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Wellbeing & Words Blog

Anxiety Relief: You’ve Got This – It’s Really Possible

Is anxiety relief really possible? After all, anxiety can be discouraging and disheartening and frustrating and a whole lot of other negative adjectives. It’s common to feel doomed to be crushed by anxiety for life. That’s because anxiety worms its way into our mind and controls many of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. When that happens, it often doesn’t seem like we’ll ever have a break. I’ve been there, and I can relate. I can also proudly state that relief and freedom from anxiety are possible. Read on to learn about a helpful tool for bounding past anxiety.

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Food For Thought. And Emotions, Actions, and Wellbeing

Here is food for thought: what you eat matters in a big way. What, when, and how you eat are important for wellbeing. Learn more to increase mental health.

Here’s food for thought in the literal sense: The food you eat directly affects your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, energy level, and overall wellbeing. The mind and body are intricately connected (beyond mere connection — they’re one fluid system), and nourishing both keeps your feeling physically and mentally healthy. A crucial component of our overall health and wellbeing that many of us often overlook (I’ve been guilty) is nutrition. Food for healthy thoughts: You need good food for great functioning and quality of life. 

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Acceptance: Giving Up or Moving On?

 Acceptance of mental health challenges sounds like resignation. In mental health, acceptance isn't that at all. Learn what acceptance is and why it's good.Acceptance of mental he

Acceptance is a vital part of wellbeing and mental health. The word can be misleading, however. If I’m told, for example, that I just need to accept my anxiety, I might think that there’s no use trying to beat anxiety and that I just need to resign myself to it and retreat. Thank goodness that is not what acceptance means in the world of mental health. We don’t have to accept that we live with any mental health challenge. What, then, is acceptance? Acceptance is a concept that is empowering and puts you in control of your mental health and wellbeing. 

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Why Self-Care Isn’t Just For Adults

As parents, teachers, and caregivers of children, we are constantly focused on each child’s wellbeing: “Did you brush your teeth?” “Did you finish your dinner?” “Did you put on sunscreen?” But, are we concentrated on their mental wellbeing? It’s an important question to pose, as mental health should be valued as highly as our children’s’ physical health. Alarmingly, according to experts, 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. Good mental health provides children with the life-long ability to cope with difficult circumstances and situations. 

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Mindful Eating Nourishes Your Brain, Wellbeing

Mindful eating is a simple and effective way to teach the brain to be calm. Eating mindfully reduces stress and anxiety and enhances wellbeing. Learn how to do it here. Mindful eating nourishes your brain in a vital way. While you are eating healthy food to supply your brain with the nutrients it needs to be well, when you eat mindfully you also give your brain a much-needed break. 

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Anxiety, Rumination, You, and Cows

Anxiety works its way into our entire being and settles in for the long haul. All types of anxiety disorders do this, as does “ordinary” anxiety, the experience of worry, doubt, fear, etc. that isn’t quite diagnosable as a disorder but is disturbing and bothersome nonetheless.

Anxiety affects us in many ways including the way we think that the thoughts we have. Anxiety is connected to experiences such as overthinking and ruminating. We chew on them repeatedly, the way a cow chews on grass in its original form and in cud form. The more we chew on, or think about, our worries, fears, stresses, and the like, the more we’re paying attention to them. And the more we pay attention to them, the harder they are to swallow. So, like a cow and other ruminants, we regurgitate and ruminate. 

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Do You Have Anxiety, Fear About Letting Go of Stress?

Stress can be hard to let go of, especially when letting go of stress causes anxiety. Learn why stress relief can cause, rather than reduce, anxiety.

How do you feel about reducing your stress? Most of us automatically respond that we’d love to have less stress in our lives. Many times we state proudly that we’re working on getting rid of so much stress. Yet the stress hangs on. And on. And often, it rises. Do you find this happening to you? Is it possible that the idea of letting go of even some of your stress creates anxiety? Is there a small chance that you might be afraid of reducing stress? 

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How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions: A Wellbeing Guide

Your New Year's Resolutions are promises you make to yourself. Learn how to keep them and grow wellbeing. New beginnings are wonderful. They’re a chance to define yourself anew, to intentionally rethink your goals and direction. While each new day brings a fresh opportunity for new beginnings, perhaps the biggest symbol of new beginning is the new year.
New Year’s resolutions abound, offering promises and hopes for the year to come. Our intensions are great, and they’re motivating. The vast majority of us begin our New Year’s resolutions with enthusiastic zeal. But then that enthusiasm wanes. Sometimes we’re frustrated that our resolutions went by the wayside yet again. Sometimes we don’t even fully notice that we dropped them until it’s time to make them again. This doesn’t have to keep happening. You can take charge of your goals for yourself and stick with them long past the next new year. Here are some ways to do that.

How-To Tips for Keeping Your Resolutions, Your Goals

One reason that resolutions tend to fade away is that they’re too narrow, too specific—at least at first. For example, you might want to lose 10 pounds. Or you might want to have the energy to get out of bed every morning. These goals, and so many others like them, are great for you.
When we start with something so specific, though, we easily get bored, annoyed, and frustrated because that’s our primary focus, and it’s easier to see how we’re not meeting those goals than how we are succeeding (I’ve been there!). Therefore, before you get specific, go broad. Here’s how:

  • Look for themes among your resolutions. Do multiple resolutions relate to weight loss? Do they deal with wanting more energy, the ability to get up easily every day, and other components to overcoming depression? What about relationships? Wellbeing encompasses many aspects of our lives. What seems to be  your focus in your resolutions?
  • Make a vision board. A vision board will help you identify your themes and hone in on the big picture of your life. What is your ideal self? What do mental health, physical health, financial health, social health, and/or spiritual health mean to you? You certainly don’t have to focus on all of these. That would be too broad and overwhelming. That’s why starting out by looking for themes is important. What is the primary focus of your year, and how do you envision it?
  • Find your purpose. Why do you want what you want? Want to lose weight? Why? Will it give you more energy? Allow you to move more easily? Let you play with your kids or grandkids? Keep your medical bills down? How will it increase your wellbeing? The why keeps you going. Put your purpose on your vision board.
  • Get specific again. What actions will keep leading you toward your purpose and vision?
  • Make plans. Committed actions are key. What little steps can you take daily, and what bigger action plans will move you toward your vision?

Your unique purpose and committed action steps, no matter what they are, will lead you to New Year’s resolution success because you have one overarching theme: your wellbeing.
Tune into Wellbeing & Words on YouTube where this week I discuss more about purpose and vision for keeping resolutions. You’ll see my notebooks and new vision board.


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Portrait of Social Anxiety, Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant personality disorder and anxiety limit lives and damage self-image. Experience how it hurts a man named Brain. Change how you think about yourself to reduce anxiety and APD.
When social anxiety is extreme, it can become avoidant personality disorder (APD). APD is like social anxiety on steroids. Someone with such intense social anxiety lives a severely limited life because he or she is compelled by anxiety to avoid any and all social situations and even simple interactions with others. APD imprisons people in their own mind, holding them captive with fear and anxiety. It traps people in isolated places, such as inside their own home or in a job that involves no contact with other people.

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What Good is Gratitude?

Gratitude is the mindset of appreciating things in life. Numerous studies have shown, and continue to show, that an attitude of gratitude enhances mental health, wellbeing, and general life satisfaction. Yet sometimes it seems hard to believe. Is being grateful that powerful? And, more bluntly, what is it about gratitude, something that can seem superficial, that has a positive impact on our lives? What good is gratitude?
Gratitude is a way of viewing both your inner and outer worlds as well as living your life.  Here’s an at-a-glance look at what gratitude is as well as what it is not:

With intentional practice, by deliberately pausing to appreciate something about others in our life, our circumstances, a part of our day, beauty around us, and aspects of ourselves, we begin to naturally shift our perspective. Rather than getting bogged down by what is wrong, we start to look more at what’s right. The transformation brings positive life changes. We find that we

  • can better cope with stress
  • might have anxiety or depression but can find reasons to move forward anyway
  • feel lighter, more joyful
  • have more empathy
  • are more determined
  • feel excitement in things
  • are more hopeful

Gratitude works. It does us good because it involves a shift in thinking and in being. Despite focusing only on problems and challenges, we also look for good things on purpose, and we take it a step deeper by being glad, grateful, for the presence of these things.
Some ways to hone the strength of gratitude include

  • journaling
  • reflecting quietly while coloring in a gratitude coloring book
  • Set the alarm on your phone, watch, or fitness band to vibrate hourly to remind you to pause and find something for which to be grateful
  • keep a gratitude jar in a prominent spot so you can write something for which you’re grateful and put it in the jar
  • play I’m Glad Bingo (click the link for a downloadable game board).

Gratitude isn’t a cure-all to make problems disappear. Instead, gratitude is a way of being in life that is positive-oriented rather than negative-oriented. Gratitude is a component of wellbeing and a life worth living.
Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities. (I never share e-mail addresses with anyone.) 

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Join me on the Wellbeing & Words Q&A show. Have questions or topics for the show? Submit them here:
Contact me:

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Is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Like a Costume?

First, a note: Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a real psychological disorder. It’s not artificial like a costume, nor is it scary (well, it can be confusing and frightening to those living with it, but it doesn’t involve terrorizing others). Here, I use costume to paint a picture of what life can be like, in part, for someone living with DID. 
I’m writing this on Halloween because thoughts of costumes created a winding train of thought that ended in thoughts of a friend of mine who lives with DID and then thoughts about the protagonist of my novel Twenty-Four Shadows (a fictitious story based entirely on fact, including information about what DID is like to live with graciously shared with me by my friend).
On Halloween, many people, kids and adults alike, enjoy dressing up in costumes. It can be amusing to disguise yourself to see if others will recognize you. It can also be fun to don a costume to take on a different role for a few hours, to escape and imagine. On Halloween or at other costume parties, people get to take on a different persona. They are someone else, but they never lose sight of who they are. The different identity is merely something external to who they are.
DID is a disorder that forms in young childhood in response to traumas or abuse so extreme that the little child’s psyche escapes from the horror by dissociating, or disconnecting from the moment. Other identities are formed subconsciously in order to help the child “escape” and deal with the abuse. The result is the formation of different identities that develop their own characteristics and consciousnesses and share a body with the original child. DID lasts a lifetime.
Halloween costumes let people change identities. In DID, the person switches between identities. However, unlike a costume, he or she

  • Can’t “put it on” or “take it off” at will
  • Isn’t the driving force behind the switch
  • Doesn’t choose the identity or the the identity’s characteristics and personality
  • Isn’t aware of what’s going on when a different identity takes over
  • Is often confused about what happened during a switch

DID isn’t fabricated, and identities are real in their own right. They’re not costumes. This actually presents a different type of challenge.
Someone with DID undergoes identity switches from the inside. Some external characteristics can be different; for example, some identities might wear glasses while others don’t, and some have different clothing they change into at times, but the essence of the appearance remains the same. The personality, behavior, gender, sexual orientation, age, and more are different. But the look is essentially the same.
Imagine you dressed up as a chef. People interact with you based on your role. People treat you like a chef and some ask you to cater a party. You agree because that’s what you do. You eventually remove your costume. No one truly wants you to cater because you’re not actually a chef and you’re someone who ruins canned soup. It was just fun to pretend.
Now, imagine you’re dressed up and acting like a chef. People interact with you that way because they know you as a chef. Someone asks you to cater a party. You agree because that’s what you do. Your chef identity recedes and you re-emerge. You’ve switched back to yourself. You’re not sure what happened, but you know you lost time. How long was another identity out in the world? A few days later you get a phone call to confirm the details of the party you’ll be catering tomorrow night. What party? You don’t cater. You ruin canned soup. What are you supposed to do now? This is the reality for those living with DID.
Halloween involves the opportunity to don a costume and pretend to be someone different for a few hours. DID isn’t an opportunity. It’s a life-long experience of navigating the world when sometimes you’re not yourself.
Isaac has a similar experience when out with his best friend. People clearly recognize them, but he has no idea who they are:

Isaac looked at the intrusive table companions and tried to determine just who they were. Clearly they knew him. Fairly well, too, or so it seemed. His heart started to pound. Was he supposed to know them? Ugh! He hated it when this happened. There were so many times when he was out in public, in a store or in a restaurant or at the park with Reese and Dominic, for example, that people seemed to know him but he didn’t recognize them at all. More than likely, it was a function of his role with the Conifers. As a marketer and event planner, he was out and about the community year-round as well as frequently present at games in the summer. Still, though, he would think that he would recognize people he came in contact with. Sometimes he did, but they felt like mere acquaintances. Too frequently he had experiences like this one, where people seemed personal and friendly with him but he had absolutely no clue who they were. He faked a happy grin. “Hey! Not much. What about you guys?”
“We just grabbed lunch and are headed to rehearsal. Speaking of which, you plan on joining us again anytime soon? I mean, I know you only play with us occasionally, and not to further inflate your ego or anything, but your trumpet playing adds punch.”
Isaac swallowed hard. He should probably feel relieved by that comment. Clearly these people had the wrong guy. He didn’t feel relieved, though. He felt nauseated. They called him by name. Why? Terrified, he risked a look at Max. Max knew that Isaac didn’t play in a band. Hell, he didn’t even play the trumpet. Or any damn instrument, for that matter. How was Max reacting to these bizarre people? Thankfully, not at all. He continued to toy absentmindedly with his beer.
One of the random chummy strangers followed Isaac’s gaze to Max. “Where are our manners?” she asked jovially. “Isaac, will you introduce us to your friend?” Oh God. How could he introduce these people he supposedly knew but didn’t? He leaned over too far when the woman nudged him. “What’s up with you? You’re acting really weird, and not in a fun way like you usually do. You don’t seem like yourself today.”
Fantastic. He faked another smile. “Sorry. I’m, uh, I’m just having lunch with my friend Max, and, uh, I—”
Mercifully, the woman turned her attention away from Isaac and onto Max. She stuck out her hand enthusiastically. “Max.” She shook his hand heartily when he extended his. “Very nice to meet you. I’m Neptune. This is Adrian and Jet.” She gestured toward each of her companions as she said their names, and each one extended his hand to shake Max’s. The one called Adrian had to lean across the table to do so, and he brushed against Isaac when he did. “We’re part of the band Your Grandma’s ’Hose.”
As the three oddballs talked with each other and drew Max into a conversation, Isaac couldn’t keep up with what they were saying. He felt extremely ill. His hands were sweaty, and he could feel the perspiration bead on the back of his neck and roll down his shirt. He tried to take a drink, but anxious tremors in his hands made the bottle shake when he lifted it. He quickly set it down. He tried once again to tune into the conversation, but the words were drowned out courtesy of the voices that had resumed their commotion in his head. This time, it sounded like a pretty intense argument. About what, though, he hadn’t a clue. The music had started playing, too. The pressure in his head was intensifying and was almost unbearable. He couldn’t show it. With tremendous effort, he focused on Max and what he was saying to the three amigos. Mercifully, he heard Max say, “Yeah. It was nice to meet you, too.”
As the three stood up to leave, the one whom Neptune had called Adrian squeezed Isaac’s shoulder and said, “Don’t be a stranger. You know the schedule.” And just like that, they were gone. Isaac stared at the courtyard door even after it had closed. He was afraid to look at Max. He had to do so, though, when Max spoke.

Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities. (I never share e-mail addresses with anyone.) 

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Behind Silent Smiles: A Glimpse into the Inspiring New Novel

A journey from childhood to adulthood, across Romania and the world. Behind Silent Smiles takes you into a life of…

First a little girl…

…Then a grown woman


From the Romanian Countryside…

To Bucharest…



To Sacramento, California

Who is she? What happens to her in her life? Find out in 2018. Behind Silent Smiles, the latest novel by Tanya J. Peterson. 
Previous novels by Tanya J. Peterson

Self-help book by Tanya J. Peterson: Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps
Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities. (I never share e-mail addresses with anyone.) 

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Who is she? What happens to her in her life?  Find out in 2018. Behind Silent Smiles, the latest novel by Tanya J. Peterson. 

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International Day of the Girl: Empowering Girls in Conflict

The 2017 UN International Day of the Girl seeks to empower girls in conflict. The YA novel Losing Elizabeth is a book whose mission is the same.
Today the world comes together to honor girls, our young women who have the potential to bloom and thrive and make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others. Sometimes, though, a girl’s potential is thwarted. For that reason, the United Nations raises awareness of girls, their lives, and their struggles every October 11.

EmPOWER Girls: Before, During, and After Conflict

This year, the theme for International Day of the Girl is “Empower girls: before, during, and after conflict.” This is a important focal point indeed, for according to the UN, an adolescent girl somewhere in the world loses her live as the result of violence–every 10 minutes.
Sometimes the violence is related to war. Sometimes to some inhumane punishment. Sometimes, it’s abuse by a parent, boyfriend, or other person in the life of a girl.
Losing Elizabeth is a novel for adolescents in middle- and high school to help them see what an abusive relationship is like. It’s a vehicle for discussion to help empower girls to recognize all types of relationship abuse and remove themselves from a toxic, even violent, situation.
The curriculum Find Yourself. Keep Yourself. accompanies Losing Elizabeth. I’ve taken it into schools for a 12-week (once weekly) program and to libraries for a single afternoon program. The goal is to use the story and discussion to empower girls to

  • Know the early warning signs of toxic behavior
  • Recognize control tactics like isolation, manipulation, behaviors, and words
  • Respond and act
  • Know how to help a friend
  • Know how to ask for help

Additionally, and most importantly, girls explore and come to know themselves, their relationship goals, their hopes, dreams, and plans, and more. For it is when girls and teens develop self-awareness that they are empowered to keep themselves rather than losing themselves to others, to abuse, to violence.

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For Mental Illness Awareness Week, What I've Learned About Mental Illness

Mental Illness Awareness Week. It’s one of the “ribboned” events, with a dedicated chunk of time (the first week of October each year) during which knowledge and understanding of the issue are brought to light. Mental illness is a wonderful thing to which to dedicate time and attention, for as anyone who has lived with any type of mental illness knows, lack of understanding can lead to prejudice and discrimination. To help end that problem, we observe Mental Illness Awareness Week.
The term mental illness, though, is both vast and vague. Of what should we actually be aware? Of course there’s no single right answer to this, which is one of the things that makes Mental Illness Awareness Week so powerful. Both on- and offline, people and organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness provide facts, statistics, and other information in order to increase awareness of mental illness and those whose lives it touches. I don’t keep it a secret that I have not just professional (I’m credentialed as a National Certified Counselor) but personal experience with mental illness.
After a traumatic brain injury, I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder as well as anxiety disorders. As people don’t live in a vacuum, I had to navigate the worlds of family, friends, coworkers, supervisors, students, parents, clients, and more. It’s from both my personal and professional experience that I offer these insights for Mental Illness Awareness Week:

When it comes to mental illness, I’ve learned that…

  1. “Mental illness” is a fairly meaningless term. We don’t tell someone that we have a physical illness, because that is too broad. More specific: cold, asthma, prostrate cancer, breast cancer, influenza, schizophrenia, depression, dissociative identity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder. When we know the specific illness, we understand the symptoms and how to manage them.
  2. “Mental illness” refers to a diagnosis rather than to a person. It’s a medical term used to identify what’s going on and how to treat it.
  3. “Mental illness” does not refer to a personal character trait. One isn’t depression, just like one isn’t cancer.
  4. “Mental illness” involves a different way of experiencing oneself and/or the world. It is not a wrong way of being with oneself or in the world.
  5. “Mental illness” doesn’t erase the good in your life and in who you are. To be sure, it adds challenges and difficulties, but it doesn’t not diminish the good within you and around you.
  6. With a diagnosis of a mental illness, someone can still “be,” can still exist and have strengths and weakness and ups and downs and interests and talents and more.
  7. With a diagnosis of a mental illness, someone can still “do,” can make choices and decisions and behave in intentional ways.

To me, the most important thing of which to be aware when it comes to mental illness…

8. With or without mental illness, each and every one of us can find our passions, live with purpose, and create a life worth living.

To be sure, when someone lives with a mental illness, adjustments might have to be made and living with passion and purpose might take extra effort, but passion, purpose, and a life worth living are within reach of everyone. That is important to know during Mental Illness Awareness Week and beyond.
A great way to increase awareness, understanding, and empathy for people living with mental illness as well as their families and friends is through stories. Listening to what someone has to share about their experiences is empowering for the storyteller and the listener. Reading stories, too, can help deepen human understanding. Fiction can convey fact in a way that goes far beyond information and extends to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Stories humanize mental illness, which is one of the main goals of Mental Illness Awareness Week.
Others are recognizing, too, that novels can both entertain and inform. In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week, here’s a peek at what professional critics are saying about Leave of AbsenceMy Life in a Nutshell: A Novel, and Twenty-Four Shadows:
24-shadows-us-review-quote-1   loa-pdx-bk-rev-quote-twitter   nutshell-portland-book-review-quote   24-shadows-us-review-quote-2   loa-us-review-quote   nutshell-kirkus-quote   24-shadows-odonis-person   loa-kirkus-quote   nutshell-kirkus-quote-2-twitter   24-shadows-kirkus-quote   PurchaseLinks circle for website 2
Do you have a question about mental health or mental illness or a topic you’d like to hear about? Use the contact form below to submit it (put Q&A in the subject line), and I’ll address it on the Wellbeing&Words Q&A show on YouTube.

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Self-Compassion and You: A Guide to Turning Compassion Inward

I have a purpose in my life and in my writing: to share stories, information, and strategies so that we all may thrive despite problems and challenges and create our own version of a life worth living. I love meeting and collaborating with like-minded people, so I’m delighted to have discovered Inpathy—their services and their wellness blog The Inapthy Bulletin. I love the below article about self-compassion, something so important but for one reason or another so often neglected.
Enjoy learning a bit about Inpathy, and cherish the article that can make a positive difference for all of us.
Inpathy has a mission to increase access to psychiatry, mental and behavioral health services through telehealth. They help to make a difference in people’s lives by connecting them with licensed professional therapists, counselors and psychiatry providers. Online therapy sessions allow behavioral health providers to meet individuals where they are – at home, at work or in the community – making it both easier and more affordable to get needed care. Inpathy is a division of InSight, the leading national telepsychiatry service provider organization with nearly two decades of experience delivering online behavioral health care safely and securely.
Self-Compassion is a vital part of mental health, yet it is often hard to practice. Learn three tenets of self-compassion to help you turn compassion inward.

Self-Compassion and You: A Guide to Turning Compassion Inward

By: Jen Schiller for The Inpathy Bulletin

When we think about the word “compassion,” we often think about it in terms of others in our lives. Describing someone as compassionate usually means we consider them to be understanding of others, selfless and put the needs of the many before their own.
However, the concept of self-compassion is not often recognized or practiced. This concept means that we take those ideas listed above and turn them inward: understanding ourselves and responding in a kind and caring way.


According to Dr. Kristin Neff’s website on self-compassion, the concept is comprised of three elements: self-kindness versus self-judgement, common humanity versus isolation and mindfulness versus over-identification (Neff).
Self-kindness versus self-judgement is practiced by accepting that no one is perfect, and allowing yourself to make mistakes rather than punishing yourself when they inevitably happen. Self-compassion requires that we recognize our feelings of inadequacy rather than ignore them, and then treat ourselves kindly without dismissing those feelings.
Common humanity versus isolation ties in with self-kindness. This element means that when we do feel frustrated with our perceived shortcomings, we understand that we are not the only ones having these feelings–in fact they are a natural part of being human. “Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to ‘me’ alone” (Neff).
The final element is one often utilized in meditation: mindfulness versus over-identification. While we cannot ignore our feelings of inadequacy, we should also be careful not to let them define us. Mindfulness is a practice in which we acknowledge our feelings, but do not judge them as good or bad. We simply accept our feelings as a part of ourselves rather than trying to suppress or over-emphasize them.
Self-Compassion over Self-Esteem
In an article for Live Science, Robin Nixon compares self-compassion to another hot button topic: self-esteem. The rise in parenting tactics that include the proverbial participation award have had mixed results, some of the most extreme cases ending in fragility and narcissism later in life (Nixon). Because self-compassion allows you to make and acknowledge your mistakes, as well as recognizing that these mistakes are part of being human, you can learn and move forward as part of a larger community. By contrast, Nixon explains, “…self-esteem is a measure of yourself against others. In order to keep self-esteem high, you have to convince yourself you are better (or, preferably, the best), either by denying your faults and pains or by putting others down, and usually both [10 Most Destructive Human Behaviors]” (Nixon).
 Self-Compassion and Your Mental Health
Biologically speaking, “self-compassion deactivates the threat system (associated with feelings of insecure attachment, defensiveness and autonomic arousal) and activates the self-soothing system (associated with feelings of secure attachment, safety, and the oxytocin-opiate system)” (Neff, Dahm). In another experiment where subjects were given a brief self-compassion exercise, the result was lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that causes and heightens feelings of stress. The exercise also “…increased heart-rate variability, which is associated with a greater ability to self-soothe when stressed.” Ultimately, the subjects were both less stressed out and better equipped to deal with stress when it did arise.
A higher level of self-compassion then leads to less suffering and a lower propensity for depression and anxiety. One reason for this is the link between self-compassion and self-criticism; self-kindness and mindfulness allow us to disassociate from criticism while still acknowledging it as feedback about our performance. In their chapter on self-compassion from the book Mindfulness and Self-Regulation, Dr. Kristin Neff and Katie Dahm detail an experiment that showed this correlation in a practical way. “In a study by Neff, Kirkpatrick and Rude (2007), participants were given a mock job interview in which they were asked to ‘describe their greatest weakness.’ Even though self-compassionate people used as many negative self-descriptors as those low in self-compassion when describing their weaknesses, they were less likely to experience anxiety as a result of the task” (Neff, Dahm). The subjects of the study with higher self-compassion also used more “we” pronouns rather than the isolating “I,” connecting them to a human experience and accepting their shortcomings as part of that experience. This understanding mental health struggles as universal rather than unique leads to a higher likelihood of treatment, as there is less shame to admitting that we need additional help dealing with an illness.

How to Cultivate Self-Compassion

For many of us, self-compassion is a new idea and will take changes big and small to build up. One practice that cultivates this skill is mindfulness; an element of meditation as well as an element of self-compassion, which requires that you stay in the moment in a non-judgmental way. You can and should recognize any distracting thoughts or feelings, using a method called ‘noting,’ where you choose a keyword to say to yourself or out loud during your mindfulness practice. This is something many guided meditations already incorporate.
In her article “Cultivating Self-Compassion” for PsychCentralMargarita Tartakovsky, M.S. offers several exercises for building self-compassion. These include offering ourselves healing touches or hugs, and reframing our thoughts about our own shortcomings to better accept and understand them as part of ourselves (Tartakovsky). You can keep track of these activities in a journal, a note-taking app on your phone, or simply start practicing them more often.
In her article for Mindful, Carley Hauck also suggests we get used to spending comfortable time alone. This can and should look different for everyone, but the common denominator is allowing ourselves the freedom to do what we want. Hauck explains: “I pick a day, or even a night…and I just slow down. I don’t schedule anything and I just let myself see what I want to do. Sometimes I read a book, write, spend hours in nature, eat exactly what I want and I am craving (and savor it!)” (Hauck).
Ultimately, self-compassion can be cultivated in many different ways and certainly should be unique to each person. One of the best possible results of better self-compassion can be a heightened sense of creativity Nixon explains:
“Presumably because they are not afraid of being mentally taken through the ringer, researchers also think self-compassionate people…have more courage and [are] more motivated to persevere. Those with self-compassion may even open access to higher levels of creative thinking, suggests one 2010 study in the Creativity Research Journal” (Nixon).
How will you treat yourself with more compassion and understanding? Check out our article on mindfulness and meditation apps to get started.


Hauck, Carley. “How to Choose Self-Compassion.” Mindful. N.p., 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <>.
Neff, Kristin, and Katie Dahm. Self Compassion Online (n.d.): n. pag. Self-Compassion: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Relates to Mindfulness. Mindfulness and Self – Regulation. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <>.
Neff, Kristin. “Definition of Self-Compassion.” Self-Compassion. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <>.
Nixon, Robin. “Self-Compassion: The Most Important Life Skill?” LiveScience. Purch, 15 May 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <>.
Tartakovsky, Margarita. “Cultivating Self-Compassion.” World of Psychology. Psych Central, 22 June 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <>.


