My George

When I was first in therapy for anxiety and panic attacks, my therapist gave me an exercise: draw the anxiety. It ended up looking a little like E.T. but with a sour disposition. I named it, “George.”

The purpose of naming the anxiety wasn’t to adopt it permanently into my psyche; it was to have something that was NOT me to “blame” for anxious thoughts, feelings, etc. Though I don’t have panic attacks or much anxiety anymore, I still call George out when negative or illogical thoughts come to mind, causing me distress. This is a technique that I have shared with clients, most with success.

Here’s an example:

Jan works in an office with several other people. Because of her upbringing and low self-esteem, Jan believes that people don’t like her very much. In her quest to feel better about herself, Jan started therapy and named those ugly thoughts, “The Hulk,” because they feel angry and green.

On her way out to lunch, Jan passed her co-worker in the hall. Jan smiled, but the co-worker’s face did not change from one that looked a bit angry. “Oh no!” Jan thought. “Sheila is mad at me! What did I do?” Recognizing the angry, green feeling of her “Hulk,” Jan started questioning her thought.

“Have I had any interactions with Sheila that would cause anger on her part? No. I haven’t even spoken to her in a few days. Could there be another explanation for Sheila’s mood? Of course! She could be irritated or frustrated with a number of things that have nothing to do with me.”

As Jan focused on these questions, her “Hulk” turned back into mild-mannered Bruce Banner, who is way more manageable than his alter ego.

If you deal with anxiety, depression or just negative thinking, what does your “George” look like? What color, shape and texture is it? What is its name? By having a third party to “blame” for these thoughts, you are living healthier – for you are NOT your thoughts. And your thoughts do not have to direct your behavior. I have taken away George’s power to control me, and I’m much healthier for it!

Namaste’

 

Mark Twain’s Top 9 Tips For Living A Kick-Ass Life

I actually came upon this article on Facebook, where some of my favorites come from The Mind Unleashed. I’ve always been a fan of Mark Twain, and he has some pretty good quotes regarding Self-Care. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! Namaste – Stacey

***

mark-twainYou may know Mark Twain for some of his very popular books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He was a writer and also a humorist, satirist and lecturer.

Twain is known for his many – and often funny – quotes. Here are a few of my favorite tips from him:

1. APPROVE OF YOURSELF. “A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”

If you don’t approve of yourself, of your behavior and actions then you’ll probably walk around most of the day with a sort of uncomfortable feeling. If you, on the other hand, approve of yourself then you tend to become relaxed and gain inner freedom to do more of what you really want.

This can, in a related way, be a big obstacle in personal growth. You may have all the right tools to grow in some way but you feel an inner resistance. You can’t get there.

What you may be bumping into there are success barriers. You are putting up barriers in your own mind of what you may or may not deserve. Or barriers that tell you what you are capable of. They might tell you that you aren’t really that kind of person that could this thing that you’re attempting.

Or if you make some headway in the direction you want to go you may start to sabotage for yourself. To keep yourself in a place that is familiar for you.

So you need give yourself approval and allow yourself to be who you want to be. Not look for the approval from others. But from yourself. To dissolve that inner barrier or let go of that self-sabotaging tendency. This is no easy task and it can take time.

2. YOUR LIMITATIONS MAY JUST BE IN YOUR MIND. “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

So many limitations are mostly in our minds. We may for instance think that people will disapprove because we are too tall, too old or balding. But these things mostly matter when you think they matter. Because you become self-conscious and worried about what people may think.

And people pick up on that and may react in negative ways. Or you may interpret anything they do as a negative reaction because you are so fearful of a bad reaction and so focused inward on yourself.

If you, on the other hand, don’t mind then people tend to not mind that much either. And if you don’t mind then you won’t let that part of yourself become a self-imposed roadblock in your life.

It is, for instance, seldom too late to do what you want to do.

3. LIGHTEN UP AND HAVE SOME FUN. “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

Humor and laughter are amazing tools. They can turn any serious situation into something to laugh about. They can lighten the mood just about anywhere.

And a lighter mood is often a better space to work in because now your body and mind isn’t filled to the brim with negative emotions. When you are more light-hearted and relaxed then the solution to a situation is often easier to both come up with and implement. Have a look at Lighten Up! for more on this topic.

