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5 Ways to Decrease the Stigma of Mental Health

5 Ways to Decrease the Stigma of Mental Health

Introduction by Annamarie Fernyak

In the following blog post, Erin talks about the stigma of mental health and common biases toward people who may be suffering from mental illness. Before Erin’s thoughtful essay, I never considered that I might have biases. After reflecting on Erin’s words, I came to realize that some biases were just below the surface.  

So, what can we do once you know those subconscious inclinations exist? What do I do? 

Be mindful, of course! We each have the beautiful ability to tune the dial of awareness onto our thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations.  By paying careful attention, we gain information and uncover unwanted habits and beliefs. The pause taken to tune into awareness provides the opportunity for you to weigh what is happening at any moment against your values; then an action may be chosen.  It allows purposeful actions instead of reactions.  

Take time to self-reflect. Listen to your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Discover if you have habitual ways of thinking or hidden prejudices, and invite yourself to think, act, and exist in a way that positively serves yourself and the world.  

Sending a virtual hug!!!

 

Mindfully,

 

Annamarie


 

“I heard you were sick the other day.  How are you feeling?”  
“You had surgery recently, right?  How are you recovering?”
“Oh no, you have the flu??  Stay home and take care of yourself!”

 

All of the above statements are commonly heard among friends and co-workers on a daily basis.  We are often able to discuss health issues and illnesses, checking on one another, and making sure physical health issues are addressed.  Imagine if the following was overheard:

I heard you had a manic episode last week.  How are you feeling?”
“You had a psychiatric hospitalization recently, right?  How are you doing?”
“Oh no, you had a panic attack?  Please stay home and take care of yourself!”

 

 

If any of the above statements make you uncomfortable, you are not alone. 

Except for those who work in the mental health field, the statements above do not roll off the tongue.  We are completely comfortable talking about the health ailments of ourselves and our friends, family, and co-workers; however, the stigma around mental health often leaves us speechless and silent, rendering those with mental health symptoms isolated and ostracized.

 

So why does this occur? 

There are a variety of reasons and theories.  In the Middle Ages, those with mental health symptoms were thought to be punished by God or possessed by the devil, so they were often imprisoned, burned, or killed.   Perhaps the discomfort around mental health stems from the colonial and industrial periods; at this time, women were commonly viewed as property of the fathers and husbands in their lives, and these men could have them “committed” to a sanitarium at any time, with very little evidence.  In the days of Nazi Germany, horrible experiments were conducted on those deemed mentally ill because some believed the mentally ill were a disposable population.

In the 1960s and 1970s, deinstitutionalization resulted in the influx of those diagnosed as severely mentally ill as these individuals re-entered local communities to receive treatment.  However, this also led to homelessness, and it doubled the number of people identified as mentally ill in the criminal justice system in the following years.  Additionally, the media sensationalize acts of violence and attribute them to mental illness, even if there is no evidence of a connection.

In this historical context, all episodes of mental illness get lumped together.  Whether the person is experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety, the individual is often viewed from the same lens, both internally (view of self) and externally (how others view the person).  If one grows up hearing about “crazy” people, who commit acts of violence or who live on the street, and then experiences mental health symptoms, it can be alarming and unsettling.  Often, people will not admit to themselves or others what symptoms they experience for fear of being hospitalized, losing their job, or not being able to see or care for their children.  

 

What can the average person do then, to reduce this stigma for oneself and significant others? 

Mental health issues are isolating, and lack of connection with others exacerbates these issues. Human connection is the balm that heals. Sometimes, just having someone who is willing to sit with you, even in silence, is the most healing thing of all. Be that connection for someone. There are several things we can do :

 

1. Educate yourself

The more you know, the less scary and strange something will be.  And then, you can help educate others with facts.

 

2. Recognize what biases you have

Examine from where these biases stem, whether from how you were brought up or societal influences.

 

3. Talk about your own mental health struggles

Each of us has ups and downs in our moods and emotions; that is very normal.  Each of us also has times in our lives when we struggle with difficult situations and circumstances.  Talking about these struggles openly makes room and space for others to do so as well.

