All posts by Teresa Bell

The Seven Dimensions of Wellness

Wellness is often used to describe care of your physical health through exercise and nutrition, however, overall wellness goes beyond physiology.  To help bolster the idea that wellness includes more than your body, seven dimensions of wellness have been developed to encourage higher quality of life, and to remind us that neglecting a dimension, or overly focusing on one will lead to an imbalance.

Emotional– this dimension highlights the importance of acknowledging and accepting the whole range of your emotions, and that by doing so, you will strengthen the relationships with yourself, others, and the intimacy experienced in those relationships.  Wellness in this area includes self-esteem, optimism, the ability to cope with changes and stressors, asserting boundaries, and feelings of autonomy.

Spiritual– spirituality is encompassed by the search for meaning and purpose in the existence of humans.  It includes a sense of connectedness to life and nature, the universe, and with those around us.  Most notably, this dimension is about establishing consistency in your values and beliefs, and living them.  Spiritual wellness includes hope, faith, and finding harmony and peace in your life.

Intellectual– this dimension focuses on creativity, learning, and mental stimulation.  Strength is built through balancing your interests with the awareness of current events and issues.  Wellness is achieved by seeking what is learned, and applying it when making decisions, navigating relationships, and embracing lifelong learning opportunities.

Physical–  Wellness in this area is primarily achieved through moving your body.  It is also important to achieve adequate nutrition, and avoiding behaviors like smoking and drinking that can cause poor health.  Taking precautions and purposefully engaging in physical activity are key.

Social– this dimension is focused on connection with others.  Finding your place in society through your contributions is a hallmark, and you can support your self-acceptance and esteem through relationships with those that are supportive and encouraging of you.  You can gain a sense of wellness by being present for others as well.

Occupational- this dimension focuses on a sense of accomplishment, success and growth through your career, while balancing duties and aspirations with the other areas of your life.  Wellness is achieved through positive feelings from contributing, personal satisfaction with your output and acknowledgment from others of your talents and skills.

Environmental– Wellness in this dimension is achieved by caring for the environment through conservation, recycling, reuse and protection efforts.  Recognizing that your actions and choices have an impact on the environment will help you prioritize your values related to the world around you, and shape your daily habits.

Champion of Minority Mental Health: Bebe Moore Campbell

In May 2008, the United States House of Representatives declared July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and BIPOC* Mental Health Awareness Month.  This declaration was the result of advocate and author Bebe Moore Campbell seeking to highlight mental health concerns in minority communities, particularly the Black community, as well as the disparities in treatment and mortality in these communities compared to white communities.

Bebe Moore Campbell was a teacher, journalist, and best-selling author, writing for publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, Essence and Ebony before transitioning to fiction novel writing.  Although fiction was her focus in the 1990s, she wrote about the stereotyping of Black people, and countered them by choosing to paint her characters as wealthy and successful.  She also focused on real events impacting the Black community, such as the lynching of Emmett Till.

Moore Campbell first focused on mental health in the Black community through the writing of her children’s book, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, highlighting a little girl’s experience of growing up with a mentally ill mother.  She was awarded an Outstanding Media Award for Literature by The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for this book in 2003.  She followed up with The 72-Hour Hold, referencing the typical length of time someone is placed under an involuntary psychiatric hospitalization order.  This book focused on bipolar disorder, and was inspired by a family member of Bebe.

Bebe Moore Campbell was also a founding member of the NAMI Inglewood chapter, which expanded into the NAMI Urban Los Angeles Chapter in California.  She advocated by speaking out against stigma of mental illness, and promoted treatment and education in communities of color, and used her platform to push this agenda into the focus of mainstream society.  She assembled a taskforce along with her friend, Linda Wharton-Boyd, to push legislation to spread awareness, encourage mental health checkups, access to medications, community mental health services, and declaration of a minority mental health awareness month.  Sadly, Bebe Moore Campbell abruptly became ill with brain cancer, and lost her battle with the disease in November 2006.  Wharton-Boyd continued the rally for an awareness month, and Representatives Albert Wynn of Maryland and Diane Watson of California co-signed legislation, which passed.

Although strides have been made to reduce stigma and connect people to mental health care, more work is still to be done in BIPOC* communities.  An American Psychological Association report found that in 2015, only 4% of psychologists are Black, 5% are Hispanic, and 5% are Asian.  Roughly 30% of Black and Hispanic adults living with mental illness actually receive care, and there is continued lack of access to medications and preventative community mental health care.  We can honor Bebe Moore Campbell’s efforts by striving for inclusivity and wide reaching access to care, and continued advocacy efforts against stigma, and for prevention to curb the need for inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations.  Equity in mental health care is wellness for us all!

