Mental health is just as important as physical fitness. There are two sides to mental health, and both are equally important: what weighs heavily on your mind and what puts wind in your sails.

Many of us share common mental stressors – time, money, work, emotions, and relationships. Ironically it can be too little or too much of each of these that causes stress. While we are never going to eliminate stress, we can address what do we do to manage it and its affect on our health.

As many humans as exist in the world, there exists as many combinations of answers to mental health concerns. For most diagnosis, medication and talk therapy has been proven to be the best practice. I am not trained as a mental health professional in any way. The information provided here is simply to be a resource for conversations about what has worked to help manage the stressors above to bring joy and lightness to my life and to hear what works for other. To make the daily grind something not just palatable, but something we can look forward too. Some of these ideas might be meditation, learning, or hobbies.

Sustainably Productive Friendships & Relationships

Healthy Relationships are part of a Sustainably Productive life. Isolation can interrupt sleep, increase blood pressure and cortisol (the stress hormone), and suppress the immune system. Cultivating these relationships can sometimes be tricky as there are several categories these relationships could fall into. The three I want to dive into more are Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors. The initial discussion on these three relationships was on Episode 16 of the Conscious Contact podcast. I had a lot of thoughts swirling around since then. I want to go into more detail here with you today. 

Think of these categories (Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors) as existing in concentric circles – like a bulls eye. The outer most ring is what the world pelts at us – social media, our local community, our workplace, TV, etc. It is appropriate to have differing levels of intimacy – different relationships on each ring of the bulls eye. But the inside of that bulls eye is closest to the core of you, the true version of yourself that even you might not have fully become aware of yet. 

Who gets access to that inner circle these days? Is that working for you? Is this something you can sustain lifelong if you choose to? The idea is not to make all of your relationships the deepest, it is to know what that relationship is for you and if it needs to slide back a ring. Be true to yourself and your need for connection. 

Let’s take a closer look at each ring.

Influencers

This is the outermost category of your bulls eye. These are the most impersonal relationships. Don’t get me wrong – I love the entertainment industry. I think we all need entertainment in our lives. But have a clear understanding of what those relationships are and be conscious of what you are allowing to seep in.

Online Influencers are the people who are given money or material items to get your eyeballs on a product in hopes you will shell out the cash. We don’t actually have the truth about whether they know, like or trust the product – just that they got something to tell you about it. You don’t know their true intention.

In the real world, influencers exist as well. I remember the first several visits I made to the kids’ elementary school after I first became step-mother. When I got dressed, walked in, and interacted with everyone I had a certain type of woman in mind. I was influenced by “good mothers” that I had seen dropping off their cherubs and volunteering. 

The truth is that I had zero connection with those mothers. Honestly – I don’t even know if they WERE mothers. They could have been teachers, staff, nannies or aunts. I was telling myself a story about what I saw, not necessarily about what I experienced

Fake Friends

When you take a step closer to your core, you encounter the category I call Fake Friends. Stay with me on this and focus on the Friend part, rather than the Fake part. I define a Fake Friend as someone I consider my friend, but they don’t actually know 1) I exist and/or 2) that they are my friend.

The examples I used on the podcast are Jessica Turner (you can read more about her here), Laura Tremaine (linked here), and Kendra Adachi (her podcast is linked here). I dedicate time each week to bond with my online Fake Friends as they release content for me to read and listen to.

Click on the image above to go to the Fake Friends episode to hear the original discussion about Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors.

But let me give you a few examples a little closer to my own life. The librarian I talk to on the regular when I pick up my books is doing her job. I assure you that she does not think about me for one more second once I print my book receipt and get out of her hair. But you cannot recommend such good books to me and not be my friend. I have that connection with  a few farmers at the market and Amanda at the yarn store. Here is the difference: My online Fake Friends and my real life Fake Friends have shared enough with me to know we have some kind of connection. 

Yarn store Amanda knows basics about my dad’s health stuff because she helped me pick out a knitting project and yarn to keep me going while I was in Indiana for an extended time. Then she shared some of her stuff to let me know she related to my situation. 

I was honest with a couple farmers about not liking vegetables, knowing zilch about prepping them, but showed interest in learning both. They shared about people in their family who did not eat what they grew either and suggested ways to get around that. 

Online is no different – Jessica, Laura and Kendra (we are on first name basis, naturally) have all shared some hard stuff and associated lessons in their writing and on podcasts. And Jessica even on the Today Show! I am sure there is more to each of their stories. I am sure there is stuff they do not share publicly. This is where the Fake part comes in. I am not deranged, I know these are not real friendships. But they are a part of the concentric circles of relationships. 

