April Awareness month for Alcohol & Autism

April’s Mental Wellness Meet-up Topic: Dangers of Alcohol for Alcohol Awareness Month & Spreading Awareness of Autism & providing info/support services for families

The symbolism of band-aids is what I use to talk about how some individuals use drugs and alcohol to cope with struggles and trauma in their life. Drugs and alcohol are the band-aid, they do not cure the wound or prevent others from happening-- it masks the wound and provides temporary relieve. A wound needs time to heal, ointment, water to cleanse, and support. Those who are addicted or depend on drugs need support from others, need to be give opportunity to heal, and need to realize they are worth healing! 

Alcohol Awareness Month, founded and sponsored by Facing Addiction with NCADD since 1987, is a national grassroots effort observed by communities throughout the United States to support prevention, research, education, intervention, treatment and recovery from alcoholism and alcohol-related problems.

Remember that use of alcohol is your decision and that drinking is not necessary for having a good time. Know that “Drinking Too Much Too Fast Can Kill You” and that alcohol poisoning, a drug over-dose, is more common than many people think.  Avoid situations where someone else’s alcohol consumption or other drug use may put you at risk. Always respect another person’s decision not to drink alcohol.  If you are concerned about yourself, a friend or family member, contact local addiction services, like ACCA’s family support navigator for help; they will connect you to someone who is specifically trained and successfully experienced in helping individuals and families dealing with alcohol-related problems.

What is Alcohol?- Alcohol is a substance that when misused or abused can be harmful to the body. It is found in many drinks such as beer, wine, champagne,  and liquors. Alcohol is LEGAL for people who are 21 years of age but they need to be safe, responsible & respectful when they do decide to drink.

What Does Alcohol Do To The Mind & Body?- Alcohol is a depressant that effects many different parts of the brain; meaning that is slows down breathing, heart rate and makes users moody or mean to others.

·         Loss of judgment (someone may think that they are okay to drive a car when they really cannot, because they are impaired due too much alcohol).

·         Loss of coordination (someone may trip and hurt themselves or someone else after using too much alcohol).

·         Alcohol can hurt many parts of the body including the brain, liver, stomach, and heart. When people drink too much they can get sick and vomit & have a headache.

·         Youth brains are more vulnerable to alcohol because the brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25.  The brain controls the whole body & when drinking it can affect how someone walks, talks, breathes, & makes decisions. Alcohol can alter this development, potentially affecting brain structure & function.

·         Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are 4x more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.

·         Mixing alcohol with other drugs, especially prescription medicine is especially dangerous. It can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting & loss of coordination & puts you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems & breathing difficulties.

What is Alcoholism? -It is a disease in which the person has lost control over their drinking. The person may want to stop, but cannot do so. The person may drink every day, miss work to drink, and hurt family members and themselves by drinking.


Helpful Resources:

·         Facing Addiction with NCADD: www.facingaddiction.org

·         Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): http://www.aa.org/

·         Al-Anon Family Groups: https://al-anon.org/

·         National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/

·         Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Alcohol and Public Health: https://www.cdc.gov/Alcohol/

·         Addictions Care Center of Albany, Inc. : http://www/theacca.net

o   Family Support Navigator FREE services 518-465-5829 ext. 416

·         Northeastern Community Action Partnership: www.northeasterncap.com

Underlying Question: Why?

--What drives an individual to do what they do?  Family struggles?  Pressure from friends/family?  Job issues? Stress?  Wanting to suppress feelings/thoughts?

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorder refers to a range of disorders of brain development. Commonly known as autism, these conditions are characterized by difficulties in social skills, both verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitious movements, delayed child development and other unique strengths and challenges. In the phrase ‘autism spectrum disorder,’ spectrum refers to the variation in presentation of symptoms and assets of each individual with autism.

The notion that autism is a spectrum of disorders is a relatively new phenomenon. Before 2013, autism spectrum disorders, such as Asperger’s syndrome and Kanner’s syndrome, were thought of as distinct disorder classes with independent treatments. In the latest revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association combined subcategories of autism and related conditions into one unified category with different characteristics and severity. Autism is now understood to be on a continuum with overlapping symptomology, caused by a multitude of complex genetic and environmental factors. This progression of the classification and etiology mirrors that of evolving treatment approaches for individuals with autism. Treatments have changed in the last century due to changing theoretical conceptions, new philosophies, and research advances in the field, ranging from biochemical to social and behavioral methods.

30 Things Parents of Children on the Autism Spectrum Want You to Know

It is estimated that one in 68 children are now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum disorder, and yet, this diagnosis remains as misunderstood as ever. We simply do not live in a society that is accommodating or even accepting of those who are not “neurotypical.” Fortunately, parents of autistic children are wonderful at communicating who their children are and why. Below are 30 things those parents of children on the Autism Spectrum want you to know.

Not all autism is the same, and neither is every child with autism.  It’s called the Autism Spectrum because autism actually covers a wide scope of complex disorders in brain development. Included are Asperger’s Syndrome, “classic” autism and  Pervasive Developmental Disorder, among others.  The types of autism range in everything from communication skills, anxiety, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors, among other things. As with any kid, a child with autism should be treated as an individual with his or her own set of abilities and preferences.

Just because my kid doesn’t look like another kid with autism doesn’t mean he’s not on the Autism Spectrum.  As one parent wrote on the popular Autism Speaks blog, “Knowing one child with autism doesn’t mean anything really — they’re all so different. Please don’t tell me my son doesn’t have [autism] because he looks so different from the other kid you know on the Spectrum.”

You can’t always see autism.  There is still a shocking amount of ignorance among the general population when it comes to the Autism Spectrum. Many people assume that children with autism have certain identifiable facial features or particular habits. But as it has already has been mentioned, every single person with autism is different and mild cases of autism are common. These stereotypes and lack of understanding often make things difficult for parents. It’s especially hard in the case of schools, coaches, or other organizations who deny a diagnosis because it is not easily seen.

Our home is safety proofed.  You’re probably familiar with baby proofing a house. But while most families can take down the safety gates and doorknob locks once the child ages, families with children on the Autism Spectrum often have these items and more protecting their child from their home’s inherent dangers. This is because many children on the Autism Spectrum are prone to behaviors that can bring about self-injury. 

Autism causes the brain to process things differently.  Children on the Autism Spectrum process differently things others often take for granted. Crowds, loud noises, and bright or blinking lights, among countless other things, can often lead to extreme anxiety or a total meltdown on the part of the child. As one parent of an autistic child stated, “If you are in a supermarket and your child is getting overwhelmed and maybe making a scene, it makes it ten times worse when people around you are giving you dirty looks or making comments.” 

My child may be nonverbal, but she has a lot to say.  We live in a very verbal society that is ill-equipped for those in our population who are nonverbal. It’s estimated that about one-third of those on the Autism Spectrum are unable to speak. Still, it would be a mistake to assume these people do not have ideas, opinions, and other things to say. Some autistic children learn sign language to communicate, while others type or use other tools. 

My autistic child has feelings.  A common challenge children on the Autism Spectrum and their parents face is the assumption (by other children, other parents, and even teachers) that because an autistic child cannot verbalize or express their feelings like a neurotypical child might, those feelings must not exist. But nothing could be further from the truth. As one parent bluntly describes, “Even children who don’t speak can still hear you. Don’t talk to me over my children like they aren’t there, especially if you’re going to sympathetically tell me what a saint I am for dealing with a horrible situation every day. I’m not a saint. I’m their mother. And she HEARS YOU and understands that you’re saying she’s a burden to me.”

Children on the Autism Spectrum are not dumb.  Kids with autism have the potential to be absolutely brilliant. They’re also talented, philosophical, kind, and creative. This is something much of society fails to see, but in truth, the autistic mind is simply wired differently than those not on the Autism Spectrum. Hans Christian Andersen, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Michelangelo, Mozart, and Sir Isaac Newton (to name but a very few!) — all are said to have exhibited autistic tendencies. 

“Autistic” is not my child’s sole definition.  A child on the Autism Spectrum is first and foremost a child. Autism is simply something that has happened to that child. Make an effort to see someone on the Autism Spectrum for their unique personality, talents, likes and dislikes, not the differences brought about by their autism diagnosis. 

A schedule means nothing to us.  Children on the Autism Spectrum often have a difficult time adapting to changes in routine. Taking a vacation, weekend away, or even just a spontaneous trip to the zoo can be a bit of a challenge. Even the best-laid plans can go awry and cause total havoc. 

Please let my child play with your child.  A study done in Australia found that 42% of teens and adults on the Autism Spectrum do not feel comfortable leaving their own home because they often feel others treat them negatively. Not only is this heartbreaking for the affected individuals, it also leads to further misunderstanding and stigma about autism by the general public. Children with autism like to play with their peers, and largely benefit from being included in things like play dates and sports teams. 

