self-care – Active Minds Blog Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 21 Dec 2016 21:09:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ways to Cope with Post-Election Stress Thu, 10 Nov 2016 20:23:05 +0000 fall-leaves_cropped

The last 18 months have been tiring and anxiety-provoking, with a majority of Americans saying they’ve been worn out by the election.

After seeing the results of all the political races at the national, state, and local levels, it seems highly unlikely that every candidate you passionately supported for office this time around was elected. Our country is politically divided right now—perhaps more than it’s been in decades—and coping with that split is difficult.

With that in mind, consider the following coping tips to smooth things out and find a way forward.


No, politics isn’t necessarily a sport, but there are winners and losers. Remember the principles of sportsmanship as you proceed this week. If your candidate won, be gracious. No need to rub it in your opponents’ faces; they know they have lost. Part of healing this division is extending your hand, saying “good game,” and offering to work together.

Likewise, if your candidate lost, extend your hand and say “good game,” too. No matter how hard you fought, seeing your opponent as a fellow human is important.

Let it out.

If you supported someone who lost, it’s ok to cry, be angry, and vent. Look to your support system and other like-minded individuals to help you through.

Drink water.

This might seem out of place, but staying hydrated when you’re under stress is very important.

Moderate alcohol.

Alcohol is a depressant. So, if you’re feeling down, alcohol will only make it harder for you to think clearly, get out of bed in the morning, and maintain your relationships.

Get outside.

Step out and see a friend or take a walk through nature to gain some perspective. Take comfort in seeing that the world is still turning.

Get back to your routine.

Go to class, the gym, eat dinner, go for a run. Do what you would on a normal day to prevent post-election stress from overtaking you.

Do some good.

Volunteer for a local organization, participate in a random act of kindness for someone, put more love into the world.

Reach out.

If you know people who have been negatively impacted by election outcomes, let them know you’re there for them if they need to talk or just a place to escape to. Supporting others can help you feel like you’re doing something, even when you’re unsure of what to do next.

Call your therapist.

If you are in therapy, or are feeling like this is a good time to start, call to make an appointment. Having someone to talk to who is nonjudgmental and trained to help you sort out your thoughts can be a huge relief.

Local resources.

Find out what resources are being offered on your campus. Some campus communities are offering additional group therapy sessions, community conversations, and support groups.

National resources.

Whether you or someone you know has been triggered or is struggling, there are many resources available:

  • RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
  • The Trevor Project Helpline (for LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults): 1-866-488-7386
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • Crisis Text Line: Text “Brave” to 741-741

You do you.

Brainstorm a list of positive coping mechanisms that help you through other times of stress. Often, your best resource for what to do is already inside you.

My Cat, the Lifesaver Fri, 16 Sep 2016 13:00:31 +0000 IMG_1080 (1) I’m only a little embarrassed to say that I think my cat may have been partially responsible for saving my life.

I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder for a long time–almost ten years now that I look back on it–but I’ve always been able to find my way back with some time, effort, and a lot of therapy. But last summer I fell into a depressive episode that was deeper, longer, and more debilitating than anything I’d ever experienced

For the first time my mood wasn’t the only thing affected by my mental illness. My body hurt, all the time, constantly. I was either sleeping for 14 hours a day or less than four. I’d go two weeks eating almost nothing and another two weeks eating almost anything. I could barely move but worse than any of that, I could barely think.

I’ve always felt smart, and I’ve liked using my brain. My job demands that as my primary function, but suddenly I found myself floundering. I was forgetting common words; losing them halfway through a sentence I’d already started. I developed a stutter and couldn’t think through tasks or projects, immediately overwhelmed by everything. I would write emails with the same care and attention that I normally would but people would write back saying I wasn’t making sense, that the sentences didn’t mean anything when put together.

I’d fallen into old habits of self-harm, and I was struggling with constant thoughts of suicide. And if I managed to drag myself into work on any given day, I’d be faced with coming home utterly exhausted to a lonely apartment in a new city, far from my friends and family.

I did a decent job keeping up the façade of being depressed but functioning…or at least that’s the only explanation that I can think of for why my friends decided it was time to redouble their push for me to adopt a cat.

I’d wanted a pet for as long as I could remember but it was not in the cards for me as a child. So, when I moved out on my own it was a top priority after getting settled. A dog probably couldn’t deal with my life as an individual who worked full time and sometimes took weekend trips to friend’s houses, so I settled on wanting a playful cat.

