When to Disclose Your Mental Health Issues (And When Not To)

anxious woman at conference table with co-workers

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues. It can be hard to determine when it’s the right time to talk about your conditions, and when it’s the right time to sit back and stay tight-lipped. How do you decide?

In the Workplace

My clients often discuss the challenges of dealing with mental health issues in the workplace. They sometimes ask, “Should I tell my employer about my depression?” A lot of times, it depends.

There are some positive signs that might foreshadow a favorable reaction when it comes to talking to your employer about your mental health. The first question I always ask my clients is, “What do you expect or stand to gain from making this disclosure?” Sometimes the answer is direct and concrete, such as more time to complete an assignment or task. Other times it might be about being able to schedule a break in the work day to make a weekly therapy or doctor appointment. Continue reading When to Disclose Your Mental Health Issues (And When Not To)

The College Student’s Guide to Mental Health (What I Wish I Knew)

female college student stressed grabbing hair holding binder

Society and pop culture portray college as a wild time loaded with sleepless nights and packed with parties, but I’ll tell you the truth. College is filled with a different type of sleepless nights when you’re suffering from mental illness — nights filled with long anxiety attacks and horrible thoughts and mornings filled with dread of attending class for fear of having an anxiety attack in the classroom.

There are things I know now that I wish I knew then, but the good news is, now I can share my tips with all of you. If you’re feeling hopeless about getting through college alive, here’s a guide for you. Continue reading The College Student’s Guide to Mental Health (What I Wish I Knew)

How To Survive Wedding Season Stress

bride planning wedding on tablet

Life transitions — regardless of whether they are happy or sad occasions—are inherently stressful. And yet, they are something we all go through at one time or another, whether it’s a job change, a break-up, a big move, or the birth or death of a loved one. Watching others go through these transitions can be stressful as well, especially if they trigger our own difficult memories or feelings.

While wedding season can be a time of fun and merriment, it can unearth all sorts of mixed emotions. Weddings are a major life event jam-packed with feelings of fear and high expectations — expectations that can be easily crushed.

If we are the ones getting married, we will likely have our own deeply personal set of fears about this transition: Will life ever be the same as it once was? What if our feelings change? Will our marriage last? These questions are natural, but extremely stressful nonetheless. Continue reading How To Survive Wedding Season Stress

Sleeping With Anxiety: 5 Tips to Stop Sharing a Bed With Your Worries

woman in bed anxiety light on

Despite advances in neuroscience during the past several decades, sleep continues to remain mostly a mystery. We know we need it as much as water, food and air. We can go weeks without eating food, but what would happen if you went weeks without sleep? Maybe you have. Various degrees of insomnia, and official sleep disorders, are serious conditions. But, what about periodic anxieties that are significant enough to disrupt our sleep. Missing one night of sleep can disrupt our normal biorhythms enough to disrupt the next night’s, and the next!

Anxiety, for the most part, originates in the mind. The body sensations and feelings we have surrounding anxiety occur because of the psychosomatic nature of our mind-body system. In other words, when we think about situations, even if subconsciously, that appear to be in some way a threat or potential danger, hormones and chemicals are secreted from glands which then give rise to the physiological experiences of tension, tightness, constriction.

These are useful in fight or flight situations, which we believe, at a subconscious level, exist — even if they don’t. The perceived threat or danger is mostly psychological and consists of “what if” statements and pictures in the mind, that are at best unpleasant, and at most, lifestyle threatening. Most all, anxiety is about a future that is, factually, unknown. Anxiety is based on a lot of conjecture.

If you’re too anxious to sleep, there are things you can do to help set up an environment, both internal and external, more conducive to sleep. Consider these tips: Continue reading Sleeping With Anxiety: 5 Tips to Stop Sharing a Bed With Your Worries

5 Things You Should Know About Depression and Christianity

man praying church bible

“Why doesn’t the church know what to do with depression?” That’s the question I’ve been asking myself since the moment I experienced my depressive episode. The perspectives about mental disorders vary greatly throughout the church.

This isn’t to paint the church with broad strokes, but generally, depression is a topic Christians tend to avoid in the community. Misconceptions about mental illness are pervasive throughout all aspects of our culture. Nonetheless, some of the “church-y” misconceptions about clinical depression come from a genuine desire to understand them through the scriptures. There are things, however, that well-meaning Christians tend to get wrong.

To sort out the conflicting rhetoric and misconceptions, here are a few things you should know: Continue reading 5 Things You Should Know About Depression and Christianity

Summertime, and the FOMO’s Not Easy

woman smartphone summer

I’ve always dreaded holidays like the 4th of July — and this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m lacking American pride. Occasions that aren’t family-centric like Christmas or Thanksgiving generally come along with an obligation to have plans with a group of friends or significant other. As a result, we feel the need to have something special planned (because you know everyone’s going to be asking you what you’re doing for the 4th) and make what we do look epic on social media (because getting a lot of “likes” means that we’re doing something right).

