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Choosing Between Helping Others and Helping Myself

Anyone who has been keeping up to date with my story knows that within the past two years I have worked incredibly hard to overcome my struggles with depression. In 2019, I went from wanting to die to feeling like my best self, and I established goals that would allow me to continue on a path of personal growth. I felt so proud of my accomplishments and level of motivation, and I felt inspired to continue working toward feeling mentally and physically healthy.

Fast forward to now, and I have to admit that I have reached a small speed bump in the road. In December 2019, I excitedly accepted a promotion from outpatient therapist to crisis intervention specialist at the agency that I am employed. I chose to continue seeing several outpatient clients part time, because I experienced some difficulty letting go and thought I could handle the workload. This means that I am currently working about 12 hours per day, 5 days per week. While I love what I do and often feel inspired through helping others, I am also ready to admit that I am finding myself increasingly frustrated.

I have always excelled at time management and have taken my professional responsibilities seriously. Throughout the past few years, I have been passionate about balancing my professional responsibilities with my personal needs, and I actually got to a place where I was incredibly happy with myself. I felt mentally health, focused, and determined to continue working toward becoming my best self.

Let us first acknowledge that progress is not always a forward motion and that we are almost guaranteed to experience back slides (after all, we are all human….. I think). The Wellness Warrior is a space in which I want to share my growth and be transparent with my struggles, and I wouldn’t be doing this site or myself any justice if I didn’t express my own frustrations.

I think within the past several months, I have slightly lost track of my main goal: To feel wholly healthy. I have been so focused in being there for my clients that I haven’t been present in my own life. Lately, I am mentally exhausted to the point where I’m having trouble focusing on personal relationships and interests. I’ve done minimal work toward my previously established goals and have not indulged in many of my preferred activities (as some may notice from my minimal updates to this blog).

Yesterday, I found myself calling out of work just so I could go outside for a hike and enjoy beautiful weather, and that is when I truly realized the severity of the issue. If I am working so much that I’m feeling I can’t enjoy my life without calling out of work, that is a huge issue.

I haven’t been taking the time to practice as much meditation, and I’ve noticed how my own thought patterns have reverted. My mind has been spinning out with my first reaction to events, which often times is irrational. I am less patient with others and with myself.

With all of this being said, I am struggling between choosing to help others and help myself. I love the work that I do, but I also have to acknowledge and consider when I am giving too much of myself to others and not enough to myself. I am finally ready to admit that I need to take a step back from my professional endeavors in order to better focus on caring for myself and being an active participant in my own life.

And this is where my Wellness Warriors coming in, because I have always struggled to say no when it comes to my career. What tips do you have with establishing professional boundaries? How can I empower myself to advocate for my own needs? How can I remind myself that, where my clients want to work with me, they don’t need to work me to achieve their goals?

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Wins of the Week

The burst of energy I woke up with this morning and the happy sunshine streaming through my office window can only mean one thing– It’s Friday! This week has been a rough mental health week, and although I am well aware of the triggers it can always feel like a slow crawl back to stability. That being said, if there is ever a week to focus on my Wins, this would be the one!

  • I finished a book. If anyone reading this has been struggled with any sort of mental health issue, you may know that concentration may be a huge challenge. As someone who read the last Harry Potter book in just over a day, part of me is heartbroken to say that it had been well over a year since I had been able to read an entire a book. It took about a month to finish this book by breaking down reading into smaller chunks of time, but I felt a sense of accomplishment.
  • I was able to delegate responsibility at work. At my organization, I manage a caseload of about 55 clients. I typically schedule 38-40 hours of individual therapy sessions per week, attend 5-7 meetings monthly, facilitate a group twice monthly that consists of 15 additional clients, and somehow squeeze in time for paperwork and outreach calls in between. Needless to say, all of my days are incredibly busy. I spoke to my supervisor about feeling overwhelmed and we agreed that it would be best to hand my group off to someone else who has a less established caseload to maintain. With my group facilitating nearing its end, I can already feel a little relief.
  • I didn’t feel like a bad employee for delegating. Typically, admitting that I do not have the energy to perform well at a task would lead me to believe that I’m bad at my job. I learned how to catch these thoughts in therapy, but this time I didn’t even need to catch myself because I didn’t have the thought. That’s progress, folks!
  • I painted for the first time in about 10 years. I used to paint all the time, more of a hobby than a coping skill. I was always a perfectionist when it came to creativity, but when I picked up a paint brush this week, I simply focused on playing with color however I was inspired to. I definitely felt rewarded and mindful and just…. emotionally better!

Honestly, to a certain extent, I’m just thankful for making it through the week without completely spontaneously combusting.

Now turning to you, Warriors! What have been your biggest wins of the week?

