Posts Tagged happiness

The Academy Spreads Cheer & Creates Calm!

The Academy Spreads Cheer & Creates Calm!

Stand Together went in to the Academy last fall to begin training on stigma, mental illness, and substance abuse. This was my first time facilitating a training so I was a bit nervous! As we began the day, I began to see how emotionally mature these students were and how much they truly know already about stigma. We discussed many relevant stereotypes seen in society, and I enjoyed every single student’s input. I could tell that this subject was something they were passionate about, and I knew they would have an awesome year!

 

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One activity we did that they seemed to really enjoy was the “Common Ground” activity where someone stands in the middle and says, “I see common ground with…,” then everyone who the statement applies to must get up 1and move to a different chair. Even though at times it got competitive, the students really saw how much more they have in common with others than different.

 

I returned to the Academy this spring to check out the student’s projects. I came on the day they were implementing their “Cup of Cheer” project. This entailed putting inspirational quotes onto cups and stuffing the cups with coffee, tea, a Stand Together bookmark, and a jelly bracelet that said Stand Together. The students also created a “calm down” room at their school. Inside the room was a mural that the students painted, giving hope and positivity to the students who come into the room needing a break.

 

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I am extremely proud of all the hard work these students did this past year. It was amazing to see them work together on accomplishing such an important goal, ending stigma! Thank you, the Academy! 😊

 

 

Written by Lacey, Project Trainer

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National School Counseling Week: What you need to know!

National School Counseling Week: What you need to know!

Sometimes there’s a stigma not only attached to mental health and substance use disorders, but also getting help. Because of this, many adolescents struggle alone and without receiving treatment. Do you know the average time from symptoms to diagnosis is 10 years?! That’s a lot of time that could be spent happier, and healthier…but stigma is rough.

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We spend a lot of time in Stand Together talking about how important it is to reach out to an adult you trust when you’re worried about yourself or someone else. That can be really scary! You may have had a bad experience or are afraid of judgement or not being understood. The mental health teams at your school might be located in very populated areas and one might be afraid to be seen going through those doors. You might not even know who your mental health team at your school is! Despite all of this, is important to be able to ask-an-adult for help. We can only do so much; we’re not counselors, therapists, or psychiatrists. We can practice SHE (support, hope, and encouragement) and lead students to available help.

 

Here’s a quick guide to who those people might be:

 

DSCN0750social workers-Social workers do as their name suggests, help with social functioning, but they also help navigate signs/symptoms of mental illness and the struggles of adolescence.2.6.18 blog (2)

 

-guidance counselors-You probably don’t know this, but they’re not just there to help you pick your classes and apply for college! They have received extensive training in ‘counseling,’ too, so you can go to them about not just academics, but things outside of the school as well.

 

in-school therapists/other professionals-Your school might also contract with external groups to provide other mental health services in your school. This is great because sometimes help can be hard to access or might not be readily available.

 

SAP teams-The Student Assistance Program is a group of adults, mental health professionals and teachers and other staff members that work together to address the mental health needs of students in the school. Any student can reach out to any one of these trained individuals if they need further assistance.

 

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We want to take a minute to thank the members of our Stand Together team that serve in this capacity: Samantha Noll (social worker, Allderdice HS), Linda Capozzoli and Whitney Moore (guidance counselors, Brentwood HS & MS), Jerry Pepe (SAP lead, Carlynton HS), Shelly Murphy (Behavioral Specialist, Linton MS), Holly Balattler-Eidinger (social worker, SciTech Academy), and Erica Cicero, Meredith Grillo, and Laura Montecalvo (all members of the mental health team at West Allegheny HS). Thanks for all you do for the students in Stand Together and in your schools! We appreciate you!

 

Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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A Happy, Healthy New Year: New Year, Better You

A Happy, Healthy New Year: New Year, Better You

The common phrase we hear around the New Year is: New Year, New Year. I want to tell you that you are already enough! But there’s always things we can work on to better ourselves and achieve our goals. We don’t want a ‘new you;’ our goal is to give you some tips and tricks to incorporate into 2018. No matter if you set resolutions or just see it as another day, it’s important to remember that the small things matter, you’re not alone, and we’re in this together.

The most important of them all:

 

You DESERVE to be HAPPY!!!

1.3.18 new year blog (1)Should I say it again? YOU! Yes, you! Many of us struggle with self-confidence, high standards/expectations, and so much pressure. Sometimes it’s hard to think that there’s more to life than the hustle and bustle of everyday or the chasing the ideas of perfection. You are unique. There is no one else exactly like you in the world. You are human and you deserve love and happiness. And that starts with you. You’ve got this!

