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Cognitive Distortions

Here are some things I learned about cognitive distortions from a partial program I completed:

All or nothing thinking (black and white thinking)
Either I do it right or not at all
If I’m not perfect I have failed

Mental filter
Only paying attention to certain types of evidence
Noticing our failures but not seeing our successes

Jumping to conclusions
Mind reading-imagining we know what others are thinking
Fortune telling-predicting the future

Emotional reasoning
Assuming that because we feel a certain way what we think must be true
I feel embarrassed so I must be an idiot

Labeling
Assigning labels to ourselves or other people
I’m a loser
They’re such an idiot

Overgeneralizing
Seeing a pattern based upon a single event, or being overly broad in the conclusions we draw

Disqualifying the positive
Discounting the good things that have happened or that you have done for some reason or another

Magnification (catastrophizing) and minimization
Blowing thing out of proportion or inappropriately shrinking something to make it seem less important

Should/Must
Using critical words like ‘should’, ‘must’, or ‘ought’ can make us feel guilty, or like we have already failed
If we apply ‘shoulds’ to other people the result is often frustration

Personalization
Blaming yourself or taking responsibility for something that wasn’t completely your fault
Conversely, blaming other people for something that was your fault

Depression- How to deal with lack of motivation and loss of interest

Depression can take a lot out of you. You can lose motivation and even lose interest in things you once loved. Here are some tips to help you feel more motivated and more interested in things:

Have a morning routine
Save things you enjoy for the morning, this will help you get up and ready for the day

Drink caffeine
This will keep your energy up

Do things slowly-one step at a time
For example, turning on the water for the shower

Set a goal
You’re more likely to do it if you prioritize it

Take breaks
Taking breaks can keep you focused on your goal

Just start
Going through the motions will help get you started

Journal about it
This will help you keep track of your progress

Remember the reasons why you liked something
For example, if you loved reading then you could remember how it kept you mentally strong

Notice the small things
Take pride in the small things you accomplish

Take to someone
Whether it be a therapist, a friend, or a family member, talking about your symptoms can lead to positive outcomes

Have something to take care of
Whether it be a pet or a plant, having something to take care of will help motivate you to get out of bed

Get out in nature
Taking a walk can help re-energize you

Warning Signs for Depression

These are warning signs I learned from an outpatient program I completed.

Physical:
Increased tension
Fatigue
Decreased hygiene
Isolation
Increased pain
Indigestion

Mental:
Suicidal thoughts
Decreased concentration
Decreased interest
Negative self talk
Apathy

Emotional:
Increased fear
Tearfulness
Hopelessness
Increased irritability
Mood swings
Paranoia

Social:
Canceling plans
Cutting contact to others

Resources:
Suicide Prevention Hotline
1-800-273-8255

National Institute for Mental Health
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

Easy Chocolate Toffee Recipe

One day I was scrounging around on the internet and stumbled upon this delicious toffee recipe. The first time I made it for my family it was gone within the hour! Not to mention it’s super easy and fast to make! Here’s what you’ll need to try it out:

2 Sleeves of Crackers (I like to use Saltine or Ritz Crackers)
½ -1 Cup of White Granulated Sugar
½ -1 Cup of Butter (I usually only use ½ Cup if I’m using Ritz crackers)
½ Bag of Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Line a rectangular baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat it with cooking spray or butter
Put the butter into a bowl and put it in the microwave until it is completely melted (usually takes around 30 seconds depending on the microwave)
Mix the sugar into the bowl of melted butter and set aside
Lay the crackers out on the pan until there is no more room (make sure all the crackers are touching)
Take the sugar/butter mixture and pour it over the crackers
Place in the oven for 10 minutes
Once they’re out of the oven, sprinkle on the chocolate chips
Spread the chocolate with the backside of a spoon or knife over all the crackers
To make the toffee harden, place it into the refrigerator for about 1-2 hours (or the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour)
Once hardened, break the crackers and enjoy!
Store them in the fridge to prevent the chocolate from melting

Schizoaffective Disorder and Hallucinations

Hallucinations are when someone hears, sees, feels, or tastes something that other people don’t hear, see, feel, or taste. There are a few causes of hallucinations, one of them includes the mental illness called schizophrenia. Schizoaffective disorder is the combination of schizophrenia and a major mood disorder in my case major depression, but could also be bipolar disorder. Medications called anti-psychotics are a form of treatment for schizophrenia. Medication could reduce or stop one’s hallucinations. The link below includes more conditions that could cause hallucinations.

With my schizoaffective disorder I experience hallucinations. Sometimes when I feel really depressed I experience more hallucinations but have hallucinated without the mood portion as well. I have had visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations since I was about 10 years old. The visual hallucinations include shadow people. I used to see a shadow man that would watch me sleep. I also experience the walls moving and growing/shrinking. Sometimes it has looked like there was an earthquake happening in the other room.

The auditory hallucinations are most prominent though. I had a voice telling me to hurt myself. I would have to act on what my voice was telling me to do or it would keep pressuring and forcing me to do them. However, I didn’t act on most of them. The voice would tell me that no one would believe me when I would talk to the doctors or to anyone about it. These hallucinations made me the most frightened.