 

For resources, information and statistics related to minority mental health, check out:

Learn About Minority Mental Health Month

Bebe Moore Campbell Was the Champion for Mental Health We Need Right Now

Mental Health Disparities: Diverse Populations 

National Alliance on Mental Health

Black Mental Health Matters (resources) 

Black Mental Health Alliance 

Mental Health Resources for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)

BIPOC Mental Health

Mental and Behavioral Health-Hispanics

National Latino Behavioral Health Association 

 

*Black and Indigenous Persons of Color

 

How to Be Supportive Without “Fixing”

It is very human to want to help someone, particularly someone you care about, when you see them stressed out or in pain.  It is also very human to seek validation for your own experiences.  Can you recall a time you needed to be heard, and someone told you what you “should” do instead?  Not very helpful, huh?

As illustrated in the short video below, we can use empathy to be present for others during their struggles as to not fall into “fixing” mode- although well-intentioned, unless your thoughts and advice are requested, you should avoid giving them as to not alienate the person opening up to you, because advice may not be what they are seeking, or what they feel they need right then.  Do not assume what they may need- ask them how you can help them in the moment to support their feelings, not to fix the issue.

Be an active listener, seeking the message being sent to you, instead of thinking of what you want to say next.  You can reflect to the speaker that you heard them by repeating back in your words what they said, asking for clarification, and even just saying things like, “wow, that sounds rough,” and “what a difficult day you had.”  Doing so illustrates that you represent a safe space where the speaker can open up, instead of a person who may be judging or not understanding them.  You can also ask open ended questions, such as, “what happened next?” and “how did that make you feel?”  These invite the speaker to fully express their feelings, and helps you truly hear them.

A discussion between you and the person you care for should occur to help you both articulate the ways that you like to give and receive support in your relationship, and to create space for you both to address issues together, instead of working against each other.  This is pertinent practice for you to advocate for yourself when someone is trying to support you, and for you to know how to best assist someone when called on to do so.

For additional information on supporting and not fixing, check out the following:

It’s Not About The Nail                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg

Stop Trying to Fix Things, Just Listen! https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/skills-healthy-relationships/201606/stop-trying-fix-things-just-listen

Relationship Advice: How to Stop “Fixing” and Start Listening https://www.growingself.com/stop-fixing/

How to show up for a friend without trying to fix their problems, according to a therapist                         https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/how-to-support-a-friend-without-fixing-problems/

Daily Affirmations for a Positive Mindset

Increasing expectations for productivity and perfection placed on each of us in a world of “Go! Go! Go!” can bring about feelings of frustration, failure, and negativity.  Having a rainbow of emotions is something we all experience and have to manage.   At times, feeling low or upset can make getting through the day seem impossible, and that the world expects you to ALWAYS smile through your pain.  Healthy positivity entails being honest about your feelings and expectations with yourself and others, not expecting or trying to attain perfection, and acknowledging your mood has direct implications on your outlook and output in a given day.

Reciting daily affirmations is a tool to help combat negativity.  You can try the examples below, and may enjoy coming up with your own.  Place them in locations you encounter early in your day, like your bathroom mirror or refrigerator door.  Consider using objects, like keychains, or participating in The Kindness Rocks Project . You can also utilize an app, like ThinkUp (iOS and Android devices.), to search affirmations and record your own, or put an affirmation in the subject line of your phone alarm clock.  Remember: “You are what you think!”

  • I am loved, and I am lovable.
  • I am enough.
  • I let go of past hurts as they no longer serve me.
  • I am capable.
  • I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet.
  • I will utilize my talents today.
  • I wake up today with strength in my heart, and clarity in my mind.
  • My fears of the unknown are fading away.
  • I’m getting stronger every day.
  • I can do this.
  • I have the courage to say no.
  • I will not take negativity from others personally.
  • This is my body, and I love it.
  • It is fine for me to make mistakes; I will use them to grow.
  • I will not apologize for being myself.
  • My goals are my focus.
  • Success is in my future.
  • I will not sweat the small stuff.
  • I will work smarter, not harder.
  • I will celebrate the small victories.

NOVACares does not endorse the application referenced above; it is included for illustrative purposes only.

Moving From Racism and Discrimination to Healing and Inclusion

If you have been paying attention to the news and social media outlets in the past week, you undoubtedly have seen events unfolding around policy brutality, racial injustice, and frustrations of many boiling over as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.  One pressing issue on the minds of many is regarding privilege.

Privilege is unseen to those that have it, and we each have to be mindful not to diminish or dismiss experiences, hardships or traumas of others just because it is not our direct experience.  To do so is alienating, and furthers the divide between humans.  Seeking and succeeding in solidarity requires us to give focus to the traits and experiences that highlight commonalities among us instead of solely focusing on what makes us different, and treating those differences as negatives or deficiencies.  Appreciation of those differences will also serve to connect us, if we allow space to appreciate individual and cultural uniqueness.

