No Likes? No Worries.

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Image courtesy of slate.com

A few weeks ago, my daughter asked if I’d heard about Instagram’s plan to hide ‘likes’ from posts. I hadn’t, but was intrigued. My first thought: social media taking steps to improve mental health? Big thumbs up. Especially how it could affect teens and young adults.

Instagram, owned by Facebook, started testing hiding likes this past April in Canada. The test went to other countries in the summer, and recently to some users in the United States. The way it works is that the user sees likes on posted photos or videos, but the count is hidden from the public.

Have you ever wanted to delete a post because it wasn’t receiving enough likes? I have, and it wasn’t a good feeling. Ultimately, I left it up because it was important to me, and I realized it didn’t matter how many people ‘liked’ it.

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Image courtesy of mccarehouse.org

But it’s easy to imagine how a low number of likes can make someone (particularly an adolescent) feel embarrassed and unpopular. This could lead to low self-esteem, bad body image, or feeling unworthy because your selfie isn’t cute enough, your picture isn’t pretty enough — or worse — your life isn’t good enough.

As the testing was rolled out just this year, it’s too soon to know how it’s going to affect mental health. And there’s another part I’m wondering about. The business aspect of the app, how social marketing influencers will deal with this, as their business is dependent on the number of followers and likes.

It was encouraging to read this quote by Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri: “We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s well-being and health.”

While hiding likes on Instagram won’t be an instant cure for improved mental health, at least it’s a positive step in the right direction.

I LIKE that.

We ALL Have Mental Health: Let’s Talk About It

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It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week and tomorrow, October 10, is World Mental Health Day.

So let’s talk about it!

Yesterday I had a wonderful opportunity to speak to a group of elementary, middle school, and high school counselors about mental illness. I’m a presenter for Ending the Silence, a mental health awareness program by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

An area we focused on is the importance of awareness not only among students, but parents and school staff as well. It takes a village. The mental health conversation must be open.

One of the middle school counselors told me something that at first, surprised me. She said the number of students she sees for social and emotional issues (anxiety, depression, etc.) FAR surpass those she counsels for academic reasons. Years ago, it was the exact opposite. And this is middle grade.

I suppose this really isn’t so surprising. It seems as if each generation is more stressed than the previous one. Millennials are known as the anxious generation. Gen Z (ages 15-21) has reported the worst mental health of any generation, according to the APA. Some of the reasons? Social media, gun violence, political climate, immigration, sexual harassment.

I’m passionate about spreading awareness to young people. The more that people talk about mental illness, the weaker the stigma is. The hope is that stigma will lessen with each future generation.

May is Mental Health Awareness month! Let’s all reduce the stigma of anxiety disorders! How? By talking about yours and not being scared to get or ask for help! We are so passionate about the subject that we have a FEARLESS collection of treasures that GiveBack to a local organization helping people with anxiety disorders!

Adolescents need to know they are not alone, that others feel the same pressures. That it’s okay to admit they’re not okay, and it’s absolutely fine (and healthy) to talk about it. They need to know there’s medical help available. The sooner they get help, the better.

When I speak to students during Ending the Silence, we discuss the warning signs of mental illness and what to do if they notice the symptoms in themselves or a friend. We talk about anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, eating disorders, and suicide.

Suicide is the focus of this year’s World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organization:

Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide.

The conversation on mental health and mental illness needs to be open. Talk about it. Share. Know that you are NOT alone. There is help available. There is hope.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Lifeline at (800)273-8255. Or text HOME to 741741.

Speak out. Together, we can end stigma.

Hope: A Reason to Persist

To me, this quote has many layers.

The first thing I think of is “Never Give Up.” If you hit a roadblock, find a way to get around it. My husband often reminds me to be persistent, not give up so easily. I don’t like to hear this (or admit I’m not trying hard enough), but he’s totally right. Whatever the issue may be, I find that when I keep moving, reaching farther than I thought I would or could, it usually turns out to be a rewarding experience. Not always. But if I push as hard as I can and exhaust all options, even if it doesn’t work out, I feel better about myself. Because I gave it my all. Persistence pays!

This quote also reminds me of my own mental health journey. When I was a young girl, I had terrifying symptoms I never told anyone about. I didn’t know how to describe them, and certainly didn’t think anyone would understand. I felt hopeless. I didn’t want people to think I was weird or different. So I kept it a secret. For twenty years!

