Cost-Effective Tips to Sleep Better and Boost your Mental Health

Hi folks!

This week I’m featuring a guest writer… mental health blogger Cheryl Conklin! Enjoy her fantastic post on free or low-cost tips to sleep better. And if you’d like to see more content from her, visit her website.


Have you been struggling to get enough sleep? If you’re struggling with sleeplessness or insomnia, you’re more at risk of developing a mental health concern, and if you suffer from depression or anxiety, lack of sleep will make your condition even worse. Improve your sleep habits and boost your mental health with these money-saving options for better sleep.

Sleep and Mental Health

If you’ve been sleeping poorly, then you’re likely to experience low energy, reduced productivity, and increased irritability and moodiness. You may start to notice fluctuations in your weight, and have difficulty remembering details. Sleep and mental health are closely linked and sleeping poorly will negatively impact your mental health.

Finding your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and sticking with it will help you sleep better; if you naturally feel sleepy at 10 pm, give yourself permission to go to sleep early and wake up early. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend any money to develop a healthy sleep routine.

Reducing Stress

Reducing stress is extremely important when it comes to managing your mental health. At the end of each night, give yourself an hour to wind down. Turn off your TV, put your phone away, and dim the lighting as you focus on managing your overall stress levels. You can practice relaxation or deep breathing techniques, take a warm bath, or listen to an audiobook — there are plenty of free options available online.

Practice reducing stress during the day by focusing on one task at a time, avoiding incessantly checking your phone, and taking a break from multitasking. In the evening you’ll be able to relax more easily, and enjoy a peaceful night. If you have trouble putting the phone down, there are free smartphone apps that help your mind unwind.

Make your Room the Perfect Place to Sleep

You may think you can sleep anywhere, but taking the time to make your room the perfect place for deep sleep will improve your sleep and help you maintain your mental health.

Start by turning down the temperature. Not only will this help you sleep, but it will also save you money! It can be difficult to sleep if the room is too warm, and the ideal sleeping temperature is around 65 degrees.

Next, make sure your bed is comfortable with a firm mattress, soft sheets, and a pillow that’s designed for your sleeping position. If you’re in the market for some new bedclothes, has a list of affordable retailers that can help keep those costs down.

Devices that Can Help you Sleep

If you’ve been struggling to sleep, and it’s causing more stress and anxiety in your life, you can find some helpful devices to sleep better. A white noise machine can help you sleep soundly through the night, make it easier to fall asleep, and lowering your chances of waking during the night. Check your local Kohls or shop online with Kohls coupons and promo codes for the best
money-saving options on devices that will help you sleep.

Other items that can help you sleep include weighted blankets, a quality memory foam pillow, a light alarm clock that will wake you peacefully without the loud alarm, and a sleep tracker to give you accurate information about your sleep patterns.

Natural Remedies to Sleep Better

If you want some natural remedies to help you sleep better, try melatonin for natural sleep. Melatonin is the hormone your body produces in the evening, and taking a melatonin supplement will encourage your body to sleep. Valerian root is another popular natural remedy and this plant also treats anxiety and depression.

Essential oils such as sweet marjoram or roman chamomile can be used as an effective sleep supplement. Lavender has a soothing aroma that encourages deep sleep, and a scented pillow or essential oil diffuser can help you sleep. Using natural remedies is a cost-effective, safe, and healthy way to sleep better.

Are you tired of tossing and turning all night? Follow these tips for better sleep, and boost your mental health. Find ways to reduce your stress during the day and the night, make your room cozy, and find the natural remedies that will help you sleep soundly.

Am I in a Toxic Relationship?

Trigger warning: Verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse are referenced in this post and specific examples are given.

Cutting ‘toxic’ people out of our lives seems to be the talk of the town these days. But what does it actually mean?

Toxic relationships can be with a significant other, but they can also occur within friendships, family relationships… even work relationships, like between a boss and employee.

Here, in no particular order, are 10 signs that a relationship you’re in may be toxic.

#1. Feeling like you’re constantly walking on eggshells

When you’re around the person in question, do you choose your words painstakingly carefully? And even then, sometimes one little thing you say turns into a blowout argument, or the silent treatment?

In a healthy relationship, both parties can express themselves openly and disagree. If you don’t feel emotionally safe to do so, it could be a sign that the relationship is toxic.

#2. Put-downs and insults

“You’re so dumb.” “Why do you dress like a slut?” “Hey a**hole! Answer your phone!”

These words and phrases may be played off as “just a joke,” or dismissed – “You know I didn’t mean it.”

But put-downs hurt, and they erode self-esteem over time. Put-downs and insults constitute verbal and emotional abuse, and are a sign of toxicity.

#3. Lying

Sometimes, it can be really hard to tell if someone is lying. Especially if you have a history of relationships with people who lied and cheated. You may be very attuned to behaviors or reactions that may not actually indicate dishonesty.

That said, most people who lie are in the habit of doing so. Sooner or later, they will be caught.

Honesty and trust are necessary to create a foundation for a healthy relationship. Without them, it’s nearly impossible to establish a healthy dynamic.

#4. Minimizing feelings and accomplishments

One of the most common ways that people minimize feelings is accusing someone of being “too sensitive” or “overreacting.”

If something hurts your feelings, it hurts your feelings! Period, end of story. You have every right to feel angry, sad, disappointed, or whatever else.

In a healthy relationship, each person understands and takes ownership for how they’ve hurt the other, even if it was unintentional.

In a toxic relationship, career choices or hobbies (in addition to feelings) could be dismissed as being silly or outlandish, or not acknowledged at all. A healthier dynamic occurs when each person supports one another and their dreams.

#5. Power struggles and ultimatums

A power struggle occurs when both parties in a relationship are refusing to budge, waiting for the other person to give in to what they want or how they see things. The problem with power struggles is that they don’t get anyone anywhere, except feeling angrier and more resentful than when they began.

An ultimatum is the biggest power struggle of all. There may be rare occasions when ultimatums are an effective choice. When people use ultimatums frequently or ineffectively, it’s not a good sign.

#6. Emotional withholding

… also known as “the silent treatment” or “the cold shoulder.” Emotional withholding is a lack of physical affection or praise and positive feedback (There’s a great post on emotional withholding here). Often, one person will emotionally withhold when the other has done something they dislike; this manipulates the other person into doing what they want more often.

In healthy relationships, both parties are able to provide the other with physical and verbal affection, and talk to each other about their emotions.

#7. Gaslighting

If you aren’t familiar with the term gaslighting, it means slowly making someone feel ‘crazy.’ People gaslight people by dismissing their experiences, telling them they aren’t remembering things correctly, or that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation meant to chip away at the target’s self-esteem. It’s a common sign of relationship toxicity.

#8. Mismatched effort

In toxic relationships, one person may invest significantly more effort than the other. For example, one person works, parents, cooks, cleans, works on themselves, tries to understand the other person… and the other person? They… don’t do much. Perhaps in a friendship, this would look like one person making plans all the time, giving rides or lending money, while the other doesn’t reciprocate.

There are times in every relationship when one person might get sick or have financial problems, and need more help than the other for a while. But if this dynamic persists over months or years, or is extremely pronounced, it may be a sign of a toxic relationship.

#9. Lack of privacy

If one or both people in the relationship read one another’s texts and e-mails, keep tabs on the other’s whereabouts, and/or don’t do anything without the other, this indicates a lack of privacy. We want to be open and honest in relationships, but at the same time, some space and time apart is good. Space indicates trust and establishes each of you as individuals.

#10. Physical or sexual abuse

When most of us think of physical abuse, we picture someone with a black eye. And certainly, punching and hitting constitute physical abuse. But physical abuse can also look like physical intimidation by cornering someone or blocking a doorway. Physical abuse can be grabbing someone’s shoulders or arms. Destroying someone’s property is also physical abuse. And sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual contact (not limited to penetration), including kissing, oral sex, and so on.

I know this is a lot of detail to go into, but it’s important for people to know so they can recognize the signs. Be aware that what may start out as small infractions can escalate quickly.

I think I might be in a toxic relationship. Now what?

Common sense would say that the best thing to do is leave the relationship right away.

I want to be very clear: that is NOT a one-size-fits-all solution.

Many people in toxic relationships are dependent on the other person for money, housing and so on, or are afraid that if they leave, the other person may try to find them and retaliate. Sound like you? You may want to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

If you might be in a toxic relationship, I highly recommend seeing a clinical therapist such as myself or someone in your area. Individual, family therapy, or both may help. Even if your concerns don’t feel ‘severe,’ you may benefit from talking to someone about them.

