It’s Okay to Take a Break

It’s okay to take a break when you’re struggling mentally, physically, or both.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed. We all have so many commitments to keep up with that being able to make time for yourself can be rare. It’s okay to take a break, though, and if you are struggling, I urge you to consider stepping back.

I had to step back from this blog during the first several months of 2021 due to an overwhelming sense of burnout and poor mental health.

I’m finally feeling much better and am back to blogging, and after taking such a long break, I’m now enjoying it just as much as I was when I first started this blog!

That’s not to say that I ever disliked writing here, it’s just that I got so wrapped up in the idea of making money through the blog that it started to feel like a second job. My full-time job is demanding and I really struggle with my mental health due to it, but building up this blog until it felt like a job took a lot of the fun out of it.

So I stepped back and took some much-needed time off. I started to read for pleasure again without taking notes the whole time for an upcoming review. I stopped waking up every morning to scour and post Kindle deals (which took over an hour each day!). I stopped using Twitter. After a couple of weeks like this, I had rediscovered my passion for reading and writing and wanted to jump back into it. However, I forced myself to wait just a little longer, to make sure I was ready. And it’s paid off.

When should you take a break?

There are too many reasons to list here for why you might need to take a break from some aspect of your life.

Some examples, however, include:

  • When you feel like you never have “me time”
  • You find yourself stressed over mundane or trivial things
  • Your sleep is interrupted by worries over what you need to get done the next day
  • If you no longer find pleasure in the things you once did
  • Spending time with people you love start to feel like a chore
  • Your body and/or mind is simply exhausted

Not everyone can step back from work or their commitments, however. That is a privilege that not everyone has. However, if you are in the position to take a break and you need one, do it. It’s not the end of the world to take off a sick day from work or to use your vacation time or to cancel plans to work in some alone time. It’s 100% okay.

While taking a single “mental health” day isn’t going to fix everything, it will give you a moment to simply catch your breath, and sometimes, that can be life-saving.

What if you aren’t able to take a break?

If you are not in the position to take time off work or to set aside your commitments, then you still have some options!

Try to find time during your busy day to work in at least half an hour of time for self-care. For example, after putting the kids to bed you could have a glass of wine while relaxing in a bubble bath. Or, you could wake up a hour earlier before work and use that time for reading or journaling.

If you can’t manage to make time for something like that, perhaps listen to some relaxing music or a self-help audiobook on your commute.

Your mental and physical health is important. Sometimes it’s hard to make time to take care of yourself, but it’s literally one of the most important things that you can do! So please try to make time, even if it’s just a few minutes here and there.

10 Small Things You Can Do To Make Yourself Feel Instantly Happier

lesly-juarez-220845-unsplash

We all have days when we feel down in the dumps, frustrated, or angry. Most of us don’t have the luxury of taking mental health days and calling out of work or canceling all of our plans when we have days like that.

There are small things you can do in the moment to make you feel happier, however. Some of these suggestions might sound silly at first, but I’ve tried all of these and they really do work.

Here are ten small things you can do to become instantly happier.


1. Smile

frank-busch-700111-unsplash.jpg

Studies have shown that when you smile, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel happier. So, essentially, when you smile, you’re tricking your brain into releasing those chemicals. This is the easiest thing to try when you’re feeling sad or upset.


2. Walk Outside

matic-kozinc-102131-unsplash.jpg

Spending 20 minutes walking outside in nature can boost your mood significantly. Obviously, this isn’t convenient for everyone, but if you can, take a walk outside on your lunch break or in the morning. Back when I lived in Asheville, NC, I would spend many of my days off hiking, and my mood was always improved for days afterward.


3. Breathe

le-minh-phuong-478540-unsplash.jpg

Meditation is incredible and has been shown to be beneficial to our bodies and minds. Some people find meditation a little intimidating but it doesn’t need to be! At its very simplest, all you need to do is spend a few minutes paying attention to your breaths.

You can even do this at your desk. Just close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths, and try to focus on your breathing. There are also several apps you can download to your phone with guided meditations (such as Headspace).


4. Be Mindful of Your Posture

clarisa-guerra-660773-unsplash.jpg

Most of us don’t think about our posture very often, but bad posture could lead to bad moods. If you need help, Lifehacker has a wonderful guide on how to improve your posture.


5. Practice Gratitude

gabrielle-henderson-701889-unsplash.jpg

When you look back on your day or week, are you more likely to remember the bad things that happened or the good? For a lot of us, we tend to focus more on the negative things around us. Practicing gratitude can help us focus on those good things we experience on a daily basis, even if those things are minuscule. There are so many things you can be grateful for: a friend texting you just to say hi, catching every green light on your way to work, your dog greeting you happily at the door, the temperature being perfect outside, etc. There’s really no end to things that you can be thankful for.


6. Text a Friend

derick-anies-120213-unsplash.jpg

This is something that I make use of whenever I’m feeling terrible at work. My job is super stressful and involves getting screamed and cussed at over the phone for hours at a time. Whenever I’m starting to focus on the negativity, I text one of my friends just to say hi or to see how they’re doing. Hearing from people you care about can instantly boost your mood.


7. Surround Yourself with Things That Make You Happy

norbert-levajsics-343107-unsplash.jpg

If you have a desk at work, keep a photo of your loved ones or your pets on it. If you work in customer service, change your phone background to a picture that makes you smile or a motivational quote. Put fresh flowers in your room. Basically, surround yourself with things that make you happy.


8. Laugh

matheus-ferrero-320901-unsplash.jpg

Much like smiling, laughing can trick your brain into releasing chemicals that make you feel happier. Also, who doesn’t like a good laugh? Ask someone to tell you a joke, watch your favorite ridiculous gif, or recall memories of something hilarious that happened to you once. Force yourself to laugh your ass off.

For me, no matter how bad of a mood I’m in, this clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation always makes me laugh. Make sure you watch it to the end.


9. Use Essential Oils

vero-photoart-140937-unsplash.jpg

I used to work in a spa, and during those years I discovered that there really is something amazing about aromatherapy. Scents such as orange, lavender, and peppermint (among others) can instantly boost your mood. Everybody enjoys different scents, so experiment and find what scent makes you happiest! For me, I enjoy a blend of orange or grapefruit extract with a touch of rosemary.


10. Remember That You Are Amazing

guilherme-stecanella-370459-unsplash.jpg

After going through a rough breakup years ago, this tip really helped me. Anytime I was feeling worthless, I’d find one or two things that I loved about myself. It would instantly make me feel better, and would also serve to boost my confidence! If you’re thinking of saying there’s nothing amazing about yourself… don’t! You are absolutely amazing, and you have countless great qualities you can focus on. Feel good about who you are, and constantly remind yourself of how awesome you are!



What do you do when you’re feeling down? Let me know in the comments!




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:
Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist
If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Be Mindful of Your Medications

michal-parzuchowski-7TWRwDjfGew-unsplash

Late last year, I was at work and started feeling really foggy. My hands were trembling, my anxiety was rising, and I started to feel confused. I would look at my computer screen and within seconds forget what I was looking at. It was terrifying.

I told my supervisor that I needed to leave. I called my boyfriend to have him pick me up, and while I waited I called my psychiatrist. I described my symptoms to her, and she told me to start reducing the amount of quetiapine (a schizophrenia medication that is also used to treat bipolar disorder) I was taking by half every three days until I wasn’t taking it anymore. Eventually, I started feeling normal again, but it was a scary experience to feel myself growing more and more confused and frazzled by the moment.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about that experience on here before, but I was thinking about it recently after speaking to a friend about medication interactions. I had mentioned to her that I was taking Lexapro and Trazadone (among others), and she told me that her doctor had advised her not to combine the two because it can lead to serious side effects, including serotonin syndrome. I looked it up online and sure enough, she was right:

Using escitalopram [Lexapro] together with trazodone can increase the risk of a rare but serious condition called the serotonin syndrome, which may include symptoms such as confusion, hallucination, seizure, extreme changes in blood pressure, increased heart rate, fever, excessive sweating, shivering or shaking, blurred vision, muscle spasm or stiffness, tremor, incoordination, stomach cramp, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe cases may result in coma and even death.

Obviously, I stopped taking the trazodone. It’s a sleeping aid, so thankfully it’s not something that I’m required to take daily and there are no issues with stopping it suddenly.

After feeling relieved that I had avoided any of the above horrifying side-effects, I was disappointed and frustrated that two separate doctors had approved the combination for me, even doubling the amount of both recently. Then when I picked them up at the pharmacy, the pharmacist didn’t advise me to be careful with them.

While I feel like it is the responsibility of doctors and pharmacists to alert patients when they may be taking a potentially deadly cocktail of drugs, it made me realize that I also need to take some responsibility for my own health.

If you start taking a new medication, pay attention to your body. If something feels off, don’t be afraid to call your doctor or pharmacist to find out if it’s normal. Use the power of the internet to research drug interactions. Read the pamphlets that come with your medications.

It’s so important to maintain both your physical and mental health and being attuned to your body and realizing if something is wrong is a huge part of that. Take control of your health as much as you can and learn to be an activist for yourself. No one knows yourself better than you do!


Have you ever experienced a scary side-effect from a medication or combination of medications? Let’s talk about it in the comments!




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

What’s the Difference Between Psychiatry and Psychology?

tim-mossholder-bo3SHP58C3g-unsplash

When I first began seeking help for my mental health, there were so many unfamiliar terms. The most confusing for me at first was simply the difference between the two different types of doctors available: psychiatrists and psychologists. I’m sure I’m not the only person who was confused about the difference between the two, so I wanted to help out anyone else who might be in the same boat.

Essentially, psychiatry is a medical specialty that focuses on the diagnoses, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders. Meanwhile, psychology is the study of the mind and behavior.

So what does this mean? Since a psychiatrist is a medical doctor, that means that they can prescribe medicine. So when you need to get on mental health medication or alter the drugs you’re on, you’ll want to see a psychiatrist. They can also diagnose your mental disorders and give you testing.

If you’re looking for talk therapy, however, you’ll want to see a psychologist. While they can’t prescribe you medications, these are the professionals you’ll want to see when you want help working through your problems. Cognitive and behavioral therapies as well as many others, including art therapy, are just some of the services they offer.

Depending on the type of help you need, you might need to go to one or the other, or you can seek out both types of help (which is what I need to stay healthy). If you’re not sure what you need, talk to your doctor for recommendations.

I’m American, so I don’t know anything about options in other countries. If you do and want to offer some advice, please do so in the comments. So, some tips for Americans seeking mental health care:

  • If you have health insurance, check your provider’s website or call them for a list of psychiatrists and psychologists that your insurance will cover. Don’t expect it to be easy, however; I have great insurance through my job, but it was still an epic pain-in-the-ass to search through hundreds of names to find a good provider.
  • If you don’t have insurance, you still have options. There are free or sliding-scale practices all over the country, and a Google search will help you find them.
  • If you don’t have time to go to a doctor’s office and would prefer to seek help online, there are resources for that too. The only one I’ve used is Talkspace because my employer offers a service through them. I didn’t stick with it because I prefer face to face appointments, but it’s a great option if you prefer video chats or emailing with a psychologist.
  • Finally, if you or a loved one is feeling suicidal, please seek help immediately. Either visit your local hospital or call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255, which is available in both English and Spanish.

If you need help with your mental health, I know it can be scary and overwhelming to find the services, doctors, and medications that are right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!



Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Emotional Detox for Anxiety by Sherianna Boyle – A Review

Emotional Detox

Emotional Detox for Anxiety: 7 Steps to Release Anxiety and Energize Joy by Sherianna Boyle
Nonfiction | Mental Health | Self-Help
Published by Adams Media
Expected Publication: December 24th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

I read a lot of self-help and mental health books because it helps me stay on track in my own life. Managing bipolar disorder and anxiety is difficult, and I’ll take all the help I can get. Which is why I jumped on the opportunity to read and review Sherianna Boyle’s Emotional Detox for Anxiety.

This book is the follow-up to Boyle’s Emotional Detox, but specifically targeting people with anxiety. She proposes that by using the C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method people can treat the underlying causes of “painful emotions in general and anxiety in particular.” C.L.E.A.N.S.E. stands for:

  • Clear Reactivity
  • Look Inward
  • Emit
  • Activate Joy
  • Nourish
  • Surrender
  • Ease

I can’t say that this is the book that has helped me the most, but there’s a lot of great advice for people suffering from anxiety.

Sherianna Boyle is very thorough in breaking down anxiety, starting with describing what anxiety is and what the underlying causes often are, and ending with step-by-step instructions for following the C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method. I appreciated that she delved a bit into the science of anxiety, such as when she discusses the connection between inflammation in the body and anxiety in the mind.

Some of Boyle’s advice is expected, such as meditations and creating a healthier environment for yourself. However, some people might find the advice in the book a little hippy-ish or “woo-woo,” so keep in mind that if you try to avoid that sort of thing, this book might not be the best option for you. Think humming, visualization practices and manifesting, and opening your third eye.

None of the information in this book is necessarily revolutionary, and most of the components of Boyle’s C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method is also incorporated in other forms of anxiety treatment, but if you’re someone who hasn’t found a way to handle your anxiety and you want to try something new, it won’t hurt to read this book and give Boyle’s method a shot. It didn’t help me personally, as I’ve found that sound therapy/meditation and manifesting do nothing for me, but everybody is different.

One slightly-weird aspect of this book that I feel the need to mention is that the author seems to bring some of her own baggage into it. I have no idea how often Boyle brings up the fact that her husband had an affair and it caused her pain, but it’s a lot. It was enough that I started to get annoyed with it. There’s nothing wrong with writing about your own experiences; in fact, it’s good to do so! She just overdid it and left me wondering if she shouldn’t practice her C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method a bit more herself.

While I did discover a lot of information in this book, it’s not going to be one that I find myself coming back to in the future. I made the effort to internalize the new-to-me information, and I feel that I have nothing more to get out of this book. As I mentioned before, however, everyone is different and copes in their own way. If Emotional Detox for Anxiety sounds like a book that might help you, grab a copy and give it a shot!




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Do You Have Job-Related Burnout?

sebastian-herrmann-1431244-unsplash

Note: This is a repost of an article from May 2019. I’m sharing it again because this is an important topic and something that I even need to remind myself of time and time again.

Feeling burned out at work is something that many of us will feel at one point or another. Our society forces us to work, mostly in jobs that mean nothing to us, for long hours, low pay, and mediocre benefits. It’s no wonder that people’s mental health can begin to decline in those circumstances.

According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is defined as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

For years, burnout has been something that people have been experiencing with little support. Hopefully, that will change, however, as the World Health Organization now recognizes burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis.

In their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the WHO has added this definition of burnout:

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Having burnout become an official international diagnosis doesn’t mean that employers will start offering leave time or mental health days, however, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms of burnout yourself, and know how to practice self-care to lessen the effects.


How to Recognize Burnout

riccardo-mion-652660-unsplash.jpg

Experiencing job-related burnout can manifest in a variety of symptoms, but here are a few to be on the lookout for:

  • becoming increasingly angry or cynical
  • dreading going in to work so much that it starts to physically make you feel sick
  • substance abuse to help you cope with a hard day, such as drinking too much when you get off work
  • feeling disillusioned or unsatisfied with your job
  • finding it harder and harder to concentrate
  • the thought of work or going into work causing you a great deal of stress or anxiety

Here’s an example of what to look out for from my own personal experience. I use to work in a mountain resort and spa. I worked there for years and enjoyed it, as I worked with amazing people, most of whom I’m still close friends with today. Over time, however, I started to lose interest in everything I was doing while on the clock. I was constantly stressed out, to the point where I would get terrible headaches or stomach-aches just at the thought of going into work. I stepped down from my leadership position to see if that would help, but I still felt the same cynicism and lack of interest. Then I realized, with the help of friends, that I was experiencing burnout.

I quit my job and started doing something new. Even though I wasn’t making as much money, I was a hundred times happier. I’ve started to realize that whenever I start making myself sick with anxiety at the very thought of going into work, or when I reach the point when I cannot say anything nice about my job, I need to be mindful of the symptoms of burnout, and take care of myself. It’s also usually a sign that I need to look for a new job.

The symptoms of burnout are going to be different for everyone. You know yourself better than anyone else, so trust your instincts on this.


How to Combat Burnout Symptoms

simon-migaj-471526-unsplash.jpg

The obvious answer to combatting burnout would be to find a new job. However, not everyone has that ability, especially in cities where the job market is terrible.

Here is some advice to help you manage the stress that burnout causes:

  • Talk to your supervisor or manager about how you’re feeling. They’re not going to fire you if you tell them that you’re unhappy. Hiring and training new employees costs a lot of money. Perhaps there’s a way you can transition to a role that would be more fun for you, or you can take on some added responsibilities that will make you more interested in what you’re doing.
  • Use your resources. Many companies, especially large ones, offer some form of employee counseling or help hotline. Don’t be afraid to utilize these resources! They’re almost always confidential.
  • Find a way to truly relax outside of work. One of the reasons burnout happens is that we feel as though our jobs are taking over our whole lives. It can certainly feel that way. To prevent this from happening, make sure that you’re setting aside time for a relaxing activity or something that makes you feel happy. This could be anything, from meditation to hiking to playing your favorite video game. Prioritize fun and relaxation.

Burnout is a very serious problem in our society, and I’m glad that the World Health Organization sees it that way.

Please get help if you’re feeling the symptoms of burnout. You don’t have to feel miserable. None of us deserve that.



Do you have any advice on dealing with the symptoms of burnout? Let us know in the comments.




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

An Example of What Bipolar Disorder is Like

sydney-sims-fZ2hMpHIrbI-unsplash

At least as far back as high school, I’ve dealt with severe depression, anxiety, and mood changes, but it wasn’t until this past year that I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The diagnosis didn’t lead to a cure for the disorder since there isn’t one, but it’s allowed me to notice the symptoms and triggers for the manic or depressive episodes that define the disease. Seeking professional help for it has also led to being on medication that I, in all honesty, should have been on decades ago.

Unfortunately, we’re still getting the medications worked out. The types of drugs and the amount vary for everyone, and we haven’t quite found the right mix for me yet, despite going as far as doing genetic testing to try to figure out the best combinations. The medication has certainly helped to a certain degree, but I’m still having manic and depressive episodes that are severe enough to interrupt my normal day-to-day activities.

freestocks-org-nss2eRzQwgw-unsplash.jpg

This past week has been a rough one, and also a perfect example of what my bipolar disorder is like. Therefore, I thought this would be a good opportunity to write about what I experience every time I go through a manic and depressive episode.

Everything started out fine this past week, and I even managed to complete nearly a full week at work (which has been rare for me lately). Then the hypomania kicked in.

Hypomania is different from mania, although it can also lead to full-blown mania. Bipolar mania tends to get out of control, sometimes even requiring hospitalizations. Mania lasts for a week or more, can lead to terrible decisions (think out-of-control spending, increased drinking and drug use, and making poor sexual choices) and is something that, thankfully, I’ve only experienced twice in my life.

mert-guller-cY1M7iqHOXc-unsplash.jpg

Lasting for just a few days however, hypomania actually feels great much of the time. During the hypomanic days that I experienced this past week, I was incredibly productive, highly motivated, excited about everything, talkative (which is strange for me, because I’m usually really quiet), and didn’t sleep as much. I experience hypomania frequently, and it always leads to a period of depression.

It’s a strange feeling to be hypomanic. One the one hand, it’s wonderful, because I no longer feel depressed, I have less anxiety, and I can get so much done. On the other hand, however, I know that it can lead to an actual manic episode. I have trouble knowing when I’m hypomanic, which is why I’m thankful for my boyfriend, who has taken the time to get familiar with the disorder so that he can help recognize the symptoms even when I can’t.

So, for two to three days, I felt great. And then yesterday happened.

claudia-owBcefxgrIE-unsplash.jpg

Yesterday I woke up feeling shattered. I didn’t want to get out of bed, my anxiety was about as high as it could get, and I felt worthless. I had to call out of work which was necessary but made me feel guilty and even more upset.

My entire day yesterday consisted of beating myself up mentally, binge-eating, trying to escape into Fallout 4, and napping. So much napping.

My boyfriend did what he could to try to cheer me up and to make sure I was eating and drinking water, lighting stress-relieving candles around me and putting my cat on my lap when I was feeling particularly bad (quick tip – purring cats make you feel better). Despite all this, I just felt like absolute trash all day.

Depression isn’t something that you can smile your way out of or ignore the pain of. There’s nothing worse that you can say to someone suffering from depression than “snap out of it” or “It’s not that bad – deal with it.” It’s a mental illness that can lead to physical pain and make normal life impossible to carry on with.

Being bipolar is difficult. There are any number of things that can trigger either a manic or depressive episode. The worst thing I’ve been dealing with lately is that it appears that my job is a trigger for depression, which is terrible since it’s the best-paying job I’ve ever had, and I desperately need the medical and mental health benefits that I receive from it.

While these manic and depressive episodes are different in everyone, and can even vary for me, this was a great example of what living with bipolar disorder feels like. As I learn more about coping with this disorder, I’ll share what I learn with you guys. As of today, I’m still struggling with the depressive part, but I know it won’t be too long before I’m on another upswing.

Bipolar disorder is one hell of a mentally exhausting disease.


Are there any questions you would like to see answered about living with bipolar disorder? Leave them in the comments for me and I’ll answer as many as I can!




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

A Brief Guide to Mindfulness Meditation

raul-varzar-BO-E70Ug2G8-unsplash

Meditation is a relatively easy and completely free activity that has an incredible effect on your moods, anxiety, and stress levels. I discovered this about a decade ago, during a challenging summer when I was really depressed and randomly picked up a few books on Buddhism and meditation to read.

A few years later, I found this wonderful meditation group on my university campus that I went to once a week. I had never received guided meditation before, and being in a relaxed atmosphere gave me a lot of positive space to grow my meditation practice.

Over the years since then, I kept up my meditation practice, until I moved to another state three years ago. Prior to that move, my practice had definitely been faltering. I had swung into another deep depression, and whenever I’m feeling that way I have trouble motivating myself to do even small tasks.

Meditation has been on my mind a lot recently because my mental health these past two or three months has been terrible. Even with anti-depressants and bipolar medication that is helping more than anything else I’ve taken, the stress of my job combined with general life stuff has had me feeling unmotivated and deeply unhappy.

lesly-juarez-DFtjXYd5Pto-unsplash.jpg

Which is why I’ve started meditating again. I wish I had never stopped, but it’s interesting to see how different my mind is during periods when I’ve meditated than when I haven’t. During long periods when I forgo meditation, I find that it takes less provocation to set off a panic attack or wild mood swings. However, when I meditate regularly, even when it’s just fifteen minutes a day, it’s obvious that I’m handling stress better, have more patience, and find myself having fewer high-anxiety days.

There are so many different ways to meditate, and how you meditate really comes down to what you get the most benefit from. I tend to focus mainly on mindfulness meditation, where I simply follow my breath. I’ve also used walking as a form of meditation, although that’s no longer possible where I live. Some people prefer guided meditation or meditating on an idea or feeling. There’s religious-based meditation and even people who use music or sports (such as running) to give them feelings similar to meditation.

Essentially, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. 

Today, I want to give you guys a quick lesson on how I meditate. It’s very simple, although it isn’t always easy. The instructions below will lay out the basics for you, and I’ve provided some additional tips and advice afterward.


form-gUjBCYzR7aU-unsplash.jpg

A Simple Mindfulness Meditation Guide
For Beginners

First, start by finding a comfortable, quiet place to sit. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy, I usually meditate on my couch or floor. You can do it outside if you want, or in your bed. Just make yourself comfortable.

Set a timer for however long you want to meditate. I usually aim for 10-15 minutes per session, but you can do as little as five minutes or as much as an hour (or more). When you’re first starting out, I recommend keeping it to just 5-10 minutes, and then gradually increasing the time as you get more comfortable.

Now, you’re ready to start meditating! Close your eyes and begin to move your focus to your breath. Some people find this easier to do while silently saying corresponding words to yourself, such as “breathe in/breathe out” or counting your breaths until you get to ten and then starting over. Personally, I either focus on the rise and fall of my chest as I breathe or use the “breathe in/breathe out” method.

Any time a stray thought comes forward, just gently acknowledge it and go back to your breath. Try not to get frustrated when this happens – it’s inevitable. Even people who have been meditating for years have trouble keeping their thoughts entirely at bay.