As the days move forward, many difficult conversations will be had about privilege, community and law enforcement relations, and racial inequality.  You may experience uncertainty about what to do for yourself or others, engage in self-evaluation about personal and implicit biases, and feel diminished hope because the pain feels too great.  However, there are means to maintain hope and contribute to move our community forward.

Ways you can take care of yourself include taking a pause and logging off social media accounts, limiting your news intake, and avoiding comment sections if the content overwhelms you.  Take a moment to think before you type and respond, take deep breaths and disconnect if you need to, and allow yourself to revisit content at a later time. It is okay to ask others about their experiences to gain awareness of perspectives you may not be attuned to, and allow this to bolster your relationships and self-growth.

Ways you can support others include checking in with your family, friends and neighbors, encouraging them to engage in self-care, and linking them to resources if you suspect they are struggling with their mental health.  Hearing your loved ones out on their experiences and thoughts about race relations is a very validating and supportive way to be present for them.

If you or anyone you know is struggling at this time, you can text HOME to 741741 for confidential chat support from trained staff, or call 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7).

Setting and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries


Boundaries are absolutely vital for healthy relationships- most importantly, your relationship with yourself.  It is a way to maintain balance in your life by learning, acknowledging and holding others to your personal limits.  This supports positive self-image and healthy self-esteem.  For most of us, it is not a skill we were taught, rather, through experience and watching others, we determine what is- and is not- acceptable for each of us.  As this skill can be challenging to develop and maintain, below are some tips from Dr. Dana Gionta for setting and maintaining healthy boundaries (courtesy of Psych Central article, 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries by Margarita Tartakovsky, MS):

  1. Name your limits.

You can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand. So identify your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits, Gionta said. Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed.  “Those feelings help us identify what our limits are.”

  1. Tune into your feelings.

Gionta has observed two key feelings in others that are red flags or cues that we’re letting go of our boundaries: discomfort and resentment. She suggested thinking of these feelings on a continuum from one to 10. Six to 10 is in the higher zone, she said.

If you’re at the higher end of this continuum, during an interaction or in a situation, Gionta suggested asking yourself, what is causing that? What is it about this interaction, or the person’s expectation that is bothering me?

Resentment usually “comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated.” It’s often a sign that we’re pushing ourselves either beyond our own limits because we feel guilty (and want to be a good daughter or wife, for instance), or someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us, she said.

“When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a cue to us they may be violating or crossing a boundary,” Gionta said.

  1. Be direct.

With some people, maintaining healthy boundaries doesn’t require a direct and clear-cut dialogue. Usually, this is the case if people are similar in their communication styles, views, personalities and general approach to life, Gionta said. They’ll “approach each other similarly.”

With others, such as those who have a different personality or cultural background, you’ll need to be more direct about your boundaries. Consider the following example: “one person feels [that] challenging someone’s opinions is a healthy way of communicating,” but to another person this feels disrespectful and tense.

There are other times you might need to be direct. For instance, in a romantic relationship, time can become a boundary issue, Gionta said. Partners might need to talk about how much time they need to maintain their sense of self and how much time to spend together.

  1. Give yourself permission.

Fear, guilt and self-doubt are big potential pitfalls, Gionta said. We might fear the other person’s response if we set and enforce our boundaries. We might feel guilty by speaking up or saying no to a family member. Many believe that they should be able to cope with a situation or say yes because they’re a good daughter or son, even though they “feel drained or taken advantage of.” We might wonder if we even deserve to have boundaries in the first place.

Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they’re a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to preserve them.

  1. Practice self-awareness.

Again, boundaries are all about honing in on your feelings and honoring them. If you notice yourself slipping and not sustaining your boundaries, Gionta suggested asking yourself: What’s changed? Consider “What I am doing or [what is] the other person doing?” or “What is the situation eliciting that’s making me resentful or stressed?” Then, mull over your options: “What am I going to do about the situation? What do I have control over?”

  1. Consider your past and present.

How you were raised along with your role in your family can become additional obstacles in setting and preserving boundaries. If you held the role of caretaker, you learned to focus on others, letting yourself be drained emotionally or physically, Gionta said. Ignoring your own needs might have become the norm for you.

Also, think about the people you surround yourself with, she said. “Are the relationships reciprocal?” Is there a healthy give and take?

Beyond relationships, your environment might be unhealthy, too. For instance, if your workday is eight hours a day, but your co-workers stay at least 10 to 11, “there’s an implicit expectation to go above and beyond” at work, Gionta said. It can be challenging being the only one or one of a few trying to maintain healthy boundaries, she said. Again, this is where tuning into your feelings and needs and honoring them becomes critical.

