Glossary of Terms to Support Your Mental Health Journey

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

A mental health journey comes with a complete vocabulary of terms. And a clear understanding of these terms will assist you with the process.

Many glossaries for mental health provide definitions of disorders and conditions. So I want to focus this list on terms you will encounter during the self-work aspect of your journey.

This is not a comprehensive list. It is designed to provide a brief overview of these terms. I have also attempted to paraphrase the definitions/meanings so they may be more easily understood.

I plan to continue to add to the list over the next few months, so please feel free to offer suggestions in the comments below.

What are boundaries? Growth? Self-work?

Affirmations

Affirmations are short, positive statements we use to help retrain our brains to think positively. For affirmations to be effective, we need to say them aloud daily until we believe them to be true.

Read More| Generate Positivity with Affirmations

Boundaries

Boundaries are guidelines used to communicate what we need to feel safe, comfortable, supported and respected. Boundaries help us navigate our relationships by giving us the knowledge and ability to say yes and no to protect our well-being. There are seven types of boundaries: physical, emotional/mental, spiritual, financial, sexual, time and non-negotiables. Boundaries can change as relationships evolve.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Psych Central – 7 Types of Boundaries You May Need

Calm

Calm is a generally positive term meaning a state when we are not experiencing strong, negative feelings. This could mean we are free of anger, sadness, anxiety or agitation. Most coping strategies aim to “re-establish calm” or release negative thoughts and emotions.

Comfort Zone

A comfort zone is a physical or mental space in which we feel safe, secure, content and comfortable. A mental comfort zone will dissuade us from partaking in activities that may be mentally or emotionally harmful. A portion of our growth journey may involve expanding our comfort zones. This work will allow us to practice “scary” activities in small doses to redefine what our comfort zones look like.

Read More| 10 Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone

Comforting Activities

Comforting activities are any enjoyable activity that brings us focus, calm, relaxation and comfort. Many disorders will wear on the mind and body, leaving us exhausted. Comforting activities distract our minds in order to provide much-needed relief. A comforting activity may be sleeping, watching a movie, pursuing a hobby, taking a walk, etc.

Cope/Coping

Courtesy of Oxford Languages: coping means to “deal effectively with something difficult.” The key to coping is finding an effective strategy to manage our symptoms, provide comfort and work on healing. A worthy goal of our journey may be finding coping strategies to control and heal effectively.

Read More| 7 Strategies for Coping With Morning Anxiety

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence is a psychological theory focusing on skills to identify, understand, control and successfully express our emotions. Most studies and books on EQ focus on the workplace, but the skills are helpful for all interpersonal relationships. Within a mental health journey, practicing EQ skills can help us better understand ourselves and the roots of our negative feelings and mindsets.

Empowerment

Empowerment is all about having control and power over our mental health journey. This includes access to support networks and resources that will aid and encourage us to grow strength, confidence and authority over our lives.

Personal Empowerment

Personal empowerment is the ability to be our personal source of encouragement and support for our mental health journey. It involves taking responsibility for our journey and holding ourselves accountable to do the work, make positive choices and track our progress.

(Mental) Energy

Courtesy of Healthline: mental energy is “a mood state where you feel productive, motivated, and prepared to get things done.” Low mental energy may present as boredom, inability to focus or frequently zoning out. Feeling mentally drained may or may not cause us to also feel physically exhausted. Some mental health disorders claim a lot of our mental energy, whether we are aware of it or not.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Healthline – 8 Tips to Boost Mental Energy, in the Moment and in the Future

Growth

Growth refers to gaining knowledge and abilities to support and improve our mental health.  Growth can be measured by tracking goals or keeping a journal that can show how our mindset has changed. Growth can also be detected as we start recognizing when we are better capable of handling difficult situations than we had been at the beginning of our journey.

Read More| Why You Should Start Journaling

Personal Growth

Personal growth is also referred to as personal development or self-improvement. Personal growth is about developing positive behaviours, habits, mindsets, and skills to improve our mental, physical and emotional health.

Read More| 5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Healing

Unlike physical health, mental health does not have cures. Healing involves growing by learning how to cope and live with a mental health condition. A healing process begins with the desire to improve ourselves and includes seeking help, whether it be understanding our condition or pursuing therapy.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Psych Central – Can You Cure or Heal the Mind?

Journey

Journey is another word for the process of learning about and taking care of our mental health. We can consider it a journey as there will be a start but no definite ending. There will also be many ups and downs, comprising bright days and challenging experiences. The journey is a worthwhile endeavour to benefit our overall happiness and well-being.

Limiting Beliefs

A limiting belief is a belief or state of mind that limits or prevents us from pursuing and achieving our goals. Limiting beliefs often present themselves as fears or in I can’t/I don’t have/I’m not statements. Affirmations help identify and minimize our limiting beliefs.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Happier Human – 15 Limiting Beliefs Examples That Hold You Back in Life

Mental Focus

Mental focus involves making a conscious effort to concentrate on and work towards achieving our goals. Developing and improving mental focus takes time and practice. It will require us to limit distractions, create time for ourselves, take breaks for comforting activities and to practice mindfulness.

Mental Health

Mental health refers to the health of our thoughts, behaviours and emotions. We can have good mental health or poor mental health. Our mental well-being can influence our relationships, decision-making skills and how we experience the world. It can also simultaneously impact our physical health for better or worse. Poor mental health is not the same as mental illness.

Mental Health Glossary. Learn the terms you will encounter on your mental health journey.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health awareness aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. It provides a greater understanding of mental health to reduce misconceptions and increase acceptance. Awareness and acceptance offer greater access to information, diagnoses, treatments and support.

Read More| 5 Steps to Create A Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Mental Health Strategies

Mental health strategies are actions used to achieve our mental health goals. These strategies may include long-term and short-term plans or practical coping activities. Practicing mental health strategies is helpful for everyone to support good mental health or treat a mental illness.

Mental Illness

Mental illness is a mental health condition that negatively disrupts or changes our thoughts, behaviours and feelings. It can make functioning in daily activities and maintaining relationships difficult. It is an umbrella term to refer to all diagnosable mental disorders. Mental illness is treatable.

Read more (I have no affiliation with these websites):

American Psychiatric Association – What is Mental Illness?

Health Direct – Types of Mental Illness

Mindfulness

Courtesy of Greater Good Magazine: “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.” It is about focusing our attention on acknowledging and accepting our present thoughts and emotions without judgement. Mindfulness provides an opportunity to understand ourselves and our needs better.

Mindset

Mindset is our mental attitude that determines our ideas, beliefs, values, philosophy and worldview. Our mindset is typically established through our social and cultural settings. In some cases, our communities may lead our mindset to perceive mental health practices in a negative light.

Shifting Mindset

A mindset shift is a shift or change of our minds. It allows us to be more critical of our current beliefs and accept different philosophies to support, manage and heal our mental health. A shift in mindset is required for mental health awareness.

Read More| 5 Steps to Create A Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind setting goals and persevering through the necessary work to achieve them. Beyond having a major end goal, motivation can be maintained by setting and achieving small goals along our journey. Being able to track improvements and using personal rewards are effective motivators.

Process

The process is a sequence of steps and stages we follow to achieve our goal of overall improved mental health. Some steps of the process will be difficult (mentally, emotionally and possibly physically). And some stages will feel frustratingly stagnant as if we are not improving or healing. Trust the process, as every bit of work we put into our journey will pay off at some point.

Safe Space

A safe space is an area (whether a physical or social environment) in which a person feels free to be themselves. This means the space is welcoming, accepting, and free from bias, criticisms and risks of physical or emotional harm. And can include acceptance of different values, sexualities, mental health, etc. 

Read More| 5 Steps to Create a Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Self-Care

Self-care is literally caring for the self. It is a combination of activities we follow to support our good physical, mental (or psychological), emotional and spiritual (religious or not) health. Self-care requires positive daily habits to establish a healthy environment and lifestyle. And includes activities to help us handle stressors.

Self-Discovery

Self-discovery allows us to learn about who we are, separate from the opinions and values of our family, peer groups and culture, in order to follow our own path. The process will allow us to understand our personal feelings, thoughts, needs and priorities to become who we want to be. Self-discovery can include learning about our personality, identifying our strengths and weaknesses, unlearning limiting beliefs and behaviours, and growing self-confidence.

Read More| 5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Self-Love

Courtesy of Brain & Behavior: “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.” At its core, self-love means showing kindness to ourselves. It encourages us to prioritize our happiness and well-being rather than be lost in the needs and expectations of others. Self-love involves using positive inner thoughts, setting boundaries, treating ourselves respectfully, and nurturing our growth. It is neither selfish nor vain as prioritizing ourselves leaves us with a better capacity to support others.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Brain & Behavior – Self-Love and What It Means

Self-Work

Self-work is the work and effort we dedicate to improving ourselves. From setting goals to developing mental health strategies to seeking professional assistance, we must hold ourselves accountable to do the work before receiving the reward.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Hello Giggles – Here’s How You Can Start Your Self-Work Journey

Soothing

Soothing relieves pain or discomfort to create a feeling of calm. Different soothing methods may be used to target physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain. Effective soothing techniques will differ from person to person, so it may be helpful to test multiple options and suggestions.

Read More| How to Self-Soothe During A Panic Attack

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Positive Psychology – 24 Best Self-Soothing Techniques and Strategies for Adults

Stigma

Courtesy of Better Health: “stigma is when someone sees you in a negative way because of your mental illness.” Stigma involves prejudice and discrimination that is often the result of misinformation, disinformation and deception. It may prevent people from seeking help, which will, in turn, cause mental illness to worsen. Always remember that mental illness is only one aspect of our identity, and everyone has a right to strive for good mental health.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Better Health – Stigma, discrimination and mental illness

Therapy

Therapy or counselling is the process of meeting with a trained and licensed mental health provider in a series of sessions. Sessions may be completed privately, as a couple or in a group as needed. The term “therapy” is surrounded by stigma. However, therapy is a very healthy activity for our mental well-being and is similar to seeking physical healthcare. Therapy benefits everyone, whether seeking treatment for a mental illness or looking to improve their overall mental health.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is therapy more specifically aimed at treating mental illness. A trained mental health professional may assist us in learning the cause of our condition and how to cope effectively. Psychotherapy is a clinical term we may choose to use while searching for an appropriate therapist. However, it is acceptable to refer to any form of therapy as therapy.

Glossary for Mental Health

Trauma

Courtesy of American Psychology Association: “trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event.” Physical or psychological symptoms may present immediately after the event or arise years later. Sometimes the traumatic response will be to forget specific details of the event, but our mind will still remember the danger. Psychotherapy can help unearth the details of the traumatic event to provide treatment.

Trigger

Courtesy of Healthline: “triggers are anything that might cause a person to recall a traumatic experience they’ve had.” Anything may trigger a memory of the event, including images, scents, sounds or someone discussing a similar experience. The trigger may cause minor to dangerous emotional or psychological pain. A minor reaction may be soothed with self-care and mental health strategies. However, a strong reaction may be dangerous to our safety and require help from a professional mental healthcare provider.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Healthline – What It Really Means to Be Triggered

Trigger Warning (TW)

A trigger warning is often used on social media to indicate the content may be triggering. TW will be included at the top of the post and should be followed by the topic (i.e. TW: violence). The increasing use of trigger warnings is an example of the benefits of mental health awareness.