You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
– A. A. Milne

2. Treat yo-self!

I know we preach and preach about self-care, but is it so 1.3.18 new year blog (2)incredibly important. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so the saying goes. As members of Stand Together, we ask you to be there and practice SHE: support, hold hope, and encourage each other. You can’t do that if you’re not well. Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, exercise, and do things you enjoy. Be kind to yourself. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit (aka holistic wellness). Take care of yourself and you’ll be able to share yourself with others.

3. Surround yourself with positive people.

We all need SHE in our lives. Friends and close family members are some of the most important tools for resiliency (the ability to bounce back after difficult experiences). You’re never alone and we’re in this together. Don’t be afraid to share your joy, your fears, your struggles with someone else. We have more in common than we do different.

1.3.18 new year blog (5)4. Don’t sweat the small stuff-but the little things matter.

This comic is me to a ‘T.’ So often I focus on the few negative things than all the great things. It’s so hard to do! We have to rewire our brains to make this happen-but it’s well worth it. At the same time, we need to appreciate the little things in life: a text from a friend, a sunrise/sunset, (for me) a nice cup of tea…the list goes on. Gratitude helps us stay centered and have a more positive outlook. Have you given thanks today?

Last, but not least…
5. This is YOUR year.

You have the power to change things you do not like. You have the ability to set boundaries to protect your mental health. You have the chance to advocate for yourself and others. You can and will make a difference. We believe in you. Live in expectation; the best is yet to come. Happy, Healthy New Year!

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Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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Holiday PSA: Stress, Self-Care, and Mental Health

Holiday PSA: Stress, Self-Care, and Mental Health
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Danyelle sharing a part of her recovery story at When the Holidays Hurt…

For most, the holidays are a time of great joy, excitement, and family fun, but for many of us, the holidays hurt. They’re hard. They’re not ‘pretty presents wrapped up in a bow’ or feel-good festivities, but sources of pain, struggle, and/or sadness. Memories of a lost loved one, negative feelings/experiences, and expectations can make it difficult to enjoy this time of the year. I shared my experiences last night at a Human Library presentation; we’re not alone in our struggle. Some of us, myself included, also experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which means that when the sun is in low supply and it’s cold and dreary, our mental health takes a nose dive. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to consume us. Whether you have a mental health condition or not, there are things you can do to de-stress and engage in acts of self-care to promote positive mental health over this season.

1.  It’s OKAY to take a break from family, especially if they challenge your mental health. You can do this respectfully by setting boundaries and limits. It’s okay to politely excuse yourself for a few moments (or longer) to collect yourself, reconnect, and reboot.

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2. Back to Basics: self-care also includes eating healthy foods, exercising, and making sure you get enough sleep. Putting yourself first is not selfish; it’s necessary. It’s okay to indulge in some holiday treats-Hello! Christmas Cookies!-but we like to stick to an 80-20 rule (80% clean/healthy, 20% not so much).

REI-_OptOutside_Anthem_Film_153. Get Outside! Remember REI’s catch-phrase #optoutside? Even though sunshine is hard to come by this time of the year, getting some fresh air is good for the body, mind, and spirit. Be mindful of your surroundings: What do you smell? Hear? See? Feel? Embrace the now! Pet that dog (probably ask first). Catch a snowflake on your tongue. Take a good wiff of that bakery-it’s okay to stop in for a treat too 🙂

4. Do what YOU do! Make sure to engage in activities you enjoy. Read a book, watch a movie, knit, bake…whatever you like to do, make time for you! Little moments of stability can do wonders for your mood.

5. Be mindful. Savor the good times. Stay positive; surround yourself with positive people, if you can. Make time for those friends you haven’t seen in a while or spend some time with that favorite relative. Our perspective determines our reality; if we’re looking for good things, we’ll be able to find them. Practice gratitude and celebrate the small things. Imperfections are a part of the ride and they don’t define the event/who you are.

expecations6. Set realistic expectations. Society bombards us of the idea of this ‘perfect family holiday’ where everyone holds hands and sings Christmas carols around the tree, everyone laughs around a huge table of food, and everything is red and green and lit-up and glorious. Let’s face it-this isn’t real. Everyone is unique and every family is different. When we expect too much, we miss out on little things that could be great experiences. It’s easier said than done (trust me, this is a hard one!), but it’s important to remember that it will pass and to make the most of the situation as it is, not what we expect/would want it to be.

 

Family is messy. The holidays can be stressful, to say the least. But YOU CAN DO IT! Take care of yourself first and foremost. You are important! You deserve a HAPPY HOLIDAY.

