, eternal youth or a new car, but at the root of most of these desires is a need to belong, to be accepted, to connect with others, to be loved. We pride ourselves on our independence, on pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, having a successful career and above all not depending on anyone. But, as psychologists from Maslow to Baumeister have repeatedly stressed, the truth of the matter is that a sense of social connection is one of our fundamental human needs.”


The social brain and its superpowers: Matthew Lieberman, Ph.D. at TEDxStLouis

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Rejuvenate From Burnout With Me

wood love notebook office

First, what is burnout?

According to an article written by Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Lawrence Robinson on Help Guide called, Burnout Prevention and Treatment, “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.”

Why Fran Faces Burnout.

One thing I have always struggled with is taking a break. I know taking a break is good for my mental health. And yes, I know it is important to allow myself time to rejuvenate. However, sometimes, it feels even more exhausting to separate myself from my work.

Overtime, between managing a full-time job of running a nonprofit organization and a full-time master’s program, I get mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. Add all of that to waking up at 5am to read new books, research, and articles to stay up to date on trends within the mental health field, I often forget to turn my brain off. Even in the car, I listen to podcasts on mental health, health, and business. My life is consumed by learning and producing, which I absolutely love. But, even when you love every single thing that you do, you can still burnout.

For me, burnout looks like laying in bed longer than usual. It looks like eating more processed foods and skipping workouts. Burnout reduces my desire to read, study, or work. I often stare blankly at my to do list or computer screen trying to find a piece of energy to get me going. In fact, I even start to lose confidence in myself and my work. My depression sometimes takes control of my brain.

I often question if anyone relate?!

Well, if you can relate, fear not! I have developed my own burnout recovery plan to share with you! And some tips on how to create one that works well for you!

Fran’s Personal Burnout Recovery Plan:

One of the biggest pieces of my burnout recovery plan is clearing my calendar for 72 hours – with the exception of mandatory items (like school attendance or meetings). Over the 72 hours, each day I try to accomplish 1 very small task that is on my current to do list to silence the negative voice in my head telling me I am lazy or unproductive.

Step 1: Reaching out to friends.

I used to really disconnect from those around me when I start to burnout. I would hide in my room and binge-watch comfort shows (The Nanny and Friends, anyone?!) Now, I reach out to my friends. I live in different cities and states from many of my friends, so FaceTime and Zoom have become staples in staying connected. I prefer seeing someone’s face and hearing their tone rather than texting behind a screen, because it feels more genuine which improves my ability to connect with them. When I have the ability to see my friends in-person, I often schedule daily breakfast, coffee, lunch, or study dates. Forcing myself to be around people helps prevent my depression taking over.

Step 2: Prioritize My Work.

I am sure it is not surprising to hear that I often overwhelm myself with things to do. I must think I have some kind of superpower that allows me to accomplish more than humanly possible in 24 hours. Thus, I create a very long to do list of everything I want to accomplish. Any task, big or small, that has appeared in my head is written down. Then, I separate the list out into different sections.

  • Section 1 is items with actual deadlines, not self-imposed deadlines. I organize this in chronological order to ensure I meet deadlines.
  • Section 2 is items that are super important to me that make me feel accomplished when completed. I organize this chronologically by the self-imposed deadlines I created.
  • Section 3 is items that are important but will not negatively impact my life or self-esteem if I do not complete right away. I organize this by ease – items that take less time and energy are often ranked higher.
  • Lastly, Section 4 is long-term goals. These items are simply listed without any specific order. After splitting up the four sections, I create weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals that combine items from all the lists. I break down bigger projects into smaller milestones, such as outlines and rough drafts. Identifying my goals in an organized way helps to alleviate some of the overwhelming emotions I face.

Step 3: Update My Morning and Evening Routines.

My usual morning and evening routines often include new items added on as each day passes. Thus, my mornings and nights are consumed by too much external work, reducing the quantity and quality of internal work. To start, I usually go back to the basics. Food, water, and skincare. These are my necessities to feel good. Day 1 is just the basics – I cook, I track my water intake to ensure I consume 64oz of water, and I do my daily skincare routine. Then, each passing day for the next 5 days add 1 priority item. For example, my 5 priorities are: moving my body, reading, journaling, cleaning, and drinking tea. By restarting my routines slowly, I am able to mentally and physically slow down while re-introducing tasks that work as self-care / coping mechanisms.

Step 4: Sleep.

On the last day, I turn off my morning alarm and remove my phone from my bedroom. I sleep until my body naturally wakes up and feels ready to get out of bed. I do my morning tasks without checking the time or offering energy to other people and/or social media. And I go to bed when my body feels tired and ready to sleep. There is no concept of time or deadlines. I allow my body to naturally tune in with itself and the earth. This helps separate my addiction to production by deadlines and my ability to enjoy each piece of what I accomplish.

How Do You Make Your Own Plan?

I know what you are thinking: “This recovery plan sounds great, I will copy it!” No! Do not copy my plan, instead create your own. Your needs, your body, and your mental health are different than mine. What your body and mind crave may not be the same as what my body and mind crave. So, instead of copying my plan, you can copy the questions I asked myself when creating this plan:

  • What am I feeling right now?
  • Where are these feelings coming from?
  • When I feel this way, what do I tend to do?
  • What have been my priorities lately?
  • When I prioritize this, what am I sacrificing?
  • What small changes can I make to not sacrifice my productivity or myself?
  • Listen to my body, what is it asking for?
  • Listen to my mind, what does it need?

After answering these questions, I realized that my depressive symptoms increase when I experience burnout. I isolate myself and give in to the depression. I do not listen to my body or my mind’s needs; I just listen to the focus on production. I tie my work to what I produce. Then, I decided on 4 things I could do to help change my answers from “negative” to “positive.”

So, I challenge you to listen to yourself and create your own burnout recovery plan. You got this!


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Does the current emergency response system fail mental health?

rear view of a silhouette man in window

In my opinion, the current emergency response system often overlooks the complexity of mental health crises. First of all, every mental health crisis looks different. One of the biggest misconceptions on mental health as a whole is that idea that there is one standard look to each mental illness. For example, society (and the DSM) put each mental illness into a box. Symptoms of depression, like hopelessness and sadness and fatigue, fit into one box; and symptoms of anxiety, like worrisome and overthinking, fit into another box. They often forget to take into consideration not only the overlap of two mental illnesses but also the root cause of the mental illness(es), such as genetics, brain chemistry, trauma, environmental factors, etc. Thus, even if two people have the same mental illness, that does not mean they have the same root cause. Different causes, different symptoms, different traumas, different resources accessible, different backgrounds, and more all create different ways of coping and reacting to a mental health crisis.

Why is this important? Without understanding the complexity of a mental health crisis, we cannot begin to form an approach that provides safety and support to individuals struggling.

Let’s look at the facts.

There are 4 million adults with untreated severe mental illness. Adults with severe mental illness make up:

1 in 4 of fatal police encounters.

1 in 5 of jail and prison inmates.

1 in 10 of all low enforcement responses.


In 2015, a study found that people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement. 


Using data covering 2009-2012, a study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that “one in five (21.7%) legal intervention deaths were directly related to issues with the victim’s mental health or substance-induced disruptive behaviors.”


Meanwhile, surveys by the National Alliance on Mental Illness have found that people in a mental health crisis are more likely to encounter police than to get medical attention, resulting in two million people jailed every year.


What is one of the top factors contributing to these statistics?

A lack of listening.

A few months ago, I was privileged to have the opportunity to share in a conversation with a licensed social worker. The social worker dedicates time to train police officers on how to properly approach and de-escalate a mental health crisis. During our conversation, we spoke about how the current emergency response system fails mental health and what we can do about it. The biggest concern she shared was a lack of truly listening.

What do I mean by a lack of listening? According to the social worker, when a police officer is dealing with an individual experiencing a mental health crisis, a few of the most important things they need to do are:

  • Be honest about what the process is. Ex. Are you taking them to jail? Are you taking them to a behavioral health facility?
  • Explain why. Ex. I have to take you to jail because … I have to take you to behavioral health facility because …
  • Actively Listen. Do not keep your head over the radio ignoring the person speaking. Do not interrupt the person speaking, allow them the space to speak.

Note: This is not inclusive of threatening situations where the police officer’s or civilians’ lives are in danger.

Remember, sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. If we offered a listening ear instead of assuming we know what to do, we can significantly reduce the number of fatalities and jail time for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT)

While I was speaking with the social worker, I learned a lot about Crisis Intervention Teams.

Recently, there have been amazing developments with the formation CITs which consist of specially trained police offers and mental health professionals. The goal of this team is to address and de-escalate a mental health crisis while also having the skillset required to manage unsafe situations, such as abuse and violence. Having both police officers and mental health professionals at the scene helps the individual struggling to receive emotional support, ensures there are options other than arrest (unless arrest is necessary) such as mental health treatment, and still offers the required skillset to navigate life-threatening situations. Some CITs even offer a follow-up care system, where they pick up the individual as they are released from a Behavioral Health hospitalization or jail following the mental health crisis. This is followed by helping to ensure the individual has a safety plan in place and offering resources to the individual and family.

Key Takeaway

Someone experiencing a mental health crisis is 16 times more likely to experience a fatal police encounter. We can work to significantly reduce this statistic. How? By engaging our lawmakers in conversations regarding mandating Crisis Intervention Teams. Paying attention to whom we are voting for as our city and county Sheriffs. By listening to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis (when not in immediate danger), instead of assuming the situation is dangerous.

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Opening Up About Mental Health to A Partner

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Do I have to open up about my mental health to my partner? No, you do not. When you share information about your mental health and who you share it with is entirely up to you.

My rule of thumb is to share when you feel comfortable enough to receive their response. It is not about them; it is about you. When you are in the right frame of mind where their response (good or bad) will not affect your mental health, then it is a good time to share. However, if you are not comfortable with sharing, it is completely up to you.

To be honest, most of us fear judgement and lack of acceptance. This does not make us crazy or dramatic, it makes us human. As human beings, we tend to crave acceptance. And that is okay. The idea of being rejected can feel overbearing. The thought of being labeled can feel overwhelming. Therefore, knowing if, when, and how to open up can feel impossible.

Common reasons people want to open up.

  • To share more about yourself with your partner
  • Help your partner to understand that your emotional reactions may not always be reflective of problems within the relationship
  • To not have to feel like you are hiding a piece of yourself from your partner
  • To not live-in fear of how your partner may react if they found out.

Here are some examples of what you can share in an intentional mental health conversation.

  • How you are really feeling
  • What you have been going through
  • Ways they can offer support
  • Triggers

Important things to remember.

  • How your partner reacts is not a reflection of you or your mental health status.
  • If they invalidate or judge you, then they are probably not the right person for you and your needs.
  • Your partner may need guidance on how to show they understand and are there for you. If they have never had a conversation about mental health, they may not know the right things to say. The conversation should be a collaboration of continuous growth and learning.
  • They may also need to feel supported and have their own mental health journey to share. Offer them space as well.
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Let’s talk about Emotional Support

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My loved one is going through a tough time. I want to be there for him/her/them, but I have no idea how to provide the support they need. What do I say? What do I do?

How many of you can relate to this? The truth is that most of us are afraid of witnessing our loved one’s vulnerability, because we were not taught the right things to say. We are often afraid of hurting them or not offering enough support. In the following article, I will discuss emotional support and ways to show up for your loved ones.

What is Emotional Support?

First, emotional support is when we offer compassion and encouragement. We may accomplish this through verbal and nonverbal gestures. Appropriate physical touch and eye contact can go a long way. Words of understanding and validation can offer more support that we realize. Let’s break this down further.

The following information comes directly from the “You Are Not Alone Workbook” written by Francesca Reicherter, Founder and President of Inspiring My Generation Corporation. The workbook is available for sale on

First, check in with yourself.

It is important to check in with yourself first. If you are not feeling well, it can be hard to be there for your loved ones in the way they deserve. Support starts with us. It is not being selfish to take care of yourself first. You cannot pour tea from an empty tea pot, just like you cannot give support if you do not feel supported.

Ask non-judgmental, open-ended questions with support.

Ask non-judgmental, open-ended questions with support. It is also important to create a safe place for ourselves and our loved ones to share their feelings. When we create a safe space, we do not judge or make fun of others for their feelings or experiences.

Examples of Questions:

  • How are you feeling today?
  • What has been on your mind lately?

A good conversation also includes supportive statements with the questions. Supportive statements let the other person know that you are there for them. This can help them feel more comfortable to share their feelings.

Examples of Supportive Statements:

  • I care about you, and I am here for you.
  • When I went through a hard time, talking to someone helped me. If you want to talk, I am here for you.
  • If you want, I can help you find an adult to talk to. (recommendations: parents, teachers, counselors)

Actively listen.

When someone is opening up to you about their feelings, it is important to listen. It can be scary to talk about feelings, so it is important to show the other person that we care.

Examples of how to show you are actively listening:

  • Body Language: Nod your head. Use facial expressions. Look at the person speaking to you.
  • Do Not Interrupt: Allow the person speaking to finish talking before you speak.
  • Show You Understand: Respond by repeating what the person shared to show you are listening and hearing what they say.

Examples of Understanding Statements:

  • I am hearing that you feel . . .
  • It sounds like you are feeling . . .
  • If I understand right . . .

Validate their feelings.

Sharing one’s feelings can be scary. Sometimes, we feel like we are the only one feeling this way. When you validate someone’s feelings, you let them know that what they are feeling is okay and that they are not alone. Validating someone’s feelings can make a big difference in how comfortable they feel. When we feel sad, we can also validate our own feelings, because our feelings are important too!

Examples of Validating Feelings

  • It is normal to feel . . .
  • It makes sense to feel . . .
  • With all that you are going through, no wonder you feel . . .
  • That is a lot for one person to handle, you are not alone.
  • Going through . . . can be very hard. I am here for you.

Follow up.

Being there for your loved ones during the conversation is important but checking on them after is just as important. Sometimes, we feel embarrassed after we share our feelings or like we bothered the other person. It is normal to feel that way, but our loved ones will not judge us or make us feel bad for sharing. By following up with your loved ones, you can let them know that they can count on you for support again.

Examples of Following Up

  • I have been thinking about our conversation the other day. I wanted to check in and see how you are doing.
  • I have been thinking about you a lot. If you want to talk again, I am here for you.
  • It has been a few days since . . . happened. How are you feeling? I am here if you want to talk about it.
  • I just wanted to let you know I am happy we talked the other day and that I could be there for you. I am here if you want to talk again.

Purchase the You Are Not Alone Workbook

Purchase the You Are Not Alone Workbook: Kid’s Edition

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Why there should be a minimum standard of care across all psych wards

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Psych wards are designed to be a place where someone struggling can feel safe. Whether the person is having thoughts of suicide, struggling with self-harm, experiencing drug or alcohol abuse, attempted suicide, or just needs a safe space, a psych ward is supposed to be the place. Yet, people discharged from a psych ward are 100-200x more likely to die by suicide upon release.

Every psych ward is different, just like every hospital is different. Some have more funding than others, however, that does not mean the standard of care should be different. Many times, when you are admitted into a psych ward, you do not get to choose which one. Often times, it is hard to find multiple options for psych wards near you, if it is voluntary. Plus, you have to consider the financial cost, as it may vary based on insurance, type of hospital, etc.

Many psych ward visits are involuntary. Most people need serious intervention and support at that time. It does not matter who you are or where you come from, you are deserving of quality treatment that benefits you. Treatment that acts as a starting point in your recovery. You do not deserve to come out of the psych ward in a worse position. You do not deserve to be just a checked box that relieves the hospital / state of legal concerns. And you definitely do not deserve to be forced to try a medication that does not work for your actual diagnosis.

Imagine if we had a minimum standard of care that forced hospitals to allocate more funding toward behavioral health.

An individual hospitalized in a psych ward, whether voluntary or involuntary, deserves 1 on 1 time with a licensed mental health care professional that helps both parties get an understanding of the situation. Many struggling do not always know what they are going through and would benefit from exploring what they are feeling and experiencing with help. A lot of people do not have a confirmed diagnosis and may need support in learning what they are experiencing and what treatment options are available to them. When exploring the situation together, the psychiatrist may get a better feel for which medication options may be right for the patient, if the patient needs / wants medication.

