Category Archives: Stress

Combat Stress, Meet New Friends, and Reduce Isolation by Giving Back This Holiday Season

By Jennifer Scott, www.spiritfinder.org

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Do you often choose feel stressed and anxious over the holidays? Purchasing and wrapping gifts, worrying about money, planning and attending parties, preparing meals, decorating, and more leave many people choosing to overwhelm, exhaust, stress, and even depress in an attempt to cope. If stressing, depressing, or anxietying are getting you down this year, why not a take a different approach and volunteer. Here are just a few compelling reasons to consider volunteering as a way to beat the holiday stress while giving back and improving your Mental Health & Happiness.

Volunteering Cultivates Social Skills Development

If spending time alone over the holidays leaves you feeling down and out, volunteering is the perfect fix. Offering plenty of opportunities for socialization, volunteering with a charity that has meaning to you will help you meet new people with similar interests.

Donating your time and energy to people or animals in need can help you overcome the challenges of meeting new people by connecting you with others who are working toward the same goal. Volunteering can even help people who are shy or otherwise struggle with social situations become more comfortable around new people by providing a common ground for initiating conversations.

Gain Professional Experience through Volunteerism

In addition to social skills development, volunteering can also provide networking opportunities that could benefit you professionally. If you’re volunteering for an organization in the same field as your ideal career, you might connect with leaders in the field who can help you land a coveted role in your chosen field.

At the very least, it serves as a valuable resume-booster that can help you advance in your current company or explore new opportunities. So, if finances are a source of stress for you around the holidays, volunteering your time won’t cost you a thing, but it might help you land a better-paying job.

You Can Choose a Cause Close to Your Heart

There are ample ways to donate your time and energy to the greater good this holiday season, meaning that you can choose a cause that’s close to your heart, making the experience all the more meaningful. If a friend or loved one has been given the gift of life thanks to blood donations, consider finding a local blood drive and donating blood in honor of them.

Maybe you’ve benefited from the love and companionship of a service dog, and have a desire to help the animal community. There are thousands of animal shelters all over the country always in need of volunteers to help raise funds and help care for the animals, as well as supplies such as food, treats, and cat litter. If you enjoy spending time with older adults, volunteer to take therapy animals for visits to your local senior living communities.

Volunteering Keeps You Busy

With so many volunteer needs during the holiday season, you can easily fill up your holiday calendar and take your mind off of your stress with plans to help people in need. If you’re not typically a social butterfly who has dozens of invitations to every holiday gathering in a 50-mile radius, there’s no reason to spend a single evening home alone when there are so many ways to get out and about in your community while helping others in need.

Anyone can keep their social calendar filled with meaningful activities by volunteering to help prepare meals for the homeless, offering companionship to homebound seniors, or spending time with older adults at a local senior center or senior living community. Socialization is crucial for the wellbeing of older adults, so these activities are mutually beneficial.

Volunteering helps to put meaning back into the season for those who feel stressed and exhausted, lonely, or depressed over the holidays. From meeting new people and staying busy, offering opportunities for socialization and networking, volunteering provides many benefits, but nothing beats the feel-good vibes you get from doing something selfless for someone in need.

Feeling Out of Balance and Centered at the Same Time Part 2 – Imagination, Skills and Courage

By Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

Following the imagination process through means getting very specific about our thoughts and actions. In the case of our relative, let’s say we have decided to work toward being strong, compassionate and detached (obvious derivatives of powerful, loving and free). We now need to create the thoughts and actions that might accompany those feelings. The list that follows is one version of what our new blueprint might involve.

Thoughts for strong:

“Getting angry is not going to solve anything,” ” I need to put my energy into action rather than reaction,” “ Not confronting my sister about her beliefs does not mean I agree with them,” and “ Closedmindedness and anger are the very things I say I am intolerant of.. time to prove it.”

Thoughts for compassionate:

“My sister made choices on her best information.” “I am scared, Ill bet she has been too.” “We both want the best for our country.” “I can lead the way to common ground rather than perpetuating the conflict.” “Shes doing the best she can with the information she has at the time, as am I.”

Thoughts for detached:

“Everything doesnt have to be decided and resolved today,” “Her beliefs do not mean I cant express and act on my own,”  “I obviously need to take action to show myself that I am serious about what I say I believe,” and “Our relationship is more important than our politics… she is my sister.”

