Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 2019

TW: This post discusses suicide. 

Every year that I’ve done this blog, I’ve written about Suicide Prevention Month. Personally, it’s never easy to write, but the information is so necessary that I feel I’d be misleading you by not writing about it. Because it’s not enough to be aware that suicide is widespread in this country – we have to do more than that. But how?

If you think this issue is going away, I’m here to tell you that it’s not. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide the tenth-leading cause of death in the United States. It is the second-leading cause of death among individuals in the 10-14, 15-24, and 25-34 age groups. It is the fourth-leading cause of death among individuals in the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups. The AFSP reported that in 2017, there were an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts, and 4.3% of all adults in the United States admitted to having suicidal thoughts at some point that year.

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But this month is not just about bringing awareness to the prevalence of suicide but educating people on how to prevent it. There are tons of resources available from organizations and advocacy groups that discuss how we can work to prevent suicide and while they’re available year-round, Suicide Prevention Month provides some time to specifically discuss suicide prevention and the best ways to approach it. The National Alliance on Mental Illnessthe Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and the CDC all have pages dedicated not only to suicide prevention but to this month especially. 

Next week (September 8-14) is National Suicide Prevention Week and during the week is World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10). There’s plenty more to add to the discussion that will continue as the month goes on whether you’re going to #BeThe1To or talk about #SuicidePrevention or #StigmaFree, but I do want to leave you with this. When it comes to the topic of suicide, asking for help is not easy. Neither is trying to help those who are struggling. But we have to keep fighting – and there’s plenty to fight for.

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Types of Self-Care and Ways to Practice

While exploring my relationship with self-care this week, I realized something. It’s hard for me to practice self-care because outside of a loose definition, I don’t know what it looks like. I’m a person that needs examples of explanations – you can’t just give me a definition and expect that to be sufficient.

That’s where I struggle with self-care. Just practice physical self-care – take care of your physical self I would read. That’s a good idea, but what can I do that will actually accomplish those goals? So, I decided to select five of the most prominent types of self-care and not only provide a brief explanation but toss in a few activities you could do to put it into practice as well.

Physical Self-Care

This might seem like the most obvious one, but it’s obvious for a reason! You have to take care of your body if you want to live a long and healthy life. Oftentimes people see this and think it just means they have to exercise more (and that’s fine if you do!) but it’s also doing the little things throughout your day to make sure you’re feeling as healthy as possible.

Examples of practicing physical self-care: Eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking as much water as you can, getting enough sleep, going to the doctor when you need to

Emotional Self-Care

Emotional self-care is not simply ‘dealing with your emotions’ but dealing with them in a healthy way. We all have healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with our emotions – in this case, it’s not just about being self-aware, but making a concerted effort to make sure we’re trying the healthy activities over the unhealthy ones even if we don’t want to. Especially if we don’t want to.

Examples of practicing emotional self-care: journaling and/or writing down how you feel, creating art (how you define ‘art’ is totally up to you!), going to a place that brings peace (park, lake, home, etc.), having a good cry 

Social Self-Care

This aspect of self-care is all about making sure you’re forming healthy relationships with the people in your life. That doesn’t just mean doing activities that you want to do, though, because social relationships are different for people. For example? Introverts, you’re probably going to need to get out of your comfort zone – just make sure it’s with people you either like or want to get to know. Extroverts, you might be so concerned with being around people that you’re less concerned with the quality of person that’s around you. But at the end of the day, healthy relationships should be the result.

Examples of practicing social self-care: learning how much energy you need to be around other people, having meaningful interactions, nurturing the relationships you currently have

Spiritual Self-Care

Practicing spiritual self-care sounds more complicated than it is because when people see it, they immediately think of religion. And while spirituality can be synonymous with religion, it does not have to be. Spiritual self-care is all about exploring your values and belief systems and trying to focus on something bigger than yourself. It might all sound vague but if you’re doing things that nurture your soul and contribute to a greater good, you’re on the right path.

Examples of spiritual self-care: contributing time or money to a cause you care about, attending religious services (if you’re religious), meditating, introspection and self-reflection

Mental Self-Care

When I looked up mental self-care I saw it being associated a lot with intellectual self-care as well, which helped clear up the definition for me. This one is fairly simple – keep your mind active! Think of this as physical self-care but for your brain. Yes, every now an then it’s nice to turn your brain off and just relax, as long as you’re making time to keep your mind sharp and challenge yourself.

Examples of mental self-care: solving puzzles, reading books, exploring arts and culture

So, is there an activity you see here that you’d like to do more? Something not listed that you think people should know about? Let me know in the comments!

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A Change in Perspective

Since making the decision not to move, I’ve done some thinking about my life. It’s been some time since I’ve made a decision this big, and I feel the same pressure now that I’ve felt when I’ve made a big decision in the past. It’s a feeling of okay, I did this…now what? While making the decision is important, it brings with it all this brand-new, self-imposed pressure. Basically, since I’m not doing the specific thing, what can I do now?

I am not the type of person to only change one aspect of my life at a time. I often feel that when I make a change, it has to touch every facet of who I am and what I do. I don’t like this about myself, but I also know that it’s true. And I want to change.

I’ve hopped, skipped and jumped through my adult life in the three years since graduating college. Every move I’ve made has been done with an eye on making a different move in the future. I’ve never actually been settled in one place and felt at home there because I was always focused on where I’m going next. Instead of letting my life happen, I was trying to pigeonhole everything.

For the first time, I’m in a position where I don’t have a ‘next place’ that I want to go live. I’m just in the place I am now until something changes. But honestly, that part is key. I’ve never had that before. I’m in a spot where I just need to take my life day by day and figure it out. That might sound like a common thing for most people (I feel like a lot of you are reading this and thinking well duh…), but it’s never really hit me like that before.

