About anitamanley

Mother to millennials. Woman with lived experience of mental illness and homelessness. Peer Facilitator/Patient Advisor/Public Speaker/Mental Health Advocate. #FACES19

Dealing with BIG emotions!

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By Anita Manley

Everyone has been there–had BIG feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, or even joy! It is how we deal with these feelings that really matters. Today’s blog outlines some coping techniques.

  1. Move it out: As Silken Laumann, Olympic rower and creator of Unsinkable, says: she goes out for a walk or a run or drops down and does some push-ups to express her intense feelings of anger. You can do any type of exercise really. My daughter enjoys putting on boxing gloves and punching a punching bag at the gym. Physical movement is a great way to deal with BIG emotions.
  2. Write it out: I love to journal and during the toughest times in my life my journal has always been there for me, listening, not judging, not advising; and just being “like” a good friend. I express my anger and frustration by writing in BIG letters, with multiple underlines, even swear words (since it is just for me to read). I get it all out on paper and then I feel so much better afterwards, as though all the weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
  3. Cry it out: When I am feeling hurt or super sad or even so angry I could cry, that is what I do. I just have a good long cry, usually in the shower with the hot water running down my quivering body, muffling the sound and attempting to calm me. At times, I have cried for a long half hour before I calm down enough to be able to then use a different coping mechanism like journaling, for example. Stacking techniques is always helpful as well.
  4. Sing it out: I don’t know about you, but there always seems to be a song that expresses exactly how I am feeling. I’ll put that song on and belt out the tune along with the band and pretend I’m a Freddie Mercury wanna be, perhaps even playing the same song over and over again, until I’ve fully expressed all the emotions inside of me. For people more talented than myself, perhaps they can play an instrument along with singing a sad song, to really get out those feelings.
  5. Create: There is no better time to create than when you are full of emotion. Write poetry or a song, paint or draw something that expresses how you are feeling. If you are sad because you lost a loved one, go through some of their things or pictures, and create a scrapbook of memories.
  6. Laugh it out: “Research has shown that laughing can genuinely boost your mood, as well as reduce the levels of stress hormones in your body.” MHCC. So, watch a comedy that always makes you laugh, check out some funny YouTube videos, or read the comics.
  7. Hug it out: You can hug someone or a teddy bear, or other stuffed animal, or a pet or a pillow. You can sob while hugging someone or something too, just be prepared to get lots of licks from your caring dog (if you have one)! There’s evidence that a few good squeezes could lead to decreased depression.

    So the next time you are feeling REALLY angry, sad or frustrated: try one, or a few of these coping techniques. You’ll feel so much better afterwards!
Hugging and laughing are two great ways to deal with BIG emotions.

Doctor’s Orders!

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By Anita Manley

I’m sure many of you are spending several hours a day, or more, attached to your computer screen; attending Zoom meetings, responding to emails, etc. It is so important, now during this pandemic–more than ever–to keep active for your physical and mental wellbeing.

Despite the pandemic, I recently had an annual physical, for which I am very grateful. I have a wonderful family physician who takes a lot of time talking to me about my overall health. This year was no different. Every year, she gives me notes to take home with me–my homework! This is what she told me to focus on this year.

First, take vitamin D supplements daily all year round –1,000 UI (with food). Everyone in our climate is vitamin D deficient, unless they take supplements. Also, my doctor explained to me that there has been some very preliminary research done which seems to indicate that those deficient in vitamin D have worse outcomes if they get COVID than those who are not vitamin D deficient. Guess what I’m taking every morning with breakfast?

My doctor also wants me to enjoy my golden years. I’m 55–getting to the age where my children might soon have children of their own. My doctor said that so many people get out there and throw a ball to their grandkids and pull a muscle in their shoulder, or go cross country skiing and fall due to loss of balance. Therefore, next on the list of homework is:

  1. stretching
  2. balance
  3. weights

    1) I have found a great YouTube video “Real Time Full Body Stretching Routine – Ask Dr Jo” – which gives you just that – a full body stretch. I now follow this 2-3 times a week.

    2) Balance: My doctor said to practice standing on one foot for as long as possible and keep extending that period of time. Alternate feet. This will help with strengthening the muscles to gain balance. I do this after my stretching routine.

    3) Weights: Women in their 50’s start to lose upper body strength, if they don’t work at it. So, she recommended I do a series of arm strengthening exercises using just a light 2 pound weight to begin with. I do a series of weight lifting after my balancing exercises.

