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When I talk to clients or participants at trainings I facilitate, friends and others about self-care, there is a resounding and recurring notion that implementing a self-care plan requires a lot of time and money. This isn’t a surprise to me. For years, I also carried this belief. I thought that having extra time and money were key components to maintaining a self-care practice. After all, without time how will you get to do the things you want to do, and without money, how will you finance your self-care activities?

There is also a misconception about what self-care is.  What usually comes up as a definition of self-care is spa days, time at the hair salon on regular basis, gym time and vacation. While all these activities are examples of self-care activities, the reality is that for many people these activities can be outside of their reach. Limiting our self-care definition to just a few select activities can hinder our ability to recharge ourselves.

Despite these beliefs, there is growing general agreement that self-care is essential for our overall well-being. Self-care is an effective way to manage stress and a key factor in keeping healthy physically and mentally. The definition of self-care that I have adopted is that of a practice that allows us to strengthen our bodies, minds, and souls.

The great news is that there are many ways to fulfill this endeavor. There is no one-way of doing it and there isn’t such a thing as one size fits all. Self-care can be practiced as it best fits people’s lifestyles, time and resources. And there are many free things that you can do. So let’s forget those standardized self-care checklists and create your own list based on what works for you.

To help incorporate self-care into our daily lives, I propose that rather than doing self-care as a one-time only extravaganza when we feel burned out, we sprinkle self-care throughout our day or week.

Here are a few ideas how:

Mindfulness Meditation. We can take what I call mini vacations through mindfulness meditation, a practice has been proven effective to reducing stress and preventing and managing mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. There are many types of mindfulness exercises. One such exercise is deep breathing. We can dedicate as little as 5 minutes a day to deep breathing (or as many times as you need it throughout the day). During our breathing exercises, we focus on our breath, inhaling slowly in and out through our nose.

Visualizations. With the deep breathing, we can add visualization, imagining a place that brings us tranquility and peace as we deep breath in and out or a past happy memory. We can do a variation to our breathing exercises reciting positive affirmations about ourselves or reflecting on things that are going right in our lives. But this is just one possible exercise. Mindfulness is much broader than that. As best put by mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is paying attention on purpose in a particular way to what is arising and the present moment. I encourage you to look more into mindfulness.

Time management. Self-care involves self-awareness on the tasks that you can handle and those that may be too much. Practice saying no to extra commitments when your plate is already full or asking for help. Having too demands on us can lead to stress and overwhelming feelings.

Doing things that bring you joy. Do an inventory of things you truly enjoy— starting with little things to big. What is feasible to sprinkle into your day? For some people, it may be drinking your favorite cup of tea, lighting up a candle, listening to your favorite music on the way to work or while at home, going on a bike ride, spending quality time with family and friends, watching their favorite TV show, doing your favorite hobby, etc. Whatever it may be, make it a consistent part of your practice.

Creative Release Outlets. We have seen the explosion of “adult coloring books” marketed as stress reduction tools, and there is evidence to back this up. The trick of coloring is that it is an activity that requires focusing in one task and as we color or paint, it allows us to express ourselves and set free of our worries, even if it is just for a few moments. This can be a fun activity to do alone or with kids. If coloring isn’t your thing, try journaling.  You can experience a sense of release by writing when you are feeling stressed, frustrated, tired, etc., or you may simply enjoy chronicling your positive experiences and looking back to it when you need inspiration or extra boost.

Connecting with nature and exercise. Nature has healing and self-soothing power. A walk in our local park or outside can be the break someone needs and it is not only good for overall physical health but for it improves our mental well-being.

Exercise is an important part of staying healthy both psychically and mentally. One of the things I commonly see is that we may get excited about an exercise routine but that excitement may dwindle or barriers begin to creep in. Instead of thinking of exercise as one more thing to do, think about it as something you need to do for your survival, just like you need to eat, breathe and sleep. To this, adding a self-care buddy that you can enjoy your activity with may make the journey much easier and more fulfilling. Exercise does not have to break your bank. Take to your local park and walk the recommended 30 minutes a day, either during your lunch break, before or after work or get off the metro or bus a few stops before your destination and walk the rest.

Connecting with others. Connecting with others has been found to be a key factor in maintaining our mental health. While we may interact with people throughout the day either through work, school or at home, what I am talking about is having meaningful connections and relationships of people you enjoy spending quality time with. The kind of people who bring you joy, lift you up, listen to you and support you and vice versa.

