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inspiration, my life

10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Reduce Depression, Anxiety, and Irritability

1. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.

If sleeping is a problem, research good sleep hygiene and do the little things, like not watching television or eating or exercising before bed, having a good routine to wind down, and learning relaxation techniques and thought defusion techniques in order to calm worries and anxieties. I can not compromise sleep or I pay for it. Sometimes if I stay up late, I find that I’m acting like a different person the next day.

2. Eat regular and healthy meals and snacks and drink lots of water.

We all have our bad eating tendences. I tend to not eat enough sometimes, and so I have to remind myself to have snacks, eat more fruits and veggies, and not forget to eat. Some people snack throughout the whole day. Other people eat too much sugar or too much salt. But while bad eating habits are all bad in their own way, good eating habits look alike: more fruits and veggies and whole grains; less sugar; breakfast, lunch, and dinner; concrete snack instead of grazing; mindfulness about what you are eating. And drink water. I’ve lived half my life minorly dehydrated and it’s not healthy.

3. Exercise and regular physical activity.

Exercising for ten or twenty minutes in the morning and then sitting for the rest of the day is really not the best. I’m trying to live a more active lifestyle, and that can be hard. I try to play with my kids and go on walks and resist laziness. And I do like to formally exercise as well. I have a lot of different apps on my phone I switch between, like 7-minute workouts and yoga. I still want to improve on this–I want to feel stronger, and I know vigorous walking is a really good way to clear my mind.

4. Spend time outside.

I find myself incredibly happier when I spend more time outside. But in our modern lives, sometimes there is barely reason to go outside. We make excuses if it is hot or raining or snowing or whatever, but with proper preparation, you can be outside in almost every kind of weather, at least for a minute. Whenever I go camping, I feel this release when I have to be outside to cook and go to the bathroom and live. I wonder why we’ve made our lives so closed out to the outside world sometimes. Kick your kids outside to play and you’ll find that they are way less cranky–and if you go join them, you’re going to be less cranky too.

5. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

You’ve probably heard about this because it’s everywhere right now, and there are so many guides and apps out there. I am not a very mindful person and meditation is incredibly difficult for me, which is why I keep trying anyway. I need it to calm my mind and to remember what I value. And you don’t have to be good at it to be good at doing it. A week of distracted meditation is better than a week of no meditation. Just keep trying.

6. Limit screen time

How many times do you check your phone? How much time do you spend staring at a screen? Even if you do it for work or school, is there a way you can reduce it? I get constantly distracted on my phone and my computer, but I put blocks into place to help me. I usually have my web browser blocked on my phone so I can’t access the entire internet, and I never install games. And on my computer, I have an app called FocusMe (which I paid for, and it was worth it), which helps me block things without easy ways of getting to them again.

7. Simplify

There are lots of ways to simplify your life. You can get rid of stuff: when you look in a closet and the only things in there are the things you use and you love, you feel a whole lot calmer. We try to only have toys we really play with. It’s so nice to be have space around you and room to breathe. The joy of having a simpler life is much greater than the joy of having lots of stuff. And you can simplify your time too. What projects can you drop? How can you simplify errands and routines? How can you simplify parenting? How can you simplify your finances? If there is a way to simplify, that way may be a better way.

8. Set regular routines and follow them

You don’t have to have routines for the whole day, just small routines that help you know where you are. I wake up and read my scriptures, say my prayers, meditate, exercise, eat breakfast, read scriptures as a family, get in the shower, and get my kids dressed. If I do that every morning, my days go so much better. In the evening, we put the kids in the tub, brush teeth, and then read stories and say prayers. Kids like routine. Adults like routine. Life should have some stability to it.

9. Serve others and increase social interaction

Isolating yourself is really easy, but it will make you miserable. We need face-to-face interaction with other people. And we need to serve other people too. I’m always much happier when I serve, and sometimes it means that I drop what I’m doing in order to send a message, make a phone call, go visit, say hello, or edit something for someone. Making someone else happy in meaningful ways increases your own happiness.

10. Prayer and Scripture Study

My daily prayer and scripture study is essential to my life and my mental health. I need the Lord’s help in all of this. We all do.

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More Blessed to Give

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

Sometimes I think I want blessings like these:

  • Owning my own house that is well-decorated with a beautiful garden
  • Figuring out a perfect schedule that enables me to always be on task and accomplish everything
  • More money and better stuff that works and doesn’t break
  • Being able to see people that are fun to be around
  • Living where I would like to live, in a convenient place with lots of good people

But instead, throughout my life I have received blessings more like these:

  • Living in an area that was fairly low-income with people that needed a lot of help and support
  • Visiting with people that were overwhelmed with their own problems
  • Living in highly inconvenient places and making friends with people who are not like me at all
  • Learning hard lessons and then being able to share and help other people because I’ve been there
  • Becoming really good friends through people I have helped and who have helped me

And looking back on my life, I have had much greater satisfaction when I have been able to give. It’s not very meaningful to get everything you want for your birthday. It’s not very interesting when life is easy and you have everything you ever wanted.

