Ep 34: How to get going when you’re not feeling it

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Some days just make you feel kind of done. You may have low energy and your mood is tanked. So you just sit still. That’s okay.

But when it stretches into longer days, it might be time to try to activate yourself. Learn how behavioral activation can help you get going.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes wherever you are! 

Full transcript

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

One of the hardest things to combat with stress is the amount of energy it depletes from you.

If you end your day yearning for that moment that you can get in your PJs well before dark, then you know what I’m talking about.

It takes real energy to do what you do every day.

  • Trying to be your best positive self at work in spite of the challenges.
  • Getting your kids to all their practices and tournaments.
  • Helping your kids stay on top of homework after all that practice so they can finish the year strong.
  • Worrying about how much more money you seem to be spending.
  • Remembering to pull together the rest of the information for your taxes from that pile of papers on the kitchen table. That one’s coming, isn’t it?

Life today is so extra.

All of this activity and task management can be a drain on your energy reserves.

These are the days when you just don’t want to do anything.

And that’s okay. You may need some time to recharge and refresh your battery today.

But what if it extends beyond just today?

It’s hard to find that mojo to get moving again when you’re kind of done. All of your best energy just went into THIS day.

It’s easier to just keep sitting still. And after a while it can start to affect your mood.

How do you get going again?

The behaviors we run to when we’re stressed feel really good at the time and we give in to them.

  • Watching endless hours of TV feels like an escape without responsibility.
  • Sleeping too much gives us a break from reality.
  • Closing ourselves off from the rest of the world means we don’t have to answer how we feel.

But these behaviors are the very things that maintain our negative mood and loss of motivation.

We know they’re not good for us, but we can’t seem to find motivation to stop. And so we continue to have low mood and low energy.

It’s a loopy double edged sword.

Here’s how to break that loop.

Activate yourself.

Behavioral activation is a mental health treatment method that uses simple commitments to basic behaviors to help you start feeling a little better now.

Behavioral activation won’t solve all your problems. It’s designed to simply get you moving.

No judgment.

No master plan.

No epiphanies about a brand new you.

Just movement you can live with.

Here is a quick way to activate yourself and get going.

Make a list of activities you know how to do and already enjoy.

Not a long list. Just a couple of things that you know hands-down you enjoy doing.

Today’s not the day to do that energy zapping work out if it’s not something you love.

Once you make a list, pick the easiest activity for you.

What we want to do is quickly bring you a reward for your activity so you’ll feel good about that. So you want to stick with something you already have skills for and is easy for you to implement.

If a 10-mile run is not easy for you, please don’t include it on your list. We’re not trying to be a hero here.

Take just the first step of that easiest and most enjoyable activity.

So for example, maybe you really enjoy walking and it’s relatively easy for you. Great!

But let’s not even commit to walking.

Your very first step is to put on your shoes. There’s no commitment past that.

But here’s the dealio.

Once you get your shoes on, it will probably be doable for you to go ahead and walk out the door for your enjoyable and easy walk. I mean, you did just put your shoes on.

Still, you’re not walking yet.

Now, just commit to walk out the door and close it. Awesome!

Hang there for a second and appreciate the fact that you’re up and moving around.

Now start walking.

The rest is up to you.

Above all, don’t forget to congratulate yourself.

You get credit for taking a small action to help you feel a little bit better about today. Give yourself that checkmark.

Tomorrow, maybe try the next most enjoyable and easiest activity on your list.

Activating yourself is a quick and easy way to pull yourself out of that loop and just get going.

With each activity you can start to rebuild your energy, and your motivation won’t be far behind.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me. You can catch Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit LoriMiller.me for info on how to subscribe.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
  • Share this episode on Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn .

Help spread the message about good mental health!

 


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Episode 22: How to Survive the Winter Season at the Zoo

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You can always be sure that seasons will be part of life. But what do you do in a season you didn’t expect? Hear a couple of lessons I picked up from a trip to the Bronx Zoo.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes wherever you are! 

Full transcript

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

Have you ever had one of those days when it just seems like everything that you tried to do kind of came back empty-handed? No matter how hard you planned or prepared you still ended up feeling like you came up short?

What can you do in times like this?