What other words should I add? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Steps to Create a Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

As someone who has created a blog to share my mental health journey, I am grateful that people are becoming more receptive to mental health discussions.

Read More | 7 Strategies for Coping With Morning Anxiety

However, I recognize mental health awareness and acceptance are still relatively new. And I have noticed that many people lack the skills or understanding of how to engage in these conversations.

But I don’t want to use that as a criticism.

Man and woman in their safe space overlooking a forested mountain side

I was born in the 80s and raised believing that mental health conversations are taboo. We shouldn’t talk about it, we shouldn’t ask about it, and we should pretend it doesn’t exist.

It’s a difficult mindset to break, even more so without tools or guidance.

This difficulty is felt by those working on their mental health and those who want to support them.

In this post, I want to outline the skills necessary for discussing mental health and how to use them to create a safe space.

3 Key Skills for Discussing Mental Health

The main skills you need for discussing and understanding mental health are:

  1. Empathy: the ability to emotionally understand an experience from another’s viewpoint.
  2. Openness: the ability to be unbiased, honest and receptive to another’s experience.
  3. Consideration: the ability to think of and care for the feelings and needs of others.

These skills are required for both processing and supporting mental health. This means that both participants must practice these skills to have an effective conversation.

You will need to break your current mindset before you can develop these skills.

How Not To Discuss Mental Health

A common mistake I have experienced is people assuming that being open to mental health discussions warrants immediate permission.

Permission to do what?

Well, first, permission to ask questions.

This is a double-edged sword. Asking questions is acceptable because it shows your willingness to learn more about someone. But it’s very easy for questions to slip into inappropriate territory.

Second, permission to know sensitive details.

A relationship should not hinge on how deeply a person shares their history. There is no requirement for someone to share their trauma. And no time limit that earns the right to further details.

Third, permission to share.

In this case, I am referring to instances when a third party expects information that was shared in confidence. For example, the third party could express their desire for information in statements like “I just want to know more about them” or “what are they dealing with?”

I want to be very explicit and say that you do not have the right to know, and I do not have the right to tell you about someone else’s mental health diagnosis or history.

Before reading further, try to release these assumptions from your mind.

How to Practice Empathy, Openness and Consideration When Discussing Mental Health

A.      Remember that mental health is one aspect of who we are.

Though it can be a significant part and hold a lot of sway over our lives, we are not our diagnosis.

B.      Understand that discussing mental health is not easy.

It’s legitimately scary.

When someone reveals their trauma or vulnerabilities, they are leaving themselves exposed.

And no one wants to be left vulnerable or open to further harm.

C.      Appreciate that being an ally for mental health requires work, trust and protection.

You can’t back out if you opt to be there for someone. They will rely on you.

At the same time, you cannot expect them to trust or open up to you quickly.

You must demonstrate again and again that you can be trusted.

D.     Accept that this is a give-and-take relationship.

Both parties must willingly participate and make an effort.

If your effort is not being reciprocated, then end the discussion.

And understand that just because you want to share your history does not mean the other person must do so.

E.      Recognize that all mental health discussions must take place in a safe space.

A safe space is crucial for offering a sense of protection.

It will also give both parties a clear understanding of how to participate in these difficult discussions.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Mental Health America – Time To Talk: Tips For Talking About Your Mental Health

CAMH – Addressing Stigma

McLean Hospital – Let’s Face It, No One Wants To Talk About Mental Health

What Is a Safe Space?

A safe space is an area (whether a physical or social environment) in which a person feels free to be themselves. This means the space is welcoming, accepting, and free from bias, criticisms and risks of physical or emotional harm. And can include acceptance of different values, sexuality, mental health, etc. 

For this post, I will focus on the social environment in a safe space and how to create it for mental health discussions.

If you are interested in reading more about physical safe spaces, check out these posts from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Very Well Mind – How To Create Your Own ‘Safe Space’

Thrive – How to Create Your Own Safe Space at Home

My Peer Toolkit – Creating a safe space (This information is focused on young people)

A socially safe space is a comfortable environment for open discussions.

It is also an environment where a person feels safe to decline or selectively participate in certain topics.

Essentially, we want to create an environment where a person knows that we are here when they want to talk and will respect them when they don’t.

A safe space is something we build together.

It requires both parties to offer security, trust and openness.

And it takes time, effort and vulnerability to maintain.

An X symbol to denote what a safe space is not.

It is not something you are entitled to because of your relationship or because you are a nice person.

It is also not a tit-for-tat exchange. You cannot expect someone to share their deepest secret because you felt comfortable sharing yours.

Understand and accept that everyone will share what they can when they can. And remember to appreciate the trust they have in you.

Tips to Create a Safe Environment to Discuss Mental Health

“We don’t create a safe space for someone. Instead, we create a safe space with someone.”

– Ryan Tan, Samaritans of Singapore

1.      Verbally State Your Intentions

Have a conversation to establish that you want to create a safe space with the person you are talking to.

And I recognize this can be easier said than done, so try planning for this conversation.

First, think of why you have chosen this person:

  • What is your current relationship?
  • What do you want your relationship to be?
  • Why do you feel safe with them? (Think of specific examples.)
  • What do you want to share with them (i.e., your experience or support)?

Read More | Why You Should Start Journaling

You don’t have to tell the person why you chose them, but you need to understand why you did.