My plans got derailed when it felt like I could barely take care of myself but my friends were persistently sending me the posting of the local shelter and, against my better judgement at the time, I fell in love with one based just on the description and picture. She was a small, four-year-old black cat who had been at the shelter for almost seven months after being found on the streets, abused by her last family.

She had a broken tail that healed so the tip pointed in the wrong direction. She was apparently overwhelmed in the cat room of the shelter, so she spent her days in the office of one of the dog trainers but never got too close.

She loved to play and hunt but it took her a while to warm up to people. Her personality actually sounded exactly like me and after a half hour of meeting her and playing she was purring and rubbing against my legs and arms. The shelter staff said they’d never seen her warm up to someone so fast.

So I took Luna home. I gave her a warm bed (even though she prefers mine), and her own food with too many treats sprinkled in (she also prefers mine), and lots and lots of toys (she prefers my shoelaces).

On nights when I felt depressed and suicidal and like the minutes were dragging until the sun would rise so I could start my zombie-like day yet again, she would snuggle close and purr.  I would tell her that I knew she’d had a hard life, but she was safe now; that I wasn’t going to leave her alone again.

I got worse before I got better, but Luna and her big, yellow eyes kept me company when I couldn’t sleep. She forced me to get out of bed to feed her and, while I was up, she convinced me to run around my apartment and play. And when I needed to go out to get more cat food for her it also made sense to pick up some fresh fruit and some human food from the grocery store. Cat litter and hair gets everywhere so I actually needed to start cleaning my apartment again and needed to do the dishes to avoid suspicious lick marks on my plates the next morning.

My cat certainly isn’t the reason that my depression finally abated (I have lots and lots of therapy and medication tweaking and family and friends to thank for that), but I do give her some credit. I actually don’t think I’m embarrassed to say that my cat may have played a part in saving my life because, even when I couldn’t convince myself of my worth and that my life was worth living, she was able to just by being excited for me to be home and coming running when I opened her food.

I just wish she could even remotely understand what her companionship has meant to me, but maybe I’ll just buy her some more toys in the meantime.

image1 (1)

Struggling with Anxiety? Try Taking a Tap Class Thu, 11 Aug 2016 12:35:10 +0000

I’ve been living with terrible anxiety since I was a little girl. As I’ve grown older, I’ve tried a ton of remedies — yoga, coloring books, talk therapy, medication, meditation, mindfulness, massage therapy, aromatherapy and all the self-care and self-help books I could find. And I’ve got to be honest with you all, my dear blog readers — none of them hold a candle to tap dance.

I danced when I was young and tap was always my favorite class. Since I’m about to start grad school (as well as an intense internship), I decided to re-visit the great art of tap dance so I had some kind of physical outlet during this stressful period.

I’ve only been taking classes for a few weeks and it’s already done wonders for my anxiety.  Here are 4 ways tap dance has helped me — and 4 reasons you should try it, too.

1. You get to let out all of your frustrations.

The whole crux of tap dancing is stomping your feet on the ground — which is incredibly cathartic for someone who’s dealing with intense anxiety or stress. You can physically release all the pent-up feelings that us anxious folks typically hold onto.

2. You really work up a sweat. 

I really wasn’t anticipating this, but you get sweaty during a tap class. Why? Because it’s exercise. And as we all know, exercise is great for anxiety (and depression!). It releases endorphins and increases body temperature, which can have a calming effect. I’ve never been an exerciser; I hate running and don’t at all enjoy going to the gym. So it’s awesome to finally have some kind of work-out routine and get those health benefits from doing physical exercise.

3. It requires you to concentrate on something other than your anxiety. 

Tap dance requires a lot of mental concentration; you have to think carefully about which part of your foot is hitting the floor on which count, how fast you’re transitioning from foot-to-foot, etc. It’s amazing to walk into a tap class and have all your worries melt away — mostly because there’s no room in your head, since you’re trying to get that combination down.

4. It’s a great way to meet people. 

I moved to a new state almost a year ago and still haven’t met a ton of people (mostly because I work from home, running this blog you’re reading!). I can be shy around new people and don’t like putting myself out there, but tap class has been a great way to make friends in a low-stress environment. Everyone is there to have fun; we’re all beginners, so it’s not a competition; we laugh at ourselves when we mess up and cheer each other when we nail a step. It’s nice to have a little community.


7 Ways to Practice Self-Care This Summer Tue, 12 Jul 2016 18:31:31 +0000 School’s out for the summer. No more finals, presentations, or papers. After long sleepless nights, it’s time to renew your mind, body, and soul! Take advantage of the time and treat yo’ self.