 

4. Be aware of language

Instead of saying words like “crazy” or “nuts” or “cuckoo”, or even saying things like “he’s bipolar” or “she’s depressed”, say things like “he has symptoms of bipolar disorder” or “those who have schizophrenic symptoms”.  This begins to identify the person as separate and distinct from the condition.

 

5. Support people who are struggling. 

Reach out to someone you know is having difficulty with anxiety, depression, or even a psychotic episode. Let them know you are there.  

 

 

 

 

*May is Mental Health Month and in support of our community, Mind Body Align is offering several FREE resources! Check it out here! 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfectionism, Rewired.

Perfectionism, Rewired.

In my quest to write a perfect blog, while procrastinating with a slight fear of failing before I even get started, I will review with you a couple of ways to look at perfectionism. And perhaps through exploring those with you, I can help you and me identify some things we can both do to address that BIGG or little piece in each of us that may tend to be a perfectionist.  

The first definition of PERFECTIONIST I looked up is a person who refuses any standard short of perfection. Other definitions linked it to a personality trait or type that strives for flawlessness and setting up high standards, accompanied by being overly critical of themselves and others. There is a connection between perfectionism and a fear of failure, and a need to be accepted.    

I believe one can have high standards without some of the other things that go along with being a perfectionist. Once you have the emotional intelligence to recognize that you have some of the traits or qualities of being a perfectionist, you can work on addressing them for your own good, and the good of people around you, if you choose.  

Many of you know that as a trainer and coach, I am a huge advocate of Gallup’s strengths-based leadership research.  I love the idea that we need to focus on what’s right with people, rather than what is going wrong. This helps me manage perfection.  In looking over Gallup’s 34 top leadership strengths’ “basements,” I found one that has “perfectionism,” and that is the strength called MAXIMIZER. Things like “never good enough” and “always reworking” and “picky” are part of the basement that can happen when you overuse it.  It’s a strength I have that can make me a good coach. One that focuses on mastery, success, excellence, and working with the best. One that couples with my value that everyone can do their best, and everyone’s best can be different and EVERY kind and brand of excellence can be valued and rewarded. I believe people are perfect, not imperfect, just as they are.    

As a coach, how I manage to keep from falling in the basement of “perfectionism” is that I believe in people and think they know how to solve their issues and move forward in their lives. Sometimes it just takes someone believing in them to help them do it. It’s not my job to tell them what they need to do, nor fix them. I honor and applaud their excellence.  

Brene Brown, a well-known research professor, social worker, and five-time #1 New York Times best selling author, would suggest that PERFECTIONISM is a function of shame. Her definition is that perfectionism is a self-destructive belief system that fuels this primary thought – that if I look perfect or do everything perfectly, I avoid or minimize the painful feeling of blame, judgment, and shame.  

It’s destructive because PERFECTION is an unattainable goal.  

It’s getting sucked into proving I could do something versus PAUSING and stepping back and asking if I should do this, or if I want to do this. 

 

I LOVE PAUSING.  

Since my mother’s passing, I have worked a lot on emotional courage – to lean into and feel and identify the emotions I am experiencing, not judge them, but to sit with them and understand them, and explore if other choices could better serve me at some point. What’s the emotion that is behind this feeling of perfection? Am I feeling blame, judgment, or shame? What can I choose to do with it? How can I have a conversation with those I work with or someone who has dropped the ball without blaming, but just to talk about what happened so we can fix it and move on?

 

MOVE ON. LET IT GO.

How can we wade into our discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about our own stories, those real stories, those that we are not making up?  Some of the other things that we can do that Brene and I and others may recommend addressing those areas of perfection that don’t serve us include:  

*Say NO, not with an excuse, not with an explanation, just say NO. Set boundaries.

*Talk to ourselves like we would with someone we love. You are human. I am human. We all make mistakes. 

As a leader, I would recommend that you HAVE to make mistakes and be vulnerable in front of other people, especially those you supervise so that they know that they can make mistakes too.  