There is one more section to cover today – the people I call Mentors. 

Mentors

This is the inner most circle to your bulls eye. Your most trusted group of relationships – the ones that perhaps have seen you cry and / or vice versa. Sometimes my brain gets a little sideways and knowing I can run my reactions and responses by someone else who knows the body count is helpful. I call this my personal Board of Directors. 

These are relationships that I have in real life. Trusted women (plus Bixby) that I can bounce ideas off of. Bonus – I know the response coming back is filled with love, respect, and truth in a way that I can hear it. Couple things about this.

1) Yes, all women except my husband. For a long time I did not trust, truly know or like many women. This has shifted as I got older, and I cherish the women in my life now. 

2) My Board of Directors tells me the truth in a way I can hear it. This means they know me well enough to know what that means. Not the kiss and kick method of delivering feedback at work. Not a dump and run when and how it works for the message deliverer. Together we work through some hard shit. Emphasis on together. 

In summary, I want to suggest that you be aware of the relationships in your life and if they are helping you create a Sustainably Productive life. Stay connected to yourself in all of your relationships so that you can stay true to yourself. 

Sustainable Productivity Questions

1 – As with all things Sustainably Productive, I encourage you to start where you are. Think of dividing life into a pie chart. At the very minimum, a Sustainably Productive life would have equal division of Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors. Literally get a scrap piece of paper, draw a circle. Think about who you spent time with in the last 7 days. Which categories do these people fall into?

2 – How do you feel about this division? If the division is not working for you, what relationships fall into the category you want to impact first? Just identify what is not working. Small steps lead to bigger change.

If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. 

By |2022-09-07T20:02:27-04:00September 13th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Making Extremism Sustainably Productive

Recently my cohost and I unpacked Extremism on the Conscious Contact podcast. Extremism is the idea of choosing a side and believing the other side is garbage. It is black and white thinking that often dismisses the whole other argument, not even considering there could be a thread of value. 

This was not a super comfortable discussion for me, and I was not looking forward to it as the day of recording approached. 

For decades my MO was to skim along the surface of a discussion long enough to be socially acceptable, then bolt. Ironically those are also the decades where I had no opinions of my own. In all of my relationships (as a daughter, employee, partner, friend) I liked what you liked. I believed what you believed.

Spoiler Alert: This is not the sign of a functional relationship. 

“When we avoid difficult conversations, we trade short-term discomfort for long-term dysfunction.” Peter Bromberg

Difficult conversations and disagreements are a natural part of healthy relationships. And healthy relationships are a component of the Mental Well-being dimension of Sustainable Productivity. When we return to our basic definition of Sustainable Productivity, this tracks. Take for example, 20 to 40 year old Sue and her go along to get along attitude. 

Is it Productive: Are you getting the result you want?

Is it Sustainable: Can you continue lifelong if you want?

Along the surface, sure – being agreeable was getting people to like me. But they were really just liking the Sue that agreed with them – not necessarily the real me. Taking it a step further, today I believe that not knowing the real me is also not sustainable.

That is how this whole writing and podcasting thing was born. I started making small adjustments to live a life I did not need to escape. One of those is having hard conversations with people who I trust and feel safe with.

Here are a few things that help me have these difficult conversations. Maybe they will help you too.

1 – Acknowledge out loud the conversation is hard for you. Verbalizing that the words are stuck in my throat helps the other person understand what the pauses mean and why my words are coming slowly.

2 – Breathe. Often my first thought is wrong. Breathing gives me a chance to respond using my second (or third) thought instead of reacting. Breathing also loosens the words stuck in my throat. Bonus if I am in a setting where I don’t feel ok to cry. Breathing will even out my voice to avoid the crack that always comes when I am emotional. 

3 – Set a time limit. If you don’t think ahead to set a certain amount of time to talk and you find yourself needing a break, voice that. I have said, “I need to take a break here. I want to hear more of what you have to say, can we come back together at 5pm to talk about this again?”

Now it is your turn. Take a few minutes to answer the following questions – either in your journal, in your mind on your daily dog walk, email me at Susan@SustainableSue.com or on social media. The more we talk about the hard things, the less extreme they will feel. 

Sustainable Productivity Questions

1 – Are there topics in your life where you trend toward Extremism?

2 – After listening to the podcast (Season 2, Episode 13), is there one small adjustment you can take to your relationships to make them more work for you in a way you can continue?