With these thoughts  in mind, we can now imagine actions that would accompany them. (again, these are not “right” answers, just one version)

Actions for strong:

Make a commitment to be more politically involved. Move conversations to topics which nourish our family not pull us apart. Actually listen to my sister for amounts of time I can handle and show my strength by actually listening. Accept that reality has changed and plot a course that I did not need to in earlier times. Have the strength to change rather than holding onto my old patterns.

Actions for compassionate:

Tell my sister I am happy she won and that I am sure we both want the best future we can have. Forgive myself for not always being the person I say I want to be. Keep a journal to stay focused and write down as a first entry, “I was born not to pass judgement on my family but to love them.”

Thoughts for detached:

Instigate other community building activities in the family rather than just political discussions. Don’t respond in kind to what I perceive as outrageous statements. Pray that both my sister and I find the peaccouplee and courage to heal the wounds that divide this country.

With this information in hand, I have now achieved some early success in the imagination stage.

The second step is Skills. Here is where we explore the reality that although we may know what we should think and do, we may not currently have the ability to do it. We have to self-evaluate to see if we actually know how to gracefully exit a conversation, or not bite at a stupid remark, or reframe the family’s activity, or pray, or even keep a journal. There may be skills we have to learn and practice to be able to bring our imagined blueprint into being.

And the final step is Courage. By now we know what we would be thinking and doing, and we have hopefully learned some new skills to do it, but change can be fearful and fear can only be faced with courage. We may have fears about taking the steps we need to take. Some in this case might be:

“If I back down from fights will others think I agree with them?” “What if I really can’t be more tolerant of others?” “What if I try and fail?” “What if I replace anger with compassion and I lose the fire in my belly to actually take action?”

There fears are legitimate, understandable and normal. We need to remember, however, that whatever emotions we act on become stronger. If we act on our fears by not taking necessary steps to change, the fear will get stronger not weaker. So now it comes to “the moment of truth.” Do I have the courage to face my fears and change myself rather than insisting the world change so I wont have to. I often ask clients, “Do you really not know what you need to do, or do you know what to do but you are afraid to do it?” One is lack of clarity; the second lack of courage.

***

We have all put a great deal of energy into creating what we want and hoping that will continue. When it does not we can bemoan our fates and rage at the world, or we can go about the business of making the changes we need to make to be loving, powerful, playful and free in a world we may not like or want to accept. Our inability to accept reality does not mean that reality doesn’t exist. It simply means we are unwilling to go through the difficult process of imagining our new selves, learning the skills to put those selves into being, and having the courage  to face the fears that come with any major change in our lives.

The Creative Mind (Part 2)

by Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

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Many people have learned to use their creative thoughts and behavior to resolve any frustration or unhappiness that comes their way.  They use their creativity to overcome their sadness and depression, anxiety, anger, and to deal with important people in their lives that matter to them.  There are also those who use their creativity to resolve conflict with others in ways that may only slightly ease their unhappiness and frustration but cause other problems in doing so.  We see these behaviors manifested in such ways that are being called, Obsessive Compulsive, relying and becoming addicted to drugs/alcohol, anxiety attacks, mood swings (Bipolar), and other behaviors that seem unusual or “crazy” to anyone who witnesses these behaviors.   Others don’t often see what another person is facing with their frustration and unhappiness.  Nor do they understand that the person’s odd or unusual behavior is serving the purpose of easing that frustration and unhappiness, even if it is only slightly, and created as a result of their “Creativity.”  You can hammer a nail with just about any other hard object if you don’t have a hammer.  Using something other than a hammer is a person’s creativity to get a desired result.  Unusual behaviors are creative behaviors utilized by those who haven’t created a more effective tool to ease their frustration.

Our creative abilities allow for our general happiness.  Some create effectively and others create maladaptive behaviors because it’s all they created at the time.  Our creativity can get us out of many unhappy situations without the need for counseling or therapy or prescription drugs.   Those who have created ineffective behaviors to resolve their unhappiness are diagnosed and judged as someone needing psychiatric help in the form of “brain meds.”  These types of medications inhibit a person’s natural ability to be creative and to be able to create ways to resolve their unhappiness.

