Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Making Time for Self-Care


       I am overjoyed for my family. We have found the perfect little house in an area of the city that we love. It has a fantastic sunroom and a beautiful garden. Those things matter to us much more than square footage. The point being, we have been extraordinarily busy with inspections, walk-throughs, negotiations, etc. I quickly realized that I could schedule in writing time or wellness activities but not both. 

       I learned years ago that I can't give from an empty well, so I chose wellness activities. I have been able to fit in exercise, painting and a little bit of reading. While I am still a little frazzled from this whole process, I know I am in a much better place than if I had neglected to take care of myself. If I don't take care of my mental health first, then all bets are off.

       I hope that everyone has a fantastic weekend. I have so many outlines of topics that I am excited about. Hopefully, next week I'll have time to write one of them. Until then, I wish you all the best.


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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org




Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Accepting Failure As A Part of Success


       As odd as it may sound, I've learned to love mistakes and failures. Admittedly, I may not be overjoyed at first, however, when I remind myself of what a mistake or a failure actually mean and what they do for me, I am quickly back on track, more determined than ever. The reason is simple. Throughout my life, I have failed far more than I have succeeded. Anytime I have gone about learning a new skill, mastering a new technique, or began a new course of action there have always been the inevitable mistakes. How could there not be? No one starts anything new and instantly becomes a master. I like to remind myself that all masters were once beginners.


       
       The other reason I've come to love mistakes and failures is I learn a great deal from them. When I succeed, which of course I love to do, I learn very little. I learn that whatever I was doing was correct, and that's that. When I make a mistake or utterly fail at something, however, my possibilities are opened up, and I can take off in completely different directions. When I decided to regain my physical health, for example, I tried so many different types of exercise; I lost count. If anyone had told me, I would end up loving running, hiking and rock climbing I would have said they were crazy. Through many failed attempts at other forms of exercise, eventually, I did land on those and fell in love. It took all those mistakes, all those failed attempts at other forms of exercise, to find what I loved. Thank goodness I stunk at the other things I tried, or I would have never found my true joys!

       
       Not only do mistakes and failures allow me to change course directions and find my true callings, they push me to be better at them once I've found them. If I'm not occasionally failing, becoming slightly overwhelmed or experiencing a few setbacks from miscalculation, then I'm not trying hard enough. An excellent example of how this belief demonstrates itself in my life is when I go sailing. People who go sailing with me know they had better hold on tight, because if I didn't tip the boat at least once during the season, I would be disappointed in myself. I wouldn't have been sailing; I would have been sightseeing. There is nothing wrong with sightseeing, but that is not my priority. My priority is to have fun and be the best sailor I can be. As Arianna Huffington said, "Failure is not the opposite of success; it is a part of success." The following clip is part of a commencement address Denzel Washington gave. It addresses this philosophy beautifully.


       So when the inevitable mistakes and failures come in my life, I try my best to realize that they are nothing more than learning experiences that will, in all likelihood, lead me to a better place than I had been trying to get to previously. My greatest periods of growth have come during my darkest hours. It took a long time to say this, but I'm grateful for them now. I love the way Maya Angelou put it when she said, "You may encounter many defeats, but you must never be defeated."

       
       I'm not saying this is easy. I'm certainly not saying that it doesn't take practice, but once I realized this is the way life is, and accepted it, the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I am NOT defined by my mistakes but by what I do about them. Mistakes, failures, and missteps are a part of life. It's how I handle them determines everything.

       This is a fun clip from one of our family's favorite Disney movies, Meet the Robinsons. It's a fantastic reminder that failures are nothing to be ashamed of and are merely part of the process. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Please, Ask for Help!


       On May 13th, 2011 my Pops (dad) lost his battle with mental illness. His medication levels had gotten completely off, and he took his life. I not only lost my father, I lost my best friend. We talked every day. He was the kindest, funniest, most unselfish person I've ever met. The last word anybody that knew him would use to describe him would be selfish. Anyone who says a person with a mental illness who loses his/her battle with their illness is selfish hasn't dealt with mental illnesses. They haven't experienced the stigmas and often don't understand the situation. 

       Stigmas played a large role in his medications getting so far off and him being unable to ask for help. We are strong, compassionate, loving people. It's time to let the world know and to break down these stigmas. That is why I came out as The Mental Runner. It's not always easy for me or my family when the whole world knows that I have mental illnesses, but fighting these stigmas is a worthy cause that I will fight for with everything I have.