Sometimes we enter a time where it feels like this is kind of the norm. It feels like a long dry winter and it can be very frustrating.

But that is the nature of seasons.

I remember the very first time me and my family visited the Bronx Zoo in New York City. The Bronx Zoo is One of the world’s most respected zoos and one of the must see places when you visit the Big Apple. 🍎

I was so excited to add this to our itinerary on one of our trips to New York. My son was about ten years old at the time, and I just knew he would enjoy seeing such a diverse group of animals right there in the heart of this huge city.

We carved out a specific day to go, and I couldn’t wait! When we got there though, the place looked like a ghost town.

The front entrance was spooky and barren. There were literally no people milling around.

I live in Florida, home of Walt Disney World, so this made no sense to me at all. How could we be in the heart of a big touristy place like New York City with no people at the zoo?

Well, here’s a clue.

We went to the magnificent Bronx zoo in January, on a day that averaged about 19°. ❄

My first clue should’ve probably been the incredible discount on the tickets for that day. 

As you can imagine, at 19°, there were very few animals who felt like even venturing outside their habitat, much less giving US something entertaining to look at.

The few who did wander out looked at us in our giant parkas and our “I ❤ NYC” sock hats as if like we had lost…our… minds.

We had come to the zoo expecting to see a show in a season when the facility just isn’t designed to be on its best display.

  • Winter is a season for the animals to pull back from the demands of the big crowds in the busy season when the weather is warmer.
  • Winter also allows the staff to come up with new, innovative exhibits for later in the year when they know they will have tons of tourists with high expectations.

We had all the right ingredients: enthusiasm, time to kill because we were on vacation, and a plan for how to navigate this huge place.

But it just wasn’t the right time for our expectations. It wasn’t the zoo’s fault.

This just wasn’t their time of year to shine.

So we, standing there in our fluffy winter wardrobes, had a couple of options available to us:

  1. First, we could chalk it up to a ridiculous goof by our travel planner (see also: me), call it a day and come back later in the year when the season is ready.
  2. Or we could find ways to glean something fun and meaningful out of the day we were already having, in the season we were already in.

Neither one of those options is wrong.

But only one of them allowed us to enjoy the moment we were in and build a memory we would laugh about later.

Sometimes life feels like winter at the zoo.

Not every season in your life is meant to show your best performance. Some seasons are designed to prepare you for what’s to come.

Some seasons allow you to train hard for a season that will require your very best.

And some seasons are designed for rest and hibernation.

To expect each season to be like the big show all the time isn’t reasonable.

What is reasonable is to look at each day and determine what do you have in front of you now that will prepare you for that fuller season ahead.

  • Your job may be stressing you out and you don’t see an end in sight.
    What are you absolutely, 100% great at in your job right now that you can use as a platform to try one new thing? A small step to start creating a new season in your career?
  • Maybe you feel like you’re going to be parenting forever.
    Guess what? Parenting eventually becomes coaching. What is one parenting skill that you’re proud of that you can take to the next level for your kids? When they enter their season of young adulthood, they will absolutely need that coaching from you.
  • Maybe you’re anxious about moving in on middle-age.
    Or maybe middle age is moving in on you. 😁 Think of an earlier season in your life? What is one thing, one small thing that you always wanted to do?

Middle-age is going to give you a pretty sweet canvas to paint an even brighter season for yourself. You’re a little older, you’re wiser and you care a little less about what people think in this season.

So what season are you in today? 

Are you in that cold, sharp, and cloudy season at the zoo?

  • Find the animals that are okay being out in the cold with you.
  • Use the time today to explore exhibits that normally don’t see the light of day compared to the dancing seals that normally get all the attention.
  • Don’t be afraid to stick around for a bit in the cold and learn something new.

Use this season to enjoy a unique experience, have the zoo all to yourself, and get yourself ready for the big show ahead.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me. You can catch mental health moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit Lori Miller.me for info on how to subscribe.

 

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

Help spread the message about good mental health!

 


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Give yourself a Mental Health Moment every day!

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Amazon Alexa skill - Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller

Sometimes you need some encouragement right at the top of the day so you can stay focused on what will keep you energized and productive. 🌝

I’m excited to debut my Alexa skill, Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.

It’s a little shot in the arm to start your day.

