Mental Health Home School

Mental health is a lifelong journey for every human. It’s something that comes up a lot this time of year in particular as the holidays bring with them stresses, memories and not-so-welcome comments from family members you are generally able to avoid in the rest of life. As a family doctor, the number of visits on my schedule for anxiety, depression, grief, panic attacks and all manner of stresses dramatically increases leading up to Thanksgiving and doesn’t let up until well after New Year’s Day.

I have had a personal journey with mental health in adulthood that I appreciate in particular because I can truly empathize with others struggling. I’ve been in low, low places and I’ve been peacefully, truly, deeply happy. I’ve been on medication for depression, anxiety and post-partum mood changes. I’ve seen therapists. But, some of the most important work I’ve done to grow has been reading and self-reflection and I wanted to share the 5 key resources that have been the most helpful.

1. The Science of Happiness, by Stefan Klein

The first book that introduced me to the concept that you have some control over your own mental health was The Science of Happiness. I read this book at the end of undergrad as I was heading into medical school and it. changed. everything.

The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy-and What We Can Do to Get Happier by [Klein, Stefan]At that point, I had started to recognize that not only did my mood influence my behavior, but my behaviors influenced my mood and experience of life (hello, frontal lobe, welcome to the rest of the mature brain!). This book gave me powerful insight into the why of that and got me working on “Happiness Habits”. As a lifelong cynic who questions everything, I would never have believed any book telling me to do something without understanding why that would make a difference. 

2) The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

This book was my second mental health growth spurt and came much later. I had finished medical school and residency. Those 7 years were tough. We are confronted with very regular, literal life-and-death situations, sleep deprivation, lack of time for exercise or healthy hobbies, isolation from your loved ones and regularly feeling like you might be the dumbest person in the room – especially hard for those of us who used to be frequently the smartest person in a room (am I selling you on becoming a doctor yet??). I had been on and off medication and was ready to heal myself. I stumbled into this one at just the right moment.

The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by [Rubin, Gretchen]

Gretchen was in a similar place to me. We both were married to great people, had the family we planned, a nice home, a good job, but were still pretty miserable. I set out to do my own Happiness Project, setting out tasks, turning them into habits, and lo and behold!! I got happier! I was able to wean off medication in anticipation of getting pregnant again and wow, it really worked! I think I told everyone I know to go buy the book. You’re welcome, Gretchen!

3) The Universe Has Your Back, by Gabrielle Bernstein

Just when things had settled down a bit, life threw us another curve ball. My husband decided to go back to fellowship (extra medical training to specialize into a ‘niche’). Twice. This involved a 75% paycut, moving 4 times in 4 years, and, oh, we now had 2 babies and a puppy and I was also trying to be a good primary care doctor to brand new patients then having to ‘abandon’ them to move again over and over. It was rough. My rudimentary mental health skills weren’t really up to the task. The Universe quite literally barged in with The Universe Has Your Back and turned the tide.

I started it just as the girls were both sick at home, my husband was working 100 hours a week with a 3 hour commute, and I hated my own job at the time. We were massively in debt from the fellowships and had moved away from essentially all of our close support people. This book forced me to examine and change my own inner dialogue on a MUCH deeper level than I ever had before. The Universe began to quite literally speak to me, sparking several dramatic life changes that have turned into a happiness snowball effect. Can. Not. Recommend. Enough.

4) Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis

I probably don’t need to say a whole lot about this book since it’s blowing up the bestseller lists across the US and internationally. I might have fallen off the self-improvement wagon again as I had every other time had The Universe not led me to start working a side-gig that encouraged continuous personal development. We are expected to read 10 pages every. single. day. to improve your function in some way. They don’t specify what you read, just that you make it habit to work on yourself, a little bit, consistently. Even on the longest, most exhausted day, you can read 10 pages of something. Trust me. I picked this one next and found it inspiring, clarifying and full of real-life applicable advice.

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by [Hollis, Rachel]

I would add, however, that the part of it that most changed me and how I was doing with mental health was following Rachel’s podcast and posts on social media and going to the Made For More documentary – can’t WAIT for the next book which delves more into the action side of improving your life!

5) You Are A Badass, Jen Sincero

At the end of Rachel’s book, I couldn’t help but feel that I needed more direction. Rachel made me believe I was “Made For More”, but I didn’t quite know how to find what my ‘more’ should be or how to get there. You see, I had accomplished a lot by many measures – getting into a top medical school, becoming a Family Physician, making a healthy marriage and raising two (so far) thriving kids. From the outside, it looks like I am fairly good at setting goals and accomplishing them. The problem was, those goals were all externally defined – someone else said what the end result was and all the basics of how to get there.  I felt gratitude for being ‘successful’ without ever stopping to think about where I might dream of being beyond that.

You Are a Badass®: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by [Sincero, Jen]

Enter, You are a Badass. Jen Sincero’s book blasted open my eyes to the concept that you can simultaneously be grateful for what you have and where you are in life ANNNND have huge dreams about where you are going ANNNNNND ANNND AND make that life happen, whatever it is. I can’t begin to explain how big of a revelation this was for me.

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Jen breaks it down into how to get there in real terms, in cursy and hilarious fashion. With the help of this book, I have reached next-level happy. I discovered how to dream and made the first one of those dreams come true. I dreamed that even though we are on an incredibly strict budget, my husband and I could still go on a tropical vacation. I’ve never won or earned the “bonus” on any challenge in my life, but one came up in my side business with Nerium. Through goal setting, planning and consistent action, I earned a free, all-inclusive vacation to the Bahamas for us at a 5 star resort this June. BOOMSHAKALAKA!

Where are you now?

This journey has been my own. I readily acknowledge that everyone is starting or continuing on their own journey in different places. You may be light-years ahead of me, or struggling at the very beginning. I hope that one or more of these books might help some of you on the way. As always, this is my personal experience and not your own personal medical advice – talk your medical person if you need help.

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Dr. Annie is a family physician and mom of 3 in California.

Kristy, Au Naturale: Massage is not a Luxury

Show of hands on who is stressed about something right now? Literally, anything. Laundry, money, marriage, kids, work, blah blah blah blah.

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Close your eyes and feel your body. Feel where it is tense. Is it your shoulders? Your jaw? Your glutes? Is your brow furrowed or your posture slouched?

Now stop reading. Feel it. Take this time.

Now actively release those muscles and become aware that whenever we think about the simplest thing that causes us stress, our bodies produce this physiological response called tension. It is only the most practiced of us (aka, the Buddha) that can be fully aware of these muscular stresses, and actively manage them without the help or guidance of others.

This is exactly why I do not believe that we can call Massage Therapy a “luxury” any longer. We, as the human collective, are just too seemingly stressed out about our lives and the state of the world to recognize how it is affecting our bodes.

What we end up following, is a cycle of tension, and pain, then anxiety and decreased ability to cope with the pain.

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This has a dire effect on us as a whole being. The way our body responds to stress is three fold. It is physiological, emotional, and psychosocial. Most of us turn to medicine to manage the symptoms. Which has its benefits as well, but what if it were more simple than that?

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The Body is Smart

There are over 50 physiological responses to stress. Overwhelmingly and alarmingly, these responses effect our body systems’ ability to function properly. Below are descriptions of different bodily systems as they respond to stressors placed in our lives.

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The Answer is Antique

The power of touch and “healing” touch has been around for 5000 YEARS. Five freaking thousand years people have been using Massage Therapy and healing therapies to ease the symptoms of stress and illness, be it mental, emotional, or physiological. I say, if it ain’t broke……

Massage Therapy is the perfect antidote to most of the stressful situations in which we find ourselves on our daily grind. With frequent (at least once a month, if not every 6 weeks) Massage Therapy, one can benefit GREATLY.  Pictured below are just some of those benefits outlined.

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But what about our psychological health? It is no surprise that stress creates emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, family tension, short temperament, coping problems, and increase use of improper coping mechanisms. Massage therapy can help by increasing self worth, decreasing blood pressure (aka anxiety), boosting energy levels (aka helping with depression) improving sleep (hello resting awesome sleep face) and increasing ones awareness of their bodily tensions. This latter benefit is important so that we can understand our body’s response to stress, and address is as it presents itself before it becomes a reason to create a problem.

The fact is, no matter what you believe, that we are primitively designed to live in the moment. Most of the animal kingdom, when not hunting, do not spend their time worrying about taxes, relationships, promotions, etc.

They spend their leisurely time sleeping, cuddling, BEING.

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I’ve got $5 that she’s not thinking about TPS reports

Massage Therapy is THIS. Not a luxury, but a primitive and necessary reminder that our bodies, brains, and souls need a time out. We need to allow ourselves an hour (or more) every once in a while to tune out from the world and unplug, and tune INTO ourselves.

