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Op/Ed

10 mental health apps for active maintenance and mindfulness

(EDITORIAL) There are virtually hundreds of apps available to help you deal with mental health problems. Here are 10 good services which can help you monitor your mental health and help you learn to reduce stress.

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talkspace mental health

Let’s face it, making an appointment with your doctor isn’t always easy. When it comes to mental health clinicians, it can take three to four weeks to get an appointment. Most clinicians only see patients during the day, and if you need prolonged therapy, it can be difficult to get away for a couple of hours each week to see someone.

Fortunately, the internet has some answers. There are virtually hundreds of apps available to help you deal with mental health problems. Here are 10 good services which can help you monitor your mental health and help you learn to reduce stress.

**Please note** – If you’re in a crisis, you should seek professional help immediately. Call 911, or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1‑800‑273‑TALK.

Below are 10 wonderful mental health apps to choose from:

1. Breathe2Relax
iOS, Android
Free

Breathe2Relax walks you through belly breathing, which is supposed to decrease the body’s fight-or-flight response. Before you do the exercise, you measure your stress. When finished, you report how you feel. This is a good reminder to practice healthy breathing techniques and to slow down when stressed or angry.

2. Lantern
Web-based with iOS supplemental app for users
Monthly fee

With Lantern , you take an assessment to test to find your strengths and weaknesses and what you want to work on. You’re matched with one of their customized plans and a professional coach who is an expert in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. It is a subscription based service, but the price per month might be less than a weekly appointment with a professional therapist.

3. Talkspace
Web, iOS, Android
Monthly fee

Talkspace is a subscription therapy service, with therapists available throughout the day. You send a message to your therapist in a private chat room. There are no contracts, and you are charged on a monthly basis. All therapists are carefully selected and have more than 3,000 hours of clinical experience.

4. PTSD Coach
iOS, Android
Free

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD developed PTSD Coach app for veterans, active military personnel and civilians to help deal with the symptoms of PTSD. It’s not a clinical tool, but it can help you track symptoms and find out what works over time. I felt like it was a bit clunky to set up, but it’s very practical in nature.

5. Optimism
Web, iOS, Android
Free with in-app purchases to send data to a clinician

Optimism is an app that focuses on self-tracking your mood and other triggers to your mental health. Not only can you get a better understanding of your mental health and find methods that work in reducing stress, you can also set up a wellness plan. The fee-based aspect of the app lets you send information to your clinician. Your family members can also use the app to help give you information about your behavior.

6. SAM: Self Help for Anxiety Management
iOS, Android
Free

Cope with anxiety using SAM. The app offers 25 self-help options that can be personalized to your own worries. You record your anxiety levels and identify triggers, then you get ideas on how to manage you stress. There is an anonymous social cloud feature where you can talk to others who are using the app. The iPhone says that the app might slow down your phone.

7. Pacifica
Web, iOS, Android
Free

With Pacifica, you have the ability to track moods and your health to better understand your patterns. You check in daily with your mood and other health habits, then complete mindfulness and therapy-based activities. Pacifica sends an email to you each week with a report. You also have the option to connect with other Pacifica users. It has many more options to help you reach your goals and to change your thought patterns.

8. Headspace Web, iOS, Android
Free for the first 10 days

Headspace helps you learn mindfulness and meditation. It’s recommended to be used in conjunction with a health provider, but if you’re trying to get better with concentration or breathing, this app has some great content. It’s easy to use, and the techniques have been shown to reduce your overall stress.

9. Panic Relief
iOS, Android
Free, upgrade to get more help with the paid version

Panic Relief helps you through progressive muscle relaxation of the arm when you’re experiencing stress and panic. It was designed by Danish researchers to help clients get over their fears. The upgraded version includes more options, such as deep breathing techniques, to help you find calm when you’re in a crowd, at the dentist, or on an airplane.

10. 7 Cups of Tea
Web
Free, subscription plans available

7 Cups of Tea boasts more than 13 million conversations as I’m writing this article. The gist of 7 Cups is that you can connect with a trained listener any time of the day or night. The caveat is that these listeners are probably not professionals, just laypeople trained to listen to someone. It’s a great option for those times when you want someone to listen without judging the situation. The paid subscriptions include a therapist for online therapy.

I am a firm believer in therapy and medication to manage depression, anxiety, or any other treatable mental health disorder. Check your insurance for access to virtual doctors and experts. I have Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Oklahoma) and I have that option through the portal.