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101 Coping Skills for Depression

  1. Identify potential triggers
  2. Identify your emotions
  3. Take a walk
  4. Call a friend
  5. Practice deep breathing
  6. Meditate for 5-10 minutes
  7. Draw a cartoon
  8. Write 5 things you love about yourself
  9. Stretch for 10 minutes
  10. Go for a run
  11. Play with a pet
  12. Make a playlist of feel good songs
  13. Listen to your feel good songs
  14. Dance
  15. Paint a representation of your emotions
  16. Make a collage using old magazines
  17. Practice handstands
  18. Do 10 push ups
  19. Go for a bike ride
  20. Clean your apartment
  21. Take a shower
  22. Put on your favorite outfit
  23. Style your hair
  24. Read a book
  25. Take a drive
  26. Take photographs
  27. Stay hydrated
  28. Go window shopping
  29. Socialize with someone
  30. Avoid judging your emotions
  31. Create a simple to do list and complete at least 3 things
  32. Cook a healthy meal
  33. Practice yoga poses
  34. Make jewelry
  35. Look at your rock collection
  36. Paint your nails
  37. Put on a face mask
  38. Play with makeup
  39. Video chat a loved one
  40. Free write in a journal
  41. Let yourself cry
  42. Go somewhere very public
  43. Bake
  44. Drink tea or hot chocolate
  45. Look up recipes
  46. Rearrange your apartment
  47. Watch stand up comedy
  48. Practice positive self talk
  49. Use a stress ball
  50. Make slime
  51. Go for a hike
  52. Sit under a tree and read
  53. Spend time in nature
  54. Sit by a river and listen to the water
  55. Read poetry
  56. Look at art
  57. Put a puzzle together
  58. Water your plants
  59. Write a poem
  60. Play ukulele
  61. Make a list of long term goals
  62. Watch America’s Funniest Home Videos
  63. Identify 10 positive thoughts
  64. Write a gratitude list
  65. Read inspirational quotes
  66. Write a song
  67. Get enough sleep
  68. Use essential oils
  69. Take a bubble bath
  70. Plan an activity
  71. Look outside mindfully
  72. Go outside
  73. Crochet a scarf
  74. Listen to a podcast
  75. Play a board game with a friend
  76. Plan outfits for the week
  77. Sing
  78. Practice visualization
  79. Watch a movie
  80. Meal prep
  81. Challenge any negative thinking
  82. Color a picture
  83. Get a massage
  84. Get your nails done
  85. Make worry stones
  86. Go rock picking
  87. Use progressive muscle relaxation
  88. Engage in problem solving
  89. Watch videos of funny children
  90. Write a letter to yourself
  91. Play a sport
  92. Make extra time for yourself
  93. Use lavender room spray
  94. Identify your strengths
  95. Do a body scan
  96. Look at old pictures
  97. Learn a new craft
  98. Spend time with a family member
  99. Volunteer
  100. Light a candle
  101. Explore somewhere you’ve never been
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Half Marathon Training: Week 1

If someone told younger Kelly that I would be training for a half marathon, I would have been crippled with laughter. That being said, here I am typing a post after successfully completing Week 1 of training. I am so excited and proud of myself for taking on this challenge, and I am eager to share progress updates along the way. It is my hope to share my experience with each week of training leading up to the race.

While developing my training schedule, I heavily researched important fitness workouts for distance runners/half marathon training and tailored them into a routine that fits for me.

Here is what my Week 1 looked like:

  • Sunday: 4 mile run at an easy pace
  • Monday: Pilates
  • Tuesday: 3 mile run at an easy pace
  • Wednesday: Plyometrics
  • Thursday: Yoga
  • Friday: 3 mile run at an easy pace
  • Saturday: REST

The day before I started Week 1, I completed a 5k race with 25 obstacles, so during my 4 mile run on Sunday, I was feeling the burn! But that didn’t stop me, and I was proud to have run the longest distance I’ve ever completed without having to take a walking break.

For the workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I simply used YouTube to find workouts. I typically refuse to spend money on workout tapes, because I am so picky about the routines I complete. I really want something fun, active, and challenging. Although I have developed independent routines at times, I find that I perform best when working out alongside someone who is encouraging and positive– so I turn to YouTube if I can’t find a training partner.

By the time Thursday came around, I was SO EXCITED for my yoga day. While I felt strong and powerful, I also felt that my body needed a relaxing break and a deep stretch. This week really motivated me to take extra time for a deeper and longer stretch after workouts and runs throughout the week. Although I struggled with time management and getting the run in on Friday, I adjusted my schedule to complete my 3 miles bright and early in the morning (not ideal for me, but we make changes where we must).

If I had to change anything about Week 1, I would probably have switched yoga and plyometrics. In retrospect, I think yoga in the middle of the week would have nicely split up the routine and led to a greater sense of balance. As well, I think a more active workout on Thursday would have pumped me up better for my last run of the week on Friday.