       In the spirit of breaking down those stigmas, I'm paying tribute to a fighter. The man who originally taught me to be a warr;or. A man that I am proud to call my father, and a man who will always be remembered as someone who gave his best. A truly good man.

       If you need help PLEASE ask for it. Forget about what other people think. You are worthy of help and there is hope. Click the link on the left side of your screen for the International Suicide Prevention Association, and you will be directed to the resources that can help you in your area of the world.

      This music video is what I have always had dedicated to my Pops. This is what my hearts sings out when I think of him. 









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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Marvelously Mental Mexican Soup


       My family loves Mexican dishes. The beautiful thing about that is, many can be made in extraordinarily healthy ways and still taste amazing. This Mexican soup is no exception. It is bursting with healthy ingredients and fantastic flavors! If you are serving this as a main course it will easily feed 4-6 and it only costs between $.50-$1.00 per serving depending on whether I use organic ingredients or not.

       You can make this as spicy as you like by adding more peppers. This is a family friendly version, so it is on the mild side. Also, please note that the mushrooms are completely optional. I slip them in because they are incredibly healthy and this is one of the few ways that we will eat them. Honestly, we feel the soup tastes a little better without them, but we leave them in for the health benefits.

       I realize that this recipe takes longer to prepare than most of the recipes I put up, but I usually batch cook it. I simply double the ingredients and freeze half of what I make. This reheats beautifully and it saves me from cooking another meal later on. I hope you love this recipe as much as we do. (If you do batch cook this you will ned a second soup pot or large bowl to put the first batch of blended soup into).



(Click on image to print)

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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thoughtful Thursdays

       I'm excited to announce Thoughtful Thursdays. Occasionally, I am going to take a day to reflect on some of the social media that I've created and the captions that accompanied them. I realize that many of you follow by different means such as email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, bookmarking, etc. That means many of these will be completely new to some of you. I love creating them and sharing them, so occasionally taking a day to reflect on a few will be fun. I hope they bring you joy. I certainly do enjoy creating them. 

I have had to learn to roll with the punches & never give up. Symptoms or not, I've been given this life & I intend to live it!


I don't want to just survive. I want to thrive, to live deeply and passionately. Small positive steps each day make that possible.


Symptoms can make life hard but overcoming them brings me strength, compassion and joy. I'm grateful!


Deciding to never give up & to take positive action each day was scary. Staying stuck where I was~even scarier!


I can't wait for someone to save me. Others certainly help, but I must save myself. No one can do it for me.

I'll never say attaining better mental & physical health is easy but I'll always say it's worth it. There's Hope!


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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nature Walks & Hikes for Better Mental & Physical Health

       The data that has been coming in from researchers all over the world is confirming the long-held belief that walking in nature is good for mental and physical health. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because when I began my quest for better health, this is one of the first things I was able to do to help improve my life.

       I had decided to break down all the research that has come in, as normal, that proves how incredible a simple walk on a nature trail or in a beautiful park can be for our health. I was going to cover the lowered anxiety scores, lowered blood pressure readings, lowered symptoms of depression, improved cardiovascular performance and greatly improved rumination scores. I decided against that. 

       Instead, I want to share some of the things I've seen/experienced on my walks, hikes and runs in nature. I'm going to put up a few pictures I've taken and post a one-minute video of a hike I did last Friday. If anyone wants the data, much of it can be found in Outdoor Exercise and Mental Illnesses1 or in the links at the bottom of the page. Science and data are always wonderful motivators for me, but so is the beauty found in Nature. I was tempted to put up pictures of grand wildernesses that I've taken. Instead, I've gone with pictures of ordinary things, in ordinary places, to demonstrate the philosophy that I believe in: What I look at isn't nearly as important as what I decide to see. I hope the silly titles help illustrate that point.

       First things first, I want to be clear. In the beginning, I wasn't able to walk for very long or for very far, but I kept at it. I've mentioned before that the last time I came home from a mental ward I wasn't able to walk for more than five minutes due to my obesity and the swelling in my feet from all the medications I was having to take. As you can probably tell from the first picture, I wasn't walking far, and I wasn't running anywhere (I was actually over thirty pounds heavier than this the last time I came home from a mental ward). However, small steps are infinitely better than no steps! Those humble beginnings, those small first steps, helped lead me to this life that I love. Going for outdoor walks was/is a key ingredient in my wellness plan.



       Below is the video from last week's hike and a few pictures I've taken while walking, hiking and running in nature. I hope you enjoy them and that they may inspire someone to step out their front door and go for a walk. It could be the small step in the right direction that changes someone's life. We never know unless we try.