Why you chose them will determine how you broach the topic and how hard you are willing to work on creating this safe space.

Second, choose and rehearse the words you want to use.

This is a meaningful discussion. You don’t need a prepared speech. But you will want to organize your thoughts so they don’t come out as confusing word vomit.

  • How will you start the conversation? Will you be direct and to the point or feel things out first?
  • How could you transition a conversation into this discussion?
  • Why do you want to build a safe space with them?
  • Might this conversation make them uncomfortable? How can you make it easier?
  • How can you clarify that you are open to discussing mental health without suggesting criticism?

One thing I will caution is not to approach someone and say that you want to discuss their mental health.

Focus on the prize of building a safe space together to serve both your journeys. And yes, being a support system is its own journey.

An infographic for the 5 steps to create a safe environment to discuss mental health: 1. Verbally State Your Intentions. 2. Establish Boundaries. 3. Do Not Disclose Too Much Too Fast 4. Build Trust 5. Reinforce Your Safe Space

2.      Establish Boundaries

Once you have opened the discussion to create a safe space, it’s time for the work to begin.

Boundaries are the main area where your empathy, openness and consideration skills will converge.

Remember that a safe space offers security, inclusion and respect.

And boundaries are the guidelines we share to protect ourselves and respect others. We may also consider them as a means of relaying our needs.

Some examples of boundaries that may create a safe space are:

  • Do not lie to me.
  • Do not share my story with others.
  • Tell me when you are uncomfortable sharing.
  • Understand that when I cannot share, it is not because I don’t trust you.

Again, these are just examples.

Your boundaries will be specific to your needs. They can be based on your personal history and current relationship with the person and be subject to change.

Four factors to establishing boundaries in a safe space:

  1. Consider what you need in a safe space and set it as a boundary.
  2. Verbally state your boundaries to ensure your needs are clear.
  3. Be open to accepting the boundaries set by the other person.
  4. Discuss and negotiate if your boundaries clash (i.e., you have opposing needs that may leave one or both of you uncomfortable).

When negotiating boundaries, keep in mind you are creating a safe space for each other.

Negotiating boundaries can take a lot of work and compromise.

Just remember why you wanted this safe space and give it the effort it deserves.

And know it may not be easy, but this conversation is crucial.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Psych Central – 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries

Real Simple – This Is What It Looks Like to Set Personal and Emotional Boundaries

3.      Do Not Disclose Too Much Too Fast

You’ve discussed your desire to create a safe space and have established boundaries. So it may feel like it’s time to tell your life story. Not so fast!

It can feel exciting to have someone you can share with. But being too open comes with many downsides.

First, you don’t want to trauma dump on others.

And this could be done by either party. Sometimes an ally will dump their whole history to encourage the other person to share theirs. But while you may feel a sense of relief, you have now burdened or possibly hurt the other person.

Instead, start learning how to discuss trauma constructively. This includes finding a balance between under-sharing and oversharing. And allow room for the other person to assert their boundaries and protect their well-being.

Second, oversharing very quickly does not demonstrate trust.

Instead, it can be perceived as attention-seeking behaviour.

Consider a safe space like it’s an unknown body of water. You don’t know how deep it is. And if you dive right in, you may end up hurt or appear untrustworthy for being reckless.

Treat this space with care.

Third, you never want to give the impression that you would share this personal information with just anyone.

On the contrary, demonstrate that this information is something that you keep close and only share with select people.

Build trust slowly by sharing information in small doses over a few conversations.

This will also go a long way in creating a trusted, safe space.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Psych Central – Trauma Dumping: Why Considering the Impact of Oversharing Matters

Very Well Mind – When Oversharing Turns into Trauma Dumping, and How to Stop

Forbes – There Is A Clear Line Between Oversharing And Being Authentic — Here’s How To Avoid Crossing It

4.      Build Trust

You want to demonstrate both your trust and trustworthiness.

Showing trust does not only mean being vulnerable. Vulnerability is actually something you work towards. And you cannot be genuinely vulnerable before building a foundation of trust.

How do you build trust?

  • Be honest and reliable.
  • Be open with what you are comfortable sharing.
  • Demonstrate you feel secure with stopping a conversation if you are uncomfortable.
  • Verbally assert your current boundaries and open a discussion when you want to change them.
  • Listen and show understanding.
  • Let the other person know you appreciate their trust and confidence.
  • Ensure your actions align with your words.
  • Do not offer solutions, criticize or dismiss an experience.

Once you gain trust, never discussing what you have been told in confidence with or around a third party is crucial. This includes alluding to or hinting at having private information.

I’m not sure why some people do this. Perhaps they are bragging about having a close relationship. Or maybe they wrongly assume this shows they won’t tell anyone specific details. I honestly don’t know.

But it’s best to keep the fact that you are a trusted confidant a secret.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Talk Space – How to Make Every Space a Safe Space

Positive Psychology – 10 Ways To Build Trust in a Relationship

5.      Reinforce Your Safe Space

Remember that the safe space is for both of you. You will want to share your feelings and follow up with the other person.

Check in to ensure the space still feels safe and comfortable to all parties involved.

  • If any boundaries need to be changed, adjust them.
  • If the discussions have been too difficult, ask to take a step back.
  • If trust has been bent or broken, discuss it.

How often you check in depends on your relationship and how frequently you discuss difficult topics.

It’s also important to check in on the other person whenever you feel unsure about something.

For example, I’ve experienced moments when I was unsure if I had pushed against a boundary. Once I realized I may have made a mistake, I would state, “Please let me know if I’m being too much or if you feel uncomfortable.”