Furthermore, group therapy could explore building a coping toolbox. Imagine if a group of people who are struggling with similar diagnoses were working together to explore coping mechanisms.  There could be mixed groups and groups for specific mental health symptoms / conditions / crises. People experiencing a mental health crisis often feel alone and being able to share their journey and their feelings with people who truly get it can be life-altering. Someone with schizophrenia and someone with anxiety disorder are both struggling with real mental illnesses but may need different treatment plans and different types of support. Customizing the experience for every patient to collaborate and connect not only with people experiencing similar situations but also to everyone there would be more rewarding than if it were just one or the other.

In addition, all patients should go home with a customized treatment plan. The treatment plan should include therapy / behavioral health facility recommendations, whether it is in-patient or out-patient. It should also include a list of coping mechanisms the patient feels comfortable with in addition to other coping mechanisms available to try. And the treatment plan should include a safety plan that helps the patient know what they can do if they experience another mental health crisis. 

Lastly, treatment should not be financially out of reach. When someone is held within a behavioral health facility, the cost (or a high portion of the cost) should be covered by insurance. The hospital should also charge a reasonable amount, rather than take advantage of the ability to profit on one’s mental health condition / crisis.

A standard of care within our psychiatric system is imperative to the success of our future. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death from age 10 to 35. People who need support should receive the help and support they need to jumpstart their recovery.

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How Do I Create A Safe Space?

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A safe space is essential for an authentic and supportive mental health conversation.

One of the primary reasons that individuals struggle in silence is the stigma associated with mental health. Essentially, we fear our loved one’s reaction. Will I be judged? Will I be invalidated? Will they not love me anymore? What if they do not understand? What if they do not care? What if they do not believe me? These are just a few of the questions that play on repeat through someone’s head when they want to reach out for help.

Often times, people do not want to struggle in silence. Yet, they feel like they have to, because opening up feels like a burden. In addition, it is devastating to be invalidated.

So, how do we let our loved ones know that we are here for them?

In my opinion, one of the biggest factors is how we discuss mental health on a regular basis. When we use words like “crazy, deranged, and psychopath” to label someone with a mental illness or who may be experiencing a mental health crisis, we are contributing to the stigma. Now, it may not seem like a big deal in the moment, but your loved ones will remember you using those words when they are struggling. This may cause hesitation on whether or not they open up to you.

Another factor, in my opinion, is the occurrence of honest conversations on mental health, emotions, and life experiences. How often do you engage in real conversations about how you are? And how often do you sincerely ask and answer “How are you?” When you show your own vulnerability, it creates a deeper connection. This connection allows someone to feel like they can also be vulnerable. Vulnerability has been given a bad reputation, but the most beautiful connections and conversations are created in the midst of vulnerability.

In addition to how and when we discuss mental health on a routine basis, the way we respond during a mental health conversation / check-in is essential.

Here is the thing: we are all continuously learning how to offer proper support and validation within mental health conversations. It truly is a learning process because the conversation is unique for everyone. Everyone experiences mental health conditions, symptoms, and crises in different ways; thus, the proper responses will vary person to person.

Here are some examples of variations:

  • Where does validation cross the line from helpful to harmful?
  • How much support should you offer? When is it the time to hold their hand and when is the time to just be there?
  • How often do I check-in? If I check-in too much, is it overbearing? If I do not check-in enough, am I being insensitive?
  • Should I share my ideas on what may be helpful, or should I stay out of it?
  • Do I tell someone else what my loved one disclosed to me or do I keep it to myself? What if it has to do with self-harm or suicidal thoughts? If I tell someone, will they never open up to me again?

In summary, yes, the conversation on mental health is very complicated. However, that does not mean the conversation is not necessary. If we do not talk about it, our loved ones will continue to struggle in silence. And silence is deadly.

Here are my tips to creating a safe space during the conversation.

  • Ask open-ended questions. This shows the person opening up that you are interested in a discussion and not ending the conversation.
  • Try to remove any judgement from your tone. If you do not understand, ask a question in a supportive manner. Ex. “I have never personally experienced X, and I want to be supportive, but I am not sure what the best thing I can do for you is. Would you mind explaining it more or how I can help?”
  • Emphasize support. “I am here for you. You are not alone in this. What can I do to offer my support?”
  • Validate feelings. “It makes sense that you feel …”
  • Follow up. The safe space should not end when the conversation does. Let your loved one know that you always have space for them.
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Are you content with life or is life about producing content?

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In an episode of the Normalize the Conversation series released on July 7, 2021, my guest, Alastair Ballentyne proposed this question to me: Are you content with life or is your life about producing content?

At first, I thought I was content with life. I am living my dream with Inspiring My Generation. I am obtaining my master’s in psychology. I have so many incredible things that I am beyond grateful for. I must feel content. Yet, my worth was still tied to my productivity. How much can I offer to others? What new resources or tools can I develop and share? How many blogs can I create? What more can I donate to the mental health community? How many different episodes can I produce? What else can I do? Where am I falling short? My entire thought process is “What else?”

I was so consumed with production and content that I often woke up in the middle of the night and start working. My anxiety was often triggered by taking time away from working to rest or socialize. There were periods of time where I would go more than 24 hours without rest. And this all felt normal to me. The only way to move forward is to continuously push yourself beyond your limits, right?

Our society is obsessed with overwhelming productivity.  

From a young age, we teach our kids to do more. Play more sports. Join more school organizations. Take on more after school commitments. Without it, you will not get into college. If you do not get into a good college, you will not get a decent job.

Then, we get to college. Now, it is all about earning good grades. Participating in school organizations. Joining Greek Life. Maintaining a social life. Resume building. Internships. Real life work experience. Job hunting.

When we enter the work force, taking days off to rest is selfish and it may get you fired. Working past 9-5 hours is expected. You are expected to have it all and do it all.

We are constantly telling ourselves that we have to do more and be more. Our life is consumed by how much we produce. It is not what we can do for ourselves, it is all about what we can offer to everyone else around us. But, in the midst of running ourselves empty trying to live up to society’s expectations, where does that leave us?

Watch the FULL episode to learn more:

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How is self-esteem tied to mental health?

i hate nothing about you with red heart light


Self-esteem is defined by Oxford Dictionary as “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.” In other words, self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. When someone has high self-esteem, they have positive feelings about themselves. On the other hand, someone with low self-esteem has negative feelings about themselves. For example, someone with low self-esteem may believe they are not worthy of love or happiness.

Conversely, mental health encompasses our emotional and psychological well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It is easier to understand mental health when you look at it as a scale ranging from wellness or illness.

How does low self-esteem affect mental health?

Self-esteem impacts every piece of our life. It not only affects how we value ourselves as a person, but also how we take care of ourselves. Someone with higher self-esteem may make more time for self-care and rest. Furthermore, people with higher self-esteem are kinder to themselves, recognize their strengths, and advocate for themselves. On the other hand, people with lower self-esteem may focus on the negatives in their life, make it difficult to move beyond mistakes, and believe they are not good enough.

Lower self-esteem is linked to increased risk of depression and anxiety. We may begin to feel worthless because we believe we are not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc. It can also impact our relationships. When we question our own worth, we often act in ways that demonstrate our insecurities. We may feel like our partner does not love us or feel paranoid about their fidelity.

Feeling comfortable in your own skin is a key part of self-esteem. When we constantly look for validation from external forces, like people around us or our followers on social media, our self-esteem and mental health will be negatively impacted. Thus, our self-esteem develops within ourselves.

What causes low self-esteem?

Often times, we can trace self-esteem damage to rejection and / or lack of positive reinforcement. When our parents, our friends, our partners, or other important figures in our life engage in abuse (whether it is emotional, physical, or sexual), we may feel like we deserve the pain. When we are constantly told our faults, especially by someone we care about, we tend to believe them. Low self-esteem can stem from manipulative relationships, where we are cheated on and / or gaslighted. It can also come from mental health conditions, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Depression. Recently, we have seen social media play a huge role in children’s self-esteem. We often compare ourselves to everyone around us—from our bodies to materialistic items to followers to likes.

Someone with low self-esteem may fear rejection, abandonment, or change. They may also seek approval from everyone around them. Low self-esteem is often hidden by using humor to point out their perceived flaws.

How can you build self-esteem?

Building self-esteem is important. However, shifting the feelings we have about ourselves is not an easy task. Often times, it involves discovering the underlying reasons behind our negative thoughts and learning how to adapt them. Therapy can be a great tool for this! Therapists can guide you through processing and lifestyle changes to build your self-esteem.

However, if therapy is not accessible to you, there are life-changes you can make now. There is always something you can do for yourself. Healthy lifestyle changes are crucial! Taking care of your body is taking care of your mind. Therefore, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and allowing your body time to rest is a great place to start. It is also important to spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. The more time you spend with people who make you feel not good enough, the more your self-esteem will decline. Remember: what you put in your body, on your body, and around your body affect your physical and mental wellness.

Here are some other things you can do to build your self-esteem:

  • Celebrate your accomplishments. Even the small ones, including making your bed, finishing an assignment at work / school, or eating a balanced meal.
  • Focus on cultivating your inner happiness. Setting boundaries can be very helpful. You do not have to please everyone around you, especially not at a cost to yourself. When you attach your worth to someone else’s happiness, you have no control over your own happiness.
  • Be understanding of yourself and your emotions. It is okay to feel. Whatever you are feeling is valid, but it may not be true. Ask yourself where the thoughts come from.

Having a healthy self-esteem is vital to your quality of life. You deserve to love yourself as much as you love those around you.

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Your mental health crisis is not your fault.

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You are not alone.

You deserve help and support.

Your mental health crisis is NOT your fault.

Introduction to Mental Health Crisis

A mental health crisis occurs when a person is in danger of hurting themselves or others and / or prevents them from being able to care for themselves.

What can lead to a mental health crisis?

  • Relationships changing / ending
  • Conflicts with loved ones
  • Grief / loss
  • Trauma
  • High levels of stress
  • Feeling lonely
  • New / changes in medication

A mental health crisis / emergency is a real crisis. Thus, we need to address a mental health crisis with the same urgency and importance as any other health emergency. However, unfortunately, due to the lack of conversation and awareness, many people do not know that support is available. Therefore, most people do not know what to expect during or after a mental health crisis.

Warning Signs of a Mental Health Crisis

Below I have included a list of common warning signs of a mental health crisis.

  • Simple daily tasks become difficult (brushing teeth, changing clothing)
  • Increased or decreased energy levels
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling depressed or withdrawn
  • Isolating yourself from loved ones or life in general
  • Feeling easily irritated
  • Out-of-control behavior
  • Engaging in violent or destructive behavior
  • Engaging in abusive behavior toward others
  • Psychosis (lose touch with reality, example: hearing voices and seeing things that are not there)
  • Paranoia
  • Self-harm
  • Substance Abuse

Warning signs may not always be present nor easily identifiable. It is okay if you miss the warning signs. It is okay if you experience a mental health crisis while you are in therapy or seeking treatment. You still are valid in your mental health crisis, and you still deserve support. It does not mean you have “failed.”

Am I at risk for suicide?

Mental health crises may result in suicidal thoughts, especially if the individual is experiencing feelings of depression, worthlessness, hopelessness, guilt, and / or loneliness. Although our society does not always take thoughts of suicide seriously, it is important to take it seriously. When facing a mental health crisis, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and suicide attempts often occur.

Feeling suicidal or experiencing suicidal thoughts is often more complex than “I want to end my life.” Below I have included a list of common warning signs for suicide.

  • Constantly thinking about dying
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Saying goodbye
  • Giving away personal possessions
  • Making / updating a will
  • Purchasing a means (Example: firearms, pills)

Please note, if someone has a history of suicide attempts or has lost someone to suicide, their risk for suicide may be heightened.

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or may be experiencing a mental health crisis, here are a few free resources available to you.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line: 741-741
  • Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
  • In immediate danger? call 911

What to Do for Your Mental Health Crisis

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, it may be difficult to assess the situation or express what you are feeling to others. Although it is normal to feel unprepared and confused, it is important to know what options are available to you. The first question I recommend asking yourself is “Am I in danger of hurting myself or others?” From there, you can decide on next steps. If you feel that you are in danger of harming yourself or others, call 911 for immediate assistance. However, if you do not feel that you are in danger of harming yourself or others, you may reach out to a crisis hotline (such as the numbers listed above), a mental health professional, or family physician. A professional can help you assess the situation to see if you should schedule an appointment with a professional or be admitted to a hospital.

Many people facing a mental health crisis often feel uncomfortable calling 911. 911 can help you, especially when you feel like you are in immediate danger. It is important to explain the crisis with as much detail as possible when you call 911, so the responder has an idea what to expect. You can also request someone trained to work with mental health condition, such as a Crisis Intervention Training Officer (CIT). CITs are trained to help deescalate situation through specific training and access to helpful resources.

What to Do for Your Loved One’s Mental Health Crisis

Similarly, to the section above, assessing the situation first is imperative. It may be difficult and confusing to assess the situation, especially when the individual cannot easily express what they are experiencing. However, the best place to start is identifying if the individual facing a mental health crisis is in danger of harming themselves or others. If they are in danger, you may follow the same 911 protocol listed above.

If they are not in immediate danger, there are a few ways you can provide support.

  • Help your loved one reach out to a professional
  • Offer crisis hotline resources
  • Provide support and encouragement to your loved ones
  • Ask your loved one how you can help them
  • Do not take control, but rather offer suggestions
  • Give your loved on space

Sometimes when we offer support to others, we drain ourselves. You are important too. Take care of yourself. Do not be afraid to reach out to a professional or crisis hotline for your own mental health. This does not take away from your loved one, but it allows you to provide the support they need without emptying your own cup.

Final Thoughts

Because of the stigma on mental health, lack of education and awareness, and high costs of treatment, many people who experience a mental health crisis do not reach out for support. Please know that you deserve support, and you deserve help. There are many options and resources available to you. And there are many nonprofit organizations offering free services, free crisis support, and grants to help cover treatment costs. You are not alone. You do not have to go through this alone.

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Suicidal thoughts are more than “I want to die.”

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Suicidal thoughts, also known as “suicidal ideation,” is often misunderstood. This is partially due to the stigma on mental illness as a whole, depression, and suicide. We live in a world where individuals do not feel worthy of help until they have a gun to their head or pills in their hand. Why? Because, we have minimized suicidal thoughts.

Suicide is often treated as a joke.

  • “I am going to kill myself if I fail this test.”
  • “This meeting made me want to jump off a bridge.”

Suicidal ideation is often invalidated.

  • “They are not going to hurt themselves; they are just looking for attention.”
  • “You are just being dramatic.”

Suicidal ideation is very common.

Almost everyone will experience suicidal ideation at some point in their lives. However, this does not take away from the danger and impact of suicidal thoughts. Without proper support, passive suicidal ideation (thoughts with no intention of action) can turn into active suicidal ideation.

Suicidal thoughts are more than “I want to die.”

Early detection can be a key in suicide prevention. However, due to lack of conversation, education, and awareness on suicidal ideation, we often miss the warning signs.

Suicidal thoughts include feeling:

  • Hopeless
  • Overwhelmed by negative thoughts
  • Unbearable pain
  • Useless
  • Desperate
  • Like a burden
  • Not good enough
  • Lonely
  • Physically numb
  • Fascinated by death


Research shows that suicidal ideation often starts by the time you are 8 years old. It is not always in the traditional sense, of “I want to die” or “I want to kill myself.” Often times, it starts as simple as:

  • “My parents’ divorce is my fault. Everything is my fault. I ruin everything.”
  • “I hate my life. Nothing ever goes right.”
  • “I have no friends. No one likes me. I am alone.”
  • “I am ugly, stupid, and useless. No one is going to like me.”
  • “Everyone would be happier if I was never born.”

Imagine if we started teaching people how to cope with suicidal ideation. What if we started education people on how to advocate for themselves and what they are experiencing? Imagine if we made treatment widely accessible and stigma-free. Here are my opinions on a few of the most common questions on experiencing suicidal ideation.

When do I seek help?

When you ask yourself this question, it is time to seek help.

Are these thoughts normal? Does everyone feel this way?

You are not the only one experiencing these thoughts. Suicidal thoughts are very common and occur way too frequently. However, none of that means you do not deserve support. When you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, even if it seems minor, talking to a doctor or mental health professional can be extremely helpful. Without any treatment or support, these thoughts may worsen and consume your life.

Should I talk to my doctor about my suicidal ideation?

It is important to disclose your suicidal thoughts to your doctor so that they may help you to evaluate the severity. Sometimes, a doctor might recommend self-care and allowing yourself time to rest and recuperate. Often times, a doctor might check your vitamin and hormone levels, as deficiencies can be linked to lower moods. In other situations, the doctor may recommend a form of mental health treatment.

Will I be hospitalized if I tell my doctor or mental health care professional?

This depends on the doctor / mental health care professional, your mental health medical history, whether or not you are high risk of harming yourself or others, and any additional factors the provider sees fit. Typically, hospitalization within a psych ward is used for individuals with active suicidal ideation: thoughts and a plan.

How do I talk to my doctor or mental health care professional about my suicidal ideation?

Be honest! Share exactly what you are feeling and be sure to clarify if you have thought of a plan of harming yourself, even if you are not certain you would go through with it. Tell your doctor whether or not you would consider following through on the plan. This can help your doctor better understand where you are at. Explain when the thoughts started. Did something trigger these thoughts? Is there a new stressor in your life? And disclose how often you have the thoughts and when they typically appear. Do they only occur at negative with your intrusive thoughts? Or do they happen when you get behind the wheel of your car? Are they constant? Everything you can share with your doctor about your suicidal ideation can be extremely useful in diagnosis and treatment plan.

What if my doctor does not believe me?

Often times, especially when it comes to mental health, we will be invalidated or ignored. That does not mean you do not deserve support. What you are feeling is important. You matter and your life matters. If you feel you need help, resources, or support, then you need help, resources, or support. Try different doctors until you find one that not only listens to you but also makes you feel safe to open up. Advocate for yourself. Be tenacious in the way you advocate for yourself. It is your life and your health.

Which doctor should I talk to?

This depends. Mental health care professionals, such as therapists, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers can be a great resource, as they specialize in mental health. If you do not have access to a mental health care professional or have not found one that works for you yet, your primary care physician can be a great start! Your primary care physician may even be able to recommend local therapists, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, treatment facilities, or behavioral health facilities.

Long story short, everyone deserves support.

Even if the thoughts seem insignificant, having someone to share what you are feeling with can be instrumental. You do not have to go through it alone. If someone opens up to you about their suicidal thoughts, do not judge them or invalidate them. If you are unable to provide the support that they need, then help them find someone who can. When your child comes home from school crying, listen to them. Pay attention to the words they are using. Offer support where you can and reach out to a professional to help them develop coping mechanisms that may work for them.

Remember, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death ages 10-25 and 10th leading cause of death overall.

We can no longer stay silent or expect people to suffer in silence.

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Managing mental health and the holidays.

group of people eating together

The holidays can be an extremely stressful time of year.

From the financial pressure to the pressure of hosting the perfect holiday dinner, the holiday season is full of added strain. Not to mention, the heightened stress of year-end work deadlines and midterm / final exams for students. Then, on top of it all, many people live with complicated familial relationships. Some people are experiencing their first holiday without a loved one. Others are living in an emotionally, mentally, physically, or sexually abusive household. Then, there are those who have to hide their authentic self from family members in fear of being exiled. Additionally, the individuals living with an eating disorder feeling extremely uncomfortable at the dinner table in front of family members who make insensitive comments about their weight, body, or eating habits. Furthermore, the individuals whose family members ask inappropriate questions then gaslight and / or invalidate them. Plus, the countless other situations that create heightened anxiety levels.

The holidays are stressful for anyone, whether or not you are living with a diagnosed mental health condition. We are all vulnerable to a decline in mental health during the season. So, what can we do about it?

Allow yourself space and time to express your emotions.

Do not be afraid to feel what you are feeling. Yes, you may have so much to be grateful for. Sure, you are perceived to have it all together. And, yes, the holidays can be about family, joy, and love. None of that means that your feelings are not valid. What you feel and what you think matters. You do not have to suppress your emotions. Suppressing your emotions will only lead to release in unintentional ways, often with anger and irritability.

A few ways to express your emotions are:

  • Speak with a loved one or mental health professional for support.
  • Journal what you are feeling and connecting it to events / situations. Where does it stem from?
  • Meditate on a thought or feeling.
  • Exercise to release stress or anger.
  • Allow yourself to cry or scream it out. Sometimes, we all need a good cry.

Plan ahead.

Are there going to be family members in attendance who make you uncomfortable? Are there certain triggers or situations that arise year after year that negatively impact you? Is there a meal on the table that you will eat? What coping mechanisms are easy for you to utilize when in a place full of people? Plan ahead for what you can do to get through.

  • Do you need to bring a meal, side, or dessert for yourself?
  • Do you have an assertive response planned to the insensitive comments or inappropriate questions?
  • Have you made a list of different coping mechanisms you can use?
  • Do you have a list of reasons you can use to excuse yourself for a few minutes to breathe or utilize a coping mechanism?
  • Who / what is your support system?

A few resources available.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line: 741-741
  • Trevor Project: 1-866-7386

Sending you love and strength this holiday season. xx

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What do you mean by self-care?

black and brown brush on saucer

Self-care is only for people with enough time and money, right?

Did you know that the majority of people misunderstand what effective self-care is and how they can benefit from it? Furthermore, surveys have reported that 44% of people believe self-care is only possible for people who have enough time. Surveys have also reported that about 35% of people believe self-care is only possible for those who have enough money.

Self-care does not have to be extremely time-consuming. We all have 24 hours in a day. The difference between the people who incorporate self-care habits and those who do not is simply time management. How do you use your time? Look at your phone’s daily screen time. You can see exactly how much time you spend on elective apps, such as social media accounts (unless your job requires social media), streaming services, and games. If you spend more than 20 minutes a day on these elective apps, there is your time for self-care!

Additionally, self-care does not have to be costly. Despite the misleading idea that self-care is spa days and retail therapy, self-care is actually about forming and maintaining healthy habits. Self-care is about taking care of yourself: mentally, emotionally, and physically. It can play an essential role in maintaining overall wellness. Self-care encompasses more than meditation, journaling, or bubble baths. Although, these can be a small piece of a self-care routine. In fact, “It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure, etc.), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.), socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.), and self-medication.” (WHO 1998)

How do I incorporate self-care into my daily routine?

As previously stated, self-care is about taking care of yourself: mind and body. This includes a range of areas from hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle, environmental factors, socio-economic factors, and self-medication. Below are just a few examples of the many ways to easily incorporate healthy self-care habits into your daily routine.

Hygiene (note: pay attention to the additives and chemicals inside your hygiene products)

  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Wash your face when you wake up and before bed.
  • Thoroughly wash your hair and body in the shower.
  • Moisturize your skin after you shower.

Nutrition (note: pay attention to organic, non-gmo labels AND what chemicals or hormones are inside the food you are consuming)

  • Eat a well-balanced diet (meal prep can be a great tool if you do not have a lot of time during the week)
  • Consume sufficient levels of necessary vitamins and minerals (supplements may help, speak to a doctor)
  • Avoid highly processed foods.
  • Hydrate.


  • Engage in 30 minutes of exercise 5x a week. (ex. yoga, running, walking, strength training)
  • Walk 10,000 steps a day (ex. park at the end of the lot and encourage yourself to walk further)
  • Allow your body and mind time to rest.
  • Get enough sleep! Sleep is important for your overall wellness.
  • Meditate for self-awareness in the morning.
  • Journal for 20 minutes in the morning.
  • Read for 20 minutes before bed.

Environmental Factors

  • Pay attention to whom you spend time with. Are they draining you or energizing you?
  • What chemicals are you using to clean your household? Switch out hazardous/dangerous chemicals.

Socio-Economic Factors

  • Take 5-10 minutes each morning to reflect on your religious / cultural beliefs.
  • Create a budget that works for you, your family, and your lifestyle.


  • Several MINOR illnesses / conditions can be treated without a doctor (such as occasional headaches, allergies, acne, stomachache, minor wounds); however, check in with your doctor if your symptoms worsen overtime, cause lifestyle disruption (severe pain / difficulties), or conditions are persistent.
  • Holistic medicine (such as meditation, aromatherapy, etc.)

Final Thoughts

How you care for your body and mind is up to you. Can you afford an extra 20 minutes everyday to incorporate just one healthy habit? Maybe you wake up 20 minutes earlier to meditate or journal. Maybe you take 30 minutes at lunch to walk or exercise. But do not forget one of the most important factors, that takes no extra time, is incorporating a healthy lifestyle by paying attention to what you put in, on, and around your body. You only have one life, the quality of it can be determined by how you care for yourself.

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Work-life balance or integration?

a woman holding a cellphone and typing on a laptop

What does work-life balance mean?

Work-life balance is the idea that you can divide your time and energy equally between work and important aspects of their life. Essentially, you divide between the demands of the workplace and spending quality time with family members, maintaining a social life, focusing on your personal growth, caring for your health, engaging in self-care practices, participate within your community, and other activities that are important pieces of your personal life. Fundamentally, work and your personal life exist separately, where one ends, the other begins.

The idea of work-life balance was developed to help employees and employers achieve a more balanced lifestyle. In response to the excessive feelings of stress and burnout, we developed an idea of balance and boundaries. However, stress and burnout comes with managing both work and personal demands as separate entities. Thus, the problem with work-life balance is the notion of “balance”. The word balance suggests a weighing balance scale that is balanced (or equal) on both sides. This concept, although ideal in theory, is nearly impossible to reach. The term suggests there would be little conflict between your work and personal life. However, at different points in your life, throughout various stressors / deadlines, one may require more time and energy than the other. They may also interlope from time to time. Yet the notion of “balance” implies that when you spend more time and energy on one area, you are taking from the other.

Thus, in recent years, work-life balance has progressed into a more realistic notion known as work-life integration.

Work-life integration suggests that work and your personal life co-exist and thrive together. Rather than specific boundaries of a traditional “9-5,” integration allows for your personal and professional life to intermingle. For example, you may make time during the workday to pick up your children from school and you may take time after dinner to respond to emails.

Work-life integration allows for you to participate in higher productivity and efficiency levels at work without sacrificing your personal life, mental, emotional, or physical health. It also can be beneficial in prioritizing important things outside of work, like family time, health, and self-care without feeling guilty. Furthermore, integration eliminates the stress of “having it all” in a sense of balance when instead they co-exist and thrive together.

Basically, work-life integration is about feeling content. When your life moves from a focus on producing content to being content, with all aspects of your life, you can not only boost your work productivity, but also grow in different areas of your personal life.

Is work-life integration important?

In my opinion, work-life integration is an essential part of your overall wellness. When you treat work and life as separate entities, there is an added level of stress and pressure. You are constantly trying to enforce boundaries where lines are often blurred. There may be personal emergencies during the workday, and there may be work emergencies during your personal time. Trying to enforce strict boundaries can lead to feelings of guilt and anger and increased stress levels when lines are crossed.

Self-care is an important piece of overall happiness and productivity. Without recharging, you will exhaust yourself to a point of fatigue and burnout. Burnout is linked to a reduction in productivity, lack of motivation, and symptoms of depression. However, trying to achieve “work-life balance” makes it difficult to set aside time for self-care without feeling guilty.

Integrating work and life to co-exist in harmony that allows ample time for both without feelings of continual guilt can positively impact your mental health.

Is work-life balance integration really possible?

As stated earlier, work-life integration is about finding a state of content within all aspects of your life. Work-life integration is about believing that dedicating time to work or life does not take away from the other. For each person, work-life integration may look different, based on their personal life and work demands.

For some, work-life integration may look like starting the workday after dropping off one’s children and leaving during the “workday” to pick up one’s kids from school but answering emails and working on proposals after the kids go to bed. Or work-life integration may look like taking an extended lunch break to workout, see a healthcare professional, or engage in a form of self-care. It is different for everyone, because it is based on your specific needs and work / life demands. Finding the proper integration may be easier for some than others and may take a while to properly develop. The important part is finding a combination that allows for growth in all areas without sacrificing your emotional, mental, and / or physical health.

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Is anxiety a real mental illness?

white and brown wooden tiles

What is anxiety?

According to the Encyclopedia of Psychology, anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes.

An individual living with an anxiety disorder typically experiences recurring intrusive thoughts and avoids situations out of fear / worry. They also may experience physical symptoms, such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, stomachache, nausea, muscle pain, headaches, fatigue, loss of libido, breathing problems, and insomnia. (APA, Healthline)

Anxiety is a common emotion that we all experience sometimes. Fear, worry, and nervousness are unavoidable emotions because life is unpredictable. You may anxiety prior to making a life-changing decision, before taking a test, or when facing a problem at work. (NIMH) When we experience fear, worry, or nervousness, it can also be a sign of growth, because we are facing something we have never faced before. Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, can be debilitating and disrupt one’s quality of life. Symptoms can impact one’s relationships and / or performance at school or work.  Unlike typical anxiety, anxiety disorders are not temporary worry or fear.

There are various types of anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders. (NIMH)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) display excessive anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months, about a number of things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances. The fear and anxiety can cause significant problems in areas of their life, such as social interactions, school, and work.

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
  • Being irritable
  • Having muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep


Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder have recurrent unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear that come on quickly and reach their peak within minutes. Attacks can occur unexpectedly or can be brought on by a trigger, such as a feared object or situation.

During a panic attack, people may experience:

  • Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heartrate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking
  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Feelings of being out of control


18% of US adults (18+) live with anxiety disorders. (NAMI)

In a given year, approximately 40million adults in the United States alone will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health condition. Yet, because anxiety is associated with an everyday, typical emotion, many people do not realize that anxiety can also be a mental health disorder. In fact, a lot of people view anxiety disorder as “attention-seeking” when it is not.

The symptoms that one experiences with anxiety disorder can vary. Not everyone will experience the same symptoms. However, the symptoms may impact one’s body, mind, and behavior. Anxiety disorder can impact one’s overall mental, emotional, and physical health.

Without proper support, anxiety disorder may worsen overtime. Luckily, anxiety disorders are treatable! Common treatment options include psychotherapy (“talk therapy”), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and / or medication. It is important to note that medication does not “cure” anxiety but can help to relieve symptoms. When facing an anxiety disorder, learning how to approach certain situations and cope with your emotions can be extremely beneficial. Remember, your emotional reactions can impact your physical reactions.

Anxiety disorders can lead to physical illness.

Did you know that your nervous system is closely linked to your immune system? In fact, your body releases chemicals and hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, when facing anxiety / stress. Your immediate response to the release is often rapid heart rate, increased breathing rate, palpitations, and chest pain. After the stress or feelings of anxiety subside, your body functions as normal. However, with an anxiety disorder, the feelings of anxiety and stress may not subside; therefore, your immune system may be affected. Overtime, as your immune system weakens, you become more susceptible to viral infections and illnesses.

In addition to impacting your central nervous system, the physical effects on your body, can also impact your cardiovascular, digestive, and respiratory systems. Anxiety can increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. It can increase your risk of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or cause symptoms of nausea, stomachaches, and loss of appetite. Rapid, shallow breathing can also occur, which may worsen symptoms of asthma.


Final Thoughts

Although anxiety disorder is commonly overlooked and invalidated, it is a real mental health condition. Anxiety can lead to problematic effects on your physical health if not addressed. Finding the root cause of your anxiety, creating a treatment plan with the help of a mental health care professional, and developing healthy coping mechanisms can play an essential part in managing your anxiety.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing an anxiety disorder, please reach out to your doctor or mental health care professional to learn which treatment options may be right for you.

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Does the way we receive news affect our mental health?

selective focus photography of magazines


Television ratings are essential to media organizations. Therefore, it is no wonder why every headline and every story are designed to captivate your attention. As media consumers, we are more likely to subscribe to a negative headline then we are a positive one. Why? It holds our attention because it has a significant emotional impact on our brains. Thus, you are more likely to remember negative news than positive news.

With continuous negative headlines and crises, you are more likely to tune into the news for updates. The stress is a driving force in your desire to watch more. You crave the news to stay updated and feel in the know.

It is a 24-hour news cycle.

With smartphones and tablets, the news is available at our fingertips. We know everything that is happening worldwide at all times. It is impossible to ignore the news or not be affected by it.

In 2017, the APA conducted a survey of Americans. Over 50% reported that the news stresses them out. Exposure to the news led to anxiety, fatigue, and interrupted sleep.

The negative, fear-mongering news headlines are overwhelming. What we take in directly affects our nervous system. Our brains register these frightening headlines as threats, initiating a fight or flight response. When the nervous system is affected by stress and fear, your body is likely to release stress hormones (ex. cortisol and adrenaline). The more news we take in, the more often we experience stress responses, the more our mental health declines and physical symptoms occur (fatigue, anxiety, depression, sleep difficulty).

The news affects our mental health.

As you can see, the way we consume news can affect our mental health. On a continuous loop of bad, negative, heartbreaking, or terrifying news can have devastating effects on both our mental and physical health.