    And finally, EVERY year, my doctor advises me to get at least 10,000 steps in a day. She wants me walking as much as possible every single day to keep the weight off and to stay fit. I average about 8,000 steps a day, so I’m not far off, but need to increase my steps for sure. This will be difficult once winter comes along, so I’ve purchased some cross-country skis to keep active throughout this Ottawa winter.

    What will you be doing to stay active and healthy this winter?
I’ll be stretching, doing balancing exercises and weights so that I’m ready to hit the trails this winter. What will you be doing to stay healthy in between Zoom meetings?

Coping techniques during tough times

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This week I came across a great Youtube video featuring Dr. Laurie Santos, a Professor at Yale University. You can watch the complete video here. I strongly urge you to watch the complete video, but I will summarize here.

Dr. Laurie Santos’ 5 Coping Tips during challenging times:

  1. Exercise

    “Getting 1/2 an hour of cardio every morning is at times just as effective as a prescription of Zoloft.”

  2. Gratitude

    “Research suggests that you can retrain your mind to become happier just by paying attention to things that you are grateful for. Write down 3 -5 things you are grateful for every day – by doing this – it will significantly improve your well-being in as little as two weeks.”

  3. Sleep

    “Get rid of technology before going to bed.” Santos says she puts her phone in its own little bed away from her to get an uninterrupted sleep.

  4. Get Social

    “Research shows happy people are more social and prioritize time with family and friends and they really try to schedule it in when times get busy.”

  5. Be with your emotions

    Dr. Santos talks about a meditation technique here, called RAIN.

    Recognize
    Accept
    Investigate
    Nuture

    Her video is short and very helpful. It is worth clicking on the link above as this is just a summary. Her tips are super useful, especially now – since we are all struggling during COVID.
Walking for half an hour every morning can be an extremely healthy coping mechanism.

I’ve got to be ME!

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By Anita Manley

“Never let anyone else define who you are.” That is what my loyal friend and Lead of Women’s Mental Health at The Royal said to me, on a walk not that long ago.

Recently, I was asked to speak at an event as a “client” of The Royal. I said, “sure, but please introduce me as a peer facilitator in the Women’s Mental Health Program… and as someone with lived expertise of mental illness.” I am so much more than just a mental health client.

When I was hospitalized, I found that the staff did not recognize this. They saw me only as an “inpatient” with an “illness to be treated”. They all forgot that I was also a mother mourning the loss of connection and a relationship with my two daughters. Nobody addressed that, until much later on. They forgot that I was a friend, cousin, sister, aunt, daughter (and I had not seen my 80-something mother in over 3 years)! Just imagine how disheartened, lonely and miserable I was, staying in a hospital all alone without visitors for months– with no place to live– so I couldn’t even go home on weekends if I had a weekend pass. I did, however, convince my doctor to let me go to Toronto to visit my Mom for Thanksgiving weekend and for Christmas. As you can imagine, they were cherished times for me to reconnect with my Mom and brother. I learned my Mom had cancer as well, and thus, I was doubly anguished that we’d lost several years to my illness. (This was 2011 and my Mom passed away in December of 2013. I was very grateful to be able to spend just over two years with her before she died.)

I now wear many hats–so many more than just a “mental illness client”. In addition to the very important roles listed above, I’m a blogger, a writer, a Run for Women team captain, a fundraiser, a former #FACES19 with CAMIMH, an Inspiration Award winner, a public speaker, a volunteer, a 2019 Top 40 (40th anniversary of The Royal Foundation), a mental health advocate and advisor, a person with lived expertise (subject matter expert) and a former sales professional. I’m also a knitter, a swimmer, a cyclist, an active walker, and a loving partner.

I am all of these things and more. I will never again let others put me in a box with a label on it. I am so much more than my illness.

I am not my illness: my name is Anita.

How do you define yourself?

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. – Oscar Wilde

Comparison is the thief of JOY

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By Anita Manley

I have noticed a commonality among friends, family and acquaintances. Those who compare themselves to others are less joyful, or even miserable as a result.

In fact, comparing ourselves to others is something we all tend to do at some point. Here are some examples:

  • The friend who says (not jokingly), I’ll trade you places, you can live at my home and I’ll live in yours.
  • The neighbour who thinks you have so many more friends than they do.
  • The family member who compares their “meager” earnings for hard work to your executive salary, or your government job with a pension.
  • The acquaintance who envies your car, boat and/or cottage.
  • The friend who has several health problems and wishes they were as healthy as you are.

    Comparison is truly the thief of JOY. The truth is you are ALWAYS going to find others in your life who have more than you do. More friends, more money, more family members, a bigger home, a fancier car, and the list goes on. If you are constantly comparing yourself to these people, rather than being grateful for what you have, you will never be happy. (See my previous post regarding gratitude: Here).