We like to struggle. And we like to help each other in that struggle. The best relationships I have are built through serving and loving–people I have served and people who have helped me. Those relationships are much stronger than sharing common interests. They mean a whole lot more.

And those relationships are the basis of a good and happy life. My greatest blessings in my life have been the opportunities I have been given to help other people. I would always give up an easy and rich and fortunate life if that meant that I could develop meaningful relationships and be in a position to help others.

I didn’t realize that when I was younger–my dreams and goals were more about myself than about helping other people. And I’m so glad life has gone in a very different direction, and the Lord has blessed me so much in unexpected ways.

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Improving Bad Habits and Behaviors

We all have many brain pathways that make life a lot easier, good habits that help us: brushing our teeth, eating meals, getting dressed, turning the lights off, cleaning up, holding our tongues, smiling and waving, and all of those sorts of things.

But we also have pathways that are not so positive, like checking our phones constantly, yelling, feeling down and depressed, or staying up late.

I have dealt with mood swings and feeling of depression for quite a lot of my life, and it’s really easy to fall back into that again. I’ll do really good for a while, only to have a bad day. Misery can become a habit.

And when bad habits and behaviors keep coming back again and again, it can be really frustrating. We rationally know that we want to stop doing that, but then we keep doing it anyway because it’s so easy.

Change can take a while. And sometimes we need to understand that in order for change to happen, we have to consciously steer our brains away from habitual behavior for quite a long time, longer than we really want to. Deciding that we want to change is not enough; we have to put in the effort to actually make that change happen.

For example, I really like to watch YouTube videos when I am bored or distressed. And it’s really easy just to click on the site and watch video after video. It can be really habitual, and it’s not something I like about myself. I have an app that blocks certain websites, and for a while I flat out blocked YouTube from my life.

I stopped thinking about it. I stopped doing it. It would seem like I conquered my bad habit. But when I re-enabled YouTube again, guess what happened? I started habitually watching videos again. So I blocked it again.

And I’m realized that the longer something has been around, sometimes the longer you have to work on getting rid of it. I don’t know if certain pathways ever really go away all the way–because if you did it once, it’s so much easier to do it again.

But the atonement of Jesus Christ can help strengthen us and become new people. Change can happen. For some people, it happens in an instant, but for most of us, it takes longer. The point is that we don’t give up, that we keep coming back to what we value, and we keep seeking hope and repentance and healing.

And then, maybe years and years later, we can look back and see that we are better and new, and it’s so much easier to do the right thing.

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Common Chaos

I was at a friend’s house a few weeks ago and our kids were playing with each other. It was hot and her kids had gotten out the hose. She had a sliding glass door in the back, and it ended up that they sprayed the hose into the house.

It was a moment of chaos, but I have so many of those moments myself, so it felt so nice that I wasn’t alone. Sometimes we imagine that everyone has it together better than we do. But they don’t. We all have those moments of chaos, and it’s not something we need to hide. It’s something we can share, because we have all been there.

We have moments like these:

  • A kid punches his brother in the face
  • A toddler spills shampoo in the carpet
  • A kid drops and breaks a phone or a tablet
  • Every single toy in the entire house is not where it belongs
  • Dirty clothes get mixed up with clean clothes and they are all on the floor
  • We end up late and behind to important events
  • A kid throws up on vacation
  • Our kids cry for absolutely ridiculous reasons
  • We forget to respond to texts and messages
  • Everyone wants to talk to us at the same time
  • We lose a small child
  • Our kids are screaming or we are screaming
  • Disasters happen like huge messes and neglecting important things

Life gets messy and chaotic and we are all in this together. Sometimes it’s better to show someone your chaos because then they know that they aren’t alone.

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Gratitude for the things you don’t like

The other day, I was saying my morning prayers and I decided to say I was grateful for everything I didn’t really like in my life.

I am grateful for bad days.

I am grateful for sticky floors.

I am grateful for toys all over the floor.

I am grateful for when my kids scream.

I am grateful for days when I have nothing to do.

I am grateful for having too much to do sometimes.

I am grateful that I live in the middle of nowhere.

I am grateful for mosquito bites.

I am grateful for for getting hurt.

I am grateful for being tired.

I am grateful for all of it.

And saying that helped me feel grateful. Because a lot of bad things aren’t really that bad, or they are a consequence of good things, or they are at least opportunities for learning and growth. And I am grateful for all of that.

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Seeking help

Often I have pleaded for help from God, but I have often been too proud, too ashamed of my struggles, to reach out to help for others.

The other day, I was dealing with a difficulty in my own life and I wanted better solutions. Though I had prayed, fasted, and talked with my husband, I still didn’t have the answers I wanted.

So I took all my feelings and I wrote an email to my mom, asking for advice.

She wrote me back with exactly the words I needed. Revelation came through her, and then was confirmed and enhanced through the Holy Spirit. I was not able to solve my problem on my own (though I had tried through lots of internet searches). God answered my prayers through others and only after I asked for help.

Sometimes God does not give us the answers in the way we want. We have to do our part in seeking help from others. I’m not saying that we put all our problems out there for everyone to see. Sharing private and personal problems publically can cause hurt and distress. Instead, turn to the Lord first and then share with trusted family members, friends, and others who are put into our lives to help us and guide us.

