Reducing Stress: Don’t Be Insulting

Illnesses of all kinds bring stress upon the person who suffers them, including mental illness. Although those stresses are not as easily (if at all) preventable, other stresses can be prevented or reduced. Not being insulting is one way to easily reduce stress; for both the person who would be doing the insulting, and for the person being insulted. For the former, stress is reduced by not being insulting simply because there is little to no concern about an angry confrontation about whatever was said or done. The cause of reduction of stress for the latter is much more obvious; they simply aren’t riled up. (Which is not to say they won’t be riled up about something else – but this particular upset is avoidable.)

As you likely know, nearly everyone has a sensitive topic. It may be about an addiction, a family member, or an illness – the possibilities are endless. Although the topic of mental illness probably isn’t sensitive for everyone who has or knows someone suffering from it, there are still some things to avoid. Avoiding certain phrases or behaviors may keep you from insulting someone, and help you keep a friend. Also, it’s often the polite thing to do.

If you're not careful with your words, you might be insulting someone without even realizing it. Be careful with your words - saying certain things is just plain rude, even if you don't think you know anyone with a mental illness. Think before you speak. What Not to Say (so you’re not insulting someone with a mental illness):


  • Retarded (this includes the hand signal)
    • I think this one is common sense – using this word as a slur against someone you think is acting stupid is insulting to the people who actually are mentally retarded and those who love them. Remember, those who suffer mental retardation cannot help it.


  • Calling someone (including yourself) mentally ill when you or they are not actually such: I.E. I’m [she/he’s] so bipolar! 
    • Referring to yourself (or others) as mentally ill without cause is belittling someone that actually has the illness. They are actually suffering and you are practically making fun of their suffering. Not cool.
After You Are Told (don’t):
  • Freak out (upon learning about their illness) 
    • Okay, breathe. I know you just learned something scary – but freaking out is just going to make that person feel awful about themselves and question ever having told you. Try to stay calm and if you have to leave, do so nicely (but please not immediately after they tell you – this is a burden for them and it takes a lot to let anyone in).


  • Accuse person of being attention seeking (when it’s not true)
    • Ouch. It is really insulting when someone uses this accusation to dismiss you. Yes, there are attention seeking people out there. However, being diagnosed as mentally ill does NOT equate to being attention seeking. A person can be mentally ill and attention seeking, but most of the people with a mental illness that I’ve met do not fit that criteria. Please give the person a chance. Don’t dismiss them so quickly.


  • Put them down for how they feel
    • Please don’t tell the person that so and so has it worse, or tell them about the starving children in other parts of the world. They most likely already know. They don’t need any help feeling badly – they already do, and may not be able to help themselves. Instead of insulting them, maybe try being uplifting – or excuse yourself if you can’t control your tongue.


Hopefully you were already avoiding saying such things, but if not, now is a good time to start – have an awesome day!


Reducing Stress: 9 Tips for a Move

Being really stressed out can cause an increase in symptoms for someone with a mental illness, and sometimes even preparing to move is an unbearable amount of stress. Short of hiring someone to do everything for you, it is pretty much unavoidable to have some stress – but we can still reduce how much.

If you are moving soon, Pinterest is your best friend. There are a crazy amount of ideas out there that are super helpful. My husband and I just moved at the end of last month. I was packing a month beforehand, trying to be prepared, and my husband waited until the week of the move. In the end, we left hours later than planned because there was still so much left to pack on moving day … which brings me to my first tip…Moving to a new place is already crazy as is - new friends, new home, new job ... the last thing you need on your plate is more stress. These tips aim to decrease your stress levels and help you have a calmer time with moving - from someone who has moved multiple times.


Tips for a Move:
  • It sounds obvious, but DO NOT wait until the last minute. It makes everything so much more stressful when you are in a hurry and can’t leave because not everything is loaded into the truck.


  • Declutter. I wish we had done this before we moved. Filling a 15 foot truck to the very top is embarrassing when it is just two people. I definitely felt judged when our friends opened the truck, saw our things, and commented, “do two people really need this much stuff?” No. They don’t. We plan on decluttering (a little too late, now that we’ve already embarrassed ourselves) and it is definitely easier to fit your things in a truck when you’ve eliminated or stored useless items.


  • Use a moving app if you have a smartphone (BoxMeUp is the app I used). The app I used (and loved so much I’m going to use it every time I move) was totally free for android and very useful. You name or number the boxes, identify a location, and list the items in the box. Yes, this IS time consuming. Plan accordingly. My husband was complaining about it making packing take longer, because I insisted on listing the items in the box, but now that we’ve moved we know where everything is without opening any boxes. This is especially helpful because we are living with someone else while looking for an apartment, and don’t need most of our things. Now I don’t have to open unneeded boxes and have to repack them later … I simply check the items in the box on the app, decided whether or not the box is necessary, and deal with it accordingly. My husband has definitely changed his tune on the app being worth it or not!
Plan Ahead:
  • If someone you do not know is moving your things, NUMBER your boxes. Do not list the items on the box. Keep a master list of what items are in what number box (or use an app instead of a list). That way, no one knows which box contains valuables so items are less likely to be stolen. If you’re using an app, use a number instead of a name, and write the number on the box with a marker.