Again, maintaining a safe space requires constant work. But keeping communication focused on consideration for each other will make the work easier.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Ourselves Black – Breaking The Stigma: 4 Ways To Start The Mental Health Conversation

Think Mental Health – How to start the conversation

Sage Thinking – Creating Safe Spaces for Courageous Conversations

The Ladders – How to make every space a safe space

How Boundaries May Change in A Safe Space

You may be wondering why I keep mentioning adjusting or changing boundaries.

The ability to change boundaries is what makes a space safe.

Your comfort with and trust in the other person will be ever-evolving.

I will outline three possible stages in maintaining a safe space from the perspective of someone sharing their trauma. This will give you an idea of what it could look like.

However, everyone’s journey is different, so please do not judge your safe space against these examples.

In stage one, you may feel very guarded and unsure if this person is safe. You know that you want to tryto create a close relationship, but you also want to protect yourself.

You will likely have rigid boundaries using “do not” or “cannot” wording. This is because telling others what is not acceptable to you provides protection.

In stage two, the other person has demonstrated they are trustworthy. You may begin to feel secure but not yet ready to open up fully.

This is a good time to re-assess and discuss your boundaries.

Perhaps you will change your boundaries from “do not” rules into “if I’m feeling [emotion], I will/won’t [action]” statements. This tells the other person that you feel more comfortable exploring difficult topics and secure with showing some vulnerability.

In stage three, you may feel confident that you are in a truly safe space. This doesn’t mean that you will be an open book. Instead, it means that you will clearly understand what you can and want to share.

You will still have boundaries. And some may still use “do not” wording, and others may still include if/then statements. But maybe you will create a new personal boundary for yourself to follow.

It is also possible that someone may downgrade from stage 2 to stage 1. This could result from a problem in the safe space or an external factor.

It’s important to understand that a safe space will always require boundaries. And that’s a good thing.

Try to remain empathetic, open and considerate.

How to discuss mental health. 5 tips to create a safe environment.

Summary

If you are new to discussing mental health, I hope you will find this information useful. Just having an interest in starting these conversations is an excellent first step. Remember that being a support system requires a lot of discussions, effort and patience with minimal reward. You will make mistakes. And you may never understand how someone feels or the full details of their journey. But it means a lot to anyone working on their mental health to know that someone is there or wants to be there.

Takeaways

  • Try to release negative and harmful assumptions about mental health from your mind.
  • Focus on creating a safe space and understand what that looks like.
  • Start working on your empathy, openness and consideration skills.
  • Use empathy to understand that sharing information can be difficult and takes time.
  • Also, respect that you may never get full details and that’s okay.
  • Use openness to talk to your person and let them tell you what they need from you.
  • Never assume you know what is best.
  • Use consideration to create and respect boundaries.
  • And understand that it is not disrespectful when a person does not open up to you.
  • Keep trying not by asking or demanding more answers, but rather by asserting I am here if you need to talk.

Did I miss any negative assumptions about mental health? Also, as a safe space will look different for everyone, please share your opinion in the comments on how to create a safe space.

Why Your Introvert Ignores Your Calls

How often does your introverted friend miss your calls? Do they text you shortly after you hang up to say, “Sorry, I missed you! What’s up?”

Well, it’s awkward to tell you this, but they didn’t miss you and aren’t sorry. You’ve been ignored.

Avoiding phone calls is, unfortunately, another reason that introverts can appear rude.

| Read more: Are Introverts Rude?

There are a few reasons introverts hate talking on the phone.

In this post, I will explain why a phone call does not suit an introvert’s social skills and offer alternative options for accommodating your introverted friends.

Pinterest Pin: Why introverts avoid talking on the phone and alternative options for accomodating your introverted friends.

Introverts Have Boundaries

Social interactions of any type can drain an introvert’s battery.

I feel this is one of the most well-known and understood facts about introversion.

Therefore, I hope everyone will understand that introverts decline phone calls to protect their energy.

When your friend shares their dislike of talking on the phone, they are setting a boundary.

This boundary relays their desire to be there for the people they care about in a capacity they can manage.

I have set boundaries with family and friends to ask for a text message before all calls. And they are incredibly considerate, sometimes scheduling a call a few days in advance. Of course, they have also set boundaries with me so that I may meet their needs in return.

Try to consider how you might support your introverted friend.

Having a conversation about boundaries is an excellent place to start. Ask how they prefer to be contacted and try to remain open to their options.

Introverts Need to Prepare

But if it’s just a quick call, it should be okay, right? Well, not exactly.

Think about how you feel receiving a phone call from a telemarketer when you’ve sat down for dinner. Perhaps dinner is your time to recharge, and you have been looking forward to this moment all day. You prepared your space, set the table, served the food and just got comfortable when the phone rang. Will you answer it? Assuming you have caller ID, probably not.

For an introvert, all phone calls feel like a telemarketer is interrupting dinner.

Except, in place of dinner, the peace of the introvert bubble has been burst.

Most phone calls come without warning. And within the introvert community, anything last minute feels rude and intrusive to their personal time.

Introverts need to practice their social skills and prepare their energy for all social events.

I always like to have talking points prepared so I seem less standoffish, and I want the ability to leave a conversation if I start feeling drained.

When the phone rings, there is no time to practice for the conversation, develop a polite exit strategy or know how long the call will last. In the end, it feels like such a gamble to answer.

Out of respect for your introverted friend, I suggest texting them first. A courtesy text will allow them the opportunity to mentally prepare for your call.

Introverts Use Body Language

Perhaps your friend also declines when you ask if you can call them. Or, in those rare instances you do get them on the phone, they don’t say much. What’s that about?

