Recent News from MHS

Caring for Special Needs Children and the Cost to Your Mental Health – Coping Strategies

Posted February 15, 2022

A mother holding their disabled child on a sunny day in a field while they both laugh and playCaregiver burnout is a real challenge for many parents with children with special needs. Caring for a child with special needs requires constant attention, whether your child has highly specific health needs, developmental disabilities that require ongoing therapies, or a combination of the two. You may spend your life advocating for a child with special needs. Worse, if you have other children in the home, you may constantly worry that those children will fall through the cracks.

The parents and, in some cases, siblings of children with special needs are more likely to suffer from a host of mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Siblings may suffer from higher levels of stress or even resentment related to the chores they’re asked to take on around the house, the need to help care for the disabled sibling, or the things they feel they have to miss out on because of the cost of caring for a disabled sibling.

With all those challenges pressing down on you, how can you cope?

1. Join a Support Group

Join with other parents or siblings of children with special needs. Not only can those support groups give you an excellent opportunity to talk over the frustrations you may find yourself dealing with, but other parents or siblings may also have ideas that can help you meet those challenges more effectively.

2. Work with a Therapist to Support Your Own Mental Health (and the Mental Health of Neurotypical or Non-Disabled Siblings)

Often, a special needs child’s health takes precedence over everyone else in the family. As you continue to juggle ongoing appointments, therapies, medications, and a host of other responsibilities, you may feel that any other appointments or needs must go on the back burner, either for financial reasons or because of the lack of additional hours in the day.

It’s important to carefully consider the needs of every member of the family, especially as it pertains to physical and mental health. Make seeing a therapist a priority for each family member, especially during more difficult or stressful times.

3. Keep Your Core Family Members Informed About the Latest Medical Needs and Procedures of the Special Needs Sibling

Sometimes, parents try to keep their other children in the dark about the medical challenges a sibling with special needs might be facing. However, in the absence of an explanation, children may start to imagine their own outcomes, and they’re often darker than the reality. Children often have very vivid imaginations, and they can imagine many negative scenarios involving a sibling with special needs. Keep your children informed about the latest changes in their sibling’s status so they can set aside those worries.

4. Build Your Village

When you have a child with special needs, you may quickly learn who you can rely on and trust and who you cannot. Your neurotypical children may discover who their real friends are, who they can trust to be around their sibling, and who they cannot rely on.

Build your village. Reach out to other parents in similar circumstances or whose children may face similar challenges. Lean on the family members you can trust. With a village behind you, you will often feel more confident in dealing with the other challenges you may face.

5. Take Advantage of the Resources Available to You – And Don’t Try to Do It All on Your Own

It’s common for one parent, often the child’s mother, to take on the full responsibility for everything involving a child with special needs. You may feel that you have no other options and that no one else can care for your child the way you do. That’s where your village comes in. Use trustworthy individuals that you can trust to watch your child. Call on family members to help out with your neurotypical children. When burnout starts to rise, ask for help with tasks that anyone can take on for you, including cooking and cleaning.

Furthermore, take advantage of the resources available in your community. Seek out a church with a quality special needs program so that you can attend the service. Take advantage of respite care. Look into the programs available through your school system. You may be surprised by what resources are available and by how much weight it takes off your shoulders.

6. Schedule Time with Your Spouse and Your Other Children.

Plan date nights with your spouse, even when it seems hard to get away. Set specific times to spend time with your other children. It may feel as though your child with special needs always needs you. To reduce burnout, take advantage of the options available to aid in care and spend time with the other members of your family regularly. Not only will it help strengthen your relationship with those family members, but it can also help decrease the risk of caregiver fatigue for all of you.

Parenting a child with special needs is a unique journey. Avoiding caregiver fatigue is an ongoing struggle, especially if you feel isolated from other people around you. With these strategies, you can reduce burnout and improve your overall mental health while continuing to support your child.

MHS Can Help

Many mental health activities can help combat the symptoms of mental health issues. You can sometimes benefit from additional treatment options such as therapy. MHS serves clients throughout the Apple Valley, MN area who seek support and guidance on their mental health journey. We offer dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and other treatment options. Call us at (952) 835-2002 or learn more about us online.

Image Source: NDAB Creativity / Shutterstock

Does TV/Social Media Promote Anger in Children?

Posted February 15, 2022

Three children lean against a chain link fence staring and typing on their smart phonesAs research proves, parents are now more than ever worried about the kind of influence that screen media has on their children’s mental health, self-esteem, and interpersonal skills. Given the vast array of media options available today, children of all ages are exposed to plenty of online content. iPads, desktops, smartphones, and gaming consoles, for instance, are highly popular among children nowadays. Besides, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Facebook are all experiencing rapid growth. This post discusses the level to which digital media can be too much and how it influences your child.

How Much TV/Social Media is Too Much?

How many hours each day should your youngster devote to social media? Read on to know what experts have to say.

Engaging for Over 3 Hours Every Day on Social Platforms is Harmful

Although spending hours scrolling through Instagram and Facebook may appear insignificant, the short- and long-term implications on the mind are severe. Notably, teens who devote over three hours a day to social platforms have a 60 percent greater risk of mental health disorders than those who do not use social media.

Experts widely regard this three-hour mark as the recommended threshold for all digital media consumers, as anything above this point negatively affects self-image and how one deals with fears and stressors. According to Inverse, more social media activity directly influences your kid’s emotional dimension. As a result, the more hours your child spends on social media, the more the feelings of tension, melancholy, and isolation they develop.

Experts Recommend Only 30 Minutes Each Day

Cutting social media use to 30 minutes per day, as per the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, helps boost mental health and clarity and positively influences your child’s overall health. The report recommends devoting about 10 minutes every day to three different social networking platforms to sustain participation without veering too much into the wrong path. Test subjects who followed the 30-minute principle exhibited reduced anxiety levels, despair, and tension, and they said they didn’t have as much FOMO (fear of missing out).

Does Online Media Affect My Child?