Read quotes 4 – 9 here…

Credits: Written by HENRIK EDBERG of www.positivityblog.com, where this was originally featured.

I Cannot Be This Person

In honor of National PTSD Awareness Day, please read this brave Marine’s story below:

***NOT FOR RESALE OR DISTRIBUTION*** Laura Hendrixson, 29, a former marine that was raped in the military and suffers from PTSD, alone at home and with her husband Craig, 30, in San Diego, Ca. on July 20, 2013. Laura was a US Marine, stationed South Carolina (or somewhere in the south) when she was sexually assaulted by "friend" – someone in whom she had recently confided some deeply personal information.  This was traumatic enough but the way the military handled it compounded the problem.  She was confined to barracks - to the same barracks as her attacker.  She was told to wear baggy sweats so as not to attract men.  She had to continue working with her attacker.  She was denied promotions and labeled a trouble maker for having reported the incident.  She became a pariah.   The result was that she left the military deeply afraid of the world, unable to do much – she rarely went out, was afraid to sleep with the light on, or take a shower, etc.  Therapy has helped her a lot.  She is still pretty timid but she now holds a job and is working toward a college degree.  She is married and has a Chihuahua.  She is getting better at doing the little things.   Shooting her will be a bit tough.  She doesn’t do a whole lot.  She doesn’t want us to shoot her at work.  I’m thinking that we’ll shoot a lot of details of her home – the showerhead dripping, lights on the ceiling, etc. to represent the stuff she could not do.  We’ll also shoot her studying and may go with her to San Diego State University where she is a student.Finding it hard to be home alone or feel comfortable in public places, Marine and MST survivor Laura Hendrixon is determined to get better for her family.

Laura Hendrixon had always thought PTSD came only after combat exposure–until it happened to her. “After being in the Marines for a year and a half, I was sexually assaulted by another Marine who was also a co-worker and a friend of mine,” she said. “It’s embarrassing to talk about, but I don’t want to be scared anymore. I want to be stronger.”

The trauma affected her so much that she was afraid to take a shower when she was home alone. “…I would basically be in panic mode the whole time,” she said. “I would think…”Oh my gosh, I want to get a shower, but I can’t get a shower because I’m home by myself, and if I’m in the shower, I’m not going to be able to hear if somebody comes in the house.” I would get scared to the point that I wouldn’t close my eyes when I’m taking a shower.”

Laura was diagnosed with PTSD. Her doctor at VA suggested she get into treatment. “I finally had a doctor point out to me that, you know, it would be really good if I went through this treatment,” she recalled. “I knew I needed to do it because I can’t wait to have kids, and I was like, “I cannot be this person with kids. I’m going to, like, wrap them up in bubble wrap.”

Laura’s treatment at VA was a form of talk therapy called Prolonged Exposure (PE). In PE, the goal is for the patient to have less fear about her memories. It is based on the idea that people learn to fear thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind them of a past traumatic event. By talking about her trauma repeatedly in a safe environment with a therapist, the patient learns to get control of her thoughts and feelings about the trauma. She learns that she does not have to be afraid of her memories.

“I made a list of things I needed to be able to do: make left-hand turns, ride in an elevator, go somewhere by myself, get showers. It’s like, I need to learn how to deal with this stuff, now,” she explained. “It was very difficult at first. I had to go back to that moment and, you know, describe exactly how I felt, and emotions and fears, and everything about the moment. It did get easier. You actually record yourself, and then you listen to it, so in some way it tricks your brain into accepting that this did happen to me and, you know, I’m going to be OK, and it’s going to get better.”

Laura also credits her husband for much of the progress she has made. “My husband is a lifesaver,” she said. “We’re going to counseling together, and they’re helping us talk through some of the daily struggles that I have with PTSD. He’s so good for me; he encourages me to do things I’m not comfortable with. I definitely plan to keep moving forward with it. I’m always thinking, like, “Just do it!” I can do all kinds of stuff.”

You can see the entire AboutFace video profile of Laura Hendrixon on YouTube.

For more information on PTSD and ways to raise awareness of this mental health problem during June and throughout the year, professionals and members of the public can visit our PTSD Awareness page.