While technology and social media have great benefits, too much of it can hinder our ability to be present and it can prevent us from enjoying what’s around us. Unplugging occasionally from technology and social media is vital in our quest to taking care of our minds.

Take small breaks during the day. Beyond your lunch break, take small breaks as needed during the day. Make it an intentional practice to move around in your office, school or home. Instead of sending that email to your colleague, walk over to deliver your message in person if feasible.

Self-care buddy. This is my personal favorite: designating someone to hold you accountable on your self-care journey. At work, appoint colleagues who can remind you to have lunch and/or someone you can go on a walk with when stressed. At home, appoint loved ones who can support you in staying healthy and remind you of your commitment to yourself.

Use smartphone apps to support your practice. Some of my favorite are Calm and Bloom. Calm has different visualization images like beaches, mountains, rainforests with natural sounds that match the images. You have to try it to see the impact. You will literally be transported to those places.  Bloom is an app where you can include daily reminders including inspirational notes that you can load with images (your own pictures or from stock) and music. In this app, you can include reminders such as remembering to take a break, remembering to take a deep breath. You can schedule those messages to pop up throughout the day. It is kind of fun to get the messages when you least expect them but when you need them the most.

These are just a few ideas of endless activities you can do to keep up with your self-care. What may work for one person, may not work for another. The key to self-care is doing activities that can nourish our minds, bodies, and souls. The tools are within our reach to practice consistently, as a necessity, as a way of survival just like breathing and eating.

Cheryl Aguilar is a licensed clinical social worker, LICSW, who provides mental health therapy to Washington, DC metro area residents. She specializes in working with Latinos and immigrants. She obtained her master’s in social work from the Catholic University of America. Prior to embarking in the social work profession, Cheryl worked in the public relations and journalism fields for over a decade elevating issues important to underserved communities. Cheryl currently serves as board member for the National Association of Social Workers DC Chapter and volunteers with Latino Social Workers Organization.

          
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Mental Health

Self-Regulation Significant to Overcoming Early Adversity in Drug and Alcohol Abuse

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Self-regulation may hold the key to helping young adults overcome their risk for developing alcohol and drug problems, according to recent research from the University of Georgia.

The study looked at 225 non-college-educated adults aged 18-25 from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who grew up in rural areas in Northeast Georgia. Led by Assaf Oshri, an associate professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences, the research team found that young adults who experience abuse as children have a higher risk for developing alcohol and drug problems. These same young adults also have a decreased ability to self-regulate, or avoid impulsive decision-making in socially stressful situations.

Oshri pointed to the results as evidence of the need for family-focused preventive intervention programs for adolescents that target self-regulation, in hopes of better identifying factors that promote resilience among youth.

“If we use delayed gratification, we can do well in life, but it seems like those who have specific early life experiences are less able to perform this optimal decision-making, and that can affect their risk of substance abuse,” said Oshri, who is housed in the department of human development and family science.

Protective factors at the biological and psychosocial levels offer hope that interventions targeting decision-making can help at-risk youth, he explained.

“The goal is to try to identify mechanisms that will help youth who experience adversity in life,” he said

During the study, the young adults were assessed twice over two years. In addition to completing surveys measuring their drug and alcohol use and experiences with child maltreatment, participants completed a decision-making task that evaluated their tendency to make impulsive decisions and ability to self-regulate and delay gratification.

To accomplish this, researchers used a tool called “delayed reward discounting.” The young adults answered questions such as “Would you rather have $14 today or $25 in 19 days?” They also agreed to have their heart rates measured while they completed a series of increasingly difficult math-related tasks in front of an audience of research assistants. These measurements allowed researchers to record stress levels and assess self-regulatory capacities.

Study results found that as participants’ maltreatment experiences as children increased, the higher their inclination toward impulsive decision-making and problems delaying gratification.

The paper, “Child maltreatment, delayed reward discounting and alcohol and other drug use problems: The moderating role of heart rate variability,” was published online in August in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Co-authors are UGA graduate students Sihong Liu and Erinn Bernstein Duprey and James MacKillop from McMaster University in Canada. The work was supported by the UGA Owens Institute for Behavioral Research and the Sarah H. Moss Fellowship for UGA faculty.

The abstract can be found at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/acer.13858.

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Mental Health

Get Comfortable With Not Knowing

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How easy is it for you to be in a state of not knowing? Not knowing what will happen next? Not knowing your next step? Not knowing who you are as you’ve evolved into this present moment?

