Emerging Blogger Series: Tina

circle patterns in sand

Photo by Jase Ess on Unsplash

The emerging blogger series is a way to give mental health bloggers who are early in their blogging evolution the opportunity to have their work seen by a wider audience.  It’s also a way to introduce you as a reader to some new bloggers you may not have discovered yet.

This week, we have Tina from Really Real Blog, writing on the value of DBT skills.

 

The most life changing program for my mental health has been my DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) Skills Classes.  DBT is a method created by Marsha M. Linehan, originally to treat Borderline Personality Disorder, however, now it is used to treat many mental health diagnoses that cause emotional distress.

My class is taught in a group setting once a week for 6 months, and I’m about to enter the last 6 week module.  In the past four and a half months I’ve gotten so much better at Emotion Regulation, Mindfulness, and Distress Tolerance and this next module will cover skills in Interpersonal Effectiveness.  

One of the skills taught in DBT is Dialectics.  One part of Dialectics is when two opposing things are both true at the same time.  

You can be mad at someone and still love them.  It can be sunny and raining. You can believe something strongly and be wrong.

And in my case the other day, I really love experiencing new things, and new experiences make me incredibly anxious.  

Here’s what happened.  My girlfriend and I had a great date day together.  To end the day she decided to take me out to dinner for fondue which is something I have never done before.  It was a new restaurant with a new style of food and a new way of eating. I loved the idea, but I was super anxious and almost told her I couldn’t do it because my anxiety was a 4 out of 5.  I spent a lot of time ruminating, ramping up the anxiety, getting worse. I was alternating between wanting to run and wanting to lash out so we’d just end the day early and go home.

But I remembered Dialectics.

I can be anxious AND really enjoy the experience.

So instead I spoke to her about it.  I told her how anxious the idea of a new place was making me but that I really wanted to go.  She gave me more details and told me what I could expect at dinner. Being heard and understood helped lessen some, but not all of my anxiety.

I was still pretty anxious going into the restaurant but I was able to sit with it and by the end of dinner I had a fantastic time and I’m so glad we went.

DBT skills often seem simple on the surface, but they are the little things that we don’t think to do when we are in a heated moment.  Having a specific blueprint, a list of skills to work through in those moments, has been radically life changing for me.

I wish more people knew about and could experience this type of therapy.

 

Bio

Tina defines herself as a Self Saving Warrior Princess.  After a lifetime of joy and sadness, trauma and triumph, she can be found writing about widowhood, mental health, and radical vulnerability over at http://www.reallyrealblog.com.

 

Thanks so much Tina for participating in the emerging blogger series!

 

The emerging blogger series logo

Every week I’ll publish an emerging blogger mental health-themed guest post by a blogger who’s early on in their blogging evolution, with priority given to those whose blog has less than 50 WordPress followers.  You can find a listing of all of the posts in the series here.

If you’re interested in being featured in the emerging blogger series, email me at mentalhealthathome (at) gmail (dot) com with a brief description of what you’d like to write about and your blog website.  As long as it fits with the general theme/tone of Mental Health @ Home (i.e. mental health-related in some way, and not broadly disparaging about any form of mental health treatment) we can move forward from there!

How to build a mental health blog

It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game, but I think what’s really important in building a high quality mental health blog is engagement with the mental health community.  This has little to do with numbers and a whole lot to do with human connection.  I’m by no means an expert on any of this, but here are some strategies I’ve stumbled across in my time blogging that hopefully you might find useful when it comes to engagement.

Interact with the blogging community

This is my biggest recommendation.  Read other blogs that are in your niche, and like and comment on those blogs.  Search in the WordPress reader for blogs in that niche that you’re not following yet.  Also, check who else is commenting on the blogs you’re following; that can be a good way to connect with some new people who are interested in the same kind of topics.  Be genuine about trying to engage, because if you get spammy about it, you’re only likely to generate eye rolls.

Make sure your gravatar is connected to your blog site.  Click on your gravatar image on the top right corner of the WordPress reader website, and scroll down to profile links.  Make sure your correct blog address is there.  Sometimes I’ll see someone has followed me and I’m interested in checking out their blog, but I can’t get to it because I get a message saying the blog no longer exists.

If you get an idea from someone else’s post for a topic you want to write about, run with it.  Just make sure to include a link to their post in your own post.  It’s a good way to show you appreciate other bloggers and are part of the community dialogue.

Make your blog easy to read

I think this is particularly important in the mental health blogging niche, since a lot of us have problems with concentration related to our illnesses.  Pay attention to the length of your paragraphs.  With really long paragraphs you run the risk that the reader (such as me) won’t be able to maintain focus through a long unbroken wall of text and will give up on reading that post.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have long posts; just break them up into smaller paragraphs, and maybe throw an image in there somewhere.

Also, think about whether your choices of font and background colours are are easy to read.  Bright colours may add visual interest, but if they’re making it harder to focus on the text readers may be less likely to finish the whole post, which means they’re not going to be interacting with what you have to say.

Include some evergreen content

Evergreen content doesn’t go out of date, and people will continue to read and engage with it well after it’s first published.  A sign that you’ve got some evergreen content is when you keep getting a trickle of views/likes/comments weeks or months after you’ve published a post.  Consider doing follow-up posts on those topics or doing similar kinds of posts every so often to get a mix of evergreen and right-now kind of content.

Use social media

I’m not on Facebook or Instagram, so I can’t comment on those.  On Twitter, you definitely get back what you put in.  I tend to find Twitter overwhelming so I’m not very active on it, and that’s reflected in the amount of traffic that it directs to my blog.

With Pinterest, I used to pin straight from my published blog posts, and got very little traffic.  At some point I started creating designs on Canva and using those to make pins connected to my blog posts.  This bumped up my traffic from Pinterest considerably.  It’s hard to say how many of those people are actually engaging with my posts, but at least there’s the possibility.