Every day I’ll talk about small ways you can inject a bit of sanity in your day.

If you have an Amazon Echo you can enable Mental Health Moment in the Alexa store. You can also download the Alexa app on your phone or tablet and enable the skill there.

Check out all the details on my Amazon skill page.

Feel free to leave me a review. I’d love to know what you think! 🤔

How to use exercise to battle holiday stress

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Use exercise to battle holiday stress - lorimiller.me

This may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it also can be the most challenging in terms of staying on track with the things that help make your life work.

Exercise, good nutrition, sleep and routine (see also: the components of the anxiety and depression toolkit) all suddenly find themselves beneath the trash heap of the merry and joyous eating season.

For me, the most tempting thing to do is give up exercise. I’m busy with added social events, and opportunities to spend time with others. I love that!

But after all that eating the last thing I want to do is move. Like, at all.

So that late day workout I swore allegiance to gives way to “just one” delicious buckeye and yummy barbeque sliders with friends.

Another workout busted.

It creates a bit of a cycle, I’m afraid.

Exercise matters and it matters big time.

Focusing on exercise is one of the first things I mention to people struggling with anxiety and depression. It’s one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to affect your mental health.

And it’s a great place to start because everybody can absolutely do something.

Exercise has a direct effect on your mood, helps reduce anxious feelings, increases serotonin in the brain, which can help you sleep, and increases your resilience to stress, which I think we all agree can go through the roof this time of year.

The American Psychological Association has coined this the “exercise effect.” In fact, the APA is encouraging mental health providers to make sure they include exercise as part of their treatment plans.

I consider exercise really a non-negotiable.  Apparently, I’m a broken record on this one.

Yet even as the words are coming out of my mouth to my clients, I realize I am just as crafty in my excuses to duck out of it during the holidays.

So with all the added activity and pressure of the season, how do you make exercise work for you when you need it most?

Don’t stress it. Make some simple changes to ensure you do something and don’t just go to zero effort.

Do it when you have few legitimate obligations.

Don’t roll your eyes, but really, it’s true that exercising in the morning is a great solution. It’s not the easiest to get started, but you have a better shot of making it happen before the day breaks.

You really do.

Unless you have some graveyard-style job, you always have the option to get up a bit earlier.

You won’t die from it, I promise.

For the time crunched, this is really the best way to find extra time in your day. Everyone else (hopefully) is still asleep, and the world hasn’t started its vicious merry-go-round yet.

Then, you are done! Yes!

The whole day is in front of you, and you are mentally and physically poised to handle whatever the day may bring.

And when unexpected plans come up, you can just go and not feel guilty about not exercising yet again.

Focus on doing something every day.

It’s great to try to hit physical activity a certain number of times a week, but right now that kind of contained thinking may create too much anxiety for you.

That’s just one more thing to track during the busy season.

Don’t make it a formal thing.

Instead, break it down and focus on just doing something today.

Anything. It all adds up.

  • Take a walk.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Go ice skating.
  • Go for a quick swim.
  • Do some yard work (assuming your yard isn’t full of snow. If so, grab a shovel, my friend.)
  • Do some yoga.
  • Dance. I hear that’s a thing.
  • Try an at-home exercise program (there are a million of them streaming on Hulu, Roku, etc.)

When you’re done, high five yourself. You did it!

Then just do that again tomorrow. That’s it.

No pressure.

Me after my Monday morning workout. See how happy I am? 🙂

Pardner up.

There is power in leveraging others to help you with this. Having someone hold you accountable to exercise works because nobody wants to be the one who “no-shows” in the relationship.

I would suggest picking the person in your life who is not afraid to challenge you (in a good way, of course).

Set up time to exercise with someone else and simply don’t leave ’em hangin.’ Once you get together, you’ll have a good time, I’m sure.

Honestly, today I was so tired, it’s Monday, and it’s raining. I felt like these things gave me some very high moral ground to stay in bed.

But my husband and partner in all things life wouldn’t let me. He’s also a mental health practitioner so he gave me zero wiggle room on this.

I needed that.

And when I was tempted to slack off a bit during the workout, he was there to cheer me on.

Hopefully I did the same for him.

Don’t overthink it; just do it.

Of course, you may want to set good, hard goals for exercise in the new year, but you don’t have to wait for January.

That’s just another excuse to not take action right now.

It’s not a terrible time to start exercising if you haven’t been already.

Don’t go crazy or injure yourself.

Keep it simple.

Just get (or keep) moving during the holidays.

Sources:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx

 

 

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Manage stress by living in the present

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Manage stress by living in the present

By default, we are all in the present, but not necessarily present, if that makes sense. This is where much of our stress rears its gnarly head.

We’re burdened with the constant pressure of what’s to come in a world that is almost exclusively forward focused. 

  • Create your own future!
  • Prepare for retirement!
  • Get ahead at work!
  • Develop a life plan!
  • Raise healthy and productive children!
  • Become the ____ you know you can be!
  • Get stuff done!
  • Be happy!
  • Change the world!

No pressure. 😳

What’s cool is that we have more opportunity now than at any other time in human history to actually accomplish these noble tasks. 

Previous generations didn’t have access to the technology and freedom that living today can bring. This particular age would have blown their minds.

To accomplish any one of these noble tasks would have been enough for them, let alone all of them at the same time.

We are in uncharted territory.

We scoot around, sometimes mindlessly, to try to take advantage of it all. We are so anxious to “get there.”

But once we get there, how then do we appreciate who we are in that moment and what we’ve already become?

Where are the master classes for that?

We just keep going to the next task, the next forward motion. ⏩

So many of our anxious and depressive thoughts stem from this constant focus on an ambiguous future moment.

These future moments can feel like a moving target. As we grow, change and develop new abilities, we decide we may want different things. 

So we may change and pivot.

Our future feels like it’s always “out there” because it is.

And even if you achieve all that you want, that future moment you aspire to will — one day — become your present moment.

Ah, the irony.

How will you even appreciate that moment? Have you thought about how you will mark and celebrate it?

Here are a couple of things that work for me:

Enjoy a “Done” list

There are a million and one ways to keep a to-do list. You can track it in a sweet little app that classifies, tags and whatnot. Or write out a list on a steno pad and keep it on the fridge (old school, I know, but it works).

But what about a list that captures what you ACTUALLY did?

Do you feel anxious and annoyed when you see how many things are still left on your list at the end of the day? Where did the time go?

You immediately start plotting those things for tomorrow, giving short shrift to your little worker bee 🐝 tasks that buzzed around so hard for you today.

The things you did get done you relegate to a checkmark or a strikethrough. Or worse, tag them as “Completed” and watch them disappear from your list completely.

Don’t just look at the checkmarks or the line throughs on your list. Separate them and give them their own list. They deserve it!

Those are the things you got done! ☑️

The present moments that you engaged.

So now you know you have the ability to take advantage of your present moments!

Master today

Today is here, and you are apparently already awake and moving around. Nice job! 😎

What are the things you can do TODAY that will move you toward those future goals?

Focus on just those things, and shove the rest aside for now.

Don’t let the future steps, which don’t matter right now, encroach on your present.

If this day is particularly challenging, maybe you can just focus on what you need to do in the next HOUR.

What is the literal next step on your list? 👟

Don’t worry about this afternoon or where you’d still like to be at the end of this day.

Muster your energy and focus toward just this present moment and see where it goes.

Stop moving

Sounds simple, but in order to focus on the present, you may have to stop moving for a minute.

Do you have to go right on to that next thing? 🏃 Or can you take a minute to enjoy a little self-imposed buffer zone?

I like to daydream in these moments. It gives my brain a frickin’ break from all that analyzing and planning and lets me imagine myself doing something ridiculously fun.

Do this when it’s super inconvenient and you feel like you just can’t spare the time.

This is probably when you are feeling most stressed about the future.

The present IS your life. 

Right now, as it’s happening. 

Enjoying the present isn’t hard but it does require intention. There will always be something in the future calling you out of it.

Learn to engage it on your terms.

How do you enjoy your present moments?

 

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The disconnect in mental health

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The disconnect in mental health

I get to meet interesting people every day. You just can’t imagine what some have gone through.

To look at them, you would never know.

They may look good, smell good, and sound good. But they have faced ugly giants and still somehow find the courage to keep going.