There’s no shame in needing treatment for mental health issues.

Dawn Brotherton is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

Op/Ed

Your career depends on you, and the mentors you select

(EDITORIAL) Moving up in your career can be dependent on your drive to be better, but improving does depend on who you choose to teach you

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Remember when you were younger and were encouraged to join extra-curricular activities because they would “look good to colleges”? What if the same were true for your career?

While applying to a university may be a thing of the past for you, there are still benefits to having extra-curricular activities that have to do with your career. Networking is a major piece of this, as is finding mentors who will help point you in the right direction.

These out-of-office organizations or clubs differ for every industry, so for the sake of this article, I will use one example that you can then interpret and tailor towards your own career.

The Past President of the national Federal Bar Association, Maria Z. Vathis, is someone who has taken the extra-curricular route throughout her entire career, and it has paid off immensely. Working as an attorney in Chicago, Vathis joined the FBA shortly after beginning her legal career and now is the Past President of the almost 100-year old organization.

She started working her way up the ladder of the Chicago Chapter of the association, and eventually became the president of that chapter. At the same time, she was also becoming involved in the Hellenic Bar Association, and would eventually become national president of that organization, as well.

“Through these organizations, I was fortunate to find mentors and lifelong friends. I was also lucky enough to mentor others and to have opportunities to give back to the community through various outreach projects,” said Vathis. “As a young attorney, it was priceless to gain exposure to successful attorneys and judges and to observe how they conducted themselves. Those judges and attorneys were my role models – whether they knew it or not. I learned how to be a professional and how to work with different personality types through my bar association work.”

Finding people in your industry – not just in your office – can be of great help as you go through the journey of your career. They can help you in the event of a job switch, help collaborate on volunteer-based projects, and help collaborate on career-advancing projects (like writing a book, for example).

And all strong networks often start with the help of a mentor – someone who has once been in your shows and can help you handle the ropes of your new career. Most importantly, they’re someone who you can seek advice from when you’re faced with someone challenging – either good or bad.

“I have been unbelievably fortunate with my mentors, and I cherish those relationships. They are good people, and they have changed my life in positive ways. I still draw on what they taught me to help make important decisions,” said Vathis. “My career success is due in large part to the fact that my mentors took an interest in my career, had faith in my abilities, and supported me while I held various positions in the organizations. Not only is it important to continue having mentors throughout your career, but it is important to recognize that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. You never know who you will learn something from, so it’s important to remain open. Also, after you become seasoned, it is important to give back by mentoring others.”

When asked why it’s important to be part of organizations outside of the office, Vathis explained, “To build a book of business, you need to be visible to others.” She also stresses the importance of putting yourself out there for new affiliations and challenges, because you never know where it may lead.

If you’re unsure of how to start this process, try asking co-workers and other people in your professional life if they have any advice or recommendations of organizations that can help advance your career. Another simple way is to Google “networking events in my area” and see what speaks to you. In addition, never be afraid to reach out to someone with a bit more experience for some advice. Take them out to coffee and pick their brain – you never know what you may learn.

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Op/Ed

Kakeibo: The Japanese art of spending wisely

(EDITORIAL) If regardless of how much money you make, it seems like you’re always short a buck, take a hard look at how you are spending. It could save you a lot.

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control your spending

Raise your hand if you have cash in your wallet.

What is a wallet you ask.

I jest. I know you know what a wallet is. (I hope.) But, sometimes I wonder if cash will go the way of the rotary phone. Seems most folks I know use debit cards, Venmo or their phones to pay for things nowadays.

Ever notice when you go to the store and have a debit or (worse) a credit card at your disposal, your plan to spend $20 ends up more like $50-$100. For example, anyone who shops at Target knows that when they ask you at the checkout, “Did you find everything you needed,” the answer is “ugh… Yes, and then some.”

Living in a plastic economy has made us less cognizant of how we spend money. But, leave it to the Japanese to have a system for putting the thought into buying. It’s called Kakeibo (pronounced kah-ke-boh) and it translates to “household finance ledger” and it’s something most Japanese folks learn to use from the time they are wee children.

The system began in 1904 and was “invented” by a woman name Hana Motoko (also known as Japan’s first female journalist), according to an article on MSNBC. The system is a no-frills way of approaching finances, whether personal or business.

Now, some folks are great at keeping a budget and knowing where the money is going. My mom, for example was the best bookkeeper. Unfortunately, her skills with money didn’t pass down to me. So, I actually purchased a Kakeibo book to try and get my finances in better shape.