When I finally went to a doctor for help, he told me I was having panic attacks. He diagnosed me with agoraphobia and panic disorder. This might sound strange, but my first reaction was happiness. Of course I didn’t want to have an anxiety disorder. But I was extremely relieved that the awful symptoms I’d had for so long actually had a name. Not only that, but others had this too… millions of people. And, there was treatment available. I could be helped. It was unbelievable!

I was filled to the brim with HOPE.

25 Inspiring Hope Quotes #Hope Quotes #Inspiring Quotes

This month is National Suicide Prevention Month. I’m thinking of friends who are struggling with depression. I’m remembering people in my community who have died by suicide. My friend’s brother. My daughter’s classmate from high school. My dad’s work colleague. I’m thinking of how hopeless they must have felt, being in the deepest, darkest place filled with total despair. I’m thinking of their families, who will never stop struggling to cope with the loss of their loved one.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, an eating disorder, or any other mental illness, please know that there is medical help available. You are NOT alone. Reach out for help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741

There is hope. There is always HOPE.

Pain is real but so it hope. Work to know all of what is real (true) and what is fake (false) in life.

Images courtesy of Pinterest

Mental Health and Me, Featured on Thrive Global

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

It’s been a while! It feels good to be here, writing again. I’ve been devoting my time to another writing project, so I haven’t had much of a chance to be on the blog.

I want to say hello and share an article from Thrive Global I was recently featured in. They talked to me about my mental health advocacy and work with NAMI. I’m a speaker for NAMI’s in-school mental health awareness campaign, Ending the Silence.

You can read the Thrive Global article here.

It’s hard to believe it’s already the middle of August. My favorite season is just around the corner, yay! But I’m savoring each day of summer, aware that it is fleeting.

Take care, Jenny

15 Best End of Summer Quotes - Beautiful Quotes About the Last Days of Summer
Image courtesy of Pinterest

Summer Girl

Courtesy of Pinterest

There’s no doubt about it — the beach is my happy place. Maybe it’s because I’m from California, and the ocean has always been a big part of my life. Or maybe it’s just how the sea makes many people feel. Calm, relaxed, peaceful. A perfect place for fun and reflection.

Now that summer is in full swing, I’m doing my best to enjoy the longer, more carefree days. Like last night. My parents came over for dinner and we enjoyed a warm evening, eating outside at twilight. Big, puffy, blue hydrangeas from our garden were the centerpiece, along with flickering candles. I took a deep breath, tried to soak it all in.

For me, summer is a good time to take a break from my hectic days. I’m still busy… my husband and I own a business, bills must be paid, and domestic duties don’t end. But that doesn’t mean I can’t slow down a little and focus on mindfulness. Enjoy the gorgeous flowers in my yard (that I work so hard to grow!), jump in our pool like a kid, and yes, go to the beach.

Along with the seasons, life changes. Lately, I haven’t spent a lot of time on the blog or social media. Other business and writing projects are taking much of my time.

But it’s healthy, both physically and mentally, to take time out. A motivational speaker I admire takes a solid three week hiatus from social media every July-August. I like how he puts it, that it’s super important for him to be refreshed and rejuvenated so he can be fully present when he starts up again in the fall.

Right now I’m sitting in my office upstairs, the window wide open, a warm breeze flowing in. Neighbor kids are playing outside, gardeners are mowing. I’m listening to one of my favorite summer songs on my Spotify playlist: “Sittin’ Pretty” by Florida Georgia Line.

I better go finish my computer work, so maybe I can head to the beach tomorrow.

Happy Summer!

messy ponytail with a scarf on the beach
Courtesy of Pinterest

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

My mom loves baseball. Being a Southern California girl, her favorite team is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mine too.

I’ve been to dozens of games since I was a teenager. My husband, two daughters, and I do our best to make Dodger games an annual summer tradition.

But Mom had never been. Until the past couple of years, I didn’t even know how much she wanted to go. She’d say, “The only time I’ve ever been to Dodger Stadium was years ago to see the Pope!” But never for baseball.

So… this past March for her 83rd birthday, my husband Alex and I surprised her with Dodger tickets. To top it off, our daughters gave her a Dodger T-shirt to wear for the occasion. To say she was thrilled is an understatement. She couldn’t stop smiling. She beamed. I loved how she expressed how she felt: “I feel so ALIVE!”

