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TYPE.A

Oddly enough, I am a Type A. Are you?

I always thought growing up that I was a Type B. But I think that says a lot about my insecurities and anxiety as a child that got even worse into young adulthood. What does it mean to be Type A or Type B anyway?

TYPE.A — It’s okay, you got this. Like, all of it.

Okay, so maybe I am not Type A all the time, but I am sure as heck ambitious, driven, impatient, focused, and strong-willed (I would like to add, strong-hearted). Some basic Type A predispositions also include:

  • controlling
  • aggressive
  • competitive
  • self-critical
  • perfectionist
  • overachiever
  • you may be a Gryffindor (duh).

Now that I look at some of those traits, I can see why I have been called Type A, literally by people who barely know me. It is easy to spot a Type A. But, you have to remember, it is not all encompassing of someone’s personality. Rather, it is more of a spectrum of behavioral traits. And TBH, I think everyone lies on a spectrum of mental health. In fact, mental illness diagnoses are made by checking the DSM, a Diagnostic Statistical Manual to see if you get like a handful of symptoms to qualify you with the disorder. Crazy to think about, right?

We just don’t know enough about the brain chemistry to directly pinpoint what may be a mental disorder with, say, an easy blood test. Vampires beware!

TYPE.B — It’s like Sloth Cycling…we’ll get there…when we…get there.

Here’s the bread and butter of Type B or at least the stereotypical traits:

  • low stress
  • flexible
  • relaxed
  • easygoing
  • in the moment
  • laidback
  • Sloths, the cutest and slowest animals ever.

And here, I thought I was a Type B. Just totally chilled out. Wrong. Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica. Think of Type A as Dwight Schrute. And Type B is Jim Halpert. And yeah, I can relate to Dwight. Wish I was more like a Jim. #TheOffice

But wait! There’s more!

As I have learned to go easy on myself, especially with therapy like DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) I have discovered ways to calm my hyperactive brain and body, and slowed my roll a bit. Just because you mostly fit into one personality category, does not mean you can’t change some of those traits. Type A can learn to chill out and live mindfully. And Type B can set some goals, son.

Either way, none of this is set in stone. Have fun and let your TYPE.A or TYPE.B personality shine.

Before I do anything I ask myself, ‘Would an idiot do that?’ and if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing. — Dwight K. Schrute, THE.OFFICE

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SELF.CARE

This generation has to deal with a constant bombardment of upsetting news headlines from around the world, required connectedness to work 24/7, smartphones and social media becoming an extra appendage (God forbid I turn off my phone!). As you can see, there is a lot of stress and pressure placed on the human race these days.

So, I ask you this: How do you practice SELF.CARE?

What is SELF.CARE?

SELF.CARE is practicing compassion towards yourself. It is making sure you eat a healthy lunch at work. It is running a bubble bath at the end of a long day. It is going for a run with the dog when you need some fresh air. It is making sure you put on your oxygen mask before you place it on another. It is not being selfish. It is taking care of YOU. You are the only person you unendingly have in this world. Meditate on that. What good would you be to helping others, friends, and family, if you do not take care of yourself, first?

My SELF.CARE habits.

Personally, I follow some basic SELF.CARE habits on a daily and weekly basis to make sure that I make time for number one: Me.

My daily SELF.CARE habits include:

  • Take baths with LUSH products. The hot temperature and the aromatherapy, bubbles, and water colors provide me with a soothing and relaxing escape. I light a candle, and often play music on my speaker to heal all of my senses. I make a point of doing this at least one night a week. I spend at least a half hour in the hot tub and then treat myself to a soothing lotion that helps me drift to sleep at the end of the night.
  • Meditate and listen to soft music in bed. Before falling asleep, I spend a few minutes meditating. Meditation at night, for me, means being nonjudgmental towards my thoughts and ruminations. It is focusing on my breath and detaching from the shackles of the daily worries and woes. It is scanning my body and relaxing each part from top to bottom, allowing any harbored anxiety and tension to melt away. And, once I feel settled in, I throw on a soft and soothing album to fall into a constructive sleep. I used to be a sufferer of insomnia. This calm habit has erased the insomnia, and kept my sleep steady for nearly six months now.
  • Eat healthful foods and exercise. This may seem more like a chore than a SELF.CARE habit to some, however I believe that eating well and taking the time to do a workout that I enjoy, such as yoga or running, really is SELF.CARE. It is treating my body kindly by nourishing it with tasty and healthy food-fuel. And it is releasing the toxins and regaining mental clarity by practicing yoga or running outdoors.

How can you practice SELF.CARE?

There are many ways, not just the habits I mentioned, to practice your own SELF.CARE habits. Start small and aim for some consistency. Spend five extra minutes in the shower lathering your hair — you deserve the quick scalp massage! Or treat yourself to an afternoon snack that provides you with the extra energy you need to get through the day — trail mix, anyone?