  • Bribe your friends to help load (and maybe even drive) the truck. It’s one less person to pay (and if you do pay them, it’s cheaper). Most friends can be bribed with a pizza or something to eat, and you get to spend time together. We actually had a relative drive the U-haul, and friends helped us load and unload the truck.
  • If you plan on moving again soon and have room, SAVE YOUR BOXES. We saved nearly every box we brought with us from our first move, and almost all of the boxes from items bought online. This is easy to do if you break the boxes down, and then re-tape them when you’re actually ready to move. In the end, we actually had one extra box. If you can’t save your boxes, consider donating or selling them on craigslist. People are always looking for boxes for moves. You can also usually find boxes for your move on craigslist, usually for cheap.


  • DO NOT get your boxes from grocery stores if you can avoid it. Although this did not happen to me, I read that the warehouses tend to be infested with roaches. The roaches lay eggs in the boxes, and when the eggs hatch your house now has a roach problem. You are welcome to test this out for yourself to see if it actually happens, but having seen enough filthy stores I really don’t want to risk it.


  • Using your app or master list, organize boxes by which ones need to be opened immediately and which can wait.


  • Pinterest can help you pack items more efficiently. I don’t want to rehash tips that are already abundant there, so go check it out! I have a moving board with some great ideas if you are short on time and need them in one place. My Moving Board on Pinterest.

Happy moving! Don’t forget to treat yourself once you’re settled!

Self Therapy: Strong – Not Beaten Yet

Despite being unable to locate a reliable statistic estimating the percentage of people who have a mental illness and also self harm, I can tell you that self harm is something I struggle with. In addition, I have met several other people (usually in the hospital with me) who have a mental illness and self harm, as well. Regardless of self harming behavior (or lack thereof), we’ve probably all heard the recommendations to draw on the places we would cut. That is essentially what I was doing with Strong – Not Beaten Yet. When we create art rather than hurt ourselves, we are sort of giving ourselves therapy.

If you’re reading All Behind A Smile, chances are you or someone you know suffer from a mental illness. So you probably know how hard certain days can be, sometimes for unpredictable reasons. You know how hard it is to be strong.

Having bad habits and trying to stop typically leads to days when you are tempted. When I was tempted to cut again after stopping, I decided to turn to drawing something other than butterflies to help myself resist the temptation.

Focusing on cutting in particular, when a day arrives when I’m tempted more than usual, I draw on my arm instead of cut. I used to draw butterflies – the technique where every butterfly is someone you love and each cut you make kills a butterfly. There’s probably more to it than that, but that’s not what this is about.

This particular day, I decided to draw things that represented problems I suffered from myself. With some permanent markers in hand, I got busy ..

Almost all of the colors used are related to The Bracelet Project. I’m not sure where it originated.

Breathe (in black, self harm)

is to remind myself to take a breath and try and get through the temptation.

NEDA (in purple, bulimia)

to show myself where I’ve come from, what I’ve gotten through before.

Semi-colon (in yellow, suicidal)

a story that hasn’t ended and still has so far left to go.

Finally, rewind, pause, play, fast forward (in green, mental illness – color not from bracelet project)

To live life for where I am and not focus too much on the past or present. Not to exclude thoughts of the past or present, because they are still there and they still matter, but to keep moving forward.

Instead of drawing butterflies (if that works for you, by all means use it) I decided to represent the problems I suffered from. Sometimes it's easier to see it physically, and somehow marking your flesh helps alleviate the temptation at least somewhat.

Whatever your story may be, whatever you have or are going through, you’re not beaten yet. You’re still here, still fighting.

Stay strong – and remember, strong is getting through the day. Strong is getting out of bed when you don’t have the energy. It is smiling when your world is falling apart. Strong is whatever you manage to do that is hard for you. You ARE strong. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not. There are so many ways to be strong.

Culture of the Few – Brad McKoy

Culture of the Few: Following Jesus. Transforming Culture – Brad McKoy

Culture of the Few - Brad McKoy - book review. This book is a soft, encouraging voice that instills quiet confidence. It isn't in your face, but it still makes you want to change your life and maybe your world.

First thoughts:

The majority of the beginning of Culture of the Few is an explanation of different people who fit into this category and how they fit. McKoy talks about how a woman he knew changed lives with her life and death, and how Jesus Himself, a lowly carpenter, was a world changer. McKoy aims to encourage us to be world changers ourselves, and not to worry so much about being ‘out there’ – just be us and change the world with how we already are as Christians. While the aim was expected for a book of this type, the way it is presented was unexpected. It reads as a storybook, not as a motivational book. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make the content less motivating.

