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

Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Taking Back Control of My Life

What do you mean I haven’t blogged in six months? How is that possible? This is a prime example of how life gets away from us. I have been focused on attending to the crises that present themselves, “putting out fires” as they say, and I’ve put the other stuff on the back burner until I have time. Well we can see how that worked out. Six months went by! I have always known this. You have to be proactive. You have to make time for the things that matter. But it sure is easy to get wrapped up with things and way off track.10313784_726687540767928_6619839759579931771_n

There is a nice trend this New Year that instead of setting resolutions that they worry will fail, people are choosing theme words that represent an attitude or a commitment for the year. One of my friends has chosen Organization as her word, and will use it to keep her life that has started to feel chaotic more in order. Another friend chose Nurture and plans to nurture her body and her family and her job. There are so many ways to apply these words. They become a Mantra that you can whisper to yourself every single day as opportunities present themselves for self-care.

The word I have chosen is Schedule. I am taking charge of my daily and weekly life. I am planning exercise and recreation, as well as chores and bill paying and even blogging! I’m not a control freak about time, that actually might be the problem. I tend to wing it. I can be very productive that way and do well at multi-tasking. But the old way tends to only focus on what the world is demanding from me rather than what I CHOOSE to see as important. So this year I am even scheduling time to schedule time. I will be realistic and build flexibility into the schedule, but being proactive will help me make sure my own priorities are attended to and not left to sit and then six months goes by.

Will you choose a word this year? If so, be sure to make it positive rather than punishing. Have it be applicable to many situations and be kind to yourself. This life changing stuff is a big deal. (Here is a link to my friend Margo’s blog about this One Word Resolution making. No Resolutions or Goals)10628115_726130297490319_2284401736206326049_n

Advertisements

Give Older Adults More Choices

What will you miss when you are older?

What are the inefficient frivolous things you do as an adult that probably waste time or money but you don’t care? Do you go out of your way to a store you like even though it’s an extra five minutes, or splurge on yummy ice cream you don’t need? Do you drive up to the convenience store at 10:00 at night to pick something up? Do you hold onto bad habits that you know you shouldn’t? Do you sometimes stay up late watching TV? These are things we take for granted as mobile independent adults. We do what we want, when we want, because we can. But what if you couldn’t drive and you were dependent on others for rides for everything? Or what if you were on a limited income and there was no room left for frivolous? Or if you lived in someone else’s home and they bought the groceries or controlled the TV? These are the losses that older adults face every day and their children don’t realize.

Getting older often means things our bodies once did easily like walking two steps up the porch can no longer be taken for granted. Balance is off, immune system is down, eyesight goes, response time is slower. Things like this that allow us to remain independent, to come and go as we please, to run into the kitchen during a commercial, become difficult. And that sucks. Losing these seemingly small things can add up to a great sense of loss. Driving less or not at all, no longer being able to live on their own, becoming confused with all of life’s changes can make older adults feel very dependent on their children and a burden. They need so much to meet their daily needs that they stop asking for the frivolous stuff that we all enjoy as adults. What can we do to help?CNY_SM_20131129_QUOTE

The longer someone can maintain their independence the better. Even in the little things. Even if they live with you, they may still be able to contribute as productive members of the family. Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t patronize them. Ask them to help in ways that they can sincerely productively help with. They aren’t stupid and if you are condescending they will know it.
  • Don’t nitpick or micromanage. Let them do silly frivolous things if they want to. It’s the benefit of being a grown-up. None of us like our every behavior to be analyzed.
  • Let them have bad habits. They have given up so much already. They are adults, they have choices, they know the risks. So do you on your bad habits.
  • Include them in the decisions about their own lives. If you help in making their appointments, include them in the decision of where to go and when to go and whether to keep going.
  • Talk to them, not about them. They’re right here. Don’t talk around them to your siblings or the doctor.
  • Don’t tiptoe around the truth. They know they are old. They know things have changed. Be honest. Choices at the end of their lives are just as important as every other time in life.
  • Don’t yell at them or treat them like children. It may sometimes feel like they have digressed and act child-like. Often this is because they are confused or scared. Be kind and respectful.
Grown daughter talking to parents at home

Grown daughter talking to parents at home

My grandmother ate half a banana and drank a glass of prune juice every day for 80 years. When she went into a nursing home that daily habit stopped abruptly because it wasn’t part of the dietary plan. What daily habits do you have that you would miss if someone else was in charge of your life? Consider these things in caring for the older adults in your life and their dignity and independence will last longer, I promise.

Disappointment with a Capital D

This is a topic I started counseling when working with kids in anger management. We’d discuss how anger is a secondary emotion. It’s real, but it’s second, happens after the primary or underlying emotion. If you are angry, I teach, that is a cue to ask yourself what else are you feeling inside also.Because to manage the anger we must address the emotion that is fueling the anger. That emotion might be sadness or worry, powerlessness or fear. But most often, the number one cause of anger is Disappointment with a capital D. What I have discovered, after years of talking to clients, is that adults should be aware that Disappointment triggers them too. disappointment-sign

Mother’s Day. Valentine’s Day. A birthday. Times we get our hopes up for something to happen, but the result doesn’t meet our expectations. That’s hard. It’s a bummer. It kinda sucks. When a kiddo has a fit because they don’t get their way, we tell them to knock it off. Grow up. Deal with it. And yet, adults really aren’t much better at handling disappointment. Our fits might be more controlled (or not…I’ve seen some serious adult temper tantrums…!) but we have them just as often as kids do. Why is this?