My kid works harder than any other child her age.  As already mentioned, we do not live in a society that is accommodating to people on the Autism Spectrum. This means that an autistic kid has to work much, much harder  to function just about anywhere they go.  Behind that hard-working kid are parents, teachers, and therapists who are also working hard to help that child. An autistic child acting like their neurotypical peers has not been cured. He’s simply working 100 times harder to keep up, and that’s something we should all keep in mind. 

There’s no need to tag us in every Facebook article about autism.  Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum are research junkies, and do their best to stay up-to-date with each and every advancement in the autism community. Certainly, they know more than the average person. As one parent put it, “There’s literally no Facebook article [about autism] we haven’t seen. So, before you share it and tag us because we’re that friend with the child with autism, take that into account.” 

Please keep your unsolicited advice to yourself.  This is a big one, and parents say it all the time. Please don’t offer unsolicited advice about something you probably know very little about to a parent who lives and breathes autism. 

We know best when it comes to our autistic children.  All parents know their own children best, but this statement is especially true of parents of children on the Autism Spectrum. Most parents of autistic children have spent countless hours researching and consulting with doctors. They know their children’s ticks and the best ways to avoid meltdowns. Autism Speaks advises other parents keep the unsolicited parenting advice to themselves, saying, “Do ask the family whether there’s something you can do to help, but he prepared for a ‘no.’” 

I’m not someone to pity simply because my child has autism.  Autistic children are writing books, making films, creating blogs, and making all sorts of other groundbreaking achievements. Yet, when a parent tells someone their child is autistic, they are usually met with an unnecessary apology or look of pity. Autism is not something to be pitied, and our society’s outlook should change to reflect that. 

As parents, we aren’t looking for an autism cure. Parents of neurotypical children are often surprised to hear that parents of children on the Autism Spectrum aren’t really looking for a cure. Autism is part of their child’s life and identity, and they wouldn’t be themselves if they weren’t autistic. These parents might research to find management tips and tricks (such as diets), but they understand that finding a magical cure to get rid of autism altogether is, for lack of a better word, just silly.


We can’t just “get a babysitter.”  Generally, when parents need a night away, they hire a babysitter. Simple right? Well, not if you’re the parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum. Kids with autism exhibit different behaviors than do neurotypical children. For one, parents leaving isn’t just annoying, it’s disturbing on an emotional level. That makes it very hard for an autistic child to settle down while a babysitter is running the house

You can’t “catch” autism like you would a cold.  Though we know more about autism today than we ever have before, this is a misconception that parents of children on the Autism Spectrum run into constantly. Autism is not contagious. It does not spread from one person to another. It’s as simple as that. 

I’m not an autism expert.  If you want to learn more about autism and what it’s like to be autistic, there is one reliable source: a person on the Autism Spectrum. Parents of autistic children can tell you what it is like to live with a person on the Spectrum. They are experts on their own child. But the only person who can tell you what it’s like to live with autism is an autistic person himself. 

My autistic child is not trying to be difficult.  As one parent stated about her autistic son on the popular website Baby Gaga, “He isn’t giving us a hard time. He’s having a hard time.” No child on the Autism Spectrum is trying to behave badly when they experience a meltdown. The biology of autism is complicated and extensive, and much of it cannot even be tested for medically. Children on the Autism Spectrum have trouble with their methylation pathways. Their intestinal tracts do not absorb nutrients well. This impairs their immune system and guts, which then leads to issues in the brain. Because the brain and body of an autistic child do not always work as one, they have to express their pain and frustration in the form of things like meltdowns. 

When my child is having a meltdown, please stay calm.  Meltdowns occur because children on the Autism Spectrum often feel overwhelmed by their surroundings. Therefore, a sense of calm is required to end the meltdown and restore a child’s feeling of control. During a meltdown, the parent will likely be busy trying to calm their child. A helpful person standing by shouldn’t approach the parent and child. They can help by trying to make the immediate area as peaceful as possible. As Autism Speaks recommends, “Scan the area around the child for sights and sounds that may have contributed to the meltdown. . . . Is there an alarm that can be silenced? A flashing display that can be temporarily turned off? 

Please be patient with my child.  Children on the Autism Spectrum often have a slew of sensory issues and meltdowns in common. Because no one would expect a family with autistic children to stay home all hours of the day, these meltdowns often happen in stores, at parks, and in other public places. Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum simply want others to understand that these meltdowns are not brought on by bad behavior, and to please remain patient with both the parents and the child. Rolling your eyes or mumbling snide comments are not helpful. It will not change the immediate situation and can even add further stress to both parent and child. 

No, I don’t just need to discipline my child more.  Meltdowns are not tantrums. They are not the result of a lack of discipline on the part of the parent. Children on the Autism Spectrum have sensory issues. One child may be a sensory avoider, while another is a sensory seeker. And kids with sensory issues do not respond well to physical punishment. Spanking, time out, and yelling are not usually effective tools of discipline for a child with autism. Rather, parents of children on the Autism Spectrum rely on routine and repeated exposure to teach their autistic children rules and boundaries. 

We need to hear we are doing a good job. This is, of course, true of every parent, but it is especially true of parents of children on the Autism Spectrum. Raising a child with autism is a lifelong learning curve. As more and more is learned about the biology of autism, parents must keep up with new therapies and decide if they would be right for their child. For instance, there are new supplements, dietary concerns, and feelings about a new friend or teacher. The list of things to keep parents up at night is a long one

Don’t stop trying to include us. Autistic children, their siblings, and their parents are simply people, and people like to feel as if they are a part of a community. Though spending the day with a child on the Autism Spectrum may come with a few additional challenges, continue to spend time with them. Ask families to come to the Sunday BBQ, ask questions to better understand, and invite the parents out for dinner and an evening away. If they say no, ask again next time. 

We are incredibly lonely. For all of the reasons already listed, it’s easy to see why being the parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum is a lonely experience. Parents are with their children all the time. Many will be with them for the rest of their life. That makes joining a community of friends incredibly difficult. Divorce rates amongst parents of children on the Autism Spectrum is especially high. If you’re a friend of a parent of an autistic child, ask that parent if they’re okay. Ask if they need something, or if you can help with anything. Showing them they’re not as alone as they may feel will go a long way in brightening their day. 

Please just listen to us. Raising a child on the Autism Spectrum is hard and frustrating, and sometimes parents just need to vent to a friend. If you’re the chosen friend, listen with compassion. Likely, the parent is just looking to share their battle, and they are not looking for unsolicited advice or opinions.

The rate of autism is increasing.  Current figures say autism affects 1 in 68 Americans, but that number is expected to increase in the near future. Still, there is very little understanding and support throughout communities and amongst organizations and businesses. 

We don’t need “Autism Awareness,” we need “Autism Acceptance.”  You’ve probably seen the bumper stickers, Facebook posts and the t-shirts calling for “Autism Awareness.” But as parents of children on the Autism Spectrum continually insist, our society is aware of autism. It’s autism acceptance that we need. Though one in 68 American children are now diagnosed with autism, our society still treats autistic individuals and their families as social pariahs. To become a more inclusive society will take advancements in access to services, affordable health care, employment opportunities, Medicaid expansion, fair pay, and more opportunities for quality education. 

Resource content: https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/things-parents-of-children-on-the-autism-spectrum-want-you-to-know/?fbclid=IwAR3mU2djU__I2AQIPJQS0AiIgi3ZJFR3JX63c5kcvdTGFl6DrxLgkS4hbQo 

Helpful Resources:

Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region- https://www.asgcr.org

Wildwood Programs- www.wildwoodprograms.org

Crossroads Center for Children- http://crossroadcenter.org/

NAMI NYS- http://www.naminys.org/

MHANYS- https://mhanys.org/

Autism Speaks- https://www.autismspeaks.org/

Parent to Parent NYS- http://parenttoparentnys.org/


How Core Values Can Impact Behavior & Achieving Goals

Mental Health Happy Hour Support Group

August 2018 Topic: How core values can impact behavior & achieving goals


How many of you are really good at goal setting and prioritizing your core values?

Often times it's easier to go by our feelings, but that isn't a great strategy if you'd like to make big progress, or even steady progress. Going on what we feel all the time can keep us in a holding pattern. Many struggle with holding pattern that coasts on their successes, and maybe highlights some of the areas where they could improve, but ideally it's not that bad, so improvement doesn't have to be the priority if they are comfortable and doing good things, right? WRONG. This is a bad way to exist because it breeds complacency.

So how do we make better strategies in our goal setting and keep our values hierarchy at the forefront? If they aren’t written down, they aren’t real, so write them down in a place that you see every day. The values hierarchy is an ordered list that helps us make informed, conscious decisions according to what we personally value, which is directly linked to our goals, if we are really serious about achieving them. Here is a list of core values:

·         Authenticity

·         Autonomy

·         Growth

·         Kindness

·         Meaningful Work

·         Love

·         Fun

Once our core values are in place, the goals can follow. In order to stay on top of the forward motion, we need to keep values AND goals at the forefront EVERY DAY. So, here is some great advice:

■ Plan each day, week and month in advance.