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Written by Danyelle. Project Coordinator

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Trainer & Coordinator: Danyelle Hooks

Trainer & Coordinator: Danyelle Hooks

Many of you know Danyelle from last year, but if you haven’t met her yet, here’s what you need to know:
Roles: administrate website and social media, coordinate and facilitate school workshops, plan EOY event, conduct Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings, develop and revise materials
logoExperience: worked with children and adolescents in inpatient behavioral health, lead HS community leadership group, engaged urban students and promoted success, co-chair DBSA Young Adult Council
Professional interests: community mental health (especially faith-based programs and in schools), mental health awareness, holistic wellness, anti-stigma *educate>>stop stigma*

 

Important Stuff
Why I’m here: lived-experience with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder; promote recovery & resiliency, *inspire others* #unashamed

Fun StuffAYNIL graphic
Likes: walruses, popcorn, ice cream, running, camping/hiking, water sports, cats, people-watching, star-gazing, sleeping, surprises, FOOD, the Beatles *all you need is LOVE*, Hello Kitty, JESUS #unashamed, Team RWB
Dislikes: tomatoes, dolphins, the ocean, things in between my toes, conflict, loud noises, crowds, data/numbers, cars, (surprisingly) technology
Life plan: get married, have kids, go back to school, become a counselor! 🙂

Random Facts
-I LOVE polka music.
-I’m afraid of heights, but I like to challenge that.
-My hair used to be neon pink.
-I’m getting *married* next year! <3
Bucket list: hike the Grand Canyon, climb Mt. Ranier, run the Yellowstone & Glacier Park half-marathons, learn Slovak

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My Story

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Valentine's Day: Let's Talk about Self-Love

Valentine's Day: Let's Talk about Self-Love

“Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, and face your future without fear.” – Unknown

 


 

With all the hustle bustle of Valentine’s Day comes depressed feelings and anxiety for many. Too often, we define ourselves by who we are in a relationship with, who our friends are, the thoughts of ‘Keeping Up with the Jones’s,’ so-to-speak. And this ‘culture of perfectionism’ and social media?! It’s no wonder it’s hard to sort everything out. And there’s different kinds of love: romantic love, friendship…but there’s also another important kind: self-love.

It can be hard to talk about ourselves favorably. Sometimes we think about things we’ve done and feel guilt or shame, we judge ourselves harshly and it turns into feelings of failure and low self-worth. Sometimes it’s easier to hold hope for others instead-but it’s important to remember to take care of ourselves! Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy, with self-criticism and disapproval, but would you say those things to a friend? Of course not! Treat yourself the way you treat those you care about! And that starts with having self-compassion.

What is self-2-14-17 Self-love blog 1compassion? In the simplest terms, self-compassion means being kind to yourself, being gentle and supportive, and establishing a positive voice that can reason with you when you’re upset or having feelings of self-doubt. Kristin Neff, PhD, says we need to recognize the situation, resist negative thoughts, humanize yourself through empathic language, and commit to positive self-talk. You are not your experiences, your mental illness, or your past and there is no such thing as normal! Ese Moynihan-Ejaife, LMHC, reminds us that emotions are normal and important and although we don’t enjoy the ‘bad feelings’ as much as the pleasant ones, each emotion can provide a important lesson and challenges your preconceived notions about yourself in order to change you in a good way!

Self-compassion is hard! It’s definitely not easy, but it’s worth it. Self-criticism can lead to a weakened 2-14-17 Self-love blog 4immune system, relationship and motivation issues, and increased symptoms of depression. But self-kindess is an important skill for all of us to learn and use daily. Kim Fredrickson says: ‘It’s a process and it takes a while to learn, but it’s worth every effort. It changes you in a positive way and it lasts a lifetime.’

So how do you turn your inner critic into a compassionate friend and give yourself a break? Let’s start with some positive affirmations. Affirmations are statements of support and encouragement that can help get you through tough times and refocus your energy in a positive direction. Muhammad Ali said that ‘it’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.’ Everyone probably has a few phrases that mean a lot to them, but here’s some to get you started:

Just 2-14-17 Self-love blog 2keep swimming… (Finding Nemo)
-I am strong. I am worthy. I am loved. I am enough.
-Be brave. Stay strong.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. (Winnie the Pooh)
-I forgive myself and set myself free.
-What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
You are capable of amazing things.
-If you believe in yourself, anything is possible. (Miley Cyrus)
-Everything will be okay in the end. If it is not okay, it is not the end.
-Confidence comes from what I feel about myself. (Demi Lovato)
You are stronger than your circumstances.

Remember, self-love is not narcissistic or self-indulgent; it is an important component of mental health! Empower yourself: focus on building self-respect and allow yourself space to make mistakes, learn, and grow. You are you! It’s okay to not be okay! It’s okay to be whoever you are! You’re never alone!

Self-love is crucial because your external world will reflect how you feel about yourself. Self-love also gives you a safety net to take risks and go after your dreams, because you know that no matter what the outcome, you’ll be OK — your self-worth is not on the line.