Click the icon above to go to listen to the Extremism episode.
By |2022-08-22T10:53:04-04:00August 23rd, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

The Power of Words

As part of the on ramp to my days, I read a couple daily devotion books, meditate, then read a non-fiction book for 5-10 minutes. I was recently struck by how powerful these words were that described an individual’s spiritual awakening. Perhaps this landed so strongly with me because I fancy myself a gardener and love all things nature. But the phrasing and imagery expressed was so beautiful, I had to share it.

“He was on different footing. His roots grasped a new soil.”

Think about transplanting the treasures from the plastic store pots to our gardens. We amend the soil and make the most hospitable home for our newly found plant friends to thrive and grow. This is the analogy described here, “…grasped a new soil.” When we make those Sustainably Productive (Sus Pro) small adjustments, we allow ourselves to grasp new soil, to take root inch by inch in a new way of living.

“It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last.”

I don’t know about you, but I am often too smart for my own good. While I am full of righteous indignation, I am on the mountain top alone. And it is cold up there. By giving up what we must, we can melt that icy exterior of our protective walls and step into the sunlight.

And we can do this as many times as it takes.

“I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch.”

Source: photo by József Koller on Unsplash 

Please tell me I am not the only one whose weed pulling never ends. Pruning branches, removing volunteer plants, weeding, weeding weeding – it does not end. But we do have a better chance at removing the offender if we take the time to dig to get to the bottom of the root. We may not get as many weeds, but if we ruthlessly get to the bottom of one at a time, we will slowly make a difference.

The same can be said for the things that do not serve us anymore. Do we have attitudes that are no longer productive? What about habits that are not sustainable? In order to get rid of them and make way for more Sus Pro habits, we need to remove them root and branch. With thorough interrogation as to why they took root there in the first place. Perhaps you were raised to believe you could not take a rest and always had to be busy. Maybe being perceived as overweight was shamed in your family growing up. Some people feel an expectation to never say I don’t know. Get to the root of the issue to eradicate it.

“I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through.”

As much as I love summer, the cold bracing air of a winter wind does feel cleansing. Especially when it is accompanied by a piercing blue sky and a fresh dumping of snow. That is the image I can see and feel – almost even smell! – when I read about the “great clean wind of a mountain top”.


Source: photo by Hendrik Morkel on Unsplash 

Imagine being in the sunlight of the spirit having cleared out your side of the street and feeling that cleansing wind on your face.

Sustainable Productivity Questions

1 – When is the last time you read something that resonated with your senses, not just your mind?

2 – What was it that connected with you and how can you get more of it?

3 – If you have not felt connected like that in some time, where can you make some changes to seek out authentic connection?

By |2022-09-18T10:00:32-04:00August 16th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

About That Coping Skills Episode…

I have gotten quite a bit of feedback from the Coping Skills podcast episode that dropped earlier in July. It was definitely an episode that I was nervous to put out in the world because I am such a people pleaser. I was afraid that I would hurt the feelings of those who have known me for a long time and might not know some of this stuff.

Click on the picture to go to the episode or download anywhere you get your podcasts (Season 2, Episode 9).

I was also afraid of “telling secrets” to those who don’t know me as well. But remember the question to ask a people pleaser:

Where are all the pleased people?

Now I like to say I am a recovering people pleaser. I lived as a people pleaser for as long as it was working for me. It was a coping skill and honestly, it worked.

Oh, Tiny Buddha. You know me so well.

Until it did not work. When your coping skills cause more pain that they prevent, it is time to do something different. I love this quote from Peggy Cahn, “It’s quite uncomfortable to be an adolescent at the age of 32.”

Samesies, Peggy. Samesies.

This is not to say its all beer and Skittles, as the saying goes. As I have improved my coping skills, shed some unhealthy responses, and generally stopped (ok, cut down) on my dancing monkey personality, not everyone loves it.

But those are not my people. And that is ok. I am not for everyone, truly. Most days I acknowledge that and don’t mind. Because by not being for everyone, I can make space for those who I am enough for.

Dr Caroline Leaf sure can drop some truth.

I wonder if this might ring true to you? Is there someone in your life that you keep trying and trying to connect with because it seems like you “should?” Are friendships changing as you or your kids get older? Do you miss a relationship that got away from you during a period of your life that was survival mode?

By |2022-07-25T09:19:44-04:00July 26th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

The Moment Has Arrived

The moment I have been waiting for has arrived.

After almost a decade of wondering if it would really happen.

It did.

My teenager wanted to spend time with me!

I guess it helps that she is now 20. But I will take what I can get.