■ Plan each month at the beginning of the month.

■ Plan each week the weekend before.

■ Plan each day the evening before.

Below is a list of core values commonly used by leadership institutes and programs. This list is not exhaustive, but it will give you an idea of some common core values (also called personal values). My recommendation is to select less than five core values to focus on—if everything is a core value, then nothing is really a priority.


Core Values List:  (Circle Your Top Core Values)

  • Authenticity
  • Achievement
  • Adventure
  • Authority
  • Autonomy
  • Balance
  • Beauty
  • Boldness
  • Compassion
  • Challenge
  • Citizenship
  • Community
  • Competency
  • Contribution
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Determination
  • Fairness
  • Faith
  • Fame
  • Friendships
  • Fun
  • Growth
  • Happiness
  • Honesty
  • Humor
  • Influence
  • Inner Harmony
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Knowledge
  • Leadership
  • Learning
  • Love
  • Loyalty
  • Meaningful Work
  • Openness
  • Optimism
  • Peace
  • Pleasure
  • Poise
  • Popularity
  • Recognition
  • Religion
  • Reputation
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Security
  • Self-Respect
  • Service
  • Spirituality
  • Stability
  • Success
  • Status
  • Trustworthiness
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom

Setting Realistic Goals Benefits Your Mental Health

Having realistic goals benefits your mental health, but many people with depression or other mental illnesses struggle to set goals. Read on to learn about how to make and keep goals that benefit your mental health even if you're living with a mental illness.

Why Do Goals Benefit Your Mental Health?

Goals that benefit your mental health are motivational tools that help you pursue your dreams and give you reasons to stay productive. Sometimes goals are based on responsibilities. For instance, you might set daily or weekly goals to complete assignments for school or projects for work on time.

Realistic Goals Benefit Your Mental Health

The hardest thing about setting goals that benefit your mental health is knowing how to make them realistic. Sometimes, you might think about what others are capable of doing and expect the same (or more) from yourself. So you make unrealistic goals, like completing a 20-page essay in one night or running a marathon in two minutes. Then, when you do not meet your goals, you either stress yourself out even more or you just give up. As a result, setting unrealistic goals damages your motivation, and that damages your mental health. So it is important to remember what your abilities are to set reasonable expectations.

Tips on Goal-Setting that Benefits Your Mental Health

Focus on Short-term Goals on Tough Days

On the days when I am most depressed, my two main goals are to get out of bed and shower. Usually, if I can get out of bed, showering is no problem. After that, I am refreshed for the rest of the day and feel more confident that I can set and attain other goals. However, there are days when getting out of bed and showering are my limits.

Going to Work or School Can be a Goal

For many of those who struggle with both depression and anxiety, going to work can be a goal that benefits your mental health because it helps with the social aspect of life. If you are prone to avoiding people out of fear of what they think of you, work is a place where you are required to interact with others.

While it can feel uncomfortable at times, this is a good thing. It gives you an opportunity to put yourself out there and be more social than you thought you could be. In the end, it could help you build confidence and achieve your goals.

Goals Can Help You Avoid Isolation

Personally, I have not really struggled with going to school or work. But on my days off, getting out of the house can feel difficult. On those days, I make it a goal to at least text a friend so that I am not completely antisocial.

Resource content: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/toughtimes/2017/10/setting-realistic-goals-benefits-mental-health



Six Steps to Reaching Your Goal

Step 1: Name It- Identify what your goal is. It must meet the four Goal-Naming Criteria listed below.

o    Personal- Your goal must be important to you.

o    Possible- You have the time, ability, and resources you need.

o    Positive- Your goal is stated as a positive action, “ I will” rather than “I won’t.”

o    Specific- Your goal is measurable so you will know when you have reached it.

Step 2: Picture Yourself- Picture yourself reaching your goal so you know what you are aiming for.

Step 3: Say, “I can”- Use positive self-talk and say, “I can” to boost your confidence.

Step 4: Think How To Do It- Think of what actions you can take to accomplish this goal.

Step 5: Go for it!

Step 6: Celebrate Your Success!


Coping Strategies for our Mental Health


What Are Coping Skills and Strategies?

Coping strategies and skills are the responses and behaviors one adopts to deal with difficult situations. Coping strategies come in many forms.  Think of when you were last upset or angry. How did you respond to that emotion? Did you go for a walk? Listen to music? Draw, color or paint? Mediate? Go to the Gym? Those are healthy coping strategies that individuals choose to practice to move forward for their own self-care and wellness purposes. However, in life, there is always a balance of positive and negative.

Humans tend to learn coping strategies from those they come into contact with while growing up. When a person learns and develops habits of negative coping skills, stressors become catastrophes and confidence in one's ability to cope is diminished. Negative coping strategies are self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, reacting to others' actions, driving fast, bullying, physical and mental abuse, cyber attacks, sexual assault and etc.

Strategies for Good Mental Health Wellness

According to Sydney Youngerman-Cole, RN, BSN, RNC and Katy E. Magee, MA, "Many mental health problems begin when physical stress or emotional stress triggers chemical changes in your brain. The goal of treatment and prevention is to reduce stress and restore normal chemical processes in your brain." Coping skills are methods a person uses to deal with stressful situations. Obtaining and maintaining good coping skills does take practice. However utilizing these skills becomes easier over time. Most importantly, good coping skills make for good mental health wellness.

Some good coping skills include:

  • Meditation and Relaxation Techniques: Practicing deep breathing techniques, the relaxation response, or progressive muscle relaxation are ways to help reduce stress and induce relaxation.
  • Time to Yourself: It is important to set aside time every day to allow yourself to relax and escape the stress of life. Give yourself a private, mini vacation from everything going on around you.
  • Physical Activity: Moving around and getting the heart rate up causes the body to release endorphins (the body's feel good hormones). Exercising provides some stress relief.
  • Reading: Escape from reality completely by reading. Reading can help you to de-stress by taking your mind off everyday life.
  • Friendship: Having friends who are willing to listen and support one through good and bad times is essential.
  • Humor: Adding humor to a stressful situation can help to lighten the mood.
  • Hobbies: Having creative outlets such as listening to music, drawing or gardening are great ways to relax and relieve everyday stress.
  • Spirituality Actively believing in a higher power or divine being can have many health benefits. In recent studies, it has been found that people who pray have better mental health than those who do not.
  • Pets: Taking care of a pet helps distract the mind from stressful thoughts. Studies Show that pets are a calming influence in people's lives.
  • Sleeping The human body needs a chance to rest and repair itself after a long and stressful day. Sleeping gives the body this chance so that it is ready to perform another day.
  • Nutrition Eating foods that are good for you not only improve your physical health, but they play a major role in your mental health. When your body gets the proper nutrients, it is better able to function in every capacity.

There are also negative coping skills which can hinder progress in dealing more positively with stress. Actions that are harmful to both mental and physical health include:

  • Drugs
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Self-mutilation
  • Ignoring or storing hurt feelings
  • Sedatives
  • Stimulants
  • Excessive working
  • Avoiding problems
  • Denial

These actions offer only temporary relief, if any, from stress. Ignoring or covering up how you feel does not solve the problem and the next time the situation arises, you will still have no way of dealing with it.

The next time you find yourself faced with a difficult or stressful circumstance, remember to practice your new coping skills. These skills lead to good mental health and happier you.

Ten Tips for Better Mental Health

  1. Build Confidence - identify your abilities and weaknesses together, accept them, build on them and do the best you can with what you have.
  2. Accept Compliments - many of us have difficulty accepting kindness from others but we all need to remember the positive in our lives when times get tough.
  3. Make Time for Family and Friends - these relationships need to be nurtured; if taken for granted they will dwindle and not be there to share life's joys and sorrows.
  4. Give and Accept Support - friends and family relationships thrive when they are "put to the test." Just as you seek help when you are having a tough time, a friend or family member might come to you in their time of need.
  5. Create a Meaningful Budget - financial problems are big causes of stress, especially in today's economy. Over-spending on our "wants" instead of our "needs" can compound money worries. Writing down where you money is going helps you keep a closer eye on your finances.
  6. Volunteer - being involved in community gives a sense of purpose and satisfaction that paid work cannot. Find a local organization where your life skills can be put to good use.
  7. Manage Stress - we all have stressors in our lives but learning how to deal with them when they threaten to overwhelm us will help to maintain our mental health.
  8. Find Strength in Numbers - sharing a problem with others who have had similar experiences may help you find a solution and will make you feel less isolated. Even talking about situation with people who have not experienced what you are going through is a good way to gain outside perspective.
  9. Identify and Deal with Moods - we all need to find safe and constructive ways to express our feelings of anger, sadness, joy and fear. Channeling your emotions creatively is a wonderful way to work off excess feelings. Writing (keeping a journal), painting, dancing, making crafts, etc. are all good ways to help deal with emotions.
  10. Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself - get to know who you are, what makes you really happy and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself.

