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What We Can Learn From Athletes And Their Mental Health

I had planned to write a post on mental health and type 2 diabetes, but decided to wait on a more opportune time. But with Simone Biles’s shocking exit from the Tokyo Olympics, I thought this was the best time to tackle this important subject. As a therapist who worked with mentally ill patients for many years and who had a family member who suffered from mental illness, I feel a great deal of empathy for the mentally ill. Whether she is a decorated, world-famous athlete or a lowly person struggling to make ends meet, mental illness affects us all.

Simone Biles at the Olympics all around gold medal podium From Wikimedia Commons

Dubbed “The Face of the Games,” Biles was expected to once more dominate the gymnast field and add to her vast collection of gold medals. But on Monday night, when she failed to execute a maneuver that had been second nature to her, Biles decided it was time to take a break. She is not the first famous athlete to confess to having mental problems. Recently, Naomi Osaka, tennis star, also withdrew from this year’s French Open and exited in the third round of the Olympics after losing to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic. In 2016, Michael Phelps also revealed that he too wrestled with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Those are just three of the big names, but other athletes have also spoken out about their struggles with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Speaking of Osaka’s decision to withdraw, Biles said, “I say put mental health first because if you don’t, then you’re not going to enjoy your score and you’re not gonna succeed as much as you want to.” She continued, “So, it’s okay sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor or a person that you really are.”  

Here Biles is speaking about athletic competition, but can you see a message in her words for ordinary folk like you and me? I do. If I substitute the word life for score and the phrase some things for big competitions … see what I mean? Many of us stress ourselves out trying to achieve the pot of gold beyond the rainbow and we fail to enjoy life. We don’t take time to look after ourselves. We can’t say no to others. We subject ourselves to a lot of pressure just trying to please others.

On the other side of the coin, there are those of us who have inherited a family history of depression. This makes it more difficult to manage your depression. If you have diabetes – either type 1 or type 2 – you are at a greater risk for depression. Part of the reason is that managing diabetes can be stressful. It can also lead to other health problems which may worsen symptoms of depression.

There is still a stigma attached to mental health. Hopefully, with famous people like Biles and Osaka speaking out about their mental health, more people will be encouraged to come forward and get treatment. If you are diabetic and find yourself experiencing feelings of sadness or hopelessness for no apparent reason, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, unexplained back pain or headaches, consult your doctor. Do not wait until your feelings become worse. The sooner you begin treatment, the sooner you will begin to enjoy life again.

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5 Ways To Stop Feeling Like A Victim

Sometimes when things are not going your way you may decide to curl up in a corner and have a good pity-party. Or, you may complain to others how unfair life is, or ruminate on all the hurt you suffered and the many ways you have been victimized. You would most likely stay in victim mode for a while, but it should be a short while. If you follow the tips below, you just may end up feeling like a victor and not a victim.

Shift Your Focus

  1. Let it go. Whatever it is that hurt you – a person’s actions or your own bad choices – make the decision to let it go. Forgive the person who hurt you. The sooner you do that the sooner you will stop reliving the hurt and all the details, and your mind will be free to begin working on new possibilities.
  2. Forgive yourself. Sometimes you may find it easier to forgive someone else — especially if that person is not in close proximity— than to forgive yourself. You may tell yourself, “I deserved it.” No, you didn’t. You may have had a small part to play in the pain you suffered, but that does not give anyone the right to take advantage of you. (See #5)
  3. Acknowledge your pain. Talk it over with someone — a trusted friend, a therapist, or even the person who hurt you. Getting it out of your system is another way of letting go. You can write in your journal, or write a letter to the person or yourself and not mail it.
  4. Be honest with yourself. Sometimes the pain we experience is not always the total fault of someone else or of circumstances beyond your control. As you write in your journal or your letter, examine the part you played in bringing on that hurt. Did you set yourself up for the person to hurt you? What could you have done differently? Being honest will help you avoid such situations in the future.
  5. Take one day at a time. You cannot forget the past. You would wish you could erase those horrible memories, but unfortunately, you can’t. Therefore, the best thing you can do is to take one day at a time. When your mind harks back to the past, linger there only for a moment, then tell yourself, “Today is a new day. God is in charge of my life today and forever. The past is gone.”