High stress levels are linked to higher levels of anxiety, increased risk of depression, mental exhaustion, heart disease, weakened immune system, etc. Therefore, it is essential we change the way we consume the news.

  • Before you turn on the news or check your smartphone social media accounts, check in with yourself. Are you in the right headspace to receive negative / stressful news?
  • Give yourself a break. Make it a habit to only check applications and news channels a couple of times a day or week (depending on situation and your comfort). You are allowed to disconnect from the media and focus on the world in front of you. You can do this through practicing mindfulness exercises.
  • Pay attention to who is delivering the news. Try to only obtain news from sources you find to be reliable, who do research before “breaking” news.
  • Practice self-care after receiving the news. The news can affect your emotional wellness. Practicing self-care or utilizing coping mechanisms can help to reduce the effect / impact.
  • Set boundaries when discussing the news with others. If someone brings up a topic you are not comfortable discussing or not in the headspace to discuss, be assertive. You do not have to be exposed to more negative news or increase exposure to negative headlines when you do not want to.

When watching the news, listen to your mind and your body. How are you being affected? What can you do to reduce the impact?

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Mental health and higher education system.

photography of people graduating

Is college for me?

The question every high school student dreads. Our higher education system is designed to help us gain the necessary tools and lessons needed to be successful within our chosen career paths. College courses teach you how to learn while simultaneously preparing you for work in your field.

Today, college is highly publicized as a necessary step. Most jobs require a bachelor’s degree, while many require a masters or doctorate level.

Research has shown that 50% of students feel their mental health is poor or below average. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death between ages 10-35 and has risen significantly among the 10-24 age group since 1950.

The fact is: Our student population is struggling. According to Healthy Minds Network, 39% of college students in the US are diagnosed with depression. And, according to Imagine America Foundation, 1/3 of students who are diagnosed with depression drop out of college. And, according to a 2018 study by DOI, out of 67,000 surveyed students, 9% had attempted suicide.

Yet, our higher education facilities have only made minimal accommodations available to students.

Currently, in our Higher Education System, we offer “reasonable” accommodations to students living with mental illness who have qualified for disability. Although this seems like a great solution, it creates a wide gap that sets our students up for hardship. Many mental illnesses are often not diagnosed under the age of 18, such as borderline personality disorder (bpd). Furthermore, symptoms of anxiety and depression often begin to form during adolescence, but many children do not receive treatment or support, because symptoms are written off as typical adolescent behavior.

Therefore, because it is difficult to receive a diagnosis from a licensed mental health professional prior to adulthood (18+), many college students do not have a confirmed diagnosis that will allow them to apply for disability. We have seen most colleges add a Wellness or Counseling Center to their campuses. The counseling services are free and available to all students. However, they forget to mention that it may take over a month to get an appointment. Furthermore, they only offer a limited number of sessions, which discriminates against students needing long-term care.

Outside of the limited counseling services, the ADA has required both public and private universities to provide equal access to education for students with disabilities, as long as the accommodations do not fundamentally change the nature of the activity, service, or program. For a mental health to be considered a disability, documentation is required. This would not be a problem if majority of people were not undiagnosed. We do not live in a society of self-awareness with mental health nor where seeking professional psychiatric services is normalized. The stigma and financial barriers making it near impossible for many college students to obtain treatment.

Why are these counseling services insufficient?

Although many college campuses offer counseling services, they do not offer enough. Think about the amount of money invested into a piece of paper. Think about the number of lives lost every year to suicide. One study reported that 1 in 5 students have had thoughts of suicide with 9% making an attempt and nearly 20% reporting self-injury. Yet, funding sufficient counseling services is “too expensive” or “unnecessary.”

Imagine if you are experiencing debilitating anxiety attacks, depressive episodes, or manic episodes, but you have no official diagnosis. You are a financially struggling college student. Your family either does not believe in mental health so they will not help you pay for services, or your family cannot afford to help you pay for services. You also do not have a car and no bus routes drop off near an off-campus counseling office. Therefore, you cannot go off-campus for support. Thus, you call your campus Counseling Center. They have a 6 week wait for an appointment, meanwhile you have midterms next week. Without an official diagnosis and documentation, you cannot qualify for disability. Or you get in before exams, but your diagnosis is not considered “debilitating enough” for accommodation. Therefore, you have no accommodations. The day of your exam, you are experiencing the debilitating anxiety attack, depressive episode, or manic episode. You cannot stand up or pull yourself together to get to class. You genuinely feel helpless, and you desperately want support. But the system that you were told is meant to “set you up for success” is now working against you. You manage to make it to your exam and hide your symptoms long enough. Because your mind was overwhelmed by your mental health condition / symptoms, you were unable to concentrate. You exhausted countless hours trying to study, but you were unmotivated, unfocused, and restless. As a result, you failed your course. However, you were not taking only 1 course, you were taking 4, and all exams lined up in the same week. Exams count for 40-50% of your grade, meaning if you fail one, you likely fail the class. Your GPA drops, you lose financial aid, and can no longer afford to be a student. You either failed out or dropped out.

Does this seem dramatic? Yes? This is the reality for millions of college students.

In comparison to physical illness.

Students experiencing a physical illness are significantly more likely to receive an excused absence and assignment extension. Why? Because it is easier to obtain a doctors note. Have you ever heard of a doctor, let alone a college infirmary, telling a sick patient they have to wait 6 weeks for an appointment? No. When someone is sick, they get into see the doctor right away. Mental health is not treated with the same respect and importance. If the student could not obtain a doctor’s note due to high volume of patients and extended wait times, the professor is often likely to believe the student. However, if the student explained they were experiencing high anxiety or depression, the professor is apt to assume it is an excuse.

Our higher education system does not treat mental illness in the same regard as physical illness. Thus, students who are struggling are often forced to struggle in silence.

Other mental illnesses at play.

When we talk about mental health, we often focus on depression and anxiety. Let us discuss other mental health conditions that may not benefit from the current limited accommodations.

A student living with an eating disorder, specifically anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, is likely to be consuming insufficient levels of nutrients and calories. Therefore, their energy levels are reduced, and it is more difficult to concentrate. These students are not always able to keep up with the high demand of coursework. Research shows that 40% of incoming freshman at colleges / universities are likely to be living with an eating disorder. With 4-6 weeks wait to receive an appointment at the Counseling Center and lack of education / awareness on eating disorders, many students do not receive help. However, their grades are affected. With 40% of the population affected, you would assume colleges would have a system that helps individuals living with eating disorders. Yet not all universities offer ample free nutritionist services nor support in overcoming the eating disorder. Essentially, you are being punished for a mental illness that was not your choice.

Now, let us talk about a student living with ADHD. Under the ADA rules, only some people living with ADHD qualify for disability. Research shows that 5% of college students live with ADHD. Yet, without qualifying for disability, no accommodations are made. Many college courses are not designed to accommodate students with ADHD to begin with. A high percentage of courses require students to sit in silence and take notes for 2–3-hour periods at a time. Then, offer only long, 2-hour exams as grades. There is no accommodation built into the course structure that offers stimulation, positive feedback, or energy release. Again, based on design, you are being punished for a mental illness that was not your choice.

Let’s take it a step further. When a student has an allergy attack, they can easily go to the doctor and get a doctor’s note. However, a student facing a panic attack does not have that same luxury. It is not as easy to get an appointment with a mental health professional that same day to receive a doctor’s note in order to excuse an absence from class. What about students experiencing a manic episode or psychosis? They may not even know they are in an episode at that point, let alone be able to get a doctor’s note to excuse them from class.

Not only is there a lack of accommodation built into course structure, but also a lack of accessibility to receive a doctor’s note for an excused absence. Both of these make it extremely difficult for students living with mental illness to succeed in our higher education system.

Mental illness is not a choice.

Currently, our higher education system treats mental illness like it is a choice. The current system works against those living with mental illness, even though research proves suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among college students. The system provides minimal accommodations that offer little support and create a wider gap between students living with and without mental health symptoms / conditions. Imagine reaching out for support and being told, “We can only help you up to three times a year, but the first appointment available is in 6 weeks.”

Again, with physical illness, this is NOT an issue. We provide immediate support and resources to help the student get better and receive any accommodations needed.

Colleges, state education departments, and federal education department, why is my success at college not as important as someone without a mental illness? You have no problem collecting my tuition payments and loan repayments. If I were on a premiere sports team, there would be accommodations made for my success. Yet, you are not willing to make ample accommodations to help me succeed because mental illness is not your priority.

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Signs you need a mental health break.

wood working internet writing

When it comes to our physical health, we often have an idea how far we can push ourselves. When we are starting to feel under the weather, we recognize the warning signs, and we go to the doctor. Typically, when we get sick, we allow ourselves time to heal. When we break a bone, we visit the doctor, and we allow our body time to heal. Yet, when our mental health is declining, we often do not recognize the warning signs until we are burnt out.

Mental exhaustion is a normal occurrence. However, it can be avoided if you recognize the warning signs, practice routine self-care, and allow your mind and body time for rest to rejuvenate.

Mental health breaks are needed, especially during stressful times. We all need rest. If you allow time for both physical and mental rest, you can actually boost your productivity levels and enhance overall wellness.

Nonetheless it can be difficult to recognize when it is time for a break. When you start to feel off or a little different than normal, taking a break can be extremely helpful.

Here are some signs that you may need a mental health break:

  • Are you making yourself physically sick from emotional strain and / or high levels of stress?
  • Do you feel uninterested in activities you once found pleasurable?
  • Are you experiencing low energy levels?
  • Do you feel disengaged / detached from people in your life or from your life in general?
  • Are you having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?
  • Is it difficult for you to get up in the morning?
  • Have your eating habits changed?
  • Are you experiencing lower levels of productivity than normal?
  • Is it difficult for you to concentrate?
  • Do you feel unmotivated?
  • Has your mood changed lately?
  • Do you feel more down and / or depressed?
  • Are you feeling irritable?
  • Are you experiencing higher than normal levels of anxiety?

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, it may be time for a break.

Please note, a lot of these symptoms are similar to the symptoms of depression. Reaching out to a therapist or counselor for support and guidance on your mental health may be helpful.

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Beyond all labels, who are you?

lighted candle

If no one told you who you were or how you were to behave, who would you be?

Societal standards influence how we perceive ourselves, how we behave, how we treat others, what career path we choose, what we believe, how we vote, and whom we marry.

In my opinion, societal standards were created to control how we define ourselves. We were put into a box at birth based on our gender, race, culture, economic background, religion, and parental occupations. We grow up to fit into the box by making choices based on society’s expectations. Most of these choices are subconscious choices.

Peer Pressure

As children, we are always warned about “peer pressure.” What no one tells us is that peer pressure extends beyond your friends tempting you to engage in behaviors such as drinking and doing drugs. Peer pressure is the idea of societal expectations. These expectations influence our behaviors, even if they go against our values and principles.

You are not meant to fit into the world, the world is meant to fit you.

How many times have you heard the question, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” Yet, we have somehow built a society consumed by fitting in, from beauty standards to clothing to hobbies to careers to the type of music we enjoy to the major we choose in college to the way we use social media. Somewhere along the way, society has decided that in order to be accepted, you have to be the same as everyone else.

Many of these standards were created for economic interests. They were created to feed your insecurities so that you may purchase products and make lifestyle changes that increase someone else’s bank account while diminishing your own self-worth anytime you step away from the box.

I let societal standards control my life for a long time.

Recently, I thought about how much time I have wasted comparing myself to supermodels, actresses, and influencers. I have exhausted so much time trying to change my appearance, from learning new makeup trends, changing my hair style, and redoing my wardrobe—not because I wanted to, but because I “needed” to.

The day before my freshman year of high school, I remember breaking down to my parents because I needed to change my hair color. My natural color was dirty blonde hair, and I was made fun of it in middle school. Other kids would tell me that it was not a “real color.” From the age of 14 to 21, I continually destroyed my hair by bleaching it every 2 to 3 months. But I needed to fit in.

In college, I forced my dad to watch makeup tutorials with me. I was crying, because other people were able to look society’s definition of beautiful with the perfect highlight, contour, and eyeliner wing. I, on the other hand, could not (and still cannot), so I felt ugly in comparison.

I even spent years battling anorexia nervosa trying to be “thin” enough. I woke up at 5am to workout before classes, walked 2 miles to class in 106-degree weather, and worked out till 12am every single day for an entire year. I starved myself, only allowing myself to eat 1 bell pepper and 1 cucumber a day.

In middle and high school, I was bullied over my blog and podcast, “Inspiring My Generation.” I would go through periods of time where I refused to blog and quit my podcast. It was not considered cool, so I started to give up on my dreams of changing the world for the better. In my high school advisor file, it said “Career Goal: wants to have a talk show like Oprah Winfrey and inspire others.” Yet, I felt like I had to hide that part of me for a very long time.

Do you truly love yourself?

When I look back at how certain societal standards influenced my self-worth and my behaviors, I see how much I hurt myself. I never showed myself any love, because I was focused on being whom society told me to be. Every day, I told myself all of the reasons I was not good enough, according to society’s expectations. A few years ago, I realized that of my beliefs were taught to me and all of the stigmas I had developed were taught to me. I continuously experienced anxiety attacks and panic attacks trying to fit into an impossible standard. Ultimately, I lost myself and my sense of purpose. In that brokenness, in that dark hole, was where I learned how the labels created by societal standards were the problem, not me.

Truthfully, I betrayed myself in countless ways. I became obsessed with who the world told me to be. Obsessed with the labels—beautiful, intelligent, cool, successful, athletic, normal, etc. I turned against myself, and I took it out on my own body. In fact, I completely destroyed my physical and mental health for years. Who I was and who I wanted to be were defined by the box society put me in, and I continuously felt like a complete failure trying to live up to impossible standards. Yet, I was trying so hard to not be labeled as “crazy, psychotic, mental, or deranged” that I suppressed it all inside.

Societal standards taught me to not love myself. They taught me to continuously compare myself to who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to look like. And they ultimately left me feeling numb.

Beyond labels, who are you?

Who are you? Without any of the labels that society has given you, who are you? Who are you not?

It is okay if you do not know who you are beyond the labels. It is not easy to discover yourself in a world telling you who to be, how to think, and what to wear. Take some time to yourself. Write down what is important to you, what you believe, and who you are. Then, write down where all of that comes from. Did someone tell you? You may find that most of who you perceive yourself to be was defined by someone else.

Your loved ones, your foes, society, nor the people around you get to define or label you. Only you can define yourself. So, I will ask you again: Beyond all labels, who are you?

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Ways to destigmatize mental health

use your voice inscription on gray background

Mental health has been stigmatized to make people struggling feel alone. Many people feel invalidated or like their struggle is their fault. A lot of people never reach out or seek help. Millions struggle in silence because it is safer than being labeled or invalidated. Due to the lack of conversation and lack of education, the stigma has been able to perpetuate this cycle and narrative.

What can you do?

  • Normalize the conversation about mental health with your loved ones.
  • Talk openly and honestly about your own mental health.
  • Own your mental health story, do not hide it.
  • Discuss your treatment plan like you would with a physical illness—with honest and without shame.
  • Ask people “how are you” with intention of listening and validating.
  • Educate yourself by engaging in conversations, actively listening when others are opening up, and conducting your own research.
  • Educate others around you.
  • Pay attention to the words you use when you discuss mental health.
  • Advocate for mental health to be treated like physical health.
  • Treat your own and your loved one’s mental health like you treat physical health.
  • Display empathy and compassion for those struggling.
  • Validate people who open up about their mental health to you.
  • Follow social media accounts normalizing mental health and reshare important information and resources.
  • Volunteer with mental health nonprofit organizations to actively engage in work that destigmatizes mental health.

Learn more about how you can Normalize The Conversation on Inspiring My Generation’s website

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Why I love a pain to purpose story.

man with arms outstretched admiring view from mountain cliff

I do not want to know who you are. I want to know why you are who you are.

To me, a pain to purpose story is the story of how you found yourself in the midst of loss, sorrow, failure, and / or despair.

A pain to purpose story is your authentic story. The story encompassing both the victory and the defeat. It is full of lessons you learned along the way. It describes the journey to self-discovery and self-awareness.

From pain to purpose is where empathy and dedication meet. In my opinion, loss and defeat teach you more than success and happiness. Without the pain, you never have the opportunity to discover who you truly are. When the world breaks you, when you feel lost and alone, when you feel like giving up, that is when true strength and courage develop. That is the moment when you learn how much you can handle and how much strength is within you.