Not knowing can be an unsettling prospect. We like to know. We like to think that we know.

It is much more comfortable to feel like we have it all figured out ~ like we are guaranteed the outcome of our desires. And most of the time, we do feel like we are in the know when it comes to what our day will bring and what we can expect from each other.

The truth is though, that things can change on a dime. We find a sense of security with the thought that we can expect things to move along as they always have. Of course, we feel more secure when that expected direction is something that we want.

Alternatively, when we find ourselves stuck in situations that challenge us, we might pray for things to change while harbouring a suspicion that they never will because we know how these things have always played out in our lives before.

What if we got really cozy with the very real state of not knowing? What if we made friends with the reality that we could be surprised at any moment? And what if we began to anticipate that these surprises could be enriching and life-affirming as opposed to dark and threatening?

Serving Consciously

Recently on Serving Consciously, I interviewed Alexander Demetrius who has immersed himself in the vast expanse of the unknown and has discovered the rewards inherent in it.

Alexander Demetrius

Alexander Demetrius’ literary contributions have primarily been influenced by Joseph Campbell. During his lifetime, Campbell was one of the world’s foremost authorities on global mythology. Using Campbell’s monomyth or hero’s journey, Demetrius discovered that critical events from his past paralleled the typical sequence of events found in practically every narrative throughout the world.

The Reward of Not Knowing is an account of Demetrius’ memoirs, transformed into an epic journey that began in San Antonio, Texas, and spans across the Pacific Ocean to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he currently resides. What makes his journey unique is that much of it took place within, where so few ever voyage.

Through careful reflection and examination, he overcame some paralyzing characteristics that once constrained him to a life of insanity, orchestrated by his mother who suffers from dissociative identity disorder or multiple personalities.

Tap into All that You Do Know

It is easier said than done ~ this idea of being comfortable not knowing. Sure, we can acknowledge that we are lacking information in the moment or that we can’t see the next step on the path, but feeling comfortable with it? That’s another story.

To assist ourselves in this process, we can shift our focus to what we do know for sure.

Do you know that you can trust yourself?

Do you know that you can have faith in the process?

Do you know that you are capable of getting back up EVERY time you fall down?

Do you know that you are loved?

How connected are you to your resiliency?

How connected are you to your capacity to care for yourself?

How connected are you to your internal guidance system ~ your intuition?

How connected are you to a sense of self-love and self-worth?

If things go wrong, do you know that you can course correct?

If you feel unsupported, do you know you have your own back?

If you are frightened by what’s around the next corner, do you know that you can face whatever comes?

If you can’t see the forest for the trees, do you know that clarity resides within you and will eventually emerge?

Tune into all that you know to be true regardless of any evidence. Allow the unknown to exist without pressure from you to be different. Be patient as new information becomes available.

Learn to dance with the mystery.

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Disability

How Reflecting on My Choice to do Prenatal Tests Made Me a Better Social Worker

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My professor asked me to reflect on the ways in which I have engaged in ableism as a social work student. While I could not think of a professional instance, I was able to reflect back on my personal life about a time that I did engage in ableism. Recently, I gave birth to my son, my first child, back in January of this year.

Toward the beginning of my pregnancy, I believe around week 12, the obstetrician sat me down and started to discuss optional screenings that they could do that would determine whether the baby had any disabilities, such as Down Syndrome. As soon as she started explaining all the different tests, I knew I was going to choose to have at least one done. In the end, I chose one of the least invasive but more accurate tests.

Whenever someone asked why I was getting the test (as I wasn’t high risk, and am on the younger side), I would tell them I just wanted to be able to be prepared. I told them that I wanted to be able to prepare my house or to get necessary equipment or other things that might be needed by my child.

However, leading up to the test I began to have dreams about getting ‘bad news’ from the doctor. I also had dreams in which my doctor told me that there was ‘something wrong’ with my baby. I started to realize that it wasn’t my house that I would have to prepare, it would have to be myself!

Slowly, I came to the understanding that if I got the news that my child had a disability, I would need some time to process and accept that news. I think that I struggled with the belief that my child would have a ‘lesser life’ if they were born with a disability. In addition, I think that a part of my process would have been going through the grieving process as I would have been grieving the ‘perfect child’ that I imagine many pregnant women imagine when they first find out they are pregnant.