It all comes down to preserving your physical and mental well-being. It isn’t cool to burnout (get the irony??) anymore. Rest, nourishment, and self-compassion are much more valuable than losing sleep over burnout, and crashing later on from lack of consistently practicing healthy habits.

Try practicing SELF.CARE today. Your body and mind will thank you.

How you treat yourself is how you are inviting the world to treat you. — Unknown

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TRUE.LOVE!

Oh, how sweet true love is. As I watch the Royal Wedding of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry, and get ready to attend another “royal wedding” of two lovebirds tonight, I have love on the brain, as Rihanna would say.

What makes love so special is the mysteriousness of it. Why do we feel love? We can’t quite pinpoint it with a science; I would say that love is more of an art. Love isn’t objective — though I believe love to be the objective and ultimate goal of living life. No, I see love as subjective — the thing that makes love so great is finding someone who feels the way that you do, has coinciding morals and values, otherwise we would all fall for the same people! Yes, the thing that makes love great is the art of finding the person that is the last puzzle piece to your jigsaw of life.

I believe in the science of love’s lusty needs, impulses, and desire to be in a conventional healthy and happy relationship. Though, what I also believe is that there is more to it than we understand; a part of our brain that we haven’t fully tapped into understanding just yet. And to be honest, I hope we never do! It makes love exciting and exhilarating.

So what do we know about TRUE.LOVE!? What can we deduce and explain with science, and what can we leave to inexplicable heavenly forces at work?

The love formula

Does love, actually, have a formula? Can we pinpoint a process of love? According to research led by Rutgers scientists, the short answer is yes.

Love follows a formulaic process in the form of hormones released to the brain as you fall in love. The three steps in the process are defined by Lust, Attraction, and Attachment.

Lust is actually testosterone and estrogen driving the biological force behind why we feel “love” in the first place. Love at first sight may be these basic needs at work: hormonal and evolutionary “Me Tarzan. You Jane.” type feelings.

Attraction comes next after the basic need of Lust. Here, we see a release of the “happy” hormones: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.  These hormones will release when you start to feel joy around your partner. After all, they are the hormones keeping you from feeling depressed (in cases of depression, you need SSRIs and other antidepressants to provide this hormone release). And elation and elevated feelings ensue in the form of Attraction.

Finally, there is Attachment. The hormones associated with Attachment are oxytocin and vasopressin. These are hormones that create a habitually good feeling that you biologically seek; in the case of love, it is an attachment to your sweetheart. You want to be around them as often as possible. And so, Attachment follows.

However, I am not completely sold on TRUE.LOVE! being purely a science.

Who wrote the book of love?

If you are a God-fearing follower of a religion, you may see all the science behind love as a bunch of hootenanny. And I have to agree with you there. I believe there is a greater reason for why we fall in love and stay with our partners. How could it all be scientifically explained away as coincidence?

In a world of chaos and entropy, I think finding your TRUE.LOVE! is the driving reason why we go on living, growing, and succeeding as a society. I joke about following Pythagoreanism and the presence of a mathematical pattern to the meaning of life: for instance, why do we see Fibonacci so prevalent in nature? I also see the beauty in love being disorderly, fantastic, and yet, greater than us. There is a beautiful unknown to love.

I think our brains contain the answer to the age old question, why do we fall in love? The thing is, we may have millions, or even billions of years before we use our entire brain function and solve the problem. For now, I relish in the thrill and fun of not knowing why we fall in love.

I hope you do, too.

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love — Mother Teresa

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DEAR.MOM,

DEAR.MOM,

Today is the day that I realized just how small life really is. We see our lives as these long, drawn out periods over the course of many decades. When in reality, life is quite short in the grand universal scheme. If I were to map my life, and even many ancestors’ lives passed, it would be minuscule when compared to the weight of humanity as a whole.

I think about this often, particularly when I am going through depression and feeling like I can’t keep going through life. But today, I am recognizing why each of these short lived lives matter — every one of us. It is because it is our opportunity to contribute to the larger picture. And there is no greater contribution to the all-encompassing path of civilization than bringing another life into this world.

The job of a mother is to shepherd new life, physically and through passed on teachings, into the world. The hope is that they have a better, easier time of life than themselves. And so on, and so forth comes evolution.

Until I become a mother someday, I will not fully feel the sense of love, worry, and joy a child brings to her mother. I can only empathize, with the little wisdom I have in my young life, the connection a mother feels to her child, and the pain it must bring to see her son or daughter going through hurt, sadness, and depression. There is a reason we hear stories of mothers gaining super-human strength to save their children from car wrecks, or why we have to remind them to put their oxygen mask on first, and then their child’s. This is the epitome of motherhood — babies first!