Unrealistic expectations is a big reason. Being hurt and disappointed that a family member doesn’t offer more support. And yet, truth be told, that person has never been good at offering support. I’m not justifying it, I’m just saying it is what it is. If that person has been a jerk for 20 years, why would they change this year? And yet, there we go, hoping this time will be different. And there we go, upset again. We get our hopes up and we get disappointed yet again.

In researching images for this blog post I found many pictures saying “if you expect nothing, you’ll never be disappointed.” I don’t think that’s what I’m suggesting here. I think its okay to hope. But if there is a pattern, realize there is a pattern. Don’t be in denial or ignore the facts and then be surprised that it turned out the same way it always has. If you don’t like how it turned out last time, do something different. Change your expectations, or put your faith and hope in someone who is more likely to accommodate your need. Try to get some clarity so you can have more realistic expectations.

That’s not always easy. It requires insight and observation. Asking yourself, what am I hoping for and can that happen? What are the chances? Accepting that you’re not going to get the results from the current situation can be difficult too. It can mean accepting a truth you don’t want to face, like this person really won’t ever stop drinking or you won’t ever get promoted in this job, or your parent will never be the accepting nurturing parent you think you deserve. Accepting those facts might pressure you to change and change is scary. I tell people all the time that they don’t have to change. But they do have to accept where they are if they want to stop being disappointed. acceptance

I asked a young nine-year-old client to give me an example of a time she felt disappointed. She said, “when my brother got invited to the Cardinals game and I didn’t. I was mad because I really wanted to go. THAT was disappointing.” She was right on the money. She got it. Hopefully we adults can also be so wise and recognize the emotion for what it is and get better at handling that gigantic capital D.

Winter Whines

The holidays are over. It’s winter here in the states. And I’m whiney. It seems, so is everyone else. If I had a dollar for every time someone has complained about the cold this week, I could buy a warmer jacket! You’d think we live in a cold climate where it really gets into the scary negative wind chill, but we don’t, we live in the Midwest where it gets kind of cold, every single year at this time. But I also know this is relative. I remember being in Glen Ellen, California one summer and it got into the low 60’s and everyone was complaining how cold it was. Granted, it was summer, but this was a big deal! Where are the jackets?!! The more I think about it however, I’m not sure it’s about the cold. I think it’s about change. People don’t think they can handle change. It’s a new season, a new year, the end of something familiar. They dread it, they stress over it, and yet they deal with it successfully all the time, every year. Usually, the build up to it, the worry, is worse than the change itself. And what they tell themselves in anticipation will influence how they handle it. Here are some examples.Funny-winter-quote

“I hate this weather.” “I can’t deal with this.” “This sucks.” “I’m not a winter person.” “I don’t like this.” “I wish it was over.” Do any of these phrases sound familiar? These are comments just in relation to winter and cold, but are reflective of any change. If we tell ourselves we hate it, we can’t handle it, then our experience will be worse not better. Sometimes we act like a negative friend, constantly whispering how we can’t handle it or how bad it’s going to be, and we just feel worse and worse. But what if we did the opposite? What if we were the best friend ever to ourselves, whispering “you got this!” or “hey, you’ve been through this before, you can do it again.” Or we could even use humor or reality checks like, “Really Self? It’s not as big a deal as you’re making it. Chill out.”

My point is, if we really stop to think about what we are worried about, many times it is something that should be a 2 instead of an 8 on a scale of 1-10. I have kids draw mountains and mole hills and explain the old phrase “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill,” and their parents say, “Oh yeah….” Additionally, if we thought about exactly what we are complaining about, we’d realize we have handled this same scenario time and time again. If it something we really do hate, maybe we should make a change. If you complain every day about going to work, it might be time to find a new job. If you complain every year about winter, it might be time to move south. Things we feel we have no control over, we often have more choices than we think, and if it truly is an 8 on the 1-10 scale, making a change could help your overall happiness. If it is a 2 or 3, then you might need a perspective change. Tell yourself to find the good in things, don’t allow yourself to complain excessively, and develop a positive mantra that helps you take on the challenges with a better attitude. If there are things that you repeatedly dread, like winter, then plan for them. Know yourself, know you don’t like it, and plan something to look forward to during that time instead of just whining through the whole chilly season.

It’s January, yep. It’s winter, yep. It’s cold, definitely yep. But we got this. We did it last year and the year before, and we survived just fine. Soon it will be summer and hot, and then we’ll have something new to complain about. Or look forward to…

Acceptance Does Not Mean You Have To Like It

The Serenity Prayer asks a higher power to help the person accept what they cannot change and let go, change what they can, and to be able to see the difference between the two. In grief therapy, patients are told their feelings are “normal” and eventually the final stage is acceptance and they start living again. In 12-Step programs they say Let Go and Let God. On a bumper sticker you might see Teach Tolerance. At church we are encouraged to forgive others and forgive ourselves. The messages are all around us. So why is it so hard?20131113-083505.jpg (more…)

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!

“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.

%d bloggers like this: