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

Posts tagged ‘change’

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

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When Your Aging Parent Refuses Medical Care, What Do You Do?

What do you do if your older parent chooses different medical treatment than you want for them? If they want to stop taking their medicine or if the refuse treatment? If they are tired of living and just don’t want to try anymore. This is a dilemma I have seen time and again in families. Adult children have their own ideas about how their parent should treat an illness and this can result in an argument.

If an adult is in their “right mind,” meaning they have not been assessed and determined to be incapable of making rational decisions, then they get to choose. And this can be very difficult for their families. I have seen adults stop taking medicine because they didn’t believe in medicine or they didn’t like how it made them feel. Or because they couldn’t afford it. Their children say, but you need it to live! The adult knows this, but is making a choice.  I have seen adults have very harrowing experiences in the hospital, painful surgeries or debilitating side effects, long term recovery. They know they never want to experience that again, so they might refuse to see the doctor if they know something is wrong or if they fear they might need surgery again. If someone hasn’t been through this, they may not realize how traumatic it is and how fear can stop someone from acting. It is similar to having a car accident and being afraid to drive again. I have even seen people decide they want to stop living. They are tired; tired of hurting or tired of being alone or tired of being a burden. They aren’t suicidal, they are just passive about working to live and if death comes they are willing to embrace it. This scares their children because they don’t want to lose the parent. But whose best interest are the children acting in?elderly_console

I’m not suggesting stand back and let the parent die. I’m suggesting try to understand why the parent is feeling how they feel and be respectful. It may be difficult, but try to imagine how you will feel at that age. Try to assist that adult in maintaining their choices and their dignity, but it is also ok to have a conversation about how you feel. Enlist the help of a social worker, a pastor or a therapist to mediate the conversation and help each person see the other’s perspective. Ultimately, however, you as the adult child might have to get help for yourself in dealing with not liking your parent’s choices. This is not an easy scenario, when you and your parent disagree on how the parent should treat an illness or choose to live, but if you try to force the parent to comply it will often result in anger and resentment, loss of dignity and depression for the older parent. Not necessarily a better solution.

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…

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!

Blah, just Blah.

The tree is down, the decorations put away. Nostalgic music is gone for another season. Stresses and conflicts we had late last Fall got put on hold, shoved under the rug so we could get through family holiday events without tension, but now those holidays are over. In their place are the added pounds, the holiday credit card bills, and the pressure to set a personal goal we probably won’t keep. Welcome to January.

This can be a dangerous time for mental health. People set deadlines (just gotta get through the holidays) and feel pressure to make big changes at the first of the year. Three big things I see in January in counseling are divorces filed, alcohol relapses because the vacation time at work started over, and the winter blues. I also hear about financial overwhelm from the bills, dread over not knowing what a new year will bring, fatigue and feeling unmotivated.

I don’t bring up these things to be a downer, but to point out that if you feel these things you are not alone. And you don’t have to face it alone. Help is available through counseling or support groups, work EAP (employee assistance), church groups, financial counseling, and even online support. There are books on these subjects and 24 hour hotlines around. If you feel overwhelmed, please reach out. If you have a friend or family member who struggles with mental health issues, please reach out to them. This is not something you have to face alone, and it is not something that will last forever.

Blah, just Blah.

The tree is down, the decorations put away. Nostalgic music is gone for another season. Stresses and conflicts we had late last Fall got put on hold, shoved under the rug so we could get through family holiday events without tension, but now those holidays are over. In their place are the added pounds, the holiday credit card bills, and the pressure to set a personal goal we probably won’t keep. Welcome to January.

This can be a dangerous time for mental health. People set deadlines (just gotta get through the holidays) and feel pressure to make big changes at the first of the year. Three big things I see in January in counseling are divorces filed, alcohol relapses because the vacation time at work started over, and the winter blues. I also hear about financial overwhelm from the bills, dread over not knowing what a new year will bring, fatigue and feeling unmotivated.

I don’t bring up these things to be a downer, but to point out that if you feel these things you are not alone. And you don’t have to face it alone. Help is available through counseling or support groups, work EAP (employee assistance), church groups, financial counseling, and even online support. There are books on these subjects and 24 hour hotlines around. If you feel overwhelmed, please reach out. If you have a friend or family member who struggles with mental health issues, please reach out to them. This is not something you have to face alone, and it is not something that will last forever.

Why? Why? Why?

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do the good die young? Why do some people get more than others?

If there is one thing I have learned in hearing many sad stories over the years, it’s that there is no formula for who has more bad luck than others.  There is a disproportionate number of tragic things that happen to some people compared to others, with no system for why they “deserve” these things to happen to them.  They don’t deserve them. They don’t earn them.  Con artists get away with swindles for years, the corrupt get rewarded with success… I’m not cynical or bitter. Just observing that many people feel frustrated by these things especially when faced with their own hardship. And then they ask, WHY?

I don’t have a definitive answer for why.  But I do have some observations…

The people we emulate across time, those we respect, we honor, we quote over and over, have not been the ones who have had it easy. It has been the ones who dealt with hardship and didn’t give up.  From Gandhi to Mother Theresa to Oprah Winfrey.  Job, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln.  The authors who had their manuscripts rejected 32 times and published it themselves and became hugely successful.  The inventors and scientists who used failed experiments to learn from and eventually get it right and change the world.  If we all stopped when it got hard, where would the world be?

We don’t always know WHY we are going through something at the time we are going through it.  The heroes listed above probably had no idea of the far-reaching effect their words and actions would impact the world.  You don’t know how something you are going through now is setting the stage for something important in the future or precluded you from something worse.  If you are in a hurry and get a flat tire, you may be irritated and grumbling at the delay.  But what you don’t know is that if the flat hadn’t happened you might have crossed the path of a semi swerving in your lane and had it much worse.  If you smile at a stranger in line at the store, to you it may be nothing but to them it may be the one thing that kept them alive today. No kidding!

When I was a kid we had great times and not so great times.  (Didn’t everyone?)  I remember the angst of a teen, crying, sobbing, thinking things would never get better, this is the worst-thing-ever.  But now I know that the struggles I faced back then have all contributed to my helping others now, to have empathy for others and for them to feel I can connect (and hopefully make a difference). There is a common theme in literature and religion and life.  Call it Karma, or the balance of the Tao; the Golden Rule or Pay it Forward. It seems even with theoretical differences most people believe there is a higher order that keeps the universe in “balance”.  The biggest challenge is remembering that in the moment.

“Blind Faith” is an ACTION that is most challenged when we need to have it the most.  Believing that even though what I’m going through right now sucks, some day I’ll understand why.  Or if I never do, TRUSTING that it is for the best, even though it really doesn’t feel like it right now.  Being open to this concept is the first step.  The second is being open and creative enough to see the connection when it is presented.  Avoid tunnel vision and try to look at the big picture, the journey and how the little miracles all around us don’t just happen on their own, but are intricately connected to everything that came before and all that will come after.  We won’t always know why. Sometimes the answer is, Just Cuz.

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