Lesson of the week: Find your motivation.

Is anyone else training for distance running? I would love to learn tips and tricks from more seasoned distance runners (and I have had this crazy fascination with researching training routines…… who am I???!!).

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Why I Stopped Sleeping With My Phone Next to my Bed

Sometimes our cell phones seem like an extension of ourselves. They are useful little boxes that remember our appointments, stay in contact with our friends, and share our memories with the touch of a button. It can be difficult to think of cell phones as what they are: a tool. So, I decided that if I don’t feel the need to sleep with a hammer next to my bed, I don’t feel the need to keep my cell phone there either. Here’s why:

Late night cell phone use can lead to lack of sleep.

We’ve all been there: we turn the lights off, settle into our blankets… and then scroll in Instagram for the next hour instead of closing our eyes for some well-deserved snoozing. Further than that, using cell phones in the dark can more intensely expose our eyes to blue lights, potentially causing damage in vision or interfere with our ability to fall asleep.

We are not yet aware of potential health risks.

While there has not been research that proves cell phone use causes cancer, we do know that cell phones emit small amounts of electromagnetic radiation, which can lead to tumor growth. However, since they are such small amounts, cell phones are safe to handle for individuals who are not more vulnerable to radiation. This being said, clear links between cell phone use and health risks are not yet clear—which makes me want to be more safe than sorry.

I wake up more easily in the morning.

I am not a morning person. In fact, I have been known to set my alarm early just to hit snooze for the next hour. A few months ago, I started sleeping with my phone across the room from my bed, and I initially felt resentful that this little music-making pile of metal was dragging my lazy bones out of bed on the first ring. It slowly became much easier to wake up in the morning at the first chime of my alarm.

My mind is clearer as I’m drifting off to dream world.

Incorporating an hour of phone-free time before bed each night has helped me make the space to check in with myself. Having the opportunity to read, journal, or simply reflect has allowed me the space to get any leftover thoughts from the day out of my head before putting my head onto the pillow.

Disconnecting from my phone on a regular basis has allowed me to use my time effectively. Although, I still find myself frustrated sometimes that I have to crawl out of bed to get the loud noises to stop. Overall, I’ve felt positive in my decision to start sleeping disconnected with my phone—and it seems that my brain and body are thankful, too!

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How to Overcome Regression Toward Goals

Picture this: It’s been a months-long streak of hitting wellness goals. You go to sleep at a normal time and sleep well, embrace a healthy diet that a few years ago you would have scoffed at, and actually find yourself LOVING engaging in regular exercise. And then, boom—you go on vacation, your car gets totaled by a deer, stress builds. Routine goes out the window, and it feels like all of the progress that was made is quickly crawling away from the fires that have engulfed your once safe little nest. 

The thing about fires is that they go out eventually. The flames may burn us, but we can avoid the spiral of negativity and douse the fire with water and positivity until we are left to lick our wounds and move forward. Most of us know how difficult it can be to get back on track when life happens.

Here are 5 powerful strategies to moving forward after hardship attempts to derail progress.

  1. Identify the root of the backslide
  • Before we can find a way back, we need to identify what contributed to our slide in the first place. This can include increased stress from life changes, self-defeating mindsets and behaviors, illness or injury, challenging or more frequent life events, and/or challenges in time management. For example, my car recently got totaled. Working out daily was impossible when I needed to spend my free time looking at cars, talking to my insurance, taking my car to various inspection sites. Attending to my car had to become my priority, given that I commute to work by driving.

2. Try a different approach

  • Maybe while you were exploring the root of the backslide, you discovered some real barriers to working toward goals. Maybe you’ve been planning to exercise in the mornings, but can’t go to sleep early enough? Maybe you’re finding difficulty keeping up with a healthy diet due to limited variety of fresh foods at the grocery story you go to. Achieving goals may require some changes in approach, and that’s okay! Methods are going to look different for everyone. It’s all about finding what works best for you and using that to your advantage.

3. Create a schedule

  • I love schedules. I mean it— I LOVE them. Nothing makes me feel more organized than having a plan—even if it’s just loosely followed. My Sunday routine includes sitting down and planning the week—exercises I want to focus on, meals I want to eat, self care activities I want to do, and other tasks or errands that need to be completed. I create a schedule based on what my week looks like and then try my best to stick with it—but life happens, so I’m always gentle and understanding if my schedule changes in small various ways as the week goes on.

4. Find accountability

  • Studies show that the more people that know about your goal, the more likely you are to work toward it. Working toward holding yourself accountable is monumental in achieving goals, but better yet, finding other people who can hold you accountable creates a whole new layer of support in actually doing what you say you’re going to do.

