Month: December 2014

3 Insightful Questions to Ask Yourself at the End of the Year

With the old year ending and the new year starting, it is a good time to take stock in the year that has passed and a good time to think about what you want for the year to come.  Making a New Year’s resolution can be a good thing, but if you make a resolution that you cannot keep or are unable to stick to because it is unreasonable for where you are and where you would like to go, that seems fairly pointless.  There are a few questions that you can ask yourself to get start thinking about where you would like your life to be at this time next year and to be able to reflect on the year that has passed.  These questions will allow you to reflect on your mental health, your relationships, your life, and your future.

1. What is the baseline for my mental landscape or mood state?

It is a good idea to start by asking yourself how you are feeling on a typical day.  Is your baseline mood reasonably good?  Do you often feel irritable, frustrated, anxious, or depressed?  When you feel a certain way all the time, it is easy to take it for granted.  It is easy to assume that wherever your baseline falls is normal for you.

If you are feeling reasonably good a lot of the time, take a few minutes to think about why that is.  Are there changes you have made in your life that promote this kind of attitude?  Have you been working on this for a while and feel like you have made some progress?  Have you always been generally happy and want to continue to be so?  Take stock in all of these things and remember that these things take work to keep up.

If you are feeling poorly, take a few minutes to think about what that is.  It might be time to work on what is bothering you.  Take all the time you need and work down to the core of why you are feeling this way.  It could be something small or it could be something big that is making you feel like you are not generally happy.  Work on that reason and the changes you can make to it.  And if it is feeling too big, get some help with it.  Approach friends for help, or find a therapist who can help you.  You do not have to go on feeling poorly all the time.

2. Did I give and receive the best possible love this year?

One of the cornerstones of mental health is wrapped up in our relationships.  Chances are, if you feel that you gave the best love you could and received the best love you could, you are probably feeling pretty good.  If not, that may be something for you to work on.  This might be the key to finding your happiness in this new year.  When you are not feeling your best, it is difficult to love the people who are important to you in the best way that you can.  It is also difficult for the people who are important to you to love you in the best way possible when you are not feeling your best.  It is hard to cultivate relationships when you are depressed or frustrated or irritable.  Is there a way that you can find to be able to work on your relationships and move toward feeling like you are giving the love you would like to receive and receiving back the love that you give out?

3. Based on my current or daily activities, where can I expect to be in the future?

“The future” is a very general term.  Focusing too far into the future may be overwhelming, but focusing too close to where you are now may not give you enough to work toward.  What do you want to next chapter of your life to look like?  If you have an idea of what you want, are some of the things that you are doing now in service of that idea?  Ideas do not just manifest without any work done to achieve them or any energy put toward them.  Ideas require work and focus.  If you start to work toward them now, you will be that much closer at this point next year.  If you are not doing anything in service of your future or you do not know what you want your future to be, these are things to think about now.  You do not have to make a solid plan for everything today, but think about what you want your life to be and start to think about where you want to be in the future.

Rebuilding a Relationship with Your Estranged Child

Much of the winter holidays focuses on family and togetherness.  Many of the images of the holidays show happy families of parents and grandparents and children all gathered around a menorah or a Christmas tree.  But what if you are estranged from your adult child?  What if you have grandchildren with whom you do not spend time because of this estrangement?  How do the holidays look for you?  Many people with estranged children have found other ways of celebrating the season with friends or other loved ones.  It is possible that you would like to begin to rebuild this broken relationship but do not know where to start.  If you would like to rebuild a relationship with your estranged child, there are a few things that you should know and remember.

1. Do not go in without a game plan.

Something has happened between you and your adult child that caused a rift.  It might have been something that you did or something that he or she did.  Regardless of who is at fault, if you are ready to rebuild the relationship, amends need to be made.  You may not know what your child wants from you to be able to start the rebuilding process, so asking may be a good place to start.  Then again, if he or she thinks that you should know and you do not, asking could backfire.  Do some research into techniques for talking to adult children in a non-confrontational manner.  Find an approach that suits your abilities and your comfort level.  If you have someone with whom you are comfortable, practice some of what you would like to say before you make your first attempt.

2. Keep your expectations realistic.

Rome was not built in a day. And your relationship with your child will not be a vision of perfection overnight either.  It is possible that your son or daughter sees your situation in a very different light than you do and is not ready to begin this rebuilding.  Relationships are built on trust and forgiveness.  These things take time to rekindle once they have been extinguished.  It is certainly acceptable to have hope for what you would like your relationship with your child to be eventually, but try to keep your expectations to a minimum.  Having too many expectations can put undue strain on an already difficult endeavor.

3. Commit to the effort.

Do not take the first steps if you are not fully committed. Starting the process of rebuilding and then abandoning your efforts will make it so much harder for your child to be able to trust you should you make the decision to try to rebuild at another time.  It could alienate your child further.  Committing to being all in for the long haul is best demonstrated rather than said.  Being committed to the effort means that even if you are rebuffed at your first effort, you will continue to make attempts at rebuilding the relationship.  Being committed to the effort means that you will persist because you love your child and care for your child despite all that has happened between you.  The nature of what occurred between you and how long that situation lasted for will really determine how long it may take for you to rebuild your relationship if it is possible to do so.