Remember: My blog posts are intended to provide general information, and do not constitute therapy.

Learn more about teletherapy.

Find out more about anger and forgiveness.

3 Misconceptions about Psychotherapy

Over the winter holidays, I was talking to some of my extended family members about what I do (I’m a clinical social worker / therapist). The conversation reminded me of all the misconceptions about psychotherapy out there.

Most people’s first or only exposure to therapy is on T.V. And on T.V., therapists are typically portrayed as three things: lazy, a scam artist, or a hot mess.

There are starting to be some better portrayals of therapists in the media, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Naomi Watts as psychotherapist Jean Holloway is the hot mess archetype.

The other association that most people have with therapy is Freud. Admittedly, Freud laid a lot of the groundwork for psychology. But the field has changed so much since the turn of the last century. I mean, think of how much the medical field has changed in the past 100 years – the same is true for mental health treatment.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is still practiced today, but even that approach has come a long way, baby.

Sigmund Freud: A blessing and a curse to psychotherapists everywhere.

So if you’ve been hesitating to seek therapy because you don’t want to lay back on a couch and talk about your mother, hold onto your hat! Here are 3 of the most common myths about therapy, explained.

Misconception #1. Therapy is only for ‘crazy’ people.

I’ve been trying (admittedly, without much success) to eliminate the word ‘crazy’ from my vocabulary.

‘Crazy’ is a word that we use to label people whose behavior that doesn’t make sense to us, or seems out of control.

But when you get to know people, there IS an explanation for their behavior like, 99% of the time. We just don’t always know what it is.

Many people with mental illnesses DO go to therapy. But people with mental illnesses aren’t ‘crazy.’ They’re just people. And mental illness is just a part of the complex people that they are.

Fine, then: Therapy is only for mentally ill people. What makes that a misconception?

People seek therapy for a huge variety of reasons; mental illness is just one of them.

People also go to therapy to cope with grief, marriage, divorce, career changes, moves, adjusting to life with a new baby… the list goes on and on.

Life is tough, and the ways we respond to stressors can be weird and confusing. Having a therapist to talk everything over with can be really helpful.

Misconception #2. All people talk about in therapy is their childhood traumas.

This misconception definitely stems from Freud. He theorized that all of our problems in adulthood can be traced back to unmet needs in our childhood. There’s some truth to that theory.

The point of therapy is to focus on your goals, and what is helpful for you. Talking about the past is helpful for some people, but not everyone.

No therapist worth their salt will force you to talk about things you don’t want to talk about. That could be re-traumatizing.

You may start out not wanting to talk about your past, but be more open to the idea once you trust your therapist. That happens all the time. The point is, it’s up to YOU and your therapist to make that decision.

Then, what do you talk about in therapy?

Your life. Your career, your relationships, what you’re struggling with, what’s going well…

Many people spend their therapy hour learning about different emotions, or how anxiety works, or learning a breathing technique to help them cope. Again, it all depends on your wants and needs.

If you’re not sure what your wants and needs are right now, that’s okay! That’s something you and your therapist can figure out together.

Misconception #3. Therapists give advice.

Advice is telling someone what you would do in their situation, or what you think the best course of action is.

Therapists don’t do that.

Why? Well… because we know that we’re not you. We know that you are an entirely separate person with different goals and a different perspective than us.

Our goal is to help you towards what you want, not what we think is best for you.

So what do therapists do?

We help people weigh the pros and cons of decisions they have to make. We ask key questions to get people to consider different facets of a decision. We reflect back the logic and emotional reactions we’re hearing from them.

Most importantly, we give people a safe space to make decisions without judgment. If you’ve never experienced that before, let me tell you as someone who’s been in therapy before, it’s pretty valuable.

What other misconceptions about psychotherapy come to mind? Comment below. I bet there are enough out there that I could make a few more posts.


Make New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

Not everyone feels excited about the New Year. Many people feel pressured to make changes at a time of year that’s already stressful.

So let me preface this post by stating clearly: no one needs to make New Year’s Resolutions.

For one thing, any of us can set goals and work towards them at any time of year.

For another thing, it’s often healthy to work on accepting ourselves as we are right now, rather than focusing on what we are not. Whether or not to make a resolution really just depends on YOU and your individual needs.

My Experience with Resolutions that Stick

With all that being said, let’s assume you DO want to make a resolution. Maybe you’ve tried in the past, but lost motivation after a few weeks or months.

Personally, I’ve had success with New Year’s Resolutions. One in particular comes to mind: Quitting smoking.

On January 1, 2017, I quit cigarettes for good. For me, something about the year mark was motivating; I didn’t want to mess up that date.

So, if you, too, are ready to make a resolution, I’d like to share what I’ve learned personally and professionally about what works. Here are 5 tips and examples for making resolutions that stick!

#5 Think Small

I know, right? This is quite a change from what we typically hear. “Think big!” “Dream big!”

Go for a SMALL change if you want resolutions to last long term. Big changes are often only sustainable for a few days or weeks. After that, most people can’t realistically keep up a big change within the lifestyle what they want.

So, scale down. Be realistic, not idealistic. You can always increase the scale of the change once you’ve adjusted to the small change.

#5 Think Small Example

Instead of… “I want to work out for 2 hours every day.”

Try… “I want to work out for 2 hours twice per week.”

Why? Well, think about it. Is 2 hours a day realistic for you? Maybe it is. But what about when you get sick? Or go on vacation? Or work picks up and you have to stay late? For me, 2 days per week is still doable under most of those circumstances… but daily? Not so much.

#4 Be Specific

In order to create resolutions that stick, you must clarify the exact action you want to take and when!

Vagueness leads to confusion and procrastination. If your goal isn’t specific, you may conveniently find a lot of excuses or loopholes.

#4 Be Specific Example

Instead of… “I’m going to talk to a therapist in 2020.”

Try… “I’m going to contact a therapist by January 10, 2020.”

Why? “Talk to a therapist” is too vague. Does it mean call, or have a session with, or talk to a friend of yours who happens to be a therapist? And “in 2020” could mean you call a therapist December 31, 2020. Be specific!

#3 Consistency Counts

Making a behavior a regular part of your routine has two benefits. First, it makes you more likely to keep doing it. Second, it increases the benefits of the behavior!

#3 Consistency Counts Example

Instead of… going to a weekend meditation retreat once annually.

Try… meditating for 5 minutes every day.

Why? Studies show consistent meditation over a period of time has great benefits… but results are mixed about short-term meditation. Plus, meditating for 5 minutes every day is much less expensive than paying for a retreat!

#2 Develop an Accountability System

Whatever you’re working towards, accountability is a big part of resolutions that stick.

Loop your family and friends into your resolution. Join an accountability group on Facebook or at a gym. Get an accountability buddy to check in with you about your progress.

You can also stay accountable without involving anyone, by tracking your progress in a planner or calendar.

Which system you choose matters less than figuring out one that works for you personally.

#2 Accountability System Example

Instead of… keeping your goal to yourself.

Try… ask someone to join you in reaching your goal (or at least, check in with you about it).

Why? Increased motivation to stay focused on your resolution: You won’t want to let your buddy down!

#1 Progress, not Perfection

So, you know how at the beginning of this article I said I quit cigarettes January 1, 2017?

I did. But in all honesty, I have had 2 slip-ups since that stop date. Hey, I’m only human.

Each time I slipped up, I quickly realized how disgusting cigarettes taste and how much I don’t want to start again. So in a bizarre way, those relapses were sort of a good thing. They confirmed my decision.

I’m not saying that you should try to mess up. But if it happens, go easy on yourself, and return to your original plan.

#1 Progress, not Perfection Example

Instead of… “I failed. I’m a loser. I might as well give up.”

Try… “I made a mistake. I’m only human. I’m going to get back on the horse tomorrow.”

Why? Because being hard on yourself does NOT help you stay consistent with your goal. Negative self-talk decreases self-confidence and hope, which makes you less likely to work towards your goals.

By the way, you can read more about the relationship between perfectionism and procrastination here, and more about self-compassion here!

Do you have any other tips for making New Year’s Resolutions that stick? Have you tried any in this article that worked for you? Comment your answer below!

If you found this article helpful, please give it a “like” below, and share it with a friend.

Have a Happy New Year!


Where to?

Read more about my thoughts on quick fixes.

Start therapy today.

Check out this APA article on how to make resolutions stick.