Meditation / Relaxation Techniques

When our bodies are exposed to a sudden stress or threat, we respond with a characteristic "fight or flight" response. This is when epinephrine (adrenaline) and nor-epinephrine are released from the adrenal grands, resulting in an increase in blood pressure and pulse rate, faster breathing and increased blood flow to the muscles. Every time your body triggers the "fight or flight" response to situations that is not life-threatening, you are experiencing what is essentially a false alarm. Too many false alarms experienced by the body can lead to stress related disorders such as heart disease, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, insomnia, sexual dysfunction and immune system disorders.

A simple meditation technique practiced for as few as 10 minutes per day can help you control stress, decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, and achieve greater capacity for relaxation.

The Relaxation Response

The relaxation response was developed by Harvard physician Herbert Benson in the 1970s. The technique has gained acceptance by physicians and therapists worldwide as a valuable adjunct to therapy for symptom relief in conditions ranging from cancer to AIDS. The relaxation response is a technique designed to elicit a state of deep relaxation in which breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure and metabolism are decreased. Training our bodies on a daily basis to achieve this state of relaxation can lead to enhanced mood, lowered blood pressure and reduction of lifestyle stress.

The two essential steps to the relaxation response are:

  • The repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer or muscular activity.
  • Passive disregard of everyday thoughts that inevitably come to mind during the process, followed by a return to the repetition.

To elicit the relaxation response:

  • Choose a focus word or phrase for repetition. You can use a sound such as "om," a word such as "one" or "peace," or a word with special meaning to you.
  • Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place free of distractions. Close your eyes and relax your muscles progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head and neck.
  • Breathe slowly and naturally and as you do say your focus word, sound, phrase or prayer silently to yourself while you exhale.
  • Intruding worries or thoughts should be dismissed to the best of your ability by focusing on the repetition.
  •  Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. It's okay to open your eyes to look at a clock while you are practicing, but do not set an alarm.
  • When you have finished, remain seated, first with your eyes closed and then with your eyes open, and gradually allow your thoughts to return to everyday reality.

The relaxation response can also be elicited through other meditative and relaxation techniques. No matter how the relaxation state is achieved, the physical and emotional consequences of stress can be reduced through regular practice.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is one of the easiest stress management techniques to learn, and the best thing about it is that it can be done anywhere! When we become stressed, one of our body's automatic reactions is shallow, rapid breathing which can increase our stress response. Taking deep, slow breaths is an antidote to stress and is one way we can "turn-off" our stress reaction and "turn-on" the relaxation response. Deep breathing is the foundation of many other relaxation exercises.

  • Get into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
  • Put one hand on your stomach, just below your rib cage.
  • Slowly breathe in through your nose. Your stomach should feel like rising and expanding outward.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely and letting your stomach fall.
  • Repeat several times until you feel relaxed.
  • Practice several times a day.

Information about the relaxation response courtesy of: Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

PMR is a technique of stress management developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s. Jacobson argued that since muscular tension accompanies anxiety, one can reduce the negative feelings by learning how to relax and relieve the muscular tension.

PMR is based on alternately tensing and then relaxing one's muscles. A person can practice this technique by either sitting or lying down in a comfortable spot. The key to the relaxation process is taking some deep breaths and then proceeding to tense, then relax a group of muscles in a systematic order. One can start with the head and move down to the neck, shoulders, etc or can start with the feet and legs and proceed accordingly. The goal of the process is to cause deeper relaxation to the body than by simply attempting to relax.

A Simple Exercise that will Help You Relax in 10 Steps:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, with eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths, expanding your belly as you breathe air in and contracting it as you exhale.
  2. Begin at the top of your body, and go down. Start with your head, tensing your facial muscles, squeezing your eyes shut, puckering your mouth and clenching your jaw. Hold, then release and breathe.
  3. Tense as you lift your shoulders to your ears, hold, then release and breathe.
  4. Make a fist with your right hand; tighten the muscles in your lower and upper arm, hold, and then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left hand.
  5. Concentrate on your back, squeezing shoulder blades together. Hold, then release. Breathe in and out.
  6. Suck in your stomach, hold, and then release. Breathe in and out.
  7. Clench your buttocks, hold, and then release. Breathe in and out.
  8. Tighten your right hamstring, hold then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left hamstring.
  9. Flex your right calf, hold, and then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left calf.
  10. Tighten toes on your right foot, hold, and then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left foot.

Meditation is a mind-body practice originating from ancient religious and spiritual traditions. The practice of meditation started thousands of years ago and first became popular in Asia with the teachings of Buddha, who practiced meditation himself. Eventually, the Buddhist form of meditation spread to the Western world, and remains popular today. In meditation, one learns to focus their attention while trying to eliminate or diffuse their stream of thoughts. This practice is believed to result in a state of greater relaxation and mental calmness. Practicing meditation can change how one reacts to emotions or thoughts.

Meditation is used as a mind-body medicine. Generally, mind-body medicine focuses on two things: the interactions between the brain, body, and behavior of the individual, and the ways that emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors affect health. Meditation is used to help reduce anxiety, pain, depression, stress, insomnia, and physical and emotional symptoms that are associated with chronic illnesses and their respective treatments. Meditation is used for overall wellness.


Other Positive Coping Skills

Here's a list of coping skills that will help you when you are feeling strong emotions such as anger, anxiety, or depression. These activities are not likely to create more stress or problems, so these help you be more resilient and stress tolerant.


  1. Write, draw, paint, photography
  2. Play an instrument, sing, dance, act
  3. Take a shower or a bath
  4. Garden
  5. Take a walk, or go for a drive
  6. Watch television or a movie
  7. Watch cute kitten videos on YouTube
  8. Play a game
  9. Go shopping
  10. Clean or organize your environment
  11. Read
  12. Take a break or vacation

Social/Interpersonal (with others)

  1. Talk to someone you trust
  2. Set boundaries and say "no"
  3. Write a note to someone you care about
  4. Be assertive
  5. Use humor
  6. Spend time with friends and/or family
  7. Serve someone in need
  8. Care for or play with a pet
  9. Role-play challenging situations with others
  10. Encourage others

Cognitive (Of the Mind)

  1. Make a gratitude list
  2. Brainstorm solutions
  3. Lower your expectations of the situation
  4. Keep an inspirational quote with you
  5. Be flexible
  6. Write a list of goals
  7. Take a class
  8. Act opposite of negative feelings
  9. Write a list of pros and cons for decisions
  10. Reward or pamper yourself when successful
  11. Write a list of strengths
  12. Accept a challenge with a positive attitude

Tension Releasers

  1. Exercise or play sports
  2. Catharsis (yelling in the bathroom, punching a punching bag)
  3. Cry
  4. Laugh


  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Eat healthy foods
  3. Get into a good routine
  4. Eat a little chocolate
  5. Limit caffeine
  6. Deep/slow breathing


  1. Pray or meditate
  2. Enjoy nature
  3. Get involved in a worthy cause

Limit Setting

  1. Drop some involvement
  2. Prioritize important tasks
  3. Use assertive communication
  4. Schedule time for yourself

How Each Category of Coping Skills Helps

Diversions are those coping skills that allow you to stop thinking about the stress inducing situation. Diversions aren't meant to be the final solution, but each can be useful in the basic goal of remaining safe.

As time goes on, move away from diversions and toward those skills that will build resiliency to the challenges that continue. Diversions are only useful if one can recognize warning signs when feeling overwhelming emotions.

Social or interpersonal coping strategies involve interactions with others. Scientific studies have proven the benefits of social support to counteract the effects of stress on DNA. Social supports can be useful for recognizing warning signs and providing assistance in difficult times.

Cognitive coping skills are those that involve using the mind and thought processes to influence the way one feels and behaves. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of treatment that helps people find ways of thinking that improve their mental responses to situations.

Learning to think in more rational ways can be done by recognizing and changing irrational thoughts. Ultimately, a person can become much more stress tolerant and ultimately improve behavioral outcomes.

Tension releasing or cathartic coping strategies involve acting on strong emotions in ways that are safe for one and others. Punching a pillow could be a way to release tensions in a safe way. Be careful with cathartic responses because these tend to become habit forming and may translate to real life scenarios, so the child who practices punching a pillow may envision a person's face and end up actually punching that person's face when angry.

Physical process is directly tied to mental and emotional processes. A person's breathing rate can illicit a response from the sympathetic nervous system. Raising your voice can send signals to your brain that you are angry. In the same way, acting calmly in the face of difficulty can help send signals to your brain that everything is o.k.

Exercise is another thing that can help by producing endorphins, which are naturally occurring drugs that can create a calm or euphoric feeling.

Praying, meditating, enjoying nature, or taking up a worthy cause can affect a person on a spiritual level. Satisfying the need to feel worthwhile, connected, and at peace improve well-being at the core of a person. Spiritual well-being then exudes out of a person in attitudes and actions that are self-actualized. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we all need to feel a sense of purpose, but not everyone reaches that level.