Introverts are observers and non-verbal communicators. They read situations and use actions to participate in conversations.

Body language and facial expressions reveal your mood and needs. They say far more than your words ever will.

And for an introvert, reading is how they can understand a social situation:

  • What is the vibe?
  • What does their friend need (i.e., a listener or advice)?
  • How should they react (i.e., choosing the appropriate emotion)?
  • When should they speak?

Without body language, they must adjust their listening and response skills.

This means that when introverts are on the phone, they focus their attention on your tone and try to detect when they should reply rather than stay present in the conversation.

It is frustrating, exhausting and distracting to the point that the conversation seems wasteful. And it definitely gives off this could have been an email vibes.

One option I recommend is to limit phone calls to ongoing conversations. Ongoing conversations would be events or social situations your introvert is already apprised of through previous messages and face-to-face interactions.

Continuing an earlier conversation ensures your friend has the social data they need. And that will allow them a better capacity to participate in the call.

Phone Calls Will Always Be Exhausting

You may be tempted to claim that phone calls can become easier with practice.

But based on my experience, while we can develop new social skills to make phone interactions less awkward, they will always be exhausting.

I have worked in an office building and trained myself to be comfortable with sending and receiving phone calls. However, I found I would either reach my capacity or force myself beyond it every day.

And I would still rather not take phone calls in my personal life.

I’m very much at a place where I will only make or take a phone call if I absolutely must. But I will always search for alternatives first.

Please keep in mind that you can also adapt to your introverted friend.

Match Your Communication to Their Needs

Within the introvert community, the consensus is text is best.

Texting gives introverts a break to recharge between messages, and there’s no requirement for an immediate response.

They are free to participate as much or as little as they choose.

And they can decide when they are available.

Nothing beats the comfort of checking the notifications bar before determining if it’s worth the energy.

A second option I prefer over a phone call is a video call.

Video calls let me read the facial expressions of the person I am speaking to. As a result, I feel more present in the conversation and can demonstrate that I am paying attention by using non-verbal cues.

The appeal of this option will vary from person to person for various reasons.

So my best advice is to ask your friend directly whether texting or video calls are comfortable.

Pinterest Pin: Why Your Introvert Ignores Your Calls

Understand Your Introverted Friend

Ultimately, most interactions are exhausting for introverts. And phone calls feel like the worst form of communication because they cannot prepare or use their strongest social skills.

If you do need to call your introverted friend, only call with a purpose. Try to keep the call as short as possible and stick to the point.

Also, discuss and decide on a communication option that serves you both.

Today, we have so much technology to allow people to choose their preferred methods of communication. So should introverts really be required to answer the phone?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below.

Why We Still Need Labels: Demisexuality

It’s pride month, meaning it’s time for the annual debate about the use of labels.

Some people question the need for so many labels: why do we have to identify as something, and why can’t we just accept people as they are?

And within the LGBTQIA2+ community, two factions appear to be forming:

On one side are those who want to do away with labels.

On the other side are those who hold firmly to labels and the power of identifying as lesbian, bi, ace, etc.

Why We Still Need Labels: Demisexuality

The Perks of Removing Labels

I understand people who want to stop using labels.

I agree that no one should have to come out or even decide to identify as one thing or another.

Gender and sexuality are fluid, and we should not limit our identity to a category.

A person should not have to identify as gay and should just be.

Also, within my lifetime I have seen media portrayals of the LGBTQIA2+ community progress from caricatures to real people. For example, we see less stereotypically flamboyant gay characters and more characters with complete personalities who just happen to be gay.

In other words, we are getting more and more genuine stories about real people.

And it’s my opinion that as these authentic representations become more common, the fundamental need for labels may wane.

Labels hold their importance in recognizing and appreciating our differences.

So as recognition and acceptance of the LGBTQIA2+ community in our society increases, the labels may not seem as significant.

However, I also feel that the worth of labels should be preserved.

Labels Empower People

Labels are freeing and give us a place to belong.

When we don’t follow an assumed “norm,” we may think something is wrong with us.

But finding other people who think and feel the same is so empowering.

The mere existence of a label with a definition describing our feelings confirms we are not alone.

It means we are real, legitimate and normal.

And as we begin to understand ourselves, labels can also help us to inform others.

I believe my labels tell you who I am without leaving room for assumptions: I am an introvert; I am an empath; I am demisexual. These are aspects of who I am, and you can better understand me by how I understand myself.

Discovering Demisexuality

I am sharing my story as a demisexual to illustrate the value of labels.

What is demisexuality?

Demisexuality is a sexual orientation wherein a person does not feel sexual attraction until after they have developed a close emotional bond with a person. It falls on the ace spectrum.

It does not mean I only like “nice” people. But it does mean that no matter how ripped and chiselled a man is, it does nothing for my libido if we have no emotional connection.

I understand that within the LGBTQIA2+ community, demisexuality is not fully respected. Some believe it is not real, saying I simply have high standards in my sex life.

But I would appreciate it if everyone would read my story and understand its importance to me.

My intention is not to compare my story with others but to explain why I think labels are still important.

My background.

I always felt something was wrong with me because I never felt how others described their relationships.

How I experience attraction, fantasies, crushes, and dating is difficult.

I have only had two boyfriends (with the relationships spanning 1 to 2 weeks) and about five real crushes.

I would constantly lie when asked about my romantic life and give answers I thought other people expected. Sometimes these lies would leave me looking like a weirdo. I just didn’t understand.

In high school, I would pick someone and say, “I have a crush on him,” every few weeks because I thought teenage girls were supposed to have frequent crushes.