We couldn’t wait to take her.

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Courtesy of Pinterest

The big day was 5/27, Memorial Day. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets. Game time: 5:10pm.

We picked Mom up and she was all dolled up for the game, complete with her new Dodger shirt, Dodger cap, jeans, and tennis shoes. Her excitement was infectious. It was like taking a kid to Disneyland for the first time. The wonder, magic, and surprise of it all.

My 90-year-old dad follows baseball too, but he preferred to stay home and watch the game on TV. He bought himself a big bag of Dodger peanuts and planned to make hot dogs, “all in the comfort of my own home.”

After not-too-bad LA traffic, we arrived. As we walked into the stadium, planes in formation roared by, in honor of Memorial Day. Mom was in awe of the huge crowd, the enormous stadium.

Our seats were field level, just past first base. Mom couldn’t believe that the players she followed on TV were right there. So close! Her favorite, Clayton Kershaw, was the starting pitcher. She was excited to see her other favs, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger.

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Image of Clayton Kershaw courtesy of Sports Illustrated

There’s something about being at a baseball game. The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the energy, the enthusiasm. The cheering, clapping. The smell of hot dogs, pop corn, peanuts, and beer. Watching replays on the enormous Jumbotron. Being part of “the wave.” Standing for the seventh-inning stretch, singing “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

We were hoping for a good game, but never thought we’d get a GREAT game. With more than thirty hits, it was super exciting from start to finish. And yes, the Dodgers won, 9-5.

Mom talked about the game the whole way home. The next day, she told me she was so “amped-up,” she had a really hard time falling asleep.

It felt amazing that Alex and I were able to give her that feeling, that experience. We helped her check something off her bucket list.

I didn’t think about this at the time — but honestly, I got to check it off my bucket list.

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Image courtesy of bucketlistjourney.net

What I Would Tell My Younger Self About Mental Health

The Child Mind Institute has an awesome campaign that I love to follow. It’s promoted in May for Mental Health Awareness Month.

#MyYoungerSelf offers inspiring messages of hope. Celebrities, athletes, business people, and social influencers give short videos about their struggles, and what they would tell themselves as a child. They’re super open about their own journeys and stress that if you’re suffering from a mental illness, you are not alone. It’s okay.

Emma Stone speaks about her anxiety and panic disorder, Mayim Bialik talks about depression, Michael Phelps about ADHD, Barbara Corcoran about dyslexia, and so many more.

Today I watched a video from Alex Boniello, a Broadway actor, whose anxiety began in high school. He was in the cafeteria when he experienced such frightening symptoms, he thought he was having a heart attack. He had no idea it was anxiety and panic attacks.

This got me thinking… I totally relate to what Alex says. My panic attacks started around age 10. I didn’t know what was going on, why I had such frightening feelings. I was embarrassed and didn’t tell anyone. Now I know that stigma and shame kept me from saying anything. I finally got medical help in my early 30s for panic disorder.

That’s why I speak openly about mental health. I want to encourage people to talk about it, to reach out for help.

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Image courtesy of here

So, what would I tell my younger self?

Jenny, I know you’re scared and worried there’s something really, really wrong with you. You’re exhausted from keeping it a secret. You think no one else in this entire world could possibly understand what you’re going through. But millions of other people do understand! Because they’re going through the same thing.

The symptoms are terrifying, but you won’t die from them. Those horrible physical sensations and strange thoughts, like you’re living in a fog or dream, actually have a name: Anxiety and panic attacks. Panic disorder. You are not imagining it. It’s a real illness.

And something else… there is treatment, you don’t have to do this alone. There’s no magic cure, it’s not going to simply go away. You’ll always have to manage it, but you’ll feel a ton better than you do now. The road to recovery isn’t easy, but you’re going to do great.

I know you’re nervous about your friends finding out and you don’t want them to think you’re weird or treat you differently. They won’t. Having panic disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. Millions and millions of people struggle with their mental health. Talk about it and get help — the sooner the better.

Don’t ever forget, you are NOT alone.

Courtesy of The Child Mind Institute

What I Didn’t Know When I Boarded a Plane to Maui

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to Maui for a business/pleasure trip. I was super excited and when I sat in my seat on the plane, I reveled in the fact that I could read my book for five hours straight if I wanted to, with little interruption. Life had been over-the-top busy, and I was more than grateful for the break. We were (and still are) in the middle of a major business renovation, plus other challenges that have added to our stress levels.