Limit setting is a preventative measure to protect against overwhelming stress created by doing too much of something. Limits can be set for one's self or others. An example of setting a limit with others is learning to say "no" when you know you are too busy to help someone. Setting a limit for yourself could include dropping involvement in work activities that are not a good fit for your skills and focusing on those that you are efficient doing, which may mean having to be assertive with your boss about how you can help the most.

Freelancing for Idiots

Freelancing For Idiots


A freelancer is self-employed person offering services, usually to businesses and often to multiple clients at a time. The type of work freelancers do varies. Nearly every type of service a business would need could be provided by a freelancer, including (but not limited to), marketing, such as social media marketing, copy writing, and publicity, writing, such as articles and blog posts, technological support, such as web programming and design, creative works such as graphic design, and financial support, such as bookkeeping.

According to the Freelancers Union, 55 million Americans--35% of the workforce--have freelance careers, with a combined estimated earnings of $1 trillion a year.


Freelancing is so flexible, you can set your own hours, working full or part-time on the projects of your choice. While clients can offer specifications to the work, a freelancer works similar to an independent contractor, in which he's free to control how the work is completed. This is an important distinction for tax purposes, because the IRS views employees and independent contractors differently.

Further, freelancing allows you to set your own price, which is often higher than what you'd make as an employee doing the same work.

The regularity of freelance work can vary. Many freelancers work for the same set of clients over a long period of time. For example, a freelance writer might have a client that requires an article twice a week ongoing.

Where should you keep your money?

Savings accounts? Money markets? Under the mattress? Here's where you should be keeping your savings.

Save smarter! Others work with clients over shorter periods, usually on specific projects. For example, a freelance web designer might build a website for a client and once the site is done, so is the work relationship.

Advantages of Freelancing

There are several perks to working as a freelancer, including:

    Get started quickly...today even. As long as you already know the skill you plan to offer, getting started is simply a matter of finding your first client.

    Easy to start. You can start right now, using your network find a client. While you'll want to build a LinkedIn profile and/or a website, you can network within your current career and friend networks to find your first client.

    Affordable. Odds are if you have the ability to provide the service, you also have whatever equipment or software you need to deliver it. Eventually you'll want to invest in business building tools, such as a website, but using LinkedIn (which is free) is a great online resume that can help you promote your service.

    High demand for help. While the marketplace of freelancers is competitive, the need for quality, reliable freelancers is growing. Many businesses don't have employees and instead have a team of freelancers.

    Choose your own schedule. Work when and where you want.

    Pick and choose clients. While in the beginning you may take any client that will hire you, as you grow, you can choose not to take on difficult clients. You can even fire them.

    Do the work the way you see fit. While you need to deliver what the client asks, how the work is done is up to you.


Disadvantages of Freelancing

Where there's a good, there's usually a bad. Here are some disadvantages to freelancing:

    Can take time to build a steady clientele. Getting enough clients to make freelancing something that supports you and your family can take awhile.

    Work can be irregular. Many freelancers experience an ebb and flow in their work. You need to plan for lean times, and be ready to work hard to deliver work on-time when work is plentiful.

    Managing multiple clients and projects can be a challenge. While some people like the variety of working on several projects at a time, others may find it difficult to keep track of deadlines and pace themselves to deliver quality work on time. Great time management systems and organization is key.

    Pay may be low to start out. Especially in today's digital economy, many people expect to pay less for work from a new freelancer. Breaking in with lower costs may be needed, but as quickly as possible, seek to charge what you're worth and find clients willing to pay for quality.

What's the Difference Between a Freelancer and Home-Based Service Business?

There really isn't a difference between freelancing and a home business. Both are self-employed individuals and can work for several clients at a time. Both can set their own schedules and have to abide by the same self-employment tax rules.

With that said, there are a few differences between freelancers and home business owners. A freelancer often works under his own name, where as a home business owner usually creates a business name. Often a home business owner has found way to fill a gap in the market whereas a freelancer works within the established needs of the market.

How to Get Started as a Freelancer

Getting started as a freelancer is as easy as visiting one of the freelance sites to find work, and networking with your current sphere of influence to find your first client. Here's steps to building a freelance career:


1. Decide what you'll offer. Common freelance work includes writing, web design, graphic design, photography, marketing, social media management, bookkeeping and more.

2. Determine your target market. Who needs what you have to offer? Decide if you'll specialize within a specific niche of your service (i.e. copy writing or WordPress web design) or within a specific market (i.e. writing for Realtors or web design for authors). This is the time to decide your brand and unique selling proposition.

3. Create an online portfolio. Start at LinkedIn, a social network all about career networking. Build a profile that promotes the benefits you have to offer. Consider setting up a website, which will offer you more customization and flexibility than LinkedIn.

4. Set your prices. Make sure you charge enough to cover your overhead, time to do the work, as well as to earn a living.

5. Start reaching out to find clients. Use your network to help you connect with potential clients. Consider using a freelance site, such as Freelancer.com or Upwork (formally eLance and Odesk) to find work. While they may pay less than you want, it can be a great way to get experience, testimonials and referrals.

Freelancing is a fast and affordable way to get started working as your own boss from home. With that said, there are pros and cons, and success comes from those who plan their business and deliver high quality work.

On Job Boards- Sites like UpWork , CloudPeeps , and Mediabistro post freelancing jobs in a variety of fields often related to editorial, marketing, and social media. Business News Daily compiled an awesome list of the best freelancing sites to look for work including FlexJobs and Guru . And of course, The Muse features flexible and remote postings as well.

If you’re a full-time freelance writer , the site freelance writing jobs posts a roundup of opportunities each weekday and conducted a survey that’s a good reminder you can also find freelancing projects on more generalized sites like Craigslist and Indeed . The Mix from Hearst pays writers for personal essays they choose to publish, and getting a byline on a site like Cosmopolitan , Elle , or Seventeen is great for credibility.

Through Your Website and Social Media Profiles- Along with looking for opportunities, you also want to make sure that clients can find you—and that when they do, they’re impressed by what they see. Your first stop is a killer personal website, and The Muse has many helpful articles on using Squarespace. (I know: I poured over them when I decided I was ready to migrate from a Blogger site.)  The Fun Activity You Can Do Now to Supercharge Your Career Next Year is a must-read for professionals who are looking for new ways to optimize their site and visually show clients how much they’ve accomplished.

Along with reviewing your website, prospective clients are likely to check out your social media profiles as well. To get yours up to speed, read up on optimizing your Instagram presence , revising your LinkedIn profile in 30 minutes , and following basic Twitter rules .

Updating these won’t just increase your credibility; they’ll provide potential clients multiple ways to get in touch with you. Even if you have a top-notch LinkedIn profile or thousands of Twitter followers—if you only have one or the other, you’re isolating a client who doesn’t use the platform you’re active on. So, while you don’t want to stretch yourself too thin, you do want to come up with a strategy for how you’ll manage your brand on a daily, monthly, and weekly basis.

That said, it remains up to you what you make public. Maybe you want Instagram or Facebook to be a place where you share photos with just family and friends—and that’s totally OK. Review your privacy settings to confirm who you’re sharing updates with (and even if they’re rock solid, I’d still advise against posting inflammatory content). If a business contact tries to friend you on one of these sites, send him or her a LinkedIn invite instead, and indicate that’s a much better way to stay in touch.

Via Your Network- Some people, especially when they’re starting out, want to keep their work under wraps. They don’t want their family and friends to think they expect them to spend money on their new venture—which is valid, and probably much appreciated. But at the same time, remember that your contacts will come across people and projects that could benefit from a freelancer. And who better than you—someone who’s talented and who they already know and trust? This email template is a great place to start. It lets others know exactly what you’re up to you (and offers to return the favor).

And don’t forget: It could be that your connection was tasked with finding someone, and by alerting him to your new gig, you’re actually making his life easier.


Running Your Business

Whatever your clients pay you for is only one part of your job description. As a full-time freelancer, you’re also your own head of HR, a client relations specialist, a marketing manager, and an admin assistant, who occasionally pulls shifts as an accountant and a CTO.

There are two key things to remember here: The first is that you can’t just pretend you don’t have to do any of these responsibilities: You will need to meet deadlines, write persuasive emails, sign contracts, and pay taxes. But, thankfully, the second is that you don’t have to do it all alone.

Along with consulting the helpful resources below, consider what you can tasks you can delegate, outsource, or barter for. Don’t be afraid to learn a skill related to the business-side of your work, but if you feel in over your head, remember that part of running your own business sometimes means hiring an expert to keep you on track.

Financial Advice- Even if you think you’re squared away, it’s worth making sure you’ve got the basics covered. Mint.com wrote an overview of financial considerations for freelancers. 99designs also has a helpful primer, which includes the five accounts all freelancers need .