    I suggest, rather than comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to yourself! Try setting goals for yourself, then comparing yourself a month from now to your old self. Are you more active? Do you have a tidier home? Are you more fit? Have you walked more? Have you connected with more friends? If not, then reset your goals to live your best life. (See my post on goal setting Here).

    Remember, try to be grateful for all that you have. If you want to compare yourself to someone, choose your recent past self. In the case of illness or accident, you will have to re-evaluate your comparison in keeping with your new reality. Try not to be too hard on yourself, and pay attention to the smallest increments of change. Set goals. Avoid falling into the trap of comparing yourself to others around you.

    Remember… comparison truly IS the thief of JOY.
Avoid falling into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Compare yourself to you! Continue to set goals that are achievable. Be grateful for what you have. You are enough!

Saying “Yes” more often!

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By Anita Manley

Just as important as having the ability to say “no”, is the ability to say “yes” more often– to things that feel good and right. These two responses in life are like the ancient chinese philosophy of yin and yang. These seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected and interdependent.

Several years ago, I attended a weekly women’s group at The Royal. One of the group leaders, a social worker, encouraged us to say “yes” more often. This turned out to be a very transformative moment in my recovery process.

Like many people in early recovery, I stuck to a rigid routine. This routine, which included going to bed by 9 pm, gave me great comfort. However, it is often a good idea to step outside of your comfort zone, to try new things that might scare you.

In said group, this social worker recounted a story of how she had recently moved to Ottawa and didn’t have many friends. By surprise, one weekend, she had been invited to four different BBQs. Rather than just accepting one or two invitations, she decided to say “yes” to all four, so that she could meet more people and potentially develop more friendships. This was an ‘aha!’ moment for me. I’d felt really stuck in a comfortable rut at the time and did not have many friends in my support network. So, I decided to take her up on this suggestion.

Later that week, an acquaintance asked me, when catching a bus home at 8:15 pm, if I wanted to go to a local pub that featured live blues music on Thursday nights (pre-pandemic). Normally, I would have said: “no, I’m heading home to bed”. But, inspired by the story from my women’s group, I thought to myself: I can sleep in on Friday if I need to. I can have some fun and perhaps meet new people. I replied with a guarded “yes”!

I’m so glad I did! I got to know this woman better and met all of her friends, who were regular Thursday night blues fans. We enjoyed a couple of drinks and shared a few laughs, while dancing and listening to some great local musicians. When it was time for me to leave, everyone at our table said “see you next week” and I thought to myself, I guess I’m becoming a ‘regular’ now, too!

From then on, I went most Thursday nights to the local pub. Then, in the winter, the same pub held an All Blues Weekend. My new friend, Julie and I bought tickets for the Friday night. One of the groups (The Jesse Greene Band) were friends of Julie’s. Later on in the evening, Julie introduced me to Jesse’s dad, Ron. In July of 2018, I married that man! All thanks to saying “yes” more often and expanding my network of friends.

Try it! Step outside of your comfort zone and say “yes” to something that scares you, but feels right. Something wonderful and life changing may happen as a result.

Say ‘yes’ to something that scares you! Step outside of your comfort zone– you may create lasting memories.

Learning to say “NO”

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By Anita Manley

Setting boundaries and sticking to them is a very important part of mental wellness and recovery.

Many of us have been raised to follow orders–do whatever Mom and Dad tell you to do, listen to the boss, and never challenge authority. We are taught that we are not a “good child, employee, partner, etc.” if we say NO. We may even feel guilty.

This type of thinking can often get us into hot water.  It is so important, at times, to say no–loud and proud, mean it, and stick to it. It helps others to understand and respect your limits. Often times, you gain more respect by not being a “yes-man”. If you are not prepared to do something, or you don’t have the time or the desire, or if it goes against your beliefs, then just say no!  A long explanation isn’t needed.

Sometimes we say no, and the person at the receiving end still continues to push for a yes.  It is so important to stick to your guns and not give in.  There is a good reason you said no in the first place.  Repeat your answer. If you feel comfortable–clearly explain why you are saying no. If they’re not happy with that, point out to them that they’re not respecting your boundaries.

According to Melody Beattie, in the book The Language of Letting Go:

“The problem is, if we don’t learn to say no, we stop liking ourselves and the people we always try to please. We may even punish others out of resentment.

“When do we say no? When no is what we really mean.

“When we learn to say no, we stop lying. People can trust us, and we can trust ourselves. All sorts of good things happen when we start saying what we mean.”

Go ahead and say NO–if that is what you really mean. It’s not that hard.