Your children risk getting detrimental health effects if they devote over three hours each day to consuming digital media. Not only can scrolling raise emotions of melancholy, stress, and loneliness, but it also has a physical impact. According to Forbes, digital media users who devote excessive time in front of screens are more likely to be overweight and risk developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Digital Media Induces Poor Self-Esteem

Within online spaces, teenagers are now subjected to social comparisons at school and on a 24-hour basis. High school students, for instance, can post a Snapchat of their newest Nike or perhaps their PS5 present as soon as they get them as a way of showing off. Additionally, platforms like Snapchat come in handy for kids and teens to exchange disparaging photos, harass, and impose peer pressure on each other, all of which are detrimental to a child’s self-regard.

Too Much Time on Social Media Induces Sleeping Disorders

Sleep deprivation causes significant health problems, along with affecting your child’s learning and development, conduct, appetite, despair, and general health. Besides, sleep is required for brain growth; the average child and adolescent need 9.5 hours of rest to foster growth and maturity.

Reliance on Social Media Causes a Loss of Independence

Screen time and social media use are inert pursuits that do not promote your child’s cognitive growth, as they do not prompt children to engage in critical thinking or hands-on study. Too much digital consumption causes behavioral issues, learning impairments, attention deficit disorders, and inhibiting overall cognitive growth.

Induces the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

FOMO is a novel type of social panic that influences youngsters and teenagers. Parties, athletic tournaments, road trips, holidays, hangouts, trendy shoes, video game acquisitions, and so on all appear to be documented on social media today. Most kids see social media as their connection to the outside universe, so being cut off from it makes them feel cut off from life itself.

Reduces Opportunities for Physical Activity

Children and teenagers spend very little time engaging in outdoor play as they spend more time on digital media. Besides, they drink and eat carelessly when watching TV or playing games, which risks their health due to increased calorie intake.

MHS Can Help Your Child

At MHS, we focus on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), chemical health solutions, and behavioral health interventions. Our holistic treatments deliver customized, high-quality psychological care to our patients, focusing on clinical success and coordinated care among therapists.

Our expertise enables us to help children and teenagers deal with troubling life circumstances and seamlessly navigate the respective life stages. Schedule an appointment with us today if you want to enroll your child.

Image Source: Twin Design / Shutterstock

How to Improve Your Self-Esteem

Posted January 24, 2022

Woman Rolling a MatAccording to Dr. Joe Rubino — an author who specializes in self-esteem — up to 85% of people have struggled with low self-esteem at some point in their lives. If you’re one of these people, you certainly aren’t alone, but where do you start in addressing the problem? Building a healthy relationship with yourself can seem like an uphill battle if you don’t know how to have self-esteem. There are a few proven strategies you can employ, though, to effectively develop a sense of healthy self-esteem and revolutionize your life in the process. Read on to learn how you can improve your self-esteem and your life.


What Is Self-Esteem?

Before you can improve your self-esteem, you need to understand what it is. Self-esteem is a concept that refers to your ability to value yourself. Those who suffer from low self-esteem often do not find worth in themselves and can face a myriad of social and personal problems as a result. In severe cases, these problems can interfere with a person’s wellbeing and lead to more serious conditions such as anxiety and depression. Needless to say, it’s important to address low self-esteem before it worsens and causes more problems.

Building self-esteem thus requires that a person augment and improve their own subjective valuation of themselves. This is a process of recognizing one’s own worth, addressing negative thoughts that contribute to feelings of unworthiness, and enriching one’s life to support a more positive outlook and self-image. These objectives can be achieved by any means, but the following strategies are some of the most effective approaches to try.


How To Build Healthy Self-Esteem

Healthy self-esteem is a tricky concept. Each person is liable to define it differently, and there is no objective measure to define “healthy” by. Still, a consistent belief in one’s own worth is a useful starting point for building healthy self-esteem — and so are these steps.


Get Into the Habit of Positive Self-Talk

One of the most common causes of low self-esteem is the prevalence of negative self-talk in a person’s mind. If your inner monologue commonly includes ideas about your unworthiness or lack of success, it’s time to reverse it and train yourself to think positively. Compose several positive ideas about yourself, and whenever you hear a negative self-talk thought, work to replace it with a positive one.


Forgive Yourself for Making Mistakes

Another common culprit in low self-esteem is an inability to forgive oneself for making mistakes. People often dwell on their own shortcomings and refer to missteps that occurred in the past as proof of their unworthiness. There’s one major problem with this, though — everybody makes mistakes. Rather than continue punishing yourself, try to forgive yourself for mistakes.


Shift Your Focus Towards Successes

Once you’ve started to forgive yourself for your mistakes, you can take it a step further and work on celebrating your victories! Just as you may be in the habit of dwelling on errors, you may have a tendency to downplay successes. Rather than write off your abilities and victories, try to focus on them and derive a sense of accomplishment from these experiences.<


Identify and Develop Your Competencies

Some people feel as though they don’t have any victories to celebrate or focus on. If this is the case, you need to identify your talents and competencies and develop them further. Are you artistically inclined? Adept at writing? Identify the skills you possess — or those you’d like to sharpen — and develop them deliberately. This can help you build healthy self-esteem while developing your talents, too.


How Do I Like Myself Without Being Self-Absorbed?

If you want to work on building self-esteem, but you’re worried about falling prey to narcissistic tendencies, remember that healthy self-esteem is entirely separate from — and in contradiction to — self-absorption. Follow these principles to keep yourself in check while you work on boosting your self-esteem.


Recognize Every Person’s Worth

The first step to developing your own self-esteem — and preventing it from turning into self-absorption — is recognizing the inherent worth of every person. Though you may not feel as though you are worthy, you are — and so is everybody else! As you work to adopt this mindset, you may find that you value other people more in addition to valuing yourself more, too.


Develop Relationships Intentionally

Another important aspect of developing healthy self-esteem is developing relationships that make you feel positive about yourself. You shouldn’t rely on others for validation, but investing in relationships with others is a great way to hone your own sense of self-worth through meaningful friendships and relationships.