In my readings for my course on social work practice with people with disabilities, I learned how genetic testing connects to the medical model of disability. As my textbook discussed, the testing and the possible results were only presented to me by my medical team through a medical model lens, versus a social model of disability lens.

My medical team informed me of the genetic reasoning behind any of the possible disabilities that could be discovered but did not include any information regarding what my child’s life would be like if the test was positive. It would have been beneficial to hear about the lives of people living with some of the disabilities.

This could have possibly calmed my nerves as well as avoided my ableist thinking. My hope is that for patients who do have a positive test, their medical team can learn to sit down with them and go into further detail about what a child’s life will and can look like. I think this could help a parent-to-be process that news in a not-so-negative way. I believe that a discussion like this could help patients understand that the only options are not abortion or a child with a ‘lesser life.’

As a social work professional, it is important to always reflect on and examine our own ableism. In our society, we have been witness to countless ableist thoughts and beliefs throughout our lives. These beliefs become the standard way of thinking and affect our interactions with people with disabilities.

Therefore, it is essential for a social worker to reflect on their own ableist thoughts and practices in order to be able to change their way of thinking – and practicing! Once the social worker is able to do this work, their practice with people with disabilities has the potential to be so much more valuable.

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Mental Health

Framing Mental Health from the Biopsychosocial Model

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As someone who now works with people experiencing depression, anxiety, addiction and a range of other issues, and being a person who has experienced my own battle with depression, I have my own unique perspective.

Reflecting on his experience at a preview session from the Health Promotion Agency’s National Depression Initiative, Phillip shared his own common and unique experience of depression and anxiety.

Philip talked about his objections to the idea that depression is “an illness, not a weakness” because, in his view, the causes of depression and anxiety are often social factors – and that these problems (and other mental health concerns) need a “social model” rather than a medical one.

Firstly, like Philip, I can see why someone would classify anxiety or depression as “an illness, not a weakness”.  I agree that no mental health problem comes about as the result of a weakness of character and that anyone, anywhere, at any time, can experience these kinds of problems (and indeed, one in five New Zealand’s do in their lifetime).

I think that experiences like depression and anxiety get called “illnesses” as a way of signaling the vast difference between someone when they feel mentally “well”, compared to when they don’t.  Indeed, most of the diagnostic criteria for mental “illnesses” include the fact that the symptoms either cause significant distress to a person, or significant impairment in their day-to-day functioning.

So my take is that “illness” is perhaps used as an inadequate shorthand for “not functioning in the way that I do when I’m feeling whole, connected, supported, complete and satisfied with my life – I’m struggling, help!”

But I agree too, that “illness” also does not feel like quite the right term.  Philip suggests that depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns can be valid emotional responses when a person is struggling with the state of their life.  As both a therapist and a person who has experienced significant depression, I completely agree.

Philip goes on to suggest that rather than a medical model, we need a “social model” of mental illness.  The thing is, that is exactly what we have and use in mainstream mental health.  We base most modern, evidence-based mental health intervention on what is called the “bio-psycho-social” model of mental illness.  I’ll break this down briefly, with examples.

The Biopsychosocial Perspective

The “bio” part of the model refers to the fact that we are pretty sure that some mental health problems have a genetic component.  Now, this doesn’t mean that if you have a particular gene you are guaranteed to get a particular disorder, rather than your brain chemistry might just be a little bit more vulnerable to developing one, given the right life circumstances.  It’s a bit like heart disease.  Two people can have the same healthy (or not so healthy) diet.  One, who has a particular genetic marker in their family, may have a heart attack; while the other goes on to live a long life with no heart problems.

It’s a bit like heart disease.  Two people can have the same healthy (or not so healthy) diet.  One, who has a particular genetic marker in their family, may have a heart attack; while the other goes on to live a long life with no heart problems.

“Bio” also refers to the fact that experiences like anxiety and depression do affect your physical body just as much as your mental health.  In terms of treatment, many people will find that particular medications help (others don’t, and that’s okay too).  We also know things, like getting enough sleep and exercising a little, can help people manage these problems too.

The “psycho” part refers to your internal functioning – your mind, mental and emotional experience.  When I was growing up, I learned particular ways to think about and manage my emotional experiences, that didn’t really serve me so well as an adult. For example, thinking “negative” emotions like sadness or anger are a bad thing and should not be experienced or expressed…that’s a pretty common right across Kiwi culture, I think.

Part of my recovery involved learning a different way of understanding and managing my emotions. This is generally where therapy can be the most helpful and can heap other benefits as well.