About Jen SchillerJen Schiller is a communications professional in Washington DC. She has a Masters in Theatre and a Bachelors in creative writing. She writes for numerous online publications including

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Another Book Giveaway for Mental Health Awareness Month

Enter a giveaway to win a book for Mental Health Awareness MonthIt’s time for another book giveaway for Mental Health Awareness Month! Five people have already received one of my mental-health-related books, and five more winners will be randomly selected at the end of May. Each will receive one of the books in the graphic on the left.
Mental health means many things, and it means different things to different people. What surprises people sometimes is learning that mental health isn’t the absence of mental illness. In general, mental health refers to the experience of emotional, physical, and overall life wellbeing. Mental health a contentment with who one is and the quality of one’s life.

Defining Mental Health for Mental Health Awareness Month

How we define all this individually can vary greatly. Take, for example, the various characters or information in the books I’m giving away:

What does mental health mean for Isaac in the novel Twenty-Four Shadows?
Isaac Bittman has trouble fully feeling love and happiness. To him, mental health means experiencing these things.

What does mental health mean for Brian in My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel?
To Brian Cunningham, mental health means stepping out of his shell and helping someone despite his anxiety.

What does mental health mean to Penelope in the novel Leave of Absence?
To Penelope Baker, who lives with schizophrenia, part of mental health means working again.

What does mental health mean to Elizabeth in the novel Losing Elizabeth?
To Elizabeth Carter, mental health is having enough good things in her day to smile as she falls asleep at night.

Learn how the self-help book Break Free: ACT in Three Steps can help you define and achieve mental health.
Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps is a self-help workbook designed to help you achieve your definition of mental health.

To enter this giveaway for mental health awareness month, answer this question in the comments at the bottom:

What does mental health mean to YOU? 

Sharing this post on social media using the below buttons will enter your name into the drawing twice!

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Mental Health Awareness Month: Nurture Yourself

To kick off Mental Health Awareness Month, here are four ways to nurture your mental health for a quality life. Happy Mental Health Awareness Month! It’s fitting that this important mental health month is in May. May is spring in full bloom. Buds unfurl to become leaves. Spring flowers such as rhododendrons and tulips brighten our world. Spring, and Mental Health Awareness Month, is a time for each of us to nurture and care for ourselves so we bloom and grow.

How to Nurture Yourself During Mental Health Awareness Month

  1. Visualize a favorite flower, plant, or tree.
  2. Determine how you would care for it to help it thrive (what are its unique needs?).
  3. Picture yourself as that flower, plant or tree. Draw it, describe it in a journal, etc.
  4. Develop a care plan. What are your needs and how are you going to meet them?

Taking time to consider your needs for a quality life and meeting those needs, nurturing yourself so you thrive, is an important action step during Mental Health Awareness Month and Beyond.
It's Mental Health Awareness Month. To kick it off, learn four ways to nurture your mental health and bloom.
Here’s a little analogy for you, about a tiny seed:


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Five Ways to Spring Clean Your Brain

Spring is here! Spring is about freshness and renewal. It’s about new life and life lived anew. The ritual of spring cleaning is an important one. The idea of spring cleaning conjures images of freshening up a house, but there’s more to this ritualistic refreshing than just our living spaces. To enhance our mental health and wellbeing, we need to spring clean our brain.
Before diving into the task, it’s important to note what spring cleaning is not. Deep cleaning is reviving our living space both external (our home) and internal (our brain); it’s not, however, completely throwing away everything we own or torching the house to start over completely. Spring cleaning of home and brain is sprucing and freshening and making things airy and enjoyable.

How to Spring Clean Your Brain

To wash and cleanse involves two primary activities. One is removing those thoughts and emotions that are stagnant and murky. The other is adding thoughts, emotions, perspectives, attitudes, and actions that “disinfect” and invigorate.
The following actions for spring cleaning your brain involve a combination of removal and addition to effectively increase mental health and wellbeing:
Sweep out your cobwebs and brush away the dust and crumbs. What old, habitual thoughts keep running through your mind? Is your brain stuck in negative thought patterns? What about the way your brain responds emotionally to what’s happening around you? Identify these patterns, and then sweep them out of your brain by replacing them with more effective thoughts, emotions, and responses.
Let in fresh air. Open your windows to let in fresh thoughts and perspectives. Get outside into the sunshine. Sunlight is essential to mental health, as is movement and deep breathing. Take a walk in the spring air, and spend time sitting quietly in mindful contemplation while breathing slowly and deeply. Your brain will love this cleansing treatment.
Be nosy about the process. Smell is a powerful sense, stimulating memories, affecting mood, stimulating energy or inducing relaxation. Smell has a direct effect on the brain, so using it in your spring cleaning rituals makes sense (or scents, if you will). Essential oils can be used in many ways to enhance wellbeing. The wide field of aromatherapy puts essential oils into specific practice. Experiment with oil burners, diffusers, lotions, sprays, and more. Pick oils that will be good for your brain and unique needs.
Clear the fog. Nutrition is crucial for proper brain functioning. In the winter, we often turn to comfort foods that are high in deliciousness but pretty low in nutritiousness (since I spring-cleaned my brain, it’s been free to do things like fabricate words). When we don’t consume proper nutrients, we can develop a sense of brain fog—sluggishness, thinking that feels slower, memory problems, etc. A spring cleaning ritual that involves eating healthy foods, taking vitamin and mineral supplements (with a doctor’s approval), and drinking plenty of water while avoiding heavily processed foods and beverages will boost your wellbeing.
Spruce up your surroundings. Spring cleaning for your brain involves adding things that enhance your life. Consider what it is you want in your brain. What adds to your brain and makes it a wonderful part of you? Identify and pursue passions. Add hobbies. Strengthen relationships. Create and do things that make you feel alive.
Embrace April, and enjoy the act of spring cleaning your brain. Taking action to increase your mental health and wellbeing is in itself the ultimate act of spring sprucing. Happy cleansing!
Oh. One more important thing. Taking mental health breaks is a necessary part of spring cleaning. Perhaps kick back with a mental-health themed novel or a self-help book.


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What is Hope? 10 Definitions of Hope

Hope. It’s something that is an integral part of mental health and wellbeing. We know it’s important, and we hear the word used frequently. But what, exactly, is hope?
Part of knowing what hope is involves knowing what it is not. Hope isn’t fluff. It’s not empty. Hope isn’t false or shallow or misguided, and it’s not a desperate, last-ditch effort to hold on to what is escaping us.
More than a mere belief, hope is a conviction. It’s the knowledge that we can and will overcome challenges, heal, and thrive. Hope is that, and it’s so much more.

Hope is…
  1. realistic optimism
  2. living with challenges and obstacles and illness and taking action anyway
  3. doing something you enjoy because somewhere deep inside you know you deserve it
  4. feeling fear and working to overcome it
  5. being unable to leave the house but still making plans for the future
  6. reaching out for help
  7. daydreaming
  8. finding one way to be okay when you have 20 reasons why you’re not
  9. taking medication and/or going to therapy because you’re determined to thrive
  10. and…


Twenty-Four Shadows of Hope

In Twenty-Four Shadowsa novel about a man living with dissociative identity disorder, Isaac Bittman’s world is falling apart. He is overwhelmed and often doesn’t even know if he can, or should, keep going. But he loves his wife, and he loves his son. Even though he doesn’t know if he can move forward, he knows that he wants to; therefore, he gets treatment and help. That is hope. Hope is doing something despite uncertainty of the outcome.
The following glimpse into the story shows a despairing Isaac who, after a switch to an alternate identity and back, is terrified that he’s unworthy of his family’s love and support.
Reese steered Isaac to their bathroom, the place where the two of them had doctored Dominic’s boo-boos the day after his birthday party. Now, as lovingly as she had tended to Dominic, Reese helped Isaac. She helped him remove his sweat-soaked clothes and the wet dressings that wound around parts of his body and made him look half mummified. She opened the bag given to him when he left the hospital and extracted what she needed to re-dress all of his cuts and gashes. Isaac watched her intently. If she would have made eye contact with him, he would have looked away in shame. Because she looked only at what she was doing, he was able to watch her. He was grateful that she didn’t look at him, but he was also crushed to pieces by the thought that she probably could no longer stand to look at his face.
When she finished, she took his hand in hers and led him into their bedroom to help him into dry clothes. Throughout the process, neither spoke, and by the time he was dressed in fresh sweats and t-shirt, he was so worried that she hated him that he came dangerously close to throwing up all over his clean clothes. He started to slump out of the room, but she stepped in front of him, blocking his path. Because he still couldn’t bear to look her in the eye, he turned his head to look at the artwork on the wall. It was a modern print made up of concentric circles that Dominic thought looked like a target. It still had little marks on it from a few months ago when Dominic had decided to use it as an actual target for these sticky wall-walker gummy things he bought with his tickets at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Reese put her hand under his chin and turned his head away from the artwork so that now he was looking at something far more beautiful than any piece of art. She transcended art; he was lower than garbage. He was so sure that she found him hateful and disgusting that he was thoroughly surprised when she kissed him in a way that told him in no uncertain terms that she did not, in fact, plan to throw him away. He wondered, briefly, if together they could be trash art. He sure as hell hoped so.
Hope is feeling scared and unworthy but, when someone kisses you, you kiss them back anyway. Hope is feeling like trash but wanting to create trash art.
Hope is you, your hopes and dreams, and everything you do “anyway.”
Learn where to purchase Twenty-Four Shadows and other books. 

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People are Possible: Passions, Purpose, Actions!

People are possible. We all carry within us vast possibilities: hopes, dreams, visions, passions, and much more. We want to live our lives well, to create a quality life that is worth living despite the difficulties that pop up within us and around us. Doing so isn’t always easy; however, we can be mentally healthy and thrive because we are possible. Truly, all people are possible.
Struggle is a part of the human experience, but it doesn’t have to be our only experience. We might experience relationship difficulties, problems at work or in our home life, unemployment, sickness, injury, mental illness and a myriad of other challenges. Yet we are possible anyway. We can make our lives great, full of mental health and wellbeing despite problems.

The Possibilities Within

An empowering fact: We are possible because of who we are. Consider these tips for harnessing the power of possibility within you.

  • Perspective matters.  The perspective we take and the thoughts we choose to accept or let go have a profound impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Do you get stuck to problems, letting them interfere with your wellbeing, for example, or do you separate yourself from the problems? When you can see any problem as something separate from yourself, you free yourself to draw on your strengths to keep moving forward to the life you value.
  • Passions and purpose. What is important to you in life? What do you enjoy doing? When you think of your quality life that is very much worth living, what comes to mind? When you are clear about what you want (rather than what you don’t want), it is possible for you to work toward it.
  • Actions. You don’t have to be a passive participant in your life, letting things happen to you while you react and deal with consequences. When you approach things with the proper perspective and know your passions and purpose, you are ready to take action to create the life you want. You are possible because you have the capability of taking small steps every day to live your passions and purpose, despite obstacles–because it’s possible for you to maneuver around the obstacles.

People are Possible on the Wellbeing & Words Radio Show

Discover how people are possible and how you are capable of creating mental health and the life you want with Josh Rivedal and I'm Possible.

Josh Rivedal, founder of the i’M Possible! Project, is an expert on what makes people possible. Josh hosts workshops and seminars, speaks publicly in numerous venues, writes and performs music and plays, and writes books, all to empower people, prevent suicide, and enhance mental health and wellbeing. His most recent book, The i’M Possible Project: Changing Minds, Breaking Stigma, Achieving the Impossible will be available later in 2017. Josh knows that people are possible, and he shares his perspective on the Wellbeing & Words radio show (also airing on YouTube). Tune into our discussion about making people possible.  Hear Josh read from his new book and enjoy positive, realistic messages about how people are absolutely possible.
Check out this sneak preview:

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Psychological Flexibility: Making Us Pliable So We Don't Break

Psychological Flexibility? You’ve likely heard of flexibility, and chances are when you think of the term you think of the body – as in, when you do forward bends, can you touch your toes, your knees, or your thighs? (I’m working toward the goal of consistently reaching my knees.) Flexibility most definitely involves our physical selves, but it’s more than that. It’s psychological, too. Psychological flexibility involves our entire being, and it directly impacts the life we live and our sense of wellbeing.
Psychological flexibility comes to us largely from the field of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT — said like the word). ACT is researched-based approach to mental health that puts people in charge of their lives and provides tools that people can use to create their own version of a quality life, a life worth living. Like physical flexibility, psychological flexibility improves how we feel, how we move, and how we live our lives.
Benefits of physical flexibility are widely known, and we can use them to increase our understanding of psychological flexibility.

When we have psychological flexibility, our mental health and wellbeing improve dramatically. Psychological flexibility doesn’t erase our problems and challenges. Whether they’re the symptoms and effects of mental illness, difficulties in relationships, life stressors such as more tasks ahead of us than there is times, and much, much more, problems are part of our lives. When we struggle with them, fighting against them, we make them stronger. They hold us tighter and tighter, and our ability to move and live fully becomes increasingly restricted. Psychological flexibility allows us to stop struggling and start moving freely.

“When we can be flexible about how we feel, think, and behave, we can adapt to all situations, even the most challenging. Instead of fusing and then fighting with the painful realities of our lives, we can take action to make our lives meaningful and purposeful, no matter what else is going on.” —Break Free, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps

When we have psychological flexibility, we’re not rigid. We’re not stuck in patterns of struggle. To be flexible is to be pliable. According Merriam-Webster, when we’re pliable, we’re “supple enough to bend freely or repeatedly without breaking.” That is the essence of mental health and wellbeing.
Psychological flexibility is a great concept, one that’s easy enough to get on board with. Easy concept, yes. But is it easy to attain? Up next week is a look at becoming more psychologically flexible so you can bend freely without breaking.
C. (n.d.). The importance and purpose of flexibility.
Peterson, T.J. (2016). Break free: Acceptance and commitment therapy in 3 steps. Berkeley, CA: Althea Press.
Publications, Harvard Health (n.d.). Benefits of flexibility exercises.
Therien, S. (2015, June 02). What are the benefits of good flexibility?
What is psychological flexibility? (2013, May 10).