As mothers, so often when we experience touch in our lives, someone wants something from us. The new baby needs to nurse. The toddler needs comfort. Our spouse needs…. another kind of comfort. Having someone touch you in a healing way is not a regular occurrence for most moms. For other women, whether you’re single or an empty-nester without the kids hanging off of you, touch might be nearly absent. That hour of nourishing touch is even more important in these stages of life.

So, whether you’ve never had a professional massage or it’s just been too long, now is the time to sit down with your budget and find $50-150 per month for this. We are talking about one Target run for a lot of us here. Only, instead of a few bags of (admittedly cute) stuff you were convinced you need, you now have invested in healing every aspect of your life.

You can’t pour from an empty bucket, people. Replenish your needs so you are better able to share yourself with those who matter to you.

18835945_10103938084553859_8628446883750688728_n Kristy is a married mom of 2, doula, massage therapist, and dedicated crossfitter with a passion of healing the human body and mind in Virginia.

At Home with Christiana: Best Fitness Apps

Fitness is something that has always been a part of my life. From junior athletics to marathon running to postpartum recovery, fitness is a major source of stress relief, confidence, and balance in my life. So while a day in the life of home renovating and chasing little people is almost always a workout in some form, my personal fitness is something I work very hard to prioritize. For me.giphy4

We all know by now the countless benefits of exercise (if not, read up!) but sometimes LIFE HAPPENS and getting to the gym just doesn’t. Parent or not, sometimes just adulting feels like sabotage to your fitness routine. Then add the schedules of 1, 2, or 3 little people that have little no regard for your agenda, and well, you get the picture. Client meeting runs late and you miss your spin class. Baby changes her nap schedule and you miss yoga by 5 f&*ing minutes. Ugh. “Namaste!”  Luckily, for days like these, technology is here to literally save our asses. Praise to the Fitness Apps.

Fitness apps have been a game changer for me because they allow me to get a serious workout in whenever and wherever I choose. No gym, no trainer, nobody else’s schedule but mine. Even multiple little people can’t sabotage these – there is a pause button for diaper changes, (because sh*t happens) and frankly, babies make great kettle bell substitutes for those walking lunges.  Also, no one is around to judge me for drinking coffee during my morning yoga session. #mommasrules

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In sum, fitness apps are totally awesome! With one caveat. Apps are definitely a realm where not all are created equal, but don’t despair if you’ve struck out in the past.  I have included my three favorite, time-tested apps below.  They won’t let you down.

Best Strength/Cross Training App: Nike Training Club

Nike Training Club (NTC) is my go-to app for at-home cross-training. NTC features a wide variety of workouts designed by pro athletes and celebrity trainers (oh heeeey Ronaldo, I see you). Ranging in intensity and activity level, these workouts can get straight up hardcore.  I love that this app allows you to select a workout based on a number of criteria. Only got 15 minutes? There are workouts for that. No equipment on hand? There are workouts for that, too. Want to target a certain stubborn body part or muscle group? There are PLENTY of workouts for that.

Another great feature is you can play your own music without interfering with the app’s audio cues. Because NO ONE likes doing burpees in silence. No one. New workouts are uploaded pretty regularly so I have yet to get bored. You can also set up 4-8 week personalized plans via the app that provide you with workouts in the order and frequency you should do them based on your personal inputs. This app really gives you everything you need to get a serious sweat on. So get after it!

Cost: Free

Great for: Strength training, beginners to serious athletes

Best Yoga App: Yoga Studio by Gaiam

Anyone who spends the majority of their week surrounded by little people who have yet to develop the concept of ‘personal space’ can use a little zen. But sometimes a lot of the time your yoga studio’s schedule won’t jive with yours, your kids stay home sick, or you just plain sleep in. Fear not. Gaiam’s Yoga Studio is a great app that can bring the Om at home, on vacation, in the backyard… anywhere. Time to get those yoga pants doing some actual yoga, y’all.