What you must know is that mental health issues are about everyone, in every corner of life.

  • It affects the C-suite executive as much as the individual contributor.
  • It affects the privileged and the economically downtrodden.
  • It affects all of the diverse communities of race, gender, and religion where we live and work.
  • It affects the old, the middle aged, the “quarter aged” and the young.

While our focus as a nation and in our local communities is on opioid addiction, school shootings, suicide and other heartbreaking issues that absolutely require a focused and effective response, much of what we see as professionals is wrapped up in the everyday goings-on of life.

For whatever reason, it’s getting harder and harder for many of us to cope with the daily stress of life at home and at work.

  • Maybe it’s the phones,
  • Maybe it’s too much screen violence,
  • Maybe it’s our general disconnectedness,
  • Maybe it’s D: All of the Above.

But mental health isn’t just about issues. It’s about people who need support from people.

And we people are the only ones who can provide that support. It’s not just the responsibility of your local government, your schools, or your workplace’s HR department.

We all play a role in our society’s mental health issues.

You are the missing piece.

 

 

 

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Four tools to stay resilient

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When life gets in the way, we sometimes bail on the basics that keep us physically and mentally healthy.

This toolkit, designed to deal with the pressures of anxiety and depression, is a great way to stay resilient in the face of day-to-day life stressors. When things get wackadoo, it’s worth asking yourself which one of these tools may have fallen by the wayside.

The tools are simple and easy to implement in small ways each day. None of them will surprise you, but adding just one of them to your day can make a big difference.

Watch this and let me know what other things you might add to the toolkit!

#alwaysbelearnin

Stop chewing your cud

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“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

– William Shakespeare

Do you ever have days when you just can’t stop thinking about something that really got under your skin? Maybe it was something that happened yesterday, or maybe even 12 years ago.

Or maybe it’s just a thought you’ve always believed about yourself.

Like you’re not smart, or you’ll never amount to anything.

And no one wants to hang out with you.

And that’s why you’re not in a meaningful relationship.

Which means you’ll always be alone.

So you may as well stay home tonight.

And people who are alone don’t amount to anything.

Aaaand we’re right back where we started.

Let the chewing begin.

Welcome to the downward spiral of a dank little mental process called “rumination.”

Technically and all scienc-ey, rumination is the leisurely and regurgitative digestive process our four-stomached bovine friends must endure to better process their food. Apparently after enjoying their breakfast from Chik Fil-A, they must bring it back up and just keep on chewing.

Charming.

Mental rumination, however, can be a sure fire catalyst for depression.

Every emotion we experience starts as a little seed of a thought that we entertain. If it’s a healthy thought, it leads to feeling happy or content, which leads to smiling, laughing and other positive behaviors.

Life is good. Chips and salsa all around.

But an unhealthy thought we tend to chew on over and over and over. We don’t challenge the thought or look for any evidence of it actually being valid or true. Instead we entertain it just long enough to let it lead to another, more unhealthy thought.

Which takes us down the path to what’s now a damaging thought.

Keep in mind, we’re not looking for a solution when we do this; just focusing completely on rehashing the bad parts.

We keep chewing that bad boy until we’re now furiously obsessing over what’s happened to us, something we probably had no control over anyway.

And now we’re angry, sad or maybe even feeling hopeless, the diagnosable stuff of depression.

Swallow. That. Cud.

While cud chewing is healthy for cows, it’s a maladaptive pattern for those of us with just one stomach. In order to stop ruminating, you have to deal with the thoughts you keep coughing up.

Write down the very first unhealthy thought, and be a detective. See if you can find evidence of its truth.

If it’s true, fine. Make a plan to address it. You might be alone not because you’re a loser but because you really haven’t put yourself out there. It’s hard not to be alone when there are no other people around. Just sayin’. Find ways to engage more with others.

If the thought’s not true, find a way to reframe or restate that thought in a healthier, more positive way before it gets you all worked up. Yes, you appear to be alone right now but you have a plan to join your church’s young adult group so you can meet people whose interests you share. And there will probably be pizza.

Either way, you’re processing the thought just the one time.

With the time you save, you can then use your new healthy thoughts to launch you into healthy and productive actions.

What about you?

Is this something you’ve struggled with? Please do share.

 

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