Month: <span>November 2017</span>

A Mental Health Gift Guide to Inspire Healing

by Sofia Mendoza, LCSW

It’s officially the holidays and with that can come with gift giving, stress and trauma triggers for many. Since the holidays can trigger painful memories and emotions for many, I always recommend finding things to soothe with during this difficult time. While it’s hard to be going through the difficult time, it’s also hard on the loved one who is concerned and doesn’t know how to help.

Aside from recommending professional help for yourself or a loved one (this is always my #1 recommendation), I’ve put together a mental health gift guide. Many of these items are great tools for healing and inspiring awareness, self-care, and self-compassion when we need it the most. I’ve also included links (note: many of these links are amazon affiliate links. See disclosure statement below) to my favorite books that have aided in the healing process of many individuals I’ve come across, including myself. You can buy these gifts for others, but also for yourself!

1. Gratitude Journals. Studies show that expressing gratitude significantly aids in recovering from depressive episodes. This journal is my favorite as it’s prompts are thought provoking and easy to fill in.

2. Mindfulness Practices. Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, noticing and observing your internal process with a non-judgmental stance. Mindfulness can help us with our awareness and clarity about the chatter in the head. These are my favorite mindfulness resources.



3. To inspire career/employment ideas. People struggle with knowing what they like, how to make passions into careers, or even how to get in to certain professions. This resources can help people explore all these facets.

4. Adult coloring books. Coloring can be incredibly soothing for a lot of people. I often have clients experiment with coloring when we talk about ways to incorporate daily pleasant activities and self-care. Adult coloring books are always at the top of the list. There are so many of them with inspiring, funny and calming themes.



5. Improving Sleep. Poor sleep contributes to a host of mental health symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, emotional lability, sadness, and can be a trigger for more serious episodes.

Recent research shows promising outcomes in the use of weighted blankets to aid in improving sleep for some individuals with sensory, anxiety, and insomnia (read a 2015 study here). Be sure to do your own research or consult your (or your loved one’s) physician to discuss benefits, weight and age recommendations.

White noise machines or calming nature sounds can help with creating a soothing ambiance for sleep sufferers


6. Hope/Cope Box. A box or container of sorts can be useful in storing positive messages or items that help the individual feel connected, loved, sense of purpose, meaning, and reminders to cope. Some people call it their “emergency tool kit” or ICEE (in case of emotional emergency) Box. Fill it with your loved ones favorite self-soothing items.


7. Worry Dolls. A hallmark of anxiety is the rumination of worry that occurs and impacts important aspects of someone’s functioning. Worry dolls allow kids and adults, alike to express their worry and hand it over to this object to help with carrying the heavy burden of the worry. It might be the first step in having faith in turning over worry to a higher power, a therapist, a spiritual guide, etc. You can even try making your own instead of buying. Be creative!





8. Self-Soothing. When we can soothe by engaging our 5 senses (smell, touch, taste, hear, see), it allows us to be in the present moment while self-caring. Essential oil diffusers, hand warmers, scented candles, warm blankets, lotion all have calming qualities that help with self-soothing. Some of these items can promote sleep, which essential to mental wellness.


9. Books about Healing. These books help to become aware and start understanding vulnerability, grief, coping ideas, and can assist in inspiring healing, along with going to therapy. You can also go to my  Book Recommendations page for different issues.


10. Experience Gifts. Most loved ones want to be connected to the important people in their lives. For your chronic self-neglecters, gifts that emphasize self-care and relaxation can be super helpful. Bonus points if you give an experience that you can engage in together. Keep in mind that for people suffering from depression or anxiety, they might be feeling fatigued and not up to it. Be patient with them and yourself. Don’t take it personal and assure your loved one that you will be there for them when they’re ready. Sometimes that’s all they need to hear from you.
Here are some ideas for experience gifts: Museum memberships, donation on their behalf to their favorite charity, massages/facials (Sacred Skincareapy is my go-to for facials), art/sip/wine classes, a short trip, movie tickets, restaurant gift card, spa entrance (Glen Ivy is my favorite for a Mental Health Day), homemade gift card/coupon with low cost ideas such as hiking, exercising at the beach, yoga classes, attending an outdoor craft fair.