You don’t need some special book (save your money), though you can find lots of resources online, including these downloadable forms, but in actuality all you need is a notebook (preferably one to take with you) and a pen. No Technology Required.

If you have been spending money and not knowing where it is going, then it’s going to take some work to change your habits around money.

In her article on MSNBC, Sarah Harvey says what makes Kakeibo different than using an Excel spreadsheet or budget software is the act of physically writing purchases down – it becomes a meditative way of processing spending habits. “Our spending habits are deeply cemented into our daily routine, and the act of spending also includes an emotional aspect that is difficult to detach from,” Harvey says.

As a business owner or entrepreneur, it is also easy to get sucked into believing you have to have new technology, systems and bells and whistles that maybe you don’t need – just yet. Spending goals for a business, just like a personal budget, are important if you plan to stay on track and not lose sight of where your money is going. Lord knows the money flies out the door when starting any new project.

Based on the Kakeibo system, there are some key questions to ask before buying anything that is nonessential (whether for your home or business):

• Can I live without this item?
• Can I afford it? (Based on my finances)
• Will I actually use it?
• Do I have space for it?
• How did I find the item in the first place? (Did I see it in an IG feed? Did I come across it after wandering into a store, am I bored?)
• What is my emotional state today? (Calm? Stressed? Celebratory? Feeling bad about myself?)
• How do I feel about buying it? (Happy? Excited? Indifferent? And how long will this feeling last?)

For Harvey, who learned about Kakeibo while living in Japan, using the system forced her to think more about why she was making purchases. And, she says it doesn’t mean you should cut out the joy of buying, just possibly making better choices when needing retail therapy on a crappy day. She found the small changes she was making were having a positive impact on her savings.

How to be more mindful when spending:

• See something you like, wait 24 hours before buying. Still need it?
• Don’t be a sucker for sales.
• Check your bank balance often. Can you afford what you’re buying?
• Use cash. It’s a different feeling having that money in your hand and letting it go.
• Put reminders in your wallet. What are your goals? Big trip. Then, do you really need new headphones, a bigger TV, a new iPhone, etc.
• Pay attention to what causes you to spend. Are you ordering every monthly service because of some Instagram influencer or, because of some marketing you get online. Change your habits, change your life.

Using the Kakeibo system of a notepad and pen or a Kakeibo book for the process can help you identify goals you have for the week, month and year and allow you to stay on track. Remember, cash is still king.

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Op/Ed

5 Things your home office may not need

(EDITORIAL) Since many of us are working entirely from home now, we are probably getting annoyed at a messy desk, let’s take a crack at minimalism!

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desk minimalism

COVID-19 is changing our behaviors. As more people stay home, they’re seeing (and having to deal with) the clutter in their home. Many people are turning to minimalism to reduce clutter and find more joy. There are many ways to define minimalism. Some people define it as the number of items you own. Others think of it as only owning items that you actually need.

I prefer to think of minimalism as intentionality of possessions. I have a couple of dishes that are not practical, nor do I use them very often. But they belonged to my grandma, and out of sentimentality, I keep them. Most minimalists probably wouldn’t.

They say a messy desk is a sign of creativity. Unfortunately, that same messy desk limits productivity. Harvard Business Review reports that cluttered spaces have negative effects on us. Keep your messy desk, but get rid of the clutter. Take a minimalistic approach to your home office. Here are five things to clean up:

  1. Old technology – When was the last time you printed something for work? Most of us don’t print much anymore. Get rid of the old printers, computer parts, and other pieces of hardware that are collecting dust.
  2. Papers and documents – Go digital, or just save the documents that absolutely matter. Of course, this may vary by industry, but take a hard look at the paper you’ve saved over the past month or so. Then ask yourself whether you will really ever look at it again.
  3. Filing cabinets – If you’re not saving paper, you don’t need filing cabinets.
  4. Trade magazines and journals – Go digital, and keep your magazines on your Kindle, or pass down the print versions to colleagues who may be interested.
  5. Anything unrelated to work – Ok, save the picture of your family and coffee mug, but clean off your desk of things that aren’t required for work. It’s easy for home and work to get mixed up when you’re working and living in one place. Keep it separate for your own peace of mind and better workflow. If space is tight and you’re sharing a dining room table with work, get a laundry basket or box. At the start of the workday, remove home items and put them in the box. Transfer work items to another box at the end of the day. It might seem like a little more work, but it will give you some boundaries.

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