The tactile hallucinations have been few and far between. I mostly just felt like bugs were crawling on my skin. No matter how much I scratched the feeling wouldn’t go away whenever I had these hallucinations. These are the most uncomfortable hallucinations for me.

http://www.webmd.com/brain/what-are-hallucinations#1

Healthy Refrigerator Oats

My sister and my mom love this recipe. It’s great for a quick and healthy breakfast or snack. You can even make them ahead for the week. Here’s what you’ll need:

Old fashioned oats
Chia seeds
Coconut milk or any other dairy or dairy substitute
Frozen or fresh cut fruit – one or as many kinds as you want to add
Honey
Storage container

Here’s how to make it:
Gather ingredients
Pour about 1/4 cup of old fashioned oats into your storage container
Add about a couple table spoons of chia seeds
Add the fruit(s) to your desired amount
Pour in the milk or milk substitute until the mixture is covered
Cover your container and place in the fridge overnight
Add honey to your desired sweetness
Enjoy hot or cold

5 Mental Health Coping Techniques

  1. Journaling

Journaling is a good way to get my thoughts out and clear my mind. I find it helpful when I have racing or recurrent thoughts. Reading back my entries gives me a new perspective on what I’ve been thinking. I also find it useful to track my progress through my journal entries.

  1. Gratitude/Values Lists

I usually write down or think of three to five things that I appreciate in life or are grateful for. This helps me find value in small things. It also helps me learn what I care about.

  1. Walking/Getting out in nature

Getting some fresh air helps me clear my mind and relax. It can help you recover faster from stress (1). Exercise can also release endorphins that help me relieve stress.

  1. Self-Care Routine

Having a self-care routine relieves my stress and helps me relax. It also improves my hygiene and helps me focus on self improvement. It can lead to a more positive self image of myself which could in turn boost my confidence and make me feel good.

  1. Reality Checks

Reality checks are something I learned while in an outpatient program. I have found them useful for figuring out hallucinations. To complete a reality check I need to ask myself three questions:

  1. Who says?

  2. What’s the evidence?

  3. Would it hold up in a court of law?

I made a toolkit of coping techniques for different occasions to keep with me. This helps me if I need guidance or have a difficult time knowing where to start.

 

1 https://depts.washington.edu/hhwb/Thm_Mental.html

My GRE experience (general test – computer version)

I was at my testing site around 40 minutes before the test was scheduled to be taken. At my testing site we needed to present our form of id at the front desk then I was given a form where I needed to rewrite a statement and sign. Behind that form I was given a list of rules for the testing facility. I was also given a locker key. I didn’t wait long in the designated waiting room before they called me in the next room. I was only allowed to bring my id and locker key. Snacks needed to be out of my bag and in the front of my locker. There, I was screened with a metal detector, my ankles, wrists, and glasses were also examined. I then talked to a proctor about the rules and signed in. Then I was given scrap paper and pencils and was escorted into the next room with computer stations. I was seated and was given the okay to start the test.

There are a total of 6 sections on the GRE. I was given a 10 minute break after the third section of the test to use the restroom or eat snacks, drink water, or take medication. My id was needed to sign in and out of the testing room. I took a total of about 3 and half hours without the break to take the test. The analytical writing section is first. There are two separate writing prompts both of which you are given 30 minutes to complete. One essay focuses on agreeing or disagreeing with a statement. The other focuses on an taking an argumentative stance on a piece of advice or specific argument. Both of which need reasons and examples to be included on why you agree or disagree with the quote/statement, and why you took your stance.

The next sections are alternated between the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections. The verbal reasoning sections included questions that had multiple choices for its answer. For example, one, two or three word choices per short passage. There were questions which included passages with a few sentences ranging to a whole page. Some could be answered by choosing the correct words while others wanted you to analyze a passage. On the quantitative sections some questions had write-in answers while others needed a single choice out of multiple. This section had mostly comparison questions. Other types of questions would correlate to graphs or figures.

After the test was completed I was given the option to cancel my scores or report them. I was told if I canceled them, it would be like I never took the test. When I reported them I was showed my verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning scores immediately. I was then able to report my scores to 4 school for free. It costs $27 to send them to additional schools. I was also told that I would recieve my writing score 10 to 15 days after the date I took the test online. You can take the GRE every 21 days for the computer version. That was my first GRE experience. Below is the website to register and learn more about the GRE test:

https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/about

Things I Do When I’m Sad or Stressed Out

Focus on the good in life

Just because something negative is happening now doesn’t mean that it has always been negative or will always be negative. Focus on even the small things that make you feel happy, like family or a hobby.


Cry

It’s okay to feel your emotions and let them out. A good cry can be very therapeutic. I know that when I try and hold everything in, it always forces it way out in other forms. This could lead to the projection or transfer of our feelings onto other people or tasks we have to do.

Talk to someone

Talking to someone can be very helpful. Whether it be a close friend, a therapist, or a family member, sharing can benefit you. It could lead to possible solutions to how you are feeling.


Journal about it

Writing things in a journal is a better option when I don’t feel like talking to anyone. But it can also help alongside it as well. Journaling lets me get out my feelings and keep a record of them to look over later. This can be helpful when you want to understand how something made you really feel.


Take some deep breaths

Know that whatever is making you sad or upset now will pass. And if it doesn’t seem like it will, help is available to you. Deep breathing can help reduce some of your anxiety and can give you time to relax and think about your options.


Organize

Take a few minutes and tidy an area of your room or house. This helps me take my mind off of what’s making me sad or stressed out and lets me do something productive.


Listen to music

Listening to music helps me a lot. It relaxes me and calms me down when I listen to my favorite songs. Being calm helps me feel better about any situation that comes my way.


Pet your pet

Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, or whatever other pets you may have, love them. They can make you feel so much better and if you’re upset they can probably tell. If you don’t have a pet then go to the zoo or a local humane society to get your fix. I learned from a commercial that being around animals can even lower your heart rate.


Take your medication

If you have a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication or an anti-depressant, take them regularly as your doctor has prescribed. If you skip a dose it can mess up the chemicals in your brain and be less effective in treating your mental illness.


It’s okay to feel sad or stress out

No matter who tells you otherwise, know that it is okay to feel how you are feeling. Your feelings are valid and they matter.