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6 Ways to Advocate for Your Mental Health

Often there are many parts of the mental health treatment process that you can’t control.

“Providers can let patients down, medications may fail or cause uncomfortable side effects [and] there is enormous stigma around mental illness,” said Kelli Hyland, M.D., a psychiatrist in outpatient private practice in Salt Lake City, Utah.

But you can control your role. For instance, you can accept your symptoms, educate yourself about your illness, build your treatment team and speak “up when you feel small and scared,” she said.

Advocating for your mental health provides significant benefits. “Taking an active role in the healing process brings empowerment, confidence and can build quality of life independent of cure or physical wellness,” she said.

Below, Hyland shared several ways you can become your own best advocate.

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Best of Our Blogs

Best of Our Blogs: November 30, 2012

I'd argue that our most challenging enemy isn't the obstacle in front of us. It's not the fact that our child/partner is being difficult or things just aren't going well. It's our attitude, our perception of what we're encountering right now that directs our life.

When you look at successful, happy people, they aren't blessed with an easy life. On the contrary, most have suffered, struggled and climbed their way out of deep wells to survive. Peace, happiness, well-being are there for all of us. The key is to trick our eyes into seeing the road ahead not as a challenging, unforgiving, unwanted obstacle. But to view it simply as an opportunity.

Whatever you're going through right now could feel like the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Maybe you feel unheard or misunderstood by a friend or family member, or you're undergoing significant and unwelcome changes in your life. Even though you feel stuck or helpless, you do have choices. Our bloggers this week highlight a few things you can do right now to change your situation. Scroll down to find out how you can, for example, reconnect with others by spending a few minutes practicing mindfulness or learn ways you can start taking care of yourself. It's not the easier path to stop playing victim and be a victor. But it's a road that will inevitably lead toward a happier, healthier life.

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Children and Teens

From Partners to Parents: Showing CARE

Discussing and exploring the well-being of one’s partnership isn’t often on the list of baby preparation to-dos. After all, pregnancy can be a joyful time -- one that elicits feelings of anticipation, newness, and excitement. Immersed in the pregnant possibilities of motherhood, energy focuses on what will be gained by starting a family. Baby showers mark this time by gifting the family with the necessary gear to outwardly navigate and welcome this new life.

“Get a lot of sleep.” “Go see a lot of movies.” “Take a Babymoon.”

When advice is offered, it often centers around the notion that couples can prematurely fill up their well-being reservoirs, meeting needs that won’t be fulfilled for a while postpartum, as if these can be stored in the ’happiness’ hump of marital satisfaction.

While these are all wonderful suggestions, highlighting the changes couples are about to experience, they ignore the emotional preparation that so often helps pave the way for the passage to parenthood.

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Children and Teens

Holiday Gifts that Don’t Cost a Thing

Money can’t buy you love. Yet that doesn’t stop many of us from trying. In our hearts we know very well that pricey presents don’t make the perfect holiday. (There’s no such thing, anyway.)

Still, many of us get sucked into the holiday spending spree.

“When we are pressured to match a transaction of cash and heart-felt emotion, it feels like we can never spend enough,” said Mara Glatzel, MSW, a coach who helps women cultivate the lives they deserve.

Gift-giving is a loaded topic with many layers. For instance, it sparks comparison-making and fears about not being good enough, according to Ashley Eder, LPC, a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colo. “It’s natural that some people turn to high-value items to soothe their fears about gift exchange,” she said.

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What Would You Change in Your Life?

Here’s a question for you.

2013 is almost here (how did that happen, by the way?). If, by the end of 2013, you could magically change one aspect of your life, what would you change? What single thing would add the most to your happiness?

You know my next question.

With that aim in mind, can you come up with concrete, manageable steps that would help you accomplish it?

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Arguing: Two Sides to Every Story

Of course you’re smart enough to know that there are two sides to every story. But is that what you’re focused on when you’re in the midst of a heated argument?

Probably not -- not if the rational part of your brain has skipped town, leaving the emotional part in charge. True, we're emotional beings, but your emotional brain without the input of your rational brain is like an unsupervised 3-year-old kid. Things get out of hand pretty quickly.

Let’s hear from two people who are absolutely convinced that they are the ones who are right.