In closing, LOVE YOURSELF!  Love doesn’t come once a year-it comes every day with how you treat yourself and how you share the joys of life with those important to you! Don’t give up!

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For more information, check out Kim Fredrickson’s book, Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend.

Information compiled from Self-Compassion: The Kindess Cure by Robin Flanigan in Esperanza magazine and The Little-Known Secret to Real Self-Love by Elyse Santilli for The Huffington Post. Image credits to the Sad Ghost Club, Danyelle Hooks, and Alexandra’s Sunset Photography.

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DBSA I to We Leadership Weekend: Inspiration & HOPE!

DBSA I to We Leadership Weekend: Inspiration & HOPE!

If you follow us on social media, you know that this past weekend, I attended a Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance conference on unity in mental health, foucsing on eliminating Illness to building WEllness, Isolation and fear to a WElcoming community of support, and Individual views to poWErful, collective voices. DBSA isn’t limited to individuals with depression and bipolar disorders, but those with any mood disorder or mental illness and those that want to help them, including friends and family, mental health workers, and advocates. I had a great time learning about treatment models, wellness, self-advocacy, the power of storytelling, coping, and goal-setting. I wanted to highlight some of the things I got out of the conference and some inspirational quotes to bring you hope!

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Our  ‘guide’ for the weekend was none other than the DBSA President, Allen DoederleinAllen reminded us that depression and bipolar disorder are the two most prevalent mood disorders and mental health conditions and that we should OWN it! People don’t understand that we have to take care of ourselves first and that’s okay, but there’s no reason to do this alone. ‘Be the captain of your own ship!’ Mental health is a revolution that can all take a part in, whether we have a mental illness or are the friends, family, co-workers, anyone; EVERYONE is affected by mental illness. I to We means Illness to WEllness, from isolation to a welcoming community of support and encouragement for all. Allen also shared that we just need to TALK to each other: ‘When you get to know someone, it’s much harder to hate them.’ Start the conversation about mental illness & stigma! #StandTogether!

Other presenters were Mark Bauer, MD who shared the importance of working in partnership with those around us to become the best we can be and expecting no less of ourselves, while Melody Moezzi, JD emphasized the parallels between immigrants and people with mental illnesses, focusing on the impact of stigma: ‘People don’t tell you to be ashamed. They tell you to be quiet. But you have something important to say!…You should never have to lower your expectations because you have a mental illness!’

There was also a focus on important historical figures with mood disorders, including Buzz Aldrin, Ludwig van Beeethoven, J.D. Salinger, Charlie Parker, Isaac Newton, Kurt Cobain, Marie Curie, Tennessee Williams, Winston Churchill, Dick Clark, Charles Dickens, Abraham Lincoln, Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, and J.K. Rowling, just to name a few…Where would we be without these amazing people that just happen to have a mental illness?!

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Gayathri Ramprasad was a passionate storyteller with so many nuggets of wisdom. In her book Shadows in the Sun, she explores the lack of understanding, respect, and even acknowledgement in other cultures, like her own country of India. She shared her struggle, saying that ‘you can have everything you want, but every day can be a living nightmare.’ So is the difficulties of mental illness. After many negative experiences, Gayathri made the important realization that ‘walls can confine my body, mental illness can control my mind, but nothing can contain my spirit!’ and discovered that ‘faith, hope, and healing have no boundaries!’ through the power of a stranger. Gayathri’s social change organization, ASHA (Sanskrit & Hindu for hope, but an acronym for A Source of Hope for All) provides encouragement and support for people all over the world with mental illness by encouraging them to ‘dare greatly, love deeply, and share your light.’ Remember: ‘We’re all just human. Love and hope unites all of us. A hurricane can come to level you, but you have everything in you to rebuild again!’

By far my favorite presenter and the one I spent the most time with was Tim Bono, PhD. Did you know that research in psychology focuses at least 10x more on mental illness rather than mental health? Not everyone has a mental illness, but everyone is affected by them and everyone can have good mental health. Tim shared Five Habits for Happiness:
1. Don’t be happy-be happier!
2. Don’t let failures go to waste-learn from them!: Mistakes are part of the human experience, but our response either paralyzes us or provokes us.
3. Take time for gratitude: the more gratitude you have, the more optimism and positive you will become. (Emmons & McCullough 2003)
4. Spent time with others, spend time on others.
5. Healthy body, healthy mind.
Henri Matisse said that ‘there are always flowers for those who want to see them.’ What are the things we can do to help ourselves? Practice mindfulness (be present in the moment) & altruism (give back, be there for others). Be patient with yourself. Make S.M.A.R.T. goals. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. Take time to take care of yourself. And remember, you are never alone!

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