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Irritated? Annoyed? How to Deal with It

Feeling irritable and annoyed? Turn your mood around with these steps. Ever have days when you feel irritated and annoyed at almost everything—and everyone? I hate feeling irritated and annoyed, so when I have days like this, I become even more irritable and more annoyed, the irritability feeding on itself and growing ever stronger in a vicious, seemingly endless, circle. I dealt with this very thing this morning, actually, but I was able to turn my mood around. If you hate finding yourself irritated and annoyed, read on for ways to deal with it.
After hitting snooze on the alarm clock for the third (or fourth; probably fourth) time this morning, I stretched, muscles stiff and sore from doing soccer drills with my son for a couple of hours in the cold yesterday, and headed upstairs for my morning ritual of peaceful movement. What I do—elliptical, treadmill, or yoga—varies, but my ritual always involves some sort of exercise, movement, to start my day off positively. Movement, in the quiet of the early morning, reduces stress and anxiety, helps me focus, and energizes. This morning, I enjoyed this ritual as always, and as I did yoga, I felt good and ready to proceed with my day.
Today,  however, my ritual wasn’t as effective as it usually is. Suddenly and without any discernible reason, as a continued to prepare for the day, I felt it. The irritability insidiously worked its way into my mind and body. It threw me off. I knew I was off when I couldn’t think of a thing to say to my husband. I almost never find myself at a loss for words, but there I was. Silent. That annoyed me, and it made me irritated with my husband. Certainly he could take responsibility for a conversation, couldn’t he? Why must I always be the one to initiate and maintain conversation? My irritability and annoyance grew.
This morning, everything was off. I checked e-mails, had a host of top-priority messages, and was annoyed by every single one of them (gladly, this is way out of character). In the car, the radio DJs seemed off to me, and instead of enjoying their banter, I was irritated by the entire show. The noise of the radio—the DJs, the screeching music, the commercials—grated on my nerves. Traffic was heavier than usual. I was more impatient than usual. I had an appointment for an oil change, and people were in my way. My irritability increased with each passing minute. When I had the urge to slam into the car in front of me just to get it to move ahead, I realized that I needed to reset. Now. I had to deal with this horrible impatience and annoyance before I started some sort of incident.
I use the below steps when I need to turn my mood around, and when I used them today, they worked wonders.

How to Deal with Irritability and Annoyance
  1. Notice and accept.  Tune into your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Accept them as temporary byproducts of the irritability and annoyance; don’t buy into them or let them make you think they’re a permanent part of your day.
  2. Remember who you are. What about yourself makes you proud? How do you want to be in this moment? Why do you hate being irritated, and why do you want to stop being annoyed. I pride myself in being calm and peaceful, positive in even difficult situations. I wasn’t being true to myself this morning, and I wanted to get back to who I really am.
  3. Consider your choicesWe can’t always control what’s going on around us, and we certainly can’t control other people, but we can control our own reactions to the world around us and within us. I could have cursed at the radio, gestured rudely at other drivers, honked my horn, and generally acted in ways that only fueled my irritability. Or, I could have turned off the radio, taken a detour, stretched a bit to get rid of tension, and used the opportunity to practice deep breathing. We’re never truly without choices. In your current situation, what are your choices?
  4.  Act. What can you do to purposefully turn your mood around? I realized that I was annoyed at the idea of being late for the appointment. No matter what I did, I wouldn’t be on time. Because the traffic was stopped anyway (otherwise I wouldn’t have done this), I chose to take action by calling the service center to let them know of my situation. Doing so didn’t change the situation, but it did give me some control over my personal outcome, which decreased my annoyance.
  5. ConnectConnecting with others, especially if you can share a little laughter, goes a long way toward decreasing irritability. The person I spoke with at the service center was incredibly nice, and he added a little humor to the situation. Talking to him made me less irritable. In the past, I’ve connected to decrease irritability by going to a store, coffee shop, etc. and fully talking to someone there. This works despite social anxiety, and it actually has the added bonus of being a safe exercise in reducing social anxiety.

We’re human, imperfect people living imperfect lives. We experience all sorts of moods. But we’re not slaves to our moods, passive beings powerless to change our moods and our outlook. It’s normal to be irritable and annoyed. But it’s very possible to deal with it and turn your mood around.
Do you have tips for turning your mood around? Scroll to the bottom and comment!
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Action: "Do" Your Life

Action. It’s activity. It’s taking charge and doingIt’s creating great moments every single day rather than waiting for them to finally come into your life. Action means not having a good day or good moments but making a good day and good moments. Action is something that we can all do, right now, regardless of how bad things in life might be. If taking action seems easier said than done, keep reading. There are things you can do to empower yourself to act and create the life you want.
Research in psychology and mental health has identified four major problem areas for people, and, consequently, helping professionals usually choose to place their focus on one of the areas (often more than one is addressed, but the primary focus is on one) in order to help people overcome difficulties and improve their mental health and wellbeing. The four areas are

  • background (things in someone’s past that impact his/her present)
  • emotions
  • thoughts
  • behaviors/actions

While all areas are important and relevant to our mental health, one area stands above the others in its ability to empower us, to put us in charge of ourselves and our lives: action. We have more control over our actions than we do our background, emotions, and thoughts. Taking actions to create the life we want helps us overcome events in our past (sometimes we need to process those events with a professional, but that is part of taking action to deal with our past). Also, when we feel negative emotions and think anxiety-provoking, depressing thoughts and take action toward our goals anyway, we empower ourselves and build a sense of self-efficacy, the belief that we are competent and can achieve our goals.
Our actions are in our control. By acting, we become unstuck. Unfortunately, though, sometimes we really are stuck. We might be wrestling with mental illness or external stressors or traumatic brain injury (TBI) or loss or a host of other struggles that come with being human. Sometimes, these things are paralyzing. Sometimes, they make it nearly impossible to feel able to get out of bed and stay out of bed.
This feeling of being stuck, these thoughts that you can’t take positive action to get out of the hole you’re stuck in, are real and legitimate and are something to accept rather than fight with. These feelings and thoughts really can’t physically control us, though. Step by step, small goal by small goal, it is possible to take action to move forward toward the life you want to live.
How, though, do we do what feels insurmountable? In my own life and with others, I’ve used the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT — aptly pronounced “act” instead of a-c-t). ACT teaches six principles for taking action to improve ourselves, our lives, and to actively create our own life worth living. Because I believe in the power of action and the power of ACT, I wrote a book/workbook entitled Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Three Steps – A Workbook for Overcoming Self-Doubt and Embracing Life. I combined the six principles into three practical, do-able steps:

  • defuse from your thoughts, emotions, and difficulties and accept things you can’t change
  • be present in the moments of your life and understand yourself
  • define your values, identify what, exactly you do want and set action goals to live according to your values

The very important bottom line: no matter what, you have the power to choose, to decide what you want in your life, and to set goals and take small actions every day to achieve mental health (that’s an action!) and live the life you want. This is, in the image at the beginning of this article, precisely what Oliver Graham’s psychiatrist is helping him do. A Leave of Absence implies return to action. What are you going to do to create great moments today?

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Appreciate Beauty to Nurture Your Mental Health, Wellbeing

Mental Health Tip Monday appreciate beauty

It can be hard to appreciate beauty when life is far from perfect, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and overpowered by stress, struggles, and negativity.  When facing a mental health challenge, whether it’s a bad day, a tough situation, a problematic relationship, a diagnosis of mental illness, or something else, it’s natural to concentrate on that. Unfortunately, when we do that, we’re giving the problem our almost full attention.  This increases the problem while depleting our energy and sense of well-being. It’s possible to shift this focus and increase wellbeing. 

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Princeton Happiness Amplification Project!

Princeton Happiness Project Happiness amplification? What a wonderful concept. Let’s face it. PJS Veste De Printemps Femme Life can be difficult. Add mental health challenges to everyday human existence, and the living of life can become overwhelming, a chore rather than a delight, burdensome rather than happy. Each and every one of us deserves better. We all deserve a life, not free from problems because that’s just not possible, but a life full of passion and purpose and happiness. Asics Gel Lyte 3 Femme Grise Our happiness is there. It’s part of human nature. Unfortunately, sometimes it shrinks into a little ball, hidden by our struggles. Nike Air Max 90 That’s where the Princeton Happiness Amplification Project comes in. Here’s what the psychology researchers at Princeton believe (Princeton Happiness Project info sheet). Nike Roshe One

  • Well-being requires positive interpersonal interactions and support.
  • There are a number of psychological factors that inhibit people from seeking support.
  • We don’t know enough about how these factors manifest in people who are unhappy.
  • Studying this can help society offer people more effective assistance as well as help people utilize this assistance.

Therefore, these researchers are currently seeking people dealing with such things as

  • PTSD
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Domestic abuse
  • Obesity
  • Addiction

The members of the Happiness Amplification Project team at Princeton are looking for “people seeking assistance to raise important dimensions of happiness (through comfort, motivation, affirmation or advice.)” I’ve partnered with this team on their research effort as they explore the nature of happiness and investigate how healthy levels of happiness can be sustained through customized personal interactions. I’ve spoken with a member of the team, and I’m sharing their information and invitation because, professionally and personally, I think their research could be extremely valuable. Again, they’re looking for individuals who feel they might benefit from more comfort, motivation, affirmation, or direction. Scarpe Air Jordan 9 There is no cost to participating, and they won’t be selling anything. If you’re interested in participating, you can contact the team:

I write what I do (both on and in my mental health novels) because I believe in people’s ability to create happiness, purpose, passion, and a life worth living–even people who live with pretty significant mental illness or mental health challenges. This Happiness Amplification Project has amazing potential to help both its participants as well as people down the road who can benefit from its discoveries. In My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel, Brian Cunningham has suffered for years and years with debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and avoidant personality disorder. Black Red Jordan Shoes He is too intimidated and fearful to reach out for help, and he feels too isolated and alone to even know how to reach out if he wanted to. It wasn’t until human connection is thrust upon him that he begins to heal and see happiness as a possibility. Nike Sneakers The Happiness Amplification Project seeks to determine how people can find and use comfort, motivation, affirmation, and/or advice (human connection) to amplify happiness in their own lives. Nike FootballX homme If you’re interested, touch base and see where it takes you.

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Book Giveway! A Halloween Weekend Treat


A treat from me to you: five chances to win a copy of Twenty-Four Shadows, UNLV Rebels Jerseys the novel The Midwest Book Review says “clearly establishes author Tanya J. ZX 750 Peterson as an impressively gifted novelist.”
Comment below or tweet @tanyajpeterson1 and say one of two things (because both topics make sense for this giveaway):
  1. something you do for your mental health
  2. something you love about reading
That’s it!
Every night at 9 PM PT, Duke Blue Devils Jerseys a winner will be chosen at random from all comments here and on Twitter as well as the ones on Facebook (Tanya J. Peterson Author or Tanya J. Peterson, NCC) and Instagram.
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Error Correction: Twenty-Four Shadows

front cover imageMy latest novel, Twenty-Four Shadows was released on May 1, 2016. Mujer Air Jordan 4 In mid-June, Parajumpers Lightweight UGO Veste a reader brought to my attention the fact that there were errors (thank you, ADIDAS PURE BOOST reader). LSU Tigers Jerseys Upon investigating, I discovered that the publisher (Apprentice House, who I respect, FREE RN enjoy working with, and look forward to continued working relationships) mistakenly released the proof copy rather than the final copy. They swiftly and professionally dealt with the problem, Canada Goose Banff Parka and now, Baylor Bears at the end of June, the correct version of the book is being sold at online booksellers. Air Jordan 4 Please accept my, and Apprentice House’s, Eddie Lacy Jersey sincere apology for this mistake.

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Teen Dating Violence Trick: Chip and Confuse

  Teen Dating Violence Chip and Confuse blog post and twitter   Perhaps surprisingly, teen dating violence and abusive behavior in toxic relationships can be hard to spot not only from the outside but from the inside, too. People who have never experienced an abusive relationship often wonder why someone stays in a relationship that is verbally, emotionally, and/or physically abusive. Houston Rockets Why not just get out? If it were indeed that simple, of course men, women, boys, and girls alike would run, fast and far, away from an abusive relationship and never look back. Unfortunately, when someone is entangled in a toxic relationship, it’s not always easy to interpret things. A trick used by toxic, abusive people is to chip and confuse; abusers slowly and subtly chip away at their partner’s self-concept while simultaneously confusing them with tangled words and contradictory behavior. Parajumpers Noir Excerpts from the middle grade novel Losing Elizabeth show what this chip-and-confuse trick looks like. While Losing Elizabeth is appropriate for middle schoolers, what happens in the story applies to abusive relationships at any age; further, while in Losing Elizabeth the toxic character is male and his partner female, in real life, it can be the other way around, too, and abuse can occur in same-sex partnerships as well.

The Chip-and-Confuse Trick

The abuser’s behavior is inconsistent, bouncing back and forth between loving and caring, to controlling, to angry, to apologetic and pleading, and back again to loving. Parajumpers France This creates a great deal of confusion for the person suck in the relationship as they attempt to keep up with and make sense of the partner’s changing demeanor. Bo Jackson Auburn Tigers Jersey

Elizabeth felt numb. Under Armour Scarpe Her initial anger at Brad had cooled, and now she wasn’t quite sure what to feel.

Abusers use belittling comments to manipulate their partner so they get what they want. The comments are often embedded within loving statements, and this self-doubt coupled with feelings of love is confusing.

Look at how much of your time this it’s taking. It’s taking away from us. Why would you want to spend your time struggling with something you can’t do when you could be having fun with me?

To chip away at their partner’s self-esteem, abusers list all sorts of “proof,” facts taken out of context, to confuse him/her.

She didn’t think anything he had said about her was true, but she couldn’t deny it, either. The more she thought, the more she believed what he had said.

Loving statements mixed with derogatory remarks are cleverly disguised chip-and-confuse methods of control. An abuser makes his partner feel loved and needed while implying subtly that she isn’t quite worthy.

Brad turned back toward her, smiled, and took her in his arms. South Florida Bulls “I’m glad to hear that, Liz. I guess sometimes you really don’t think, do you? At least you came to your senses about this. Air Jordan 6 I forgive you.”

Cutting quips thrown in here and there plant self-doubt and slowly chip away at self-esteem.

You might not be cut out for the play.

Abusers manipulate by exaggerating what someone already feels and using it against him/her in order to create a sense of shame and sense of gratitude that the person will “put up with” him/her.

Jeez, don’t you shower and change after practice? Now I understand why girls never what anyone to see them after they work out.”