When you have weird or strange dreams at night or even dreams that make sense . . . that is your brain being creative.  So if you have dreams that don’t make any sense, does that mean you’re mentally ill?  If your brain is capable of creating when you are asleep, it is also capable of creating when you are awake.

CREATIVITY . . . it’s behind most of our choices of behavior . . . logical and illogical.

The Creative Mind (Part One)

by Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

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Creativity can be found in all of us.  Many people consider creativity to be limited to the ability to make something materialistic, or to express one’s self in art, cooking, inventing, writing, or music.  While these things certainly require creativity, creativity is not limited to talent in those areas alone.   Everyone uses creativity each and every day of their lives for many different things.  We rely on creativity based upon the knowledge that we already possess about specific things, logic, and willingness to go beyond our knowledge.  We use creativity to make decisions that are primarily designed to result in happiness or pleasure.  We use creativity to solve or resolve problems in business, discussions/arguments, and in our relationships.

All we do, each and every day of our life is behave.  We choose our behaviors to satisfy our needs of survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.  When any of these needs are not being met to our desired level of satisfaction, it is human nature to rely on our creativity to satisfy and maintain those unmet needs.

If you have ever watched Naked and Afraid on cable TV, then you have watched individuals using their creative skills to satisfy their survival needs.  In relationships, we tend to put our best food forward when we first meet someone.  Behaving in a manner to cause another person to hopefully be drawn to you in a relationship relies on creativity for love and belonging needs.  Musicians, Artists, Chefs, Writers, Dancers, Educators, Athletes, and Inventors rely on creativity to be appreciated, helpful, competitive, to win, and to be respected as a result of their creative abilities.  These are ways of satisfying power needs.  Investing wisely for the future, making decisions and planning ways to free one’s self from confinement or from poor relationships relies on creativity.  Planning events, vacations, learning, and recreating requires creativity to make these things happen.

Have you ever been in an argument with someone and you just couldn’t come up with the things you wanted to say at the time in order to make a point?  That’s a silly question.  We’ve all done this.  Later, after the discussion or argument is over and both have gone separate ways, you continue to use your creativity thinking about it and suddenly you come up with whatever it is that you wish you had said or done during the discussion.   “I should have said . . . . “or “I should have done . . . .”  That’s creativity.

Here’s an exercise to utilize your creativity:  You wake in the morning and notice that it’s raining and you have a flat tire.  This is surely a frustrating situation.  So what will you do?  Some would say, “I’d change the tire by jacking it up and putting the spare on.”  But what would you do if you had loaned the jack to your neighbor several months ago and he never returned it?  “I’d go next door and get it back.” But he left for work an hour ago and no one else is at home.  “I’d call a friend to come get me to take me to work.”  S/he’s already gone and at their place of work.  “I’d call a cab to take me to work.”  These are examples of creativity.   Some may not use their creative skills very much and say, “I’d go back to bed.”  There are even more examples to this scenario that I could add but you get the idea.  Creativity is being used to overcome a frustrating situation.  With each creative endeavor that fails, another creative method is created until one of them eventually satisfies the frustration and need.

Are you willing? Are you ready?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

During one of my regular shifts in the psychiatric emergency room of a general hospital a patient arrived who was feeling exceedingly anxious and worried. He had experienced a number of recent life events contributing to his emotional state. And he added to his list of recent concerns by piling on more issues and challenges he had been juggling and trying to handle for awhile.

In my well meaningman2 attempts to be helpful I shared some very specific ideas and suggestions for some coping skills he could immediately start to implement. Simply taking some deep breaths and focusing on the rise and fall of his chest and belly should be a good and helpful start. These suggestions were met with an increase in his upset and anxiety leading to tears. Clearly I was contributing to his condition worsening.

Later it hit me. This fellow was invested in his upset and suffering. He was not yet read or willing to change.

I was reminded of my own personal experience years earlier. While washing dishes I was deep into an argument with my husband, even though my husband was not home at the time.

At some point I realized my ranting, raving and complaining was not helping me get what I wanted and needed. I even went so far as deciding a different course of action that would help me get what I wanted and needed.

I asked myself two important questions:

Am I willing to do something different?

          Am I ready to do something different? 

          NO!

This was the simple truth. Even though I had evaluated my present behavior as being ineffective, I was not ready or willing to give it up . . . YET!

The present argument was quite satisfying. I was able to express my feelings and desires without interruption. I could be right and righteous without interruption or contradiction. I would WIN this argument.