In reality, I only crushed on a few friends, and those crushes lasted years! (And I always felt embarrassed by that.)

I “dated” without interest thinking maybe the feelings my friends talked about would develop. But I just found the process annoying.

And in university, I always claimed I was too busy to date.

I also never had sex because I never felt arousal.

I genuinely thought I was broken.

Learning a new word.

One day I was reading a comment on a YouTube video that used the term demisexual.

I love learning new words and better understanding sexuality, so I just had to Google it!

Describing the feeling that those search results gave me is near impossible. But I could feel it rush over my body.

I must have spent hours clicking on results, browsing articles and watching videos while finding countless people with the same feelings and experiences.

It was like I had a mental checklist going in my head like “yes, I know exactly what you mean,” “mhm, I’ve felt that, too,” “oh yeah, all the time,” and “yup, I’ve definitely been there!

Having always thought I was broken, finding out I belonged somewhere and that my experience is real and valid felt incredibly empowering.

These people feel as I do.

They experience relationships as I do.

They struggle as I do.

My label as demisexual has not locked me in a category. On the contrary, it freed me by creating a unity with others who understand me.

Dating as a demisexual.

I feel more confident dating now than I used to because I understand how to date.

I don’t feel weird anymore nor force myself to act like others.

And I use online dating because it fits my needs.

I choose people based on what they write on their profiles and swipe left on every blank profile.

I have time to get to know them so I can create a bond.

Plus, I’m able to share my sexuality (along with the definition), so my matches can temper their expectations.

I date to make connections, not for sex or one-night stands.

And if they don’t like that, neither of us wastes our time.

LGBTQIA2+ Labels--Discovering demisexuality: sharing stories to understand, celebrate and love who we are

Final Thoughts

My hope for the future is that labels won’t be required. That everyone acknowledges and respects people as people and love as love.

But I don’t think we’re there yet.

There’s still too much misinformation about different genders and sexuality.

This makes us need to continue to share our experiences and tell our stories.

Because, quite frankly, there are too many people in this world for us to all have the same experiences.

And “norm” does not really exist.

So, for now, labels do not divide us. They give everyone a place to understand, celebrate and love who they are.

Generate Positivity With Affirmations

What’s the state of your internal monologue? Are you encouraging? Or do you ridicule yourself?

Most of us use negative statements regularly:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I can’t do it.
  • I suck.

Whether we say them out loud or in our heads, they do nothing but convince us that we are not worthy of our goals.

But we don’t deserve this negative narrative.

Start speaking to yourself with the same kindness you would offer to the people you cherish.

Affirming your positive life: The benefits of creating your own affirmations and the easy 4-step process to write positivity into your life

The Stigma of Affirmations

I didn’t use to believe in affirmations.

I was deterred by the stigma surrounding people who use words to bolster self-confidence.

Affirmations were often demonstrated by seemingly neurotic, low self-esteem people in movies and TV shows. It gave the impression that affirmations are silly. “A reasonable person would never look in a mirror and tell themselves how great they are”—wrong.

Such negative representations of effective mental health practices keep many people from seeking the help they need. And the support they deserve.

It coincides with the misconceptions that self-care is selfish and that we shouldn’t discuss mental health.

Affirmations are effective, and we should not be afraid to try them.

What is An Affirmation?

Affirmations are positive statements that we use to refresh our minds.

And just as negative talk can erode our self-image, the opposite is true.

  • I am good enough.
  • I can do it.
  • I’m great.

Affirmations can be used to target any part of your life or mentality that you want to change. Make a positive impact on your self-care, self-esteem, career, relationships, or mental health.

Benefits of Creating Your Affirmations

The process has its own benefits.

The internet has many examples of affirmations.  And they’re helpful if you connect with the statements.

However, I believe that the most effective affirmations are those you create for yourself.

Why is that?

Well, let me tell you.

The process has its own benefits.

First, creating affirmations requires self-reflection. Because as we start identifying what we want to change, we discover the root of the negativity.

Second, once we know the root, the positive statements can target those specific negative thoughts.

Last, what we target becomes our goal. Goals provide a means to judge our growth. And seeing our growth encourages us to continue on our journey.

Features of An Effective Affirmation

1.      Positive vibes only.

An affirmation should be positive.

Try not to include any statements that allude to the negative thoughts. This will only draw focus to the negative.

Try not to include words like don’t, won’t and can’t.

Examples of weak affirmations:

  • I don’t suck.
  • I won’t tell myself I can’t do it.
  • I can’t say I’m not worthy.

We want to rephrase the complete sentence into something positive.

2.      Be realistic.

Ensure your goal is believable and achievable. You may be discouraged if it is too far out of your grasp.

Don’t be afraid to set smaller goals while you progress to the big ones.

Say your goal is to get a promotion. That big goal is your endgame.

Set small goals to help get you there:

  • Grow your confidence.
  • Start telling yourself how well you do your job.
  • Start growing your leadership skills.
  • Identify your weaknesses and consider how you can turn them into strengths.

Create affirmations to support each of these goals.

You can also use affirmations to prepare for this journey. For example, use phrases like “I am open to…” and “I am in the process of…” to help you negotiate with your negative mind.

Use your affirmations to inspire: you may not be there yet, but you’re working on it.

3.      Stay in the present.

It is best to write in the present tense using I and my phrases like “I am…” or “I can…” or “My strengths….”

You want to influence your mind’s acceptance that you already possess these positive features.

4.      Focus on the self.

Use affirmations to positively change the things you can control.

Instead of affirming, “My co-workers will like me,” try, “I can accept if they don’t.”