Foster Positive Interactions With Others

Of course, you won’t be able to develop a relationship with every person you encounter, but you can put effort into making each interaction a positive one. This can help you develop your own self-esteem by honing your social skills and allowing you to focus on others rather than yourself. When you focus on investing in others, you may find that your self-esteem naturally begins to lift.


Identify Specific Self-Esteem Goals

Perhaps the most important aspect of developing healthy self-esteem is establishing clear goals to aim for. Without goals, you might simply be building a better self-image with no context for your actions. Identify the reasons why you want to improve your self-esteem and keep those goals at the forefront of your efforts. This will help you avoid the pitfalls of self-absorption that may arise from aimless self-investment.


Improve Yourself With Help From a Therapist

Improving your self-esteem is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your friends, your family, and your community. Low self-esteem doesn’t just affect you. It affects everybody around you, too. If you’re ready to begin the journey of self-improvement, you can benefit from a guide to help you. MHS offers dedicated therapists to help you improve yourself and your life through proven techniques such as dialectical behavior therapy. For more information on how MHS can help you boost your self-esteem, you can call us at (952) 835-2002 or learn more about us online.


Image Source: Maridav / Shutterstock

How Staying Active Can Help Mental Health

Posted January 19, 2022


Woman Rolling a MatWorking out is one of the first recommendations you’re likely to hear if you announce an intention to improve your physical health. When discussing mental health, though, it’s less likely to come up. It may come as a surprise, then, that staying active can be just as beneficial for mental health as it is for physical health. It’s so potent that Harvard Medical School has called exercise an “all-natural treatment” for fighting the symptoms of depression. This is largely due to the release of endorphins that are triggered in the body during exercise. Endorphins generate a positive feeling — and low endorphins have been identified as one of the causes of depression. Read on to learn how to harness the power of physical activities for mental health.

Enjoy the Physical Benefits

Of course, in addition to its mental health benefits, exercise offers many benefits to physical health, too, that can make it a rewarding experience. While you enjoy the improvements in your mental health that regular exercise can bring, don’t overlook these physical benefits. Regular exercise is often cited as one of the keys to longevity due to the following facts.

Lengthen Your Lifespan

Yes, it’s true — exercise is one of the best investments in your physical health and overall longevity! According to a study covered by Harvard Medical School, regular exercise is associated with a longer lifespan. The study collected data from a cardiorespiratory fitness test and found a correlation between fitness and living longer. This can be attributed to many factors, but perhaps the greatest contributor is the better supply of blood and oxygen that is pumped to the heart and lungs when a person exercises regularly.

Reduce Risk of Heart Attack

A better supply of blood isn’t the only heart health benefit that exercise can provide. Improved cardiovascular health is one of the foremost benefits of exercise. Studies prove that 150 minutes of exercise each week can massively reduce a person’s risk of hypertension, heart disease, and heart attack. According to the Center for Disease Control, poor cardiovascular health can lead to a range of mental health conditions, so prevention of cardiovascular issues also serves as prevention of mental health issues.

Enjoy an Energy Boost

It’s no secret that exercise can provide an energy boost, and anybody who’s experienced depression or anxiety will tell you that a low energy level is one of the primary symptoms. Engaging in physical activities for mental health is one of the best ways to combat low energy levels and enjoy an overall boost.

Turn It Into a Social Activity

Exercising offers a range of benefits to your physical and mental health, even if you’re enjoying solo workouts. You can multiply these benefits, though, by turning fitness into a social activity. Socialization is great for your mental health, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy physical fitness in a social setting.

Enlist Friends to Join You

One of the easiest ways to enjoy some social exercise is to enlist friends to join you. Chances are, you have a friend who’s been wanting to join a gym but is nervous about doing so alone. Buddy up with somebody and embark on your fitness journey with a partner. This can help you stay accountable, turn exercise into a habit, and enjoy the added benefit of social interaction.

Join a Class and Make New Friends

If you don’t have any friends who would be interested in a joint exercise venture, that’s okay — there are plenty of classes available where you can join a group and make new friends while working on your fitness! Check with your local community center or gym to learn about their class schedules, and choose a fitness class that interests you.

Get Competitive

Psychology indicates that healthy competition is good for your mental health. It’s no wonder why so many fitness activities are turned into competitive sports. If you want to enjoy the combined benefits of exercise, social engagement, and competition, getting involved in an amateur competitive sport can be the best of all worlds.

Boost Your Self-Confidence

The correlation between mental health and self-confidence is well-established. A boost to one tends to benefit the other, which is certainly the case when it comes to physical activities for mental health. Indeed, exercise is one of the best mental health activities you can engage in.

Get In Shape

Most people feel better about themselves when they are in good shape. Each person’s definition of “good shape” may vary, but generally, when you feel physically fit and able, you’re likely to experience a boost in your self-confidence. Exercise is a great way to accomplish this because it allows you to get in shape gradually while experiencing many other benefits, too!

Become Stronger

Building your overall strength is another benefit of exercise that can improve your self-esteem. Regular exercise is the key to stronger bones and muscles, and building one’s physical strength can lead to an improved sense of self-confidence. As you build your strength, you’re also increasing your stamina, which will help you continue to ramp up your fitness routine over time.

Lose Weight

Many people struggle with self-confidence issues that stem from struggles with their weight. In turn, struggles with weight are likely to cause many different mental health issues. Establishing a fitness routine for yourself is essential to address this and take matters into your own hands. As you get into the habit of regular exercise, you may see weight loss as one of the benefits of improving your self-confidence and mental health.

Improve Yourself With Help From a Therapist

Many mental health activities can help combat the symptoms of mental health issues, but few are as effective as exercise. You can sometimes benefit from additional treatment options such as therapy. MHS serves clients throughout the Apple Valley, MN area who seek support and guidance on their mental health journey. We offer dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and other treatment options. For more information, call us at (952) 835-2002 or learn more about us online.