As someone’s who’s self-employed, you’re going to want to the low-down on taxes . (Here is the official IRS info as well.) LearnVest advises finding an expert to prepare your taxes. Personally, I do my own taxes on TurboTax (the home and business version), but I always email a brilliant friend who’s an accountant if I have a tricky question. Be honest with yourself about what you do (and don’t) have the bandwidth and ability to take on. Another monetary consideration is keeping competitive rates. Contently prepared this infographic for writers, and there are similar resources for people interested in setting rates for design (look here and here ), as well as formulas for working back from your desired salary . For more on pricing, consult this article from Freelancers Union .

Useful Apps- You can also rely on apps to help with the business aspects of your, well, business. Fast Company pulled together a list that includes apps ranging from those to minimize distractions to ones that assist with signing contracts. Forbes contributor Steve Olenski narrowed it down to just three he couldn’t live without (Spoiler: He picks PocketSuite , Evernote , and GoToMeeting .) If you’re a more-is-more type person, check out this roundup of 44 apps that’ll make you more productive. And of course, don’t forget about options to help you manage your schedule! It doesn’t matter how strong your creative work is if you blow through deadlines and miss check-in calls. Muse writer Kayla Matthews explains what kind of schedule (and scheduling app) you should be using based on your projects.

 Courses- Articles and apps are great, but they’re not your only option. Watching tutorials—especially when you’re ramping up your client base and have time—can help you feel more confident and prepared. If you search on Udemy , you can find a class for just about anything, ranging from negotiation to accounting intros to HTML 101—all those pesky things freelancers have to do for themselves. Muse writer Laurie Pickard shared her picks for online classes that cover similar topics as you’d see in an MBA course .

And you can also go offline. By signing up for a local class or conference, you’ll be learning new skills and meeting new people who you can tell about your budding business—which is a double win.

 Finding Inspiration for the Long Haul


Many freelancers love that they get to pursue their career in a way that speaks to them. But over time, no matter how engaged you are with your work, that excitement may dull. You might find yourself in a creative rut, unsure how to stay relevant and keep your ideas from feeling stale.


One way to keep your perspective sharp is to stay immersed yourself in what you do. Stay apprised of developments in your field and in the freelancing community in general. Here are some people and sites to follow:

Influencers on Social Media- Social media provides unpecedented access to leaders in your industry and allows you stay up-to-date on general trends in freelancing. To cover your bases, Muse Twitter expert Lily Herman curated a list of 75 Twitter accounts of experts who dole out career, financial, and productivity advice and tips. Contently pulled together a group specifically for freelancers. I’d also suggest following founder of CloudPeeps Kate Kendall , One Woman Shop for advice for solopreneurs, SkillCrush for tech-focused advice, and The Freelancer , Contently’s publication. On LinkedIn, FlexJobs suggests following these groups . Also, you can sort Pulse articles by category. Be sure to follow the Freelance and Self-Employment channel. Finally, if you’re more of a newsletter person, check out this list from CloudPeeps.

TED Talks- Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity is less than 20 minutes, and it’s my personal favorite when I’m feeling uninspired. Here are five more to help you on a day when your ideas are feeling kind of stale. Another way to get your fix is the TED Radio Hour podcast . If you’re feeling too close to your work, listening to experts speak on an unrelated subject can be just the break you need to return with a fresh perspective.

Connect with Other Freelancers- One of the biggest challenges over time is the reality of working for and by yourself. You don’t have co-workers who you can chat—and commiserate—with or a boss you can turn to for guidance.

But while you may not be surrounded by people working for the same company; there’s a huge community of people working through the same issues. They’ve also struggled with when to break up with a client (and how to do it ), with raising rates , and wondering if you should go back to a traditional job .


Pumpkin Everything!

NWR hosted a BYOP Pumpkin Carving Party back in October & wants to share with you all the packet they gave to participants full of useful information about pumpkins!


History of Pumpkin Carving

The Irish brought the tradition of carving pumpkins into Jack O'Lantern to America. But, the original Jack O'Lantern was not a pumpkin. Pumpkins did not exist in Ireland. Ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland carved turnips on All Hallow's Eve, and placed an ember in them, to ward off evil spirits.

The Tale of Stingy Jack and the Jack O' Lantern

Jack O'Lantern legend goes back hundreds of years in Irish History. Many of the stories, center round Stingy Jack. Here's the most popular story:

Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who took pleasure in playing tricks on just about everyone: family, friends, his mother and even the Devil himself. One day, he tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree. After the Devil climbed up the tree, Stingy Jack hurriedly placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. Unable to touch a cross, the Devil was stuck in the tree. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him not to take his soul when he died. Once the devil promised not to take his soul, Stingy Jack removed the crosses, and the Devil climbed down out of the apple tree.

Many years later, Jack died, he went to the pearly gates of Heaven and was told by Saint Peter that he was mean and cruel, and had led a miserable, worthless life on earth. Stingy Jack was not allowed to enter heaven. He then went down to Hell and the Devil. The Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell. Now Jack was scared. He had nowhere to go, but to wander about forever in the dark Netherworld between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he could leave, as there was no light. The Devil tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell, to help Stingy Jack light his way. Jack had a Turnip with him. It was one of his favorite foods, and he always carried one with him. Jack hollowed out the Turnip, and placed the ember the Devil had given him, inside the turnip. From that day onward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he went with his "Jack O'Lantern".

On all Hallow's eve, the Irish hollowed out Turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. They placed a light in them to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away. These were the original Jack O'Lanterns. In the 1800's a couple of waves of Irish immigrants came to America. The Irish immigrants quickly discovered that Pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out. So they used pumpkins for Jack O'Lanterns.

Did You Know?

With all the good ole’ fun it’s no wonder that pumpkins are also good super-foods for our health and boost your immune system. Pumpkins are full of vitamins and minerals essential to living a healthy life! That rich orange color we all love is full of beta-carotenes which turn to vitamin A in your body. Beta-carotene has been shown to lower heart disease and is full of antioxidants.  Pumpkins are also low in sugar and high in fiber which helps your digestion. With all those health benefits I’m so glad that there are so many healthy recipes to try, especially with a super-food like pumpkin.


What to Do with Your Carved Pumpkin After Halloween:

Carved pumpkins will rot quickly, so it’s best to get them off your stoop and put them to work as soon as possible.

Compost It- Pumpkins are full of nutrients, which makes them a great fertilizer. Just make sure you remove the seeds before you add them to your compost pile (unless you want baby pumpkins cropping up in your garden next year).

Bury It- No compost pile? No problem. Simply bury your jack-o-lantern in your winter garden. It will decay quickly and enrich the soil.

Share It -You may be done with your jack-o-lantern, but the leftovers are a delicious snack for animals like deer, squirrels and birds. Place your pumpkin in a spot where you don’t mind a little wildlife activity and let the feast begin.

Pumpkin Puree- This is an easy and popular pumpkin dish. Simply cut your pumpkin in half or in quarters, scoop out the seeds and guts, and place your pumpkin face down in a baking dish that’s filled with 1 cup of water. Bake for 90 minutes or until the pumpkin flesh is tender, then scoop it out and puree it in a food processor. You can use this to make pumpkin pie, cake, pumpkin spice latte, muffins or bread!

How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Prep Time-1 hrs 15 mins, Cook Time-1 hrs, Serves: 5 1/4 cups (approximately)

Ingredients- 2 sugar/pie pumpkins

Instructions- Snap or cut off the stems and cut each pumpkin in half. Be careful when doing these steps. To make it a little safer, slice off the top or bottom of each pumpkin to create a flat and more stable surface to cut the pumpkins). Scoop out the insides with a spoon or ice cream scoop and save the seeds for roasting. Place the halves on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350º for about an hour or until a fork slides through easily. Remove from the oven and let them sit to cool. When they have cooled off, flip them over and scoop out the insides with a spoon. Place the insides into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Refrigerate your puree or separate it into 1 cup portions, place into freezer safe containers and freeze.

Recipe Notes- I always process two pumpkins at a time because that is the size of the baking sheet I bake them on. Feel free to do more if you have the space. Be sure that your baking sheet has raised edges because the pumpkins release a lot of moisture while baking. Depending on the size of your pumpkins and how many you bake, the amount of pumpkin puree you end up with will vary. In my case, I ended up with 5 1/4 cups. Homemade pumpkin puree will keep in the refrigerator for about a week and a half. Homemade pumpkin puree will keep in the freezer for 6-8 months so you can enjoy pumpkin desserts for months to come!

Eat The Seeds- If you’re looking for a healthy snack to munch on for the rest of fall, look no further than your pumpkin! All you need to do is wash, drain and toast the seeds, then add the seasoning of your choice. For specific instructions, try this recipe from FitSugar.

Turn it into a Planter- Post-Halloween pumpkins make for a unique addition to your winter garden. To convert it, cut a large hole at the top and hollow out the center. Then drill a small hole at the bottom for drainage and fill the pumpkin half-full with potting soil. Add some seasonal plants like pansies or thyme, water thoroughly and enjoy your seasonal planter!

