Suicide Prevention & Awareness

NWR's Mental Health Happy Hour Support Group

September 2018 Topic: Suicide Prevention & Awareness Month

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

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Suicidal thoughts or behaviors are both damaging and dangerous and are therefore considered a psychiatric emergency. Someone experiencing these thoughts should seek immediate assistance from a health or mental health care provider. Having suicidal thoughts does not mean someone is weak or flawed.  According to the CDC, suicide rates have increased by 30% since 1999. Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016 alone.

What to do when you someone

you know might be suicidal..

Some people believe, “If people are determined to kill themselves, nothing is going to stop them." This is not true. Again, most suicidal people don’t want to die; they want to stop the pain. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever. And proper treatment can eliminate suicidal symptoms. If you suspect someone is suicidal, the first and most important step is to engage that person, to connect with that person. They may have already “signed off” from the world. Your job is to reestablish communications. Talking helps ease the pain. Try to gage the gravity of the situation. Some people believe that, “talking about suicide may give someone the idea." This is not true.

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You don't give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. Bringing up the subject and discussing it openly can give the person a great sense of relief. They don’t have to keep it a secret any longer, and this allows them to open up about the underlying issues. Treat all feelings, gestures and language seriously. Be non-judgmental. Accept the person’s feelings and don’t try to talk them out of those feelings.

 

  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad.
  • Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Don’t give advice by making decisions for the person or telling them to behave differently.
  • Don’t dare them to do it. Share your feelings of concern for the person. Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurances or try to make light of the situation. It only proves you don’t understand. Offer empathy, not sympathy.
  • Do not make a promise of secrecy. Saving a life takes precedence over confidentiality and loyalty. Ask who else knows.
  • Do not ask if the person wants help but tell them you will help.
  • Do not allow a rejection of help. Once you have connected with the person, do not leave them. You are their bridge back to life. Make it clear you will stick with them until they are connected with someone who can really help them. Encourage an anti-suicide pact.
  • Get a commitment not to attempt suicide, even if it’s short term.

Take action. Remove means. Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis prevention and suicide prevention. Get immediate help for the person if they are really at risk of hurting themselves by calling 911. Finally, get help for yourself. Taking care of someone who is hurting and it can take its toll on you. Consider talking to a professional about the experience after it is over.

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HOW TO GET HELP: There is a wide range of treatment available for suicidal behavior, including medications and “talk” therapies. The key is to get the person professional help as soon as possible. It is better to recognize a potential danger and have it addressed at an outpatient clinic than to wait until the only option is the Emergency Room.

If you know someone who has some of the risk factors above, a first step would be to find out whether the person has a “safety net” -- a caseworker or a school psychologist, for example. Many times, there are professionals who are already involved with the person. If not, then it is a matter of finding the right professionals and getting them involved. Your local NAMI affiliate can help. Call us at 1-800-950-3228 for your affiliate’s phone number and address.

The next step would be to contact these professionals and share your concerns. When speaking to professionals, remember that they might be limited by confidentiality rules in what they can tell you about the person, but they can and should listen to everything that you have to tell them. If you notice some warning signs, it is imperative to get the word out to as many people who can help as possible: not only to a mental health professional, but to anyone who can help: family, friends, teacher, doctor, clergy. Find the people the person will respond to and sound the alarm. Figure out the best way to intervene to get the person professional help and then do it. If you are dealing with someone who is in crisis, call your local crisis line. If there is immediate danger, call 911.

Know the Warning Signs

  • Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior
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Is There Imminent Danger?

Any person exhibiting these behaviors should get care immediately:

  • Putting their affairs in order and giving away their possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Mood shifts from despair to calm
  • Planning, possibly by looking around to buy, steal or borrow the tools they need to complete suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication

Risk Factors for Suicide

Research has found that more than half of people (54%) who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. A number of other things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:

  • A family history of suicide.
  • Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that exacerbate suicidal thoughts.
  • Intoxication. More than one in three people who die from suicide are found to be currently under the influence.
  • Access to firearms.
  • A serious or chronic medical illness.
  • Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
  • A history of trauma or abuse.
  • Prolonged stress.
  • Isolation.
  • Age. People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide.
  • A recent tragedy or loss.
  • Agitation and sleep deprivation.

Can Thoughts of Suicide Be Prevented?

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Mental health professionals are trained to help a person understand their feelings and can improve mental wellness and resiliency. Depending on their training they can provide effective ways to help.  Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy can help a person with thoughts of suicide recognize unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior validate troubling feelings, and learn coping skills. Medication can be used if necessary to treat underlying depression and anxiety and can lower a person’s risk of hurting themselves. Depending on the person’s mental health diagnosis, other medications can be used to alleviate symptoms.

 

Preventing Suicide

It can be frightening and intimidating when a loved one reveals or shows signs of suicidal thoughts. However, not taking thoughts of suicide seriously can have a devastating outcome. If you think your friend or family member will hurt herself or someone else, call 911 immediately. There are a few ways to approach this situation.

  • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills
  • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, such as “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?” rather than, “Would you rather I call your psychiatrist, your therapist or your case manager?”
  • Talk openly and honestly about suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
  • If there are multiple people, have one person speak at a time
  • Ask what you can do to help
  • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
  • If your loved one asks for something, provide it, as long as the request is safe and reasonable
  • If you are nervous, try not to fidget or pace
  • If your loved one is having hallucinations or delusions, be gentle and sympathetic, but do not get in an argument about whether the delusions or hallucinations are real

If you are concerned about suicide and don’t know what to do, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They have trained counselors available 24/7 to speak with either you or your loved one.

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Providing Support

Even if your loved one isn't in a moment of crisis, you need to provide support. Let her know that she can talk with you about what she is going through. Make sure that you are actively and openly listening to the things she says. Instead of arguing with any negative statements that she makes, try providing positive reinforcement. Active listening techniques such as reflecting feelings and summarizing thoughts can help your loved one feel heard and validated. Furthermore, reassuring your loved one that you are concerned for her well-being will encourage her to lean on you for support.

 

Be Educated

One of the best things you can do if you know or suspect that your loved one is contemplating suicide is educate yourself. Learning about suicide, what the warning signs are, and how it can be prevented can help you understand what you need to do as a member of their support system. 

 

If Possible, Be Prepared

If your friend or family member has had suicidal thoughts in the past, it's a good idea to have a crisis plan just in case. This means that you'll need to work together to develop the best course of action if a crisis situation should occur.

Being Prepared for a Crisis

No one wants to worry about the possibility of a crisis, but they do happen. That doesn't mean you have to feel powerless. Many healthcare providers require patients to create a crisis plan, and may suggest that it be shared with friends and family. Ask your loved one if he has developed a plan.

A Wellness Recovery Action Plan can also be very helpful for your loved one to plan his overall care, and how to avoid a crisis. If he will not work with you on a plan, you can make one on your own. Be sure to include the following information:

  • Phone numbers for your loved one’s therapist, psychiatrist and other healthcare providers
  • Family members and friends who would be helpful, and local crisis line number
  • Phone numbers of family members or friends who would be helpful in a crisis
  • Local crisis line number (you can usually find this by contacting your NAMI Affiliate, or by doing an internet search for “mental health crisis services” and the name of your county)
  • Addresses of walk-in crisis centers or emergency rooms
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Your address and phone number(s)
  • Your loved one’s diagnosis and medications
  • Previous psychosis or suicide attempts
  • History of drug use
  • Triggers
  • Things that have helped in the past
  • Mobile Crisis Unit phone number in the area (if there is one)
  • Determine if police officers in the community have Crisis Intervention Training (CIT)

Go over the plan with your loved one, and if he is comfortable doing so, with his doctor. Keep copies in several places. Store a copy in a drawer in your kitchen, your glove compartment, on your smartphone, your bedside table, or in your wallet. Also, keep a copy in a room in your home that has a lock and a phone.

Psychiatric Advance Directives

You may also want to ask about a Psychiatric Advance Directive (PAD), which is a legal document that allows a second party to act on your loved one's behalf if he becomes acutely ill and unable to make decisions about treatment. The PAD is written by your loved one when they are currently ‘competent.’ It details the individual’s preferences for treatment should they become unable to make such decisions due to their mental health condition. Planning ahead can make a huge difference in your loved one’s treatment experience in the future.  

 

Conservatorship

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In some cases, a person who is suicidal refuses to seek or accept treatment. They may engage in self-harm, risky behaviors and multiple suicide attempts. Oftentimes a person in this condition has a serious underlying mental illness that they refuse treatment for. Unfortunately, because they present such a significant danger to themselves, they may need someone else to make these decisions for them. A conservatorship is a legal relationship granted by a court that allows one person (the conservator) to make personal decisions for another (the ward), who has shown themselves to be unable to fulfill the basic requirements needed to protect their own health and safety. Unless otherwise specified, the conservator has all of the powers that a parent has over a minor, which would allow the conservator to direct the ward’s mental health treatment and suicide prevention measures.

NAMI HelpLine

Have a question? Someone else may have already asked it. Check out our list of frequently asked questions. 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET. HelpLine staff and volunteers are prepared to answer your questions about mental health issues including:

  • Symptoms of mental health conditions
  • Treatment options
  • Local support groups and services
  • Education programs
  • Helping family members get treatment
  • Programs to help find jobs
  • Legal issues (the NAMI Legal Resource Service can connect individuals with attorneys in their area but does not have the resources to provide individual representation)

We are unable to provide counseling or therapy, cannot provide specific recommendations for things like treatment or do individual casework, legal representations or other individual advocacy. In the event of a crisis call, we will transfer callers in crisis or who express suicidal ideation to a national crisis line to provide further assistance.

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What To Do In An Emergency or Crisis

No one wants to experience a crisis, but they do happen. Fortunately, there are people and organizations willing and able to help. Use these resources if you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis. It’s important to identify the correct options and seek help quickly in a crisis situation.   

In An Emergency

If you or a loved one is in immediate danger calling 911 and talking with police may be necessary. It is important to notify the operator that it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for an officer trained in crisis intervention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency.

In A Crisis

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255) If you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects you with a crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. Your call will be answered by a trained crisis worker who will listen empathetically and without judgment. The crisis worker will work to ensure that you feel safe and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.

Crisis Text LineText NAMI to 741-741 Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.

National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) Trained expert advocates are available 24/7 to provide confidential support to anyone experiencing domestic violence or seeking resources and information. Help is available in Spanish and other languages.

National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) Connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area that offers access to a range of free services. Crisis chat support is available at Online Hotline. Free help, 24/7.

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Preparing For A Possible Crisis

Taking steps to prepare for the possibility of a crisis can help you act quickly, ease your mind and lessen the impact if a crisis situation does occur. Understanding the differences between mental health crisis services and how to access them are a vital step towards being prepared. Your local NAMI can help you locate these services in your community.

A  crisis plan is a document that contains important information and outlines how to respond to a crisis situation. Many healthcare providers require patients to create a crisis plan that include:

  • phone numbers of mental health professions, family members and friends
  • a list of current prescription medications, doses and diagnosis
  • any history of suicide attempts, psychosis or drug use history
  • triggers and coping mechanism that have helped in the past
  •  

About the NAMI HelpLine

The NAMI HelpLine is a free service that provides information, referrals and support to people living with a mental health condition, family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public. A well-trained and knowledgeable team of volunteers, interns and HelpLine staff will respond to your call or message. Many staff members and volunteers live with a mental health condition or provide care and support to a family member or friend. The HelpLine also has volunteer attorneys and legal interns who provide legal expertise or a referral to an attorney in your community.

How can I start a HelpLine at my NAMI Affiliate?

The NAMI HelpLine provides resources for NAMI Leaders to help with the start-up and operation of a NAMI State Organization or Affiliate HelpLine. Leaders can also contact the NAMI HelpLine manager for information and support.

Local Services:

 

 

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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

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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.

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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

 

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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!

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Stop the Stigma of Mental Illness

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Mental Health Happy Hour Support Group

May 2018 Topic: how we can reduce and eliminate all the stigmas of mental health in our society; whether it is based on how people talk about mental diagnoses, shame, guilt, why it is difficult for people to grasp the importance of therapy, and etc. Stigma is killing our communities!!

Stigma and Discrimination

Stigma is the rejection, avoidance or fear people direct toward those they perceive as being "different." Stigma becomes discrimination when it deprives people of their civil rights, access to fair housing, employment opportunities, education and full participation in life. According to a landmark 1999 United States Surgeon General report, stigma is "the most formidable obstacle to future progress in the arena of mental illness and health."

Stigma comes from other people, from institutions and even from self-imposed shame. Individually, each source of stigma represents a major barrier. Collectively, they can be profoundly damaging and difficult to overcome. Stigma can shatter hopes of recovery and social inclusion, leaving the person feeling devastated and isolated.

Nearly half of the adults in a national survey said they were unwilling to socialize with, work with, or live near someone with a mental illness. People living with mental illness often say the stigma and discrimination associated with their illness can be worse than the mental illness itself.

The truth is, numerous people living with mental illness go about their everyday lives and successfully fulfill their roles at work, home and in their community. Unless self-disclosed, no one would know that a neighbor, co-worker, supervisor or chief executive officer has a diagnosable mental illness.  Mental illness does not discriminate. But sometimes people do.

Stigma and discrimination against those living with mental illness is widespread and reaches into schools and institutions of learning, employment, housing, health care and media. It causes shame, prejudice and hopelessness and inhibits over half of those living with mental illness from seeking treatment. This creates serious personal and societal consequences. When shame is removed from the equation, people with mental illness will more readily seek treatment, achieve recovery and engage in meaningful activities.

Stigma is the largest obstacle to recovery, treatment and societal acceptance for people living with mental illness. Stigma and discrimination was a major theme during Sacramento County's Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) community planning process from 2005-2011. The goal is to fundamentally change negative attitudes and perceptions about mental illness and demonstrate that people living with mental illness are everyday people leading meaningful lives.

The anti-stigma and discrimination project ultimately seeks to eliminate the barriers to achieving full inclusion in society and increase access to mental health resources to support individuals and families. All of us can make a difference by making a commitment to end stigma and discrimination.

How can we reduce the stigma of mental illness?

  1. Know the facts. Educate yourself about mental health problems.
  2. Be aware of your attitudes and behavior. We've all grown up with prejudices and judgmental thinking. But we can change the way we think! See people as unique human beings, not as labels or stereotypes. See the person beyond their mental illness; they have many other personal attributes that do not disappear just because they also have a mental illness.
  3. Choose your words carefully. The way we speak can affect the way other people think and speak. Don’t use hurtful or derogatory language.
  4. Educate others. Find opportunities to pass on facts and positive attitudes about people with mental health problems. If your friends, family, co-workers or even the media present information that is not true, challenge their myths and stereotypes. Let them know how their negative words and incorrect descriptions affect people with mental health problems by keeping alive the false ideas.
  5. Focus on the positive. People with mental health and substance use problems make valuable contributions to society. Their health problems are just one part of who they are. We’ve all heard the negative stories. Let’s recognize and applaud the positive ones.
  6. Support people. Treat people who have mental health problems with dignity and respect. Think about how you’d like others to act toward you if you were in the same situation. If you have family members, friends or co-workers with substance use or mental health problems, support their choices and encourage their efforts to get well.
  7. Include everyone. Denying people access to things such as jobs, housing and health care, which the rest of us take for granted, violates human rights. People with mental health and substance use problems have a right to take an equal part in society.

Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:

  1. Get treatment. You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment.
  2. Don't let stigma create self-doubt and shame.
  3. Don't isolate yourself.
  4. Don't equate yourself with your illness.
  5. Join a support group.
  6. Get help at school.
  7. Speak out against stigma

How You Can Stop Mental Illness Stigma

Some people believe that focusing on fighting stigma is a worthless cause. They wonder why NAMI pushes our StigmaFree campaign so much. Why does being StigmaFree matter? What difference does it really make?

Because of stigma, those who experience mental illness are often labeled and seen as their condition—and nothing more. They are often:

  • Held responsible for their conditions.
  • Expected to change their thoughts and behaviors.
  • Avoided, isolated and ostracized.
  • Viewed as unpredictable, erratic and sometimes dangerous.
  • Considered incapable or unable to make rational decisions.

Living with a mental health condition is already challenging, and the added burden of stigma leads to tragic outcomes. According to the CDC, more than 41,000 individuals take their own life each year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults in the U.S. and the 3rd leading cause of death among people aged 10-24. We need to step up to fight stigma and prevent suicide.

So, you see, StigmaFree is not just some marketing campaign—it’s an individual’s all-encompassing approach to mental illness. When you are StigmaFree, you are:

Open to Conversations About Mental Health

To reduce mental illness-related stigma, we need to feel comfortable having conversations about it. It used to be that cancer was “taboo” to talk about, but through open and honest conversations, cancer became de-stigmatized. The more we talk about mental health conditions, the more normalized it becomes. Starting the conversation is the first step.

Respectful with Language

Words are powerful—they can both heal and harm. We need to watch our words when talking about mental illness:

Use person-first language. A person is not defined by a condition, and someone should not be addressed as such. A person experiences bipolar disorder—he’s not bipolar. A person experiences mental illness—she doesn’t belong to a group called “the mentally ill.”

Be cautious when talking about suicide. Suicide is a sensitive topic and should be talked about in a way that is respectful to the person and their loved ones. A person is “lost to suicide” or “died by suicide” rather than “committed suicide.” If a person tries to take their life, they “attempted suicide” opposed to “had an unsuccessful suicide.”

Challenge misconceptions. If you hear people use stigmatizing or harmful language, let them know.

Don’t use mental health conditions as adjectives. You shouldn’t call yourself “OCD” because you like to organize or say the weather is “bipolar” because it keeps changing. This undermines legitimate diagnoses.

Don’t refer to someone as “crazy,” “psychotic” or “insane.” For people going through challenging symptoms beyond their control, it can be very harmful to be labeled as “crazy” on top of it all.

Don’t use the term “others” or “abnormal.” Referring to people experiencing mental illness as “others” or “abnormal” creates an “us versus them” narrative. This can make people with mental illness seem inferior, different and as though they’re the outliers of society—which they are not.

Understanding of What You Might Not Understand

It’s challenging to understand something you’ve never experienced. And it’s easy to think that people are exaggerating or making up symptoms for attention, but this mindset is dangerous and hurtful.

Living with a mental health condition makes everyday tasks—like going to work, spending time with friends and getting out of bed in the morning—more difficult. If an employee needs a sick day for mental health or if a friend cancels plans at the last minute, try to be understanding and empathetic. You never truly know what someone else is going through.

Supportive of Other People’s Struggle and Recovery

Supporting other people can be challenging, especially when you don’t understand their struggle. It’s hard to know what to say and sometimes it can feel like a lot of pressure. But your support can have life-saving repercussions, as feeling supported is one of the most essential aspects for a person in recovery. For example, note the difference between these two conversations:

Your close friend has been distant lately. She doesn’t want to hang out anymore. When she does, she seems unhappy and withdrawn. One day, she’s upset about something you think is a small problem, so you don’t understand her reaction.

  1. After listening to her talk about and examine the problem from every angle, you get impatient. You’re tired of being around someone who is always unhappy and so easily upset, so you blurt out, “It’s not that big of a deal! Why are you so upset about this? Just snap out of it!”

    She starts crying and leaves. You don’t hear from her anymore.
  2. Even though you don’t understand why your friend is so upset, you want to help. After she finishes talking, you ask her, “Is anything else going on? I only ask because you seem a bit down lately. You can always talk to me.”

    “I don’t know… I haven’t felt like myself recently. I’m not sure why.”
    “Have you ever thought about going to talk to someone about it? I can help you research and go with you if you want.”
    “Yeah. Maybe I should do that. I would really appreciate your help."

The difference between the two is clear: stigma versus understanding and support. You can make a positive impact on someone’s mental health just by offering a few kind words. A few minutes of your time can change a person’s life.

Active in Spreading Mental Health Awareness

The societal perception of mental illness won’t change if we don’t act to change it. It’s up to us to tell others what it means to experience a mental health condition. Mental illness is real, and it isn’t always in a person’s control. People who live with mental health conditions are not alone—there is hope. For us, StigmaFree is more than a campaign—it’s the foundation of our movement to create a better world for people affected by mental illness. No real improvements will happen—to the health care system, to treatments, to research—if mental illness isn’t understood first. Monumental change won’t happen until people realize the harm stigma creates for millions of Americans.StigmaFree is our way of pushing towards this monumental change. Each person who takes the StigmaFree pledge helps us get one step closer. So, this Mental Health Month, join the movement, take the pledge and be StigmaFree. We need to show the world that we are all #IntoMentalHealth.

Resource content: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/May-2017/How-You-Can-Stop-Mental-Illness-Stigma­­­­­­­

Top 11 Myths about Mental Illness

Myth #1: Mental health problems do not affect children or youth. Any problems they have are just part of growing up.

Reality: One in five children and youth struggle with their mental health. 70% of adult mental illness begins during childhood or adolescence, including: depression, eating disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders. However, 79% of youth who receive help improve significantly with treatment, which lasts less than 12 sessions for 66% of them.

Myth #2: It is the parents’ fault if children suffer from mental health problems.

Reality: Mental health disorders in children are caused by biology, environment, or a combination of both. They can be caused by genetics or biological factors such as a chemical imbalance or prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs. They can also be the result of abusive or neglectful treatment or stressful events.

Myth #3: People with a mental illness are ‘psycho’, mad and dangerous, and should be locked away.

Reality: Most people who have a mental illness struggle with depression and anxiety. They have normal lives, but their feelings and behaviors negatively affect their day-to-day activities. Conduct disorders or acting out behaviors are consistently the primary reason for referral to a children’s mental health agency.

Myth # 4: All people with Schizophrenia are violent.

Reality: Very little violence in society is caused by people who are mentally ill (violence and mental illness). Unfortunately, Hollywood often portrays mentally ill people as dangerous. People with a major mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

Myth #5: Depression is a character flaw and people should just ‘snap out of it’.

Reality: Research shows that depression has nothing to do with being lazy or weak. It results from changes in brain chemistry or brain function. Therapy and/or medication help people to recover.

Myth #6: Addiction is a lifestyle choice and shows a lack of willpower.

Reality: Addictions involve complex factors including genetics the environment, and sometimes other underlying psychiatric conditions such as depression. When people who become addicted have these underlying vulnerabilities it’s harder for them to simply kick the habit.

Myth #7: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as shock therapy, is painful and barbaric.

Reality: ECT is one of the most effective treatments for people whose depression is so severe that antidepressant medication just don’t do the job and who are debilitated by the depression.

Myth #8: People with a mental illness lack intelligence.

Reality: Intelligence has nothing to do with mental illnesses or brain disorders. On one hand, many people with mental disorders are brilliant, creative, productive people. On the other hand, some people with mental disorders are not brilliant or creative. Certain mental illnesses may make it difficult for people to remember facts or get along with other people, making it seem like they are cognitively challenged. Overall, the level of intelligence among people with mental illness likely parallels the patterns seen in any healthy population.

Myth #9: People with a mental illness shouldn’t work because they’ll just drag down the rest of the staff.

Reality: People with mental illness can and do function well in the workplace. They are unlikely to miss any more workdays because of their condition than people with a chronic physical condition such as diabetes or heart disease. The real problem is the prejudice against hiring people with mental illness (how will disclosing my mental illness affect work/school). The resulting unemployment leaves them isolated, a situation that can add to their stress, and make it more difficult to recover from the illness.

Myth #10: Mental illness is a single, rare disorder.

Reality: Anxiety disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, addiction disorders and impulse control disorders are all different categories of very different mental illnesses- each with its own features and underlying causes (common mental illnesses). Each mental illness is a variation on the theme of brain chemistry gone awry, affecting things like mood and perception and each has its own specific causes, features and approaches to treatment.

Myth #11: People with a mental illness never get better.

Reality: TREATMENT WORKS! Treatments for mental illnesses are more numerous and more sophisticated than ever and researchers continue to discover new treatments. Because of these advances, many people can and do recover from mental illness.

Now, how are you going to stop the stigma of mental health locally in your community?

MHHH Support Group: Self-Sabotaging

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What Is Self-Sabotage?

Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals. The most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting. These acts may seem helpful in the moment, but they ultimately undermine us, especially when we engage in them repeatedly.

People aren't always aware of their own self-sabotage as the effects of their behavior may not show up for some time. Unfortunately, connecting a behavior to self-defeating consequences is no guarantee that a person will disengage from the behavior. Still, it is possible to overcome almost any form of self-sabotage, and people do it every day. There are behavioral therapies aimed at interrupting ingrained patterns of thought and action and strengthening deliberation and self-regulation processes. Motivational therapies reconnect people with their goals and values. There are even computer programs that help eliminate the constant temptation of online distractions.

Are you sabotaging yourself? Some people drink, some procrastinate, others are just way too modest. How do you get in your own way?

1. Dodging Emotions: The Help That Harms

We often get into trouble trying to escape intense negative feelings.

Everyone does it sometimes. Some do it regularly—shoot themselves in the foot or put obstacles in their own chosen path. Behavior is self-sabotaging when in attempting to solve or cope with a problem, it instigates new problems, interferes with long-term goals, and unsettles relationships.

Comfort eating is a common form of self-sabotage, especially when a person has weight concerns; self-medicating with drugs or alcohol is another common form, although procrastination may be the most common of all. Less common is self-injury/cutting to escape painful emotions, or going on shopping sprees when one can't afford the merchandise.

2. Procrastination: Oops, Where Did the Day Go?

We fool ourselves in the minute-by-minute choices we make.

When it comes to self-sabotage, procrastination is king. Why? Because procrastination is the gap between intention and action, and it is in this gap that the self operates. The undermining behavior lies in not closing the gap.

We make an intention to act, the time comes, but instead of acting we get lost in our own deliberation, making excuses to justify an unnecessary and potentially harmful delay. Who makes this decision? We do. The self, in fact, sabotages its own intention.

3. Extreme Modesty: The Case of the Disappearing Self

There is a point at which ingratiation is corrosive, and women too often find it.

Self-sabotage can show up in the strangest places. Take the recent neuroscience lecture in New York, which was followed by the customary question and answer period. Eventually, the speaker announced there was time for only two more questions, and a female neuroscientist, probably in her late 30s, wound up with the last slot. But instead of asking her question straightaway, she fell into what might best be described as a self-effacing dance. "Oh my gosh," she said, curling around the microphone stand as if to disappear into it, "I'm the last questioner. I feel almost guilty." She declared her near-guilt again before posing her question. I forgot the question. But the prologue was memorable—it made the audience squirm.

4. Addiction: The Long Slide

"I Did All the Things I Wasn't Supposed to Do"

Self-sabotage is not an act, it's a process, a complex, tragic process that pits people against their own thoughts and impulses. Though we all make mistakes, a true self-saboteur continues to try to fix those mistakes by top-loading them with increasingly bad decisions.

Addicts, for example, present a parade of excuses and delusional thinking while avoiding the painful, decisive action necessary to set their lives right. All too often we hear stories of talented individuals who, despite much potential, allowed drugs and alcohol to drag them down.

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9 Ways Your Old Programming(childhood) May Be Holding You Hostage

1. Underestimating your potential—and so believing that whatever successes you’ve had are largely fortuitous and not really reflective of your capability.

2. Constantly finding fault with, or attributing negative intentions to, yourself—and so “validating” the notion that you’re a bad person.

3. Regarding yourself as undeserving—and so believing that you have little to no right to ask  for what you want or need.

4. Seeing yourself as an outsider or outcast—and so believing that you don’t, or can’t, fit in with others.

5. Perceiving yourself, or perhaps the whole world, as untrustworthy—and so believing that you should be suspicious of yourself and/or those around you.

6. Devaluing or belittling yourself—and so believing that you’re less worthwhile than others, regularly selling yourself short.

7. Viewing yourself, co-dependently, as more responsible for others’ welfare than your own (and see—here and here—to access my earlier posts on this subject).

8. Perceiving yourself as weak or defenseless—and so living your life as a helpless victim, or being excessively dependent on others.

9. Seeing your feelings as only adding to your vulnerability—and so disallowing their healthy expression.

 

Suppressing your emotions can and often does affect your body in major ways. It is important to find techniques in order to help you become more expressive for a happy and healthier life.

Practice communicating emotions by writing in a journal, listening to therapeutic music, talking to a trusted and safe friend/spiritual guide and/or seeking professional counseling. It is necessary to explore approaches that work for you! You are never more beautiful than when you are real, raw and vulnerable. So, let it out.

Here are 5 ways that suppressing your emotions can affect your body:

1. Suppressing Emotions Can Cause Stress.

Stress causes tension on your nervous system, which triggers your neurotransmitters to go into “panic mode.” Your organs and/or glands then shut down for protection and the stress overtakes your body.

Tension usually goes straight to your head, neck, shoulders and lower or upper back. Most of us carry stress in those areas and eventually tighten up and hold in toxins. The more toxins floating around in the body, the more likely you are to feel some sort of pain.

2. Suppressing Your Emotions Can Cause Serious Mental Illness.

Your brain is the most important organ in your body. It controls everything in the body from your feelings/thoughts to your ability to use your hands, legs, feet, eyes, etc.

Here are the 4 parts of the brain that deal with emotions:

1. The “deep limbic system” in the central area of the brain is important for your emotional state by how it stores highly charged emotional memories.

2. The “prefrontal cortex” in the front side of the brain controls emotions along with impulse control, insight, empathy, judgment, concentration and the ability to plan.

3. The “basal ganglia,” which surrounds the deep limbic system, is in charge of combining movements, feelings and thoughts.

4. The “temporal lobe,” located in the temples and behind the eyes, is in charge of mood stability among many other things.

Therefore, suppressing emotions denies the brain the freedom to work properly and efficiently. It ends up becoming “sick” and unable to see reality for what it is because a false sense of reality has been created by the ongoing/continuous restraining of feelings. As a result, severe depression, anxiety and/or substance and/or alcohol dependence can be developed.

People are created to have feelings and to let them out and these “feelings” have to come in somehow. Holding them in will cause the subconscious to find other ways to manifest what it is truly feeling. Usually, those “other ways” are unhealthy and damaging.

3. Suppressing Emotions Can Cause Weight Gain. Depressed Overweight Woman

When your body goes into “stress mode,” one of the stress hormones, known as cortisol, is released to help your body recover from the other two hormones, adrenaline and corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), that cause temporary loss of appetite.

However, after those two hormones retreat, cortisol hangs around, causing the appetite to increase, which in turn triggers you to eat more. Cortisol sometimes also stores in your midsections as “visceral fat.” Visceral fat is considered the culprit of a “big belly.” Continued suppression of emotions will inevitably become stress and that stress can cause weight gain, making it more difficult to drop excess pounds.

4. Suppressing Emotions Can Cause Serious Physical Illness.

Holding back what you are genuinely feeling and causing your body to be under constant stress as a result, can also impact the endocrine, lymphatic and immune systems. You become more vulnerable to diseases and disorders when under continuous pressure.

Keeping your deepest emotions quiet puts your subconscious under ongoing pressure. Your subconscious has to find a way to release it so it releases this pressure into the body, which can wreak havoc, triggering the onset of autoimmune disease, cancer, heart disease and more.

5. Suppressing Emotions Can Affect Gut Health.

The gut is considered the “second brain.” Both the brain and the gastrointestinal tract are linked interchangeably, making it difficult to isolate one from the other. Therefore, suppression of emotions and strain caused by the inability to be expressive can cause physical symptoms in the stomach such as upset, nausea, diarrhea, bloating and/or constipation.

In the article, “The Gut-Brain Connection,” Anthony L. Komaroff, Editor-in-Chief of Harvard Health Letter, reports that: “psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, cause inflammation, or make you more susceptible to infection.”

 

MHHH Support Group: How to Survive the Holidays

Holiday Expectations and Stress
Try To Pace Yourself at This Time of Year

The holiday season is a joyful time for many people, but also a time that brings an enormous amount of stress for some, especially those with depression.  Stress is an emotionally and physically disturbing condition you may have in response to certain life events.  In this case it includes the change in daily routine and overload of responsibilities that are common during the holidays.

Holiday stress begins with a “should” list that is bound to get anyone into trouble.  I “should” do this or go to that function or get that gift.  I “should” prepare a holiday feast for my family or make a gift like Martha Stewart!  Beware of the word “should.”  We all have a desire to please others by making the holiday’s picture-card perfect, but that is not reality.  You may tend to take on an overload of responsibilities and then feel guilty if you cannot live up to that self-imposed standard.  Or when depressed, you may not feel like doing any of it and feel guilty later for ignoring your loved ones. 

When your mood and energy levels are down, it is often difficult to muster the effort to participate in the activities of the season, especially since you may have no interest in doing so.  That’s part of the illness.  But at the same time you may feel pressure to participate, either from within or from family members.  Pressure to put on a cheery disposition around others.  Pressure to prepare an elaborate holiday meal for your family.  Pressure to attend the many holiday functions at work/school or with friends or family members.  Do what you can realistically do this year.  Take a step back and learn to say “no” if necessary during this time so as not to overcommit yourself.

Expectations are tricky.  At the holiday time they often appear as an artificial set of standards that you impose upon yourself, based upon some unreachable ideal in a magazine, on television or what your great-grandmother was said to have done.  Trying to reach these unrealistic expectations will only bring you disappointment and more stress, not pleasure.  Instead, think about where you are with your depression, and what you can realistically do now for yourself and your family.  Set out small goals for your holiday season, ones that are attainable.  Break each one down into small steps. 

Keep it all very simple and you and others will enjoy it more.

Another source of stress is an upset in one’s daily routine that happens by attending holiday-related social functions, shopping in crowded malls or making holiday-related meals and gifts for loved ones.  This can take up quite a bit of time and be more unsettling than you realize.   When you are suffering from depression or bipolar depression, dealing with such daily changes can be much more difficult.  It’s thought that small changes in one’s daily routine challenges the body’s ability to maintain stability, and that those with mood disorders have more difficult time adapting to these changes in routine.

A third source of stress is getting together with distant family members or old friends with whom you may have very little in common any more.  You may feel it as an obligation and not a joy of the season, and may dread the anticipated unpleasant interaction but do it for the sake of “family.”  When depressed, you may choose instead to politely bow out of these functions.  If that isn’t possible, try to limit your time with them.

So, when holiday stress arrives anyway - now what do you do?  There are ways that you can manage it and lessen the effect of the stressful events. 

These are called coping techniques.  First, try to limit your exposure to any one stressful activity, event or person(s).  Maintain a regular schedule of daily activities, including diet/nutrition, sleep, exercise, and self-care.  Enjoy the holiday food but don’t over-eat or drink and be sorry later.  Try to prioritize your responsibilities and activities and don’t overschedule, if possible.  Break down large tasks into smaller steps.  Keep a calendar and make lists of what you have to do.  Use problem solving strategies.  Take care of yourself and try relaxation and self-soothing techniques regularly.  Use humor to distract your mind – a funny book or movie often works wonders at these times.  Try mindfulness meditation to stay focused on the moment.  All of these are explained in my book Managing Your Depression: What you can do to feel better.

A version of this article was previously posted on my website www.susannoonanmd.com.

Holiday Stress and the Brain

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . It’s the hap-happiest season of all.” So says a classic song of the holiday season. But is it? The end-of-year holidays are certainly a happy time for most of us, but the stress of the season puts many of us on such an edge that we wish it would all just go away.

The holidays are filled with both joy and stress,” says Ellen Braaten, PhD, an HMS associate professor of psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate director of its Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds.

This dichotomy is reflected in the findings of a 2015 survey conducted by Healthline, a consumer health information site based in San Francisco, Calif. Sixty-two percent of respondents described their stress level as “very or somewhat” elevated during the holidays, while only 10 percent reported no stress during the season. Among the holiday stressors listed by respondents were the financial demands of the season, negotiating the interpersonal dynamics of family, and maintaining personal health habits such as an exercise regimen.

Readying ourselves to face these stresses requires what Braaten and other professionals refer to as shifting set, that is, updating or shifting cognitive strategies to respond to the changes in our environment. “The tough part,” says Braaten, “is that shifting set, which can be hard for us at any point in the year, is particularly pervasive at the holidays.” For such updates to be successful, one must have the cognitive flexibility to shift attention between one task and another and to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances.

Shifting set is a type of executive functioning, a set of mental skills that helps us get things done. These skills include managing time, being attentive, switching focus, planning and organizing, and remembering details. Many of us perform these activities daily but, according to Braaten, they are behaviors that are in even greater demand during the holiday season.

Because the holiday season often requires us to keep track of and pay attention to a greater number of responsibilities than usual, the brain’s prefrontal cortex goes into overdrive. Over time, a high level of demand can decrease memory, halt production of new brain cells, and cause existing brain cells to die. Fortunately, holiday stress is a special kind of stress: an acute reaction to an immediate threat. This sort of demand, Braaten says, is something we are more capable of dealing with. “Once the holidays are over,” she says, “we have ways of relaxing. The stress of the season goes away.”

Braaten says people who feel stressed during the holidays should evaluate how they spend their time, decide what they want the holidays to mean to them, and keep their expectations for the season realistic. “The holidays are just another time of year,” notes Braaten, “certainly something to mark, but not the end-all, be-all.”

Resource/content: Scott Edwards is a freelance science writer based in Massachusetts. http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/holiday-stress-and-brain

 Holiday Stress Poll

Holiday Stress Poll

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Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression:

When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

·         Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

·         Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

·         Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.

·         Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

·         Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

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    Try these alternatives:

  • Donate to a charity in someone's name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.
  • Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  • Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  • Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

    Try these suggestions:

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  •  Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

    Some options may include:

  • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
  •  Listening to soothing music.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Reading a book.
  •  Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Resource/content: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544

Mental Health Happy Hour Support Group: PTSD & Complex PSTD

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological reaction that occurs after an extremely stressful event, such as physical violence or military combat. Those suffering from PTSD have recurring memories of the stressful event and are anxious or scared even in the absence of danger. Flashbacks and nightmares are common symptoms as well.

Much of what I write about relates to the concept of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the primary psychiatric disorder that follows from traumatic life experiences. Because PTSD is so central to much of what we talk about in relation to stress and trauma, I believe that this post is needed to provide some clarification for those who have not yet memorized the 20 diagnostic symptoms, and to lay a foundation for future posts.

PTSD, which first appeared in the formal Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) classification system in 1980, is both highly adopted and under attack at the same time. On the one hand, PTSD has been so well accepted into the lexicon of our culture that books and movies revolve around central characters with PTSD as part of the driving narrative (e.g., American Sniper), or activists try to link their causes to PTSD to gain instant authenticity (see my last blog Stress Is Not Trauma). On the other hand, critics constantly attack alleged flaws of PTSD in order to promote other agendas. So, what exactly is PTSD and how good is it?

The diagnostic criteria for PTSD in the fifth and latest edition of the DSM (DSM-5) consist of 20 possible symptoms that are divided amongst 4 clusters.

5 symptoms in the re-experiencing cluster:

·         Nightmares

·         Intrusive recollections

·         Flashbacks

·         Psychological distress at reminders

·         Physiological distress at reminders

2 symptoms in the avoidance cluster:

·         Avoidance of internal reminders

·         Avoidance of external reminders

7 symptoms in the altered cognitions and moods cluster:

·         Dissociative amnesia

·         Negative beliefs about oneself and the world

·         Distorted blaming of oneself

·         Negative persistent emotional states

·         Loss of interests

·         Detachment from loved ones

·         Restricted range of affect

6 symptoms in the increased arousal cluster:

·         Hypervigilance

·         Exaggerated startle response

·         Concentration difficulty

·         Sleep difficulty

·         Irritability or outbursts of anger

·         Self-destructive or reckless behavior

To qualify for the diagnosis of PTSD, an individual must have at least 1 of the five re-experiencing, 1 of the two avoidance, 2 of the seven altered cognition, and 2 of the six increased arousal symptoms. The algorithm ensures that a variety of different types of symptoms are represented. The algorithm creates a fairly high bar so that minimally symptomatic individuals do not get over-diagnosed. Thus, an individual with the diagnosis can have as few as 6 or as many as 20 of the possible symptoms.

This Is Your Brain on Trauma

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An inside look at the traumatized brain, and how you can start to heal.

Approximately 50 percent of the population will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. While reactions to trauma can vary widely, and not everyone will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), trauma can change the brain in some predictable ways that everyone should be aware of, especially if you or someone close to you is struggling to cope after trauma. With increased awareness, you can seek treatment to address your symptoms and learn skills that could actually rewire your brain for recovery. Additionally, knowing what’s going on can be immensely helpful because it may help you realize that you’re not crazy, irreversibly damaged, or a bad person. Instead, you can think of a traumatized brain as one that functions differently as a result of traumatic events. And just as your brain changed in response to your past experiences with the world, it can also change in response to your future experiences. In other words, the brain is “plastic,” and you can change it.

The formal diagnosis is based on an algorithm that requires symptoms from all four clusters.  Trauma can alter brain functioning in many ways, but three of the most important changes appear to occur in the following areas:

1. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), known as the “Thinking Center”

2. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), known as the “Emotion Regulation Center”

3. The amygdala, known as the “Fear Center”

The PFC, or thinking center, is located near the top of your head, behind your forehead. It's responsible for abilities including rational thought, problem-solving, personality, planning, empathy, and awareness of ourselves and others. When this area of the brain is strong, we are able to think clearly, make good decisions, and be aware of ourselves and others.

The ACC, or emotion regulation center, is located next to the prefrontal cortex, but is deeper inside the brain. This area is responsible (in part) for regulating emotion, and (ideally) has a close working relationship with the thinking center. When this region is strong, we are able to manage difficult thoughts and emotions without being totally overwhelmed by them. While we might want to send a snarky email to a coworker, the emotion regulation center reminds us that this is not a good idea, and helps us manage our emotions so that we don’t do things we regret.

Finally, the amygdala, a tiny structure deep inside our brain, serves as its fear center. This subcortical area is outside of our conscious awareness or control, and its primary job is to receive all incoming information – everything you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste – and answer one question: “Is this a threat?” If it detects that a dangerous threat is present, it produces fear in us. When this area is activated, we feel afraid, reactive, and vigilant.

What’s Going on in a Traumatized Brain

Traumatized brains look different from non-traumatized brains in three predictable ways:

1. The Thinking Center is underactivated,

2. The Emotion Regulation Center is underactivated

3. The Fear Center is overactivated.

What these activation indicate is that, often, a traumatized brain is "bottom-heavy," meaning that activation's of lower, more primitive areas, including the fear center, are high, while higher areas of the brain (also known as cortical areas) are under activated. In other words, if you are traumatized, you may experience chronic stress, vigilance, fear, and irritation. You may also have a hard time feeling safe, calming down, or sleeping. These symptoms are all the result of a hyperactive amygdala.

At the same time, individuals who are traumatized may notice difficulties with concentration and attention, and often report they can’t think clearly. This, not surprisingly, is due to the thinking center being underactivated.

Finally, survivors of trauma will sometimes complain that they feel incapable of managing their emotions. For example, if someone spooks them, they may experience a rapid heart rate long after the joke is up, or may have a hard time “just letting go” of minor annoyances. Even when they want to calm down and feel better, they just can’t. This is in large part due to a weakened emotion regulation center.

What You Can Do Now

Changing the brain takes effort, repetition, and time. The best gift you can give yourself toward this goal is psychotherapy. If you’re ready to start that journey, look for a psychologist who specializes in trauma and PTSD, and who uses evidence-based methods that change the brain by working with both the body and the mind.

Also, consider adding a body-based or mindfulness-based technique to your daily routine, to help begin deactivating the fear center. This is a vital first step to healing, as when we are able to quiet the fear center, we are better able to work on strengthening and activating the thinking center and emotion regulation center. Two such exercises include diaphragmatic breathing and autogenic training. (Access free, guided practices of these techniques HERE.) The recommendation is to practice these techniques, or similar ones, for short periods of time multiple times per day. Remember, practice makes progress.

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Crisis resources

You may feel helpless, but there are many things you can do. Nobody expects you to have all the answers. If you feel there is a crisis for you or your loved one, use one of these toll-free, confidential hotlines:

General resources for family and loved ones

Family members and close friends sometimes neglect their own needs when they commit themselves to caring for someone with PTSD. It is important for you to find support for yourself when you are helping someone deal with PTSD.

  • Most US States have a National 211 referral line that connects people with important community services (employment, food pantries, housing, support groups, etc.). Dial 2-1-1.
  • The SIDRAN Institute is a nonprofit organization that helps people understand, recover from, and treat traumatic stress and offers a referral list of therapists for PTSD. You can contact the Help Desk via email or by leaving a confidential voicemail: 1-410-825-8888.
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a Family-to-Family Education Program for caregivers of people with severe mental illness. You can also email or call the Information Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).
  • You can find more resources on our Web Links: Families page.

Resources for loved ones of Veterans and Service Members

Some of the resources listed above are specific to Veterans and Service Members. Additional resources are listed below:

  • The VA Caregiver Support program provides services to support family members who are taking care of a Veteran: 1-855-260-3274
  • VA's Coaching Into Care program helps family and friends of returning Veterans find the right words to help their loved one get into care. For free, confidential coaching email or call: 1-888-823-7458
  • The Vet Center Combat Call Center is a 24/7 call center for combat Veterans and their families to talk about their military experience or issues about readjustment to civilian life: 1-877-WAR-VETS
  • The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) 24/7 Outreach Center offers information and consultation in mental health and traumatic brain injury: 1-866-966-1020. DCoE also offers email and online chat support.
  • The National Resource Directory links to over 10,000 services and resources that support recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration for wounded, ill, and injured Service Members, Veterans, their families, and those who support them.
  • Give an Hour is a nonprofit organization offering free mental health services to US military personnel and their families affected by Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • You can find more resources on our Web Links page for Families, Military Resources, and Veterans Service Organizations.

Resources for children with a parent who has PTSD

Children respond to their parents' PTSD symptoms. A child may behave like the parent to try to connect with him or her. Some children take on an adult role to fill in for the parent with PTSD. If children do not get help with their feelings, it can lead to problems at school, in relationships, or with emotions (like worry, fear, or sadness).

Benefits of Journaling & our Mental Health

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WHAT’S JOURNALING?

Keeping a diary isn't the same thing as keeping a journal. With a diary, you primarily record daily events and happenings in your life — the straight facts, in other words. Journaling, in contrast, zones in on your reactions and perceptions to those events in hopes of gaining clarity and making positive changes where necessary.

At its core, journaling is like getting a glimpse into your soul where thoughts and emotions roam free without fear of criticism. It's in this place where you can find meaning surrounding the circumstances of your life and identify areas to work on. All it takes to tap into this place is adopting a stream of consciousness writing style, free from self-monitoring.

Journaling is particularly helpful if you struggle with depression or anxiety as it helps to gain better control of your emotions, which improves mental health. That's why it's one of the best therapeutic tools and it doesn't even have to cost you a penny! That said, it's advisable to be under the care of a therapist if you find it difficult working through emotional issues by yourself.

Let's now take a look at 7 ways in which journaling actually benefits mental health... MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF JOURNALING

1. Gain Clarity- Writing is a reflection of your thoughts just as a mirror is a reflection of your body. Journaling offers you a glimpse into your working mind like no other method can.

You get to know the real you — what makes you happy/sad, what you like/dislike, what you fear and where you find peace. In other words, you gain a heightened self-awareness of everything about yourself.  As a consequence, you find out what you need to do to get more of what you want and less of what you don't want.

2. Build Empathy- When you start to look at things objectively, you can better understand other points of view. One way to achieve this in your writing is to have an imagined dialogue with another person. For instance, how would this other person respond to a question about having hurt you? When you're open to other perspectives, you blame others less for your problems which help make you a happier person.

3. Feel Calmer- Have you ever written an angry letter or email to someone but never sent it? How did you feel afterward? Did you feel better even though he/she never read what you had to say? Journaling is a bit like that. Writing about your emotions helps release them so you feel lighter, calmer and less stressed. And you never have to hold back since it's only for your eyes to see. Letting go of intense feelings through writing helps prevent them from getting stuck in a mental loop, causing you unnecessary suffering.

4. Solve Problems- Much of the time, we use our analytical left-brains to solve problems but that doesn't always resolve the issue. Sometimes the only way we can arrive at the answer is by tapping into our creative, intuitive and emotional right-brain which is precisely what journaling accomplishes. Having a different perspective can unlock creative solutions you might never have thought of before!

5. Increase Creativity- The creative component in journaling can also spill into other areas of your life like music, painting and sculpting. Once you get rolling, your muse takes over! And like journaling, you can try out new ideas without fear of judgment.

6. Boost Cognition- All of us have experienced great times of joy and sadness in our lives. Journaling can help recall our pleasant moments while improving memory and comprehension. Just the act of organizing our thoughts and presenting them clearly on paper boosts cognition. But what about not wanting to remember the bad stuff? Read on...

7. Track Patterns- Many doctors advise their patients to track physical symptoms to gauge their progress (or lack thereof). Similarly, journaling serves as a kind of "mental tracker."  When you start to write, you may find yourself covering the same territory over and over again, which you only realize when looking back on earlier entries.  These could be negative thoughts and behaviors you've identified or certain people/events that trigger you. By zeroing in on the problem, you have an opportunity to make positive changes which journaling makes possible! Thus, journaling offers a wonderful opportunity for personal growth.  So, how do you get started journaling? First, you have to know what areas of your life you want to focus on.

WHAT SHOULD YOU WRITE ABOUT?

Dedicated Days for Dedicated Topics- Even though a stream of consciousness writing style is at the heart of journaling, some structure is important to steer you in the right direction. For instance, you could have dedicated days to write about specific topics like:

  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Illness/Disability
  • The Natural World (e.g., sky, flowers, animals, ocean, etc.)
  • Your "Bucket List"

Accomplishments- Another idea is to record ALL accomplishments, however small, from choosing an apple over ice cream to taking a bath without requiring help. When you start to look back over your entries, you'll feel great knowing what you achieved.

Gratitude- Include 5 things you're grateful for in every entry you write. Even something as small as the smell of the autumn air is worth noting. Also, they're lots of great memes with powerful quotes and sayings about gratitude when nothing comes to mind.  Where there's hope, there's life – Anne Frank #disability.  So, how do you become a ninja at journaling? You adopt good practices. Let's take a look how...

BEST PRACTICES FOR JOURNALING

Create the Right Environment- Try to dedicate a tiny space of your house/apartment for journaling. You'll start to associate writing with this area which will automatically put you in the right frame of mind when it comes time to put ink to paper. Another idea to get into the writing mood is by lighting candles or listening to soothing music.

Make Journaling a Habit- The benefits I described won't amount to much if you don't write regularly. To get the most out of journaling, it has to become as routine as brushing your teeth. One reason people have a tough time keeping to a regular schedule is because they believe they have nothing profound to say but this outlook defeats the purpose. Journaling is about writing whatever comes to mind at that moment, regardless of how "deep" you think you're being.

The self-discipline required to maintain a consistent writing schedule also spills into other areas of life, where one good habit begets another, like starting a regular meditation practice. So, how do you turn journaling into a habit?

Well, I could suggest writing every day but that might burn you out and cause you to give up. So, here's a better strategy… Aim to write 3 days per week (and keep to the same days), 20 minutes at a time without stopping to edit.  If possible, write first thing in the morning so you can get on with your day without worrying about it later. Plus, you'll likely have an easier time collecting your thoughts.

Review and Re-evaluate- Do you remember the review/quiz that school textbooks had at the end of each chapter? Well, you kind of want to adopt the same idea with journaling. Sure, you could just write and leave it at that but I presume you want to gain something from your efforts, right?

Leave yourself some writing space after every entry (or every 10 entries, if you like) to jot down some "post-game commentary." After every week or month, evaluate what you've written as an objective outside observer and ask yourself questions like these:

  • What can I learn from this?
  • What do I have to do to move beyond this?
  • How can I improve this situation? [Or if you can't] What can I do to live with it better?
  • Are there any positive outcomes to this situation I hadn't thought of? [If yes] What can I do to make those a reality?
  • How would someone else describe the same events I went through?

Now, jot down your answers in the extra writing space and start looking for patterns from week to week and month to month. Note what's changed and what's stayed the same.

Try Different Mediums- Sometimes words can't express feelings as well as other mediums can. That's why things like collages, sketches, photos and even songs are worth trying. Plus, you're more likely to stay interested when exploring different avenues of expression.

But even if you just stick to writing, you have options…

Pen and Paper- Pen and paper are, of course, the tried and true way to journaling. Despite technical advances, nothing beats the personal nature and authenticity of jotting down thoughts the old fashioned way without fear of getting hacked like you could when using an app. Also, making edits is harder and that's a good thing since journaling is supposed to be a free-flowing exercise!

But they're downsides...

For one, there's always the chance of someone getting hold of your journal who shouldn't be. Then there's the possibility of losing or accidentally damaging it. And without a tagging system like apps/software have, it's harder to instantly call up selections from entries.

Still, pen and paper is the most popular journaling method, with the Moleskine leading the pack for most affordable, well-rated journals.

Apps/Software-Many journaling apps and software have entered the market in the last few years. A few popular ones include:

You could also use Evernote or Google Keep for your personal journal. Another option is to use a basic word processing program or minimalistic writing app like Ommwriter (which I love) and store your files on Dropbox. Then there's 750 Words which is a great way to stay motivated in a community with other journal writers.

Blogging- Perhaps you'd like to broadcast your thoughts and feelings out into the world. With this approach, you can get feedback from readers instead of writing in an echo chamber which journaling tends to be.

Resource content: https://confinedtosuccess.com/benefits-of-journaling-for-mental-health/

 

The Health Benefits of Journaling By Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP

I’ll bet you write (or word process) daily. If you are like most women, you record only what you must. In an effort to change your mind and your habits, I’ll let you in on a well-kept secret: A pen coupled with paper can serve as a powerful life tool.

Journaling (or keeping letters or diaries) is an ancient tradition, one that dates back to at least 10th century Japan. Successful people throughout history have kept journals. Presidents have maintained them for posterity; other famous figures for their own purposes. Oscar Wilde, 19th century playwright, said: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”

Health Benefits- Contrary to popular belief, our forefathers (and mothers) did know a thing or two. There is increasing evidence to support the notion that journaling has a positive impact on physical well-being. University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.

I know what you’re thinking: “So writing a few sentences a day may keep me healthier longer, but so will eating lima beans! Why should I bother journaling when I’ve already got too much on my plate?” The following facts may convince you.