4. Be ready for your life to change.

Regardless of how old your child is, he or she may need you to be there and learn to put your family first. Putting your family first does not mean that you have to give up all of the other areas of your life.  It does not mean that you have to give up the life that you have built for yourself and the things that you regularly engage in, but it does mean that you will need to make time in your schedule for your child.  If he or she is ready to start working on this relationship, do not make it difficult for him or her to talk to you.  Allow some time for just the two of you to talk or work out some of your difficulties.  This is where you start to keep your promises.  And the most important thing about promises is that you only make the ones that you can keep.

Coping With Holiday Depression In A Healthy Way

With the passing of Thanksgiving comes the beginning of this holiday season.  By the end of this week, the holiday season will be about halfway through.  Many people have difficulty during this time of year.  There are as many reasons for people to have trouble with the holiday season as there are people.  Anything can make it difficult.  And one of the things that usually does not make it easier to deal with is when others do not understand how hard it can be, why it is hard, or remind you that you can get over your holiday depression by just being grateful for the things that you have.

Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude is, in theory, an easy concept to grasp.  Gratitude is all about acknowledging all of the things that you have in your life and having an extra appreciation of them.  Gratitude is actually really hard to have.  As a species, humans are hard-wired to fixate on the bad things because the bad things could be a threat.  Good is something that can be glanced over because it is not a threat to survival.  However, as conscious beings, it is possible to move past our biology.

Holiday depression is often one of the times that feels the bleakest.  The weather is darker and the air is generally colder so more people are staying indoors.  Even in those times when you feel like everything is falling apart, and your life will never be good again, it is usually possible to find something to be grateful for.

 What You Can Do To Combat Holiday Depression

Take some time to try an experiment.  Take a few minutes each day to write down one or two for which you can be grateful.  Starting small is the key.  There is no reason to find fake things that you feel like you should be grateful for, but you are not really.  Find things that are truly good even if they are small.  Think about things that can and do make you happy.  They do not need to be great big things that will change the world or effect your whole life.  Small things to be grateful for could be being able to get out of bed in the morning, a cup of your favorite tea, or your dog.  You could be grateful for a sunny day, the good mood of the teller at the bank, or missing a really long red light on your way to work.

Even if you are experiencing holiday depression, there are things for which you can be grateful.  If some of your depression stems from not being able to be with friends or family, or not having people to share your holiday with, you could be grateful for the freedom that you are afforded or the peace that comes with solitude.  If the whole holiday experience is too much for you, you can be grateful that it is a relatively short season.  If you are missing loved ones who have passed away, you can be grateful for the good times you had and that there are others who know how you are feeling.

At the end of a week, go back and read over the things that have made you happy that week.  Then move on.  Do the same for another week.  It is possible that after that second week, you will find yourself looking for ways to be grateful and passing that positive energy on to others.  You might find that you generally start to feel better about the state of your life.  You might even start making plans to yourself feeling good and effecting positive change in your own life.

It is possible for acts of gratitude to really change your life.  When you start to recognize the good things in your life, no matter how small, you may be able to start finding more and more things that you can be grateful for.  The Law of Attraction says that like speaks to and attracts like means that when you look for the good things you will attract more good things.  It may seem difficult at first to find the things in your life for which you are grateful.  Like almost anything else, it is likely going to feel like yet another chore you have to do.  But as you progress, it will get easier, and you will find that gratitude starts to come naturally.

Eight Medical Conditions Caused By Excess Stress

According to Dr. Jay Winner the author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life and the director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, CA, “Stress doesn’t only make us feel awful emotionally.  It can also exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.”  That is yet another thing to feel stresses out about.  In recent years, research has found that there are many health problems that can be attributed to stress.  Chronic stress has been shown to increase the risks of a number of typical health difficulties.

  1. Gastrointestinal Distress and Difficulty – Despite the common misconception, stress does not cause ulcers. It does, however, make them worse.  Stress has been known to be a common factor in many GI conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic heartburn, and acid reflux.

  1. Alzheimer’s Disease – According the WebMD, one study into Alzheimer’s disease found that stress may have worsened the lesions on the brain during Alzheimer’s disease. Stress may have caused them to grow faster in the brains of the animals studied.  This information lead to speculation that reduced stress may slow the progression of the disease.

  1. Diabetes – Stress increases the glucose levels in the body. Adrenaline cortisol is released during moments of stress.  This release causes a burst of glucose to be released into the blood as well.  The glucose is the body’s natural way of preparing for the energy needed in a moment of crisis.  The excess glucose can cause a variety of problems for people who live with diabetes.

  1. Obesity – The above mentioned increased levels of glucose and adrenaline cortisol increase the amount of fat stored in the body. Storing too much fat increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.  Stress also puts you at a higher risk for obesity because it often prompts comfort eating.  Comfort eating generally includes food items that are packed with unhealthy fats and sugars.