  1. Make self-care a priority.

Gionta helps her clients make self-care a priority, which also involves giving yourself permission to put yourself first. When we do this, “our need and motivation to set boundaries become stronger,” she said. Self-care also means recognizing the importance of your feelings and honoring them. These feelings serve as “important cues about our wellbeing and about what makes us happy and unhappy.”

Putting yourself first also gives you the “energy, peace of mind and positive outlook to be more present with others and be there” for them.” And “When we’re in a better place, we can be a better wife, mother, husband, co-worker or friend.”

  1. Seek support.

If you’re having a hard time with boundaries, “seek some support, whether [that’s a] support group, church, counseling, coaching or good friends.” With friends or family, you can even make “it a priority with each other to practice setting boundaries together [and] hold each other accountable.”

Consider seeking support through resources, too. Gionta likes the following books: The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time and Boundaries in Marriage (along with several books on boundaries by the same authors).

  1. Be assertive.

Of course, we know that it’s not enough to create boundaries; we actually have to follow through. Even though we know intellectually that people aren’t mind readers, we still expect others to know what hurts us, Gionta said. Since they don’t, it’s important to assertively communicate with the other person when they’ve crossed a boundary.

In a respectful way, let the other person know what in particular is bothersome to you and that you can work together to address it, Gionta said.

  1. Start small.

Like any new skill, assertively communicating your boundaries takes practice. Gionta suggested starting with a small boundary that isn’t threatening to you, and then incrementally increasing to more challenging boundaries. “Build upon your success, and [at first] try not to take on something that feels overwhelming.”

“Setting boundaries takes courage, practice and support,” Gionta said. And remember that it’s a skill you can master.

Source:  https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-way-to-build-and-preserve-better-boundaries/

Cumulative Stress: What is it, and what to do about it

Cumulative stress is an accumulation of stress that impacts bodily functioning, cognitive output, mood and your ability to function healthily.  Stress can be both positive; such as working towards a degree or getting a promotion, and negative; such as making a major life decision or experiencing a loss.  The impact of these positive and negative stressors without the balance of self-care and routine can be detrimental to your health and overall functioning, resulting in illness, injury, feelings of depletion, and inability to meet goals and fulfill obligations.

To manage your stress, “keep your bucket full,” meaning, be purposeful in replenishing your energy through adequate sleep, healthy diet, exercise, healthy relationships and hobbies.  If you do not, you may end up involuntarily refilling your bucket after a sickness or injury, when you have no choice but to sit and rest.

Per the Office of Student and Community Services, Department of Student Services of Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville, Maryland, here are some ways to combat cumulative stress:

  • Create a daily routine to help regain a sense of control
  • Eat balanced, healthy meals
  • Get extra rest to let your body relax and recover
  • Exercise
  • Let frustration and anger out through safe, exhausting physical activity
  • Ask for support from friends, colleagues, and loved ones
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs, and tobacco
  • Limit caffeine
  • Don’t dwell on news of the crisis; gather the information you need, then turn off the TV or radio
  • Be aware of the impact of your own past experiences on your current functioning
  • Seek mental health assistance when you are concerned about your reactions.

For more information on cumulative stress, visit:

https://jamesclear.com/cumulative-stress

https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/emergency/resources/mental-cumulative.aspx

Self-Care in Minutes

Self-care is an intentional activity meant to support your emotional, mental, and physical well-being.  It is often overlooked, but is vital for a healthy relationship with yourself.  Self-care strengthens self-esteem, the experience of positive feelings and self-confidence, and allows you to maintain openness to positivity from others.  Self-care will also help you to have the energy to get through work and personal commitments.  It can look a lot of ways, like asserting boundaries, saying “no”, asking for help, forgiving yourself, and taking a break.  Self-care does not require grand effort or lots of money; below are some examples of what you can do to take care of yourself:

5 minutes-

  • Drink a glass of water or a cup of tea/coffee/cocoa
  • Text a friend
  • Stretch/take deep breaths
  • Meditate or say a prayer
  • Listen to a motivational song
  • Watch a cute animal video

15 minutes-

  • Write in your journal
  • Make a grocery list or menu
  • Go for a walk
  • Have a dance party in your jammies
  • Change your sheets
  • Phone a friend

30 minutes-

  • Take a bath
  • Exfoliate/apply a face mask
  • Engage in a hobby
  • Take a nap
  • Cook/enjoy a favorite snack or meal
  • Exercise

1+ hours-

  • Give yourself a mani/pedi
  • Watch a favorite movie/show
  • Curl up in a blanket, and listen to music
  • Read a book
  • Attend a therapy session
  • Have a video call with family/friends