 

REACH OUT

  • Connect with someone who can respond with empathy and talk to them. Brene Brown suggests that shame cannot survive being spoken. Speak.  
  • Ask for help. Ask for your supervisor to help you prioritize. Quit picking up more work to do because no one else is. Hold people accountable. Give clear and honest feedback to them promptly.   
  • Catch people doing things right- celebrate victories and little or big WINS. Focus on gratitude. THANK people more.  
  • Ask for FEEDBACK from others…and don’t get defensive when you get it. Listen to it. Act on it.  

And my favorite:

  • Be a BADASS and don’t care what people think. Start “settling” a little bit more. Clarifying expectations is important, but you may need to lower expectations and standards …just because you can…and your expectations are not always reasonable or worth it.  

According to Brene Brown, Perfection is the furthest thing from badassery.    

3 Quick Tips to Start Practicing Self-Love Now!

3 Quick Tips to Start Practicing Self-Love Now!

Self-love is about being more committed to your happiness than to your suffering in every single moment.”- Nitika Chopra

 

 

We all know that love is the main topic of discussion in February. Everywhere we turn we see hearts, candy, and cards reminding us to honor our loved ones with a token of appreciation, which is a lovely sentiment.  While you’re contemplating the perfect way to tell someone else how much you care,  don’t forget to tune into your own heart. Here are a few ways you can carve out moments of love for yourself:

Wake with a grateful heart.

 

Before your feet even touch the floor, take a moment to acknowledge what you are grateful for such as your health, your bed, etc.

Start your morning with an affirmation.

 

When sipping your coffee or washing your face try saying to yourself something like, “I am loved,” or ” Today I am capable of so much.”

Nourish your mind + body.

 

At lunchtime, fill up your water bottle and put on your favorite calming playlist or podcast. Take this moment to recharge and center yourself.

 

Looking for more opportunities to practice self-love?

 

Check out our podcast, Second Sip, which is a continuation of our wise-women conversations at MBA.

You may also enjoy our Girls Night In events.      

 

 

Journey to New Perspectives: An Exploration of the Heart

Journey to New Perspectives: An Exploration of the Heart

Have you ever considered your “quality of life” from a whole-self perspective or considered the elements which create a happy and purposeful life? Possibly you have been gauging your personal success or failure against markers established by family, friends, or social networks. How do we know if our goals and resolutions are coming from our hearts, leading us to fulfillment, growth, and purpose, or if they are coming from habits or beliefs that no longer serve us?  What I intend to create with this conversation is the opportunity to explore our hearts for the truth. Let’s take time to take a journey to a new perspective. 

What would you see if you could remove from your awareness the habits, beliefs and unrequited dreams that keep you stuck? I mean really, who would you be and what would you know about yourself? Perhaps there is a way to actively move forward in creating your best life by subtly shifting your focus.

Let’s begin:  take an honest look at where you are now.

 

I have attached a Wheel of Wellbeing.  Where are you right now? Mark on this wheel from 0 to 10, 0 being no satisfaction and 10 being great satisfaction, in each category.  Please note, that there is no judgment that 0 is bad and 10 is good, it is simply an acknowledgment of what is happening in your life at this moment.  It’s important to note that each season of our life requires sacrifice. My hope is that you will approach this exercise with self-compassion. And, please read Mary’s recent blog for an amazing perspective and understanding of the seasons and sacrifices of life.

 

Next: create attainable goals using things that bring us joy.

 

Start with colored pens, (4 sheets) paper or chalkboard and colored chalks (I use lots of colors to make it visually fun). Sit quietly in contemplation or listen to your favorite “feel good” music. Write everything you love about yourself. “I love my nose, toes, ability to relate to people, health, strong voice, etc.” Remember to focus on things you love about yourself; listing things related to your mind, body, and spirit.

On another sheet of paper or a different section of the chalkboard, note everything that you love about your life. “I love my spouse, children, time that I have to read, time and money that I have to travel, that people trust me, etc.” The key to being authentic in this list is that you feel love as you recall these people and life experiences.

On the third sheet of paper or area of the chalkboard, select one person you love – again, allow yourself to feel love as you recall this person – and list everything you love about them. 

