Spring Cleaning for Your Mind

It’s spring time and as the weather warms up, many of us are opening our windows to let in the fresh air and starting our spring cleaning. It’s a great time of year to get rid of things we don’t need. Spring is also a good time to think about the mental “clutter” like stress, anxiety, racing thoughts or negativity we might be holding on to.

Here are three things you can do to start letting go of this mental “clutter” just as easily as those old sweaters you donated to the thrift store:

  1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness can help quiet your thoughts, relieve anxiety, and relax muscle tension. When you are stressed, it can be hard to focus on the present moment and if you have racing thoughts, the idea of meditation might sound impossible. Don’t worry, just 5 minutes of quiet to focus on your breathing can prepare you to face the day or help you to have more restful sleep. The Mayo Clinic has a great guide on mindfulness, and you might also find phone apps that can help you get started.

  1. Move Your Body

You don’t need to be a fitness fanatic to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of movement. Moving your body is a wonderful way to release stress, boost your mood, and improve health. Fitting a new workout routine into your busy schedule might feel impossible; but the good news is you can benefit from short bursts of activity and find ways to sneak more movement into your daily life.

  1. Find Gratitude

So many of our thoughts can be focused on the negative which can affect the way we feel. Did you know with practice you can learn to change how you are thinking and feeling? Studies have shown being grateful can help increase positive thoughts and attitudes helping us actually feel happier and enjoy better relationships. There are many simple ways to find gratitude, even for the things you may not think are great.

You will find with regular movement, mindful breathing and a regular gratitude practice your well-being will increase and you will reduce your anxiety, negative thinking and stress. Get started and clear out that mental clutter!

Touchstone Residents Meet Al Franken

Touchstone Mental Health hosted Senator Al Franken on January 23, 2016 for an information session with thought leaders highlighting successful strategies to connect housing with integrated health and social services. The conversation centered on the need for housing stability as part of improving healthcare outcomes nationwide. Senator Franken committed to exploring opportunities further with colleagues in Washington, DC. After the meeting the Senator toured Touchstone’s Community Health and Wellness Center and the Rising Cedar assisted living apartment building where he met residents eager to speak with him.

Rising Cedar resident Russell welcomed the Senator into his apartment for a tour and shared more about his experience with housing instability. Before coming to Rising Cedar, Russell was moving between the hospital and unstable housing situations. “Before coming to Touchstone I was in the hospital, before that I was [in temporary housing] at a Touchstone IRTS [Intensive Residential Treatment Services], before that I was in the hospital.” When asked about the future, Russell’s eyes lit up when he spoke of earning his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and genetics from the University of Minnesota and going back to school to get a PhD. Although right now he said the goal feels a bit out of his reach, he has hope it may still be possible someday.

Jill, another Rising Cedar resident, also spoke about going back to school. “I’ve been accepted into a Master’s degree program, but it’s a full-time program and I can’t go to school full-time because then I can’t live here.” She told the Senator that rules preventing full-time students from living in buildings like Rising Cedar hold residents back from reaching their potential. She was thrilled to hear the Senator already agrees and has even introduced legislation to address that very issue.

Opportunities for people who have severe and persistent mental illness to have their voices heard are rare but can lead to feelings of empowerment and pride in our residents. We are grateful to Senator Franken for taking the time to listen, to engage and thoughtfully consider the experiences of these residents in addition to what he learned in the morning session as he returns to Washington.

Aroha Philanthropies Partner Spotlight: Touchstone Mental Health

Russell is 30 years old and holds a degree in Biochemistry and Genetics from the University of Minnesota. He has been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type, and Fibromyalgia, derailing many of his future plans.

He first accessed Touchstone Mental Health (Touchstone) in the fall of 2012 and was living in a group home prior to moving into Touchstone’s Rising Cedar Apartments (Rising Cedar). Rising Cedar opened in 2013, and features 40 one-bedroom apartments and a Community Health and Wellness Center (CHWC). After becoming a resident at Rising Cedar in November 2013 and using the CHWC, Russell is putting his future plans back on track. As Russell states, “Living at Rising Cedar allows for an active lifestyle that would otherwise be beyond the reach of people who live here. The many activities and the attached Health and Wellness Center are very nice. The building is lovely and the garden, calming.”

One aspect of Russell’s recovery is the one-on-one work he does with his counselor, Mary. “My counselor at Rising Cedar is nice and works hard. She helps with many things from opening my mail, setting up appointments, to helping me feel better when I am depressed. I have a close relationship with my counselor so she is able to speak to me on a level I rarely find with psychologists or other mental health professionals,” stated Russell. As for Mary, “I love ‘doing life’ with residents. Seeing them on a day-to-day basis, their struggles and triumphs, I can see the difference all of our work makes.” Jessica, another staff member, has known Russell since before he moved into Rising Cedar and has witnessed the amount of progress he has made. Jessica states, “Every time a resident opens up their life to a counselor or staff member, it is a gift. I value Russell’s ability to allow me to affect his life and willingness to share his experiences with me.”

Aroha Philanthropies is proud to support adult residential mental health organizations like Touchstone and is honored to have participated in the campaign to build Rising Cedar. Touchstone makes such a significant positive impact on people like Russell and allows them to live as independently as possible.

“Touchstone/Rising Cedar is a very accommodating and understanding place to live,” said Russell.

Thank you to Aroha Philanthropies for their support and wonderful partner spotlight originally featured on their website. Learn more about Aroha Philanthropies.