PTSD: It’s NOT a Shame

As Diane has mentioned, June is PTSD Awareness Month.  In 2010, Congress named June 27th PTSD Awareness Day (S. Res. 455). Since then, during the month of June, The National Center for PTSD asks that the issue of PTSD be discussed openly and without judgment, in the hopes of reducing stigma.

Anyone who has dealt with mental illness either directly or indirectly knows that, indeed, not all wounds are visible…or measurable, for that matter. No, there’s no blood test to measure levels of depression, anxiety or trauma. Many people look “just fine” on the outside, while they are suffering greatly on the inside.

Trauma is not the same for everyone. Many people think of Veterans when they hear the term PTSD. While Vets surely are a group that’s at greater risk, anyone can develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. And what traumatizes one person may not affect another. In fact, traumatic events don’t have to be “catastrophic” to cause this reaction! Losing a pet, having your child get off at the wrong bus stop, car accidents and other “everyday” events can cause traumatic reactions in some people.

On September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike came through my neck of the woods. Since it was “only” a Category 2 storm, we decided to ride it out. I took a sleeping pill that night and had no clue if it was scary or not – I was asleep! However, the next day, I fell apart as we drove around looking at the damage the storm left in its wake. We lost our back fence – we were lucky that it wasn’t worse. But until recently, any time the power went out at my house, I would instantly panic. So, it wasn’t the catastrophic hurricane that caused the traumatic reaction – it was the loss of electricity that became my trigger!

PTSD symptoms – anxiety, panic, sudden anger, nightmares, flashbacks – can be caused by just about anything and is the brain’s natural response to protect your psyche from pain. They are also signals that you need to process the event, no matter how “small” you perceive it to be!

PTSD is NOT a shame…it’s an opportunity to get help and come out on the other side a healthier, happier and more resilient person! To find therapists who specialize in PTSD in your area, visit psychologytoday.com‘s therapist list. For more information on PTSD, visit The National Center for PTSD.

Mindfulness is For Everyone

When my daughter got to 6th grade, things quickly turned ugly for her. This was the year that the 4 hours worth of homework, advanced classes and extracurriculars began. Neither of us were prepared for the onslaught or how it would trigger her anxiety in such a big way.

I remember those days vividly, even though they happened 3 years ago. Nothing makes me feel more helpless than my upset child. But this was even worse than that. Picture an 11-year old girl weeping and screaming hysterically because she’s paralyzed and overwhelmed with anxiety. Nothing could calm her down except time and distraction. It was obvious that the DNA that my husband and I gave her had kicked in…the anxiety genes!

I took her to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with GAD and OCD. She began taking Prozac when she was 13 years old. She had barely even gotten her period (though I’m sure the hormones helped aggravate her dormant symptoms, too)! Fortunately, the medication helped her. It took the edge off. I took her to counseling, but she could not seem to form a rapport with any of the folks I took her to. I refused to “be her therapist,” but got her a couple of books on coping skills and spoke to her about some of the techniques.

Of all the different coping mechanisms I went over with her, including reframing (looking at things in a different, more healthy way), positive self-talk, breaking down tasks into steps, time management and deep breathing, mindfulness ended up being the thing that helped her the most!

She said that there was just something about knowing that she can handle things right now,even if the future still frightened her. It resonated with her that life is a series of right nowsand that the future is just an abstract construct in our minds. We don’t know what’s going to happen in 5 minutes much less 2 weeks.

Three years later, my daughter still turns to mindfulness when she feels overwhelmed. She hasn’t given meditation a fair shot yet, but she says it’s something she wants to try during the summer months. I look forward to practicing with her! Her experiences just reinforce the importance of mindfulness for me. I hope that her story will help you as much as it did me!

Namaste.

And Now for the Rest of the Story

Am I the only one who misses Paul Harvey? I bet not.

I digress. Sorry about the missing Thursday post! Life has been busy…isn’t it always? I volunteer a lot of my time at my local Police Department, and we had our giant yearly fundraiser on May 10, followed immediately by National Police Week activities. Thursday, I was wrapping muffins and preparing for the annual Police Banquet!

I offer this not as an excuse, but as a beginning. I am blessed to have so many things that I am passionate about in my life. Many people have problems finding one passion, much less several! These things bring purpose and fulfillment to my life, at least right now. It wasn’t always this way, however, and probably won’t be this way forever. The one thing we can always count on to stay the same is change!