The last is the “social” part of the model.  This is the acknowledgment of the idea that crappy life experiences or a not-so-great situation can significantly contribute to mental health concerns.

Again, treatment often involves helping someone to get themselves into a better or more stable environment, and connecting to good support.  I’ve had many clients realize they needed to do things like end relationships, quit a job or move house, as I did myself, to help improve their mental health.

Now, our mental health system is far from perfect.  There is a massive shortage of resource and funding, as well as an ongoing battle with stigma and discrimination, amongst other issues.  But, for better or worse, that’s a super short summary of the model that the majority of mainstream mental health support services are based on.

So given that we are supposed to be acknowledging, integrating and working with all the parts of a person and their situation – why is it that the message is still out there in the media that mental health problems are a medical, not a social issue?  Is it short-hand, a simplified way of raising awareness that mental health problems are common, and not a character flaw?

Or is it is lack of understanding as to how mental health problems develop, and how we treat them? I’m really not sure on this one – but I’d love to find out.

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Mental Health

7 Tips for Staying Strong During Your Recovery from Addiction

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When you’re overcoming addiction, the road to recovery can be tough to walk at times. However, recovering is one of the most worthwhile things you’ll ever do, and beating addiction will make you a stronger person. Here are seven things you can do to stick to your goals and have a successful recovery.

Take care of your health.

Addiction can take a toll on your physical health, so it’s important to take especially good care of yourself now. Get some exercise every day, eat right, and get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Even small positive changes, like eating fruit instead of candy, can make you feel a lot better. When you’re healthy, you’ll have an easier time maintaining a positive mindset and saying to temptations.

Be gentle with yourself.

Don’t dwell on the time you spent addicted. It’s easy to feel bad about wasted time, money, and opportunities once you start recovery, but there’s no point in beating yourself up. The past is over, and everybody makes mistakes. The important thing is that you’re making the effort to get better right now. Shift your focus to your successes instead of your failures.

Focus on one day at a time.

It can be overwhelming to think about spending your entire future sober. Instead of worrying about how you’ll get through the next month, year, or decade, just focus on today. If thinking about the whole day is still overwhelming, focus on the next hour or even the next minute. After all, a sober future is built one minute at a time.

Reach out to your support network.

Stay in touch with your family members and friends who support your recovery. When you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to call or text someone you trust and tell them how you’re feeling. Therapists and recovery programs can also make great additions to your support network. If you’re still looking at your options for recovery programs, there are plenty of options to choose from, like Addiction Treatment Riverdale Utah or Long Island Center for Recovery. You can find the best one for you online. The important thing is to surround yourself with people who want to help you get better.

Build new habits and routines.

A daily schedule can help you stay on track and fill your time with constructive activities. In addition to scheduling your work and other daily responsibilities, set aside some time to exercise, work on your hobbies, see your friends, and pray or meditate every day. Avoid activities and people that might trigger a relapse.

Make a plan for dealing with temptation.

You’ll probably have to deal with temptation at some point. Maybe someone who doesn’t know you’re in recovery will offer you a drink, or maybe you’ll start craving a drink or a hit when you’re feeling stressed. It will be easier to get past feelings of temptation if you make a plan for how you’ll cope. Practice saying no to offers of drugs or alcohol ahead of time, and come up with some emotional coping strategies as well. For instance, if you want to relapse, you could plan to call your sponsor or go for a walk instead.

Focus on your goals.

If you’re struggling to stay strong in the moment, your long-term goals can help you stay on track. Take a deep breath and think about why you want to stay sober for the long haul. Maybe you want to spend more time with your kids, start your own business, go back to school, or just stay healthy as you get older. Learning to prioritize your long-term goals over your immediate feelings is key to staying strong during your recovery.

Wrapping Up

Recovering from addiction is an attainable goal. Millions of other people have done it, and you can do it too. Use these tips to help you stay strong and focused throughout your recovery. You’ll probably find that sobriety is more meaningful and fulfilling than you ever imagined.

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Mental Health

Mental Fitness: We Can Actually Train to Become Resilient Leaders!

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What if I told you that mental fitness is something you can develop in the same way you build your physical fitness?

We hear a lot these days about stress and when we do, the conversation often focuses on avoiding it or managing it. What if that isn’t actually useful?