Later, I told myself, I would approach my husband and engage in a conversation where we could work toward compromise and mutually satisfactory solutions. Later I would be ready and willing.

Now I know better. Now I will still offer my patients some immediate skills and solutions to help them improve their sense of well being and settle their emotional upheaval. But first I will ask:

Is what you are doing now helping you get what you need and want?

Are you willing and ready to consider doing something different?

Respecting their present state of mind I will ask if they are ready, willing and wanting to move forward for greater Mental Health and Happiness.

Coping Skills

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

We all have those overwhelming experiences and stressful times in our lives when it feels as though everything is falling apart. The upset can be a failing grade on an important exam in our high school class, or hearing the news that our family pet has died, or being laid off from our job and only source of income, or the pain and heartache that comes with a love break-up. Let’s not forget that many are now struggling because of environmental and whether challenges. These include floods, flash floods, out of control forest fires, tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes.

What do you do when faced with these kinds of things in your life? Do you have coping strategies and self-soothing comfort skills? Have you developed and practiced these skills? Or are you like many people who aren’t quite sure what you do until faced with the emotional upheaval of life?

I have recently begun working as a nurse in a psychiatric emergency room of a regular hospital. Most of the people I see are in the worst moments of their lives facing terrible circumstances. This is the time when coping skills are really needed. Too often however, people tell me they have very few or no coping strategies.

When I asked one fellow, who was terribly upset and distraught, what he did to help himself he told me he asked his girlfriend to hug and hold him. If she wasn’t available he told me he then took drugs, whether they were prescription drugs or street drugs. He was in search of something that would help him numb the pain he was experiencing. These were the only two strategies he had. Amazingly he never considered seeking some kind of solution or help to solve his problems. Even this emergency room visit had been initiated by the police and not his idea.

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For improved Mental Health & Happiness start now developing, learning and practicing your coping skills. This is best done not when you are faced with the crisis or upset, but when life is mostly in balance and you feel calm and in control. Chances are good that you already have a few of these self-soothing strategies. Perhaps you just haven’t considered these to be part of your coping repertoire.

For instance, do you close your eyes, take a deep breath and count to 10? Or maybe you call a dear and trusted friend just to hear his voice knowing he will offer wise words of counsel. Some people get regular massages and when needed get an emergency massage. Others take a bath, or meditate, or take a nap, or go for a long or short walk in nature. Still others go directly to the ice cream shop, local bakery or fried chicken joint to eat their comfort foods because that is what is needed — some comfort.

A crisis is not the time for judgment about what is the healthiest choice. Now is the time to evaluate only based on the ability of your strategy to give you the kind of immediate comfort, relief and help you need.  Once the crisis is resolved you can decide whether or not to cultivate healthier and more effective coping strategies. It is always appropriate however, to evaluate whether or not your coping strategy is putting you in greater danger like my patient who was hospitalized for perilous drug consumption.

Start today. Follow these three simple steps:

  1. Identify your present coping strategies
  2. Evaluate how healthy and effective they are
  3. Start cultivating and practicing more strategies to add to your  repertoire. To get more ideas you can always ask friends and family  members what they do to help them cope when under stress.

Dealing with a crisis involves more than relying on good and effective coping strategies to help keep you calm. Understanding the step-by-step of handing the crisis you face is also essential. This will be discussed in a future blog.

For now, improve your Mental Health & Happiness today by cultivating, practicing and improving  your present coping strategies.

Transform from a worrier to a warrior!

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Do you have an upcoming vacation you’re looking forward to? As welcoming as this break may be are you also worrying about the work, planning, and organizing that must be done before you get to plunge deep into the fun and freedom a vacation promises?

Maybe your life is on the other side of this coin. Rather than looking forward to a good moment in life perhaps you’ve recently received some unwelcome news that has you on edge. Maybe you are worrying about the unfortunate change in your physical or financial health or a shift in an important relationship.

Whether you are presently in a good swing of life right now or facing some challenges that could send you spiraling down is worry a constant companion? Are you a worrier?

canstockphoto13026221For many people, worrying is one of the habits they use in an attempt to get the illusion of control in their lives. And if worry leads a person to take necessary and effective action, then by all means continue this  strategy.