5. Be gentle with yourself

  • Imagine me shouting the following from the tallest rooftop: Embracing positivity toward self and challenges can make or break the ability to overcome obstacles. Understand that backslides happen. Working toward a goal will not always be a forward motion—sometimes it feels like two steps forward, one step back. Negativity and frustration toward self or circumstances can cause one to shut down and can be a deterrent to finding motivation to work through failure. If needed, go back to the basics until you start to feel your groove again.

As Wellness Warriors, it’s important to put more emphasis on the sense of accomplishment we have when achieving a goal and decrease the focus we may put on barriers. We can choose to interpret hardships as an opportunity to utilize healthy coping skills and celebrate our strength, resiliency, and power. 

Happy Tuesday, Wellness Warriors! Here’s to hoping that the schedule I have outlined for myself allows me the ability to port more consistently now that my car fiasco is resolved!

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Creating My Happy Place

This week, I had one goal: plan and create a mini oasis in my tiny, tiny backyard (or backcloset, as I say). This would be a place to read, meditate, drink wine, and relax. The ultimate self care corner!

This is what my little backyard space looked like before the project:

I started the week religiously geeking out over IKEA, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart trying to map out the perfect outdoor space. Trying to find a way to utilize the small space was tough, but well worth the time spent brainstorming.

When the weekend rolled around, I started my Friday night with Goodwill in the suburbs. If I was going to take on designing a small, relaxing space, I was going to do so on a budget. If you’re near Philly, you know that the suburb thrift stores are where the goods are, and it truly did not let me down. I left feeling like I’d hit the jackpot, uplifted by that thrift store adrenaline rush. Here’s what I found (photobombed by a curious, handsome fluff):

Saturday morning, I got started bright and early at my happy place: IKEA. I spent two hours stuck in the euphoria that is Home Goods Heaven, and another two hours back and forth between Home Depot and Walmart.

I slowly hit a point where I was both satisfied with my purchases and anxious to get back home and out of the Saturday store scuffle that many people experience in the city (too many people for a considerable amount of time truly tests my patience!!).

When I got home I went to work building, organizing, making sure things were going perfect. That is, until a freak thunderstorm decided to rain all over my parade and all over my oasis.

When the rain cleared, I resumed my work. I set up my little hammock chair, placed my plants how I wanted them, and hung up lights. Here was the end result;

I am so happy with how it turned out! I got to sit outside last night and drink wine and relax. This is the PERFECT little self care space, where I can drink tea, meditate, listen to the birds. Although my mom thinks my back closet looks like a burial plot, and my brother-in-law joked about this being smaller than a prison cell, I am so happy with how it turned out! These are some snapshots from last night’s relaxation time during my first night of having my little oasis:

This post serves as my encouragement to design yourself a comfortable space where you can relax and recharge. And if you already have, please share! I’m always looking for interior and exterior design inspiration. Happy Sunday, y’all!!

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Training for a Half Marathon: What NOT To Do

Completing the 2019 Philadelphia Half Marathon is one of my greatest accomplishments. The race took place on a chilly November morning, but the bike ride from my apartment to the event site filled my body with warmth. At the starting line, I observed the nervous, excited energy of myself and the other runners as we absorbed the crowd’s encouragements. When the horns went off and the movement began, I felt unstoppable.

I had spent two days perfecting a playlist full of songs that would help propel me to the finish line, but I soon found that I didn’t need music to keep me focused. The cheers from the crowd fueled me, and there was a motivating sense of community among the runners as we moved together toward the finish line. There were countless spectators lining the course with hilarious signs showcasing pun-filled motivational phrases like, “Run like Kanye is gonna give your medal to Beyonce,” and “Always give 100% …. Except when giving blood.”

The unstoppable feeling lasted until around mile 7. At that point, I had already ripped off several layers of warmer clothing and flung them into the sea of onlookers, never to be seen again (luckily large clothing donation boxes were scattered along the race route). The finish line grew closer, but my miles eventually grew slower. Each mile brought a new set of aches, and I’m sure my hips, knees, and feet were plotting ways to detach themselves from the rest of my body. As I struggled through next few miles, a harsh realization came over me: I had not adequately prepared for this.

Don’t get me wrong, I had been preparing to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon for about 8 months. I had researched methods of building endurance and how to avoid injury and created a weekly training schedule. As I progressed in training, I even posted weekly training updates to share how I trained for the race that you can read here. However, my adherence to my pre-determined schedule lasted about 4 weeks before I began to run off the tracks and train to the beat of my own drum.

In retrospect, sticking to my intended schedule would have been more of a priority. Training properly is necessary in allowing the body to adjust to performing at a greater intensity. A good training routine should include long rungs, rest days, cross training, and tapering miles. Although, I adhered to an appropriate regimen in the beginning, I royally failed at overall time management during my training. I made excuses and let things interfere of my training time. Instead of running several times per week, I performed just one long run once weekly. I didn’t adequately stretch, I failed to cross train effectively, and I didn’t pay attention to my diet. Needless to say, my training was lackluster.