Now, you have three different lists: love of self, love of life, love of an individual. Put the elements of this list into categories that coincide with the 8 categories in the wheel of wellbeing: personal relationship, love relationships, personal growth, leisure and play, environment, life purpose, physical health, and financial health.  Feel free to add or change the title of a category as it suits you. 

 

Just one thing more.

 

Finally, based on what already brings you love and satisfaction in each category, ask yourself this question. What is one thing I can do that will bring even more love to this area of my life? Just one thing.

Now, here is a crucial part. This “one thing,” the one action you can create to bring even more love, must come from the heart or gut-brain and not the brain in our head. Our thinking mind will look first to what it doesn’t want and where you “aren’t good enough,” and second, to provide an answer for “improvement.” Are you with me? For this exercise to be authentic, you will want to allow the answer to unfold; to arrive in your mind while being immersed in the sense of loving and being loved. You will know the best action when the contemplation of it brings you joy.

 

So, let’s review.

 

What is one thing you can do to enhance what you already love about the 8 categories in the wheel of wellbeing: personal relationship, love relationship, personal growth, leisure and play, environment, life purpose, physical health, and financial health.

So much of who we are at this moment is a collection of habits and beliefs gathered throughout the years and decades of our life. Real growth doesn’t have to be difficult, and living your best life can be achieved by shifting your focus, and actively moving forward toward fulfillment.

Are you willing to take a journey to discover yourself anew? I look forward to hearing about your experience.

I am enough

I am enough

I, too, yearn to live a wholehearted life, and according to Brené  Brown, that means engaging our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage and compassion and connection to wake up and think, no matter what gets done and how much of it is left undone, I AM ENOUGH.

The achiever in me often thinks I HAVE NOT DONE ENOUGH, therefore I AM NOT ENOUGH. I’ve worked hard to set boundaries. The coach in me talks to clients often about not just “doing enough”, but “being enough” – choosing how to be as often, or more often, than choosing what to do. This is hard. This requires me to be vulnerable and not just do it to check another thing off my list.

Rising Strong was another affirmation for me that I can STOP. I can PAUSE. I can be. I can say I am enough and I’ve had enough. Being mindful and vulnerable is a journey. Many times I fail at it. That’s often my First Attempt In Learning.

Here are some of the tenets discussed in the book that I have been able to start or continue to focus on that resonated with me as I read the book.

Be a badass

I always wanted to be a badass. I love the words.

Badasses don’t blame others when things go wrong. I need to be less judgmental and do more of that.

I have to share the story I have made up and have those tough conversations that describe how I am feeling. I need to get curious about it and focus in on the assumptions that I have made that probably are not true.

I have learned that I can start a conversation by saying, “The story I have made up is… ” to better check in to assumptions versus blame.

Focus on compassion and cultivate trust

Dr. Brown’s research shows that compassionate people ask for what they need. They set boundaries. They ask for help and support. They give help and support to others.

They recognize that “no” is a complete sentence.

My high achiever often puts me in a state of “over functioning.” I won’t feel, I will do. I don’t need help. I help. I’m a mentor and a coach to many. I have started surrounding myself with mentors and coaches for me. I need them to help me move forward in my life.

I am learning that we don’t have to do it all alone, and I don’t think we were ever meant to. There is value to say what I mean and mean what I say. There is value in being part of a tribe.

I have started building trust by recognizing and owning my mistakes and apologizing. I give thanks more and catch people DOING THINGS RIGHT instead of catching them doing it wrong.

Reflections

Many years ago I intentionally made the decision not to focus on regret or jealousy, two emotions that I thought I could live without.

What I have learned is that living without regret is living without reflection. Sure, I said I learned and could move on, but maybe that was just the story I was making up.

I have found that there are amends to make. There are opportunities where I could have been braver and more courageous in my life. There are times I choose to be liked versus defending someone or something or taking an unpopular position. There were times with classmates, friends, and strangers that I did not stand up for someone being berated, bullied, or abused.

I have done lots of work with my own values, and that is helping me to learn that living outside of my values is no longer for me.

“People who wade in discomfort and tell the truth about their stories are real bad asses.” Dr. Brown states that people learn how to trust based on how they see us treating ourselves.

Set boundaries and be good to yourself. Shit happens and I AM ENOUGH.