I will be the first to say that I am picky about yoga, and I think this app does a great job of channeling the calming vibe of a studio class via your wireless device.  You can download a wide variety of pre-made classes and meditations (more of our thoughts on meditation here if you missed it) ranging from 5 minutes to over an hour that target specific muscle groups or problem areas (such as lower back pain, yoga for runners),  or a particular mood (strength, Relaxation, AM/PM). Or you can create your own custom classes too. The one-hour Relaxation class is a personal favorite in our household. After the kids go to bed, light a candle, roll out your mat, (maybe pour that glass of wine, because why not? You’re at home!) Annnnd enjoy some well-earned savasana.  You won’t regret it.

Cost: $1.99/month or $19.99 annually

Great for: All levels of  yoga 

Best Running App: Map my Run by Under Armor

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Running for me currently goes one of two ways…  either the stars align and I get a glorious solo run while someone else watches the kiddos OR I’ve loaded up the jogging stroller with kids, snacks, blankets, water bottles and goodness knows what else. Either way, I just want to GO before something goes wrong. I don’t want to worry about creating a route, monitoring my pace or distance, or fidget with a bunch of settings on my devices.

Enter: Map my Run. I can load saved routes with a touch of one button or simply “start workout” and go. All while my distance and pace and calories are reliably monitored and saved to track progress. You can add notes to your run once it’s completed (like perhaps “double stroller into the wind” or “goldfish spilled”) so you can track your training performance without trying to remember why you had a couple really off pace days.

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You can also connect with your running buddies/family members that use the app to encourage each other along the way, which is especially fun if you’re training for an event together, even long distance, or just for added support.  That “NICE RUN, BUDDY!!!” text from your partner never, ever gets old.

Cost: Free

Great for: Running/walking/biking, tracking outdoor routes, race training

I hope these apps are as helpful for some of you to maintain or even begin your fitness regimen as they have been for me.  Shout out with your favorites if you have some to add!  Now go get you some Om. Cheers!

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View More: http://taraliebeckphotography.pass.us/homecoming123

Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

Momday Feels: Kristy & Annie

Just because some parts of our region fall victim to the whims of a picky groundhog’s opinion on what is considered a shadow, doesn’t mean we can’t make spring bloom
whenever we (damn well) want inside our homes
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Go home March, you’re drunk!
Some fun indoor spring projects can boost the mind into happier places.  For instance, if you love summer gardening, starting seeds in February-March can get you a head start with those ripe summer tomatoes, squash and zucchini. Plus – seeds offer more variety (I see you heirlooms) and are wayyyy cheaper than buying started plants later on  (so more money for wine to go with that Caprese).
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Starting an indoor herb garden from potted herbs found at your local grocery store can not only provide you with some beautiful greenery indoors, but can also inspire delicious meals and teas for entertaining or relaxing. Or sometimes, you might just need to smash a sage leaf or lavender flower in your palm and snort sniff it when your kids won’t stop whining that they’re borrrrrrrrrred, when is it gonna be summmmmmerrrrrrr?!
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It doesn’t have to be plants either. Finding a way to do sometime just for YOU can turn your whole day around. Imagine if instead of getting addicted to cigarettes, or drugs or even your iPhone you were addicted to self care. It’s all well and good when you have those special times to really get away and treat yourself, but what about the days you’re stuck at home or at work?? Where could you sneak off to “get your fix”.
Maybe you take an extra minute hiding in the bathroom to swipe on your favorite lipstick.  Perhaps you hide in the pantry and just fully savor a bite of expensive dark chocolate. Maybe when the kids are (finally) good and distracted, you leave the laundry unfolded and dishes undone and just do 5 minutes of yoga, or dancing to your fave song, or put on a face mask or masturbate (lock the bedroom door for that one) or paint your nails… whatEVER makes you feel more present and joyful in YOUR body.
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I know keeping fresh flowers around my home helped me out of a rough bout of seasonal affective disorder. (Thanks to the suggestion of a certain DIY badass renaissance mama—love you Christiana) Seeing the fullness and brightness of the blooms, helped inspire the productivity of purging my kitchen of all the useless junk (tupperware tops with no bottoms and visa versa…why are there never matching sets??) which made more space for organization!  I also had the benefit and joy of picking out my favorite blooms and buying them for ME. Don’t wait around for someone to buy them for you. Treat YO-self!
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So try it sometime..buy yourself some of your favorite flowers, stop and smell them, and smile. I dare you to make yourself smile today…. Kindness to yourself is the ultimate gangster.
IMG_9104Kristy is a married mom of 2, doula, Crossfitter, homesteader and massage therapist in Virginia. Annie, doctor mama of 2 in California co-wrote this with her.