You don’t have to do it alone. But often we persist in figuratively locking ourselves in a room to deal with our problems, hoping someone will break down the door to help us. We might even shout for help in a vague way. But to receive the help we are entitled to, we have to actually unlock that door and open it through questions and requests for help from the people who already love us and want to help.

That can be so difficult. But it is necessary to receive the full help and blessings that God wants us to have. He will help us know who to reach out to. He can help us know what to say. And He will help us know who we can help when others struggle.

We are not meant to do it by ourselves, even if we want to. We are much better off helping each other through life, but that can only happen if we strip ourselves of pride and unlock the door.

I realized recently that my instinct when I was having a hard time was to isolate myself. Whenever I have hurt and cried, I wanted to be far away from others. It’s still a struggle. But I just started imagining crying while being held by someone else and what that would feel like. That act of visualizing helped start to heal something inside me. I did not have to be ashamed of my tears.

Success in life is not always about knowing the answers; its learning to ask the right questions.

Life is full of struggles for everyone. We need real connection with each other. We need vulnerability, honesty, and trust. When we ask for specific help, we will find it. But often we have to ask first.

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One-liners to think about

Children are not problems to solve, but people with problems.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Phillipians 4:11). 

You can live with your emotions no matter how intense; what you can’t do is live without them.

When you want to treat yourself, try water, vegetables, hard work, exercise, and getting your house clean.

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Levels of conversion: scripture study and going in the right direction

  1. A seven-year-old girl is beginning to read scriptures for the first time. She believes they are true. She knows some stories and she doesn’t understand all the words, but she keeps trying.
  2. A man has read the scriptures before, but struggles to do it on a daily basis. He believes they are true and is trying to read the more in his life.
  3. A woman reads them daily, but often doesn’t take the time to study them. She is trying to do better and on occasion has really good insights, even though she doesn’t have the time to read long.
  4. Another woman reads scriptures for about an hour a day. After working for over thirty years on improving her scripture study, she finds herself excited to read them every day and feels a great amount of joy from doing it.

So which one is better? No one is better. They are all trying, and that’s what matters.

Conversion is a lifelong process as we continue getting better and better. It’s not a singular destination in our lifetimes, but a continual journey in the right direction.

Wherever we are, what matters most is that we are trying to be a little better than we were before. We don’t need to feel guilty if we haven’t achieved a certain level that someone else has; what’s important is we keep trying.

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recognizing the blessings in the fabric of your life

My post yesterday was about not achieving your dreams and how that’s okay. But I think we need to realize sometimes how privileged we are to even to be able to dream and set the goals we have in the first place. There are so many people who are merely focused on survival. We often don’t realize how blessed we are because we are seeing our life through a specific lens of what we’re used to.

We usually compare ourselves to people who live similar or better lives than we do, forgetting all the people who struggle and live in a different way. We don’t see outside ourselves. We want to serve and help, but we don’t really want to empathize.

Even though I have dealt with failure and rejection and disappointment, I have four children, a good marriage, a comfortable home–I have so many good things in my life. I have accomplished a lot, but more importantly, life isn’t about the accomplishment anyway.

Life is more about experiences, the stories we tell ourselves and each other, and the ability to keep going and keep trying. Life isn’t about being happy and successful, but about the journey on the way.

So many times, we get so narrow-minded in how we look at things. Our standards and measurements that we apply to ourselves and others are often inaccurate. We could do to love each other more, to be more understanding of different situations, and to see a bigger picture.

I don’t think we can ever the perfect perspective in life–it’s always cloudy and inaccurate. But we can try to recognize the love we have from our Heavenly Father. We can know that eventually, we will be able to make sense of all the difficult things.

During the journey, it’s always good to take time to recognize the blessings that are contained in the very fabric of your life.

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Experience is worth more than accomplishment

Every day, week, month, and year, I have constantly made lists of things I wanted to accomplish. But today I wondered if my focus has been in the wrong place.

Today, my kids wanted to get sledding on mostly melted snow. It wasn’t on my to-do list, but it sure was fun. The snow was hard and crispy and the sleds slid over it easily, so we actually went far, sliding over spots of dead grass and old snow without stopping. We didn’t last long before my little daughter got snow on her hand and cried and wanted to come inside. We came in, cuddled on the couch, and she fell asleep.

I didn’t accomplish anything by doing this. I didn’t check anything off my to-do list. But it was a really good experience. It was not only fun, but it was good time spent with my kids.

I want to value experiences more than my accomplishments.

Learning something is more important than getting a degree. Spending time with my children is more important than cleaning up my house. Serving others and developing relationships is much better than making a lot of money or having a good resume. And I can have wonderful adventures without leaving my backyard.

I need to readjust my life a little bit so that I am valuing those things instead of completely focused on being productive or achieving certain goals or having everything in order. Life is messy and fun and meaningful and beautiful–but I don’t notice when I am focused on the pages of a planner or the marks of a to-do list.

kids sledding