It is about the climb up the mountain. Anyone can start at the top of the mountain and be successful. But how many people fall to the bottom repeatedly, yet keep trying to climb? How many people can get stuck under a pile of rocks and still have the desire to get back up and try again? These are the people with true passion and desire. And these are the people who are going to change the world for the better.

When I connect with someone, one of the first things I say is, “I would love to learn more about you and your journey.”

I want to know who you are. And I want to know why you are who you are. I want to see your heart and your passion. In my opinion, authentic connection occurs at the point of vulnerability. It helps you to understand the other individual and relate to them. More importantly, when you are able to share your story, it shows that you are comfortable with your past. It shows that you are not running away, but rather running toward something bigger than yourself. You know who you are. You are driven not by a standard of success but by a purpose.

When you take your pain and turn it into purpose, your mission is not to just release your pain but to help others avoid feeling that same pain. And, lastly, it shows that you are not going to give up when life gets tough. Because, I promise, life will get tough.

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody!”

Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa (2006)

Your past, your defeat, your loss, your pain is not who you are. None of that defines you. Your success does not describe you. Your journey, on the other hand, defines you. It shows how far you have come and how far you are willing to go to change the world.

If we all work together, if we all take our pain and turn it into purpose, the world does not stand a chance at remaining the same. We will change the world. We will remove the stigmas, the prejudices, and the barriers that have worked against us for far too long.

Read My Pain To Purpose Story

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Is there really a mind-body connection?

woman relaxing in yoga mat

Even though we consider our emotional and physical health as two separate entities, they are actually connected.

The mind-body connection works both ways.

It is a scientific fact that our chemistry and biology impact our mood and emotions. Similarly, our mood and emotions impact our chemistry and biology. What does that mean? Here is an example: when we encounter a headache or stomachache while facing high stress, we are experiencing the mind-body connection. Another example: when we face physical illness or injury, we often become more susceptible to mental health symptoms, like anxiety and depression.

The mind-body connection can impact your overall health and wellness.

The mind-body connection implies that physical changes occur in your body due to your mental state. Optimal emotional health is often achieved when we discover health ways to cope with life’s stressors (and symptoms of mental health conditions, including medication). Life has many stressors, including, loss of a relationship (divorce, friendship, etc.), loss of a loved one, laid off from work, moving, illness or injury, and various other life-changing events. Some life-changing events can be positive, such as having a baby. Others can be very difficult to experience, such as losing a loved one. Without proper coping mechanisms, these life stressors can negatively impact your mental and physical health.

When we feel our best, we tend to have more self-awareness. With that increase in self-awareness, we are more likely to listen to our bodies. In turn, this allows us to offer our bodies what they need, whether it is food, water, or rest. When we feel stressed, on the other hand, we release hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which cause some physical symptoms. These physical symptoms consist of increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and elevated blood pressure. Thus, chronic stress can result in conditions like a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stomach ulcers.

You can elevate your mental and physical health. (Here are a few examples)

  • Nourish your body and mind with enough vitamins and minerals.
  • Nourish your body and mind by consuming enough food. Balanced meals can be a great way to refuel.
  • Engage in regular exercise. Exercise is known to release endorphins, which elevate your mood.
  • Breathe. Breathwork and other forms of deep breathing exercises can help to calm your nervous system.
  • Meditate. Meditation is known to reduce stress while enhancing self-awareness.

Final Thoughts

Our health is at the center of everything. Our body reacts to our emotional health, just like our emotional state responds to our physical health. Therefore, instead of treating our emotional and physical health as two separate entities, it is imperative that we look at them together.

Often times, we ignore our mental health when we are experiencing a decline in our physical health. Likewise, we often disregard our physical health while experiencing a drop in our mental health. However, when we work on improving both simultaneously, we are working toward an overall optimal health.

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How has gender identity influenced mental health?

persons hands with rainbow colors

Introduction To Gender Identity

Today, we know that there is a diverse range of gender identities.  However, in the past, gender has been divided into only two brackets “male” and “female.” Because gender identity was considered very black and white before, this has perpetuated a cycle of phobia and stigma, primarily due to lack of education, understanding, and awareness.

Gender identity is how you perceive your gender, how you show this to others, and how you want others to treat you. One’s gender identity is not always the same as the physical features (biological sex) that one was born with. It is important to remember that being gender diverse is not a mental illness, is not caused by a mental illness, and is not a cause of menta illness.

However, the stressful experiences that one may face by identifying outside of the traditional “male” and “female” labels can contribute to an increased risk of multiple mental health conditions and symptoms, including anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide.

Risk factors that decrease well-being and increase risk of mental health conditions and / or symptoms:

  • Feeling different from those around you. This can feel extremely isolating.
  • Feeling uncomfortable in your body, especially as you begin exploring your gender identity.
  • Feeling terrified to be your authentic self, by sharing your gender identity with others. This often creates a fear of being outcasted or unaccepted by loved ones. Rejection can feel devastating and isolating.
  • Feeling worried about opening up to others on how you are feeling.
  • Experiencing pressure to conform with other’s expectations, particularly on what your gender identity and role should be based on biological sex.
  • Experiencing bullying due to your gender identity. Bullying can be either verbal or physical, both are devastating.
  • Feeling misunderstood / unsupported, especially by loved ones.
  • Feeling self-conscious about how you express your gender.
  • Fear and experience of being misgendered, addressed with incorrect pronouns, and / or being addressed be your old name (“deadnaming”).


  • LGBTQ+ teens are 6x more likely to experience symptoms of depression than non-LGBTQ+ identifying teens.
  • LGBTQ+ youth are more than 2x as likely to feel suicidal and over 4x as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
  • 48% of transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the last year, compared to 4% of the overall US population.
  • Research suggests that LGBTQ+ individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons have been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.
  • 38% of transgender people say they have experienced slurs and 28% have experienced insensitive or offensive comments because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • 22% of transgender individuals say they have avoided doctors or health care out of concern they would be discriminated against.
  • Approximately 8% of LGBTQ+ individuals and nearly 27% of transgender individuals report being denied needed health care outright.
  • In mental health care, stigma, lack of cultural sensitivity, and unconscious and conscious reluctance to address sexuality may hamper effectiveness of care.


Final Thoughts

Let us be honest, it is extremely difficult to find yourself, figure out who you are, who you want to be, and where your place in this world is, regardless of your gender identity. From forming various types of relationships to applying for school / jobs to managing school / work to navigating unprecedented times (such as the pandemic), life has many stressors. But now imagine the added pressure of exploring your gender identity, discovering your authentic self, but having to hide your authentic self every single day, out of fear. Imagine having no safe space to express yourself.

We all have the ability to learn to be more inclusive. We are not “too old” or “set in our ways” to be kinder people. Educate yourself on gender identity beyond cisgender. If you are not familiar with someone’s gender identity, instead of judging them, ask them about it and / or do your own research. Do not invalidate or gaslight someone for sharing their authentic self with you; listen to them and support them. Love should not be conditional to identity or sexuality based on the society’s norms. Introduce yourself with your pronouns, and someone for their pronouns without making assumptions.  Do what you can with the knowledge you have, while continuously expanding your knowledge and understanding. When you engage in conversations, make sure to listen to people other than yourself.

The world is not solely about making you feel comfortable, it is about making everyone feel seen, heard, loved, valid, worthy, and enough. If you are uncomfortable with the way someone identifies, then educate yourself.

We cannot continue to lose lives because we refuse to make the world a safe place. How someone chooses to express themselves, how someone identifies, who someone loves does not affect you.

Some Resources

The Trevor Project: Text 678678

LGBT National Help Center: (888) 843-4564

LGBT National Youth Talkline: (800) 246-7743

SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline: (8770 360-5428

The National Center for Transgender Equality:

Trans Lifeline:

LGBTQIA+ Terms by @soyouwanttotalkabout:

Gender Identity and Mental Health Resource by Headspace:

Gender Spectrum Resources:

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Is empathy a thing of the past?

photo of people using smartphones

Feeling heard and understood is a human need.

Have you ever needed someone to talk to who just understands? You were looking for empathy. Empathy is how we connect with others. Essentially, empathy is recognizing and understanding the thoughts and feelings of someone else. Empathy is an important part of our relationship with others. Furthermore, empathy is an important part of our relationship with ourselves. By getting in touch with our own emotions, we can learn to understand others’ emotions. This allows us to see things from their point of view.

Empathy is important.

As mentioned earlier, feeling heard and understood is one of the most basic human desires. We crave an authentic connection—a connection where we can be our true selves without feeling judged. Empathy allows us to connect and build strong relationships.

Furthermore, empathy plays an important role in our moral compass. Empathy is similar to compassion. When we have compassion for other people’s feelings, we are more likely to act in a way that does not hurt them. Without empathy, without compassion, we are often more focused on how we feel and receive things than on how our words or actions may be received. However, the difference between empathy and compassion is action. Empathy is passive, meaning we connect to one’s feelings. Compassion, on the other hand, is active, meaning we choose to act to help someone. For example, empathy is “I am sorry for your loss” because I have been there too and know what it is like to lose a loved one. On the other hand, compassion is empathy plus I am going to start a meal train for you to take off the pressure of feeding your family for a few weeks.

Empathy is not sympathy.

Empathy and sympathy are often used interchangeably. However, empathy and sympathy are very different terms. Unlike compassion and empathy, sympathy is not about understanding someone’s feelings. Rather, sympathy is about feeling sad for someone else who is struggling. Sympathy is simply, “I am sorry for your loss.” Whereas, empathy was “I am sorry” because I can relate to your feelings. And, compassion was, “I am sorry, I have been there too, I am going to help you.”

When we are struggling, we often desire empathy and / or compassion, not necessarily sympathy. Sympathy is not a connection. And, at the base of all human need is the desire for connection.

Are we raising a generation without empathy?

Social media has blessed us with the ability to connect with anyone from anywhere around the world with the touch of a button. Unfortunately, social media has also provided us with the ability to communicate without seeing how people receive our content. Therefore, we have a whole generation learning to communicate based solely on their own point of view and no ability to see the other person’s reaction. We also have the power to push our energy into other people’s lives. Think about the mean comments people write, including to people they do not know. This has created a sense of entitlement where we believe that other people should receive our energy, even if its negative energy filled with hate and pain.

With the benefits and the drawbacks of social media, the question at hand is “is empathy a thing of the past?”

My opinion.

Empathy is a trait that many of us are born with. Empathy can also be learned through emotional training. Many of us are naturally empathetic, but that empathy is not being cultivated. For example, we spend most of our time communicating behind screens. Especially since March 2020, most of us have been primarily virtual. Over the past year, we engaged with screens more than we did with other human beings, face to face. Imagine growing up with that same scenario, where 90% of your communication is done through a screen—think phones, social media, school computers, television, video games. The world around you is you and a screen that allows access to the whole world.

The next generation is not growing up without empathy. Instead, this generation is growing up in a world that discourages the cultivation of empathy. There is no chance to truly connect, not with ourselves and not with others. Because of the amazing advantages technology and social media have provided us, we have started to forget the importance of building deeper connections. Furthermore, we have not been exposed to seeing the fallout of a lack of empathy behind a computer screen. When we press “send,” we do not see the person, how they receive it, or how it affects them.

Remember, feeling heard and understood is a human need. Social media can help bring us closer to people who also understand us. Social media can also bring us closer to people who choose to be mean and share content without thinking. Therefore, social media itself is not the problem, but rather the lack of true connection is.

Empathy is not a thing of the past; empathy is a very much alive. Thus, it is essential we start encouraging ourselves, our loved ones, and the younger generation to connect with the person on the other end of the screen—not simply the screen itself.

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Why do people with mental illness suffer in silence?

monochrome photo of woman

The Facts

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death at ages 10 to 35 years old.
  • Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death at ages 36 to 54 years old.
  • Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death at ages 55 to 64 years old.
  • Overall, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages.
  • There is 1 suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts.
  • An estimated 285,000 individuals become suicide survivors every year.
  • Approximately 130 individuals die by suicide every day.

Yet, we still do not talk about mental health conditions nearly enough.

In fact, we often avoid honest conversations on mental health and judge those who do open up. The world has provided us with an image of who we should be and how we should act. And, when we do not fit into that image, we become the punchline.

It is no secret that there is a stigma on mental health as a whole. There is no doubt that mental health, specifically mental health conditions / mental illnesses, are extremely misunderstood. We all know that mental illness is real, and every single person is vulnerable to experiencing an episode within their lifetime. Yet, we still do not talk about. Instead, we have established a culture of silence. We actually encourage people to suffer in silence every single time we continue the stigma.

What is the stigma?

  • When you laughed at your friend who was crying.
  • The time you said “you are just being dramatic” when someone expressed their emotions or feelings to you.
  • That time you heard about someone self-harming and labeled them “attention-seeking.”
  • The day you heard someone passed by suicide and your immediate thought was “they are so selfish” or “how could they do that to their family.”
  • Every time you told someone to “just think positive” when they described experiencing depression.
  • That time someone opened up to you and you responded, “how are you depressed, you have so much to be grateful for.”
  • When you labeled someone, who was struggling as “crazy, psychopath, sociopath, deranged, maniac, unhinged, or manipulative.”

The truth is, we have all been both a victim and a perpetuator of the stigma cycle.

We grew up in a world where our favorite television shows made fun of people who went to therapy, used fat-shaming jokes for a laugh, displayed the individual living with mental illness as violent, and made light of many mental illnesses. And we grew up in a world where the news described the most violent criminals as “mentally disturbed.” In a world where no one ever educated us about mental health. No one talked to us about how to take care of our mental health like they did our physical health.  These inaccuracies, cruel jokes, and ignorance made mental health conditions either a punchline or a death sentence for most of us.  In fact, until we struggle ourselves or we witness a loved one struggle, we often do not get an accurate representation of mental illness.

We grew up in a world that made a culture of suffering in silence the expectation. That culture is no longer acceptable. The silence ends here and now.

Even so, with a rising suicide rate, why are people still struggling in silence?

Because, we have not created a safe space. We have not chosen to educate ourselves and our peers on how to engage in a validating conversation. Because we choose to judge people for their vulnerability instead of celebrating it. And, because we have allowed a culture of silence to be promoted for far too long.

In today’s world, people fear missing school or work because of their mental health. People are afraid to be honest because someone might laugh, and that invalidation is too much for them to handle. Treatment options are unaffordable for many people. There are still insurance plans that do not cover mental health treatment (including medication and therapy). Medication and therapy are deemed for people who are “crazy.” Why would someone feel safe to open up and seek help with the stigma on top of the lack of treatment accessibility?

Do not get me wrong, we have come a long way in mental health awareness. We have made wonderful progress toward removing the stigma and opening conversations. However, we have so much more to go. The journey is not over, until every single person feels safe enough to say, “I am struggling, and I need support.”

What can I do?

  • Listen to others.
  • Use supportive and validating statements.
  • Engage in conversations.
  • Remove stigmatized words and phrases from your vocabulary.
  • Educate yourself.
  • Check in with your loved ones regularly.
  • Follow mental health organizations, advocates, and nonprofits on social media to learn.
  • Volunteer with mental health nonprofit organizations.
  • Amplify voices of mental health advocates.
  • Amplify voices of mental health professionals.
  • Amplify voices of people who want to share their mental health journey.
  • Take care of your own mental health.
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Is mental exhaustion real?

crop pitiful black woman embracing knees on bed

What is mental exhaustion?

Imagine you are driving a car across the country. At some point, your car is going to run out of gas. Usually, we fill our gas tanks before it gets to empty. But every once in a while, we push it out as long as we can. What do you do when your gas is empty? Do you keep driving? No, you cannot. Eventually, your car will stop moving, until you refuel it. Your mind is just like your car. It needs to be refueled constantly. If you push your mind too far, it too will stop functioning properly.

Mental exhaustion is a form of burnout. This burnout is brought on by experiencing long periods of stress. And it can happen to anyone. We are all vulnerable to burnout, especially when we feel extremely overwhelmed. It is important to remember that stress is not the same thing as burnout. Stress is a normal reaction to new situations, both positive and negative. Thus, it can actually be healthy for the body. Burnout, on the other hand, is stress for an extended period of time. Burnout can affect your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Burnout can make you feel emotionally drained. Everything may start to seem impossible and lead to detachment. Luckily, you can overcome mental exhaustion.

Am I mentally exhausted?