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Why Seeking Therapy is an Investment in You

Posted December 16, 2021

A new patient receives assessment from a licensed mental health professional from Mental Health Systems

According to a 2019 report from the Center for Disease Control, 9.5% of adults in the U.S. receive therapy or counseling provided by a mental health professional. Within two years, this number more than tripled, with a reported 30% of adults seeking out therapy services in 2020 and 2021. It’s no surprise that more people are investing in therapy — it’s gradually shifted from a taboo topic to a point of pride. Rather than feeling ashamed of mental health struggles, many people are happy to take the initiative in improving their own wellbeing — as they should. If you’re considering therapy but are unsure whether it’s the right choice, read on to see how mental health therapy may benefit you.

Is Psychological Therapy a Good Investment?

When considering therapy, one of the first questions you may ask is whether or not it’s a good investment. It’s a reasonable question, considering the fact that therapy can be expensive. Therapy can cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per session or more, which can quickly add up if you’re scheduling weekly appointments. Though some insurers offer mental health coverage, it’s often still difficult to obtain approval for therapy sessions in Apple Valley, MN.

Finances should never stand between you and your mental health, though. The benefits of accessible and affordable treatment are worth the effort it may take to find the right therapist. Therapy is ultimately an investment in yourself. If you are dealing with struggles such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, the impact can be monumental, causing a ripple effect of consequences throughout your life. Some of these repercussions can include:

  • Difficulty at work or inability to hold a job
  • Indulgence in unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • Alienation from friends, family, and loved ones
  • Deteriorating health and wellbeing
  • Development of self-destructive habits

If any of these experiences describe what you’re going through, there is help available. Therapy can alleviate these and other struggles by equipping you with the confidence and healthy coping mechanisms you need to overcome challenges. If you’re wondering if therapy is a good investment, consider the impact it could have on your life, and you’ll see the answer is yes. You and your well-being are worth investing in.

Is Therapy Worth My Time?

Money isn’t the only resource you’ll be investing when you commit to therapy. It’s important to consider, too, the time commitment that counseling requires. Most therapists recommend weekly sessions that are 45-minutes to an hour. In some cases, a therapist may even want to see you for appointments twice a week. In addition to the time spent in your sessions, it’s common for therapists to assign clients “homework” or reading to further apply the concepts discussed in appointments. Time spent completing these tasks can be several hours each week.

In total, you can reasonably expect to commit four to six hours per week to therapy and its related obligations. When weighing whether therapy is a good investment of your time, you must consider the total amount of time you have available in a given week. How many hours are spent in school or at work? How much time should you allot to social engagements? If you don’t have six hours to spare in your week, is there any obligation that you can reduce or remove from your schedule? Intentionally making time for therapy is the only way to see progress and ensure that your investment pays off.

Ultimately, whether therapy is a good investment of your time depends on how much time you’re willing to commit. Clients who attend weekly sessions but neglect to complete their therapist’s assignments are cheating themselves out of the payoff of their investment. Similarly, if you don’t make time to practice the principles discussed in sessions, you’re unlikely to see any fruit from your labor. The more time you are able and willing to put into therapy, the more likely your investment will be worthwhile.

How Do I Make Therapy Worthwhile?

Investing time is just one way that you can make therapy worthwhile. Many different therapy modalities rely on a range of different theories, but it will require effort on your part no matter which you choose. One of the most effective forms of therapy is dialectical behavior therapy or DBT. This form of therapy focuses on enhancing specific life skills, including interpersonal relationships and emotional regulation. DBT has been proven to be incredibly effective in improving clients’ wellbeing and mental health, but it’s only as effective as the effort you’re willing to put into it.

If you want to ensure that therapy is worthwhile, you can employ a few strategies to get the most out of each session. Some of these strategies include the following:

  • Ask for clarification from the therapist when you don’t understand
  • View therapy as a collaboration between you and your therapist
  • Do all of the reading and homework that’s assigned to you
  • Set specific goals and define how you intend to meet those goals

Each of these actions can massively improve the efficacy of your therapy and ensure that the investments you are making pay off. If it seems like your progress is slowing, revisit these principles and ensure you’re doing everything you can to be productive.

If you’re doing all of these things and you still feel as though you’re not making strides towards your mental health goals, it’s possible that you need to find a new therapist. Therapy is a relationship that requires understanding and empathy from both parties. Taking the time to find the right therapist is the best way to ensure that you’ll continue making mental health progress.

DBT Therapy Options for Mental Health

Mental health is a common point of discussion, but it can be hard to make the jump from talking to treatment. DBT is an accessible and effective therapy option that offers promising recovery for people suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and a range of other mental health struggles. Mental Health Systems takes pride in providing our Apple Valley, MN clients with life-changing resources. Call us at (952) 835-2002 or request an appointment online.

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Staying Firm in Establishing Boundaries

Posted December 16, 2021

A stern young woman holds her hand out to stop someone and stays firm in her boundaries

We’re taught an array of practical life skills from childhood, such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting, and driving. Rarely, though, are kids taught the skills of emotional regulation that help you build healthy relationships and protect your mental health. As you get older, the importance of these skills only becomes more apparent, but building them isn’t an easy task. How do you get better at assertion and self-confidence? Establishing healthy boundaries is one of the most important abilities a person can have. Learn how to develop this essential life skill and improve your mental wellbeing in the process in Apple Valley, MN.

How to Establish Boundaries

In psychology, a boundary is defined as an imaginary line marking a person’s limits. Establishing boundaries is a complex process. Though it happens in the context of communication with another person, it starts with you. Before you can set a boundary, you need to engage in honest introspection to determine its significance. Ask yourself questions such as the following:

  • How do I define this boundary for myself and others?
  • Why is it important for me to maintain this boundary?
  • How will I enforce this boundary in interactions with others?

Asking yourself questions such as these is the first step towards healthy and sustainable boundaries. There are many different areas of your life that you can and should set boundaries in. Some examples include:

  • Personal space
  • Emotions and ideas
  • Personal belongings
  • Sexual situations
  • Emotional and physical energy
  • Time-sensitive commitments
  • Cultural and religious issues

Each of these areas is a part of your life that you may handle differently than others do — and these differences can lead to interactions that feel disrespectful or violating if you don’t set clear boundaries with people.

Establishing boundaries offers a range of benefits to both you and those on the other side. One of the best benefits is the increase in self-esteem that often follows. Creating a boundary is a way of investing in yourself and preventing situations that may cause stress or harm. Boundaries also benefit relationships by establishing a line of communication between yourself and your partner. It also encourages those around you to be clear in their boundaries, thus creating an environment of mutual respect and open communication.

How to Set Boundaries

Once you’ve identified and established a boundary that’s important to you, maintaining it can be another separate challenge. Simply establishing your boundaries often isn’t enough. You will likely need to remind those around you about them, too. This can be difficult if you’ve never had a conversation about boundaries before, but it’s an important step in protecting your wellbeing. Maintaining boundaries requires that you be assertive, understanding, and communicative with the people who surround you.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to practice self-advocacy. Self-advocacy entails taking responsibility for your communication with others, voicing your concerns, and listening to others’ feedback. Most importantly, though, it is the explicit expression of your needs. If you are engaged in a project with somebody, for example, and they tell you that it will require a longer time commitment than you initially agreed to, this is an opportunity to practice self-advocacy. Keep the following principles in mind while doing so:

  • Be assertive without being aggressive
  • Be clear and direct when you state your needs
  • Do not feel pressured to justify your boundaries
  • Present with confidence and calmness

Maintaining your boundaries may take practice, but it’s a worthwhile exercise. Remember, too, that people cannot read your mind — so if you do not make your boundaries known, the people around you may unknowingly violate them. This can lead to resentment and the breakdown of a relationship, so It’s vital to make your needs known before your boundaries become a source of conflict.

When to Push Back When People Disregard My Boundaries

Unfortunately, people will resist your boundaries, even if you convey them with respect and clarity. People do this for many reasons, but the result is the same regardless of the motive — you will find yourself at a crossroads. You will either fold to avoid confrontation, or you will need to find a way to reassert your boundaries. Neither of these options is easy, but it’s a situation you are likely to find yourself in if you are committed to setting boundaries with people.

Determining when to push back can be a complicated issue, though. If a friend asks you to stay five minutes longer than you’d planned to help finish a task, is this a violation of boundaries that’s worth acknowledging? The answer depends on the firmness of your boundaries. Sometimes it’s okay to maintain soft boundaries that are flexible based on the situation you’re in. Other times, you need to be firm for the sake of your safety and wellbeing. Determining the rigidity of your boundaries is essential to effectively enforcing them.

When you have rigid boundaries, and you encounter a person who continuously violates them, even after you’ve made your needs known, you can employ any of the following strategies:

  • Minimize the amount of time spent around that person
  • Avoid conversations and interactions with them
  • Hold them accountable by seeking support from others
  • Do not escalate the situation with emotional responses

No matter which approach you use, you should be clear with the person and communicate the consequences that will follow if they continue violating your boundaries. Still, some people are unable or unwilling to respect boundaries, no matter how clearly you state them. When dealing with people like this, you may have to find a way to remove them from your life.

Mental Health Support That Works

Establishing clear boundaries takes work, but you don’t have to do that work alone. Partnering with a mental health professional can help you develop the tools and confidence you need to protect your wellbeing more effectively. Mental Health Systems has been serving clients throughout Apple Valley, MN, since its founding in 2002. We offer dialectical behavioral therapy to help you overcome life’s challenges. Call us at (952) 835-2002 or schedule an appointment online.

Image Source: Nicoleta Ionescu / Shutterstock

Setting Mental Health Goals

Posted November 4, 2021

A healthy young woman celebrates completing a hike as the sun is setting as part of her mental health goal setting planHenry Ford is quoted as saying, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs,” and Confucius is claimed to have said, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Both of these quotes have to do with the importance of setting goals as well as the value of making them realistic and attainable.

Mental health goals are no different. Just like other types of targets you might make in life, mental health goals are vital to staying happy and healthy. What are mental health goals, and how can you achieve them? Here’s how to establish objectives and stick to them.

Setting Daily Mental Health Goals

It’s key to set targets that you can work toward daily. Here are some kinds of daily mental health goals that you may wish to improve upon if you want to be your best self. If you live near Apple Valley, MN, a network of professionals can help you with goals like these.

Maintain Regular Exercise

Your mental health is directly connected to your physical health, so taking care of your mind also means taking care of your body. One type of goal you might want to make, then, is to create a fitness routine.

There is a strong correlation between exercise and mood. If you’re under a lot of stress, going for a run or doing any other type of cardio activity will almost certainly make you feel better. In addition to the short-term benefits, regular exercise can also ease long-term depression and anxiety.

Ideally, you should aim to do 30 minutes of exercise every day for five days a week, but if you’re not ready to commit to that, a little exercise can still help improve your mental health. If you’re setting a goal of exercising more, it’s best to start slow, keep your targets achievable, and work your way up.

Get Quality Sleep

If you’re going to set targets, be sure they’re going to help you improve and stay with you for the long run. Improving your sleep is something you might want to consider.

Sleeping well is vital to maintaining one’s mental health. It may seem like a catch-22, but sleep problems make mental health issues more likely, and mental health issues make sleep problems more likely. In any general psychiatric practice, sleep problems are common among patients: 50% to 80% suffer from sleep issues compared to 10% to 18% of the general adult population.

Aiming for the target of better sleep can do wonders for your mental health. This requires good sleep hygiene, which includes doing things like writing down concerns and worries so you can deal with them the next day, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding screens before bed, doing something relaxing to lead up to sleep, and avoiding caffeine or alcohol.

Setting Weekly Goals

While your weekly mental health goals are naturally tied into your daily mental health goals, it’s vital to set targets that you don’t necessarily have to attend to every day.

Utilize a Therapist

Therapy can be extremely beneficial for your mental health, even if you don’t have a mental illness. A therapist is a trained professional who can help you achieve your objectives by offering you a safe and confidential space to discuss what you want to happen in the future and how to get it. A therapist can also help you work through your past, manage your relationships, notice patterns that may be detrimental or beneficial to your mental health, and offer coping strategies.

Seeing a therapist weekly is common, though you can set your own schedule when it comes to how often you visit yours. In Apple Valley, MN, you have access to a variety of professionals that will evaluate and suit your specific needs.

Keep Track of Your Progress

Whatever your objectives may be, you’ll want to be aware of how much progress you are or are not making in attaining them. This requires that your objectives follow the SMART method: Make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

  • Specific: Making a goal specific means that when you reach that target, you’ll know it and feel good about yourself. Creating a mood journal for one month is an example of a specific goal.
  • Measurable: Quantifying and being able to directly measure your goal is important to fulfilling it and keeping track of your progress. If you keep a mood journal, you can keep track of how far along you are by keeping track of the number of days or weeks you’ve successfully updated your journal.
  • Attainable: If your objective is not realistic, it’s unlikely you’ll achieve it. Be sure your targets are broken down into manageable steps; for instance, saying you’ll update your mood journal three to five times per week, which allows you to forgive yourself in case you forget once or twice.
  • Relevant: A target needs to be practical and in step with your values. You should know why you’re going for a mental health goal. For example, if you want to better manage your depression, a mood journal will help you keep track of when you do or don’t feel depressed, which will, in turn, help you identify what triggers it.
  • Time-bound: Establishing a deadline for your objective makes it more likely you will attain it. Be sure your deadline is reasonable, so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

By following this method, you can keep your objectives reasonable and attainable, and you’ll be able to measure your growth over time and feel good about how much progress you’ve made each week.

The Feeling of Achieving Mental Health Goals

Just like any other type of goal, achieving your mental health objectives is likely to greatly improve your mood and self-confidence. When you obtain part of your goal, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment; when you complete all you’ve set out to do, you’ll feel an even greater sense of triumph. This is why goal-setters tend to be happier and healthier than those who do not set any targets for themselves: The rush of dopamine you get from crossing something off on your to-do list is very real.

For the same reason, it’s important that you’re setting realistic goals. Setting a target and failing to meet it will have the opposite effect and produce negative emotions, including disappointment and a loss of self-confidence. Always set objectives that are practical.

How Can Mental Health Systems Help With Mental Health Goals?

You may have set New Year’s goals before, but have you ever set mental health goals? Whatever improvement you want to make in your life, establishing the right mental health objectives and working to achieve them can help alleviate your mental health issues and boost self-confidence. Mental Health Systems in Apple Valley, MN, employs a network of various types of professionals that will listen to your needs and help you both create and attain mental health goals that are both important to you and realistic. Reach out to us and get started on a plan to make yourself happier and healthier.


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How to Cope Without Family Support

Posted November 4, 2021

A young woman sits on a park bench at sunset struggling with depression and lack of family assistanceCoping with depression can be extremely difficult, especially when your friends and family members are unsupportive. When dealing with a mental illness such as depression, it is immensely important to surround yourself with individuals who understand and support you. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, and at times, you may find yourself having to navigate the dark waters of depression alone. If you are currently in such a situation, this article will show you how to:

  • Accept that some people around you may not understand your depression.
  • Cope with your depression in a healthy manner, even when friends and family members choose to remain detached or unsupportive.

As a person living with depression, mental health family support can soften the blow, but if you struggle with a lack of family support, you still have options and ways to support yourself and make self-care a priority.

When the Family Doesn’t Want to Help

If you suffer from depression in Apple Valley, MN, your first reaction may be to turn to loved ones for help and emotional support. Unfortunately, your loved ones may not respond in the way you expect them to. Some people simply don’t understand major depressive disorder, so they can’t extend empathy to someone suffering from the disorder. It is important to understand that such an unempathetic response has nothing to do with you, and there can be a myriad of reasons for your loved one’s lack of compassion. Often, responses to situations are automatic (ingrained) and a function of their life experiences.

Many individuals came of age during a period when depression was not discussed or considered taboo. Others grew up in environments that punished or repressed acts of vulnerability. There is also a pronounced stigma still surrounding mental illness, so many people simply can’t bring themselves to discuss the topic seriously. Whatever the reason behind your loved one’s response may be, it may help to reach out to others outside of your immediate social and familial circle for additional support.

In some cases, an unsupportive loved one may benefit from additional education. By educating themselves, they can better understand what you are experiencing on a regular basis. Education can also help break the stigma surrounding depression, so they may become more likely to discuss the topic with you in a non-judgmental and compassionate fashion. There are numerous resources and organizations, such as Mental Health America and NAMI, specializing in offering family education programs. Check out some of these organizations in Apple Valley, MN, if you think you or your loved one would benefit from learning more.

When You Don’t Want to Involve Your Family

Coping without mental health family support is possible, especially if you are intent on treating yourself well. Self-care is exceptionally important for people living with depression, and there are steps you can take alone to improve your mood. To do this, you must be willing to speak positively to yourself and act as your greatest supporter. You may want to pay particular attention to your self-talk, especially if it is negative. Negative self-talk can create additional stress and feed your depression. Try to keep your inner monologue positive and focus on cultivating positive, compassionate thoughts.

There are also other steps you can take to improve your mood. Distracting yourself with positive, healthy activities is one way to break the depression cycle. Such self-care activities are hugely important, even for those who don’t suffer from depression. Consider creating a list of pleasurable activities that can alleviate your depression, such as the following:

  • Exercising
  • Talking to a friend or family member (if they are supportive)
  • Writing in a journal
  • Reading an interesting book
  • Taking a warm bath
  • Enjoying your favorite meal

Such acts can be categorized as “self-care,” and you can do most of them with or without another person. Don’t feel guilty about indulging in acts of self-care now and then – they are a key component of your recovery.

There are many misconceptions about depression, and they can make recovery even more difficult for those struggling with the disorder. Contrary to what unsupportive friends or family members may think or say, depression is not a sign of laziness or weakness. It is a biologically-based disorder caused by imbalances in mood-stabilizing chemicals circulating in your brain. Asking a professional for help or confiding in someone else are not attention-seeking behaviors. Always remember these facts, no matter what someone else’s opinion of depression might be. Keep in mind that it takes a remarkable deal of courage and emotional strength to seek out help when one is suffering.