Not properly training for my half marathon caused many challenges when it finally came to race day. During my long trek, the biggest problem was a pulled muscle in my groin area that had been taking a while to heal. It was the first thing that started to ache as I pounded the pavement. Eventually, my knees and my feet joined in the hurting. Although I gave my body a few brief rests at the hydration stations, eventually pausing to rest was no longer worth it to me. I couldn’t prolong finishing the race for longer than necessary. I forced myself to run, even at a snail’s pace. I no longer cared about my time or my form- I just knew that the sooner I crossed the finish line, the sooner I could sit down.

I was moving at a pace similar to a 104-year-old woman’s shuffle by the time the finish line entered my site. I bee-lined for the tiny woman dangling the slew of finisher medals from her arm. My gait resembling Frankenstein, I reached my claws forward to claim my shiny prize. I hobbled along and exited through a tent lined with mountains of snacks that I dove into gleefully. I ravenously gorged on bananas and granola bars as I basked in the glory of my achievement.

Despite the challenges I faced, I felt proud that I didn’t give up. I pushed myself, and it taught me that I am capable of so much more than I think I am. My adrenaline had me floating on Cloud Seventy while I navigated through the other exhausted runners. When I collected my bike from the lot, I realized that it was a miserable idea to use biking as my mode of transportation to a half marathon. After running over 13 miles, I now needed to ride another two miles back home. I gathered up the adrenaline I had left and pedaled like my life depended on it. That evening I celebrated my success with my family, but it didn’t take long for the physical and mental exertion to catch up with me.

My experience post-race can be likened to the “Lucky Penny” episode of How I met Your Mother. In the episode, Marshall is upset when a broken toe prevents him from running the New York Marathon, and his friend Barney mocks him by stating that running a marathon is easy even without training. When Marshall bets that Barney cannot finish the marathon, the gambling addict accepts. To everyone’s surprise, Barney finishes the race, adamant that it took little energy. Barney boasts confidently as he dons his medal, and then leaves after learning that marathon runners get to ride the subway for free that day. The scene flashes forward to Barney seemingly enjoying his free subway ride, but the audience quickly sees that Barney is unable to move his legs and, therefore, is stuck on the train.

Similarly, that evening my legs functioned so sorely that going down the stairs in my sister’s home was only bearable if I did it in slow motion, one step at a time. It seemed like each and every single muscle in my body ached, and the arches of my feet were so tight that it hurt to walk. I felt like I could have slept for a million years, which was an absolute outrage to my two-year-old nephew, who fully expected me to have enough energy to perform my auntly duties.

After putting my nephew to bed, I finally seized the opportunity to care for my body. My sister had given me epsom salt and bath bombs as a congratulatory gift, and her deep bath tub with high pressure jets was calling my name. As I prepared to sink in, I reflected on my journey.

There are many things I would have done differently. My body was counting on me to have its best interest, and in some ways I let it down. I had challenges focusing on my training, and I struggled to truly listen to my body. I think those held me back from performing to the fullest potential. Nevertheless, I learned so much about the sport of running and about myself. I learned that running is not easy, and it takes hard work and special care of the body to do it successfully. I also learned be confident and to trust that I can achieve my goals.

As the bathtub filled, my body vibrated with excitement like my muscles knew they were in for a treat. My body had worked hard, probably a little harder than it would have needed if I had trained properly. I made a promise to myself that if I wanted to continue running, I had to put honest work into training so I didn’t inadvertently kill myself in the process. I was already picturing google search phrases that might lead me to the rabbit holes of running how-to articles. I closed my eyes, stepped into the bath, and felt the heat of the water soothe my muscles. I sank down into the warm bath, and my body began to recover.

TLDR; train properly.

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Suicide Prevention: Fact or Fiction

Each year, September brings a slight chill to Pennsylvania, generating anticipation for changing leaves, crisp air, bulky sweaters, and hot apple cider. It also brings a deeper sense of purpose and passion to those acknowledging September as National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, individuals around the world work together to spread suicide prevention awareness.

Suicide is a 10th leading cause of death in the Unite States, and it is the 2nd leading cause of death among people ages 15-24. Although suicide is preventable, it is a serious public health issue. In 2018, 48,344 Americans died by suicide, and there were an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts.

Talking about suicide can be scary and uncomfortable, but it is also a critical to engage in conversations surrounding suicide prevention awareness in order to save lives. We can prevent suicide by openly discussing mental health and understanding warning signs and risk factors. Knowledge is power. Check out these myths and facts to learn more about suicide

Taking to someone about suicide will make them more suicidal.

MYTH. Research shows that people who are experiencing suicidal ideation feel a sense of relief when someone asks them about it in a caring way. Encouraging others to openly share their thoughts and feelings can actually help them to feel better.