During the flight, I daydreamed about how wonderful it’d feel once we landed. Whenever we go to Hawaii, I always relax the minute we step off the plane. I breathe in the tropical air and bask in the warm breeze. That’s all it takes. It’s like a magical, calming elixir.

I had no reason to believe that this time would be different.

After a brief layover, we landed and took the shuttle to the car rental office. We’d never seen the line that long before. There were hundreds of tired and frustrated people, anxious to get to their hotels. Including us. Almost three hours later, we finally drove away.

We didn’t let the annoying car experience ruin the rest of our evening. We stayed in to barbecue steaks and enjoy some wine on the lanai. Tiki torches flickered in the night sky and balmy air felt like a comforter on a cold night. I was so relaxed. At least I thought I was.

The next morning took me by surprise. Normally I feel totally calm when we arrive, and for sure, by the next day. My worries melt away with the warm Hawaiian sun.

But I was still wound up, worrying about things back home. I couldn’t stop feeling jittery and nervous. There I was on this incredibly beautiful island, so uptight and unable to clear my mind.

I had no idea I was holding in so much anxiety.

I thought about how terrible that was for my body. It felt like I had been desensitized to stress… it had become a part of my life and I let it fester.

I knew I needed to concentrate on my mental health, give it my full attention.

Breathe… slowly… inhale for seven seconds, exhale for seven. Leave the worries behind. Enjoy this beauty. Focus on what’s happening right here, right now. Nothing more.

So inviting!

It was hard to decompress. But I didn’t want to lose one more minute to nervousness. I desperately wanted it gone. Leave me alone, anxiety!

Courtesy of nami.org

Life goes at a much slower pace in Maui than in Los Angeles. First, there aren’t any freeways and not nearly as many people. But what I love most about Maui is “the island vibe” — hang loose, no worries. Everything will be okay. And more importantly, “the Aloha spirit” — living a life filled with love, compassion, kindness, and grace. And sharing that with others.

As I let myself indulge in the slower pace, I couldn’t help but feel better. Nothing compares to long walks on the beach with my husband, letting my feet sink into the soft golden sand, looking out at the turquoise-blue ocean. It sprinkled every day (liquid sunshine, as they call it in Hawaii), and the rainbows were spectacular. The colors were so bright and sharp, I’d swear there really were pots of gold at the end! We didn’t miss a sunset. It was like Mother Nature put on a fantastical show for us every single night.

Eventually I felt it — complete peace. And when I did, it was heavenly.

So happy 🙂

I made a promise to myself:

To not ever forget the delirious, delicious feeling of total calm. Of walking on the beach, sand in my toes, warm clear water splashing up on my legs. No worries. Just enjoying — no, better yet — treasuring each moment.

And when I feel stress creeping in, to practice deep breathing and use visual imagery to thwart off anxiety.

Now that we’ve been back home for a couple of weeks, I wish I could say I’m not stressed or anxious. That’s not true or realistic.

BUT… I can say I’m more mindful of how I feel, and am keeping my anxiety in check. I often remind myself to breathe in deep and exhale slowly, while imagining being right there, in my happy place.

One last walk on the beach



Finding My Zen… With Goats

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Zen: feeling relaxed and peaceful.

A couple of weeks ago, I had such a fun experience with my two daughters, who are in their mid-20s. We went to a yoga class — a goat yoga class.

For Christmas I bought three passes and put them in Mackenzie and Talees’ stockings. We laughed about it, and couldn’t imagine what role the goats played. We watched videos, where goats climbed on people’s backs when they were in different positions, like Downward-Facing Dog or Child’s Pose.

I wasn’t too sure I’d like goats nudging and climbing on me, but thought it’d be a  memorable time with my girls. I hadn’t taken a yoga class in several years. I figured that wouldn’t matter, as we’d be so distracted by the goats, laughing the whole time.

We got to the farm and parked in a dirt lot. There was a huge pen, for both us and the goats. Straw covered the ground and everyone brought their own yoga mat or beach towel.

There were about ten goats, seven of them were babies. SO cute! If you can believe it, they were actually supposed to wear pajamas (yes, the goats… not the people). But it was too warm that day for pj’s.