In June we went to Sunshine Lavender Farm for their festival and it was such a good time. One of the activities we all participated in was glassblowing. My uncle was a glassblower that traveled around to different shows and such so it has always interested me. When I had a chance to do it myself, I jumped at the chance. Then it got even better when Daughter and Bixby wanted to join too!

I knew that it would not be easy nor turn out as beautiful as Uncle Bill’s creations. I read somewhere recently that the foundation of curiosity is humility. I knew I might just come back with a lump of glass, but I also knew that just learning more from the glass blower and doing this activity with my people would be well worth it. This message may sound familiar as it was the foundation of the recent podcast episode on hobbies.

On the day of the event, we each got to choose our colors and the artist worked with us to create our globes. The master glassblower is George-ann Greth – she is just fantastic. She was no nonsense, which I appreciated because I was nervous with heat of the fire. Once she found out Daughter was an artist too, she ignored the rest of us and chatted up Daughter on all things art. It was neat to sit back and just watch Daughter be Adult Person.

After the event, George-ann took the projects back to her studio for them to cool. They cool in a kiln – isn’t that crazy!? The same kiln that heats up to cure pottery cools glass-blown crafts. Then she finished them into hummingbird feeders for us. Sunshine Lavender Farm shipped them to us about a week later.

We hung each of the feeders in different places in the front and back garden so that we can all see them from where we are in the house. The one below is Daughter’s and she can see it from her bedroom window. While the experience itself was the reward, I love that we created the souvenir that will remind us of the time we spent together.

By |2022-07-19T09:07:57-04:00July 19th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Everyone Else Is Doing It….

We just passed the midway point to the year, and you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a “Best Books of the Year (so far)” article. Or is that just a bookwork problem?

I regularly send out my 5-star reads via the Sustainable Sue Bookmobile so the cat is already sort of out of the bag there. Not the aforementioned dead cat being swung. This is a different, literary secret keeping very much alive cat.

But I want to share some of my 2022 reading adventures thus far.

Book Sale

I have started volunteering for a local book sale and it is GLORIOUS. Talking books, shelving books, cleaning books, pricing and selling books – DOES IT GET ANY BETTER?!

YES! I got to shop too! Here is my haul.

“It’s always better to have too much to read than not enough.” Ann Patchett

A few of these were actually on my To Be Read list! Toughness by Jay Bilas was the first book I put on Goodreads when I first started my account. And listen, I don’t need anyone naysayers. Don’t come at me with that nonsense about all the books already piled on my nightstand, in Bixby’s nightstand (shhhhh, don’t tell him), on hold at the library, etc.

I could be collecting weirder, unhealthier things. Just watch Hoarders to find that out.

Book Stats

My goal for 2022 was to read 100 books. I have started 89 books and completed 75 so far. Yes, I have quit 14 books – almost 20%. Life is too short to read books that you don’t connect with. I have no shame in my DNF game.

Here are the books I am currently reading:

  • Audiobook: Hidden One by Linda Castillo
  • Physical book: Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly (I already watched both TV adaptations, but its great for the pool)
  • Non-fiction: The Force of Kindness: Change Your Life with Love & Compassion by Sharon Salzberg
  • Kindle: Out of the Ashes by Samantha Grosser

I am not linking to any of these yet since I have not finished I am not sure I can recommend them.

Book Fashion

In related news, I want to be able to read no matter WHAT and my aging eyeballs were not cooperating. I was losing easy readers all over the house, forgetting which easy readers were the right prescription for laptop, work computer, car, crafting, and physical books, and generally hating having to put contacts in to see distance only to need to put glasses back on to read.

So I bit the bullet and shelled out mad cash for some bifocals. Or progressives as is said now. I am not sad about it.

What are you reading these days? Come find me on social media or wherever you got this post and let me know!

Until then… Read on!

By |2022-07-12T09:55:36-04:00July 12th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

It’s My Birthday!!!

I am posting this a day early because today is my birthday!! I am 48 years old!!

Genay and I talked all things celebratory this week on the podcast, and I hope you will take a listen.

Lordy Lordy, Susan’s Forty (eight).

But I also want to build on that discussion with you here.

Stop relying on other people to celebrate you. See if any of these scenarios resonate with you:

  1. You are mad no one got you the gift you wanted. The gift you hinted at for weeks!
  2. You feel alone because you get balloons for your kids every year on their birthday, but those assholes don’t even wish you happy birthday as you drive them around to activities all day.
  3. Your friend offered to buy lunch for you and did not insist after you turned her down.

Stop being a martyr and celebrate your damn self.