This being said, it is important to recognize that those who talk about suicide are still at risk of experiencing a suicide attempt. It is important to ask if the person has a plan with intent to act and encourage them to seek appropriate counseling assistance.

Suicide rates are highest among adolescents.

MYTH. Elderly males experience the highest suicide rates in the United States. Researchers theorize that this relates to the high frequency of undiagnosed or untreated depression, as depressive symptoms are common toward end of life. Older individuals are more likely to lose their spouse or develop chronic illnesses, which can be incredibly stressful and traumatic. Additionally, elderly adults often experience loneliness due to infrequent socialization, which can exacerbate depressive symptoms. Although suicide rates have actually decreased among this population, it still remains the age group that experiences the highest rate of completed suicide.

Knowing warning signs can help to prevent suicide.

TRUE. Individual, relationship, and environmental factors are some elements that may influence the risk of suicide. Individuals who have suffered through traumatic experiences, such as abuse or exposure to violence, are more at risk of suicide.

Warning signs may include:

  • isolation from others
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • low mood
  • low energy
  • talking about wanting to die
  • increased substance use
  • feeling trapped or like a burden
  • feeling hopeless and/or helpless
  • giving away prized possessions
  • attempting to access lethal means

Males experience higher rates of suicide attempts.

MYTH. Although males complete suicide at a higher rate than women, women actually experience high rates of suicide attempts.

You may be wondering: If women have more suicide attempts, how can men have higher completed suicide rates? Men often choose more lethal, immediate methods of attempting suicide, such as using firearms, whereas women tend to choose methods, such as poisoning or suffocation, that are more likely to respond to medical intervention.

Once someone attempts suicide, they are less likely to attempt again.

MYTH. An individual who attempts suicide is actually more at risk of experiencing a future attempt. Once someone experiences a suicide attempts, it is critical for them to receive immediate mental health support to lower the risk of future attempts and the risk possible completion. Suicidal ideation can be a fatal symptom and should always be taken seriously.

Most suicide victims suffer with depression.

TRUE. Depression is the most common mental health condition. Although most people with depression do not die by suicide, experiencing depression does put someone at greater risk of experiencing suicidal ideation. An estimated 60% of individuals who complete suicide suffer with mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder, etc.). Many of them experience co-occurring disorders, such as substance use disorders.

Do you have any questions about suicide? Write in and let me know. Let’s all strive to learn how to help ourselves and how to help each other.

Much love,

Kel

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Superfoods: What They Are and Why You Should Add Them To Your Diet

It can be easy to dismiss the impact that food has on our bodies, but mindful eating has taught me that unbalanced eating can lead to my feeling sluggish, tired, and unmotivated. When I eat balanced meals, I find that my tummy suffers less bloating and discomfort, my skin becomes clearer, and I have enough energy to maintain my active lifestyle.

I knew that healthy eating is linked to incredible health benefits and disease prevention, but I had no idea that healthy eating would have such a great impact on my daily living. This realization inspired me to research foods that provide optimal health benefits, which led me to “Superfoods.”

What are Superfoods?

Superfoods include mostly plant-based foods with some fish and dairy that are thought to promote health. First and foremost, let’s not be fooled by the marketing gurus of the food industry. There are no set criteria for determining what is a superfood. “Superfood” is a marketing term used to influence food sales, and the term itself has no root in academic research. Foods labeled as “super” are those that provide rich nutrients wrapped up in nice little minimal-calorie packages.

Why are Superfoods important?

Superfoods are dense with health-promoting nutrients, such as antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals. These nutrients and lower risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses, improve energy, decrease inflammation, regulating and improving digestion, and supporting weight management.

So…. What’s the catch with Superfoods?

Superfoods have been highly criticized for many reasons, most significantly due to the use of media and marketing to influence public opinion and boost sales. While foods labeled as “Superfoods” are healthy, the way they are processed may not be. For example, natural green tea is high in antioxidants, where commercially manufactured green tea often contains large amounts of added sugar and is cut with other teas. Long story short: always read the nutrition label, and remember that everything is better in moderation- even so-called superfoods.

Although there is no specific food that acts as the key to optimal health, there are some foods that appear to be worthy of the “superfood” label. Let’s take a look at some of these nutrient-abundant foods and dive into the associated health benefits.

Berries

While blueberries are rated high on several lists of superfoods, it is important to recognize that just about any edible berry is worthy of the “superfood” label. Some include raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and cranberries.

Why they’re super:

Berries are high in antioxidants, which is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and other inflammatory conditions. Berries can also be effective in maximizing the ability to cope with various digestive and immune-related disorders alongside traditional treatment (with routine consultation of one’s medical treatment team, of course).