When I feel low, angry, hurt, fearful, suicidal, it’s Mom that I turn to first. When I am proud, joyful, elated, excited, thrilled, it’s Mom that I want to share my happiness with. On this Mother’s Day, I thank you, Mom, for being the one I can turn to when I’m at my high point, or at my low point.

I want you to always know that I am happy, healthy, and safe.

I want you to know that I want to live an even better life than you. I never want you afraid for me. I want you to always know that I am happy, healthy, and safe. And I want to share all of your teachings with my own daughter, someday.

Mom, you are the reason I want to stay on the map and continue my journey in this grand design of life. Thank you for always shining the light of the moon on my darkness. Happy Mother’s Day.

LOVE,

JOANNA

A mother’s happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected also on the past in the guise of fond memories. – Honore de Balzac

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BRITNEY.B*TCH

There’s a thing or two that we can learn from Britney Spears.

First of all, she is a mother, a triple threat singer/dancer/actor, and a fighter. Second of all, we’ve seen it in the tabloids way back when she shaved her head during a kind of nervous breakdown: what I’m getting at is, she’s human. The STARS: they’re just like us.

Whether Britney suffered a mental break or not, she sings to the tune of her own beat. Listening to classics like “Stronger” or watching the psychologically thrilling video for “Everytime” brought to my attention what a deep, emotionally charged lyricist she is. She’s not a vapid Barbie Doll. She is a fierce lady with a voice for good.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned from this lovable blonde. Get ready to laugh, cry, and feel all the feels. It’s BRITNEY.B*TCH.

1. Can we cool it with the crazy labels?

After some erratic behaviors, Brit got labelled as crazy, bipolar, manic-depressive, nuts, etc. What people may not realize is that 1 in 5 people suffer from mental illness. So what if she is or isn’t, chances are if you’re sitting in a room with 4 other people, you could be on the mental disorder spectrum, yourself.

Did I freak you out enough? Good. Just because mental illness is invisible to the eye, doesn’t make it easy or painless. It also doesn’t mean you should label a person as “bipolar” or “psycho” or “crazy.” Would you call someone with diabetes “sicko” or “insulin junkie” or “freakish?” Probably not. Let’s not label people; let’s see people as the beautifully multi-faceted humans that they are.

2. Keep fighting, and look good while doing it.

I’m not necessarily saying Britney Spears is fighting an uphill mental battle. However, in spite of being slut-shamed and called looney, she brushes it off and looks hot while doing it. She keeps pushing herself to stay physically fit and mentally stable.

Since I had to go on medication for depression, I gained a lot of excess weight over the past 10 years. I was very thin and fit prior to that, and I have struggled to keep weight off of my body. Britney is in her 30’s and looks amazing. She takes care of her body. After bringing yoga and running back into my healthy repertoire of habits, I have become more physically fit, and I benefit mentally, as well. Keep it up, Brit. I will, too.

3. “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.”

I get it, Britney. I’m that awkward-aged, late millennial who is stuck between independence and co-dependance. I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I’m starting to build my life now, after struggling for so long. “Sometimes I run, sometimes I hide.” And it often seems like, “every time I try to fly, I fall without my wings…I feel so small.” A lot of the time, I want to say to life, “You drive me craaazy!” But I know, I am moving in the right direction, whichever way that may be. Hey, at least “I’m stronger than yesterday.”

“I’m stronger than yesterday.”

And that’s that! The lessons I learned from growing up listening to this pop-siren goddess. Thanks for the nostalgic memories, Brit. You teach us a thing or two about being a BOSS.B*TCH. Keep doing you. I’ll keep doing me.

If I was to pick a cartoon character I am most like, I would say Daisy Duck because she is very stubborn, she has a very feminine sense, and she knows what she likes. — Britney Spears

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Image credit: Amazon.com

 

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W.RITE?

An interesting article from The Washington Post on punctuation, specifically the choice between one or two spaces after the end of a sentence, intrigued me this morning while I had my cup of Joe. On the topic of punctuation, or PUNK.TUATION in my case, I like to move freely with the alphabet and set of symbols we have for PUNK.TUATING the English language. I grew up reading and learning that the two spaces at the end of a sentence were proper. I knew nothing else. Until, that is, I went through adolescence and began college in the era of Facebook, MySpace, and good old-fashioned texting.

Communicating through written word was now done in short spurts. And forget about Twitter — when that came on the social media scene I was baffled by the hashtags and acronyms — do we not even write a full word anymore?

All that said, the point of my blog post today is that we have the opportunity to make time to write and to share what we write, thanks to things like Twitter, Facebook, and texting. Psychologically, I believe that there are some detriments to our social-societal well-being due to things like social media that remove us from just that, socializing as humans, in person.

But there are also great benefits.

