Friday, May 20, 2016

Mental Health Series - Using a Coping Box

I don't like using medication like an anti-anxiety pill to help me through an upsetting episode like an anxiety attack, panic attack, depression cycle, or even a manic episode. Sometimes, I'd much rather find other ways to cope. So, through trial and error, I've come up with a solution. I call it my "Coping Box" and I've filled it with items that are specific to me that will help keep me calm, distracted, and hopeful.

If you think hard about your episodes and what you can do for your own personal mental health, you might find that there are some similar items you could put in your Coping Box.

I used a 32 quart storage container for my box. And, for fun, I put sticky letters on the outside, spelling "Coping Box" to give it some legitimacy.

Then, I thought about what would comfort me and help distract me during any type of episode.

I like to read magazines about gardens, landscaping, household tips, storage space, and the like, so I included some magazines. You can always rotate out any you've read and put in others that you'd like to read.

So, here is a list of what is in my Coping Box.

  1. Magazines
  2. Word Search or other Word Puzzle Books
  3. Journal
  4. Bible
  5. Inspirational Books
  6. Bubbles
  7. Snacks
  8. Stress Ball
  9. Tissues
  10. Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP)
  11. Pens, Pencils, Highlighters, Sticky Notes
  13. Coloring Books
  14. Devotional Books
  15. Crayons
  16. Colored Pencils
  17. Affirmations
  18. "Taming Your Gremlin" by Rick Carson
  19. A distracting fiction book

This is the progression of adding each of the items.

 I chose a couple of different Word Puzzle books. I like the Word Search Puzzles best.
 I put in a journal that I usually take to the hospital if I'm hospitalized for any length of time due to a major episode. It helps me keep track of my thoughts during the episode, the treatment, and after.
This is the Bible I chose, because it's a Study Bible. I enjoy doing research and learning more than just the scriptures.
 I threw in a variety of inspirational, devotional, and helpful books that will encourage me and distract me.
You have to make your fun any way you can, and for me, the most basic way is by blowing bubbles. You can't be sad and crying if you're blowing bubbles, right?
 I put in some snack bars. You can choose anything that is your favorite and won't make a mess in the box.
A stress ball is a must for helping alleviate your physical reactions by channeling all your energy into squeezing the heck out of this little ball.
Yes, I know, at some point or another, crying is going to happen. That's why I put in a fresh pack of tissues.

The Wellness Recovery Action Plan was introduced to me through an Internet search and happening upon Mary Ellen Copeland's website.

According to the WRAP website,

"The Wellness Recovery Action Plan® or WRAP®, is a self-designed prevention and wellness process that anyone can use to get well, stay well and make their life the way they want it to be. It was developed in 1997 by a group of people who were searching for ways to overcome their own mental health issues and move on to fulfilling their life dreams and goals.  It is now used extensively by people in all kinds of circumstances, and by health care and mental health systems all over the world to address all kinds of physical, mental health and life issues.
WRAP has been studied extensively in rigorous research projects and is listed in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices."
I am a firm believer in the WRAP program. I've been using it since 2008. You must realize it's a living document. I review my WRAP after every hospitalization and during major episodes. As people come in and out of my life, or doctors and therapists, I make changes as well.
Now that you've seen how I've created my "Coping Box", I'd like to see what you come up with when creating yours. Let me know by e-mail or in the comments section.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mental Health Series - Celebrating Mental Health Month with Ways to Stay Healthy

Every year I write a blog post advocating Mental Health Month. This year, including my advocacy, I'm going to give you some information about the mental health benefits of eating yogurt and provide you with tips from Chobani.

I've honestly never eaten Chobani yogurt before recently, and wanted to help spread the news about the benefits of eating yogurt. I also did some research on the Mental Health benefits of yogurt and I was surprised by the amount of positive results. Why don't you check out Chobani's products for more health snack options that can benefit your mental health as well.

After sampling a few of the different Chobani yogurts, I'm hooked. They're smooth, not bitter, don't have that "yogurt aftertaste", and are the perfect portion for an addition to your breakfast or as a snack any time of the day.

Starting with EmaxHealth, In a report published by BioEssays, researchers explain that probiotics play a role in producing, absorbing, and transporting neurochemicals (ie: serotonin, dopamine and nerve growth factor) which are essential for healthy brain and nerve function. Therefore, improving probiotic microflora in the intestines may be an important key to treating mental health conditions.

May, 2016 is the 67th year Mental Health America has observed Mental Health Month. They use many resources to spread the news and help others learn about helping themselves and others. They've created a calendar for the month helping you discover new ways to care for your mental health.

This year, their theme is - Life with a Mental Illness.  They're asking How does it feel to live with a mental illness? That (#mentalillnessfeelslike) is what we’re focusing on during Mental Health Month in 2016. 