Early in an abusive relationship, most of an abuser’s words and actions are kind and loving. Gradually verbal and emotional abuse increases, but it’s sprinkled in among “normal” behavior. That’s why it’s confusing. It happens so gradually that it’s hard to believe at first. Jimmy Garoppolo Cutting remarks can be dismissed as the result of a bad mood after a hard day. However, over time, the abuser increasingly chips away at his/her partner’s self-esteem. It’s a way of controlling a partner and trapping him/her in the relationship. Canada Goose Expedition Parka In any relationship, watch carefully for signs of the chip-and-confuse trick. YA Novel about abusive relationships receives awardLosing Elizabeth shows what abusive relationships look and feel like, including the chip-and-confuse behavior.

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For High Five Day: A High Five to Mental Health Champions

High five! It’s April 20, which means different things. adidas gazelle homme grise My favorite is High Five Day. Black Grey Jordan Shoes What is a high five, after all, other than a little celebration between two or more people? These simple connections and small celebrations create a strong foundation for mental health, wellbeing, and life satisfaction — no matter what challenges we may face, including serious mental or physical illness. Chaussures UGG Homme Happy High Five Day!On this day, I’d like to send out a virtual high five to fellow mental health champions. Adidas Superstar Femme Fleur Some of you are activists. Creighton Bluejays Jerseys Some are advocates. Caregivers. Consumers living with mental illness. Nike Hyperdunk Some of you are outspoken. Zapatillas ROSHE RUN Some of you are quiet, seeking to understand yourself or someone else and filling yourselves with empathy and compassion. Miami Hurricanes Some of you read to increase your knowledge and understanding. You read blogs. Articles. Shane Vereen Memoirs. Burberry Pantalon Navy Midshipmen Jerseys Nonfiction. Parajumpers Vestes Parajumpers Femme Harraseeket Novels. All of this increases human connection. Canada Goose Paris High fives all around! Here’s another hearty high five shared with all of you who read my articles and my novels. High fives of deep gratitude for people who willingly read advance copies of Twenty-Four Shadows and provided their feedback:

  • Twenty-Four Shadows is a must-read. I fell in love with the characters. This book, just like Ms. Peterson’s previous ones, illustrates the struggles of living with mental illness. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Jerseys This is the most effective way to bring awareness of mental illness to the general reader — Nikky, mental health consumer, reader, book reviewer
  • Tanya has created a complex character who takes the reader on a journey through his inner strife. Lightweight Marisol 6 Veste This tale keeps you immured to the very last page!” — O’Donis Person, Psychiatric RN, motivational coach
  • I applaud Peterson’s work as it is sensitive to the subject matter and consistently enjoyable to read.” — Shawn Verdin, LPC, LAC; Program Director – Behavioral Health Unit
  • Tanya continues to aide humanity by giving everyone a glimpse into the trials of many who suffer from mental health illness. Her books allow the readers to “take a walk in someone else’s shoes” for a short time and by the end of the book delivers a reader who is knowledgeable and often forms a greater sense of compassion for all who endure through metal health situations, whether it be the patient or the extension of family, friends or work associates. Nike Air Max 90 Femme BlancheLady Selah SuJuris, Storytellers Campfire
  • This is a must-read for anyone trying to come to terms with a loved one’s mental illness or interested in learning what it’s like to live with Dissociative Identity Disorder.” — Yuliya Geikhman of The US Review of Books (RECOMMENDED by the US Review)

Writing and reading increase empathy and understanding of mental illness, the people who live with it, and the people who care about them. nike free run 4.0 homme High five to everyone who reads and shares and discusses and feels. Utah State Aggies Jerseys Brad Wing We’re all mental health champions! (Note: Twenty-Four Shadows will be released by Apprentice House Press on May 1, 2016.) PurchaseLinks circle for website 2         Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities.

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How Reading Enhances Mental Health & Wellbeing

how-reading-enhnces-mental-health-and-wellbeing Reading is an activity that enhances our mental health and wellbeing. Settling in with a good book is a very nice thing we can do for ourselves. Our mental health and wellbeing are much more than the mere absence of problems. In fact, the absence of problems isn’t even part of mental health and wellbeing. It’s impossible to live a problem-free life, but it is very possible to create wellbeing and live mentally healthy despite problems and challenges. The process of increasing and maintaining mental health can be quite pleasant. It can involve reading!

Ways Reading Enhances Mental Health and Wellbeing

When we open a book, we’re opening ourselves to so many wonderful things. Joy. Tennessee Volunteers Jerseys When we read for pleasure, we’re treating ourselves. CORTEZ Simply getting into a good book allows us to step back from the day’s heaviness and feel joy. NIKE ROSHE ONE Choices. Having opportunities to choose things, to have things how we want them to be, is important for our mental health. Blue Black Jordan Shoes Daily life, though, is full of compromising, giving in, and even being told what to do. Reading is something that is personal and allows us not just choices but a sense of control. You can read what you want to read; it’s a very personal choice. Reading is empowering. Emotions. Canada Goose 2017 Reading can be a very emotional experience. If you’ve ever needed Kleenex to read a book, you know what I mean. Womens Air Jordan 13 Reading allows you to experience emotions in a safe way. We feel and we react by laughing or crying or getting angry, but it’s safe. We experience the emotions, but they’re not our own emotions. We’re less likely to hold onto them, get stuck in them, or lash out because of them. Empathy. We feel emotional when reading certain novels because we’ve developed empathy for the characters. Sometimes characters are put through the wringer, and we feel for them. That empathy transfers to real-world human beings. (Which is why the novels I write have characters facing the challenge of mental illness.) Self-Care. Reading is a wonderful way to care for ourselves. To read, we have to step away from our chores and duties. Taking breaks is imperative for mental health. We can pair reading with a cup of tea or coffee, and we can snuggle into a favorite chair and immerse ourselves in a good book. Bonding. Connecting with others is another important activity for our wellbeing. Temple Owls Jerseys Reading brings people together. The popularity of book clubs is evidence of the power of books to create bonding. Reading can enhance family bonding, too, through designated reading-together times (Wednesday Evening Words or Saturday Afternoon Stories, for example). Each person can read his or her own book, or families can create their own book clubs (with books geared toward the youngest reader). Doudoune Canada Goose Pas Cher It’s a good way, too, to get to know each other more deeply, by sharing favorite generes and books.   Reading is a fun way to exercise your mind, create wellbeing, and enhance mental health. nike air max 90 bianco donna Reading definitely isn’t passive and neutral. So the next time you want to grab a book, kick back, and read, do so without guilt. Asics Gel Lyte 3 Femme PurchaseLinks circle for website 2 Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities.

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Dissociative Identity Disorder: Being a Stranger to Yourself

  Dissociative identity disorder (DID), a mental illness formerly known as multiple personality disorder, can be a confusing, frustrating, even frightening disorder that makes someone feel like a stranger: a stranger in the world and a stranger within his or her own mind. Imagine what it would be like to be a stranger to yourself. Scarpe Air Jordan 3 Picture a party or a school dance or a family holiday gathering. (You don’t have to love these things — just picture it.) The setting is festive. It’s light and cheery. Perhaps there are colorful decorations. There’s delicious food, both of the junk variety and the healthy variety. And of course there are happy people. GS Air Jordan 3 Most of them know each other and mingle happily. Adidas Sweat-shirt There is conversation, laughter, joviality. And you don’t know a single person; nor do they know you. You are a stranger in the room. You decide to stand by yourself. However, will you stay yourself? Will a different part of you emerge, in effect taking over who you are for a while? If so, who will it be? Someone you don’t really know and thus can’t predict what he — or she — will do? You’re a stranger in the room and a stranger to yourself. Mark Herzlich This, in part, is DID. Vanderbilt Commodores Jerseys

How Does DID Make Someone a Stranger to Himself?

What would it feel like to be a stranger to yourself, in your own mind-In dissociative identity disorder, someone is one person with his/her own unique identity, just like any other person on the planet. Texas Tech Red Raiders Jerseys With DID (which begins in childhood and has a very distinct cause), somoene’s psyche has fragmented into different parts/alternate identities (often called alters). Each alter (with DID, there can be as few as two or more than 100) is also unique with his/her own identity. canada goose chilliwack bomber The different identities aren’t always aware of each other. Air Jordan 10 Retro A goal of treatment is to increase awareness so that each alter, and the main identity, knows each other. Its as if that festive gathering mentioned above is perpetually happening in one’s mind, and he/she doesn’t know the others at the party. New Balance 373 femme It’s awkward when that happens in someone’s outer world. It would be disconcerting, to put it mildly, when that is a regular experience inside one’s own mind. In the novel Twenty-Four Shadows, family man Isaac Bittman discovers that he lives with DID, and he definitely feels like a stranger to himself. At one point, he is venting to his wife, Reese, lamenting that he just doesn’t know who he is:

Here’s the thing. Sometimes I don’t know who I even am, and that frightens me, Reese. I mean, I’m starting to see a pattern. Ishmael is the angry one. Jake is the adventurous and artistic one. Isaiah is the depressed and anxious one. Alton is the musical one. June is the protective one. And there are so many others. So where does all of that leave me, leave Isaac? Who am I?”

Isaac isn’t alone. DID can be very frightening, and it’s easy for someone to feel lost inside his/her own identity. While there is no cure for DID, there is indeed help and hope. Typically, someone with DID does develop awareness of alters. Canada Goose Constable Femme With help, that awareness crystallizes, and he/she gets to know him/herself better and better. The alters, too, come to know each other. It’s very possible for someone living with DID to answer the question “who am I” positively and with certainty. Someone living with dissociative identity disorder isn’t forever doomed to being a stranger to him/herself.

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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: ACT to Create a Life Worth Living

It may not seem like it sometimes, but each and every one of us has the power within us to create a life worth living. A life worth living simply means the life that we, individually, find valuable–a quality life that we want to fully and completely live. A life worth living is never out of reach. There is an incredibly useful therapeutic approach that can guide us all along the long and winding path. Referred to as acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, this approach empowers us all to live well and thrive in spite of problems, hardships, and challenges.
It’s true. ACT does allow us to create a good life, a life worth living, and it does so no matter what obstacles we face. With ACT, we don’t wait until our problems are solved in order to start living the life we want. ACT isn’t at all about getting rid of problems, at least not directly.
Unfortunately, life can be difficult. Problems and challenges arise all too frequently, and sometimes they stick around long after they’ve outworn the welcome they didn’t even have in the first place. Sometimes we’re faced with external stressors like work, finance, or relationship problems. Many people fight physical health battles; likewise, many people face mental health challenges including diagnoses of mental illness. Some of these are temporary or are at least easily managed. Others, not so much. Acceptance and commitment therapy is an approach to mental health and wellbeing that boldly says that we don’t have to wait for perfect conditions in order to live. We can thrive despite the obstacles we face.
ACT allows us to break free, not from specific problems, but from the idea that problems are preventing us from living fully and well. I’ve used the principles of ACT in my own life and with others, and I’m happy to report that they work. I’ve shared them in my newly released book Break free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps – A Workbook for Overcoming Self-Doubt and Embracing Life. Here’s a peek at what ACT helps us do in order to live the life we value:

ACT involves six principles for embracing your life. It also involves their opposites, what is called six pathologies. The workbook allows you to explore the pathologies and principles. The following six ideas are the principles of ACT.

  1. Defusion: ACT allows us to get unstuck from problems, thoughts, and emotions to live freely despite them.
  2. Acceptance: ACT helps us accept what we can’t change and shape a meaningful, positive life anyway.
  3. Mindfulness: ACT teaches us to connect with our present moment and live fully and freely in it rather than getting lost in our negative thoughts.
  4. Observing Self: With ACT, we stop judging and criticizing ourselves and shift to being neutral observers.
  5. Clear Values: ACT has us define what it is we want (rather than focusing on what we don’t want).
  6. Committed Action: With ACT, we create goals and actions to actively live according to what we value most.

I actually was excited about ACT long before it officially existed as a helping approach. Captain Kangaroo (a character on the children’s show in the 1970s by the same name) taught me to, when something bad happens, pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. That, in essence, is the power and the beauty of ACT.

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Developing Strength and Voice on International Day of the Girl

A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman.” -Melinda Gates

Women young and old are wonderful human beings with unique strengths and gifts to offer the world. James White We positively influence families, neighborhoods, schools, communities, and beyond – far beyond.

Sometimes, though, women young and old have no power, no voice. Nike Free 2.0 Mujer Their freedom of thought and movement and simply being is grossly restricted. When this happens, these women young and old suffer, and so do the families, neighborhoods, schools, communities, and beyond who aren’t benefiting from the strength and intelligence of these women who are controlled by others.

It is to draw attention to this tragedy and to celebrate the strength of women, of girls who are growing up to be strong, contributing females that October 11 is International Day of the Girl.


Childhood is a time of exploring, growing, and learning. It’s a time when kids are slowly learning how to be adults. Nike Air Presto Femme The messages a girl receives become part of who she is, how she thinks, how she feels about herself, and how she interacts with others.

One realm of learning is how to be in relationships. Air Max 2015
Humans are social beings, and we all must exist with others: coworkers, acquaintances, friends, family, and romantic partners. FREE RN It’s a tough world to navigate, but when girls learn to have a voice, they grow strong and powerful and are capable of thriving in life for themselves, and by extension, others.

It can be confusing, though. Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber By nature and nurture, girls can be inclined to put others first, themselves last. Using strengths to empower yourself, and using that power to help others is character. nike air max 90 hyperfuse femme However, being silenced and weakened and subservient in order to wait on others is being controlled, poisoned by one or more toxic people.

Because it’s hard to find the balance between giving parts of yourself to a relationship and giving up your whole self, girls need role models. Mothers, older sisters, aunts, grandmothers, teachers, counselors, youth leaders, and others can model strength and can teach them how to develop a voice. Doudoune Parajumpers Angie Master Women have life experience they can share with girls. Storytelling is a powerful way to show how to be strong.

As a high school teacher and a counselor, I saw teens, both girls and boys (which also shows the importance of helping both genders learn how to be healthy in relationships) become trapped in unhealthy, emotionally abusive relationships. Wanting to help girls find their voice, I wrote a story entitled Losing Elizabeth. The short novel helps teens of all ages share themselves without losing themselves, add to themselves without subtracting important parts of themselves.

Through her entire lifespan, a girl will be in relationships with herself, with a partner, with society, and with the world.