For instance, I can keep in touch with my cousins on another continent. I can check in with my friends across the country. And I can write to an audience of people who I never would have reached before. For all these reasons, I’m glad that I can share what’s on my mind in writing with other people, even if it is removed from speaking live and in person.

So, what do we do with this great new power we have? Do we unleash it and abuse it, the way some politicians (I won’t mention names) do? Or, rather, do we take the power to have our voices be heard around the country, around the world, and use it to benefit the greater good of society and our evolution as human beings on this great planet Earth?

By way of my words, tweets, posts, and PUNK.TUATED blog, I am choosing the high road to the best of my abilities. No one is perfect. And no man is an island. We still need human interaction and socialization — even animals like dogs, cats, and wild critters need to socialize. Next time you notice that you are being sucked into the psychological under-belly vortex of online trolling, or you can’t seem to understand why your friend out in Nebraska wrote that radical, polarizing and politically charged comment on Facebook, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that good old-fashioned “verbal diarrhea” has now become “written diarrhea” or even scarier, “online post, tweet, comment, share diarrhea.” Online people. For everyone to see and judge over and over and over again.

Now, being one of the queens of “online post diarrhea” (honestly, I am just writing this to see how many times I can write the word “diarrhea”), I know that I overshare. I know that. But, I felt silenced by the stigma of my mental illness for so long; I felt pushed down by the numbing emotional pain I went through after the trauma and PTSD symptoms surfaced; I felt dead inside without the ability to use my voice. I had to write. I had to write about it. I had to find out if others were feeling like me. And many others have been through these struggles of the mind, even physical battles with palpable pain and depression and anxiety.

But, I felt silenced by the stigma of my mental illness for so long; I felt pushed down by the numbing emotional pain I went through after the trauma and PTSD symptoms surfaced; I felt dead inside without the ability to use my voice.

My main point is this — if you feel like you are alone: write. Write down your feelings on paper, in a journal, heck, draw what you are experiencing mentally and internally. Writing gets the ruminating thoughts out of your head. Next step is to read. Read what people are writing about, and you are sure-as-sugar to find out that there are other people feeling the way you feel. Write for expression of emotions. And read for the human connection of similar stories and life paths.

Writing down what I am going through, what I feel, my opinions, my triumphs and tribulations — it opened the door to so many great things in my life. Work, friends, family reconnections, my inner core being. If you feel alone, or feel as though you are living in silence, begin to write. And share with others your story. We may not be speaking face-to-face all the time, but we can make the best of the power we harness to go online and share what’s on our minds or tweet to open a dialogue on what we are passionate about.

Punctuation, no punctuation, poetry, or posts — writing can heal the deafened inner voice. And we will be a more fruitful society if we apply the manners we learned as children to the way we now text or type to each other. I mean, am I W.RITE?

My head is a hive of words that won’t settle. — Virginia Woolf

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PET.LOVE

Those of us with a furry family member know the love and joy a pet brings to everyday life. Pets have been an integral part of my mental health journey. I have been blessed to grow up with family dogs and cats who bring me such happiness. What is the science behind the therapeutic benefits of having a pet? And how can a therapy animal soften the symptoms of depression or other mental illnesses?

Let’s dig into why PET.LOVE works to ease the brain, pain, and stress of living with mental illness.

Endorphins

Petting a dog, cat or other beloved pet can release endorphins in the brain, oxytocin specifically, that calm anxiety and ease mental tension. Oxytocin is thought of as the “love hormone” and brings about that gushy feeling you get when you pet your animal. This hormone is associated with childbirth, so its no wonder that we often think of fur babies as our own kin!

Encouragement

Having an animal, especially an emotional support or service pet, can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation associated with mental disorders like depression. Petting your furry friend takes away feelings of alienation, encouraging pet owners with disabilities by providing support. A service dog, for instance, can aid someone suffering from social anxiety to get out of the house and feel comfortable being around crowds of people, which otherwise felt overwhelming.

Heart Health

There is a physical benefit to petting a therapy animal, as well. Touching your four-legged friend can lower your blood pressure, and improve your cardiovascular wellness. Animals help reduce chronic pain, and have a healing effect on the body. A relaxation response is automatically triggered when touching your pet, and in some cases, can improve medication effectiveness or even reduce the need for high dosages (though there is still a need for research on the positive correlation).

For the Love of Pets!

Whether you live with mental illness, chronic pain, or simply have a love of animals, PET.LOVE does more than just soothe the soul. There are real benefits to owning a therapy animal, or being visited by one. Feel-good hormones, positive reinforcement, and physical wellness are among the good side-effects of being around your favorite furry ones.

For more on the great ways that AAT (Animal-Assisted Therapy) helps those with mental and physical illnesses, check out this article from UCLA Health.

I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals. — Winston Churchill

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