Here are some warning signs that you may be mentally exhausted:

  • Experiencing symptoms of depression and / or anxiety.
  • Feeling detached from reality or apathy (not caring).
  • Low energy levels and / or lack of motivation and / or fatigue.
  • Difficulty focusing / concentrating.
  • Feeling irritable and / or angry.
  • Experiencing headaches.
  • Changes in appetite and / or fluctuation in weight (gain or loss).
  • Weakened immune system.
  • Insomnia.

How do I cope with mental exhaustion?

Mental exhaustion is different for everyone. As we know, everyone’s body is different. Some of us display more physical or emotional symptoms than others. Therefore, different coping mechanisms may work better for different people. If the first few coping mechanisms you try do not work for you, do not worry. It can take time to find the best tools for you.

When I feel mentally exhausted, I do three things:

  1. I take a step back and try to pinpoint my stressors. Where is my stress coming from? Once I pinpoint my stressor, I create a plan to help reduce the impact. For example, a few months ago, I faced burnout. I realized that I had been putting too much on my plate with tight self-imposed deadlines for over a year. I was spending upwards of 12 hours a day working. And I was taking time away from sleep to workout and maintain a social life.
  2. Next, I give myself time and space. After, I identified where my key areas for improvement were, I gave myself 3 days off of work to catch up on cleaning, get quality sleep, read for fun, and meal prep. These 3 days were also filled with coping mechanisms, like meditation, long walks, and journaling. After 3 days, I felt a tad better and I was ready to start over. I knew if I had taken any more time off, I would feel even more stressed; therefore, 3 days became my rule of thumb.
  3. Then, I reorganize my priorities. When I started working again, I created lists of between 3 and 5 things I had to accomplish each day. The tasks could be as simple as laundry or as complex as completing a workbook for publication. The shorter list allowed me to feel accomplished each day without putting too much on my plate day after day. I noticed that without overwhelming myself, by the end of the week, I was still accomplishing a lot.

Final Thoughts:

We all need rest. When we ignore the warning signs and push self-care to the back burner, we often are faced with mental exhaustion. It is normal to experience mental exhaustion every once in a while. As humans, we often put a lot on our plates. It is okay to burnout, but there are tools you can use to not only avoid burnout but also help you if you do get to that point.

Today, I make ample time for self-care. I created boundaries on work hours. I set aside 1 hour to workout, walk, or sit outside every day. Also, I make time to fuel my body with the right foods and supplements. Furthermore, I practice mindful eating rather than eating on the go. Small things make a big difference in our overall health.

I will leave you with this question, proposed to me by a friend. Would you rather take 20 minutes a day away from work for self-care or would you rather take 3 days away from work from mental exhaustion?

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Is there a connection between nutrition and mental health?

assorted sliced fruits in white ceramic bowl

The connection between our diet and mental health has been long debated. Mental health conditions are complex. It can be hard to find a direct link between one cause and one illness. However, we do know there is a mind body connection. Also, we do know that nutrition affects our physical health. Therefore, it would be plausible to conclude that nutrition affects our mental health.

Science and research have found links between mental health and high sodium, sugary foods, excessive high saturated fats. Why do highly processed foods often lead to a depressed mood? Simple, the heavier the food makes us feel, the lower our energy levels tend to be. Why else? Highly processed foods often do not have enough of the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that we need. Furthermore, even with our FDA regulations, plenty of foods that we consume on a routine basis include traces of microplastic (think seafood, plastic packaging), chemicals (think pesticides, bpa, and preservatives), and added hormones / antibiotics (think meat). As we know, our physical and mental health are connected. When one declines, the other one often declines as well. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to what we put on, around, and into our bodies.

When we consume highly processed foods, we put things into our bodies that are not easily broken down and are often harmful. For example, processed foods have been linked to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In general, most physical illnesses often cause emotional stress, mental fatigue / exhaustion, and decreased energy levels. All of these factors can affect our mental health. As you can see, there is a link between what we put into our body and how it affects both our physical and mental health.

My Experience:

A few months ago, I was experiencing severe mental exhaustion. It was hard for me to get out of bed, and I spent most of my time struggling to keep my eyes open. In fact, there were multiple days in a row that I did not get up at all. I had severe migraines every day with low energy levels. And, I skipped the gym for 2 weeks (I normally go 1-2 times a day), and I was feeling very down. I felt irritated easily. And, I felt sick constantly. My depressive symptoms seemed to have worsened as well.

I went to the doctor. The doctor ordered 3 blood tests. The first test checked my vitamin, cholesterol, and thyroid levels (a routine test). Next, the second test checked my hormone levels. And, the third test was a MRT blood panel.

The first two blood tests resulted in deficiencies that required me to take daily supplements. The deficiencies were connected to mood instability, decreased energy levels, and muscle pains. My doctor explained that vitamin deficiencies on top of hormonal deficiencies can amplify symptoms. Therefore, my doctor(s) gave me a list of 10 supplements and medications that I needed to take. The doctor explained which supplements I should take in the morning and which in the evening. Of course, I did my own research as well. Then, I found vegan, organic, non-gmo, trusted sources for my supplements.

Next, the MRT blood panel told me which foods my body was sensitive too. It also gave me a LEAP diet plan to help reintroduce foods into my body and see how I react. I learned that almost everything I consumed on a daily basis was not good for my specific body. This included “healthy” foods, like chicken, apples, strawberries, and more. I also learned which medications were not good for my body.

After adjusting my lifestyle to incorporate foods and supplements that were good for my body, I started to see a difference. I noticed my energy levels were increasing. And, I did not need nearly as much caffeine to get through the day. I was able to focus for extended periods of time again. I was not feeling as depressed and irritated on a daily basis. My body did not ache as much. And I did not feel sick every day.

Final Thoughts:

Everyone’s body is different. Therefore, our lifestyle should be tailored to our specific bodies. Some foods may affect your body differently than others. The important piece is educating yourself with the tools and resources available to learn more about how what you put into your body affects your body. Paying attention to labels on food, drinks, and supplements you purchase is also a key part of nutritional eating. Remember, what you consume is what fuels your mind. So, let me ask you, how do you want to fuel your mind?

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The different faces of depression.

woman placing her finger between her lips

I cannot tell you how many times someone has looked at me and said, “You do not look like you live with depression.”

Depression: An Invisible Illness

Mental illnesses and mental health conditions are invisible illnesses. Many of us are covered in invisible scars. Invisible scars marked by every trauma, every intrusive thought, every adverse childhood experience, and every loss. These scars are called invisible because you cannot see them. The person covered in invisible scars, however, can feel all of them. Just because you cannot see someone’s pain does not mean the pain does not exist.

Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness often accompanied by feelings of hopelessness. Symptoms of depression often include decreased energy levels, constant fatigue, and loss of pleasure in things one previously enjoyed. Therefore, a lot of people have an image of depression being someone who lays in bed and cries day after day. What many people do not consider is that many people are able to put on a brave face and hide it.

What does depression look like?

Depression has many faces. Someone can feel extremely depressed and still show up to work with a smile. Likewise, someone can be experiencing severe suicidal thoughts and still spend the day smiling with their family. Someone can be living with major depressive disorder and have on a smile, show up to work every day, take care of their family, workout daily, eat healthy, and laugh with friends. Someone can post beautiful photos showcasing their “amazing” life moments before attempting suicide or moments after self-harming.

Individuals living with depression often have many faces, in particular, the face they show to the world and the face they show to themselves. To the world, the eyes and smile hide the pain, but when in silence and solitude, the pain often feels all-consuming.

The Stigma on Depression.

The stigma on depression makes people believe if they do not see someone struggling, if they do not see the tears, the pain, the hopelessness, the fatigue, and the brokenness, then that person is attention-seeking or dramatic. However, you do not see what happens behind closed doors. When someone seems “functional” that does not mean it was easy to get out of bed that morning. Someone with depression can experience bursts of energy as they try to fit in, often times seeming like the life of the party. Yet, that does not mean when they go home, they are not falling apart alone.

Furthermore, the stigma on depression leads to excessive invalidation. “You have no reason to be depressed, look at everything you have.”

I had everything, and I was absolutely broken inside. I kept it all together enough to where I would never let you down, but I kept it too much together to where I let myself down.

Selena Gomez, American Music Awards

Regardless of what you have in life or what your life appears to be in the eyes of others, your feelings, and your thoughts matter. Depression is like any other illness,

Illness is the great equalizer. It does not matter who you are, rich or poor, young or old, fat or thin, sick is sick.

Fran Drescher

We are all vulnerable to physical and mental illness. And, like physical illness, mental health symptoms present themselves differently for different people.  

The stigma on depression also makes individuals struggling believe if they do not have a suicide note in hand then they are not worthy of reaching out for support.

The advice I would give to somebody that is silently struggling is, you do not have to live that way. You do not have to struggle in silence. You can be un-silent. You can live well with a mental health condition, as long as you open up to somebody about it, because it is really important you share your experience with people so that you can get the help that you need.

Demi Lovato

You do not have to struggle in silence, because your depression is “not severe enough.” You are important, and you deserve to get the help and support you need, regardless of who has it worse or how your symptoms present themselves.

Final Thoughts.

Depression is not black and white. It looks differently on everyone. Just because other people cannot see your mental health condition / mental illness does not mean you or someone you know is not struggling. We need to stop invalidating ourselves and others. We need to start listening, learning, and validating.

I will leave you with this,

Scars remind us of where we have been. They do not have to dictate where we are going.

David Rossi

And, yes that includes invisible scars.

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Do Positive Thoughts Solve All of Your Problems?

down angle photography of red clouds and blue sky

Positivity is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude. Essentially, positivity is trying to find the good in the bad. However, being a positive person, does not mean you have to feel positive every second of every day.

“Just Think Positive”

Lately, I have seen a trend of “just be positive” content and merchandise. It seems like our society is force feeding us positive energy and positive vibes as a healing power. In my opinion, it feels invalidating. Nothing irritates me more than someone telling me to “just think positive” when I am opening up about my mental health struggles. Wow if only I knew thinking positive would heal me?! Honestly, do people think none of us living with mental health conditions have tried to think positive?

Positive thoughts do not conquer the root of the problem. Positive thoughts do not make the intrusive thoughts disappear forever. Positive thoughts do not cancel out the feeling of hopelessness. Positive thoughts do not help you to feel when you feel nothing. Positive thoughts do not remove the obsessions or the compulsions. Positive thoughts do not force your mind to focus. Positive thoughts do not solve all of your problems.

Today, I feel like the world expects us to heal ourselves by thinking positive thoughts. As someone living with a mental health condition (bipolar disorder), I cannot positive think my manic or depressive episodes away. Positive thoughts do not replace my mood stabilizer medication. Positive thoughts are not the answer to “ending” mental illness, pain, or grief.

When does positivity become toxic?

Toxic positivity, in my opinion, is this idea that we have to feel positive or optimistic all the time. Toxic positivity is this idea that we can solve our problems by thinking positive. We live in a world where “positive vibes only” is perceived as realistic. Life is unpredictable and life can be so challenging. Life is full of obstacles, and trauma, pain and grief occur. The beautiful part of life is that you get the good with the bad. You get to experience a range of emotions, both ones that are perceived as positive and negative. Additionally, You know what feeling happy is because you have felt sad. You know what feeling excited is because you have felt angry. You do not get one without the other.

The whole concept of “positive vibes only” takes away from the idea that bad things happen. There is an obsession on finding the positive in every single situation, even in trauma and grief. This can feel extremely invalidating, specifically to people who are struggling.

Just because you experience a “negative” situation does not mean you are a negative person.

Let us be clear, you can be a positive person, and still feel defeated. You can be a positive person and still have bad days. Furthermore, you can be a positive person and still feel frustrated or angry with the way situations unravel. You can be a positive person and struggle.

In my opinion, positivity is about acknowledging the negatives, the pain, the trauma, and the bad, and allowing yourself space and time to heal from it. Then, taking that pain and turning it into a purpose, whether that becomes a passion project, a piece of motivation, a lesson, or a reminder. From pain to purpose, that is where I believe true positivity lies.

You do not have to be or feel positive every day. Negatives happen. Bad days happen. Trauma happens. Grief happens. But, what you do after you feel, after you struggle, after you heal, that determines who you are.

My whole life has been about changing negatives into positives.

Fran Drescher

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What does it mean to prioritize your mental health?

smiling woman wearing a sun hat and reading a book

Do you believe in the mind body connection?

We prioritize our physical health. As children, we often receive annual wellness check-ups and see a doctor whenever we start to feel sick. We are taught the importance of exercise, good hygiene, and a balanced diet. When we break a bone, we go to the doctor. We do not say “think positive, walk it off, or get over it”.

Our mental health is not treated with the same value as our physical health. Mental health is rarely prioritized. Self-care and self-love are often labeled as selfish. Yet, your mind is a key player in your overall health. A healthy mindset improves many physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, low immune system, chest pain, and more! Still, we lack an emphasis on cultivating our own mental health.

Why should we prioritize our mental health?

When you prioritize your mental health, you engage in self-care that stimulates inner peace, inner happiness, and self-love. You continuously practice and develop new coping mechanisms. And, you learn how to forgive yourself. More than that, you show yourself compassion and understanding. You provide your mind and body with space and time to relax, to heal, and to grow.

Just like with our physical health, taking care of our mental health is important. We are focused on being the “perfect support” for everyone around us. As a result, we push ourselves and our mental health to the back burner. The paradox is that in order to be the support our loved ones need and deserve, in order to be the best version of ourselves, we have to put time and energy into cultivating our mental health. Therefore, it is important to value your mind as much as you value your body. Furthermore, it is important to spend as much time and energy caring for your mind as you do your body.

Your mental health affects how you feel, think, and act. Unlike when you feel sick or when you break a bone, it is not always as easy to recognize the warning signs within your mind. Often times, our mental health has declined a significant amount before we have recognized it. Furthermore, our mental health can dramatically affect our relationship with our loved ones and with ourselves. Therefore, we have to prioritize cultivating our mental health every day.

A few of the many ways you can prioritize your mental health.

Make time for yourself. This can be as simple as spending 30 minutes reading a book or journaling in the morning. This could also be taking a quick walk or meditating during the day. Spend some time alone with yourself and learn to love the moments of silence.

Do things that bring you joy. The week can feel very long and stressful. There is a lot going on in your world and the world around you. You do not have to sit in all the trauma and fear all of the time. Try to dedicate at least 1 hour a week doing 1 thing that you really enjoy, something that brings you joy, and makes you happy to be alive.

Check in with yourself. How are you really? What are you feeling right now? What kind of headspace are you in? How can you allow your mind some space and time to rejuvenate? What can you do for your mental exhaustion? Which coping mechanisms would be helpful right now? Be honest with yourself. Lying to yourself will only hurt you in the long run.

Listen to your body. Is your body starting to feel tired? Are you constantly running on empty? Honor your body. Acknowledge the stress put on it. When your body needs rest, allow yourself to rest. Taking a nap is not “being lazy,” it is preventing a burnout that takes an extended period of time away from work, school, and / or your day to day.

Listen to your mind. What are you telling yourself? Are you putting yourself down? Are you upsetting yourself? Why are you telling yourself negative things? Listen to what you are telling yourself, become aware of it, and counter it with positives. Treat yourself with the same love and kindness you would a friend.

Pay attention to your feelings. What are you feeling? Where is that feeling stemming from? Pay attention to how these feelings are affecting your mind and body. How are you reacting? What coping mechanisms can you use to validate yourself while simultaneously comforting yourself? Remember, it is okay to not be okay. But, also remember that there are coping mechanisms and resources available to help you through the hard times.

Fining a safe place where you feel content. This can be an actual physical space or an image within your mind. When the world feels overwhelming, when our symptoms are too much to handle, connecting to your happy place can provide a sense of calming. Maybe this place will comfort you, motivate you, inspire you, or help you escape for a few moments.

I will leave you with this thought: Prioritizing your mental health validates you as a human being. If you do not validate and prioritize yourself, who will?

“If I wait for someone else to validate my existence, it will mean that I am shortchanging myself.”

Zanele Muholi

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How do you advocate for your mental health?

white and black number print

When it comes to your mental health, be tenacious. Advocate for yourself. Find support systems and treatment options that work for YOU.

One thing I have come to realize, through my own journey and hearing the stories of others, is a lack of assertion. When it comes to our mental health, we often take a long time to reach out for support. At first, we tend to ignore our symptoms. Then, we question if they are real or in our heads. Next, we compare ourselves to others. Then, we deny any potential conditions. And, finally, after the symptoms and/or condition have overwhelmed us, we reach out for support.

Why do we wait so long to receive treatment that we deserve? Think about it. When your arm starts hurting, especially after a trauma, do you wait years to get an x-ray? When your vision starts to worsen, do you wait years to get glasses? When you have a cavity, do you wait years to get a filling? When you have a headache, do you wait years to take medication? When you live with a heart condition, do you wait years to go to the cardiologist? Yet, when you live with a mental health condition or you are facing poor mental health symptoms, why do you take years to see a doctor?

Then, once we see a professional, we often assume they know everything. Mental health is a tricky field because it is an invisible illness. The doctors, therapists, and / or counselors do not see a picture of your brain that clearly shows a proper diagnosis that results in a specific treatment plan. Because the professionals are not experiencing the symptoms first-hand and cannot see what is going on inside your mind, mental health diagnoses can become a guessing game.

One of the most common misconceptions I have experienced within the mental health community is this idea that your first diagnosis or your first prescription medication or your first therapist is going to be the right one. What many people do not know is that it can take an average of up to 10 years to receive the right diagnosis. Many people do not know that the average person tries more than one medication before finding the right one for their mind and body. Many people, also, do not know that it can take an average of up to 5 therapists to find the right match.

So, if it can be extremely difficult to receive the right diagnosis and treatment plan, what should I do?

Get curious about your mental health diagnosis and treatment plan; and ASK ANY AND ALL QUESTIONS THAT YOU HAVE.

Be tenacious. Research your symptoms and educate yourself on various mental health conditions that relate to your symptoms. Reach out to others who are experiencing similar symptoms and find out what they have tried. Then, create a list of questions to ask the mental health care professional.

Do not be afraid to be “annoying” by asking too many questions. It is your mental health; you can ask as many questions as you would like to. If you do not understand a diagnosis or a symptom, ask the doctor to explain it to you. Ask questions about the medication being prescribed and what side effects to look out for. Ask about alternate treatment options and next steps. Ask what you can do in addition to taking the prescribed medication and / or attending therapy.

Furthermore, do not be afraid to ask what external or internal factors can be affecting your mental health. Have you checked your vitamin and hormone levels recently? Are you exposed to hazardous / toxic chemicals? Do you live in an area of high pollution? Does your home have mold? Advocating for yourself is not only sharing your symptoms, but also asking questions that help you and the doctor get a full picture.

Mental health care professionals are humans, just like us, they may make mistakes or overlook certain symptoms. They do not physically or mentally experience what you are experiencing; therefore, it is difficult for them to know everything about what is going on. By researching and asking questions, you can learn more about what they are thinking and collaborate on the best treatment plan.

Understand that the first medication you try may not be the right one.

Everyone’s body is different. Therefore, everyone’s body reacts differently to medications. If prescribed medication, be sure to understand that the first medication may not be the right one for you. And understand that it does not always mean that no medication will work for you. It simply means, this time around, the medication prescribed was not the right fit.

It is also important to remember that just because the medication prescribed to you works for someone else with the same mental health condition, it does not mean that it will definitely work for you. As noted previously, everyone’s body reacts differently.

However, when you start to experience side effects, especially severe side effects that make you uncomfortable, tell your doctor right away. You do not have to wait it out, because the doctor prescribed it. Call your doctor and share your concerns. It may be a normal reaction as the body adjusts or it may be a sign that the wrong medication was prescribed. Advocating for yourself by consulting your doctor will help you explore your options.

Lastly, look at therapy like you look at dating. You may not find your match the first time around, but the perfect match is out there.

Every therapist is different. From energy to method of practice to personal experience to specialty, every therapist brings a different approach and perspective to the table. It may take time to find a therapist that matches your specific needs.

When you are searching for a therapist, do not be afraid to ask questions. What do you specialize in? What approach do you use (ex. holistic, biofeedback, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy)? What is your availability? Ask however many questions you would like, within the appropriate boundaries. You are going to therapy for you. You are the consumer; you are allowed to be selective in your approach.  

When you finally choose a therapist, if you do not feel like the connection is right, look for a new therapist. You do not have to stick with the same one, even if you have been going to them for years. It is okay to change therapists, just like it is okay to change phones.

I, in my searches, use the 3-appointment rule. I go to the same therapist 3 times before deciding if they are the right fit for me. At the first appointment, I am usually nervous, and the therapist knows nothing about me. It tends to feel a little awkward. Plus, the appointment tends to be more of a focus on history rather than my current situation. During the second appointment, I tend to be more relaxed, and the therapist has a general understanding of my background, therefore, we dive a little deeper into my history and current situation. Then, by the third appointment, I have a good idea of the approach the therapist uses and if it feels right for me. This 3-appointment rule has worked out well for me; however, it may not work for everyone. An important part of advocating for yourself is exploring what you are looking for in support and understanding how long it takes you to get a good feel for those part of your support system.

All in all, remember to always speak up. Ask questions. Do not let people patronize you or invalidate you. You deserve to be heard and educated on what you are experiencing. The mental health care system can feel complicated, but you deserve the right support that works for you. Never stop advocating for yourself and your mental health.

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What is the ideal model of mental health care within psych wards?

medical stethoscope and mask composed with red foiled chocolate hearts

Mental health care within psych wards, in my opinion, based on my experience and others whom I have spoken with, has a great deal of opportunity for improvement. In fact, I would personally describe the current mental health system as broken. Did you know that patients hospitalized in psych wards are 100-200x more likely to die by suicide upon discharge?

It is 2021, our eyes are open to the economic disparity more than they have ever been in the past. Yet, we still live in a world where quality mental health care is a privilege NOT a right. There is no valid reason as to why there is no minimum standard of care within psych wards on a national level that sets patients up for success rather than failure.

In the beginning of 2021, Inspiring My Generation partnered with More Than Mental Project to create a petition that addressed this. Below is an explanation of points covered in the petition.

When patients are admitted into the psych ward, many are not thoroughly evaluated.

In fact, most evaluations are a simple, standard check the box. These evaluations are commonly not personalized for the specific patient and their story or experience. This results in the professional assigned to the patient receiving only a partial understanding of the patient. Instead, imagine if the first 24-48 hours after a patient is admitted was an evaluation period where a patient is assigned a case manager who works with the 3 licensed professionals to develop the right treatment plan from the number of individual and group therapy sessions to proper medication (if prescribed), post admission treatment plan, and resources.

Patients are typically required to take a standard medication without a thorough evaluation.

As we know, medication is not a one-size-fits-all. The same medication will not work well for individuals living with different mental illnesses. The same medication will not affect every individual living with the same mental illness in the same way. For example, an antidepressant is known to cause manic episodes in individuals living with bipolar disorder. Thus, if an antidepressant is the standard medication, it can have an adverse effect on various patients. As a result, we should not prescribe medication without a formal evaluation and diagnosis. Furthermore, not everyone is comfortable with medication or cannot continue to afford medication upon discharge. Therefore, these situations should be taken into consideration prior to prescribing the medication. When a medication is started and stopped abruptly, it can create a severe adverse reaction.

Patients are not assigned an effective treatment plan during admission.

After the recommended 24–48-hour evaluation period, over the next 24 hours, the patient should work with an assigned case manager to develop a treatment plan that makes both parties comfortable. The treatment plan should comprise of options recommended by the medical team as well as be considerate of the person’s financial situation upon discharge. Thus, the treatment plan should be customized to the individual. Imagine if the treatment plan included a mix of both individual and group therapy sessions while admitted as well as resources and coping mechanisms to use upon discharge, with additional medication or therapy as recommended, prescribed, and financially reasonable. The system would be setting the individual up for success upon discharge rather than throwing them back into the fast-paced world with little to no support.

Individual therapy sessions are not typically offered, specifically not regularly during admission.

When someone is hospitalized in a psych ward, it is usually a direct result of suicidal ideation (active or passive). This is a critical time, where support is needed. Patients should receive consistent individual therapy sessions focused on exploring what led them to admission, relevant trauma from the past, and transitioning to life outside the institution / facility. Imagine if daily or every other day, patients were receiving therapy that explored their specific situation and symptoms, while creating a solid plan to transition back home.  

Group therapy sessions do not provide enough variety in a range of coping mechanisms nor are they separated by mental health disorder.

Group therapy sessions are a great opportunity to explore coping mechanisms in a safe and fun environment. However, not enough variety is provided within the coping mechanisms. In fact, patients should have the opportunity to explore a range of coping mechanisms during group therapy. Also, patients should also not be “marked off” for not attending group therapy sessions that do not feel right or comfortable for them. There should be specific groups created for specific conditions. For example, imagine if we created specific groups for individuals experiencing suicidal ideation / anxiety / depression / schizophrenia.

While admitted, psych wards should have resources that allow patients to explore various coping mechanisms.

Imagine if psych wards had a range of approved movies, books, art supplies, journals, games, etc. that are constantly available for patients to use. This would be a great way for patients to explore different coping mechanisms that may work for them and create their “coping toolbox.”

Upon discharge, patients should have a valuable resource that sets them up for success.

Psych wards should provide all patients with a completed workbook post release with the treatment plan they followed during admission, their recommended treatment plan post admission, a comprehensive list of coping mechanisms, local affordable options for therapy / counseling, crisis hotline and text line numbers, and a supportive message.

Treatment costs are extremely high. Hospitals and/or governments need to reallocate funding to allow for quality treatment.

Many patients leave the mental health treatment facility drowning in bills from their admission on top of any additional costs (such as ER visits and ambulance). If the costs were significantly reduced, this would help transitioning to life post admission more feasible and less stressful, while simultaneously encouraging more individuals to reach out for help.

After discharge, patients are thrown out into the world with no one checking in on them.

Every hospital should have a case manager that checks in with the patients on a routine basis. We recommend: a monthly check in for the first year, a bi-annual check in for the second year, and then annual check ins afterward. If the case manager feels the individual should be re-evaluated, they may call them in for a FREE evaluation appointment to see if treatment plans need to be adjusted. This creates a safety net for individuals who are struggling upon discharge and can help to reduce the suicide rate among patients discharged.

The federal or state government should reallocate more funding toward psych wards to help cover the costs of treatment.

We strongly encourage the Federal Government to increase spending on mental health and set a minimum per capita spending on mental health to ensure all states are allocating enough money toward making these improvements. Currently, we have the majority of states operating at around 1% of the total budget going toward mental health AND many insurance policies not efficiently covering mental health treatment and medications. Imagine if the Supreme Court passed legislation that requires insurance companies to cover a decent percentage of mental health treatment and medications to ensure it is affordable for ALL, not just the privileged. Furthermore, imagine if our State Governments enforced equal distribution of funds per capita to every hospital with behavioral health wards. Funding would be based on city population size and need, not based on wealth. 

Add your signature to the petition:

Take part in other Policy Change initiatives spearheaded by Inspiring My Generation:

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What factors can contribute to mental health symptoms and conditions?

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What factors can contribute to mental health symptoms and / or conditions?

Mental Health Introduction

What is mental health? In my opinion, mental health is a scale that ranges from wellness to illness. Like physical health, mental health can change overtime. You may not always be experiencing symptoms, and conditions / symptoms may re-appear throughout your lifetime. Also, like physical health, certain mental health symptoms and conditions may be experienced worse than others.

Think of a common cold versus pneumonia. A common cold is still considered an illness. Although it is not as dangerous to your health as pneumonia, it is still treated to prevent the common cold from developing into a worse illness. Now, let us look at depression. When depressive symptoms first appear, one may feel extreme sadness for an extended period of time. One may even begin to feel hopeless in the early stages. However, imagine if depression is recognized and treated before the individual experiences thoughts of suicide.

Just because a mental health symptom or mental health condition does not appear to be “extremely severe” does not mean that the individual experiencing the symptom or condition does not deserve help, support, and/or treatment.

If we look at mental health in the same capacity as physical health, we will gain a new perspective that evolves into a world without the stigma. To better understand mental health, let us explore where symptoms and conditions can come from.

Biological Factors

Like certain physical illnesses, mental illness can also develop from biological factors. For example, there has been research that shows a genetic link between certain cancers and family history of the same cancer. There has also been research that shows a genetic link between Alzheimer’s and a family history of Alzheimer’s. Similarly, there have been studies done that show a link between genetic and certain mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (evidence is not conclusive).

As we all know, every human being is biologically different, even though we share many common physical features. A person’s biological makeup may determine how one behaves and interacts within their environment. Therefore, biological factors can contribute to mental health conditions.

It is important to remember that genetics is not the only biological factor. Brain chemistry, gender, hormone levels, and nutrition also influence one’s biological makeup. Furthermore, the interaction between the various biological factors and other factors (environmental, psychological, and social) can play an important role.

Brain chemistry can be affected by factors, such as brain damage and drug and alcohol usage / abuse. Brain damage may result from physical health conditions, such as seizures. Why is brain chemistry important? Your brain releases several chemicals that impact one’s mood (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are a few examples).  

Biological gender can also impact one’s mental health, through gender-linked stress, trauma and / or reproductive cycle stages. Research shows that women are perceived to be more susceptible to mental health conditions due to how these factors affect their mood.

Hormone levels also play a role in one’s mental health. Deficiencies in hormones like progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone can influence one’s mood, energy levels, reproductive cycle symptoms, and more.

Lastly, nutrition is a key part of mental health. What we put inside of our bodies has a direct effect on our internal system. Poor nutrition can lead to vitamin deficiencies that not only affect our mood, but also energy levels.

Environmental Factors

There are some factors we have very little control over, such as genetics. However, one factor we have a lot of control over is our environment. Yet, our environment tends to be one of the biggest causes of mental health symptoms and conditions.

Our environment is made up of two key components, physical environment, and social environment. Both aspects of our environment are equally important in maintaining our mental health.

What encompasses our physical environment? Air pollution, work conditions that cause significant stress to the mind / body, weather, smoking (second-hand smoke included), loud noises, exposure to toxic chemicals (ex. household cleaning supplies), physical hazards (ex. dangerous workplace situations), household environment (ex. cleanliness, safety, chemicals, lighting, outdoor space, physical barriers), natural environment (ex. weather, plants / trees), physical barriers (especially for individuals living with a disability), school setting (ex. location, structure, stressors, hazards), workplace (ex. location, structure, stressors, hazards), and recreational facilities (ex. access, structure, location, hazards).

What encompasses our social environment? Stigma on mental health and treatment options (ex. therapy, medication), prejudice / discrimination (ex. racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism), violence (within household or local community), abuse (physical, sexual, emotional), poverty, lack of necessities (food, shelter, water), media (ex. social media, news, television shows), technology (ex. cell phones, computers), relationships / lack of social support (ex. family, friends, self), self-esteem, and lack of physical safety.

All of these factors (and more) can influence one’s overall mental health. Think anxiety, depression, PTSD. It is also important to remember that the interaction between one’s social and physical environment can affect mental health.

Psychological Factors

Lastly, psychological factors are a key part in our mental health development. Psychological factors include our feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and attitude. Psychological factors are something we have a lot of control over, if we educate ourselves and our youth on warning signs and how to cope. Unfortunately, in today’s world, we tend to not discuss how psychological factors can play a key role in our mental health nor do we tend to provide the tools and resources needed to cultivate our mental health in regard to these factors.

Psychological factors include how we cope with life’s stressors (ex. suppressing our emotions, avoidance, healthy vs unhealthy coping mechanisms, defense mechanisms), social support (ex. invalidation, gaslighting), acceptance (from loved ones, especially parents), intrusive / negative thoughts, and personality (ex. use of humor, perfectionist).

Final Thoughts

When we discuss mental health symptoms and conditions, it is extremely important we look at the full picture. Often times, we provide ourselves with a very limited understanding of what can be the root cause of our symptoms and/or conditions. By looking at the full picture and how the various factors interact with each other, we are able to better understand where our symptoms / conditions stem from and how we can make changes to better cultivate our mental health.

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What age is appropriate to begin the conversation on mental health?  

family sitting on grass near building

What age is appropriate to begin the conversation on mental health?  

My answer: it is never too early to start the conversation.

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding wellness conversations are that you only need to have the conversation once. Like various other wellness and safety conversations, mental health conversations are not a one-time sit-down dialogue when your child reaches a certain age. These conversations should begin at birth.

What do you mean conversations should begin at birth?

Communication can occur in different ways. For example, when a baby is crying, providing support by holding the baby close to your heart, softly singing, or gently rocking them can be not only soothing but also let the baby know they are not alone. Another example would be allowing the baby to scream and cry (as recommended by doctors for the baby’s age) can also teach the baby that it is okay to express their emotions. Then, as your child continues to grow up, providing safe space to express their emotions without judgement is extremely important.