If you're a new reader, or long time reader of my blog, Living Stone Faith, you'll find I've written many posts about my experiences living with Bipolar, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, PTSD, OCD, and the various treatments, such as ECT.

What I'd like to know from you, is: How Does It Feel To Live With A Mental Illness?

Go ahead and post in the comments below or if you don't want to share publicly, you can always contact me via e-mail at

I try to provide you, my readers, with the latest information from other mental health sites and allow guest posts of others' experiences. 

I did more research about the mental health benefits of yogurt and here are the results:

From Medical Daily:

According to a 2013 study that investigated the link between intestinal bacteria and mental health, not much is known about the ways that the gastrointestinal tract influences mood and behavioral disorders. The authors note that there was scientific interest in this link in the early 20th century, but there hasn't been much research until recently. One of those recent studies examined this link and found that people who took probiotics experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression, and had lower levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — in their saliva when they woke up in the morning.

For more Scientific information, I went to Scientific American. All I can say is, WOW. They aren't called "scientific" for nothing. They go into the scientific background and give amazingly complicated formulas and results. Please read them for yourself.

Dr. Mercola raises some interesting points and shows positive results of using Yogurt to help maintain a better mental health.

Here is only one of the tests/results he cited. Please visit his page for more in-depth details.

The featured proof-of-concept study, conducted by researchers at UCLA, found that probiotics (beneficial bacteria) actually altered participants' brain function. The study2 enlisted 36 women between the ages of 18 and 55 who were divided into three groups: 
  • The treatment group ate yogurt containing several probiotics thought to have a beneficial impact on intestinal health, twice a day for one month
  • Another group ate a "sham" product that looked and tasted like the yogurt but contained no probiotics
  • Control group ate no product at all
Before and after the four-week study, participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, both while in a state of rest, and in response to an "emotion-recognition task." 
For the latter, the women were shown a series of pictures of people with angry or frightened faces, which they had to match to other faces showing the same emotions. 
"This task, designed to measure the engagement of affective and cognitive brain regions in response to a visual stimulus, was chosen because previous research in animals had linked changes in gut flora to changes in affective behaviors," the researchers explained.
Compared to the controls, the women who consumed probiotic yogurt had decreased activity in two brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation:
  • The insular cortex (insula), which plays a role in functions typically linked to emotion (including perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience) and the regulation of your body's homeostasis, and
  • The somatosensory cortex, which plays a role in your body's ability to interpret a wide variety of sensations 
During the resting brain scan, the treatment group also showed greater connectivity between a region known as the 'periaqueductal grey' and areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with cognition. In contrast, the control group showed greater connectivity of the periaqueductal grey to emotion- and sensation-related regions. 
The fact that this study showed any improvement at all is remarkable, considering they used commercial yogurt preparations that are notoriously unhealthy; loaded with artificial sweeteners, colors, flavorings, and sugar. Most importantly, the vast majority of commercial yogurts have clinically insignificant levels of beneficial bacteria. Clearly, you would be far better off making your own yogurt from raw milk—especially if you're seeking to address depression through dietary interventions. 

 It's awesome to discover new ways to help us maintain mental health that doesn't include drugs or other more intensive treatments like, ECT.

Best of all, I found an independent blog about Chobani yogurt written by Trans Girl at the Cross, who gives a THUMBS UP, for Chobani and it's health benefits.

NewsMax points out FOUR Psychiatric benefits of eating yogurt. 

1. A French study in 2011 found that subjects who took probiotics for 30 days had reduced levels of 

2. Anxiety and depression may be relieved through probiotics, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician and alternative medicine advocate. He reports that altered brain function from probiotics was revealed in a four-week study by researchers at UCLA. 

Women in the study who ate yogurt had decreased activity in regions of the brain that control the processing of emotion and sensation when compared with control groups following magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans. The scans were taken after they were shown images of frightened or angry faces.

3. Improved memory was found in men who took a daily capsule of probiotics for a month, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University College Cork in Ireland. The study also found the men reported less stress and anxiety, The Guardian reported

The men’s stress levels and memories were tested when taking the probiotic capsules for a month and also when they took placebo for a month. Improvements in stress levels and memory were seen when taking the probiotics, according to Ted Dinan, the head of psychiatry at the college who led the study.

“When they were given these bacteria (probiotics) they were less anxious and their capacity to memorize material seemed to be enhanced,” Dinan told The Guardian.

4. Social anxiety may be relieved through probiotic-rich foods according to findings from a study of more than 700 students at the College of William and Mary, reported nutritionist and registered dietitian Cynthia Sass at

From Mental Health America, they give you tips on how to help celebrate and spread the news.

How Can You Participate?

As for me, I hope that I've been able to give you a unique perspective this year on Mental Health Month and new ways to help you be healthy.

Have a blessed day.

Vicki M Taylor