I think back to when my daughter was born back in 1999. Like many of you, I had an unrealistic view of what motherhood would be and was thinking about finding a way to be a stay-at-home mom. It sounded ideal to me! I could raise my child my way, save on daycare and not have to work, at least outside of the home (we all know that SAHMs are some of the hardest working ladies out there!). I was assigning raising my daughter to be my purpose in life.

Many mothers, grandmothers, dads and other caregivers have found fulfillment in this for thousands of years – I figured that I could, too. But I was wrong. And because I was restless, depressed and felt purposeless, I didn’t enjoy my time with my baby girl. Instead of looking at changing my situation, I blamed my discontent on myself as some sort of character flaw. I thought that ALL mothers naturally felt such joy with their babies and something was wrong with me because I didn’t. Those thoughts snowballed into a severe, suicidal depression with a nice, juicy side of panic.

I can look back now and understand that there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with me…I was just trying to make myself fit into a box that was a different shape than I needed. Over time and with therapy and medication, I got to that understanding, went back to work and felt much better. And, of course, as the years passed and my daughter got older, my preferences and passions have changed into something I never really expected. That’s the awesomeness of life at work – if we stop trying to force ourselves into boxes and instead just roll with things, doors will open that we have never even considered!

I knew that y’all would be cool with me being late with this post because we’re all Living Self-Care here! Now, my challenge to you is to sit with yourself and try to identify your life passions and purposes. Are you living them? Do you even know what they are? If not, use mindfulness to observe when you are truly content and in the flow…where time passes without notice. Those are the things that you LOVE to do and are PASSIONATE about. Life is too short not to have passion in your life. Whether it’s a hobby, a part-time job or a full-time career, fulfilling your true purpose is essential to basic good health, well-being and Self-Care!

 Namaste

Family That Lost All to Fire Reminds Me That Life is What You Make It

Life…you just never know what’s going to happen. I suppose that makes it exciting at times and stressful at others. I was just reading my last post. At that time, I had no idea how that seemingly innocuous thunderstorm would change my life.

Not too long after I finished writing, I heard fire engine sirens – a LOT of them. Not wanting to get in the way of emergency personnel, I called our local Sheriff’s Office to find out what was going on (yes, I’m nosey but I am also our Neighborhood Watch Chair, so it’s sort of my job to be). They confirmed a house fire, but couldn’t give me specifics. As my research went on, I finally found out that a home in my neighborhood had been struck by lightning.

The next morning, I went to the home to see if I could establish contact with the family, get details and perhaps begin a relief effort. I approached a man who was working in the garage, apparently sorting the salvageable from the unsalvageable. “Are you the homeowner?” I asked. “It depends who’s asking,” the man replied. I told him who I was and he seemed relieved. He told me that remodeling companies and legal firm reps had been stopping by to sell him services…less than 24 hours after his home had burned. I was incredulous for a few seconds, but then reality hit. Those people have to make a living too.

The homeowner explained that the lightning had struck the natural gas line (metal pipe) that led to the stove inside. This lit the gas and it basically exploded into his kitchen. I took a quick look inside and burst into tears. The kitchen was gone. The large television in the living room had melted. The water in their fish tank had boiled. The man said something soothing to me when he saw how upset I was and then reminded me that, “This is just stuff. The real valuables were not hurt (referring to his family).”

Indeed, his mother-in-law and youngest daughter had left the home to go to Mothers Day Out about 2 or 3 minutes before the explosion. His wife and older daughter were already at work and school, respectively. He heard about the fire from his next door neighbor, whose home security alarm was triggered by the excessive smoke coming from next door. “We are so blessed and will still have a happy Easter,” he assured me.

I left feeling a little dazed and in awe of this man’s attitude. I started sending out information to the community for relief, and generous folks from all over the area responded with clothing, toiletries, school supplies and gift cards. It was truly overwhelming. I spent much of Easter Sunday just resting and reflecting on what had happened. Perspective and attitude really does determine if one’s life is good or not!

It’s been a week since the fire, and the family’s needs have been met completely by their church, the insurance company and area residents. They will be in an apartment soon and can expect to have their home rebuilt in 6 – 8 months. Because of their faith, attitude of gratitude and perspective, this was just a bump in the wonderful road that is life.

Appreciate what you have. Don’t compare. It can change in an instant.

Namaste.