  1. Heart Disease – It is not known exactly why people who live with chronic stress are also at a higher risk for heart disease through there is speculation. Stress increases blood flow and heart rate.  It also causes triglycerides and cholesterol to be released into the blood stream.  It is known that sudden emotional stress can trigger a heart attack or other serious cardiac problem.  People with heart problems are advised to avoid sudden stress and learn tools for dealing with the unavoidable stresses of life in a healthy way.

  1. Asthma – Some studies have suggested that a parent’s chronic stress can influence the risk of his or her child developing asthma. A recent study indicated that children who had stressed out parents and were also exposed to air pollution or smoking in the womb were much more likely to develop asthma than those children who were only exposed to pollution or smoking.  Stress can lead to shortness of breath in adults which can trigger an asthma attack.

  1. Depression – It is likely to be no surprise that stress and depression are linked. Stress can cause the brain to produce less of the neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Since the body is producing more cortisol, the natural patterns of the body such as mood, energy, and sleep can be disrupted.  Chronic stress also leads to self-medicating with drugs or alcohol which can lead to depression as well.  According to WebMD, several recent studies observed that people with stress relating to their work such as a demanding job with very few rewards are 80% more likely to develop depression than people with lower stress jobs.

  1. Memory Difficulties – As mentioned above, the body produces excess amount of the hormone cortisol when under stress, and cortisol interferes with the production of neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters that are affected are also those that are responsible for retrieving memories.  Stress sends the glucose that is usually meant to be in the brain to other areas of the body in preparation for a fight or flight response.  This glucose is meant to aid the hippocampus in the formation of new memories.  Also, excessive cortisol in the brain for an extended period of time leads to the degradation of the hippocampus.

Relieving stress is the easiest way to fight off some of these health issues before they get too far.  Practice relaxation and deep breathing.  Yoga, meditation, and general exercise are great for stress relief.  Take some time to figure out what the things are that are going to make you feel your best and stay in optimum health for the longest period of time.

Six Healthy Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Divorce

It is not difficult to imagine the difficulty that children often have when their parents get divorced.  Many parents, even those who both want to be involved in the lives of their children and those who truly love their children more than anything else, sometimes have a difficult time figuring out how to make the best out of what is going to be a tough situation all around.  When you are hurting, it is hard to wade through your own feelings and focus on the feelings of your child.  He or she is going to have some very specific emotions surrounding the breakup of your family, but you can help your child work through some of the issues.  You cannot heal all of the pain that your child is going to experience, but you can help him or her to cope with the disappointments and the difficulties that come with divorce.

1. Make sure your child knows that he or she is loved.

There are lots of situations when children will blame themselves for their parents’ divorce.  They think that if only they were better behaved or more fun than their parents would have stayed together.  While you know that this is not true, your child may not.  Continually reassure your child that he or she is the most important thing in your life and that you love him or her.  Explain to him or her that while sometimes adults do not want to be together anymore, that does not mean that he or she has done anything wrong or is not loved.

2. Talk honestly about the situation.

Sometimes parents let children down.  When one parents does not show up at the appointed time, the child will be disappointed.  Even adults make big mistakes.  Let your child know the truth about the situation.  If you do not understand the motivations of the child’s other parents, say as much, but stay away from bad mouthing or talking down about your child’s other parent.  Let your child talk honestly about how he or she feels.

3. Encourage open communication.

It is not just when one parent lets down the child that he or she should be able to talk about feelings.  Your child should be talking to both of his or her parents about the feelings that are coming out of your decision to divorce.  Encourage your child to discuss his or her feelings without anger or yelling, but still with honestly.  He or she should be able to express disappointment, feelings of loss, loneliness, or hurt.

4. Be willing to change the arrangement with your ex to make your child a priority.

Consistency is important.  So working out a schedule with your ex that will allow your child to know when he or she has to be in a certain location can be very beneficial for his or her mental health.  You have to take your schedule and your ex’s schedule into account, but if there are days that are regularly difficult or the schedules do not meld well than you need to rethink your arrangement.

5. Get other adults involved.

If you are lucky enough to have other adults in your life who love your child than you should get them more involved in the life of the child.  Maybe a grandparent or a friend could pick your child up from school one day a week and get him or her started with homework or an afterschool activity.  Other adults can be role models for your child just as you can.  Getting others involved with your child can give him or her an outlet for some of the feelings that are difficult to express to you or your ex.

6. Regardless of your feelings, make the transitions of your child peaceful.

When your child is going back and forth between you and your ex, there is the potential for problems.  Keep in mind the feelings of your child when you are going back and forth.  It is very easy for your child to believe that he or she is the problem if it is these transitions that are causing so much stress.  Do not fight with your ex while you are transitioning your child.  Do not fight with your ex when you are within ear shot of your child.  If you are going to fight, do it in private when your child is elsewhere.  He or she will easily absorb any of the negative feelings that come out of this kind of fighting.

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