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Help on Healing from Heartbreak

There’s a reason why “heartbreak” is synonymous with “breakup.” Breakups are painful. It can feel like the pain resides in our heads, our hearts and in our bones. Sometimes it’s a faint ache, like a sore muscle. Other times, it’s a full-on throbbing, a raw wound.

Post-breakup, people often “feel sad, lost, empty, alone, and angry,” said Meredith Hansen, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert. They might withdraw from friends and family and have a hard time doing their work, and their self-esteem might suffer, she said. According to Hansen, they might also show other signs of depression, such as loss of interest in activities, loss of appetite, development of sleeping problems or feelings of hopelessness.

People suffering from heartbreak might turn to self-destructive behaviors with grave effects. “Substance abuse, multiple sexual partners, and avoidance of vulnerable emotions can lead to serious health issues, long-term health problems, and potential mental health issues,” Hansen said.

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Brain and Behavior

Can Reality TV Boost Self-Control?

Flipping through one of Psychology Today's recent issues, my eyes focused on a short article "Just Give In. Five Indulgences that actually boost self-control" by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

What are these five indulgences? Personally, I was hoping chocolate was on the list. (Unfortunately, it's not!) McGonigal narrows it down to these five things: a single espresso, an afternoon nap, a snack, YouTube and reality television.

The author writes that "Willpower diminishes as the day wears on, but anything that reduces stress, boosts your mood, or recharges your energy can also reboot your self-control."

Even "reality TV?"

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Mindfulness Practices to Improve Health and Happiness

Are you in control of your life? If you live with any form of chronic pain, fatigue, malaise, or physical limitation, you probably often feel victimized by your condition.

Here are a set of practices that can help you cultivate a sense of mastery and well-being.

Attentional training is what allows us to begin this journey. For example, we all engage in unhealthy habits, many of which are too subtle for anyone -- including ourselves -- to notice. We can’t begin to change bad habits until we become aware of them. So how do we increase our attention and awareness?

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Best of Our Blogs

Best of Our Blogs: November 27, 2012

There are no guarantees in life. Just because you put yourself out there, doesn't mean you'll get a positive response. Just because you work on being kinder, more patient and compassionate to yourself and others, doesn't mean you'll get the favor returned. The thought can leave a lot of us depressed. But here's where hope comes in.

Yes, you can only control so many things in your life. But within that seemingly limited space there's tremendous room for self-control. Take your interactions with others, for example. You might not be able to control the way a parent negates your accomplishments, but you can choose to spend less time with them. You can't force a family member to see your point of view, but you can lower your expectations for your relationship.

It's all about making a conscious decision to do your part and let go. It's the theme of this week's posts. Whether you're attempting to lose weight, be more creative, stress less over material possessions or keep your private practice in check, they're about focusing attention on your own issues. We often spend too much time agonizing over what other people think, say, or believe about us. But as 2012 nears the end, it's high time we take back control of our own lives. Maybe it's about deciding to be healthier, avoid unnecessary spending by recycling and deleting all those holiday ads, or venting about your private life in-person instead of online.

It all comes down to a single choice: Will you make it about you or them?

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5 Early Warning Signs He’s Too Controlling

This guest article from YourTango was written by Sherry Gaba.

For people who grew up in homes with very controlling or abusive parents, it can be difficult to distinguish between control and concern in dating relationships. Women and men with a history of love addiction often have the same problem.

One way to differentiate between controlling behavior and behavior that is out of concern for you is to take a close look at the specific situation. Extreme reactions to innocent mistakes are a sure sign of control.

There are several early warning signs of a controlling partner. Watch for these tell-tale indicators that the person you're dating is not merely concerned -- he may be controlling and potentially even abusive.

More from YourTango: 10 Signs You're In An Abusive Relationship

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9 Ways for Adults with ADHD to Get Motivated

It’s hard for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to get motivated.

But this has zero to do with laziness or not trying hard enough, said Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. (Sadly, these are common myths about ADHD.)

“The ADHD brain is wired toward low motivation for everyday tasks,” he said. It has lower levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in motivation, he said.

Individuals with ADHD also get overwhelmed easily, according to Terry Matlen, ACSW, a psychotherapist and author of Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD. “Those of us with ADHD see the problem and can't figure out how to get from step A to step B, then from step B to step C,” she said.

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