Therapy advice to put in your pocket and take with you.

Archive for February, 2012

But I’m not Catholic.

Last Wednesday began the Christian season of Lent, the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.  Every year I make a personal committment of positive self-growth during Lent.  But when I tell this to other people, they often say, “But you’re not Catholic!” Ok, you’re right, but I don’t think Catholics own the rights to Lenten sacrifice. Granted their no-meat/ fish fry season is well-known among us heathens, but obviously there is so much more to Lent.  My friend Pastor Scott Elliott shares his thoughts in the following YouTube video about the meaning of Lent.  The letting go of the old, and changing BEHAVIORS as a process of renewal.  This does not have to be a Christian-only practice. The concept of personal sacrifice for renewal is well-known.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9tOylRpU0U&feature=youtu.be

Yogic science practices 40 days to change a habit.  I have heard people say it takes 21 days in a row to change a habit. There are stories of people who set a goal to make a change for a year, giving up credit cards for a whole year, or eating only 7 foods for 7 months. People fast for political change. Many of us set New Year’s resolutions to make personal improvement and change. Monday is the day to start the diet. National Smoke Out Day reminds smokers to quit.  All landmark dates of Mark, Set, Go!

Besides being a reminder of a Man who sacrificed his Life for ours, Lent can be a recommittment to personal growth, to positive change. A kick in the pants to keep working on self-improvement.  Of course you don’t have to start on Ash Wednesday, or follow the Lenten calendar.  Pick a day, any day, and make a committment to yourself.  In high school we had a motivational speaker named Mark Scharenbrock who taught us “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”  This resonates in my head all the time.  Where do I go from here?  If we focus too much on the past we get stuck. So let’s put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.  In AA treatment they talk about “therapeutic relapse.” Does that mean it was good to start drinking again? No, but let’s learn from it, why did it happen, and how can we keep it from happening again.  This can be true with anything we want to change. Give yourself room for error, 92% is still an A.

Below are some links I found when I googled sacrifice and change. They do a good job at suggesting how to set these personal change goals and make them happen.

http://www.communicoltd.com/pages/684_are_you_ready_to_make_a_100_day_commitment_.cfm

http://theprosperityproject.blogspot.com/2010/03/making-30-day-commitment.html

http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/5026/1/Personal-Growth-through-Sacrifice-and-Discipline.html

We all know teetotalers. We all know hypocritical church-goers. Lent is not just for Catholics or Christians, it is for anyone who wants to make a personal committment to self growth and renewal. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, let’s get started. Ready, Set, GO!

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Someone’s Crying Lord, KumBaYah.

Yesterday our rural community experienced its sixth suicide in 5 months. At a recent community forum a rep from the medical examiner’s office stated that before this year the statistical average in our community was 2 per year. I’m thinking this is not the kind of progress we are looking for.  Suicide is not a new occurence, but as a school counselor asked me today, when did this become the most popular option? Not only have we seen an increase in deaths, but also in attempts and ideation. And repeatedly we hear from family and friends, I never saw that coming.

Are things that much rougher now than they used to be? Yes. They are. It is a trickledown effect, what we as adults are experiencing, whether we realize it or not, so are our kids.  The unemployment rate for adults has just recently went down a small percentage, but that does not mean people are getting the pay they had in the jobs they lost.  They are getting the jobs that teenagers would normally get.  There are very few good jobs for teens these days because adults need them and are being hired for them. Teen unemployment stats range from 29-60%. In the past I would tell parents of kids who didn’t do great in school to encourage them to find an activity or a job they can excel at to boost their self-esteem and not feel like just because school is hard for them they are a failure. But because of the economy activites are being cut and teen jobs are scarce.  More pressure to succeed in school at higher standards set by the government taught by teachers whose salaries are dependent on the test scores. More pressure to get scholarships to colleges that have increased tuitions and higher admission requirements to be able to compete for fewer available jobs.  Criticism from adults saying this is the laziest, most materialistic generation.  Absent parents not able to connect with their kids as often  because they are having to travel for weeks at a time, or commute for hours daily, or work a second job to pay the bills.

The kids are worried. And they are lonely. They are relying on their peers, as they always have, but where in the past they had the adults to fall back on to be strong when their peers were dramatic, now the adults are frazzled and dramatic too.  Kids learn what they live. Are you overwhelmed by your situation? Do you drink or sleep or use pills to cope? Do you argue with your spouse because your stressed? Your kids are watching and learning.