When a child is in grades K-2, these are core years in emotional health. This is when we often begin invalidating and gaslighting them. Although the problems and stressors children face may seem “small” or “insignificant” to us as adults, they are still very real and very difficult for children. By shutting down children when they begin to cry or get upset with phrases like:

  • People are dying.
  • Big girls do not cry.
  • Stop acting like a girl.
  • You are acting like a baby.
  • You are being dramatic.
  • Stop crying.

We are communicating that their feelings are not important, and thus, they should suppress them. Then, as they get older, we often build upon that same destructive message.

In grade school (3-5), we often use phrases like “You are not 5 anymore, grow up” when children express themselves. Often times, we do not pay attention to the drama or problems they are facing, because elementary school bullying builds character and thicker skin. Essentially, we teach them that it is okay for people to be mean to them and it is wrong for them to speak up for themselves.

By middle schools, when gossip and bullying are at an all time high, when children are beginning to explore or understand their sexuality, when their bodies are changing, they are extremely impressionable. This is a key age for self-esteem. However, we often invalidate their problems by saying, “Do not let it bother you. This won’t matter in 5 years.” Essentially, we are teaching them that their feelings do not matter.

Then, we get to high school, where life becomes complicated. Many kids are experiencing or have experienced first love and first heartbreak, grief and trauma of losing loved ones, extreme pressure on grades and SAT scores, stress to decide the trajectory of their life by choosing a college and a major, puberty, bullying, and the list goes on. Instead of having healthy wellness check-ins, we are piling more and more on to their plates with impossibly high expectations.

Then, we see suicide is the second leading cause of death from ages 10-35 in the United States, and we ask ourselves why.

Why is the suicide rate so high among our youth?

Here’s why: we are invalidating them, subconsciously teaching them to suppress their emotions, meanwhile refusing to engage in important conversations.

Imagine if in K-2, we taught kids that it is normal to have feelings AND that all feelings are valid. Imagine if we taught them there are different ways to express their emotions, such as through speaking, drawing, writing, or music.

Imagine if in 3-5, we taught kids what mental health is on a scale from wellness to illness. Imagine if we explained that sometimes, we may move along the scale as the day goes on, and that is normal to not always be happy.

Imagine if in 6-8, we taught kids about early symptom detection. Imagine if we gave them the tools and resources needed to explore their symptoms and emotions, while developing tools to cope with them. Imagine if by the time kids were 13 years old, they understood how to advocate for themselves and their mental health. Imagine if they knew the right questions to ask themselves and their doctors.

Imagine if in 9-12, we taught kids about suicide prevention. Imagine if we taught kids how to have supportive and validating conversations with their peers, as well as warning signs to look out for with themselves and with each other. Imagine if we educated them on various mental illnesses and resources available to them.

Imagine if by the time one graduates from high school, they have all of the tools and resources needed to maintain emotional wellness and cope with life’s stressors and traumas. Imagine if we set the next generation up for success in life, rather than throwing them into the world with no real understanding of mental health or how to maintain it.

So, when should we have the conversation? Every. Single. Day.

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Tips To Lose Weight While Protecting Your Mental Health

Written by: Bettie Olson

Losing weight is on everyone’s mind. There are diets expounded all over the internet and social media. But doctor recommended or otherwise, they all miss one huge thing: your mental health. Dieting is hard and often stressful if you don’t meet your goals like New Year’s resolutions, and not paying attention to your moods and how you feel only makes it worse. Here are some tips to keep you happier while dieting.

Avoid Sugar

Foods high in sugar have little nutritional value and increase the risk of diabetes and depression. Replace that Coke and other soda with unsweetened tea or flavored seltzer. Sodas can have as much as 16 grams of sugar, and while you may get a quick energy boost, the crash that follows is never pleasant. Soda also has high amounts of caffeine that can increase anxiety, so drinking water instead will help you feel more at ease. Try to drink around two liters of water a day. In addition to keeping your kidneys healthy, staying hydrated can improve concentration and prevent feelings of fatigue.

Eating Habits

Have you ever been in such a hurry that you wolf down a drive through meal in the car while driving? Not much fun is it. Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FAND states that paying attention to where and how you eat can make a huge difference in your mood. Eat in an area where you can be comfortable. Enjoy the flavor and chew slowly and completely. Thorough chewing and eating slower will help you feel full faster. If you don’t have time to enjoy the meal, consider a quick healthy snack instead. Some nuts or a granola bar to stave off hunger pangs works great and will help you eat less when you do have time to sit down for a meal. Stock up on fruits and vegetables that you can eat on the go, or even eat for breakfast with yogurt. These foods don’t cause the spike in blood sugar that causes a ‘sugar crash’ in an hour.

Try a Personalized Diet

Dieting doesn’t have to be about deprivation and calorie counting. Cutting back on red meat and replacing it with more plant-based options is always a good idea. Personalized diet plans based on what you like to eat and what you don’t make reducing the bad stuff easier. Anyone who has ever counted calories knows that dropping too many results in no energy and irritability. Starving yourself on a crash diet plan just doesn’t work, plus it’s not healthy, mentally or physically. The weight loss programs at WeightWatchers represent how real weight loss can be achieved without restrictions on eating what you like. Losing pounds is more a matter of not eating more of one type of food over another and maintaining a balanced diet that boosts mental health. Substituting more healthy foods for less healthier foods is the key, rather than counting calories. And even if you can’t do it perfectly, keep a log of what you eat.

Stay Away from Highly Processed Foods

Often highly processed foods are also more complex to break down and use and include an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. FDA regulations help, but there are still too many chemicals and contaminants (think hormones and microplastics) in these foods. New evidence also shows that these foods alter the microbiome in the gut, and scientists are finding that these gut bacteria affect metabolic homeostasis, mental health, and even immunity. Doctors and scientists are just scratching the surface of how the gut microbiome affects our quality of life, and what they are finding out is nothing short of amazing.

Dieting and losing weight isn’t a temporary change to get a desired result anymore. Changing your lifestyle is the key to long term health and happiness. The changes you make to eat healthier and improve your mental health through your diet will last a lifetime, and so will the satisfaction of success.

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After incredible loss, she’s on a mission to save lives from suicide | I Don’t Mind


By Jackie Menjivar

Warning: Content discussed addresses suicide.

As a child, Fran Reicherter’s self-described superpower was her writing and her desire to change the things she knew could be better in the world. Now, the 23-year-old founder and president of Inspiring My Generation, is using her platform to transform the way we talk about and cope with mental health challenges. 

Through the encouragement card program, Inspiring My Generation is sending messages of love and support to people hospitalized in psychiatric facilities. Thousands of cards have been donated to help comfort patients on their paths to recovery. (Check out our coloring page in collaboration with Inspiring My Generation here)

A lot of this work is informed by Fran’s own experiences coping with loss, navigating the mental healthcare system, and surviving multiple suicide attempts. She’s taking the tools and resources that she learned on her mental health journey, and making them accessible to everyone. 

We sat down with Fran to learn more about how she’s using awareness, education, and early intervention to save lives.

IDM: Would you mind sharing your own personal journey with mental health?

Fran Reicherter (FR): Inspiring My Generation actually started as a blog when I was 12. At that point in my life, I was already struggling with severe anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. It was a way for me to express my emotions, but then it became my hope that other people reading it would find some kind of inspiration within it.

I was absolutely terrified of failing and that just kept getting worse until the end of high school. My parents decided to separate, and my whole life just shattered. I’ve now attached the idea that my parents’ divorce was my own fault because I wasn’t good enough. My eating disorder got to an all-time high, and that was kind of the only sense of control in my life at that time.

I was really lucky because I had my grandparents, aunt, and uncle, who were really there for me during that time. When I was in college, my grandfather would FaceTime me for a cup of coffee every morning before class, when I’d walk home to my dorm, and over dinner. He always made sure that I felt important and I felt seen.

“My uncle was the one who really talked to me and supported me emotionally through it. For the first time it felt like maybe I was going to be okay, and he said that we were going to get through this together.”


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6 Gen Z’ers You Need to Know to Break Open your Mental Health Echo Chamber

6 Gen Z’ers you Need to Know to Break Open your Mental Health Echo Chamber

Let’s face it– social media can be tricky sometimes. While it’s certainly a helpful tool in keeping us connected, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we’re constantly pressured to show off the best version of ourselves online. Plus, when our feeds are full of endless information, and bad news that’s often out of our control, tuning everything out can seem like the easier option.

Social media also has the potential to impact our mental health. In a study from the Washington Post, 43% of Gen Z’ers admitted that social media negatively affects their self-esteem. Additionally, 27% of Gen Z, which is defined by its online-ness, reports poor mental health. This statistic is particularly striking since it’s 12% higher than the next closest generation. 

But certainly, our social media experiences don’t need to be negative. By following Gen Z’ers who advocate for mental health and self-care, we can turn our feeds into safer and kinder places. Moreover, when we find advocates who offer diverse perspectives, experiences, and voices around mental health, we gain new insights and strategies we might otherwise miss in the algorithm. 

Here are 6 Gen Z’ers to follow on Instagram if you want to break open your echo chamber around mental health: 

1. Francesca Nicole Reicherter (she/her) | @freicherter

Francesca Nicole Reicherter is a mental health advocate committed to using her platform to be a voice for those who have lost theirs. She is the founder of Inspiring my Generation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting disparities in mental health awareness, support, and treatment accessibility. On Instagram, Francesa shares resources and initiates conversations from various perspectives about making mental health care more accessible for everyone. In addition, she draws from her personal experience with suicide and mental health treatment to create safe spaces for people to talk about their own experiences.


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Inspiring My Generation – Francesca Reicherter | Go Solo

Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Francesca Reicherter, founder of Inspiring My Generation Corporation, located in Parkland, FL, USA.

What’s your business, and who are your customers?

Inspiring My Generation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to suicide prevention through mental health awareness, emotional support, and education. We accomplish this through 3 main initiatives.

• Normalize The Conversation Podcast. Inspiring My Generation advocates an innovative approach to raising awareness through creating a platform for open conversations. We focus on not only starting the conversation on mental health but also providing space and tools for supportive, validating conversations. We enlist mental health professionals, advocates, and individuals living with mental health conditions to join our Normalize The Conversation podcast series while simultaneously encouraging others to be an active part of the conversation. Since launching the series in 2020, We have hosted over 80 mental health conversations. New episodes premiere every Wednesday anywhere you get your podcast.

• Encouragement Card Program. At Inspiring My Generation, we firmly believe that emotional support is one of the most beneficial ways to prevent suicide. Our goal is to create a world where everybody feels seen, heard, loved, valid, worthy, and enough. Through our Encouragement Card Program, we enlist our community to provide emotional support to individuals hospitalized in psych wards as a sign of hope and love. Since launching this initiative in 2020, we have disbursed over 4,000 cards to individuals hospitalized in psych wards. Cards are donated every month among partnered facilities.

• Workbook Series. Education is key for prevention, which is why Inspiring My Generation is dedicated to providing resources that help you build the tools you need. “You Are Not Alone: The Workbook,” published in 2021, is a guide to help you build affirmations, self-love, ways to express your emotions, and coping skills. This workbook is recommended for ages 8+ and is targeted toward youth. “I AM,” published in 2022, is a guide to help you build confidence in who you are, separate who you are from how you are feeling, determine what type of support you are looking for, and find the words you need to advocate for your mental health. This workbook is recommended for ages 8+ and targeted for all ages.

Our customers are people who want to support mental health awareness and suicide prevention by normalizing the conversation and utilizing tools and resources to boost their mental health. Most customers are interested in building coping skills or learning how to advocate for their mental health.


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How divorce impacts children’s mental health & Interventions to support emotional development?

person in white long sleeve shirt holding black pen

Divorce: the alteration of a family unit through parental separation. Divorce occurs for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to, growing apart and infidelity. Whatever the case may be for you and your ex-spouse, there is one thing that will always be in common: if children were part of the family unit, they will be experiencing the emotional and mental impacts of the divorce alongside you.

Kids can be impacted in many ways, but some of the most common areas to monitor are academic performance, social life, and emotional regulation as seen below.

Potential impacts of divorce on children.

  • Blame themselves for the divorce.
  • Attribute acting out (bad behavior) to the divorce.
  • Poor academic performance.
  • Experimentation with risky behaviors.
  • Behavior Regression.
  • Experience emotional outbursts.
  • Decreased mood.
  • Start fights with peers.
  • Lose interest in activities.
  • Suffer from separation anxiety from the parent(s).

Potential long-term effects of divorce on children.

  • Increased substance use
  • Psychiatric hospitalizations
  • Mental health symptoms and/or conditions
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining relationships.
  • Increased risk of divorce
  • Financial problems.
  • Employment difficulties.


The most important thing you need to know about the effects of divorce on children’s mental health is that the parents play an important role in how their children adapt. The parents’ relationships and behaviors can play a role in either increasing or decreasing the mental/emotional effects.

Here are some important interventions to utilize:

  • Minimize conflict and hostility around children.
  • Avoid putting children in the middle.
  • Maintain a healthy parent-child relationship.
  • Speak to children with warmth and encouragement.
  • Teach coping skills and help children feel safe.
  • Preserve appropriate discipline structure.
  • Have a support network for yourself and your kids.
  • Seek professional help (if needed to help you and/or the family unit adjust).


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Invisible plastics: Is your health at risk?

close up photo of plastic bottles

Here’s a fact you probably did not know: each year, the average American consumes a credit card’s worth of microplastics every year. In fact, some research has shown that we may ingest greater than 100,000 microplastic particles every day.

What are microplastics? How are we exposed?

Microplastics are toxic chemicals invisible to the naked eye.

Exposure can come from a variety of sources, including ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact. Microplastics can appear in our food, water, and air. Additionally, these particles can be found in everyday products, like synthetic clothing, tea bags, laundry/dishwasher pods, paper cups, facial cleansers, cosmetics, and even in some medicines. Some of the plastics ingested are composed of toxins, such as pigments, flame retardants, water repellents, and phthalates. Moreover, particles spread through the air may be composed of dust, synthetic fibers, and industrial/traffic emissions.

What is the harm?

The full extent of the health impact is unknown because there are many factors at play, including the length of time the particles are within our bodies, amount and frequency of exposure, type of exposure, predisposing genetic factors, and more. However, microplastics have been found to potentially impact brain development and/or cause neurotoxicity, metabolic disturbances, and increased cancer risk. In addition, they may also double as endocrine disruptors impacting hormone function and (potentially) causing weight gain.

In the context of brain health, exposure to microplastics during periods of brain development can have a significant impact on learning ability, memory, and behavior throughout the lifespan.

What can we do to reduce risk?

Unfortunately, once these plastic particles are emitted into the air or food or water supplies, they are essentially impossible to get rid of. As a result, reducing plastic pollution now can make a huge impact in the future. However, this method is not easy and requires support from everyone. Another more attainable method includes educating yourself on what to look for when purchasing food or storage containers, avoiding storing food or water in plastic containers, refraining from microwaving food in plastic containers.

Here are 2 great tips to remember:

When purchasing an item contained in a plastic container, on the bottom there will be a number inside a triangle. Refer to code below.

1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

2: High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

3: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

4: Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

5: Polypropylene (PP)

6: Polystyrene (PS)

7: Other (PC)

Although the numbers listed above are related to recycling, they also offer us great insight as consumers. Numbers 2,4 and 5 are the safest among the 7 plastic labels. Numbers 3 and 6 should always be avoided, while 1 and 7 should be avoided or used with caution.

In the cosmetic industry, the ingredients list will include the names of plastics contained. Refer to the names of 22 plastic chemicals to watch out for below in your cosmetic products.

  1. Polymer
  2. Nylon-12 (polyamide-12)
  3. Nylon-6
  4. Poly(butylene terephthalate
  5. Poly(ethylene isoterephthalate
  6. Poly(ethylene terephthalate)
  7. Poly(methyl methacrylate) 
  8. Poly(pentaerythrityl terephthalate)
  9. Poly(propylene terephthalate) 
  10. Polyethylene
  11. Polypropylene
  12. Polystyrene
  13. Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon)
  14. Polyurethane
  15. Polyacrylate
  16. Acrylates copolymer
  17. Allyl stearate/vinyl acetate copolymers 
  18. Ethylene/methacrylate copolymer
  19. Ethylene/acrylate copolymer
  20. Butylene/ethylene/styrene copolymer
  21. Styrene acrylates copolymer
  22. Trimethylsiloxysilicate (silicone resin)