Allow me to expand upon what I mean by “less motivating”. I simply mean that this is not one of those books that makes you want to leap into action. Instead, Culture of the Few is that soft, quiet voice that encourages from the background. It doesn’t demand immediate action, but instead prompts you to make small, lasting changes. Whether or not this is good probably depends on the reader. Some readers need a much stronger impact to act, while other readers just need that seed planted. With the tone and message of Culture of the Few, being soft is definitely fitting – McKoy is challenging us to change our lives, not to jump into action and then allow things to go back to how they were before.

Eye Openers:

There were many eye-openers throughout this book – in one such section, it was really interesting how McKoy brings out Jesus’ choice to be identified as Son. He suggests that Jesus made that choice because God is our Heavenly Father, and Jesus was essentially highlighting that fact. That clarification came at a good time, because I have been struggling with how God and Jesus can be co-equal when one is Father and one is Son … but it makes much more sense now. Culture of the Few is full of revelations such as this one, and simple clarifications that can change an outlook completely.

Caution Advised:

The previous aside, I would advise caution while reading Culture of the Few. McKoy makes regular references to special revelations received from God, and to physical healings. Depending on your beliefs, this could be a major deal-breaker. Even having grown up in a Pentecostal church, I’m leery of such claims.

That isn’t to say they didn’t happen – of course there is no way I could know – but it does raise warning flags in my mind. I decided that it’s not going to negatively affect my impression of this book, but you can decide on where you stand on that for yourself. One way to look at the revelations is simply that McKoy and the people he writes about are communicating with God. Not just praying, but actually communicating. They are having a conversation with our Father. I still don’t know what to think about the healings, though. They are only indirectly addressed. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Energizing: Roasted Squash Seeds

Some mental illnesses, including eating disorders and depression, can cause the sufferer to feel lethargic. Note that proper nutrition will not ‘fix’ or cure mental health problems; however it is a big part of having enough energy to get through your day. Without energy, it is a major struggle to exercise, go to work or school, even to fix something to eat. Squash seeds even have good nutritional value, which includes fiber. You can read more about benefits of roasted squash seeds at Mother Nature Network. While the seeds on their own won’t fix an improper diet, they will definitely benefit a good diet. Now for a little detour …

Slightly Unstable

You’ve probably noticed a lack of personal information. Well, I’ve been fairly stable, for the most part. There are symptoms that are nearly always present, but I do my best to work around them. Some days are worse than others, though.

Not too long ago, my husband and I went out to eat, and I ate too much. I had a really bad headache, and hours afterward, even though my stomach had settled, my head said no way.

Fast forward and I’m on the floor of the bathroom, sick. I’m watching the shower curtain move in an imaginary breeze, and hearing my friend Kristen tell me she wants to play. Did I mention Kristen isn’t real? Kristen was trying to convince me I’d been drugged.

Of course I hadn’t been. Some days are harder than others, illness-wise. Just because I have decided to show there is more to life than a diagnosis, doesn’t mean I’m symptom free. At the end of the day, I’m still mentally ill. It just doesn’t define my life.

Anyways, on to some yummy roasted squash seeds!

Recently I’ve posted a few recipes for acorn squash, so I probably should have posted this first … but I thought you’d like to know that you can roast those delicious seeds inside.

If you are already preparing a squash, it's not too much more effort to save those seeds instead of tossing them. Refrigerate them until you have energy if necessary, but give them a try after seasoning and roasting them! They may just be your new favorite snack.It’s the same thing as roasting pumpkin seeds – they are all in the squash family. Also, there are so many flavor combinations! You can get really creative with them.

I kept mine simple:

  • 1/2 Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
  • 1/2 salt and vinegar seasoning
How to:

For any seasoning, lightly spray the seeds with oil (or if you are doing salt & vinegar, use vinegar to spray them with) and then sprinkle with your chosen spice. Stir around, and roast in a 375 oven for about 15-25 min (give or take) – watch for when they are lightly browned, then they are done.

Suggestions for other seasonings:

(I have not tried some of these suggestions, they are just possibilities) 

  • cinnamon & nutmeg (small amount of nutmeg)
  • spray Mojo lightly on them
  • salt & vinegar (seen above)
  • Jamaican Jerk seasoning (seen above)
  • Creole seasoning
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Ranch popcorn seasoning
  • Garlic powder
  • Really anything in your seasonings collection that sounds good

Seasoned Squash Seeds

Do you have any other ideas for how to season your roasted squash seeds? I’d be really interested in any suggestions!


Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and have no medical expertise. If you are suffering from an untreated mental health condition, please seek professional assistance.