Am I saying it is a parent’s fault if a teenager commits suicide? No way, absolutely not.  But I am suggesting “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work.  To address this epidemic, we have to start with ourselves.  We ALL need help right now. We ALL need support and peace right now. If you don’t feel balanced in your life right now, you can bet your kid doesn’t either.  The difference is that teenagers are naive. They are impulsive. They live in the moment. We adults have lived long enough to know that even when things suck they can get better. And then suck again. And then get better.  But your kids don’t know that.  Unless you tell them.

Teach resilience. Teach coping skills. Build self esteem. Tell your kid they can do anything they set their mind to. Tell them it will get better. Talk to them. Tell them you love them. Write it down and stick in their bookbag. Teach by example. Take care of you. Get help for your stress. Find balance. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket like a job or a relationship; understand that there is more to you and more to life than one thing to define you.  And teach your children this also. Things that trigger suicide are often loss of a relationship, or feeling someone is mad at them, or feeling hopeless. Bullying has always gone on but makes a bigger impact these days because teens are struggling with their depth of self. THIS is where we need to start.

Normally my blogs are more upbeat and positive and I try to be inspiring. I fear this one is dark and bleak. I AM optimistic. But we have to get serious, about the right stuff. So so so many people are overwhelmed. We might just have to grab hands and start singing KumBaYah soon because one more death is too many. “someone’s crying, Lord, kumbayah”

Suicide Web Links:

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

http://www.afsp.org/

http://www.teenscreen.org/

I don’t heart Valentine’s Day

I hear more complaints about Valentine’s Day than any other holiday. People who are in a relationship complain about having to choose the perfect romantic gift. People who are not in a relationship say this day depresses them because it is a reminder they are alone. But I say, it’s just a day. It is what you make it.

In November many people use the month to list daily things they are thankful for. Why can’t we use February as an opportunity to list the things we love or the people we love, have loved, or who have loved us? There are no rules. Let’s create it how we want. Valentines doesn’t have to be about romance. Let’s make it be about appreciation, expressing affection for those we care about.

Go buy yourself a box of school exchange valentines. Or better yet, make your own. Write a short note on each, telling the people in your world that you love them, why you love them, what you love about them. Spend time expressing positive things to the people in your world who are probably tired of hearing negatives and could really use some positives.

I do heart Valentine’s Day, for some new good reasons.

“In a New York Minute…”

“everything can change.”   So sang Don Henley in 1989.  Little did we know then how everything could change on one day in September, 2001.  And I bet all of us know someone whose life changed in the blink of an eye.  One minute you are cruising along, taking the little things for granted, and then out of nowhere, a car accident, or a terminal diagnosis, or the death of a loved one.  We all know this can happen; people say “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow” as a reminder to not sweat the small stuff.  But how many of us have our ducks in a row?

By no means am I suggesting a fatalistic attitude. Like it could all end tomorrow, so let’s throw caution to the wind and walk on the wild side!  But I AM asking, what if it did? Would you be ready?  What would be your regrets?  The sad part of my job is hearing stories of families struck by tragedy.  The lists of coulda, woulda, shouldas.  If only I hadn’t yelled.  If only we had bought life insurance. If only I had spent more time with my family instead of working so much.  (Isn’t there an old country song that says no one has a tombstone that says ‘I wish I would have worked more’?)  But from these stories I have learned an important lesson.  Don’t think it can’t happen to you.  Get your paperwork in order, tell people what your wishes are, and live each day to the fullest.

Talking about what should happen if you are gone suddenly is not morbid, it is responsible.  When people are grieving the last thing they need is to be stressed by the details of financial burden.  And death can certainly be expensive.  But also, does someone know your online billing passwords? Can someone find your loved ones through your cell phone if you are unconscious? Do your children know your greatest wishes for them? Do you have unresolved business, grudges that someone assumes you still hold but really you don’t, you’re just too stubborn to approach them?

Tim McGraw sang Live Like You Are Dying.  Why DON’T we? Why don’t we eat dessert first? Why do we save up six weeks of vacation and never take off work? Why do we wait until we are retired to travel and then feel too tired to do it?  Who in your daily life do you take for granted, or have something unsaid that you would regret if you never got the chance to say it?  Why don’t we sit with the people we love and eat chocolate chip pancakes for dinner and reminisce about the good ole days? Give me one good reason!  Because you won’t be able to later, when the opportunity is gone.

Carpe Diem.  Seize The Day.

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