Consider SEO

I’m certainly not a search engine optimization (SEO) guru.  Wordpress doesn’t offer advanced SEO tools on the free plan, so I have no experience there, but there are still some things you can do.  I got almost no traffic from search engines in the early days, and it wasn’t until my blog had grown substantially that I started to see that it was reaching people doing mental health-related searches  Still, I think it’s worth getting a foundation of some basic SEO strategies in place right from the get-go.

Google loves external links to your site; these show that not only are you active on your blog, but you’re out there in the broader online community.  These links can be hard to accumulate, but guest posting on other sites (see the next section) can definitely help.  Internal links also matter; this refers to links you include in a post to other posts on your site.  These links can also help your readers to refer back to your other content they may have missed originally.  Google Search Console is a useful tool for keeping track of all this.

Google (and of course blog readers) pays attention to your post name and headings, so make sure those accurately reflect your content.  You can also use tags for your posts, although keep in mind WordPress allows a maximum of 15 tags, after which it will just ignore all your tags.  Making sure your tags are relevant helps people to find your posts.  Google can’t see the images on your site, but what it can see is the “alt text” for each image, so you should enter a descriptive alt text for every image you use.  This is also helpful for any of your readers who are visually impaired.

Share your story

If you share your story with popular mental health sites like Stigma Fighters and Time to Change you can reach a much broader audience, and that can bring some brand new readers back to engage with your blog.  You can find listings of a variety of sites you can submit your writing to in my posts Spreading your writing wings and Ways to share your story.

Another option is to keep an eye out for fellow bloggers looking for a guest poster, or talk to a blogger you engage with regularly about doing a collaboration.  It can help you connect with other bloggers you might not have encountered yet.

Other sources of information

There are countless sites and articles with tips about increasing blog traffic.  Probably the most useful I’ve come across is a post on Startbloggingonline.com.  It has an extensive list of options, and while some of them are more business-oriented, many are also useful for the casual blogger.  A lot of sites focus on monetization, and it’s easy to start feeling like you’re drowning in the sea of information when it comes to that.  Keep in mind whether tips on a given site are geared toward a blog with the same purpose as yours, because pushy marketing strategies are probably not going to be very successful with a smaller-scale mental health blog.

Conclusion

There is no one right way to blog.  The most important thing is that it feels right for you.  Having engagement on your blog, whether that’s 10 loyal followers or 1000, can help make the blogging experience more meaningful.

What has helped you to generate engagement on your blog?

Spreading your writing wings

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So, you’re loving writing your own blog but you’re looking to try something new and expand further out into the world?  Well, there’s actually a lot of opportunities to do just that, so I thought I’d share with you what I’ve been able to find.  Sharing your story is an important way to participate in the fight against stigma.

Guest posts

There are lots of sites that publish guest posts related to mental health; some are looking for your personal stories, while others are open to writing focused on various mental health topics.  There are blogs on WordPress where you can do this, but here I’m going to focus on sites outside of WordPress.  My impression is that you don’t have to be an experienced blogger or have lots of followers to get a guest post published; what matters is writing something that will resonate with people.

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Lifesavers Blog: publishes posts that educate people about suicide and convey hope/healing/resilience
  • Bring Change to Mind: share your personal story in writing or on video
  • Buddy Project: share your story as part of the You Are Not Alone campaign
  • Defying Mental Illness: share your story in the form of a loosely structured interview
  • Healthable; accepts articles on a variety of topics
  • I am 1 in 4: tell your story; prompts are provided to help give you ideas
  • Mental Health Talk: share your story and become one of their Superhero bloggers
  • The Mighty:  The Mighty is a very popular site with some amazing content.  I haven’t felt confident enough to submit an article to them yet, but it is a goal of mine.
  • Mind: This UK-based mental health charity gives you the opportunity to share your story on their site, and offers lots of guidance on how to go about it and what to write about.
  • Mind Body Green: they’re looking for articles related to wellness
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): share personal stories
  • NoStigmas: share your voice in the fight against stigma
  • OC87 Recovery Diaries: share your mental health recovery story
  • Outrun the Stigma: looking for personal stories, and provides prompts to guide you
  • Pick the Brain: welcomes posts on self-improvement for their community blog
  • Respect Yourself: publishes guest blog posts related to mental wellness in youth.  They published a post I submitted on youth suicide prevention.
  • SANE: this UK-based mental health charity has monthly blogging themes
  • #SickNotWeak: tell your story
  • Stamp Out Stigma: share your story
  • Stigma Fighters: share you personal story.  They published a story I submitted about experiencing stigma in the workplace.
  • This Is My Brave: share your recovery journey in written or video form
  • Time to Change: publishes personal stories geared to the general public with an aim of changing people’s views of mental illness.  They published a story I submitted for their #Inyourcorner campaign about how a friend with mental illness and I supported each other.

Other ideas

  • Feedspot: The cool thing about Feedspot is they do ranking lists, including a top 60 mental health blogs list.  When I submitted my blog to their directory a few months ago they offered to feature my blog if I paid them (which I didn’t do), but then this month I ended up on their top 60 list (I’m not really sure what the criteria are for this, but presumably you need to have submitted your blog to them).
  • Psych Central: Psych Central has a lot of great content of their own, but they also have a resource directory that includes links to mental health blogs that have been submitted.

It’s easy to stay in my comfort zone and write for my own blog, but I’m glad that I’ve pushed myself to try new things   There’s a fear of rejection that goes along with submitting a guest blog, but that’s probably good practice.  Hopefully it will help move me forward towards my goal of submitting more work to academic journals.  And really, any excuse to write is a good thing.

 

Image credit:  John Fowler on Unsplash