How to incorporate them into diet:

Every morning I eat a bagel with cream cheese with blueberries sprinkled on top. It is my favorite. However, one can also use berries as added flavor in oatmeal, as a topping for healthy pancakes or waffles or deserts, to compliment a salad or smoothie, or simply for a snack!

Dark Leafy Greens

Not everyone finds pleasure eating dark leafy greens because of their sometimes bitter taste, but finding creative ways to enjoy these beauties is the bulk of the battle in reaping the benefits of these foods. Dark leafy greens may include:

  • Kale
  • Microgreens (immature greens produced from seeds of veggies and herbs)
  • Collard Greens
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Beet Greens (the leaves of beets)
  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy (a type of Chinese cabbage)
  • Turnip Greens

Why they’re super:

Dark leafy greens contain nutrients including folate, sinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber. They contain potential to decrease risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They are also helpful in acting as an anti-inflammatory.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Any of these greens are great additions to salads, soups, or sandwiches. Lately, I have been eating spinach in stir fries and breakfast scrambles.

Eggs

Eggs have a high cholesterol content, causing debate about whether or not they are actually healthy (which makes this another opportunity to mention that moderation is key with ALL foods). However, eggs are still considered one of the healthiest foods.

Why they’re super:

Despite their cholesterol content, eggs contain many essential vitamins, such as vitamin B’s, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron, and phosphorous. They are also an excellent source of protein and contain antioxidants that can promote vision and eye health.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Eggs are incredibly versatile. Make them scrambled, fried, dippy, hard boiled, soft boiled, sunny side up, over easy/medium/hard, poached, baked, or basted. Eat them on their own or add them to a salad, sandwich, wrap, or stir fry. I love making over medium eggs over a bed of fresh spinach with a teeeeeeeny bit of sriracha drizzled on top for some spice, but the possibilities are endless!

Green Tea

Green tea is a caffeinated tea with a variety of health benefits. However, examining the processing of any green tea is critical. Green tea that is overly processed, such as bottled green teas (I see you, Lipton), may contain high levels of sugar and chemicals that strip green tea of its nutrients. Commercial green tea may also be cut with other teas, minimizing the health benefits even further. A gentle reminder? Scan the label before consuming. Your body will thank you for it.

Why it’s super:

Organically processed, natural green tea is chalk full of antioxidants and micronutrients (AKA polyphenols), acting as a strong anti-inflammatory. Anti-inflammatory agents in green tea is the key ingredient to preventing chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Drink it! Drink it cold, drink it hot, or drink it lukewarm. I like to brew green tea in bulk and chill it in the refrigerator to grab for a tasty, refreshing beverage at any time in the day.

Legumes

Legumes are essentially plants that produce fruits or veggies in pods. Some common types of legumes include kidney beans, cannellini beans, cranberry beans, black beans, pinto beans, soy beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, and lentils.

Why they’re super:

Legumes are an excellent source of fiber, carbohydrates, B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorous. They are naturally low in fat, cholesterol free, and incredibly filling.

How to incorporate them into diet:

One can utilize legumes by adding them to soups, stews, or casseroles. Pureed beans are also a great base for dips and spreads. I like to add chickpeas to salads or add cooked beans to breakfast scrambles or burgers. I also recently discovered a great recipe for Buffalo Chickpea Sweet Potatoes that is delicious and so filling!

Nuts

Awhhhh, nuts! A personal favorite pre-workout snack. Some of the healthiest nuts include almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts.

Why they’re super:

Nuts are a good source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Although they do contain some saturated fats, nuts are also packed with vitamins and minerals. Eating nuts on a regular basis may reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Nuts are a great snack raw or roasted. They can also be chopped or sliced and added to stir fries, salads, or yogurt. I love making nuts the key ingredient when I make homemade granola bars! I also add sliced walnuts to my healthy banana bread.

Seeds

Seeds are way underrated! Some great seeds include flax, chia, hemp, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower.

Why they’re super:

Seeds contain essential amino acids and minerals, including calcium, zinc, copper, and magnesium. They also include essential fiber and vitamins.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Seeds are another versatile ingredient. I love adding seeds to oatmeal, salads, yogurt or breakfast bowls. They add a great texture to smoothies and can even be ground to a power to add to flour. (Pro Tip: If you hate drinking water, add some chia seeds and fresh fruit to your water for some awesome flavor and texture.)

Yogurt

Here’s another category that stresses the importance of reading the label. Some yogurts are better than others, and generally one might avoid yogurts with heavy processing, artificial sweeteners and added sugar.

Why it’s super:

Yogurt contains protein and calcium, and it provides important vitamins and probiotics. These are helpful in maintaining gut health, aiding in weight loss, and possibly even preventing diabetes.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Yogurt is a great snack all by itself, but it can also be added to smoothies and smoothie bowls. I love adding some granola and fresh berries for a small breakfast bowl or simple snack.