When your timer goes off, slowly bring yourself out of your practice. I usually take a moment or two to appreciate how relaxed my body feels while slowly opening my eyes. Take as long as you can before getting up and carrying on with your day. Trust me, once you feel how relaxed your body is even after a short meditation session, you’ll want to!


amy-treasure-4aSCchQ1hzk-unsplash.jpg

Things to Remember

  • There’s no need to get into a full-lotus position or sit in front of an altar of crystals or statues. For this kind of meditation, the only important thing is that you’re in a sitting position that you can comfortably maintain for the duration of your practice.
  • It’s okay if you can’t turn off your thoughts! Meditation isn’t easy and it takes years of practice to be able to empty your mind of all thoughts. I’ve been meditating for years and I still find random thoughts popping up every time I sit. When this happens, just acknowledge the thought and go back to your breath.
  • If it’s hard for you to focus on your breath, try guided meditations. There are tons of free resources! My favorite app is Headspace. You can also just search guided meditation on YouTube or find CDs at your local library. I’ve seen guided meditations for five minutes all the way up to a couple of hours. Find what works best for you.
  • While you can meditate anywhere, some people prefer to set up a little meditation area and find that it helps them maintain the habit. If you have space and think this will help, go for it! It’s easy to set up a nice meditation area. Grab some cushions, candles, plants, or whatever else reminds you of relaxation.
  • Most cities have meditation groups available, so if you’d like to find a meditation group or class, do a Google search of your area or check Meetup.com.
  • If you have pets, prepare to have them invade your personal space. Over the years, I’ve lived with cats and dogs and it never fails that once I sit down to meditate, they become fascinated and walk over to plop down into my lap or start sniffing at me. Just like those stray thoughts, try to ignore it!

As I said before, meditation is really important to me. If you give this lesson a shot, let me know if it worked for you! This is a topic that I love, so if you want to see more meditation lessons, just let me know!


Do you have a regular meditation practice? Tell me about it in the comments!




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Everything You Need to Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

ian-espinosa-SrtIO_uBlVI-unsplash.jpg

Now that it’s officially autumn, it’s getting close to the time of year when many people, approximately 10 million of them, are going to start feeling more depressed.

Seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD, is a form of depression that affects people based on seasons. The majority of people with SAD become depressed in autumn and winter, with the symptoms lessening or disappearing in spring or summer. The symptoms start out mildly at the beginning of the season and then gets worse as the season progresses.

While SAD can affect anyone, there are certain people who are more prone to it. Women are four times more likely than men to be diagnosed with it, and people with a family history of SAD or other forms of depression are more prone. Also, the farther you live from the equator, the more common SAD becomes.


Symptoms

Many of the symptoms of SAD are the same as for people suffering from year-round depression, such as: overwhelming feelings of sadness, low energy, feeling hopeless, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in things you previously loved, changes in appetite, problems sleeping, or thoughts of death or suicide.

However, there are symptoms specific to SAD, and if you suffer from it in autumn/winter or spring/summer. Here are those symptoms, from the Mayo Clinic:

Fall and winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

Oversleeping
Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Weight gain
Tiredness or low energy
Social withdrawal

Spring and summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include

Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Poor appetite
Weight loss
Agitation, anxiety, or violent behavior
Restlessness


matthew-brodeur-qjGz9PJg3sk-unsplash.jpg

Causes of SAD

While, like depression, the root cause of what causes SAD and why only certain people suffer from it is unknown, there are a number of factors that can contribute. The most prevalent are the changes to your serotonin and melatonin levels.

Serotonin and melatonin are both important chemicals produced naturally in your body.

Serotonin, also called 5-hydroxytryptamine, is found in your brain, bowels, and blood platelets. Your body’s levels of serotonin can increase due to exercise and diet, along with light levels. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression, as the chemical is responsible for regulating mood, sleep, memory, and more.

You know that feeling after working out when you feel amazing and invincible? That’s serotonin. A deficiency in serotonin has a number of symptoms, such as

  • bad moods
  • poor memory
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • cravings for sweet or starchy foods

Melatonin is a hormone produced by your pineal gland that aids in sleeping well and regularly. According to the National Sleep Foundation,

“During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is ‘turned on’ by the SCN [suprachiasmatic nucleaus, an area of the brain] and begins to actively produced melatonin, which is released into the blood.”

Bright lights (such as those fluorescent lights you work under) and blue light (from your phone or computer screens) both suppress the production of melatonin. There are a number of ways that you can increase your melatonin levels at night.

The most obvious way is to turn off your technology an hour before going to bed. Blue light is super harmful to your ability to sleep, and we all spend too much time on our phones anyway. Turn them off and read a book before bed. There are also special glasses that you can buy that block out harmful lights.

matthew-t-rader-bZbd02TN9t0-unsplash.jpg
Stop doing this!

The most popular way to increase melatonin levels, however, is to take it as a supplement. Melatonin supplements can be purchased over-the-counter and from online retailers such as Amazon and Wal-Mart. It’s generally considered safe, although there can be side-effects. While it can really help some people sleep better, it’s a bad choice for others.

To give you an example, I’ll share the effects that melatonin supplements have on both myself and my boyfriend.

I take melatonin a couple of times per week, on those days when I can’t fall asleep by other means. I’ll take two gummies about an hour before sleep, and by the time that hour is up, I’m falling into a blissful slumber.

When my boyfriend takes melatonin, however, it does help him fall asleep, but when he wakes up the next morning, his entire day is ruined by a “melatonin hangover.” He’s groggy for the entire day and has trouble focusing. We’ve even tried cutting his dose in half, and it still has the same effects.

If you have trouble sleeping and want to give melatonin a try, by all means go for it. Just remember that it isn’t for everyone. Some common side-effects of taking supplemental melatonin include drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Also, it’s not safe to take melatonin if you have an autoimmune disease or are taking oral contraceptives (it reduces their effectiveness).

 


Natural Ways to Relieve SAD

While it typically isn’t possible to get over SAD on your own, there are a number of activities and habits you can take up in the autumn and winter to reduce the severity of your symptoms.

  1. Exercise regularly. Exercise causes your brain to release important chemicals (such as serotonin) that promote your mood. Plus, exercise has so many other great benefits, like increased brainpower, weight loss, higher energy levels, and reduced risks of chronic diseases.
  2. LightOne of the treatments for SAD is the use of light to improve your mood. While going outside and getting natural sunlight is the best choice, that’s a lot harder to do in the winter. Fortunately, there are countless lamps made specifically to mimic natural light. Sitting near one of these lamps will improve your mood during those darker times. Very Well Mind has put together a wonderful list of some of your best options.
  3. Diet. Studies have shown that foods high in a chemical call tryptophans can lead to improved mood. Here’s a list of foods high in tryptophans that you might want to add to your diet when you normally experience SAD. As you can see, there are a lot of different options, so everyone should be able to incorporate at least a few of these into their diet.
    • Bananas
    • Eggs
    • Salmon
    • Poultry (chicken, turkey, and goose)
    • Seeds & nuts
    • Soy products
    • Spinach
    • Milk and cheese
  4. Aromatherapy. Essential oils are great for relieving stress. This is one option that I can personally vouch for. I used to work in the spa industry, and I learned to use various essential oils to produce the desired effects that I wanted. One of my favorite, not related to SAD but still useful, is the energizing effects of grapefruit and rosemary essential oils blended together into a diffuser. Here’s a list of four essential oils that might help relieve symptoms of SAD.
  5. Routine. Sticking to a regular schedule, even when you don’t feel like it, has the benefit of teaching your body when it’s time to sleep or eat. SAD can lead to insomnia and weight gain, and having specific times when you do these things can lessen the effects.
  6. Journaling. I’ve written on this blog before about journaling and the effect it can have on your life and mood. In my own experience with depression, journaling can provide a necessary outlet to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, where you can better analyze your thoughts and deal with them. I like to journal in the evening before I go to bed, as a sort of “brain dump” to help me sleep well, instead of worrying about everything that happened that day.

Seeking Professional Help

Sometimes, home remedies aren’t going to be enough, and that’s okay. You need to take your mental health just as seriously as your physical health.

If you start to have feelings associated with depression or SAD, please seek out your doctor or a psychologist. They’ll start off by doing a few tests to make sure something else isn’t going on, such as an underlying health problem. Once that’s ruled out, your doctor will do a psychological evaluation to determine if you have SAD.

Once you’re diagnosed, your doctor will recommend treatments or medications for you. For treatment options, they might recommend light therapy (phototherapy) or traditional talk therapy (psychotherapy). When it comes to medication, there are a number of options, including bupropion (which I take myself and has improved my energy levels) and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, aka anti-depressants).

I would like to reiterate here that there is nothing wrong with taking anti-depressants or going to therapy. It drives me crazy that there is still a stigma in some communities over seeking help for mental health. If you are feeling depressed, please seek help.


In the end, seasonal affective disorder is a real and very serious disease. If you find that yourself or loved ones are exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, please consider getting help.


Do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or know someone that does? Feel free to leave any insights or advice in the comments!




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Are u ok? by Kati Morton – A Review

are you ok kati morton.jpg

Are u ok?: A Guide to Caring for Your Mental Health by Kati Morton, LMFT
Non-Fiction | Self Help | Mental Wellness
Published by Da Capo Lifelong Books
Released December 11th, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

Are u ok? is a non-fiction book written by licensed marriage and family therapist Kati Morton, also known for her YouTube channel where she discusses therapy and mental wellness.

This book covers a lot of important territory. Everything from how to choose a therapist and knowing if they’re a good fit for you, to explaining how different types of therapies work, to recognizing signs of toxic or abusive relationships – this book is an overview of all of it.

Morton’s book will be the perfect choice for people with little to no prior knowledge of how to find a therapist or of how therapy works. However, for people with experience using mental healthcare, you can safely skip this book. The information contained within is very basic and doesn’t go into a lot of detail. Also, the primary point of this book is to aid you in finding a good therapist, so if you’re already experienced in going to therapy, you more than likely won’t learn anything new.

The reason I’m giving this book only three stars is that I found the conversational tone to be too flat, and I wish there had been more information contained within the book, especially on topics such as caring for your mental health at home. The subtitle to the book is A Guide for Caring for Your Mental Health, which constitutes so much more than just finding a therapist (although having a good therapist is incredibly important!).

The best part of this book for me were her chapters on on toxic relationships. I know so many people who have been or are currently in toxic or mentally abusive relationships, and it’s important to be able to identify such behavior.

Another thing I really appreciated was Morton’s discussion of the stigma surrounding abusive relationships, particularly toward the person being abused. This is something that I’ll admit to not considering before. From the book,

The stigma I am talking about is any of those automatic thoughts you have about abuse. Like I stated above, any of my friends proudly declare they would never find themselves in that situation. So what does that say to someone who was or is in a relationship like that? That they are weaker? Or more stupid? 

As I said before, Are u ok? is a wonderful book for people new to caring for their mental health, or people who have never been to therapy and want to know what to expect. Otherwise, feel free to skip this book.


Have you read Are u ok? What did you think? What are some of your favorite mental health books?


Looking for more books on mental wellness?

Healthy as F*ck | The Transformation | The Wellness Project | Perfectly Hidden Depression




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

The Transformation by James Gordon, MD – A Review

GORDON_TransforningTrauma_HC.JPG

The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma by James Gordon, MD
Mental Health | Psychology | Nonfiction
Published by HarperOne
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

I’ve frequently written about my struggles with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder on this blog, and I always look forward to reviewing books that deal with mental illness. When FSB Associates reached out to me to ask if I’d like to review Dr. James Gordon’s new book, The Transformation, I jumped on the chance. Despite not being familiar with the author’s name, I had definitely heard of his organization, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine.

It took me a while to read through this book, but that was only because the information contained within it was so helpful, and I wanted to try out all of Gordon’s advice. I went through a whole stack of sticky notes annotating this book so that I could come back to it over and over again.

The Transformation is a book meant to help people deal with trauma through methods other than being prescribed antidepressants and other drugs. One thing to note is that Dr. Gordon doesn’t think that medications are bad, in fact, he writes in multiple places that they are useful if needed, but that the techniques in this book can be used before resorting to taking pills.

Of course, the advice and techniques contained in this book can be used if you’re already on various medications, such as I am. Medication only goes so far, and it’s always nice to have other methods for handling the bad symptoms of mental illness.

One aspect of this book that immediately drew me to it was Dr. Gordon’s definition of trauma. Whereas many people think of trauma as something rare, he defines it as something that everyone experiences – from violence and war to losing your loved ones to being fired from a job. It’s this definition that I feel should be the correct one. So many of us can point to at least one traumatic experience in our past that we are still trying to overcome, and as such, The Transformation is a book that I would recommend to everyone.

James Gordon author photo (credit Rebecca Hale).jpg
Dr. James S Gordon

Within the book, Gordon gives us plenty of examples of how his methods have worked for different groups of people, from survivors of brutal wars, to business people, to first responders, and everyone else.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first of some of the advice, particular what he calls “shaking and dancing.” Essentially, this is similar to ecstatic dancing, which I’m familiar with (it was popular when I lived in Asheville) but that I’ve never done. Well, I tried it while reading this book, and let me tell you – it really did help loosen me up when I was stressed and anxious. It left me feeling more energized. My full-time job is at a call center that deals with auto insurance, and it’s the most stressful and demeaning job that I’ve ever had. This past week, I’ve taken to hiding in bathroom stalls when I feel like I’m on my way to having another panic attack in order to “shake things off,” and it has really improved things for me. While it’s not going to solve the fact that my job worsens my mental health or that I have anxiety, it is a useful method for dealing with it in the moment.

MP30219_Transformation_QC-ZINN-v4.jpg

Another part of The Transformation that I really appreciated was the chapter on diet and mental health. I’ve always been fascinated by how the foods we eat can influence our mood and mental health, and it’s a section of the book that I will definitely be referencing frequently.

I’m not going to go into detail into every technique that Dr. James Gordon discusses, because I think you should get it directly from the book. What I do want to say is that I am incredibly thankful to the publisher for reaching out to me for a review, because it’s already improving my life. I doubt I would have picked this up otherwise, but I’m so, so happy that I’ve read it.

If there’s any part of your past or present that is causing you stress or anxiety, please find a copy of this book when it’s released on September 10th. Whether you purchase a copy or request a copy from your library, just get it into your hands and read it.


Need some other mental health books to hold you over until September 10th?

Perfectly Hidden Depression | Healthy as F*ck




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

My Bipolar Type II Diagnosis

My Bipolar Type II Diagnosis.png

At the beginning of last year, I started a new full-time job, one that had great health benefits. Previous to this, I had worked jobs that either didn’t offer health care or didn’t offer good healthcare. I’d gone most of my twenties without having insurance, which meant I had zero access to mental health care.

Once I had insurance, I went to my primary care doctor and brought up my issues with anxiety and depression. He prescribed Zoloft to me, and I started taking medication for my mental health for the very first time.

Before we go further, a few things: First, I’ve suffered from depression since middle school, so for nearly twenty years. At times it’s been incredibly severe, even to the point where I’d fantasize about suicide. Second, I’ve always had wild mood swings, sometimes going from happy to depressed within seconds. Third, I’ve also dealt with crippling anxiety, particularly in high school, which has slowly gotten manageable over time. I’ve long known that I needed to be receiving mental health care, but when you don’t have insurance and are working jobs that don’t provide income beyond that which you need for basic necessities, it can be impossible to get the help you need.

Back to the Zoloft. At first, it worked. I noticed that I was generally happier. The changes happened quick, almost too quick. Within a couple months, it completely stopped working, actually making things worse. I became lethargic and depressed, and it got so bad that my boyfriend was skipping work to be home with me because neither of us wanted me to be home alone.

I went back to the doctor, and he then switched me to 20mg of Lexapro. The same thing happened this time around – it started working right away and then stopped, and I was thrown into another period of depression and worsening anxiety.

So then I went back to my doctor a third time. This time around, he cut my dosage of Lexapro in half and added Wellbutrin. And… you guessed it. The same thing happened again.

Finally, I’d had enough. I booked my first appointment at a psychiatric office, which I should have done in the first place. I met with someone who I talked with for about half an hour, and she looked at me and told me straight up that she was 90% sure I was bipolar.

I had heard of bipolar disorder before because I had a high school teacher who was bipolar, but I really didn’t know much about it. At the end of that appointment, I was scheduled for another, to get my actual bipolar diagnosis, when I was told that I had bipolar type 2. Afterward, I started doing research on bipolar disorder, and I was shocked at how every single symptom was something I’d experienced. It felt so good to finally know what was going on in my brain.

My new doctor kept me on the Lexapro and Wellbutrin but added Quetiapine to the mix. So far, everything is working. In fact, I feel the best I have in recent memory. The Quetiapine maintains my mood swings, and I rarely have panic attacks anymore.

Looking back, I’m not surprised by my diagnosis. I’ve been able to pinpoint manic episodes, where my energy levels would shoot up to astronomical levels. I’d stop sleeping, and take up activities that weren’t particularly healthy. In fact, during one of these manic episodes, I lost nearly 100 pounds in a few months because I spent an entire summer being obsessed with working out, sometimes working out for six to eight hours a day. With the help of my doctor, I was able to pinpoint two truly manic episodes in my past.

With bipolar type 2, I’m more prone to hypomanic episodes, which “is an emotional state characterized by a distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting throughout at least four (4) consecutive days, according to the American Psychiatric Association.” I’ve been learning how to deal with this disorder, and I finally feel that I’m getting the mental health care that I’ve needed.

I’ve been wanting to write this article to encourage other people to get the help they need, and to make sure you’re speaking up about whether or not your mental health medications are working. At times, when the previous concoctions of pills weren’t working, I didn’t notice right away, because the slide into depression happened slowly. The first time it happened, with the Zoloft, the only reason I noticed it was because my boyfriend pointed it out to me.

If you feel as though you need mental health care, get it. If your medication isn’t working perfectly, talk to your doctor. You deserve to be happy.




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Perfectly Hidden Depression by Margaret Robinson Rutherford – A Review

43319543.jpg

Perfectly Hidden Depression: How to Break Free from the Perfectionism that Masks Your Depression by Margaret Robinson Rutherford, PhD
Non-Fiction | Mental Health | Self-Help
Published by New Harbinger Publications
Expected Release Date: November 1, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars
ARC provided for free by Netgalley for review

I’ve written many times on Read Yourself Happy about my struggle with depression, anxiety, and my recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder. As far back as middle school, I was suffering from depression and didn’t receive any mental health care until 2018, nearly fifteen years too late.

When I saw Dr. Margaret Robinson Rutherford’s book, Perfectly Hidden Depression, available for review on NetGalley, I instantly downloaded it. Part of my goal for Read Yourself Happy has always been to promote wellness, specifically where mental health is concerned.

In this new book, due to be released in November 2019, Rutherford talks about an obscure form of depression marked by completely hiding your symptoms and being a perfectionist. Whereas with normal depression, people will notice your lethargy or increasingly sad moods, people with Perfectly Hidden Depression (or PHD, as she calls it in the book) outwardly show no signs of being depressed.

For people who are perfectionists, how others perceive you is incredibly important, and showing your vulnerability is not an option. You might hide your symptoms so well that even the people closest to you might have no idea what you’re really going through.

The book is perfect for people who think they might be experiencing this sort of depression and want to do something about it. Each section of the book is followed by a journal prompt to help you reflect on yourself and your own habits. I like that with a book such as this one, you’re able to move at your own pace and spend plenty of time on the prompts and reflections. There are also real-life stories about Dr. Rutherford’s patients and how they learned to deal with PHD.

I do not have what Dr. Rutherford calls “Perfectly Hidden Depression;” my depression is of the more typical variety. However, if you recognize that your perfectionism is causing you to internalize your depression and you want a way out of that suffering, I highly recommend this book.




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Why You Should Declutter Your Digital Life

ari-he-317209-unsplash

In today’s society, it feels like we’re expected to be on top of everything – from the best new bands to current events to all the new book releases coming out. There’s so much going on around us, however, that it’s easy to get lost in all of the digital noise.

The first time I heard the term “Fear of Missing Out” (or, FOMO), I realized that many of my habits were built around the fact that I wanted to feel well-educated on such a wide variety of topics that my online life was cluttered with hundreds of constant updates. There was no way I could ever possibly keep any of it straight!

One of the best things I’ve done for myself in years is to completely declutter my digital life. This is a tip that many bloggers might benefit from, along with anyone else that relies on digital content or social media for their careers.


What Should You Declutter?

sara-kurfess-794955-unsplash.jpg

The first thing I focused on in my digital declutter was my Feedly account. If you don’t use Feedly, it’s an RSS reader that helps you keep track of blogs and websites.

At one point, I was following nearly a thousand blogs and websites. No, I’m not kidding. It was a hot mess. Due to FOMO, I was subscribed to blogs that I was only mildly interested in. Hell, most of the blogs I had subscribed to I never actually read at all!

Instead of logging on and learning all kinds of new and exciting things, my mind was getting bogged down by the sheer quantity of what was before me.

Our brains aren’t able to process non-stop, excessive information. It’s much better to focus on just the things we really love, rather than trying to spread our minds too thin.

I cut the number of blogs and websites I followed down to 100, and in the future, I plan to limit that even further to 75, possibly even 50. Ever since I unsubscribed to those hundreds of websites I barely looked at, my time spent on Feedly has become far more productive.

There are all kinds of online accounts you can declutter:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Email newsletters
  • Instagram

Those are just a few examples. If your mind is overworked by social media, do not be afraid of the unsubscribe button!


The benefits of doing a digital purge of things and sources you no longer need are plenty: less stress when you’re logged in, more free time to focus on things you enjoy doing, and more brain space to just focus on the things your truly interested in!


Have you digitally decluttered your life? How did you feel before and after? Let’s start a discussion in the comments!!




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Do You Have Job-Related Burnout?

sebastian-herrmann-1431244-unsplash

Feeling burned out at work is something that many of us will feel at one point or another. Our society forces us to work, mostly in jobs that mean nothing to us, for long hours, low pay, and mediocre benefits. It’s no wonder that people’s mental health can begin to decline in those circumstances.

According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is defined as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

For years, burnout has been something that people have been experiencing with little support. Hopefully, that will change, however, as the World Health Organization now recognizes burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis.

In their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the WHO has added this definition of burnout:

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Having burnout become an official international diagnosis doesn’t mean that employers will start offering leave time or mental health days, however, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms of burnout yourself, and know how to practice self-care to lessen the effects.


How to Recognize Burnout

riccardo-mion-652660-unsplash.jpg

Experiencing job-related burnout can manifest in a variety of symptoms, but here are a few to be on the lookout for:

  • becoming increasingly angry or cynical
  • dreading going in to work so much that it starts to physically make you feel sick
  • substance abuse to help you cope with a hard day, such as drinking too much when you get off work
  • feeling disillusioned or unsatisfied with your job
  • finding it harder and harder to concentrate
  • the thought of work or going into work causing you a great deal of stress or anxiety

Here’s an example of what to look out for from my own personal experience. I use to work in a mountain resort and spa. I worked there for years and enjoyed it, as I worked with amazing people, most of whom I’m still close friends with today. Over time, however, I started to lose interest in everything I was doing while on the clock. I was constantly stressed out, to the point where I would get terrible headaches or stomach-aches just at the thought of going into work. I stepped down from my leadership position to see if that would help, but I still felt the same cynicism and lack of interest. Then I realized, with the help of friends, that I was experiencing burnout.

I quit my job and started doing something new. Even though I wasn’t making as much money, I was a hundred times happier. I’ve started to realize that whenever I start making myself sick with anxiety at the very thought of going into work, or when I reach the point when I cannot say anything nice about my job, I need to be mindful of the symptoms of burnout, and take care of myself. It’s also usually a sign that I need to look for a new job.

The symptoms of burnout are going to be different for everyone. You know yourself better than anyone else, so trust your instincts on this.


How to Combat Burnout Symptoms

simon-migaj-471526-unsplash.jpg

The obvious answer to combatting burnout would be to find a new job. However, not everyone has that ability, especially in cities where the job market is terrible.

Here is some advice to help you manage the stress that burnout causes:

  • Talk to your supervisor or manager about how you’re feeling. They’re not going to fire you if you tell them that you’re unhappy. Hiring and training new employees costs a lot of money. Perhaps there’s a way you can transition to a role that would be more fun for you, or you can take on some added responsibilities that will make you more interested in what you’re doing.
  • Use your resources. Many companies, especially large ones, offer some form of employee counseling or help hotline. Don’t be afraid to utilize these resources! They’re almost always confidential.
  • Find a way to truly relax outside of work. One of the reasons burnout happens is that we feel as though our jobs are taking over our whole lives. It can certainly feel that way. To prevent this from happening, make sure that you’re setting aside time for a relaxing activity or something that makes you feel happy. This could be anything, from meditation to hiking to playing your favorite video game. Prioritize fun and relaxation.

Burnout is a very serious problem in our society, and I’m glad that the World Health Organization sees it that way.

Please get help if you’re feeling the symptoms of burnout. You don’t have to feel miserable. None of us deserve that.



Do you have any advice on dealing with the symptoms of burnout? Let us know in the comments.




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!