Stump

Feather

Sand

Sunrise

Tidepool
Sunset

Puddle

Swamp

Beach

Creek

Marsh

Leaves

Fungus

Path

Trees

City Park

       Obviously, I am not a photographer and all of those pictures were taken in public parks and nature trails around our house or around whatever little vacation spot my family and I may have been at (I always look up public parks and nature trails when we travel). The point is, nature is everywhere. Even in the city, it's never far away. People don't have to take a trip to Alaska, the Outback or the Serenghetti to go for a walk in nature and improve their health. 

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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How to Say YES to Life With Dr. Frankl

       There are very few things that have altered the course of my life in as profound a way as Dr. Frankl’s book, Man’s Search For Meaning. When I think I just can't go on anymore, and that life has handed me a raw deal, I grab this book and devour it. In its pages, Dr. Frankl tells of his grim experiences in concentration camps, which led him to logotherapy (an existential method of psychiatry). His descriptions of life in those death camps and lessons for survival always inspire me. For three years he labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife all perished. He makes the argument that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed vigor. His theory, known as logotherapy, holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, but the discovery and pursuit of what is meaningful to each of us, as individuals. By, "saying yes to life in spite of everything," he demonstrates how to go about finding that meaning.

       After losing his entire family and spending years in concentration camps, he was able to come up with remarkable solutions to life’s most vexing problems. While his compassion for humanity drips from the pages of this book, he did not allow for much self-pity. He believed in finding solutions. When no solutions could be found, he directed his patients and readers to find a meaning to the problem/suffering and move on. So be warned, when I read this the first time I felt as if I had been handed a new lease on life while being given a hug and swift kick up the backside, all at the same time. It just so happens that I often need all three.

       What that means is this is not a new age self-help book that pats readers on the back with shallow motivation that fades a few weeks after reading. Dr. Frankl was both a psychiatrist and a neurologist. His vivid account of his ordeals and the heart-warming humanity he witnessed are coupled with verifiable data and case studies. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He is direct and honest. {That hasn't prevented his book from selling over twelve million copies and being voted as one of the top ten most influential books of all time in a survey done by the Library of Congress}.

       One of my favorite examples of his honesty and directness occurred when a reporter asked him to describe the difference between psychoanalysis and logotherapy. The reporter had described psychoanalysis by stating, “During psychoanalysis, the patient must lie down on a couch and tell you things which sometimes are very disagreeable to tell.” In his typical straightforward, yet humorous way, Dr. Frankl replied, “Now, in logotherapy the patient may remain sitting erect but he must hear things which sometimes are very disagreeable to hear.”

       Dr. Frankl helped me realize that while there are no cures for my conditions, there are ways to minimize symptoms and find meaning and purpose in them. I was forced to reanalyze my outlook/attitude towards my diagnoses. Thank goodness. As he did for so many others, Dr. Frankl helped save my life!

       Instead of summarizing and giving my interpretations of his book, because I can in no way enhance his work, I am gong to give a few snippets that I love. I am hard pressed to find a wasted sentence in this book. There is no fluff. The following are simply a few examples of the many sentences that I have highlighted in all three copies I own. I had to buy a second copy because the pages were beginning to fall out of the first from reading it so many times. The third is a digital copy that I keep on my phone so that I can take it with me everywhere I go.

Dr. Frankl writes:

~As a professor in two fields, neurology and psychiatry, I am fully aware of the extent to which man is subject to biological, psychological and sociological conditions. But in addition to being a professor in two fields I am a survivor of four camps —concentration camps, that is—and as such I also bear witness to the unexpected extent to which man is capable of defying and braving even the worst conditions conceivable.


~We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation—just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer—we are challenged to change ourselves.


~There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life. There is much wisdom in the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”


~After all, “saying yes to life in spite of everything,” to use the phrase in which the title of a German book of mine is couched, presupposes that life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable.


~Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.


~Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather determines himself whether he gives in to conditions or stands up to them. In other words, man is ultimately self-determining. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.


~The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.


~Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.


       These few quotes from Man’s Search for Meaning in no way represent what the book stands for as a whole, neither do they offer up the personal accounts, data or solutions that are packed throughout its pages. My hope in putting them up is that they may rekindle someone’s spirit and lead others to read his work, not to summarize it in any way. That would be doing Dr. Frankl, a true hero of mine, a great disservice. The solutions, hope, empowerment and restored faith in ourselves and in humanity can be found in the book’s pages.
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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org