The best illustration I’ve read highlighting the direct link between mental toughness and performance comes out of a research lab. A team of researchers wanted to look at what made subjects mentally fit or resilient and took some baby chicks into the lab to study their theory. Painting the chicks and grouping them in separate pens, the first group was left alone to interact happily and normally.

The second group was periodically picked up and stressed in a confined space. After the stress, the chick was given time back in their group pen to recuperate. The third group was continually stressed in the confined space, with no recovery time or play opportunity with other chickens. The researchers created three distinct populations with different experiences.

After raising them for a time in this manner, all the painted chicks were placed in buckets of water, with researchers timing their struggle until drowning. I know, this sounds just awful.

The chicks that had been continually stressed drowned almost immediately; they just had no hope in the face of hardship that they could swim. The second group to succumb was comprised of those “happy innocents” in group one who had never been confined and stressed. They didn’t know how to withstand this watery hardship and folded in the face of it. The last swimmers fighting to make it were the chicks from the stress adaptation group.

Somehow, the confinement stressors followed by time to recover had rendered them stronger and able to swim and survive much longer than their peers. This group was resilient; they had experienced hardship before and believed they had a chance to make it and recover. They had those past mastery experiences to rely on, and they just fought to keep swimming.

Stress has a purpose. Stress is opportunity. It’s meant to teach us to swim!

Responding well to stress requires high functional capacity of your brain’s frontal cortex. This area of our brain houses something called our working memory capacity, which helps us with both emotional regulation (being able to think and not just react) and upper-level cognition (focus). We can improve that capacity with the use of some well-studied, relatively simple exercises.

Think about the last time you experienced stress. I always think back to those really awkward years – for me it was 13 – and last week. Think about that age, standing in the middle of the school lunchroom with your meal tray. As you gaze over top of your sandwich, anemic vegetables, and cookie snack pack, you anxiously wonder who will make room for you at their table.

What happened in your body at that moment? Maybe your heart sped up, you started breathing fast, your face flushed – your body fires off a full-on stress response. As the stress is registered by your brain, wherever that stress comes from – a chain reaction fires.

Your body releases cortisol, adrenaline, and a host of other chemicals to help you cope. It also releases a hormone called DHEA into your bloodstream. DHEA’s entire role is to help your brain grow from the stressor you just survived. But there’s a catch – DHEA only does its job when you give yourself a post-stressor break.

You need that time to de-escalate your revved up nervous system in order for DHEA to do its brain-building work for you! The hormone increases synaptic firing and neural connectivity (you’ll think faster) and increases working memory capacity (emotional regulation and focus). DHEA is what makes stressful experiences worth your time, but you have to create the space for it to do its work.

Creating this space is the heavy lifting of mental fitness training, and it isn’t as easy as it sounds. If I say rest, self-care, nervous system regulation and you think taking a nap, you’re on the wrong track.

When we are asleep our brain waves are long and slow. We call these delta waves, and our brain is in delta state. When you’re awake and ambulatory, walking and talking in the world you’re in Bets state. What’s interesting for a lot of us in a hyper-stimulated environment is that we find ourselves often entirely on or entirely off, and the place in the middle where DHEA does its building work is theta state.

In this space, you’re at rest, but still aware. Also, your nervous system has space to rebuild and strengthen. So what does a drop in stress hormones and downshifting of the nervous system feel like? Think about the last time you enjoyed an activity or training – when you took a deep breath in and you just felt that “Ahhh!” feeling – even if you were working hard and running up and down trails.

You may find it while running, skiing, doing yoga, getting a deep tissue massage, taking a bubble bath, or even lifting weights. Some people call it a “click,” or a “shift.” Here is where you have to experiment a bit. That moment will look different for everyone, but when you find it, take note.

Do more of it – especially when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I find it often on a yoga mat. I have a friend who tells me she finds it swimming laps. Now for me, I’m trying not to drown while swimming laps, there is nothing theta state happening for me there! Dedicate the time to finding your practice. What down-shifts your nervous system? Then do it. Ritualize it. Make downshifted moments part of your training routine.

All of us face periods of adversity, and no one is going to ask us if we can swim before the crisis. We have to train for the hard times, and we can. Make a little time for your brain and watch yourself get sharper, smarter, more focused, kinder. You’ll also be ready for the bucket of water.

You need to know how to become mentally fit to be the best student, professional, parent, and friend that you can be. Be the chick that lived well! Train yourself to swim.

A wrote a book on this subject that’s brand new from Praeger – check it out here.

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