All of this may sound easier said than done, but it takes work. It takes commitment to practice letting go, forgiving yourself and others, being honest with yourself and living in the present. And what does this have to do with your diabetes? Well, the victim mentality can lead to stress, which can lead to depression, which can lead to diabetes. The good news is that diabetes and depression can be treated together. Fill out the form below.

Journaling through COVID-19

Do you suffer from type 2 diabetes? Would you like to know how to control or even reverse your diabetes through proper diet and exercise? Then fill out the form below for a free discovery session. Contact me.

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Peace In Troubled Times

Courtesy morgue file

It’s the beginning of another week, but for many of you your normal routine has changed. You don’t have to go to work, but instead of feeling happy, you are filled with anxiety and uncertainty. What does the future hold? Can you protect your family from this horrible coronavirus? How long will it last? When will your life return to normal? These and other questions trouble your mind as you try to grapple with this frightening situation.

In this uncertain time, it is easy to give in to feelings of anxiety and even fear. But if you can turn your focus away from what is going on around you– just for a few minutes– and place it on God, you can have peace. The only advice I have for you is what I give myself when things look grim, as they do now. I pray and meditate on scripture. Here are some verses that bring me comfort. I hope they do the same for you.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. Psalm 119: 165

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Psalm 91: 2

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makes me dwell in safety. Psalm 4: 8

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. Psalm 18: 2

For some of you who are not used to praying, you can use the scripture verses above. Say them out aloud as often as you can and watch changes begin to take place. God bless.

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Why We Must Forgive

Write a letter of forgiveness

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus said these words in Luke 23: 34 as He hung on the cross, being crucified for sins He didn’t commit. He forgave the thief who was being crucified with Him when he asked for forgiveness. (Luke 23: 39 – 43). Prior to His death, Jesus taught, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (17: 3 – 4). Jesus emphasized two things: 1) forgiveness is mandatory, and 2) it is ongoing.

Acknowledge the hurt

It’s not easy to forgive someone who has hurt you. The hurt, the disappointment, the shock can remain with you for years, affecting you mentally and physically. You don’t want this to happen. If the person is a close friend or relative, it’s even more difficult. Yet, Jesus says we must forgive. But look at what He says first, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; ” In other words, don’t hold your hurt inside and pretend it doesn’t matter. Let them know they hurt you and when they say they are sorry, then you forgive them.

Human forgiveness

But, you say, what if they never admit their wrong or say they are sorry? Human forgiveness is different from Godly forgiveness. God forgives people when they repent. He knows their heart, we don’t. Therefore, all we can do is forgive them and leave the rest to God. Make a conscious decision to forgive, release the hurt they caused you and forgive them in your heart. You can do that through prayer and counseling.

Forgiveness is ongoing

“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” It’s hardly likely that someone would sin against you seven times in a day and come to you for forgiveness, however, our Lord said this to show that we must never refuse to forgive someone no matter how many times he has wronged us. Bear in mind that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. The person must demonstrate a change in his attitude and actions and work at regaining your trust before any attempt at reconciliation can be made.

REACHing forgiveness

Have you ever wronged someone, intentionally or otherwise? We may not always be aware of our wrongdoing, but acknowledging our own need for forgiveness can help us empathize with others when they hurt us and reach out to them with forgiveness. In order to REACH forgiveness, you must:

  • R – Recall the hurt
  • E – Empathize with the person who hurt you
  • A – Altruistic gift of forgiveness
  • C – Commit to forgive
  • H – Hold onto forgiveness

Once you have reached that level of forgiveness toward the other person, you can go one step further. Write a letter of forgiveness but don’t send it.

Has someone hurt you and it’s affecting your mental and physical health? Fill in the form below and let’s talk about it.

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Look After Your Dad’s Mental Health

This weekend we celebrated Father’s Day. I hope it was a pleasant time for most of you who still have a father. For those of you (like myself) whose dad is no longer around, I trust that you at least have pleasant memories. Unfortunately for many, those memories or the present reality may be something you can do without. Have you ever wondered why your dad may be so difficult to be around? Why he often seems to fly off the handle and at other times withdraw or become moody? He may have some type of mental health issues.

Depression is a mental health illness that affects men and women alike. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is one of the leading causes of disease or injury for men and women worldwide. The CDC lists the signs of depression as: “persistent sadness, grumpiness, feelings of hopelessness, tiredness and decreased energy, and thoughts of suicide. “

These symptoms may be disturbing, but by seeking help early, your dad can get the treatment he needs to help him live a healthy life. Mental health still has a stigma attached to it, which is one of the reasons men, especially, hesitate to speak about what they are feeling. It is up to you to observe your dad’s behavior and if you notice something amiss, encouraging him to talk about it. By following a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, exercise and leisure activities, your dad may be able to prevent or cope with mental health issues.

Is your dad or someone in your life showing signs of mental health illness? If yes, what are you doing about it?

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When Tragedy Strikes

Erma Bombeck

It seems like hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear of some tragedy taking place in some part of the world. When it happens in our backyards, it can leave us reeling and helpless from the shock. Here in Florida, barely a month after the deadly massacre in which seventeen people were shot and killed at a high school, another tragedy has struck. This time a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University, which happens to be my alma mater, collapsed, killing six people (as of this writing), and injuring several others.

Even though I don’t know anyone who has been affected – decades have passed since I was at FIU – the fact that it happened at my college – the place where I spent many hours, some happy, some sweating bullets over books, adaptive equipment and cadavers – this tragedy sort of hits home. I wonder how the students and faculty are going to cope with it. How the eighteen-year-old student whose friend was killed in the car while he survived is going to deal with the nightmares. How the families of the victims will cope with their loss.

My heart bleeds for them.

I gathered some tips on Coping with tragedy by the National Empowerment Center and thought I would pass them on to you, along with my own thoughts.

1. Talk about it. When tragedy strikes, many people tend to retreat into themselves and prefer not to talk to anyone. This only makes things worse. It’s better to share your feelings with others instead of keeping them bottled up inside.

2. Take care of yourself. Eat and drink properly. You may want to grab the bottle or cigarettes or worse, but don’t. Your body needs proper nourishment to deal with the shock you are experiencing. Get sufficient rest. Exercise if you can.

3. Attend to one thing at a time. Don’t overdo. Pick the task that is most important and do it. Completing even small tasks will give you a sense of accomplishment.

4. Reach out to others. This is a great way to help you take your mind off your situation and give you a sense of purpose.

5. Ask for help if you need it. If you are having difficulty fulfilling your activities of daily living, you may need help. Speak to your doctor, a trusted friend or relative or spiritual advisor. If this doesn’t work, you may need to consult a mental health professional. This is especially important if you have a history of depression or any other mental illness.

6. Pray This is not in the article, but this is my personal antidote for stress, anxiety or tragedy. However, even if you are a praying person, when tragedy strikes you may not be able to find the words. Having someone pray with you or reading the Bible or other prayers can be very helpful.

If you have read this far, please pass it on to your friends or anyone you think may need it. And remember to sign up for my mailing list where you can get updates on giveaways and all things health-related. Until next time,
God bless you.

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Mental vs Behavioral Health

May is mental health month, and as I thought about what I should write in this post, I felt confused. Well, it is mental health month after all, but for someone who worked in a mental (behavioral) health unit for over ten years I should have no difficulty discerning between the two. And yet, when I think of mental vs behavioral health, I see the faces of some of my patients – some alert, others flat, still others inappropriately animated. Many of them have coexisting conditions, either substance abuse disorders and/or chronic illnesses such as diabetes or high blood pressure. How do you address these problems?

MentalHealth.gov states that “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” It goes on to state that mental illness affects your thinking, mood and behavior. Does that mean then that if a person can change his behavior he could become well? Not exactly. Someone suffering from bipolar does need to learn to modify her behavior, but until she gets her mania and depression under control with medication, we will see little or no change in her behavior. This is why doctors recommend a combination of medication and therapy or counseling.

Many times, a hospital stay is inadequate to make a significant impact on a person’s performance. Continued counseling or coaching is needed to help the person benefit fully from treatment. In my practice, I can help you make those lifestyle changes that will help you deal with depression, anxiety and stress.

In this month of May, the emphasis is on mental health. If you have been struggling with the disorders mentioned above for a long time, now is the time to take control. Fill out the form below and arrange for a free consultation. I will be happy to hear from you.