1. Take a vacation or staycation. 

Whether you’re going somewhere new or just staying at home, take a few days to unplug and recharge. Set up an auto-responder on your email, turn off SnapChat and spend some time outdoors. Whether you’re on the beach or catching some Pokemon in your city, taking a few days to yourself can do wonders for your mental health.

2. Catch up with old friends.

Summer is the perfect time to re-connect with friends from home and make some memories to last you the upcoming school year!

3. Start a new Netflix series.

Orange is the New Black. Gilmore Girls. The West Wing. There are so many amazing characters just waiting to meet you on Netflix! Take advantage of this time when you don’t have papers or classes to think about.

4. Try out a yoga class or new exercise routine.

It’s good for the mind, body, and soul! If you like it, maybe you can try to keep it going during the school year. Summer is all about trying new things.


Catch up on all the hours you missed during the school year. Go to bed early and sleep in late. We won’t judge.

6. Spend time outside.

Breathe in and out some fresh air! Research shows that spending time near water can improve your mental health

7. Celebrate yourself and how far you’ve come.

The school year was tough but you’re tougher. You made it through — enjoy the summer and celebrate your successes!


Mental Health News Round-Up: July 8 Fri, 08 Jul 2016 12:29:20 +0000 U.S. House of Representatives Passes Mental Health Bill


On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would seek mental health reform across the country. Among other things, the bill would implement direct funding for mental health illnesses, reorder the structure of the federal agency of mental health, and develop requirements for private insurers to cover mental health care.

How Racism Affects Mental Health — & What We Can Do About It

With July being Minority Mental Health Month (MMHM), it is important to understand the effects of prejudice and racism on minority communities. Forms of racism have reportedly shown an effect on depression, anxiety and stress. Addressing disparities and making sure everyone receives proper mental health care can help us take control of our own lives.

Here’s some surprisingly upbeat news about depression

With mental health conditions appearing more and more prevalent in today’s society, a new study shed some much-needed good news on the topic: According to researchers, many people who were once depressed go on to have satisfactory and happy lives. Many of these individuals sought medical attention and said their biggest help was having one close relationship with someone.  Keeping the conversation of mental health going is helping keep people alive and on a road to recovery.

5 Tips For Social Media Self-Care!

Social media can have its positive and negative effects. Here are five tips to successfully enjoy social media while keeping your self-care in mind.

Stress Less Week: 12 Ways to Practice Self-Care During Finals Fri, 22 Apr 2016 13:05:46 +0000 This #StressLess Week, we challenged our social media followers to take extra good care of themselves by practicing self-care and then posting a #SelfCareSelfie. Once again, we were floored by the response (you guys are excellent selfie-takers) and want to keep this self-care train going.

Without further ado, here are 12 ways to practice self-care, as suggested by our stellar #SelfCareSelfie contributions:

1. Snuggle with a pet


2. Help out your community

3. Take care of your physical health

4. Play an instrument

SCS2 6. Spend some time in the sunshine


7. Spend time with loved ones (bonus points if it’s a kiddo)


8. Practice loving yourself


9. Take it easy


10. Get your nails done


11. Get some exercise

SCS10 12. Get a massage



From the Speakers Bureau: Caring Words and a Listening Ear Wed, 20 Apr 2016 13:53:49 +0000 dave_romanoAt this time last year I was coasting by bicycle across Kansas during the inaugural Bike Across America for Mental Health. Looking back on that trip brings about bittersweet feelings, as it was one of the most rewarding and difficult endeavors of my life. I knew that going into the epic journey from sea to shining sea was going to be grueling. What I failed to foresee was the road that followed.

In the fall of 2015 I had just completed the over 3,200 mile long trip and was heading off to graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle. I saw this opportunity as a rebirth, a time to start over, and with that came the all too common thought that my mental health was under control; that I no longer required the self-care or support to which I had grown accustomed.

Everything first began to fall apart in September when my grandpa passed away. My grief along with my mental health negligence and the loneliness of a new city drove me further and further into isolation and depression. To cope with the despair I began to drink heavily, each day running further from sobriety and inevitably the reality of my pain.

After weeks of struggling in silence I finally found the courage to reach out to a professor, a woman that preached self-care and always finished class offering a listening ear if anyone needed to talk and that’s exactly what she did. She sat listening, compassionately, as I vented with tears in my eyes. We finished that talk by making a safety and self care plan. That conversation was all I needed; by simply listening she gave me hope that everything was going to be okay.

When I look back on this past year there is one lesson that continually presented itself, which is that it is okay to not be okay. It is a saying that I struggle to accept but thankfully I have had amazing people in my life, like my professor, that have reminded me of those words by simply showing they care.