If you do not have access to a reasonable level of mental health family support, there are additional resources you can look into. It is important to remember that others can’t always provide us with the emotional support we need, but there are people who can. Support groups for individuals suffering from depression can provide you with a sense of belonging and surround you with sympathetic individuals who understand and are interested in hearing about your experiences. There is nothing wrong with seeking help outside your immediate social circle; as a matter of fact, an unbiased viewpoint may be helpful in your situation.

If you are currently struggling with depression in Apple Valley, MN, you may want to contact SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). The organization can help you learn more about treatment facilities and support services near you.

When a Spouse Leaves You Because You Are Seeking Mental Health Treatment

When a spouse leaves you during a depressive episode, the feelings you experience can be truly painful. Often, spouses function as our primary support systems, and when they cannot or will not provide emotional support, it can become difficult to deal with problems. If your spouse is unwilling to offer you the support you need during such a trying time, it is important to surround yourself with people who can. Remember, your spouse may simply not be emotionally equipped to handle such situations.

If you are finding your spouse to be increasingly toxic or unsupportive, it can be helpful to spend some time apart. There will always be people, who no matter what, will not have anything positive to say. Limiting contact with such individuals can be a radical act of self-care, and without such negativity to deal with, you may find it easier to manage your depression.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to positive and supportive friends and family members if you and your spouse are experiencing marital difficulties while you are suffering from depression. Finding the right therapist and support group can also be immensely helpful.

Take the First Step

Fighting depression while dealing with unsupportive friends or family members can be exhausting, but it can be done. Often, others are unable to lend us the emotional support needed to recover from depression successfully. Remain open-minded, and remember, help and support is available to you at all times. Contact Mental Health Systems in Apple Valley today to take the first step.


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How to Be Alone but not Lonely

Posted October 22, 2021

A well dressed woman walks alone down a bridge on an overcast day as Mental Health Services explains how to spend your alone time and not feel lonely

There are times in life when you will have to spend more time on your own, without a partner, your children, other relatives, or friends nearby. Sometimes, you may find yourself alone after a spouse’s death, a pet’s passing, the end of a relationship, or your children going off to college or work. Or maybe you recently relocated to a new city and live alone for the first time in your life.

Feeling alone during some of life’s most challenging transitions is normal. The key to spending time alone in a healthy way is to focus on positive habits and emphasize self-care. It’s possible to be alone without experiencing loneliness. At Mental Health Systems, providers can work with clients in the Apple Valley, MN area to help reframe those time periods of being alone.

How To Be Alone and Not Feel Lonely

In the past two years, the social circle of friends and family members has tightened and closed up. With sporadic quarantines, pandemic shutdowns, more teleworking, and an increase in virtual events, there are more people than ever spending a lot of time alone. For some, this sharp increase in alone time has led to higher levels of stress and feelings of isolation. Adults, teens, and children have all reported more depression symptoms.

As society continues to look towards recovery after the pandemic, the stark reality is that for some, alone time is here to stay. Many workplaces and gathering places have changed permanently in favor of virtual options for sharing ideas and collaborating. Alone time is also pretty standard for empty nesters, widowers, and many elderly people across the country. At MHS in Apple Valley, MN, our approach to alone time is that it’s not about surviving the time you spend by yourself; it’s about thriving.

Thriving during your alone time means focusing on the positive side of having time by yourself. Your alone time can also allow you to develop better habits and practice mindfulness. When you’re feeling alone, you can reframe your attitude and work to combat loneliness or boredom. This is the time to start working on new skills, looking for new creative outlets, exploring your interests, and learning to love and care for yourself.

Signs of Loneliness

If you are often alone, you have to be careful not to confuse the ideas of feeling alone and lonely. Being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, loneliness can be a sign of a bigger issue or part of some common depression symptoms. A person experiencing loneliness may have insomnia, restlessness, irritability, and a lack of motivation. Being lonely doesn’t always mean you’re physically alone. Some people may be surrounded by friends and loved ones and still struggle with loneliness. MHS in Apple Valley, MN, offers resources and help if you are having difficulty with loneliness.

Activities To Keep You Feeling a Part of Your Surroundings

It’s important to be proactive, so your status of being physically alone doesn’t turn into sadness and loneliness. A great way to take action during your alone time is to take up new activities and hobbies. If you have a lot of extra time in your schedule, aim to fill some of the hours up with your passions and pursuits.

One healthy option is to get outside and try outdoor activities to get more in touch with your surroundings. If you spend all of your time indoors by yourself, you may have more negative thoughts about feeling alone. Instead, opt for a change in your scenery by taking walks regularly, buying a bike for exercise, or exploring local parks.

Alone time can also be broken up by pursuing your interests and hobbies. Use this time to develop a new skill, learn a new language, take a class, explore your city, or test out new restaurants and cafes in the Apple Valley, MN area.

It’s Okay To Be Alone, Do Things Alone, and Live Alone

It’s also important to keep in mind that being alone is okay. There’s nothing wrong with spending a lot of time by yourself. Getting used to being alone, doing things by yourself, and living on your own can be an adjustment if you’re used to always being around friends and family.

You also may be able to find some benefits in your new solo status. If you’ve always lived with a family, a partner, or your kids, the first time you live alone may be a little daunting. Eventually, many empty nesters or people living alone for the first time may start to really enjoy it. Living alone means you can decorate your space exactly how you like it. You can come and go as you please, and you don’t have to worry about catering to anyone else’s needs.

Doing things alone may also feel strange at first, but you can gain confidence in your time by yourself over time. Going out to eat by yourself can be liberating as you discover new places and new tastes. Solo travel is another activity that can open up a new world to someone who recently started living independently. Taking a trip on your own can help you learn more about yourself and unique destinations.

It’s Important To Stay Connected to the Outside/People/Neighborhoods

Also, just because you live alone or are an empty nester doesn’t mean you have to spend your time all by yourself. A great way to fend off any potential feelings of loneliness is to build connections with the people and organizations in your neighborhood. Getting a dog is one of the top ways to get yourself out there meeting new people. You and your pup can explore the area’s dog parks and connect with other dog owners in your neighborhood. At home, a new pet provides excellent company to someone living by themselves.

Another way to keep yourself from feeling alone and bored is to work on connecting with more people and rebuilding your social network. Look online for groups and clubs dedicated to your favorite activities and aim to meet up for local in-person events to meet new friends. You can also reach out to potential romantic partners and network with online dating tools.

Take time also to get involved in your community. Consider volunteering for a good cause in your city or town to help those in need. Doing regular volunteer work at the same organization can also help you expand your network of friends and acquaintances. Avoid relying too much on electronic devices to stay connected to friends and family. Instead, opt to talk face to face to those you care about so your bonds stay strong, and your relationships continue to grow.

Reach Out Today

Learning how to be alone and not feel lonely is not something that happens overnight. At Mental Health Systems, we can help you navigate this journey to self-realization during your alone time. We specialize in dialectical behavioral therapy for our clients. Contact us for more information about our services to help you thrive.


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Things to Do for Self Care

Posted October 22, 2021

A major factor in a healthy mind and body is your ability to self-regulate and get enough “me time.” One of the best ways you can ensure your mind and psyche stays strong and healthy is to practice self-care for mental health. The term self-care has risen in the ranks lately and has been used frequently by employers, schools, and the media to emphasize mental health and emotional well-being. The team at Mental Health Systems in Apple Valley, MN, has been leading the way in guiding clients to practice self-care. Here, learn about how self-care can help you achieve a more positive outlook and a healthier mind. Find out what things you can do to practice this essential piece of mental health.

Self Care for Mental Health

People all over the world have been feeling the pressure and stress from recent global events. The pandemic, economic strife, wild weather, politics, and violence have all led to high levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress for many adults and teens. Many have taken steps to seek mental health treatment from counselors or therapists, and some have started to practice healthier emotional habits in their daily lives with self-care steps.

Children as well have been feeling more pressure and anxiety in recent years. Millions of children embarked on distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic and felt increased levels of panic and distress from the extreme social isolation of quarantine and the shutdowns. Their parents suddenly had to play multiple roles, parent, teacher, counselor, coach, and friend. Additionally, many people stuck inside took solace in their electronic devices and became even more isolated.

At work, the current mental health crisis has also been felt. Employers in white-collar firms have started shifting their primary method of business operations onto a virtual format, eliminating the need for a physical office but also increasing the possibility of their staff’s loneliness. The service industry has felt the crunch of massive worker shortages. Those who still work in restaurants, retail, the airline industry, and education are being stretched thin and having to juggle more responsibilities. In today’s tumultuous world, self-care for mental health is needed more than ever.

So What Is Self Care Exactly?

Self-care is a key part of mental health. Each person is responsible for learning how to put themselves first and maintain a healthy mind, body, and soul. Self-care starts with keeping a healthy physical body by eating wholesome foods, exercising regularly, visiting the doctor each year, and taking care of your dental health. When you’re sick, you practice self-care by resting, taking your medicine, and treating your symptoms. Besides your physical well-being, self-care can also influence your mind’s healthy habits. Self-care for mental health includes practicing mindfulness, taking breaks, recognizing your feelings, and partnering with a professional counselor or provider at places like Mental Health Systems in Apple Valley, MN.

Tips on Self Care for Mental Health Treatments

Several essential parts of self-care can help promote optimal mental health. One big aspect of self-care is getting enough sleep. Many people struggle with falling asleep and staying asleep, especially when stressful situations are going on in life. Focusing on a healthy sleep routine is the first step of self-care.

Another part of self-care is teaching yourself how to relax. There are different ways you can incorporate relaxation into your day. Meditation is a good place to start with short bursts of relaxation in your daily routine. You can also try breathing exercises, yoga, journaling, or relaxation apps to help you develop good practices.

Self-care is also about showing gratitude for the things that are positive in your life. Each day, it’s a good idea to make a short gratitude list, so you never lose focus on what you have. Start with simple things that you enjoy each day, such as the weather, physical space, body, and family. Eventually, your gratitude will spread, and you will have an easier time finding things to be grateful for. Gratitude lists can help you maintain positivity and resilience even in stressful situations.

People who put themselves first and focus on their health also have a healthy social network of quality friends and close family members. It’s beneficial to reach out to others and put yourself in social situations, so you’re not alone. Your relationships with friends, partners, and family should recharge you and make you feel connected to the world. Self-care means you can evaluate some friendships and relationships and walk away from them if they aren’t fulfilling and bringing you joy. It’s also important to eliminate those guilty feelings and thoughts of obligations when it comes to relationships.

It’s also important to prioritize your mental health and consider working with a therapist or counselor for optimal self-care. Professional mental health providers use behavioral therapy tools to help clients notice their mindsets and work to change them for better results at reaching goals. At Mental Health Systems in Apple Valley, MN, the team can teach clients strategies for making and keeping goals and dealing with stress.

After Therapy Sessions – Doing the Homework, Staying Focused, Doing Your Part To Get Healthy

Mental health therapy with a skilled professional is a vital part of self-care that some people are learning to add to their routine. In a typical schedule, you may have a weekly session of an hour with a counselor or therapist to discuss your goals and to create strategies to overcome obstacles.

The work doesn’t stop as soon as your visit is over. In fact, a big part of staying focused and on track with your mental health goals is to continue working on your mental health between visits as homework. This process may look different for each person.

You and your counselor may come up with a plan for your time between visits to help strengthen your mental and emotional health. For some clients, this may look like a set schedule where you step away from caregiver mode and prioritize your self-care for mental health. In other situations, this may be daily journaling or exercising gratitude. When you return to the office for additional sessions with a provider, you can give updates on your progress and your goals.

Get Help Today

Unlocking the keys to self-care and finding the best version of yourself can be challenging if you do it all independently. At Mental Health Systems, our team can walk you through the process and give you the tools to make a solid self-care routine in your life. You can take on new challenges and gain self-confidence in your abilities at work and at home. Contact us for more details about how we can help you achieve your goals and feel more in control of your life.


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