'NO'-hand_CROPD

 

 

The importance of reaching out for support

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By Anita Manley

 

I remember being in such a dark place that I wanted nothing more than the pain to end. In my distorted mind, I thought the only way out was suicide.  Fortunately, I made it through those terrifying days, continuing to live — and am I ever thankful that I did!  I also remember feeling as though I was a burden to everyone, since I was so depressed and couldn’t contribute.  Hell, I couldn’t even get out of bed to have a shower.  My family insisted that I was not a burden, that they loved me dearly and that “this too shall pass” — and they were right — the dark rain cloud did pass, and sunny days reigned again.

You are worth it! Every human being on this earth has value and contributes in their own unique way to the universe. You are not a burden (even when you are struggling the most). You are lovable and you deserve the best. You do!  Believe it.

Lately, I have heard of so many of my friends battling with feelings of self-worth. Depression. Anxiety. And, some with suicidal ideation — wanting to end their life as feelings of shame and desperation take over.

Please — in times like these — reach out for help.

Fortunately,  in all cases, my friends have come through this by seeking support from others.  One drove herself to the emergency department. Is she ever glad she did!  Today she is living a much better life after receiving life-changing trauma therapy. She is so much happier now, has greater self-esteem — and celebrates each day, each week since the day she chose not to take her life. (For inspiration follow: The Maven of Mayhem on Facebook, @maven_of_mayhem on Instagram, and @MavenOfMayhem on Twitter).

Another friend reached out to family for encouragement, and to medical professionals to request a change in medication. Yet another, asked her support network to get together socially (at a distance), reaching out for basic needs and for medical requirements.

How can we be that supportive person…  to our loved ones in need?

According to Ann-Marie O’Brien, Lead of Women’s Mental Health at The Royal (@StrongGirl51 on Twitter):

“It begins by asking, ‘How can I help?’ The person seeking help is the one who gets to define what help is.”

Recently, I have reached out to medical professionals — for my own help. When my family doctor suggested anxiety medication, as she heard so much anguish, pain and anxiety in my voice: I replied persistently, “No… I just need to talk to someone about it.” I am not against medication — I take it every day to help me stay well — but I know that I do not need more at the moment.  Then, when speaking with my psychiatrist, she offered an increase in anti-psychotic medication. I repeated firmly, “No… I just need some psychotherapy. Can you please refer me to a psychologist?”  Fortunately for me, I was refered to a psychologist for psychotherapy after advocating for myself clearly and persistently. The person seeking help is the one who gets to define what help is.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to loved ones, friends, or professionals for help when you need it. You are worth it! Repeat this to yourself : “I am worth it. Life will get better. I will not be in this dark place forever.” Advocate for yourself.  If at first you do not get what you need, repeat your needs calmly and persistently over and over again, until you get what you are looking for.

Choose life! Reach out for support. You are worth it!

Crisis Services Canada 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) 1-800-273-8255

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Reach out for support. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

Guest Blog – Gardening during a pandemic – by Dani Manley

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Note by Anita Manley:  I thought that my next blog should be about the mental health benefits of gardening.  I am well aware of how healing it is to nurture, water, feed and care for my own indoor and outdoor potted plants. It makes me feel so good to see my plants grow, bloom, and to harvest tomatoes and fresh herbs to make delicious and nutritious recipes. But then I realized there would be no one better than my nephew’s wife, Dani — an accomplished gardener, nurse and Mom — to contribute to this topic.

Hi – my name is Danielle (Dani) Manley, and I am married to Anita’s nephew, Joey Manley. I am a Registered Nurse and mom to a very active two and a half year old and an affectionately described ‘COVID’ baby (3 months old). I am passionate about gardening and come from two sides of farmers – so you could say gardening is in my blood but really it was in my nurture. I started to involve my son in gardening when he was born and now my daughter. It was and still is important to me to have gardening in my life to give me meaning and pride and encourage me to be outdoors but it is also important to me to instill food knowledge with my children. There is something very special to me about watching my son walk to the garden and eat the raspberries off the cane, with his general increase in healthy food knowledge or listening to him name the weigela or delphinium and watching him stopping to smell the roses, literally. Aside from my children, my husband has become a gardener as well and told me he finds watering and weeding very relaxing and gratifying, a far stretch from the big city life (without gardening) he once lived.

All that said, in no way do I profess to be an expert gardener but I do enjoy learning more about gardening every single day. Though I’ve been gardening for some time I have only recently recognized the mental health benefits of gardening on this global scale. You can follow my son, Jack and I: @jacksplants on Instagram.

Dani and Jack

Here I am with my son, Jack, pointing out new growth.  He’s an enthusiastic student.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in a time of unknowns, isolation and for many, fear— a large portion of the population have turned to gardening.  Have you ever wondered why this is?