Caring words and a listening ear are all it takes to change someone’s life. I know my professor did that for me, and today life continues to offer its challenges but that’s okay, because I know it’s always going to be okay.

Worried About a Friend? Here’s How to Support Them Fri, 26 Feb 2016 13:23:48 +0000 For most of my life, I’ve wished that I had some sort of a handbook for being a friend. I think I do a pretty decent job (although, I suppose you’d have to check with my friends on that one), but there’s no way to be there for someone perfectly all the time.

I mean, how many times have I told a friend I knew how they felt without really having any idea whatsoever?

How many times have I just jumped to giving advice and solving the problem when all they needed was a sounding board?

How many times did I know someone was struggling, but I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything at all?

The truth is that there’s no perfect way to be a friend, and that’s especially true when you’re trying to help a friend admit they need help, seek that help, get the help, and manage their recovery. There are way too many variables in play.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little guide for that journey?

That’s why we created the Be A Friend resources.

If you have questions about whether the warning signs you’re seeing in your friend’s behavior might be a sign of distress, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re wondering how to react when a friend who is in need of help stops going to therapy, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re wondering how to take care of yourself while you do an incredible job of being an amazing support person, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve also added personal stories from members of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau–they’ll tell you what their journey was like, how friends and family helped them through it all, and their advice for being there for a struggling friend.

It’s not the end all, be all of resources. But we look forward to hearing what you think, adding your stories, and continuing to expand the content to include more specialized resources on identity development and the impacts of trauma and discrimination.

You’re a great friend. We’re just here to help you show it.

6 Ways to Practice Self-Care on Valentine’s Day Wed, 10 Feb 2016 12:14:20 +0000 Valentines Day_Active MinsdIt’s almost that time of year again, and I’m not talking about tax season. That’s right, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Are you excited? You should be!

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to step away from stress, slow down, and focus on your mental health. This year, celebrate with the following 6 short and sweet ideas for your best (and healthiest) Valentine’s Day yet!

1. Treat Yourself: Plan an activity, take a fun class, pamper yourself, or try something new.

2. Get active: Seasonal Depression is snow joke (sorry). Conquer the winter blues by grabbing a friend and going for a brisk walk. Fresh air and sunlight is a surefire way to get your heart pumping.

3. Celebrate all of your relationships: From family and friends, to co-workers and roommates, take time to let those closest to your heart know you care.

4. Make a healthy (and delicious) meal: Better yet, make a meal and invite those friends over for dinner!

5. Make someone’s day: The simplest gesture can have the greatest impact! Encourage someone through a random act of kindness.

6. Rest: At the end of your busy and exciting day, make sure to get the sleep that you deserve.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Fundraising Through Yoga and Celebrating Self-Love Thu, 28 Jan 2016 13:21:16 +0000 Beats, Pray, Love Yoga Participants

Beats, Pray, Love Yoga Participants

On January 17, Active Minds was honored to be a part of a yoga fundraiser hosted by Annie Shiel, owner of Annie Shiel Yoga. Her Beats, Pray, Love Series was a “self-love” themed flow session, and was set to the live vocals of Kylie Conibear, plus a guided savasana meditation session at the end with Joanna Andreae of Wandering Wellness. It was a relaxing and powerful expression of self-love and focus on positive body image.

Class was free, and donations of $20 were encouraged at the door. All proceeds went to Active Minds, Inc. to support our work on mental health, suicide prevention, body image, and reducing the stigma of mental illness on high school and college campuses. The yoga class raised an amazing $400 through donations at the door! If you missed the event and still want to participate, you can still donate on the event page here: Beats, Pray Love Series: Self Love Flow- Donations go to Active Minds.

Savasana meditation session with Joanna Andreae

Savasana meditation session with Joanna Andreae

When we asked Annie why she chose Active Minds as her nonprofit to support through this event, she told us that our organization had been recommended to her because of our focus with youth, mainly college-aged adults, and that we had a great reputation with her colleagues.

Thank you to Annie Schiel and her group of very talented and supportive Yogies for making this happen! We appreciate the financial support and the the support of our mission. We couldn’t continue our work without the help of our dedicated volunteers, students and community members.

This is a great and easy way to fundraise for our cause. To learn more about how you can host a similar event on behalf of Active Minds, please reach out to us at:, or at 202-332-9595.

This was the second installation of Annie’s Beats, Pray, Love Series, a monthly community event bringing together live music, yoga, and our best intentions to create change both on and off the mat. To learn more about Annie Sheil and her Yoga events, classes and inspirations, check out her website at: