Taking Out the Mental Garbage

It took a while before I realized, there was a direct correlation between chewing on mental garbage and putting garbage in my mouth.
– Holly Mosier
I’ve always been a therapeutic writer.
Excitement, shame, fears, curiosity, worry, anger; they all brought on a wave of desire to level my thoughts by purging it onto paper.
In my early years, after too many incidents of parents and siblings finding my “diaries,” I began to shy away from this.
It wasn’t until my senior year of undergrad that I found writing once again, though this time instead of a diary I would open a blank document in Word, pound out my thoughts, and hit delete. As the semester wore on, I noticed my thoughts were no longer boy troubles and heartbreak, or ranting about my little sisters, but instead they were about issues that bothered and delighted me about the world.
I did this in my spare time, thus leading me to the idea that if I had something worthy to talk about, and something useful for other readers, maybe a blog would be beneficial to my little world.
Now, after a year of insanity and growth, leading into what may be yet another year of insanity and growth, I’m back to re-launch my blog and fill it with life once again… spare-time permitting that is.
So now, (how fitting) my first post back at it, let’s talk about channeling stress.

I used to think I was a venter, turns out I have a very hard time laying my problems on another person’s shoulders and venting actually makes me feel much worse. Even so, what I’m really good at is hosting venting sessions when friends need an outlet, and an answer for life’s adverse times. If on the likely chance you’re like me you may also be an emotional bottler, and my goodness dear, how dangerous that actually is.

Humans are not built to soundly handle long term stress,
Regardless of how excellent some may be at theatrics to cover their feelings. Stress triggers an onslaught of physiological effects down to the cellular level that leads to detrimental health consequences as it is prolonged. We become chest breathers, using all of our secondary respiratory muscles to move our chest wall rather than belly breathing with our diaphragm and fully expanding our lungs. Just think how your organs feel with less oxygen supply on a prolonged basis. Cortisol levels spike with stress, interrupting sleep patterns, causing high blood sugar and weight gain, damaging vessel integrity leading to higher rate of bruising. This also causes muscle weakness, acne, fatigue, and more. So what in the world can we do about it?
I’m not perfect where I stand, but I’m 100% in a better mindset than I have spent my past eight years of life, and this is why.
My stress pattern:
I went through two professional programs with poor financial aid and no outside assistance, leading me to work 2 jobs and go to school full time at all times. For nearly a year, I was awake 24h straight, three times a week, working overnights and heading straight to class in the morning. Money was tight and when I couldn’t afford groceries I would go to FoodNet at my church and receive whatever they were offering that week. I was constantly stressed about money, getting good grades, paying off school, eating nutritiously, and combating friendships that persistently tore me down even farther. I became depressed, anxious, and inattentiveness, later being linked to insufficient sleep.

How I handled stress before:
Basically, I was bitter. I was mean and angry almost all the time, I channeled my stress as anger and poor eating habits, and I beat myself up further until I would break and sleep for days. This awful pattern of living brought me to my lowest points in life, until four years ago I had had absolutely enough, and found it in me to change the path I was on.
The reversal:
Slowly but surely I reversed the damage. I made up my mind that I would never work another night shift again, so I found work in a weekday clinic instead. I wanted to pay off debt, so I got rid of my car payment by trading in for a tiny puddle hopper, and by waitressing in evenings when it was needed. After seeking assistance for my mental health, I was instructed to put sleep on my priority list, and so I began to manage the insomnia I had developed from years of lacking sleep patterns. When I had all of this managed, I went back to school for my bachelors. And with a more solid foundation this time around, I maintained good marks with better ease, leading to better scholarships and less financial burden.
It was still extremely tough at times. I found ways to reverse my earlier burdens but I still had many stressors thrown my way every day. I just needed a new perspective to understand how to handle them and how to keep my body and mind sound enough to handle them appropriately.

Top 4 techniques to De-Stress

The Let it Go technique.
This is good for handling problems and thoughts that burden you that you cant stop thinking about.
This has nothing to do with Frozen, I assure you.
I actually read it in a fictional book years ago, and while not remembering the name of the book or the situation of the characters, I remember the actions and it actually works.
A girl is sitting in the front seat of her friend’s car, the friend is driving them down the road and listening as the girl vents and caries on. The friend then tells the girl to do something interesting with her problems, she says to close her eyes and imagine herself writing down the problem on a paper, ripping it out of the notebook, and throwing it out the window to float away into the abyss. She thinks it’s a joke, but does it, and when taking it serious, really mulling through and releasing the issue she finds peace.

I had a friend hurt me so badly, it ate away at me for weeks. I couldn’t get back to normal when that person, so prominent in my every day life, had rocked me so badly. It was either going to keep eating away at me or I had to let it go.
I was sitting on a boat, we were traveling in it pretty fast, and I was watching the waves we lapped past, when I remembered this book. I thought it was such a stupid thought, but I tried it, and it worked. Flash back to me mentioning I’m not a venter, I’m a bottler, and this gave me a release to stop thinking about it for a moment. When I tried to anxiously think about it again later, I remembered where that problem was – it was dropped to drown on a wave, and it gave me peace to not have to think about it again. I imagine that release is how my friends feel when they thank me for being an ear for their worries, feeling so much better after talking it out.

Writing therapy
Another method of release, mentioned yet again – write and toss. You hear about it all the time, but have you ever actually done it?
You’re angry with a friend or coworker and have so much to say in the heat of the moment, but in all my time handling coworker and peer conflict, I assure you that you DO NOT want to actually say it. In the heat of the moment we are irrational and often ignorant. Save your dignity and write it down. Write everything you want to say on a piece of paper, or in a document that wont end up in the hands of another person, then delete it or leave it for 24 hours. In the midst of the issue you’ll be clearing your head, in hindsight you’ll realize how irrelevant most of your argument actually is.
I use it to calm down when I’m flustered, but I use it for so much more. It helps me build up confidence when I’m losing hope, to write down the positives, or potential outcomes of an issue. It helps me weigh my outcomes when making a big decision, by writing down pros and cons from all aspects. It helps me understand that I need to mull decisions over and process information for the soundest decisions, and it allows me to release stresses that could otherwise begin to break me down.
Mindful Breathing
My Apple Watch shattered this summer; it was a sad day especially because I didn’t have insurance on it. I went a week without it and jokingly asked, how will I know when to stand, and breath? (Both are prompts from the AW to get you to be more active and more mindful.) It wasn’t until I was in dental school, forced into a Mindfulness lecture with 20 of my classmates, being prompted to diaphragmatically breath and tap on our foreheads that I came to realize my Apple Watch was actually on to something.
Mindfulness is a sweeping new development in human psychology. It’s, quite frankly, the art of doing nothing for a better psyche.
My class was based on teaching techniques that could help calm the mind and clear the head to manage the stresses of dental school, but it extends beyond the classroom and can be utilized by anyone. Sure you can practice yoga or meditation and clear your mind, but without the time and effort, you can also just breathe.
Its as simple as sitting comfortably, taking a minuet of your time, and clearing your thoughts. Actually, mindfully, force yourself to think about nothing. Place one hand on your chest and one on your belly, and breath so that the belly hand is the only one moving, for just one minuet. That one minuet can be done as many times a day as you need and no one needs to know you’re doing it.
Just try it and tell me you don’t feel just a little more in control of your situation.
You time
Imagine this: every single day, no matter what is going on in your life, you get a slot of time completely to yourself to do as you please. You make the call on how much, be it 5 min or 5 hours. I prefer to spend 30 min before bed doing whatever my heat desires that doesn’t have to do with school, and I can change that requirement at any time as long as I commit to myself a time.
I’m not a mother, I’m not a CEO, I likely have half the schedule commitments of some and twice the schedule commitments of others, but I’m a busy Dental student with assignments coming out my ears at all times and I now force myself to do this.
When I first started this, with no hobbies and little desire to get involved in much else, I joined a gym and committed myself to exercising 30-45 min every morning, setting a date with myself for that time every day. I never used that time for studying, and I quickly realized it was such a relief to wake up in the cool quiet morning, drink some coffee on my way there without traffic, and show myself that I could not only push my physical limits like I did with my schoolwork, but I also could commit to something that didn’t involve school or employment at all. Committing to myself was a huge development in my life and even when we think our schedules are bursting at the seams, it truly is never too full to take a few minuets for your mental health.
As we each continue down the windy path of life, I hope that in the steepest times these techniques help you push through. None of us will ever live a perfect life, but time spent stressed, worried, angry, or simply not enjoying the moments all add up to wasted time in the short life we have.
Until next time,
XOXO

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