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World Mental Health Day: What, Exactly, is Mental Health?

world-mental-health-dayIt’s October 10th, and it’s a great day to celebrate. It’s World Mental Health Day, a day we, the people of the world, say to ourselves and to each other that mental health is important. Thanks to so many organizations (there’s a partial list and links at the end of this article), people are increasingly talking about mental illness and mental health and are realizing just how important it is to take care of mental health. Canada Goose Femme Pas Cher What, though, does mental health really mean? We know that it has to do with the brain and with thoughts and emotions and that it’s a good thing to have. GS Air Jordan 5 This is all true. However, it’s limited; there’s so much more to mental health, and the more we know, the better we can take charge of our mental health to thrive. For World Mental Health Day, a look at what mental health is, sometimes in the context of what it is not…

What is Mental Health?

Mental health is an important part of a bigger picture: someone’s physical health (I’m hesitant to distinguish between “mental” and “physical health, as the brain is a physical part of the body), nutritional health, fitness, and intellectual health. These are interrelated components of the whole — the person and his/her sense of wellbeing and ability to thrive in life. Mental health is a state of being. It’s who you are and how you experience and live your life at any given moment. Mental health is not the absence of struggles, hardships, bad days, or bad moods. Life is a roller coaster, wild and fun and nauseating and thrilling and terrifying, depending on the day and sometimes all in the same day. Mental health is knowing that life is imperfect. Mental health is getting on the roller coaster anyway, hanging on for the ride, and allowing yourself to scream and laugh and feel the wind in your hair, not caring that your hair is getting messy. Mujer Air Jordan 14 Mental health is not the opposite of mental illness. Mental illnesses are illnesses of the brain. Marcus Mariota Oregon Jersey Mental health is a way to experience life. Parajumpers Femme Mary JO It’s possible for someone with a mental illness to have great mental health, just as it’s possible for someone without a mental illness to experience poor mental health. Mental health is movement. It’s getting up and moving forward. It’s doing something every hour, no matter how small, to progress toward your goals and live according to your values. Air Zoom Pegasus 32 It’s continuing to move even when you trip over potholes. Mental health is being gentle with yourself, forgiving yourself for mistakes that are part of being human, it’s allowing yourself to be human. Mental health involves pure self-acceptance. Mental health is perspective. It’s looking at problems, situations, people, and change in a healthy way; indeed, it’s knowing that there’s good in life in spite of the bad as well as believing in your ability to create more of what you love. Brandon LaFell And finally… Mental health is passion, purpose, and creating a life worth living. Scarpe Air Jordan Xxx It’s turning en-JOY into an action verb in order to thrive. Mental health means less trudging and more skipping.


The following organizations are just a few of the many worldwide that raise awareness of and help people enhance mental health. Many simultaneously dedicate themselves to increasing understanding of mental illness:

world-mental-health-day   Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Parajumpers Femme Pas Cher Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities.

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Does Positivity Work When You're Down? (Spoiler: Yes)

Positivity. It’s the art and science of seeing the good, of continuing to seek mental health and wellbeing, of knowing that you’re capable of taking action toward a life worth living. There are multiple components to positivity. Perhaps oddly, one of those components is doubt. It’s common, and very okay, to wonder if positivity is effective. Does it have an actual function, or is it just fluff? And, perhaps the biggest question: does it work when you’re down, or is it only for those who are already positive, who are seemingly without any mental health challenges?

A Peek at Positivity: What is It?

Positivity is an outlook, an attitude. It is not, however, a matter of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. While doing so can be pleasant, it’s superficial. A deep-seeded attitude of positivity is less about putting on glasses with artificial lenses and more like nurturing your mind and body from the inside so that you don’t need fake glasses to interpret your inner and outer worlds with bright clarity. Being positive about yourself, your life, and the world around you isn’t always easy. Living with mental illness presents a great many challenges. Even without a diagnosed mental illness, nearly everyone (actually, probably every single person on the planet) experiences stress, often severe, throughout their lives. Indeed, life is quite the roller coaster, full of ups and downs and twist and turns. Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors ride with it. In times of hardship, in the downs and violent twists and turns, positivity can feel impossible. How can you hang on for dear life, wondering about your very survival, and be positive at the same time? Positivity isn’t the absence of hardship, stress, or even mental illness. It’s knowing that emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that occur during hard times are temporary attitudes, separate from your permanent outlook. Positivity doesn’t mean putting on those rose colored glasses to make difficulties disappear or harder to see. Positivity hides nothing. Positivity involves our actions, backed up by thoughts and emotions, depsite the ups and downs of life.


How to Make Positivity Work for You

The field of Positive Psychology defines itself as “the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.” The goal of positivity isn’t the absence of problems; instead, the goal is to thrive no matter what. Because its very nature is to thrive through the good and the bad, it works for everyone. Because the nature of positivity is to nurture the mind and body from the inside rather than to wear some fake colored glasses, it works when you’re down. It’s truly functional. It’s not fluff. Positivity has many components that you can hone and use to enhance your mental health and wellbeing at any time. Some of those components include:

  1. Character Strengths: Researchers in positive psychology have identified 24 character strengths in six broad categories (wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence) that each and every one of us possess in varying degrees. When we identify which ones are our strongest, we can use them to shape our thoughts and actions, thus enhancing mental health even during times of crisis. (Take a free character strength assessment here and start living those strengths now.)
  2. Flow: Flow refers to a state of full immersion into what you’re doing at the moment. When we find something we’re passionate about, be it work or a pastime, we can become so deeply involved that all other thoughts, cares, and concerns fall away. Flow stills racing thoughts while we’re engaged in the activity, and it involves being active in our lives rather than passive.
  3. Optimism: The idea of optimism often makes people skeptical. This relates to the rose-colored glasses, and it can feel artificial. When someone is experiencing major depression, for example, it can be hard to be optimistic for the present or the future. Yet honing optimism is one of the most effective ways to beat depression and other mental health challenges. Like the others, optimism is active. It involves intentionally seeking out what is right, appreciating it, and doing more of it. It involves doing something every hour that moves you toward a goal, even when it seems like the goal isn’t possible.
  4. Grit: Grit is a term coined by positive psychology expert and researcher Angela Duckworth. Grit involves passion and perseverance. Grit involves flow and optimism. Grit is an attitude and an action. Grit functions to enhance wellbeing and eradicate mental health challenges.  The more persistence you have in doing something (and using your character strengths to persevere), the more optimistic you will be about your ability to thrive on life’s roller coaster.
  5. Gratitude: Like optimism, gratitude can feel fake. It’s hard to be thankful when you feel miserable. Gratitude isn’t about wearing those fake glasses, though. It involves reflection and deep noticing–your own strengths, the things that you do well, and the things that are going well despite problems. To fully develop gratitude takes practice. Try playing gratitude bingo for a fun way to hone a sense of thankfulness for what is good.

Positivity truly is for everyone, and it works even when you’re down. Positivity doesn’t mean you ignore problems. It means taking charge of yourself and your life in order to thrive despite problems.

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School Supply List for an Emotionally Healthy School Year

School Supply List for an Emotionally Healthy School YearKindergarteners through high school seniors need things for school. Armed with supply lists from teachers, parents and kids head to the store to pick up what they need for success. Folders, pens, pencils, paper, and glue are important school supplies, tools for academic success. Academics are only part of kids’ school day, however. Our kids, no matter their grade, deal with an entire world of people and situations that impact their emotional health and wellbeing. Bambini Nike Kd 7 A child’s daily school experience involves learning, and it involves navigating the world of peers, teachers, other adults, expectations and routines that vary from classroom to classroom, lunchroom norms, playground dynamics, and more. What’s often hard for parents is the fact that we can’t control much of what our kids experience during their school day. What parents can do, however, is to help their children create, fill, and maintain a school supply list for an emotionally healthy school year.

What, Exactly, Does Emotionally Healthy Mean for Kids?

Life isn’t perfect. School isn’t perfect. To be emotionally healthy doesn’t mean a child feels only happiness or other positive emotions. To be emotionally healthy means that a child (anyone, actually) is resilient, bouncing back from all of the bumps and potholes, and experiences wellbeing in spite of those bumps and potholes. It’s sad but true: parents can’t control much of what their kids experience. Happy and true: parents can impact how their kids handle what comes their way every day at school. Zapatillas ROSHE RUN How? These supply-list concepts can help you help your child:


Help kids identify and understand their emotions. canada goose banff parka Emotions are complex and can be difficult to understand. When kids’ can’t identify their emotions, the emotions become incredibly overwhelming and even harder to handle. Observe their body language, tone of voice, and content of their words, and reflect it back to them in a neutral, non-judgmental way. This will help them develop words for what they feel. When they can articulate their feelings, they begin to have power over them as opposed to letting the emotions control them. This leads to emotional intelligence and emotional regulation, both essential for emotional health.


Work with kids to monitor their emotions and then choose thoughts. It’s common for kids to catastrophize, taking a bad experience and super-sizing it so that it encompasses everything in their world. For example, a child who is shunned by a friend quite commonly will think that everyone hates him. NIKE AIR ZOOM PEGASUS 34 When you notice this type of thinking, help your child identify her emotions, and then help her put her thoughts in perspective. Have him name one person who was nice to him that day, and build from there. Helping kids notice how their emotions are shaping their thoughts, and then helping them question their thoughts and look for other evidence is a very important part of helping kids develop emotional health.


Allow kids to empower themselves through their actions. Emotional health involves three key principles: feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Canada Goose Boutique Kids can’t always control what will happen to them. Air Jordan 14 They can, however, control what they do about it. Even the youngest elementary school student can begin to learn—and use—this lesson. The first step is item one on the school-supply list; kids need to learn to identify their emotions. Next comes monitoring both emotions and thoughts. With this awareness comes the ability to act. Help kids understand that they have a choice in how they behave. A crucial message for emotional health is you can’t always control how others act, but you can control how you react.

The positive.

Help kids find the positive every day. I tell people, whether it was my students, it’s my own children, or it’s adults in my life, to make great moments in their day. “Have a good day” isn’t very empowering. Teaching your kids that they can make great moments in their day sends important messages; it tells them that they are in control of making their day great—they’re not dependent upon things they can’t control—and it tells them that even though an entire day might not be great, the day will have positive, great moments. Air Jordan 2 Retro
This is a very important perspective for emotionally healthy kids. An emotionally healthy child views life realistically and positively. An emotionally healthy child thrives in school, both academically and socially, despite problems. Creating an emotionally healthy school year means that you and your child are creating strategies for dealing with problems, keeping the problems separate from the self, and focusing on the positive. This, as much as anything else, is part of the foundation for life success. Denver Pioneers   Learn about my books. PurchaseLinks circle for website 2           Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities.

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Sneak Preview! Mental Health Novel Twenty-Four Shadows

Enjoy this official sneak preview of the mental health novel Twenty-Four Shadows! On May 1, 2016, New Balance ct suede gum femme Apprentice House Press will release Twenty-Four Shadows, the latest mental health novel by Tanya J. Nevada Wolf Pack Jerseys Peterson (me). Parajumpers Femme Californian Giada Sneak Preview Twenty-four Shadows   Family man Isaac Bittman’s mysterious and progressively violent mood swings, swings he usually can’t remember, begin to unravel the lives of those closest to him. A series of bizarre encounters and behaviors lands him in a treatment center, Adidas Yeezy 350 Homme Noir where the childhood trauma he’s repressed for decades leads to revelations that his personality has splintered into twenty-four shadows, or “alters.” The novel intricately weaves together Isaac’s internal angst and his wife and best friend’s struggles to retain both a private and public semblance of normalcy.

Novels by Tanya J. Nike Tennis Classic Peterson:

Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, nike air max 2017 femme blanche Wellbeing & Words. Soldes Doudoune Parajumpers Pas Cher Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, Oregon State Beavers Jerseys and updates about my own mental health writing and activities.

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Imagine How Confusing, Frightening Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Could Be

Could you imagine what it would be like to suddenly realize that you have absolutely no idea what you’ve been doing? To be smack in the middle of something, and you don’t really know what that something is or why you’re doing it? People living with dissociative identity disorder (DID) experience this on a regular basis; indeed, life with DID can be full of confusion and absent memories. DID is a mental illness in which someone experiences disruption in his/her identity involving the presence of two or more distinct personality states. People switch from one to another involuntarily, and because they’re unaware of what an alternate identity is up to, coming back to awareness can be disorienting and frightening. front cover imageTwenty-Four Shadows is a novel about Isaac Bittman, his wife Reese and son Dominic, and Isaac’s best friend Max. Isaac is newly diagnosed with DID (it can be surprisingly difficult to spot). In this scene, Isaac has suddenly realized that he’s had absolutely no idea what he has been doing. Here’s what it’s like for him:

He felt hands on his shoulders pulling him upright. What was happening? “No…” He trailed off in a fit of coughing. He thrashed against the hands, but he stopped resisting when he heard a kind and soothing voice. “Isaac. Sweetheart. It’s okay. It’s just Reese. I want you to breathe into this bag for me, okay? It will help.”

He looked at Reese as he coughed and wheezed and struggled to breathe.

“Look.” Reese held up the bag for him to see. “It’s one that Dominic decorated, and it is going to help you breathe.” Tentatively, he reached out with a shaking hand and took it from her. He placed it over his mouth. “That’s it, Isaac, hold it there and take a few breaths.” After several breaths, Reese gently pulled it away, then she put it back for another few. Gradually, his breathing returned to normal. He sat back on his heels and looked at Reese. Max and Elise joined them on the floor. He again started to shake his head. “Something’s not right. It’s not safe.  I don’t think Marion will keep Dominic safe outside. She won’t protect him. Go get Dominic!” He started to chew on his thumbnail again.

“We will. Max and I will get him. But first we need to make sure you’re okay.”

“I don’t know if I am.” He paused and shook his head slowly. “I don’t think I am.” After another pause, he hung his head and whispered, “I’m not.”

“Oh, Isaac. We’re going to help you be okay. Max and I both.”

He looked at Reese. He looked at Max. He looked down at his lap. He felt a hand on his shoulder and he flinched, but he relaxed a little bit when he heard Max’s voice. He didn’t sound gruff. He sounded gentle and nice. “Yep. We’re here for you, buddy.”

He was overcome with a strong desire to hold Reese and just be held by her. He leaned toward her, and she took him in her arms and pulled him in. She stroked the back of his head as she rocked him slightly from side to side. He closed his eyes in relief.