There you have it. Ten ideas that assist in soothing, self-care, healing, and mental wellness. Do you have some favorite gifts or items that you think I should add to my list? Feel free to share in the comments.

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*Disclosure statement: Please be advised that some of these links are affiliate links where I earn a commission, percentage, a big thank you or a high five when they’re purchased.  Others are simply my favorite in Los Angeles County. Please note that this guide is strictly for ideas and  does not replace medical and professional help. I strongly encourage that you or your loved one to engage in therapy or speak with their medical professional about any of these items. If you find yourself in a medical emergency where you or a loved one is a danger to themselves or others, you are strongly urged to call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency room. The National Suicide Hotline number is: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). In Los Angeles County, you can also call the Department of Mental Health’s Psychiatric Mobile Response Team – Access Hotline at 1-800-854-7771.

15 Statements to Convince Yourself to Self-Care: A love letter to all parents


“What to say” Series:

Last week I wrote a blog post on 20 easy 5-minute self-care ideas for parents. Today, I continue the conversation in the guest post, “15 Statements to Convince Yourself to Self-Care: A love letter to all Parents” on The Productive Parent website. I provide 15 statements and quotes that parents can say to themselves when our guilt, shame or other unpleasant emotions get in the way of taking care for ourselves. I practice saying those statements to myself on a daily basis when I notice feeling overwhelmed and just not feeling well as I attempt to juggle all my roles.

Many parents are notorious for putting their needs last, and these 15 statements help to remind us of focusing on our well-being for our children and to model self-care for them too.

Since I don’t want to mislead you, I’ll continue the list and add 16 – 30 self-care quotes here.

16. You can’t collect water from an empty well.

17. Self-care allows me to reduce my stress little by little.

18. Self-care will help me calm down.

19. I make the wisest decisions when I’m calm.

20. A car stops running when it’s out of gas.

21. If I don’t take care of myself now, I run the risk of becoming sick later.

22. My children need to see me being good to myself.

23. Self-care = self-compassion.

24. I deserve care and compassion, just like my children do.

25. If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. – Jack Kornfield

26. Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. – Etty Hillesum

27. “If I am not good to myself, how can I expect others to be good to me?” – Maya Angelou

28. “Setting boundaries is a way of caring for myself. It doesn’t make me mean, selfish, or uncaring because I don’t do things your way. I care about me too.” ― Christine Morgan

29. “When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”– Jean Shinoda Bolen

30.If you want to do your best for future generations of humanity, for your friends and family, you must begin by taking good care of yourself.”― Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche

I’m curious to know, what are your favorite self-care quotes? I’d love to make a list of 100 self-care statements for everyone to reference.

How to be a better parent by being Self(care)ish: 20 easy 5-minute ideas to nourish yourself


How to be a better parent by being Self(care)ish: 20 easy 5-minute ideas to nourish yourself

Sofia Mendoza, LCSW

Have you ever felt guilty or even selfish for indulging in some down time while your littles are in daycare, with grandparents or friends? If you have, you’re not alone. Every time I ask a parent about how they self-care, there’s a hesitation, then a laugh, and then a “well….” In my experience, not only is it hard for parents to talk about how they self-care, but for many, it brings up a lot of guilt about being selfish for doing pleasurable things for themselves without their kids. The good news is that for you to be the parent you want to be, who’s fun to be around, consistent in your discipline and loving, and present you must practice self-care daily. Self-care nourishes us, it helps ward off stress and illness, and it helps to clear our mind. If you’re like most parents I know, you’re probably feeling all kinds of depleted and in survival mode.

