Rituals: Not just for the occult anymore!

Routines can be incorporated seamlessly into your daily life in different levels or aspects: on a personal level, a relationship level, and/or a professional level.

Mariana Plata, Psychology Today

Forming everyday rituals is important for mental health.

In the plethora of mental health advice available free of charge on the internet, routine based self-care appears frequently. Among these sources, a few research based articles caught my attention. Coupled with my personal experience in therapy, I thought this was an important topic to address.

People my age (read, people in their late teens and 20s) tend to see routine as something to avoid. Usually due to fear of falling into a rut in relationships or some serious FOMO on spontaneous hollywood-esque adventures, we’ve got an aversion to planning too far ahead. This may be to our detriment, however. With mental health disorders on the rise in young adults and adolescents, particularly LGBTQIA+ individuals (source), studies abound attempting to mitigate the effects of common afflictions like anxiety and depression.

Many studies concentrate on the effects of sleep on mental health. One project in particular from the University of Oregon caught my attention; its research correlated depression symptoms and lack of sleep. The study had college students use a sleep hygiene app for 5 weeks and significantly improved their sleep quality and habits (source). I found it particularly useful in my research since it indicated routine is helpful despite focusing on a tangentially related issue.

“Daily fluctuations in both sleep duration and quality were significantly linked to corresponding daily fluctuations in anxiety and depressive symptoms”

” Adolescent sleep quality mediates family chaos and adolescent mental health: A daily diary-based study.”
APA PSYCNET Abstract

Returning to Ms. Plata’s point that there are three major areas to implement routine in one’s life, this study and others reinforce the idea that personal life habits can help alleviate symptoms for those suffering from depression and other mood disorders. But what can we do to make routine more appealing to the teens and 20-somethings?

Establishing a routine may be easier for those of us that fear monotony if we re-brand it as mindfulness. Sometimes words become loaded with meaning in a culture; routine often weighs in confining and restrictive in gen-zennial mentality. So, re-framed as mindfulness, routine can take root as a positive piece of mental health culture. If we are mindful of what we do, when we do it and why we do it, it may have a positive outcome on our collective and individual mental health.

I have found bedtime mindfulness helpful in my sleep quality, physical and mental health. Currently, I’m working to establish a morning ritual that gets me in a positive mindset for the day. More on this story as it develops…

Have a gay day! 
~Rachel

Starting Successful Therapy

I’ve been seeing my current therapist since September of last year. It’s the best experience I’ve had with therapy, so I plan on continuing to see them for a long time. But I want to talk about why this particular experience has been so successful.

from them.
Read their article on queer therapists here.

When you see a therapist, you have to be willing to address your issues. That’s what you’re going for, right? To find and work on the things having a negative impact on your life? A surprising number of people I’ve talked to about therapy go because someone told them they need to, and have an attitude about it. It’s clear the don’t want to be there and don’t think it’s beneficial. As much as I think therapy is super helpful and a good space for me, it’s totally valid that therapy does not work for everyone. And that’s the first rule of successful therapy: willingness to be there and work for it. Seriously, if you’re making the choice for yourself and don’t want to go to therapy, don’t. You won’t get anything out of it and it probably will upset you.

That’s likely a huge reason therapy hasn’t worked for me in the past. I went, but I really didn’t think I needed it. So when I talked to my previous therapists it was about generic issues I felt were safe but common enough for them to take me seriously. There was also an element of distrust with these therapists, too, as they were through my university. Second rule of successful therapy: trust. A palpable difference exists between the licensed therapist that I now see and the students/religiously affiliated therapists I bounced between in my adolescent and early college years. The biggest reasons for the distrust came from my uneasiness with religion and my parents forcing me to sign a disclosure agreement. That’s a completely different issue, but let me say this: your therapist will not tell anyone what you talk about unless you sign one of those. If you have questions on the privacy of what you talk about, ask! Any good therapist will tell you when and why they would disclose what you talk about. It took me a couple weeks to start opening up to my therapist about what was triggering my anxiety, and I only recently opened up about my biggest (Scariest) triggers. Deep trust does not have to be immediate, it can be earned, but if a basic level of trust with your therapist isn’t there from the beginning I seriously doubt it will be there later on.

Likely how my therapist felt the first time I started crying in session

Rule 3 of successful therapy: allowing yourself to feel the feels. Personally, I choose to minimize my “negative” emotions in public. You know, crying, anger, depression etc. Allowing yourself to fully experience these in therapy is not only helpful to the process, I’d argue it’s necessary. What better place to feel all your feels than with someone in the room that you literally pay to help sort them out? So, when in therapy, ride those emotional waves friend! It might suck in the moment but if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll feel waaaaaaaay better afterwards.

That’s what I’ve figured out so far, and tbh therapy has been a big old ride but so worth it. If you’re on the fence about trying it out, do some research. Find out therapist specialties and pick one that addresses your needs; I picked an office that specializes in queer issues and anxiety/panic disorders and they selected a therapist for me based on a first time client survey asking what I wanted to get out of it. I can’t speak to other places, but most offices in my area have a first time client survey of some kind and will work with you to find the right therapist. Yes, they are getting paid to do this, but therapists don’t get into this line of work unless they want to help people. Would you want to sit and listen to people’s trauma all day unless you felt like you could help?

Here’s a list of other resources you might find helpful:

Let me know your experiences with therapy, good or bad. What works for you? Anything I should add to this post?

On International Adventures

Starting Thursday, two days from now, this blog will serve as a journal for my time in Scotland.

Yes, that’s right, I’m going to Scotland! I will be there with one of my best friends, Sage, in a group from Augustana University. We will be exploring the literary tradition and culture of one of the nations that has shaped history on many fronts.

On the long plane ride over, we will be reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Crofter and the Laird. While there we will be doing other reading along with exploring various cities. I of course will have my camera and have not yet decided whether to do a visual or literary blog, but only time will tell. Look forward to extremely excited editorials about the landscape and contrasting culture of the UK.

Finally, let me say:

excited1

 

It’s been a while

Hello readers. It’s been a while. Between classes with massive workloads and lots hours at work, I haven’t made time to write what’s been on my mind. But today, I’m making that time.

Like many others, what’s on my mind today is gun control. As I was perusing newspapers in Spain for a current events assignment, the Parkland, Florida school shooting kept appearing in these international publications. The most interesting thing about US affairs in international newspapers is the perspective.

From outside the US, there isn’t such a partisan divide between gun control advocates and gun owners. Reading the articles from El Pais on the Parkland incident, this lack of bias was instantly apparent. After this, the question that keeps rolling around my head is “When did weapons and children’s death become a partisan issue in the US?”

I was listening to a podcast yesterday, 538 Politics I believe, and they mentioned the NRA as a uniquely American phenomenon. Many claim the NRA is what drives some of our political representatives to victim blame, or return to the same tired and often untrue argument of mental instability of the perpetrator. This op-ed by Adam Winkler discusses the previous positions of the NRA, including advocacy for gun control.

After an avid discussion (or argument) on Facebook recently, I realized that opinions held on this particular topic aren’t always educated. They often consist of, “I like guns and I know a lot about them and the Constitution guarantees my rights to them so please don’t try to control me.” But what also needs to be considered is this: not everyone understands weapons, and the constitutional provision that allows citizens to have weapons is quite vague and CLEARLY from a different time. Furthermore, to echo the survivors of Parkland,

“Nobody needs an AR-15 to defend themselves.”

So I’m forced to conclude that partisanship on the gun control debate is a result of uneducated or willfully ignorant perspectives from US citizens. Or it could just be the phenomenon of US narcissism.

You can keep your guns, but seriously, do you need a semi-automatic rifle?

Photo Credit: Paul Tong / Tribune Media Services