It was quiet, with a soft breeze blowing the eucalyptus trees surrounding us. The goats seemed super calm, just walking around or lying down. Their little sounds — a-a-a-a-a-ah — were adorable.

The instructor (I’ll call her Julie) set her mat at the front of the pen. I happened to be right next to her, and hoped people wouldn’t look to me for direction. I knew my yoga would be pretty rusty.

Julie warned us that the goats may sniff, chew, or take items that were on the ground. She said the goats could care less if a bag is from Target (she pronounced it Tar-jay) or Cartier, both would taste the same.

She said to go at our own pace, no one will judge, just like the goats don’t judge. They’re simply glad we’re there.

And if a goat poops on your mat, oh well… just brush it off and move on. No big deal.

Class started. At first I was leery, wondering if the goats would chew my mat or grab my shoes or cell phone. But they were kind and gentle. I guess I expected them to be more, well, annoying (in a cute, playful way).

happy goat

I settled in while taking some deep breaths. My eyes were closed and I relaxed, appreciating the warmth of the sun and the warm breeze. It had been a really cold and rainy winter for Southern CA.

I couldn’t remember the last time I was that still. I concentrated on my breathing and reveled in the fact that I was at a farm, out in nature, with sweet animals walking around.

It was so peaceful, so Zen.

It reminded me how important it is to do nothing and just be. The fresh air felt amazing, rejuvenating. It’s funny how goats helped me realize that.

And the workout? It wasn’t too strenuous, but we definitely did more yoga than I thought we would. It felt great to breathe, stretch, and balance.

The goats weren’t a distraction. They enhanced the experience. I guess that’s why goat yoga is a thing.

At the end, while we laid down in the Shavasana pose, Julie said to breathe and let our worries go. She told us to remember the gentle goats that don’t judge. And when we’re back out in the real world and our busy lives, if someone “gets our goat,” just brush it off, let it go, and move on.

After class, we were able to hold the baby goats and take pictures. Mackenzie, Talee, and I loved petting their soft fur and laughed trying to hold the wiggly ones. The babies seemed tired, maybe from the warm sun and all the attention. Talee held one of them, while Mackenzie and I stroked it’s sweet head. He (or she) fell asleep in Talee’s arms.

So peaceful, happy, and relaxed. Both the goats and me.

Goat sleeping

First image courtesy of here

 

 

Middle School Heroes

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(Trigger warning: this post discusses suicide. If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line in the U.S. at 741741)

I can’t get something out of my mind. Yesterday I was watching TODAY, and a story immediately caught my attention.

A group of middle grade students helped save a woman who was attempting suicide.

I couldn’t wait to hear how they helped. As a mental health advocate, I’m passionate about spreading awareness, especially to adolescents. I’m a speaker for NAMI’s in-school program, Ending the Silence. I want kids to know there is no shame in struggling with mental health issues and there is help available. If the younger generation is aware of mental illness and talks about it more, the stigma will lessen.

Back to the middle school students… This past Saturday, the boy’s volleyball team at Kepler Neighborhood School in Fresno, CA, met for practice. Their coach had them go for a warm-up run, to a place they’ve never run before — a nearby bridge.

That’s where it happened.

A 47-year-old woman was dangling more than 100 feet in the air by her arms.

The boys said it took a moment for them to realize what was happening. They ran to tell their coach, Murray Elliott. He called 911. He told the boys to go back and tell her that her life matters.

Elliott said that for ten minutes, the boys did not stop yelling and screaming, telling her that her life matters.

The woman eventually pulled herself back up onto the bridge, where she was met by police.

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The boys are being called “true heroes.” Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said it perfectly:

“Their words of encouragement caused this woman to realize her life had value. Thank God they were in the right place at the right time.”

Because of their quick action, that woman did not lose her life.

This story is a reminder of why I speak to high school students about mental illness. During the presentation, I tell the teens that if they notice signs of suicide in themselves or a friend, don’t wait. Take immediate action:

  • Tell a trusted adult.
  • Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Ask the question. Ask if he or she is thinking of suicide.
  • Call 911 or go to an emergency room.
  • Call the National Suicide Lifeline at (800)273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  • Don’t keep warning signs a secret.

When the middle school volleyball team went out for their run that Saturday, those boys had no idea how they were about to impact someone’s life.

Even though I don’t know them, I’m so proud of them.

A true inspiration.

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First image courtesy of here

Second image courtesy of here

Third image courtesy of here