Scientific evidence supports that journaling provides other unexpected benefits. The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you. Begin journaling and begin experiencing these benefits:

  • Clarify your thoughts and feelings. Do you ever seem all jumbled up inside, unsure of what you want or feel? Taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts and emotions (no editing!) will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.
  • Know yourself better. By writing routinely you will get to know what makes you feel happy and confident. You will also become clear about situations and people who are toxic for you — important information for your emotional well-being.
  • Reduce stress. Writing about anger, sadness and other painful emotions helps to release the intensity of these feelings. By doing so you will feel calmer and better able to stay in the present.
  • Solve problems more effectively. Typically we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other capabilities, and affords the opportunity for unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.
  • Resolve disagreements with others. Writing about misunderstandings rather than stewing over them will help you to understand another’s point of view. And you just may come up with a sensible resolution to the conflict.

In addition to all of these wonderful benefits, keeping a journal allows you to track patterns, trends and improvement and growth over time. When current circumstances appear insurmountable, you will be able to look back on previous dilemmas that you have since resolved.

How To Begin- Your journaling will be most effective if you do it daily for about 20 minutes. Begin anywhere, and forget spelling and punctuation. Privacy is key if you are to write without censor. Write quickly, as this frees your brain from “shoulds” and other blocks to successful journaling. If it helps, pick a theme for the day, week or month (for example, peace of mind, confusion, change or anger). The most important rule of all is that there are no rules.

How to start a journal – and keep it up

Writing or drawing every day can help you log your experiences and spark new ideas. Here's how to get into the swing of it  We're drawn to making our mark, leaving a record to show we were here, and a journal is a great place to do it. Once you start drawing, writing and gluing stuff in every day it can quickly become a habit – addictive, even. Your attitude should be: "I can do this, but I mustn’t make it too intimidating." It should all be easy to accomplish – here's how.

1. Time yourself- A good technique to avoid giving up or getting bored is to give yourself 10 minutes maximum per day to make your mark.  Ideally, you'll go to your journal every day, and that can feel repetitive, so tricks like this are great for making it feel more doable.

2. Do not fear the blank page- Start by thinking small, so it's not too overwhelming? You don't need to create a masterpiece; you just need to write or draw something in the journal every day to get into the swing of it. When you first sit down to try, you may think your life is pretty boring and you have nothing to put in your journal, but as you start to think harder, you'll realize how much you see each day.

When I first started, I challenged myself in little ways to just make marks on the page, setting easy tasks such as writing a list of everything I'd consumed in one day, or a list of five things I saw, heard, smelled, tasted or touched. Another favorite exercise was dripping a blob of ink on to a page and blowing it with a straw. It's so simple but incredibly satisfying to make spidery, tree-like shapes. As I began to see the pages fill up with images and ideas, I had this sense of: "Yes, I'm creating something."

3. Avoid screens- I find the experience of keeping a journal much more creative on paper than on a computer. When I write, I'm physically immersed in the world and slow down, whereas on screen, I use my senses in a less engaged way – and I skim more. Something different happens to my brain when I put pen to paper: the pace of writing or drawing slows you down and gives you more time for thoughts to come in.

A nice exercise is to write, or draw, as slowly as you can – it's so different from the usual way we get stuff out there – via tweets, texts or emails in easy chunks. Try pausing more often, and take your time to complete a sentence or draw a line, and you'll find it's a very different way of working.

4. Be destructive!- Give yourself permission to experiment, play around with material and make a mess. What does it feel like to rub dirt on the page? See what happens when you do. Above all, stop caring about the outcome. It doesn't have to be great, but exists as something you did that day.

The whole point is getting stuff on the page. Once it's out there, it can become fodder for other work; I had one page in a journal where I collected just white things, and it later became part of a short film – it's all material for other ideas.

5. Make your journal precious-A lot of people don't like to spend money on a journal because they're afraid to wreck it, which is understandable. I buy beautifully made leather-bound journals because I have lost my fear of the blank page.

My journals are precious in a different way. I love everything that comes out of them and I want them to last, to be durable. I don't worry about them getting wrecked, and I enjoy them more as they fill up. The more daring I get, the more unruly they become.

6. Collect everything- Anything you come across in daily life is great for a journal – a lot of my pages are full of artefacts I've glued in: a piece of paper I found on the ground that someone had discarded, labels from the Post Office, ticket stubs, anything with numbers on it, a thin piece of bright orange fencing from a construction site; anything where I really enjoy the color. All this stuff looks even better when you present it in a grid, or pair things together to see how they play off each other.

7. Make it random- I use a lot of chance in my work and try not to intervene too much – I'll just drop stuff onto the page and see what happens. One great collage exercise is getting a magazine or newspaper, something with lots of nice colour, then cutting out circles from several pages of it, so you have around 50 of them you can randomly play with; combine the colors, see how they mix and match or drop them randomly and glue where they fall. It's so fast to do and very satisfying.

8. Just try it- Often, we don't try things, because we think we know what's going to happen: we make assumptions about outcomes. When you keep a journal, you realize that the really interesting thing is not knowing what will happen, and discovering an unexpected result.

Resource content: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/22/how-to-start-journal-writing-drawing

Prompts to help with anxiety & depression:

  1. Write about a difficult time in your life that you overcame
  2. Describe how you want your life to look in 5, 10 and 20 years
  3. What are the three things that scare you the most and why?
  4. Name five moments when you were ecstatically happy
  5. What are three things you can do to help your mental health?
  6. When times get tough I want to remember that _______
  7. My greatest qualities are ________
  8. 10 things I feel thankful for are __________
  9. Right now my greatest challenge is ________
  10. This week I am looking forward to these three things _________
  11. On a scale of 1-10 my mental health is at a _____ because
  12. If I could meet anyone in the world I would like to meet _____ because
  13. Describe a situation where everything worked out for you
  14. Who has been your biggest supporter? Write that person a thank you letter
  15. Today my victories were:
  16. What was your biggest learning moment this week?
  17. Write a thank you letter to your body
  18.  If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
  19. Describe your biggest accomplishment and why it means so much to you
  20. No matter how terrible my day is these ten things can always make me feel better:
  21. The biggest lessons I’ve learned from anxiety are:
  22. If I didn’t have depression I would have never learned________________
  23. If I didn’t have any fear I would ________________
  24. What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?
  25. What do you wish most people knew about you and why?
  26. What was your most embarrassing moment and why?
  27. A fear I would like to overcome is ________. I can do these things to start overcoming it:
  28. If you could change anything about yourself what would it be and why?
  29. Describe your happiest and saddest childhood memories
  30. If I could have any career I would be a __________ because:
  31. What was the last thing that made you feel deeply frustrated?
  32. How do you want to be remembered?
  33. Describe a time when you had to make a really hard choice
  34. What would your life be like if you didn’t have (depression, anxiety, etc)?
  35. What is a trait that you admire most in others? In what ways do you see that trait in yourself
  36. Name ten things you can start doing to take care of yourself?
  37. What are your ten worst habits and how do they impact your life?
  38. Describe a time when you sabotaged a good situation for yourself. Explore why you did that
  39. What would unconditional love look like for you? What would it feel like?
  40. If you had to pick one day to relive over and over for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
  41. Describe your perfect relationship
  42. How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
  43. What are your ten best talents?
  44. What was the best compliment you ever received?
  45. What is the most unique thing about you? Do you like to hide it or let it show?
  46. If you knew this was your last day on earth what would you do?
  47. Name ten songs that make you feel pumped
  48. If you could achieve anything in your lifetime what would it be?
  49. What friendship that you’ve had was the most meaningful?

 

 

Increasing Our Awareness & Understanding of Autism


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Community Outreach

Interested in learning more about Autism Speaks resources and initiatives? Seeking to raise awareness about autism within your school or community? Connect with the Community Outreach Team for info, tools, and events! Contact us: outreach@autismspeaks.org

Events in the Community

Town Halls bring together young adults and adults with autism, families, and service providers to examine needs, explore opportunities, and connect with available resources and expertise. This national series of events focuses on adult services, including transition, employment, housing and community living, and financial planning and features a panel discussion, resource fair, and networking opportunities.

Autism Speaks Tele-Learning Programs are virtual presentations for families, meant to provide information about Autism Speaks and the free resources available to individuals with autism and their families. These free programs will be held bi-monthly with two rotating topics – navigating an autism diagnosis and preparing for the transition to adulthood. Register for one today!

Our Community Meetings provide information about Autism Speaks and the resources available to you and your family. Join us to learn more about Autism Speaks’ mission, research, programs and services, and advocacy efforts locally and across the country.

Stay tuned for upcoming 2018 Events in your community! For more info, email outreach@autismspeaks.org.

Autism Response Team

The Autism Response Team (ART) is specially trained to connect people with autism, their families and caregivers to information, tools, and resources.

Call us toll free at 1-888AUTISM2 (288-4762), en Español 1-888-772-9050 or email us at familyservices@autismspeaks.org.

Resource content: https://www.autismspeaks.org/community-outreach

More Resources:

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The Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit for Newly Diagnosed Families of Young Children was created specifically for families of children ages 4 and under to make the best possible use of the 100 days following their child's diagnosis of autism.

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The Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit is a tool designed to help assist families of children between the ages of 5 and 13 recently diagnosed with autism during the critical period following an autism diagnosis.