Flight attendants know this well and they remind us that in the event of an emergency aboard, to ensure that we put on our own oxygen mask on before helping others or children. I like to remind myself that I can’t pour from an empty cup. Audrey Lorde, a mother, warrior, civil rights activist and poet, describes the need for self-care as “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self-care is crucial as we’re at the intersection of all our roles, responsibilities, and our own (unfair) expectations for ourselves.

Before you start engaging in self-care, start with changing the way your think about self-care. If you have thoughts that self-care is selfish, try swapping it for “self(care)ish.” I think it’s important to acknowledge when “selfish” comes up and I’m not asking you to abandon it, simply swap it. You can also try hashtagging or swapping it for the phrase #meforwe. You’re taking care of yourself now, for the benefit of your important “we” later.

Finding the time or money can be a barrier for self-care, that’s why I asked family, friends, and clients about their favorite 5-minute crucial self-care ideas. The response was great and we all agreed that these 5-minutes of self-care would not solve our biggest problems, but they definitely contribute to having a clear mind to be able to tackle the big ticket-heavy duty problems throughout our day.

Take a look at these easy and (mostly) free 20 5-minute Self-Care Ideas that anyone can do to help fill up their cup:

  1. A 5 minute bathroom break alone.
  2. Drinking your morning coffee/tea warm and alone before the children wake up (extra points if you sit down or put your feet up).
  3. Set out a few outfits at night so that you’re not scrambling in the AM.
  4. Sitting in the car and closing your eyes for 5 minutes.
  5. Put on your favorite dancing song and go at it.
  6. Singing or listening to THE song. The one that provides you with clarity, good memories, energy.
  7. Looking through pictures of your loved ones.
  8. Calling a friend who makes you laugh and “gets you.” You might say to them, “I need you to make me laugh right now. I only have 5 minutes.”
  9. Gratitude journaling. Take stock of the good in your life and write it down.
  10. Belly breathing. Good quality breathing is great for managing anxiety and resetting the system.
  11. I’m a big fan of 5 minutes of skimming or even reading bits of an article or book.
  12. Listening to books on tape or audible. A friend of mine loves listening to podcasts or Ted Talks on youtube. This can be done while driving, washing dishes, or even making dinner.
  13. You can color with your children or take it a step further and use an adult coloring book.
  14. Come up with a term of endearment for yourself. “My dear;” “My love;” “Amorcito;”
  15. See free apps like Headspace, Mindfulness, Simple Habit Meditation, Relax Meditation, Calm Meditation, 5 minute escapes – Guided Meditations.
  16. Drinking water – it’s important to stay hydrated.
  17. Taking medications, vitamins or supplements. After taking my emergenC, I usually feel like a champ and every time I get sick, I realize I haven’t been keeping up with my vitamin regimen.
  18. Self-compassion. It’s incredibly important and can sound like this:
    • Replace “selfish” with “self(care)ish to remind yourself that you need some you time to be well for everyone else
    • Tell yourself that you can’t pour from an empty cup and that’s why you are choosing to be kind to yourself
    • You’re doing the best you can right now
    • Parenting is hard. My love [or whichever term of endearment you came up with], you’re doing a very hard thing right now. Be easy on yourself.
    • It’s ok to feel [insert emotion]. My dear, you’ve been through a lot
  19. Watch funny or heartwarming videos (the ones with the dressed-up dogs or baby hedgehogs)
  20. Engage any of your five senses and observe (taste, touch, smell, see, hear)

I had a really hard time limiting this list to 20 self-care activities. I bet there are lots of things you all are already doing. Feel free to share your favorite ideas in the comments. My goal is to provide a 100-idea list in the future.

Coming up with self-care ideas can be hard, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of stress, depression or anxiety. Remind yourself to get help if you need it. Therapy can be a great way for you to be able to self-care, be kind to yourself, and focus on your well-being. You deserve it. You are the most important person in your child’s life.


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