Prepare For Thanksgiving- One fall holiday is over, but there’s another one right around the corner. Upcycle your Halloween pumpkin by turning it into a Thanksgiving centerpiece! As long as your pumpkin wasn’t damaged or munched on by animals during its stint on your doorstep, it should last for a few months before it starts to rot. If you want to give it a nice shine and preserve it better, rub some Vaseline into a rag and buff the surface.

Pumpkin Lasagna-Ingredients:  Oven-Ready Lasagna Noodles, 2 jars Three Cheese Alfredo Sauce, 28 ounces Pumpkin puree, 2 TB Brown Sugar, 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice, 32 ounces Whole Milk Ricotta, 1 tsp Garlic Salt, 1 tsp Italian Seasoning, 2 (12 ounces) packages Chicken Apple Sausage, 2 (10 ounces bags) frozen spinach, drained, and 2 (8 ounces) bags Shredded Mozzarella- Visit Pinterest for more info.

Pumpkin Facial Mask- Recharge your skin with pumpkin’s good-for-you vitamins A, C and E.

2 Tbsp organic canned pumpkin puree or 1 small pumpkin

1/2 tsp organic honey

1/2 tsp milk (I used skim, but you can substitute soy or almond)

1: Start with clean skin. Remove all makeup and wash your face with your regular cleanser.

2: Combine pumpkin puree, honey, and milk in a small bowl and mix well. If using a fresh pumpkin (or leftovers from a carved jack-o-lantern), scrape the insides and remove the seeds. Beat the gooey insides to a creamy pulp and mix with honey and milk.

3: Apply the mask using your fingers or a medium-sized makeup brush; avoid getting the mixture too close to the eyes. You can also apply to the neck and décolletage, but you’ll probably need to double the ingredients.

4: Allow the mask to set for about 20 minutes.

5: Gently wash off the mask with a warm, damp washcloth and follow with a moisturizer.

Pumpkin Pie Play Dough-1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup water, 2 tbsp oil, 2 tbsp cream of tartar, 1/3 of the jar of pumpkin pie spice (the tiny jar), maple extract, vanilla extract, food coloring.

Combine the dry ingredients and the oil. Slowly add the water. Add a few dashes of each of the extracts and a few drops of red and yellow food coloring. Cook over medium heat, stirring until stiff.

 As it mixes you can see if you'll need more food dye. We tried to be conservative at first, because I didn't want it to be too vibrant. We added a little at a time until we achieved the right color. Once it's finished cooking, turn out onto wax paper and allow cooling. The pumpkin pie spice was too spicy by itself, for my liking. The extracts make it smell sweeter, just like a pumpkin pie. Sniff the dough. Does it smell too spicy? Add a little bit more extract and knead it all together. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it's too dry, add a few drops of water.

Pumpkin Seed Oil Uses & Benefits

Pumpkin seed oil leans more on the side of carrier oil than an essential oil. But it still has some great health benefits to it. The oils are harvested by experts. They use a press to extract the oil from the seeds. This is done with precise pressures and temperatures to avoid oxidation or destruction by heat. There are a variety of oils to use during the fall and winter season, but one of the main ones is the pumpkin seed oil. But it is not well known.

Arthritis & Inflammation: Pumpkin seed oil can be used to treat joints and inflammation when taken in capsule form. This is because it has high levels of fatty acids and antioxidants along with other compounds that are often reported that they help reduce inflammation and therefore reducing pain as well.

 Prostate Health: Another great use for the capsule form of pumpkin seed oil is to help support prostate health. It is full of fatty acids and high phytosterol content. Studies have shown that both of those compounds help to support a healthy prostate.

Skin Health: Pumpkin seed oil is fast absorbing oil when it is applied to your skin. It is said to make the skin look and feel great, almost new again. This is because it is full of vitamins A, B, E and K as well as antioxidants and fatty acids. All of these are required for healthy skin.


We hope you enjoyed the content that we provided at our Pumpkin Carving Party & hope to host it again next year. Please feel free to comment with any questions, ideas & whether you tried any of the activites/recipes above!

The Powers of Crystals

If you missed our “Power of Crystals” workshop last night, the universe has got your back….well I do.  All the content that I provided in my packet of resources to guests will be shared right meow!

“Get Your Life” blog is all about connecting with like-minded individuals to discuss all things life and the foundation of getting your life. I will be encouraging readers to email me with questions, stories, and ideas, so I can provide resources, insight and highlight to others that might be going through similar experiences that they are not alone and we’ve got each others back.

When we hold a crystal we are instantly in touch with the forces that shape our planet and the elements that first formed it all beyond the stars. The fascination of crystals are not a fad, crystals have been around for eons and have been adored by many local and distant souls! Let’s get more attuned with the power of crystals by exploring what they are, how they work, what crystal healing is, how to choose your crystals, how to meditate with your crystals, and etc.

What are crystals?

A crystal is a solid substance with a geometrically regular internal lattice, with faces and axes that may or may not be reflected in its external shape. Each crystal is made from its own particular mineral and chemical recipe, which affects its color and shape. In crystallize, that were created from events such as a meteorite, crystal structure, but are nevertheless referred to as crystals.  

Crystals can form only from a gas or liquid solution since it is only at this state that atoms are free to arrange themselves into stable relationships with each other. Despite the difficulties in measuring and identifying the geometrical systems of crystallography, it’s important to acknowledge that a crystal’s formation is the essence of why it does what it does, both in the way it potentially heals and its physical properties. It has been shown that every crystal in a system will share certain energetic properties and ways of working; shape and colors.

How do they work?

Mystical, magical, scientific and pseudoscientific proprieties for healing effects, crystals work through the human energy systems, such as chakras and auras (which I’ll review shortly). The results of using crystals are reported throughout history, science and their healing abilities are attested to by an ever-growing bank of anecdotal evidence.

However, there technically isn’t any credible evidence as to why crystals and gemstones should have any beneficial effect on humans (from the point of view of Western medicine).  Recently, Western medicine has recognized that the emotions and the mind play a huge part of human beings heal. Being that each crystal has one molecule, which is repeated during its structure, it has the ability and organization to adjust and adapt to its environmental changes.  Crystals have a fundamental stability and at the vibration level, can maintain a constant electromagnetic energy. So now consider the human body, which is built up from thousands of different molecules that have their own vibration pattern and way of interacting with its surroundings. WHHAAT!? MIND BLOWN. I love breaking concepts down and connecting them to their meaning; it just fascinates me! (Yeah, I’m weird; whatever!)

Try these exercises..

Exercise 1:

  1. Hold a clear quartz crystal point 1-2 inches from the pal of your hand. Point the crystal toward your palm.
  2. Move the crystal in a small clockwise circle. You will see a point of light either directly in front of the crystal or offset to one side.
  3. As you move, the clearer the crystal and the easier it will be to see.

Exercise 2:

  1. Stand with your eyes closed and your hands held out in front of you with your palms facing up.
  2. Ask a friend to hold a quartz crystal 1-2 inches away from one of your palms (point facing your palm) & slowly rotate it.
  3. Notice how your palms feel different from one another. Observe physical sensations such as one hand being warmer, cooler, heavier, lighter, itchier, and etc. Be aware of any feelings inside you (it might be subtle).

What is crystal healing?

Crystals channel energy. They can focus, store, transmit, and transmute this energy and it can be used for beneficial healing and energizing effects. This is about change; it involved working with crystals to improve your physical & mental health, emotional well-being and your spiritual advancement. They cant do something that you/your body cannot; but they do speed up things that would happen anyway.

Example: Carnelian works well for common colds. Rather than curing the cold or suffering for a while, it speeds up the symptoms process to get rid of the virus.

Crystals help you become open to new possibilities and this is when amazing changes start to magically happen in your life. Whether you are just starting on your journey with them, or you are taking another step on your path, take a bold leap and enjoy the experience of change that crystals bring.

Choosing Your Crystals

Many are becoming more interested in the aspect of how crystals are healing because one or two stones or crystals attracted their attention as simply beautiful or interesting objects. Some people collect a few crystal clusters to decorate their homes, while others become fascinated with their variety shapes and colors. It is easy to find yourself drawn to these wonderful objects and find that you are likely to find that you have a natural affinity with certain crystals specifically.

You may choose crystals on the basis that it will help you with a specific problem or ailment, or you can choose a crystal simply on that you are drawn to its color and shape. •Having selected the crystals that you are drawn to, you may discover that they were the most fitting choice in terms of how they can help you or someone close to you. Whatever the purpose of the crystals you have chosen, this will be revealed to you when it is needed.

Cleansing Your Crystals

When you work with crystals, either by yourself or with others, they absorb energy from you, other people and their environment. Visibly, they can get dusty and lackluster, they might lose their brightness or color. They need cleansing when sticky to the touch too.