I thought I would know where I was going in life before I got there – that’s how I’ve viewed things in the past. But maybe that’s not how it is. Either way, I’m learning to take things as they come and improve myself where I can. I’m going to work on making the pressure I put on myself dissipate. One way or another, my life is going to happen. Maybe I’ll understand it before it happens, maybe I won’t. But now, more than ever, I’m along for the ride.

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I’m Back…And Here We Are

Things have been very strange for the past month. Not happy or sad, good or terrible, difficult or easy. Just very, very strange.

This month, I was supposed to move to Europe and begin a job teaching English. It’s something I’d been looking forward to for a very long time. In fact, I’d taken all the necessary steps months in advance because of how sure I was about this situation. But last month, about six weeks before I was supposed to head out, a feeling hit me. It would be easy to just say I had second thoughts and leave it at that, but that wasn’t it.

Sometimes with second thoughts, you’re just afraid that you’re doubting yourself, and it’s not uncommon to go ahead with the decision you’ve made. But once I got that feeling that I didn’t want to go anymore, it stuck and it stayed there. And while I’m not feeling any one type of way about it, it is…weird.

I’m not going to get into the details right now, because that’s not why I’m sharing this. Maybe one day I’ll share that story on this blog, but that day is not today. At the moment, the most important part of this decision isn’t the decision that I’ve made – it’s everything else that’s going to happen to me now. Say what you will, but a decision not to do something is still a decision – it might not sound that way, but it’s true. And now, even though I’m not moving halfway around the world, my life is still going to change. That’s the nature of making any sort of important decision in life. In some form or other, it will change the trajectory of where you’re headed.

I’m sorry I was gone from here for a while – I couldn’t post as much as I wanted because honestly, it’s been hard to wrap my head around what I’m doing these days. But I’m in a good spot in a ton of ways. As I long as I focus on that, I’ll be good to figure out what’s next. I’m hoping to continue to give you all some #premium mental health content going forward in addition to joining me on this journey. Hope you’re along for the ride!

 

I’ll See You in August

Hi everyone!

I originally wasn’t going to write this, but then I also realized that it would be uncool for me to just go on radio silence for a month so I thought I would explain. I’ve got a few very big decisions to make in the coming weeks about some stuff in my personal life, and while I’m figuring this out I’m going to need a lot of time to myself to think and contemplate my next move in life. There will be lots of change in my life in the coming weeks as I’ve alluded to in the past but now, it’s not the change I’d originally planned – it’s something new.

All of this thinking, reflecting and contemplation has made it damn near impossible to focus on anything else at the moment, and so I’ll be taking a break from the blog for the rest of the month. To be clear, my mental health is in a good place and I am perfectly safe – that’s not what this is about at all. I hope I can better explain my absence when I return as well as get back to churning out that sweet, premium mental health content we all love so much. But I need some time to process what’s been going on, and the best way for me to do that is to step away and make sure I’m being as considerate as possible to the situation. Thank you for understanding and don’t worry, you’ll be hearing from me soon!

A Reminder for When I’m Stressed

Yesterday I missed an appointment with my psychiatrist. I got stuck in a meeting at work and by the time I reached the doctor’s office, I was too late. It’s easy (and obvious) to see why something like that would cause me stress. Heck, it would cause anyone stress. But while I was waiting to reschedule my appointment (to today, thankfully not too long!), I got rid of the stress. Or rather, the stress got rid of me.

It’s safe to say that life is pretty stressful. Every day brings its own challenges and decisions to make, and every single one of them can affect how the rest of your day goes. It’s enough to make anyone a little overwhelmed on a day-to-day basis. But what if those decisions weren’t such a big deal? What if everything wasn’t some huge decision. What if a choice was just a choice?

I’m sure a lot of you already know where I’m going with this – long story short, s*&% happens – but you might not know why, and why it’s so much easier said than done. I have a difficult time accepting when things don’t go according to plan. It’s not because I’m a perfectionist, though; rather, it has to do with how I view myself.

As I’ve said before, I don’t like myself very much. And so when I mess up, I assume people don’t like me because of it. Why? Because I don’t like me because of it, so I assume people must not like me either.

But that’s ridiculous, right? In my experience, few people get that upset when mistakes are made every once in a while. It gets more frustrating when it happens on a more common basis but for the most part, people forgive an innocent mistake. But I don’t see it as a mistake – I see it as a character flaw in myself.

Now we could talk all day long about why I view myself that way, but I think the more productive path would be to discuss the things I remembered that reminded me that it’s going to be okay:

  1. It’s going to be okay
  2. It’s not the end of the world
  3. Your life will go on
  4. These things happen
  5. It will work itself out

Now I hope in a future blog post I will be able to elaborate on these but for now, I’ll just say this: it’s one thing to say these things to yourself to make yourself feel better; it’s another thing to believe, really believe them.

I’m not saying I fully believe in any of those things in the long term. But I believed them today, and at that moment, and that was enough. That method of thinking got me through that moment and on to the next and got me to continue on with my day and my life. When you’re feeling stressed out I would take that phrase – s*&% happens – and add two more words to it. Stuff happens to everyone. We all go through it, and that’s one of the common experiences we have as humans. So maybe you made a mistake today. Maybe something went wrong. Do you need any more proof of your humanity than that?

 

Strategies for Accepting a Compliment

On Tuesday I talked about how difficult it is for me to accept a compliment. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that the main reason I can’t really accept a compliment is that I don’t think all that highly of myself. However, despite this, I have gotten increasingly better at accepting compliments from people. How do I do it? Well, I’ve come up with a few strategies that help me not get sidetracked when someone has something nice to say. Here are some of my favorites:

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