Garlic

Garlic is considered a nutritional superstar, which may be why it has been long used in alternative and natural medicines. It may be small, but the list of health benefits associated with eating garlic is large.

Why it’s super:

Garlic is loaded with vitamins B and C, selenium, iron, copper, and potassium. Allicin, an oily compound produced when garlic is crushed or chopped, offers antioxidant benefits and reduces inflammation. some benefits of garlic include promoting heart health, playing a role in preventing cancer, acting as a natural antibiotic, and reducing swelling and inflammation of various skin conditions (including acne!).

How to incorporate it into diet:

Garlic is another versatile food. I typically add garlic to as many dishes as I can, including veggies, stir fries, salads, and soups. The possibilities are pretty endless with garlic.

Ginger and Turmeric

Ginger and turmeric are other foods that have a long history of use in alternative medicine. They are among the healthiest spices and are loaded with nutrients.

Why they’re super:

Ginger’s main compound is gingerol, which acts as a powerful anti–inflammatory and antioxidant. Curcumin, found in turmeric, is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. This means that both ginger and turmeric have the ability to help fight infections, treat chronic indigestion, manage osteoarthritis, and treating nausea. They also may help in reducing menstrual pain, managing muscle pain and soreness, lowering blood sugar, lowering risk of heart disease, and lowering cholesterol. Some research also identifies ginger and turmeric as having the potential to prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Ginger and turmeric can be ground into a fine powder to use as a spice, as traditionally used in Asian recipes such as curries or stews. Ginger and turmeric can also be peeled, grated, and added to sauces, glazes, and marinades. There are a number of possibilities. They can even be used to create ginger or turmeric water.

Salmon

It’s hard to find a list of healthy foods that doesn’t include salmon. It’s no wonder these fish are strong enough to swim against the heavy current. Salmon, incredibly tasty and versatile, is loaded with important nutrients.

Why it’s super:

Salmon contains B vitamins, potassium, and selenium. It is also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and protein. This means that salmon can help fight inflammation, control weight, reduce risk of heart disease, and may even protect brain health.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Baking is one of the most common ways to consume salmon, due to the ability to preserve the vitamin D content in fish. Salmon can also be prepared by grilling or frying. It can be added to curry, salads, or wraps.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes may not sound healthy due to their name, but the nutritional benefits of this root veggie are abundant. Sweet potatoes, considered a healthy carbohydrate, are incredibly filling and contain some important nutrients.

Why they’re super:

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins C, B, and A. It is also high in the mineral manganese, which helps produce collagen and promote skin and bone health. They are a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is also helpful in regulating blood pressure and supporting weight loss.

How to incorporate them into diet:

I love combining sweet potatoes, eggs, and spinach together to make one awesome breakfast bowl. Other ways to eat sweet potatoes include baking, mashing, or folding sweet potatoes into overnight oats. Another favorite? Slice these babies up and make some sweet potato fries!!

Avocados

Avocados are another personal favorite and considered one of the healthiest fruits. With the rise in popularity of diets such as keto, it is no surprise that avocados have claimed a spot as one of the most popular items to add to your grocery basket.

Why they’re super:

Avocados are a healthy source of monounsaturated fatty acids that contain numerous vitamins, such as A, E, and K. They are also filled with dietary fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Avocados assist in promoting heart health, reducing blood pressure, and minimizing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

How to incorporate them into diet:

I have a habit of cracking these babies open and scooping out the insides with a spoon to eat as a mid-morning snack. However, avocados are also great additions to scrambled eggs, breakfast bowls, salads, or soups. Additionally, many folks find avocados to be a wonderful topping to toast or as a substitute for mayo. I also use mashed avocado as a replacement for sour cream when I make burritos, enchiladas, or tacos.

Chocolate

Last, but certainly not least, chocolate doesn’t just satisfy my insatiable sweet tooth. Dark chocolate is the healthiest sweet treat. Made from the seed of a cocoa tree, dark chocolate is packed with powerful nutrients. But again, moderation is key.

Why it’s super:

Studies show that dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants. Chocolate with a high cocoa content contains copious amounts of fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Of course, there is a moderate amount of sugar, which reinforces the fact that dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation.

How to incorporate it into diet:

If you don’t feel like eating a simply dark chocolate bar, one can experiment with adding dark chocolate to baked goods or as a topping to fruit and other snacks. However, ensuring that dark chocolate contain at least 70% cocoa is the trick to guaranteeing it contains the nutrients that make it super.

What’s the conclusion?

Are “superfoods” a real thing? Who knows, really. The idea that these foods have “super” quality seems rooted in the food industry’s marketing. Regardless of any nicknames or labels, these foods remain high in nutrients and appear to be a welcome addition to our healthy mealtime routines.