If that feels like a bridge too far, consider this – let others celebrate you. Using our above examples, let’s explore what this could look like.

  1. Buy the gift for yourself or send the link to your Special Someone and ask them to buy this for you.
  2. Tell your kids it is your birthday on the day it is your birthday. I use something like this, “Today is my birthday, I am accepting all well wishes. Wanna tell me happy birthday now or in 10 minutes?” In 10 minutes return to them expectantly.
  3. Let her buy you lunch!!!

Does this all seem desperate and needy? Let me offer a flip of a script for you – if you want to be celebrated, let people celebrate. Don’t make them read your mind. Especially your kids – can you imagine if they REALLY knew what you thought?

I can understand if you still want them to do all of this without the prompting. How is that working for you? This does not seem like the reality that you are living. You cannot get blood from a turnip. This does not mean they don’t love you. This does not mean you are unworthy of celebrating. This means they are not you. You can help them with expectations.

Or you can let go of those expectations. I do a little of both.

Celebrate your damn self. 

For my birthday, I bought myself a new sewing machine, took myself on a birthday bike ride (you can see more about that on Facebook or Instagram), and asked for a specific meal to be made for me. I pretended the meal the kids came over for was for me, not for Bixby’s Father’s Day celebration. I appreciate those who do reach out to celebrate with me, not focus on those that don’t. I acknowledge I’m sad about those missing from the celebration, but that is not a reflection on me. This is a Sustainably Productive birthday strategy that works for me.

What would make it oh so extra special is if you would share this episode of the podcast or this newsletter with a friend who you think might be interested.

Until next time, friends… Find the connection that helps create a life that you don’t need to escape.

By |2022-09-18T10:01:25-04:00June 20th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Podcast: Is it Time for Recovery?

Hot take alert!

We all have the opportunity to be in recovery from something.

Recovery does not only mean abstinence from substances. You could be recovering from shopping addiction, perfectionism, need to be busy, social media, sex / porn or more. In our society we tend to pigeon hole recovery as something for people who cannot handle their liquor (or heroine or whatever substance).

Another hot take coming… It is not about the substance (or shopping, or feeling of importance at being so busy, or the porn). I think it is about feeling disconnected. The opposite of addition is not sobriety, it is connection.

On the podcast we talk about how recovery applies to each of our lives – both the woo woo and the practical, including resources that you might find practical.

One of my favorite “tools” as I am deciding whether something is part of recovery of part of disconnection is to ask myself this:

Will this move me towards or away from health?

Take a quiet moment to connect with yourself or have an honest conversation with an authentic trusted friend. Float the idea that something is not working for you. Peel off the layer to ask yourself / wonder out loud why you continue to do that or what it might be helping you disconnect from.

You may be surprised at what you find.

You can find the episode here. I would love to hear your thoughts on this theory of recovery. If you had a visceral aversion to these ideas, I would be interested to know that too. You can comment below or at susan@sustainablesue.com.

If these messages or the podcast is connecting with you, please share it with someone you think may be ready to hear it as well.

By |2022-05-31T15:52:47-04:00June 6th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Conscious Contact at Work

I have spent quite a few years pretending I knew what I was doing. Approximately 40-some years.

It is exhausting.

In this week’s podcast, Genay and I talk about Conscious Contact in the workplace and for me, this is where imposter syndrome really showed itself.

And man, I sure took it out on a lot of my direct reports. I required perfection at all times and was scared shitless that someone would find out I was clueless on how to get there. I ruined a lot of relationships and drove off a lot of good people – just because they were different from me or needed something I was not able to give them.

Although I stopped managing people in 2010, it took about 7 more years for me to start to loosen the death grip on perfection. Here are a couple tent poles that I keep returning to:

  1. Wearing life like a loose garment.
  2. Learning about the Buddhist concepts of beginner mind.
  3. Having a sense of humor.
  4. Trying new things.

“In the beginners mind, there are many possibilities, but in the experts there are few.” Shunryu Surjuki

Listen to the whole episode at this link or wherever you get your podcasts.

By |2022-05-22T15:06:09-04:00May 24th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Pockets of Joy

Finding joy in a day does not have cost a penny. I was trying to think of something to do that would be fulfilling, free, and somewhat low key.

Solution: The public library.

If you don’t have a library card, stop reading right now and go get one.

I went in thinking I might just wander around and soak in the library vibes – it’s been awhile since I have actually been IN a library. Pros and cons of Kindles I guess.

I accidentally left with 6 books all due in 14 days with no option to renew. And I am not sorry about it.

By |2022-09-18T10:04:33-04:00November 2nd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

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