Ways to clean crystals:

Running water- hold your crystal under running water for a few minutes. It may need longer if it’s been working hard or hasn’t been cleansed for a long time.

Sunlight- leave your crystal in the sunlight, you can also dry them in the sun after washing.

Moonlight- leave it in the moonlight, especially in the light of a full or new moon.

Incense/Aromatherapy- let frankincense, sandalwood, and smudging smoke waft over your crystal.

Earth- bury your crystal in the earth and leave it there for one to two weeks or moon cycles. Bury it when the moon is full and unearth it at the time of a new moon.

Crystal Cleansing- place your crystal on an amethyst bed, selenite, or quartz cluster or inside a geode.

Programming Your Crystals

Once you have chose your crystal and identified what you want it to help you with, spend some time connecting with it. Look at it, notice its shapes, colors, and plays of light. Hold it in your hands. Become aware of its smooth, flat, sharp and pointed parts. Take in any feelings that your crystal creates in you- these may be physical sensations in your hands or arise as more subtle feelings from deep within you.   Focus on the purpose of the crystal; they all have different physical, emotional and spiritual healing qualities.

Amethyst- relaxing and calming, but spiritually energizing

Citrine- encourages fun, happiness, and joy

Peridot- clears emotional blockages leading to a release of unwanted things and situations in your life. Great to work with for space clearing, or to give you the impetus you need to begin clearing out old unwanted possessions.

Quartz- brings energy into a room

Rose Quartz- allows love to flow and balances emotions

Zincite- great to display in any therapy room as it creates a healing environment

Working with Crystals

You can experience the beneficial effects of crystals simply by placing them near you, holding them in your hands, or wearing them against your skin. Try carrying a small pouch of crystals with you all the time, in your purse, book bag, pockets- they are working to benefit you during every moment. You can meditate with them as a way to help still your mind, drink them in a form of elixirs made by immersing crystals in water (be sure to check if they are safe to drink). Discover crystal healing with the body’s chakras, by placing specific stones upon the seven principal chakra points.

Meditating with Crystals

  1. Find a quiet space, literally, put your phone on airplane mode or “do not disturb”, shut off any other devices and possibly light a candle or two.
  2. Allow yourself to breathe in a relaxed way and feel centered. Calm yourself.
  3. Now choose a crystal to focus upon and allow yourself to explore it with all of your senses.
  4. Connect with the crystal and be aware of any sensations and feelings that arise in you: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
  5. Stay with the process for a minimum of 10 minutes, but keep going for an hour if you have the time.
  6. The important thing is to repeat this meditation daily, no matter how little or how much time you have to spare.

Opening up to Crystal Energy

This meditation is specifically designed to open your mind, still your body and free your spirit to be more receptive to the healing energy of crystals.

  1. Hold two quartz crystals, one in each hand. Close your eyes and feel the energy of each in your hands. Imagine this crystal energy flowing up your arms into your shoulders and chest. Allow it to fill your chest and your heart. Let it flow up into your head and when the crystal energy reached the center of your mind, it will start to see your thoughts. One by one, each thought floats towards the crystal energy and disappears into it. This happens again and again until all your thoughts are floated away.
  2. Now the crystal energy drifts slowly down your body and flows back past your chest and surrounds your heart, gently bathing your heart in clear, calm crystal energy. From your heart this clear, calm crystal energy flows into your belly and pelvis, down to your legs and into your feet and through your toes, until your whole body is filled with clear calm crystal energy.
  3. Allow yourself to bathe in this crystal energy for several minutes. Just relax and enjoy. Let it wash away nay worries, discomfort, or pain you may be feeling.
  4. When you feel you are ready, slowly become aware of your body. Notice how it feels and slowly open your eyes to enjoy your space as you look around you. You are ready to continue working with your crystals, either on yourself or on others.


“Chakra” is a Sanskrit word that means “wheel.” Where two or more channels of energy cross in the body, a chakra exists. Chakras are energy centers and exchange energy with the outside world. Place crystals on the seven principal chakra points as the recipient relaxes deeply. Surround four quartz around each point and it intensifies the effects.


Auras are the subtle bodies of energy that surround the physical body. The purpose of the aura is to act as a protective screen to block out and repel the negative energies, thoughts, and feelings of others, and also to prevent leakage of your own energy. However, holes, known as auric tears, can form within the aura, weakening it, and thus making it susceptible to harm by invading outside energies. These tears have many causes, including stress, trauma, depression, abuse, and physical injuries or illnesses to name just a few. Whenever you are around other people, you are exposing yourself to their subtle energies (and them to yours). Most of the time, these energies are positive, and will therefore have a positive, or perhaps even beneficial, effect on your own subtle energies. However, there are times when people energies, such as negative thoughts and emotions, can be toxic to your own. Negative energies from the people around you can be harmful to your aura, which in turn can cause damage to any or all of your subtle “bodies” (i.e., emotional body, mental body, spiritual body) as well as your physical body, all of which are contained within the aura. Fortunately, stones and crystals can be used to protect the aura from any harm that can come as a result of these negative energies.

Crystal Vibes can Help…

For Energy & Balance- Amethyst and quartz crystal clusters will energize the room they’re in. Everyone will feel more relaxed and at home. Place one in your living room or any communal area

For Keeping unwanted visitors at bay- Cerussite can help remove pests such as rates, mice, and cockroaches. Wash affected areas with a cerussite elixir.

For work- Common opal is renowned for creating a better working environment. It’s a great crystal to have around you while working in your home office and study areas, or on your desk at work.

For happy partnerships- A large piece of chrysocolla when placed in the home can help to revitalize lackluster relationships.

For better atmosphere- Green fluorite constantly removes negativity from a room and cleanses the atmosphere. Display this crystal wherever you have lots of people contact, and bring it into your space after arguments or to dispel a tense atmosphere.

For contentment- Moonstone creates a happy home, so place moonstone crystals liberally around your spaces. Onyx also brings happiness to the home.

To sell your house- If you’re having trouble selling your home, display a large citrine crystal, geode, or cluster in your hallway or your living room. Alternatively, you can place a small citrine crystal in each room of your home. When you do this, interest in your property, viewings, and offers suddenly increase.

After an argument- If the atmosphere feels heavy after an argument, kunzite will allow any residual bad feelings to flow out of the room. It also works wherever there has bee a death or severe illness. After an argument- If the atmosphere feels heavy after an argument, kunzite will allow any residual bad feelings to flow out of the room. It also works wherever there has bee a death or severe illness..

For bonding- Prehnite unites people towards the same goals.

For cleansing- Zeolite generally improve your environment, so place them in your home, office, workplace, car or garden shed; anywhere in which you spend a lot of time. If there are unpleasant odors in a room, Zeolites can reduce them- make a grid of them around the odor.

For break-ups- Sulfur removes negativity after arguments and is a particular useful crystal during divorce.   Crocoite and melanite are also helpful for those in the process of divorce.

For better communication- Schalenblende helps to resolve arguments and get people who won’t talk to each other communicating again. It is useful in business, improving relationships with colleagues, superiors, and others whom you come into contact with, and it’s also helpful when dealing with children.

To make your plants grow- Sphene encourages the healthy development of plants, helping everything in your garden grow.  Display this crystal outside near your plants, on decking, or on patios, or you can place smaller specimens in your plant pots to boost house plants indoors.

For love- Rose Quartz brings love into your home, improving relationships with those who are closest to you. This crystal is also known as a beauty stone- several pieces of rose quartz added to your bath water can freshen a dull complexion, giving softer skin and a more fresh, youthful appearance.

For peace- Display spirit quartz to bring harmony, peace and organization to your home and to all family relationships. This is a wonderful crystal for quelling argumentative tendencies.

Understanding Ailments…

Health is a balance of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energies. These energies are both within us and exist around us and are created by our interaction with, and our experience of, the world. How we are within ourselves both creates and reflects the energies linked to our surroundings.

Balancing energies= State of well-being

When they are unbalanced, we are in a state of “dis-ease” and we become increasingly susceptible to all kinds of illness. These crystals help in different ways to balance out our energies, removing dis-ease and maintaining or restoring health in the process:

-Angelite –Blue Lace Agate –Calcite(all varities) –Carnelian  –Crazy Lace Agate –Emerald -Jade –Opal –Quartz –Ruby –Rutilated Quartz –Silver –Tiger’s Eye –Tourmaline Remember, crystals are created by the natural energies of the planet and are powerful tools for holistic healing. They are not magic, but when you work with them and state your intention they do wonders!

There is just an abundance of information and ideologies about crystals that I can go on and on for days discussing how fascinating and magical they are. Hope you learned at least one thing that sparked your interest in learning and working more with crystals and gemstones. I plan on having another crystals workshop that focuses more on how we can work with them and demonstrate exercises together to open up to their healing energy and frequencies.

Let me know what you think about all this; your feedback, reviews and emails are very important to how NWR improves our services, support and outreach.