It’s a lot of pressure. Hello, anxiety!

FOMO, or, fear of missing out, goes hand-in-hand with the uneasiness that can arise from the holidays or the onslaught of summer fun in general. FOMO is so real that it was recently added to the Oxford Dictionaries, and defined as, “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”

There’s SO much pressure to attend events and socialize on the 4th of July…and every other weekend throughout the summer season. Naturally, this can be rough on anyone’s mental health, but the FOMO dynamic is taken to another level when mental illness comes into play, when sufferers may already feel on edge about social situations. In this case, summertime events can definitely be a trigger. It’s hard enough for someone with social anxiety or depression to face interacting with others. Add on the resentment and guilt that comes with the fear of missing out, and you’ve got yourself a dangerous, and combustible combination.

Here are a few pointers (tested by yours truly) to keep your FOMO at bay. Continue reading Summertime, and the FOMO’s Not Easy

Alone Time: Why It Matters and How to Claim It

woman drinking table alone

Most days, I work from home, alone. I also often travel alone. Solitude is a central part of my everyday existence. Yet I am not lonely.

Working alone doesn’t meant I don’t collaborate. I schedule virtual and in-person meetings with team members and clients.

Traveling alone is less of a sentence to isolation and more of an opportunity to connect with strangers and welcome unexpected encounters into my journey. It also offers more freedom and flexibility than traveling with others.

There’s much written about our culture of distraction, but there’s too little discussion of the value of time spent truly alone. We largely fear it and cling to the pings and prods from our personal devices to keep us in constant company.

Don’t get me wrong. Connection still matters. It is an important indicator of health and happiness. Studies indicate that social isolation is more dangerous to your health than obesity, increasing your risk of premature death by more than 14%.

But quality alone time does not indicate loneliness. Celebrating solitude doesn’t condemn connection. Continue reading Alone Time: Why It Matters and How to Claim It

How to Care for Your Mental Health on Vacation

woman backpacking mountains

It sounds weird to think we need to pay attention to our mental health while on vacation. After all, there’s plenty of evidence showing vacations improve our mental health.

But when you go on vacation, you leave behind the comfort of a familiar environment, the support of a therapist, and the consistency of a routine. A vacation can actually trigger mental illness symptom flare ups, whether you’re traveling alone or with friends or family.

Here are some strategies you can use to stay mentally healthy on your next trip:

Take Care of Your Body

Exercise helps stave off mental illness symptoms. But it can be hard to make time for it while you’re on vacation.

If going to the gym is part of your normal routine, you can drop in to your hotel gym. Or if you belong to a chain gym, there are likely facilities all over the country you may be able to access for no extra fee.

The point isn’t to miss out on all the fun because you have to hit the gym, though. You can incorporate fitness into your vacation in more subtle ways, like by taking long walks through a new city or along the beach. The key is to stay moving. Continue reading How to Care for Your Mental Health on Vacation

Good Mental Health: 12 Therapist-Approved Tips

hands green brain

Good mental health is both a state of mind and a lifestyle. Part of it is developing a rational, positive mindset about oneself and the world. Having sources of pleasure and a manageable level of stress facilitates good mental health as well.

Additionally, it’s important to have a lifestyle that helps maintain this state of mind. This goes beyond fulfillment in work and relationships. It’s about regularly engaging in activities that provide a sense of peace or catharsis, including being in nature, meditating, or working with a therapist.

By practicing good mental health, people become more resilient and able to cope when their lives are riddled with stress and misfortune.

“Practicing good mental health habits before you feel distressed is like putting money in the bank for the bad times,” said Jude Miller Burke, Ph.D., a business psychologist and author of The Adversity Advantage. “When a bad time then comes, you are more prepared.”

If you feel like you’re missing a positive mindset or healthy lifestyle, try out some of the tips we gathered by asking therapists how to practice good mental health. Continue reading Good Mental Health: 12 Therapist-Approved Tips

Traveling with Depression: How I Should Have Prepared

woman backpack mountain

Mental health can be a journey. Journeying while struggling with mental health challenges, however, can be almost impossible.

In 2015 I traveled to Puno, Peru, to work on a research project as a part of my graduate degree in international public health. Before enrolling in the degree program, I had spent the better part of the previous two years traveling and living abroad in some capacity and was excited to have the opportunity to travel as a part of my career.

As my departure date to Peru creeped closer, I started seeing a therapist at the university health center to talk about concerns I had about traveling. I had experienced acute depression that year for the first time and was nervous it would creep back in while I was in a low-resource setting abroad. My in-person therapist told me many students feel this way before completing fieldwork abroad and I would be fine to push through.

I didn’t want my fears around my mental health to stop me from traveling. I wanted to be “strong.” So off I flew to Puno. Continue reading Traveling with Depression: How I Should Have Prepared