He opened his eyes. Reese was embracing him and rubbing his hair. As much as he loved that, he was a bit confused. As if she sensed it, Reese pulled back. Keeping her hands on his shoulders, she studied him. Isaac watched her eyes narrow while she bit her lip in apparent concern. He followed her gaze when she looked over at Max. Isaac sat up straight and glanced at Reese, then at Max, then at Elise, then down at his lap. He was on the floor. They all were. Why? Maybe they were playing with Elise. He looked at the baby again. She was sitting there with the doughnut elephant in one fist and the other fist in her mouth. It didn’t seem that much was going on with her. For some reason, he didn’t want to look at the adults in the room, so he continued to stare at the baby.

“Isaac?” Reese asked quietly.

“Hmmm?” His gaze remained fixed on Elise.

“You seem a little confused right now.”

“Not really, no.
What would be confusing about this?” He made a sweeping gesture. He attempted to stand up, but winced when he braced himself with his arm.

“Hey. Let me help you up.” Max rose to his feet, then bent down and helped Isaac. He propped him against the island.

Isaac felt crushed under the weight of the silence in the room, but he didn’t know how to break it. He didn’t want to admit that he didn’t know why they had been on the floor. He didn’t want to admit that he didn’t know why he was soaking wet. He didn’t want to admit that he felt off. And he didn’t want to admit that the noise in his head was making it hard to think and to talk. He sighed.

Dissociative Identity Disorder is Confusing and Frightening Could you imagine what it would be like to suddenly realize that you have absolutely no idea what you’ve been doing? To be smack in the middle of something, and you don’t really know what that something is or why you’re doing it? Through Isaac in Twenty-Four Shadows, we get to imagine just that, to see what DID is like for real people. PurchaseLinks circle for website 2   Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities.

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Can TBI, Mental Illness be Opportunity Instead of Loss?

When I experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a car accident, and proceeded to exacerbate it by sustaining two subsequent concussions, there were times when I felt as though I had suffered a great loss, the loss of who I thought I once was. My mental health and sense of self took as much of a blow as my head did. Parajumpers Gobi Homme The sense of loss was accompanied by anxiety, often extreme, and mood swings, from low to high multiple times in a single day. Adidas Zx Flux Femme Porte There was a part of my original self that was still there, hanging on in the background while the rest of me wrestled with the sense of loss and other mental health challenges I suddenly faced. Purdue Boilermakers That part that stuck around, a source of positivity when so much was negative, was perseverance. Andre Johnson I also think of it as stubborn resolution. I wasn’t functioning the way I was used to, but I realized that I was, indeed, functioning. Air Jordan 2 (II) I had goals even though I wasn’t all that sure I was being effective in working toward them. Nike Air Huarache Yet the goals were there, the desire was there, and the perseverance was there. I didn’t want to give up, so I stubbornly resolved not to. when-were-not-defined-by-our-losses-adversity-becomes-opportunityHealing and change didn’t happen in an instant. I came to realize that they didn’t have to. Once I allowed myself to internalize the fact that I was truly living my life despite setbacks, a liberating shift occurred. I began to see my TBI not as a loss, but as an opportunity. I had a chance for a fresh start. Once I realized that yes, I had suffered a loss of my original sense of self, but yes, I was still functioning in spite of it and therefore could move forward toward new goals, my perseverance solidified into what positive psychological researcher Angela Duckworth terms grit. Grit involves the knowledge that we as humans have resilience, courage, and endurance. Although we suffer losses and experience things like non-diagnosable mental health challenges or full-blown mental illness, we aren’t defined by them. We therefore can see adversity as opportunity to grow and to redefine ourselves. Scarpe Air Jordan 4 It was grit that let me to seek counseling and then, when that was insufficient because my injured brain needed more intense treatment, to find and admit myself to a behavioral health hospital—not just once but five times. It’s not weakness that causes people to be admitted to behavioral health hospitals; it is strength and determination. It is that voice inside each and every one of us that whispers you can create yourself anew. It is the gut feeling that despite a TBI or a diagnosis of mental illness (for me after the brain injury, anxiety disorders and bipolar disorder) or other losses and adversities, that we have an opportunity to redefine ourselves and our goals. New Balance Chaussures No one wants to suffer a traumatic brain injury. No one wants a diagnosis of mental illness. No one wants to experience a loss of his/her sense of self. But everyone can find that part of them that is functioning and has goals. Everyone can use this positivity to persevere, to develop grit. No matter what, we can all use adversity as an opportunity to create ourselves anew and rise.

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Mental Health: Lots to be Aware Of

Spring Mental Health AwarenessHappy May! Spring is in full bloom. Buds are unfurling. Grass is greening and growing. Birds are singing and animals frolicking. Flowers are blossoming. The world is so beautiful in the spring because the sun shines and warms; also, the rain falls and cools. Air Jordan 1 Spring is wonderful to enjoy; also, spring can bring allergies and misery. Spring is neither all good nor all bad. Air Jordan Retro 6 Being aware of spring’s positives and negatives can help us keep it in perspective, to enjoy the positives despite the negatives. I love that May, springtime, is Mental Health Awareness Month. Scarpe air jordan The nature of spring is similar to mental health. Just as being aware of all facets of spring can help us live the season fully, so too can being aware of mental health help us live fully despite challenges and even mental illness.

What Should We Know About Mental Health?

Mental health is all-encompassing. It’s experienced in many ways, in all of our complex being. Mental health is how we feel. Emotions can be positive and uplifting, they can be negative and seemingly life-stopping, and they can be everything in between. When our emotions are low, we still can be mentally healthy. Mental health isn’t the absence of negative emotions but instead is the choice we make about how to deal with them. Memphis Tigers I love these wise words from Jonatan Mårtensson:

Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.

Mental health is how we think. An underlying principle of the counseling approach known as cognitive-behavioral therapy is that our external problems and stressors aren’t actually the problem; instead, the problem is how we _think_ about these problems and stressors. Learning to be aware of our thoughts, to question and challenge them, and to replace them with more realistic thoughts drastically increases our mental health and wellbeing. Mental health is what we do. Adidas Superstar Femme Fleur Mental health is the actions we take, the behavior we choose, despite of our challenges. Armani Vêtement There are so many things about the world and people around us that we can’t control. What we can control is what we do about or in spite of them. Mental health is who we are. Parajumpers Pas Cher Mystic It’s the actions we choose. It’s the thoughts we take charge of. It’s how we decide to handle all of our varied emotions. Mental health is something we create and practice over and over again. It’s not a passive state of being that we either have or don’t have. The great news about this is that we have control and power over our mental health and wellbeing. How are you going to enhance your mental health? Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Xavier Musketeers Jerseys Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities.

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Mental Health Awareness Month, Books Humanize Mental Illness

MHAM Humanizing Mental IllnessMental Health Awareness Month is here, and with it a purpose: to humanize mental illness. Parajumpers Beige Humanizing mental illness is, in part:

  • realizing that mental illness is something a person deals with rather than who a person is
  • understanding the specific things a person is experiencing (“mental illness” is a blanket term, as vague as “physical illness)
  • seeing someone’s strengths
  • realizing that mental illness isn’t a wrong way of being in the world but instead is a different way of experiencing the world

The month of May is devoted to humanizing mental illness, to increasing understanding and empathy. Todd Gurley II Of course, building empathy and understanding isn’t limited to 31 days in an entire year; having a month dedicated to this just intensifies the ever-present purpose. For me, humanizing mental illness is my life’s work. Donne Scarpe Air Jordan 6 Nike Kobe I draw on my professional background as a nationally certified counselor to provide accurate factual information about various mental illnesses because knowing the facts about what these brain-based illnesses are dispels stereotypes and misunderstanding. Ole Miss Rebels And I draw on my personal background, a traumatic brain injury followed by diagnoses of bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety disorders. These come together in the form of novels. Harvard Crimson Jerseys Canada Goose Gants True, novels are fiction. Fiction is a powerful vehicle for teaching fact. Nike Free Rn Flyknit Femme And fiction is about characters, about people. Cincinnati Bearcats Jerseys When reading stories, people empathize with characters. nike air max flyknit Femme Adidas Ultra Boost Femme Commonly, people transfer their empathy to real-life human beings. Parajumpers New Denali This is what mental health awareness is all about: humanizing mental illness and increasing understanding and empathy. NIKE AIR MAX ZERO QS My latest novel, Twenty-Four Shadows was released by Apprentice House on May 1, 2016 to coincide with mental health awareness month. nike air max 2017 nero donna Asics Gel Lyte 3 Femme Rose In the novel, bizarre encounters and behaviors lead family man Isaac Bittman to discover that his personality has splintered into twenty-four shadows, or alters, thanks to the childhood trauma he’s repressed. Is his wife’s love strong enough for all of him? From early reviewers:

  • “Twenty-Four Shadows reads like a dramatization of a real-world case of Dissociative Identity Disorder, thanks to Peterson’s skill at humanizing the disorder while maintaining scientific integrity”. Missouri Tigers Jerseys Nike Air Force 1Yuliya Geikhman of The US Review of Books; Recommended by the US Review
  • “Twenty-Four Shadows is a must-read. nike free run 2.0 homme I fell in love with the characters. This book, just like Ms.
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Introducing The Wendy House, an Intriguing New Novel by Pauline Barclay

Among the things I love most in life:

  • mental health (as in helping people achieve and maintain maintain mental health and create a life worth living)
  • writing fiction (compelling tales of the human psyche)
  • writing nonfiction (articles on, The Mighty, and numerous places online and in print; essays in books, and an upcoming self-help book)
  • reading (especially books related to my passions, and definitely character-driven stories)

I like to share my passions, too; therefore, I’m excited to be part of author Pauline Barclay’s cover reveal for her latest novel, The Wendy House, to be released on September 3, 2016. This story promises to deliver what I love: emotional, character-driven stories about the human experience. The cover speaks to a deep, moving–perhaps even dark–story, as does the description.
Enjoy the cover, scroll to read the description and learn more information, and then follow the links to connect with Pauline.
I’m looking forward to reading The Wendy House!
When Nicola changes overnight from a bright, happy young child into a sullen, rebellious girl, ceasing to show interest in anything or anyone around her, her parents struggle to understand why. As she develops into a difficult, troubled, hostile teenager they put it down to hormones, believing it will pass. Yet Nicola goes from bad to worse and no matter how much her mother tries to reach out to her, it seems she is hell bent on self-destruction. When she leaves home at seventeen, rushing into the arms of a man ten years her senior and quickly becoming pregnant, her despairing mother almost gives up on her. A decade later, the events that stole Nicola’s childhood and changed the course of her life threaten finally to destroy her. She knows if she is to cling on to her sanity she must tell her mother the dreadful secret she has carried all these years, but her fear that she will be met with disbelief, hostility and branded an evil liar drives her to the edge.
A heart-rending story of betrayal, secrets and gripping fear.
Publication Date: Saturday 3rd September
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Family-Noir
The Wendy House is available in Kindle for pre-order on all Amazon sites including
A little about Pauline:
I am from Yorkshire, but have lived in several different locations including, Suffolk, Surrey and Holland. Today, I live on one of the beautiful volcanic islands of the Canary Isles with my husband and our two gorgeous rescue doggies.
Years ago I gained a BA (Hons) degree from the Open University, today I spend my time writing fiction. I have five books published, plus a 20 minute short festive story.
My passion is to write about events that happen in life and change everything for those involved as well as those caught up in the maelstrom. I want my characters to sit at your side, steal your attention and sweep you up in their story. Stories that will bring tears to your eyes, have you laughing out loud and sometimes, what they share with you, will stay in your hearts for a very long time.
Twitter: @paulinembarclay
Instagram: @paulinebarclay
TWH Pauline Signature

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Hearing Voices: Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do you hear what I hear? Imagine hearing things, including hearing voices, and not quite knowing if they’re real. Are you the only one hearing the voice, the noise, or does everyone else hear it too?
Because it’s an unusual human experience, the idea of  hearing voices captures attention in the media, on television, in the movies, in books, and in imaginations. The concept of hearing voices arouses curiosity. Curiosity is a good thing, because it leads to questions and understanding and, ideally, empathy. The more people know, the better people understand.

What, Exactly, are Hallucinations?

Hallucinations involve sensing things that aren’t really there. Any of the senses can be involved in hallucinations:

  • sight
  • sound
  • touch
  • taste
  • smell

Seeing things and hearing voices are the most common and well-known of all the hallucinations, but it’s not unusual for someone experiencing hallucinations to feel sensations that aren’t there (such as bugs crawling on the skin, pin-pricks, etc.).
With auditory hallucinations like hearing voices someone hears sound that isn’t actually there. It can be vague noise in the background, or it can be very distinct voices clearly talking to or about the person.

Different Things Cause Hallucinations

Hallucinations like hearing voices are commonly associated with schizophrenia because schizophrenia is the most well-known (although one of the most misunderstood) of psychotic disorders. A psychotic disorder doesn’t mean that someone is “psycho” in the “Hollywoodized” definition of the term. Psychosis refers to experiencing hallucinations and delusions.
Hallucinations such as hearing voices are also part of other disorders or conditions, including (but not limited to):

  • mood disorders, especially bipolar disorder
  • dissociative disorders
  • substance use
  • migraine headaches
  • sleep deprivation
  • brain tumors

The common denominator in anything causing hallucinations is the brain. Something within the brain is causing misfirings that lead to hallucinations such as hearing voices.

What Hearing Voices Can Be Like

Hallucinations are complex. Despite prevalent and pervasive stereotypes, auditory hallucinations aren’t dominated by evil-sounding voices commanding someone to commit heinous acts.
Auditory hallucinations can sound like vague and distant noise or chatter. They can also sound like one or more people talking to someone. Frequently, especially with schizophrenia, voices can talk to and about the person in a very harsh, belittling, critical way. It’s like having running, negative, commentary cutting you down a significant portion of your waking hours.
I invite you to tune into this video where I contrast the voices of schizophrenia with the voices of dissociative identity disorder. I read a little bit from my novels Leave of Absence and Twenty-Four Shadows to show the difference, too.

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Novel Twenty-Four Shadows Gets Star- and Recommended Ratings


My newly released novel Twenty-Four Shadows has received honors from top book review companies. Kirkus Reviews awarded Twenty-Four Shadows a Kirkus Star, a rating reserved for “books of remarkable merit.” Additionally, the US Review of Books has given this novel a Recommended rating, also an honor reserved for a select few books. I couldn’t be more thrilled, but the reason might be different than what people may think.
Sure, as a writer of course I’m ecstatic that my work is Star- and Recommended-worthy. It’s validating to have one’s hard work and effort acknowledged as well-done and recommended to people to read. Beyond that, it’s wonderful that the US Review and Kirkus reviewers loved the topic. My novels feature characters whose lives are affected in one way or another by mental illness. That’s not always a popular topic.
Peterson possesses this rare talent.
Novels can increase understanding of even the most controversial topics, including mental illness. Novels inform, which is part of what I set out to do. Novels also entertain. They allow readers to let go of their own lives for a while and step into someone else’s. Reading novels lets us think and feel deeply and enjoy doing it. Reading is a wonderful pastime.
To me, the Kirkus Star and the US Review’s Recommended rating mean that Twenty-Four Shadows is a story worth reading. This story about an ordinary family man who has been diagnosed with a disruptive mental illness, his wife, son, and best friend can entertain readers, give them something to enjoy reading, and help people understand mental illness and those who live with it a little bit better than before reading Twenty-Four Shadows.
US Review quote 1 instagram

“magnificent sense of hope”

This selection from the Kirkus book review includes a passage from Twenty-Four Shadows:
“On being admitted to a specialist mental health facility to undergo a revolutionary form of treatment, Isaac asks the doctor: “But Dr. Charlie, what if they don’t? Get better, I mean. What if things just keep getting worse because I’m here? What if I find out things I really shouldn’t know?…I’ll be lost in a new way, a way that’s way worse than ever before.” Peterson’s language captures perfectly the uncertainty of patients facing a mental illness where all solid ground becomes unstable and threatens to give way beneath their feet. The doctor’s answer reflects the magnificent sense of hope captured in the remainder of the novel: “There are answers. Not always obvious or easy ones, but answers nonetheless.” The book proves to be dazzlingly analytical and delicately sympathetic in equal measure.”

Twenty-Four Shadows — knowledge and emotion

  • “The book proves to be dazzlingly analytical and delicately sympathetic in equal measure.” — Kirkus Reviews
  • “Educational and affecting; the importance of the author’s ongoing mission to demystify the world of mental health care should not be overlooked. ” — Kirkus Reviews
  • “Isaac’s experiences paint a realistic portrait of what it’s like to live with a mental illness, especially a commonly misunderstood one.” — US Review of Books
  • Twenty-Four Shadows reads like a dramatization of a real-world case of Dissociative Identity Disorder, thanks to Peterson’s skill at humanizing the disorder while maintaining scientific integrity.” — US Review of Books
  • “This is a must-read for anyone trying to come to terms with a loved one’s mental illness or interested in learning what it’s like to live with Dissociative Identity Disorder.” — US Review of Books

I give my heartfelt appreciation to the reviewers at Kirkus Reviews and The US Review of Books for honoring Twenty-Four Shadows with a Star and a Recommended status, respectively. To me, it means that this novel is entertaining to read–worth readers’ time–and creates understanding of a mental illness and empathy for those whose lives are touched by it.
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Avoidant Personality Disorder: Social Anxiety on Steroids

“Avoidant personality disorder is most definitely anxiety-based. It’s similar to social anxiety disorder but magnified. APD is like social anxiety on steroids.” Dr. Beth Greene gently informs Brian Cunningham that he’s living with avoidant personality disorder.
My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel is Brian’s story, the story of the struggles and loneliness of living with avoidant personality disorder. Social anxiety is an anxiety disorder that can limit someone’s life. It involves a fear of negative judgement and/or embarrassment and can cause anxiety, tension, self-doubt, racing thoughts, unpleasant physical sensations, and more. Social anxiety as a general concept occurs in varying intensities. People who experience social anxiety can experience it anywhere on a spectrum from shy to avoidant. Someone can be shy and uncomfortable in once social situation without qualifying for an official diagnosis of social anxiety disorder.
On the other end of the spectrum is a disorder that involves extremely debilitating anxiety. Because at this level it impacts the entire person, is pervasive, and severely impacts life, it’s actually classified as a personality disorder rather than an anxiety disorder. This debilitating, anxiety-based illness is avoidant personality disorder. The American Psychiatric Association’s (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines avoidant personality disorder as “A pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts…” Here’s a look at what avoidant personality feels like:
The moment I step onto my own property with its protective landscaping, I feel my muscles loosen a bit. My heart continues to hammer my chest, and I know from experience that it won’t let up until I verify that the danger has vanished; well, given that there’s always danger lurking, I suppose it’s more accurate to say that I need to ensure that the imminent danger has receded. Accordingly, I chance a glance across and up and down the street. The three sidewalk loafers haven’t left. They’re not looking in my direction, but they’re over there and I’m out here and what if that prompts them to come over here? I have lived here as long as I’ve worked at Hayden. With my parents’ co-signature on the loan and their gift of a down payment, I bought it shortly after I was hired that summer after I left college, and in the entire time I’ve been here I haven’t had to talk to a single neighbor. Ever. I certainly don’t want to start now.
I glance at Abigail, who is running around the yard and doing somewhat-crooked cartwheels. This is definitely going to attract attention. My landscaping keeps us fairly camouflaged, but I doubt that even giant sequoias and a massive hedge labyrinth, neither of which I have anyway, would conceal a boisterous, energetic seven-year-old girl. “Hey Abigail,” I call. She ignores me. “Abigail?” No response other than continued cartwheeling. I would think she’d be dizzy by this point. “Abigail. Let’s go inside.” Nothing. I glance nervously across the street to check on the sidewalk partiers. Why haven’t they left? Are they planning their trip across the street to where the neighborhood’s own Boo Radley has shown himself? I need to get out of my front yard. I can feel myself shifting on my feet. “Abigail!” I try to sound friendly and enthusiastic rather than alarmed and upset.
Avoidant personality disorder is an anxiety-based disorder so extreme that someone with APD, like Brian, can’t even be comfortably out in the front yard of his own house. Life restricted to the backyard is very limiting indeed.

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Social Anxiety Tells Us We're Alone, but We're Not

A while back, Huffington Post Healthy Living published an article whose title piqued my interest enough for me to follow the link and then read the article: 11 Public Figures Who Will Make You Rethink What You Know About Anxiety Disorders.
This little piece is indicative of a couple of things, both important. Thanks to the efforts of many, many people and organizations, the world is beginning to take notice—serious notice—of mental illness and mental health. And well it should, for mental illness affects millions. Anxiety disorders alone affect more than 40 million people, and that’s just in the United States. The other important fact highlighted by this Huff Post article is that anxiety disorders know no boundaries. They can affect anyone and everyone. Including me (although I’m far from the famous people featured in the article).
I can appear to be quite outgoing. And I kind of am. But I’m kind of not, too. I like people, so I consider myself to be a “people person.” But I’m so deathly afraid of being judged, of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing or not saying doing something I should that I have a very difficult time relaxing and enjoying myself in public (and sometimes even at home).
My mind is constantly assessing itself for what it’s doing wrong. Before an event, I’ll worry about how to “be.” During the event itself, my anxiety increases as my mind determines that I’m doing everything wrong. And after the event has passed, during the night and lingering over the next day, I find myself anxiously berating myself for saying “x” or not saying “y” or for talking too much or talking too little. This is classic social anxiety.
There is good news, though, and there can be happy endings. Through dedication to the cause and hard work, I find my social anxiety decreasing in both frequency and intensity. We all have the power to do something about what we don’t like.
Anxiety is common, it’s a big deal in people’s lives, and it can be debilitating. Because of this, and because I think it’s important for the world to see just what anxiety can be like and how it impacts people, I wrote My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel. It’s not autobiographical, but it certainly felt natural to portray Brian Cunningham’s thoughts!
Avoidant Personality DisorderBrian definitely can empathize with the guy in the picture. So many people do. Those times when I’m standing to the side? It’s not because I’m aloof. I’m trying to decide how not to screw things up. Other times, when I’m joining in and talking, I’m still frantically analyzing what I’m doing and trying to decide now not to screw things up!
Here’s a peek into Brian’s world of extreme social anxiety:

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To Be Nominated for an Award that Recognizes Dedication and a Desire to Help Others Means Everything


To my very pleasant surprise, I learned this week that Losing Elizabeth has been nominated for Storytellers Campfire’s prestigious Voyager Marble Award. I am deeply grateful that this literary organization has recognized Losing Elizabeth for its contribution to society. Here, a list of all of their awards and nominees, as well as a slideshow presentation.

"Storytellers Campfire is presenting Marble Awards to those who have dedicated themselves in their work beyond expectation and have shared their passion and commitment with the world. Many of the Nominees have exhibited a sincere desire to help others through their work and have been a source of inspiration to others."
“Storytellers Campfire is presenting Marble Awards to those who have dedicated themselves in their work beyond expectation and have shared their passion and commitment with the world. Many of the Nominees have exhibited a sincere desire to help others through their work and have been a source of inspiration to others.”

I really shouldn’t remain so hushed about it, for I strongly desire to help others, and I really do believe in the message in Losing Elizabeth. In fact, I’m proud of it. When I was a high school teacher, I had so many students, both male and female, become trapped in toxic, unhealthy, or even abusive relationships. I wanted to write a simple little story to illustrate to illustrated the dangers of such relationships. So that’s what I did.
I always have anxiety about what I write, though, and I worry that this one was too simple. I worry that it’s not in my genre – how can I promote both adult and YA/middle grade books? And really, I’m not a YA author. There are so many elements in Losing Elizabeth that I know I could have done better. Really, though as humans, don’t we all strive constantly for improvement?
Despite the fact that I’d make changes, I do love its message. I want middle and high-schoolers to read it. Many do, for it’s in some school libraries, and I receive positive feedback, including professional reviewers and readers alike.
Life is about owning what we do. Life is about believing in what we do and doing what we believe in. Whether I’m writing about mental illness or emotionally abusive relationships, I love writing about making the human condition better. Life is also about gratitude. I’m grateful that I have the chance to write what I do, and I’m grateful for Storyteller’s Campfire for existing to promote literacy and storytelling and for welcoming me to their fire.

LosingElizabethcoverWhen the school year begins, Elizabeth Carter’s life is fantastic, and she is a happy, confident, well-adjusted teenager. She and her best friend Meg are not only on the school tennis team but are even candidates for the varsity level. Elizabeth is in advanced classes and already planning for a bright future. She is ecstatic when greatly-admired Brad Evans asks her out. Slowly and insidiously, though, Brad takes over her life. Readers will find themselves on a tumultuous journey filled with both joy and pain that ultimately is a search for love, friendship, and identity.

Losing Elizabeth addresses the very core of teen life experience, which is learning to engage in meaningful relationships at the same time as an independent sense of self is developing. The novel reaches the young adult reader deep inside her heart and soul and speaks not only to what she likes but to whom she is and what she is becoming.


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4 Life Lessons I've Learned Playing Monopoly with My Son

Life is What You InvestAs a parent, I thought that playing games with my kids was a great idea. I was right. We formed connections and bonds, very important for growth and development. They learned cognitive skills and social skills. Gracious winning and losing. Turn taking. Patience. Laughter. Etc. Surprisingly, there was an added bonus to playing games with my kids: I learned lessons, too.
Both my daughter and my son enjoy playing board games, but I’ll use my son as an example here because of a specific game. The kid has been obsessed with Monopoly since he was in preschool. I’m not kidding. Never mind Chutes and Ladders; he preferred Monopoly. We have close to a dozen different versions of the same game. Once, he came down the stairs with a game for us to play and proudly announced that he picked a game we hadn’t played in a long time. Relief washed over me. Something other than Monopoly! His “different” game turned out to be Wild Animalopoly. So basically Monopoly with animals.
This brings me to my first lesson:
Monopoly again! I could easily bemoan that. I could insist that we play something else. I could roll my eyes and play half-heartedly (wouldn’t that be a great attitude to model to my kid?).
Instead, I could focus on the fact that I play with my kids. We enjoy time together. And my son, who is now thirteen years old, a teenager, still wants to play Monopoly with me.
I might be exacerbated by the game, but I’m so grateful that I get to play it with my child. And that is what I choose to focus on.
To get specific to the game itself, for anyone not familiar with it, it’s a business game. The object is to buy up property, build it up, get rich from it, and force everyone else to go broke. Okay, the last part is a bit cutthroat, but it is what it is.
I have never won a game of Monopoly (well, other than one time, long before I had kids, when I decided to see if I could cheat and get away with it. I did, and I won, and part of me still thinks it’s funny but part of me is ashamed of myself). Side lesson: Don’t cheat to win. It’s not the same thing as earning a win.
Even when my kid was little, I didn’t win. I modified the rules a little for him because he was, like three, but within those modifications, we stuck to the rules and he won.
I can be a bit dense when it comes to certain things, and only recently did I figure out why he’s so shrewd in this game. I tend to be really conservative with my money. When I get some, I keep it. He, on the other hand, gets money and turns it around to invest it in stuff. His money dwindles for a while, and I think “Ha! Finally! I’ve got him.” But his investments pay off, and I quickly lose the little I have when I land on his developments.
Such is life. We get out of it what we put into it. When we have a goal, the best thing to do is go for it. Invest in it. Devote your time, your energy, and your heart to it. If it requires a financial investment, invest what you reasonably can. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, because our goals are personal. What matters is that you believe in your goal and in yourself. Do what my son does: put resources into your dream. Your resources might temporarily dwindle, but your heart, soul, and effort will help them expand exponentially.
Watching my son play Monopoly is fascinating. He has a strategy. He has certain properties he tries to buy (and if I beat him to it, he adjusts his plan). He concentrates on two groups. Not one, because he can’t make enough money on one group. He needs to develop two. But not three. Because that spreads himself unnecessarily thin.
To be cliché (which I hate), when we are going for a goal, we can’t put all of our eggs in one basket. We need multiple ways to approach what we’re doing and build up our efforts. But we do need to approach our dreams in multiple ways. Find different ways to reach out to people (online or in person) – networking is powerful. What other things can you develop that are similar to what you’re doing to diversify a bit?
Life is Good Scrabble
Is life easy? No. Is it always fun? No. We can’t change those things, but we can choose our attitude about life. Life is about being with the people we love, whether they’re family or friends or coworkers or whomever. Life should be playful, at least some of the time. Life is about learning and growing and bonding and enjoying. Life is about having and pursuing dreams and passions and goals. Life isn’t about winning or losing. It’s winning and losing, and it’s love – which is always winning.

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