But for many people worrying may not lead to further action. Instead the person is worrying, while simultaneously wishing and hoping for the best. Too often the result for this person is increased stress, upset and tension.

My mother was a champion worrier. She worried about her children all day long who walked to and from school (this was long before helicopter parenting). She worried about adequately preparing and packing for our family camping trips. She worried about the health and well being of every member of the family. In fact, she worried so much that I began to believe that her worry was a protective shield over me. This realization came to me after my mother died and I was aware I no longer had her worry to keep me safe. For Mom, worrying was one way she let us know she loved us.

If you are a worrier consider transforming into a warrior instead!  News flash: there is a great deal in life that is out of your control. This means there is a great deal that you could worry about. What if you decided to fully embrace those things in life over which you do have control?What if you decide to face life’s unknowns, including the potential disasters, chaos and hardships as a spiritual warrior? 

A spiritual warrior, according to one definition, is a person who gains mastery over oneself. Imagine waking up each day feeling fearless, strong, and ready to persevere with all the necessary and effective action you can take for the best outcome you desire. Now that you have done what you can, as a spiritual warrior you release the need to control the outcome.

If you are a worrier, let today be the day you experiment for improved Mental Health & Happiness. Just for today practice the actions, thoughts, and feelings of a Spiritual Warrior every time you face your well honed opponent: your habitual worry. The more you practice transforming from a worrier into a warrior, the easier this will become. Eventually your mental Health & Happiness will also improve.

Stress Management

Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Today there is much written and blamed on stress, stressors, and stress management.

angrywomanIs your health less than optimal? Perhaps too much stress is to blame? Are your relationships suffering? Could it be that you and your partner are both experiencing too much stress and stressors? Could this stress be interfering with the joyful expression of your love for one another? There are more than a few people who complain regularly about all of the present work stresses they must deal with.

There seems to be an equal amount of solutions being advertised to relieve the stress we each experience in our every day lives. You can sip a hot cup of herbal tea while sitting quietly in nature. Or you can indulge in the latest cocktail made from the finest liquor while enjoying the convivial company of friends. Or you can choose from any of the wide range of “medications” each advertised to bring the relief you seek from the diagnosed problem the ad teaches you is your problem. What all of these solutions have in common is their attempt to eliminate the feeling associated with stress but most do little to actually deal with stress.

What exactly is stress? Is it some unknown overhead cloud that follows some people around? Or perhaps stress is some internal knot that some people tie themselves into? Rather than reaching for the latest remedy advertised to obliterate the feelings of stress would you find it useful to actually understand where stress comes from?

Whenever there is a difference between what you want and what you perceive you are getting you experience stress.

With this understanding and definition, there are several solutions for eliminating stress:

1. Get more of what you want. If you can manage to change your perception of the world to match what you want then you will have eliminated stress. Of course this is easier said than done, but it is a successful stress management strategy.

2. Change what you want. When you accept and perceive that what you are presently getting matches what you want you will have eliminated stress.

3. Change your perception of the world. When you focus your attention on all that you are getting that matches what you want even though your present primary want may not be matching your world perception you will decrease your stress. This is the goal of attitude adjustment practices as well as cultivating gratitude — being grateful for what you do have.

4. Learn more effective behaviors and strategies to increase your chances of getting what you want thus eliminating stress.

And you can keep reading Mental Health & Happiness blogs. You can sign up for the free 21-day challenges to help you deal more effectively with feelings of stress. Both will help you learn and practice specific strategies to eliminate stress and improve your Mental Health & Happiness.

Color Yourself Happy

By Denise Daub

While perusing amazon.com looking for a book,  I came across something I had never seen before, adult coloring books.  Maybe you have heard of this… it is a very big thing now. Supposedly, taking time to sit and color can be relaxing  and help relieve stress.  It  can also have meditative qualities.

I know, I know who has time to color….or exercise or meditate for that matter.  I don’t know there is something intriguing and whimsical about sitting down and coloring.

colormehappyIf you are interested, just go to amazon and search “adult coloring books” and you will find many different ones.  The first one that I seen was entitled Color Me Happy, which inspired me to write this post.  Unfortunately, this book is out of stock as of the time of writing this post, but there are lots of books on different subjects like stress and balance and themes such as animals and flowers.

I plan on ordering one of these coloring books and am going to give it a try. Maybe you want to give it a try and color yourself happy!