You cannot control what other people think or do. But you can control your reaction.

This journey is about you. Accept yourself, love yourself and grow.

And understand that you may outgrow the negative influencers in your life.

5.      No deadlines.

A sure-fire way to disappoint yourself is to set a progress deadline.

Sometimes the negative thoughts have deep roots. They’ve had years to grow.

And while we can encourage change, we cannot force it. The change will come as you practice your affirmations and work towards your goals.

So try to keep your affirmations free from time expressions like “this time next year,” “by the end of the month,” or “in 30 days.”

6.      Short and sweet.

Keep the affirmation short and to the point. It should be memorable.

You will be repeating your affirmations multiple times a day. And you don’t want to get caught up in trying to remember the wording.

As you begin practicing your affirmations, you may decide to edit the phrasing. That’s great!

Adjust the statements to suit your needs.

Create An Affirmation in Four Steps

Creating an affirmation only takes a few steps.

1.      Set up your page.

(a)      Add a title.

The title is entirely optional but can help keep you organized. The title may be especially beneficial as your journey begins branching into different areas.

For example:

  • Affirmations for self-care
  • Affirmations for my career
  • Affirmations for emotional intelligence

(b)      Divide the page into two columns.

Either fold a page in half or draw a line down the center.

2.      List your negative qualities.

In the left column, write your negatives.

Try to be as specific as possible.

To help you create this list, you could refer to your journal entries, take time to self-reflect, or consider feedback from others.

I will use the example of “I feel uncomfortable standing in front of a class.” (I think first-time teachers and anyone who has hosted a meeting will understand.)

But this is very broad. Yes, I wish I was more comfortable, but what qualities hold me back?

I want to focus on what makes me feel uncomfortable by asking myself questions:

  • What is the cause?
  • Am I afraid?
  • What specifically am I afraid of?
  • Am I nervous about my skills as a teacher?
  • Am I nervous about how my students will behave?
  • Do I feel under-prepared?

Through this process, I may realize the problem stems from an old memory of tripping in class. (I move a lot while teaching, and I’ve bumped into everything!)

In my list, I will write: “I am afraid of making mistakes.”

3.      Write your affirmations.

In the right column, rephrase the negatives into positives.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the positive aspects of these qualities?
  • How might the “weaknesses” be useful?
  • How would you encourage your friends if they said these things about themselves?

Try to use strong words. A thesaurus helps change your wording from good to great.

Remember: you can edit the affirmation at any time.

Let’s write an affirmation for my “I am afraid of making mistakes” example.

Now, let’s figure out the perfect phrase:

  • Every mistake is a chance to learn.
    • Too many words.
  • My mistakes are learning opportunities.
    • I can get better wording.
  • My mistakes influence progress.
    • Perfect! (I used a thesaurus.)

This affirmation is positive, realistic, about me, has no deadlines and, most importantly, is short.

It also encourages my mind to forgive and view mistakes positively.

4.      Stay to the right.

After you write your affirmation, scratch out the negative thought.

It’s finished. Take it off your list and out of your mind.

And highlight the affirmation in a bright colour.

Practice Makes Impact

You want to remember to practice your affirmations daily.

Display the affirmation.

Don’t share it online. But put the affirmation somewhere you will see it.

I like to keep my affirmations on sticky notes, posted next to a mirror or on my closet door.

I use bright colours to connect my mind to the affirmation. For example, I may highlight my affirmation in orange. Then if I use my orange highlighter at work, I will say the affirmation. 

Say the affirmation.

Self-improvement is all about practice. And we practice positive thinking by affirming positive thoughts.

Speak the affirmation out loud for five minutes, three times a day. You can set the schedule, but the standard practice is morning, afternoon and evening.

Try saying the affirmations while looking in the mirror. Make eye contact with yourself. Don’t rush it. Let the phrases sink in.

Try to include your breathing exercise:

Deep breath in → Hold → Exhale slowly → Speak your affirmation

But what if you’re at work or out with friends? Try to write your affirmation multiple times in a notebook. You may also use the Notes app on your phone. This exercise reminds you to think of your affirmations.

Share the affirmation.

If you have a safe person supporting your journey, share your affirmations with them.

For one, they can provide feedback to make the affirmation stronger.

And for another, they can repeat your affirmation to you.

The purpose of an affirmation is to change your self-image. And some of the negative images we have about ourselves come from external factors. So having another person re-affirm that you have these positive qualities is invaluable.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Cleveland Clinic – Do Positive Affirmations Work? What Experts Say

Mind Tools – Using Affirmations

Psychology Today – Affirmations: The Why, What, How, and What If?

My First Affirmations

Most people who provide how-to lists don’t offer examples like this. Perhaps it’s because it’s terrifying to show our vulnerabilities. But this is the purpose of this blog. I hope you will find it helpful.

These were the first affirmations I ever wrote for myself. They took all night as I kept narrowing down the negative side. I really wanted a clear base to build from.

An example of my first affirmations, shown exactly as I described the 4 steps to create affirmations

Looking at these examples now, I think they could use some improvement. However, at the time, they felt right, and they supported me.

After writing these affirmations, I wrote them on a post-it and hung them next to my bedroom mirror.

I felt ridiculous when I started using them, as I still felt the stigma. But I wanted to make positive changes, and I trusted the judgement of my friends who used affirmations.

I started saying them when I was getting dressed, during my lunch break and through my nightly shower.

I did find six affirmations challenging to manage at first.

It was challenging to remember all six and their exact wording. Plus some of them are just too long.

I would start by creating only one or two at a time and slowly adding more.

And edit them as you need to.

Have you ever created an affirmation? What advice would you share?