In earlier war times, the concept of “victory gardening” became well known as a patriotic way to support troops and increase food supply.  Currently, during this pandemic, you hear of many people taking up gardening. Why are we still drawn to gardening in the present day? I would argue that it is for the mental health benefits.

Gardening provides work with evident and gratifying gains, both physically and mentally. It prescribes a required routine that can give someone purpose. It often involves networking to answer questions, or to share experiences that gardeners of varying levels may provide, thus the increased following of gardening communities on social media. Since most gardening done leisurely is accomplished outdoors, this promotes more time spent in the elements away from the distractions of digital media, immersed in fresh air and sunlight. For those who grow food, it comes with the additional advantage of knowing where your food comes from, which logically influences a person’s healthy eating choices. The combination of all of these things in themselves speak to the mental wellness benefits that gardening promotes.

I’d like to end with this quote from 1945, reminding us that though the world has radically changed since then, the roots of mental wellness and its often connected activities— like gardening—are still a relevant reminder today to slow down:

 “Of all the by-products of the war there is little doubt that the victory garden is one of the most valuable. All true gardeners know the relaxation and peace of mind that contact with the soil brings. It is the best of all antidotes to the mental poisons of nervous strain in modern life. Doing real things with one’s hands, watching the wonderful thrust of nature’s will to live, is a source of deep satisfaction.” —editorial, the Globe and Mail, January 30, 1945

 

References

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6334070/

 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335516301401

 

https://www.tvo.org/article/forget-the-golf-stick-and-use-the-hoe-why-ontarians-embraced-gardening-during-wwii?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIy8bB0qPS6gIVB6SzCh0EBgV6EAAYASAAEgI34_D_BwE

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A current photo of my son Jack’s Veggie Patch.

Decluttering for peace of mind.

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By Anita Manley

 

During the first few weeks of COVID-19, while cooped up in our small one-bedroom apartment, it was clear we had one BIG problem. CLUTTER. Clutter had accumulated EVERYWHERE. On my desk in the bedroom, on the coffee table in the living room (my second desk!), the dining room table, and due to being home all day: a multitude of dirty dishes, piled high, in the kitchen. All this disorganization and messiness was really getting me down.

I talked to my daughter, Nicola, on the phone and she was doing some great decluttering herself… thus inspired, I started with my desk and committed to it by telling Nicola I was going to attempt to clear it off by our next call (in a week’s time). So! Mission accomplished: papers thrown out or filed, books were put onto a bookshelf or given away and I even got rid of an orchid, whose bare branches were not bringing me joy. It felt great… Marie Kondo would’ve been proud of me. I know Nicola was, when I showed her the results on our next video chat.

Then, I moved onto my “other desk” in the living room. Same thing — voila! Then into my closets — I emptied all of the clothes I never wear and piled them for donation; winter clothes were stored away downstairs and underwear/ sock drawer was cleared out into bins, making room for more clothing. I was on a roll — but still: nothing was getting me down more, than the thought of that endless trail of dirty dishes awaiting… in the kitchen.

Perhaps anyone living/ working from home during COVID without a dishwasher can relate.  Cooking and eating every meal at home adds up to a lot of dishes in a day. One skipped day of doing the dishes can set you behind and be super depressing. Envision attempting to prepare a meal with a small counter and dirty dishes encroaching on all surfaces, leaving no room for preparation. I was feeling super frustrated and was recounting this story to my friend on a walk through a lush forest in her neighbourhood one sunny morning. The ‘dreaded dishes’ dilemma. She so very kindly texted me the next day and asked what my plans were for dinner.  I replied: nothing that couldn’t be changed.  She said OK, do up your dishes and I am going to deliver your next meal.  A few hours later, there was a beautiful casserole, salad and berry crisp for dessert — ready to eat. My husband and I felt so indebted to her for making this kindly gesture that we also resolved to keep up with the dishes ever since.

I can honestly say that the lack of clutter throughout our home has reduced my anxiety and feelings of depression. I also feel I am sleeping better at night.

Therefore, it was no surprise to me when I recently picked up the book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, to see that in her very first chapter she listed “toss, restore, organize” as goals towards “Boosting Energy” and creating a happier life. Or, that Sue-Anne Hickey of Bodytypology listed “decluttering and creating a relaxing atmosphere” as a way to prevent insomnia.

Whether you decide to read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up, or not: I know you will benefit from decluttering your living space.

Give it a try — one room at a time — for better peace of mind.

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Now, doesn’t this image of a tidy apartment (not my own) bring inner peace?