Programs & Services in the Capital District of New York

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Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region

The Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region provides a variety of programs and services to support children and adults affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder, their families, and the professionals who serve them. Need help?  contact form.

Information & Referral

We help families and professionals find information related to Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our staff is here to help you find services, professionals, and information to help support anyone affected by autism. We provide Information and Referral services in the following ways:

Outreach & Awareness

The Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region has a strong commitment to promoting autism awareness and acceptance. You will find us out in the community sharing stories of the Autism Society’s work, and the challenges and joys of having autism and loving someone with autism.  We also raise awareness online through our website, newsletter, and social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest Check out our media kit and events page to see some of our outreach events.

Advocacy

The Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region is frequently involved in advocacy campaigns, to ensure government support and protection for individuals with disabilities. We can also provide individual advocacy when needed.

Some of the recent campaigns we’ve supported include:

  • Be Fair to Direct Care – a campaign to ensure a livable wage for direct care workers, who serve some of New York State’s most vulnerable citizens. Many of these employees are paid through Medicaid, so it is critical that the state budget supports their jobs. In Spring 2017, the efforts proved successful, and an increase in funding was confirmed in the state budget.
  • Ignite 4 Autism – a campaign to protect Medicaid funding, which covers millions of Americans with disabilities, in national health care legislation.
  • Eastern New York Developmental Disability Advocates (ENYDDA) – an independent, all-volunteer organization comprised of Capital Region parents, family members and friends of disabled individuals. ENYDDA parents, families and friends advocate for our disabled family members, educating policymakers and the public on matters impacting the developmentally disabled, in order to enhance their lives and better protect their health, safety and well-being.

We have a Policy Committee that works on issues affecting New York State law, legislation and policies. Please contact our Executive Director, Janine Kruiswijk, if you would like to get involved.

The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities

State University of New York at Albany 1535 Western Ave., Albany, NY 12203

518 442 2574

Contact Email: card@albany.edu

http://www.albany.edu/psy/autism

Provides training and education for families and professionals that either live with or serve individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Provides information and referral for parents and families living in Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, and Washington counties.

 

Center for Spectrum Services

70 Kukuk Lane, Kingston, NY 12401

845-336-2616

Contact Name: Jamey Wolff

Contact Email: jwolff@centerforspectrumservices.org

http://www.centerforspectrumservices.org

The Center for Spectrum Services is a non-profit agency providing a variety of resources for people on the autism spectrum including a day school for children ages 2-12 and a clinic which provides diagnostic and treatment services for people of all ages.

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Parent to Parent of New York State

500 Balltown Road, Schenectady, NY 12304

(800) 305-8817

(518) 381-4350

Contact Name: Michele Juda

Contact Email: mjuda@ptopnys.org

http://parenttoparentnys.org/

http://parenttoparentnys.org/site/about/#sthash.VWrjIx5U.dpuf

Parent to Parent of NYS, which began in 1994, is a statewide not for profit organization established to support and connect families of individuals with special needs. The 13 offices, located throughout NYS, are staffed by Regional Coordinators, who are parents or close relatives of individuals with special needs. - See more at: http://parenttoparentnys.org/site/about/#sthash.VWrjIx5U.dpuf

 

 

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ABA Social Skills Groups for kids with ASD

https://www.capitaldistrictaba.com/

These groups are for designed for high-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum but are open to any and all children who may benefit from additional social skills practice.   Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and social communication disorders have difficulty making and maintaining friends.  These groups are meant to create a fun and safe place for your child to play, make friends, and gain social confidence.

Groups are led by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and will focus on the development of peer relations, age-typical play, social skills, and relationship development.  Groups will also include one typical peer role model.  Each child will be given an individual in-take assessment whereby their target social skills will be determined for the session.  Data will be taken during each session to monitor and measure your child’s progress with his/her targeted skills.  As target skills are mastered, new target skills will be added so that each child is continually growing in their ability to play, learn, and interact with peers. 

Target skills include (but are not limited to) greeting peers, introducing one's self, asking peers to play, accepting peer requests to play, engaging in age-appropriate play with peers for gradually extended periods of time, answering individual questions, answering group questions, eye contact, proper body posture when conversing, and maintaining a conversation on a specific topic.  Target skills will differ for each individual child in the group and will be based upon that child's individual in-take assessment.

All target skills will be addressed in a fun, safe, and structured setting.  The group will take part in group circle time, social activities, games such as Hide and Seek, Red Rover, board games, art, music, movement, guided peer play, and group projects.

A field trip is planned for the end of the session.  This outing will be determined based upon the interests and abilities of the group at that time.

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Teaches

• Age-Appropriate Play Skills

• Greater Social Understanding & Awareness

• Group Interaction

• Social Initiation and Responsiveness

• Group games that your child might encounter with peers at school or on the playground.

Goals

• Fun

• Lasting Friendships

• To create both the desire and the ability to interact with peers

• Self-Confidence

• Building a wide variety of new interests

Groups

Groups meet for one hour a week for a 8 week sessions.  If you and your child would like to re-enroll for the next session, a new in-take assessment will NOT be required. Groups are broken down into two age groups:  Ages 6-9 and ages 9-11.  

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Groups will take place at Campbell House Psychological Associates

101 State St, Schenectady NY

7-11 year olds- Wednesdays 5:30-6:30

4-6 year olds- Thursdays 5:30-6:30

Cost

In-take assessment: $70 (1 hour- includes assessment and target skill development).

lasses: $320 for an 8 week session (includes continual data collection, target skill management, skill teaching, and progress reports)

*Fees are non-refundable.  Missed classes will not be refunded nor can they be made up at a later date.*

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More Mental Health Support Systems:

  • Albany County Mental Health Department

Mental health clinic in Albany, New York

260 S Pearl St, Albany, NY 12202

(518) 447-4555

  • NAMI New York State Albany & Rensselaer  

Non-profit organization in Albany, New York

105, 99 Pine Street, Albany, NY 12207

(518) 462-2000

  • Mental Health Empowerment Project

Mental health service in Albany County, New York

3 Atrium Dr #205, Albany, NY 12205

(518) 434-1393

  • Capital District Psychiatric Center  

Psychiatric hospital in Albany, New York

75 New Scotland Ave, Albany, NY 12208

(518) 549-6000

  • Capital Counseling  

650 Warren St #1, Albany, NY 12208

(518) 462-6531

  • Mental Health Association In NY State  

Mental health service in Albany, New York

194 Washington Ave #415, Albany, NY 12210

(518) 434-0439

  • Office for People with Developmental Disabilities

State government office in Albany, New York

44 Holland Ave, Albany, NY 12229

(800) 597-8481

  • Albany Behavioral Health Services  

Mental health service in Albany, New York

255 Orange St, Albany, NY 12210

(518) 729-2126

  • Albany County Department of MENTAL HEALTH

175 Green Street | Albany, NY 12202

Phone: (518) 447-4537 | Fax: (518) 447-4577

Psychiatric Crisis Services: (518) 549-6500

 

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 NWR's support group for families, educators, community and friends!

NWR's support group for families, educators, community and friends!

Coping Strategies for our Mental Health

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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.

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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.

Diversions

  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

Physical

  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

Spiritual

  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.

Toxic People, Co-dependency & Setting Boundaries

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Toxic parents can be intentionally malevolent, but more often, they're just self-centered and don't understand that their children have their own conflicting emotional needs and desires. And all parents slip up; one bad argument when you were 15 doesn't make a toxic parent.

Each of these aspects could be the defining one in your relationship with your parent, and could lead to the label "toxic" on its own. And remember: Toxicity can sometimes change into a reasonable adult relationship, if both parties are ready to work and change.

Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with toxic people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether its negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs. 

Toxic Parent Characteristics:

1. They Need You To Take Care Of Them

One classic toxic pattern in parent/child relationships — and these will largely be patterns, rather than one-off incidents — sees the parent asking the child to be their parent, and to fix and support them. This doesn't refer to helping a parent if they're physically disabled or getting them food when they're sick; it's a toddler-like demand to be cared for, mopped up, and cheered on — constantly.

2. Their Feelings Always Come Before Yours

In a non-toxic situation, the feelings of all parties are rated and taken care of equally. One kind of toxicity, however, means that the feelings of the toxic person always dominate any situation — usually because they're the loudest and most volatile. Your own feelings are suppressed in trying to take care of them, calm them down, and soothe their emotions. If this sounds familiar, it was likely also a pattern when you were a child.

3. They Have Problems & Ask You To Conceal Them

Another fairly common source of toxicity in parent-child relationships is addiction, and its corresponding denial and secrecy. Making a child complicit in the concealment of an addiction like alcoholism ("Nobody must know, it's our family secret!"), while also subjecting them to its effects — embarrassment, isolation, the inability to trust a parent, a chaotic childhood environment — is a pretty toxic cocktail. This could also apply to their asking you to conceal financial problems, or to lie to other family members on their behalf.

4. They Control You Using Guilt Or Money

If a parent refuses to let you do something reasonable (move out, take antidepressants, go to therapy) because they control your purse strings, that's toxic. Money can also be a threatening tactic; if you're fiscally reliant on a toxic parent, they can threaten to take away that support if you don't obey the rules. Of course, guilt is also a powerful control method, refusing to allow you to do something outside the lines without suffering a severe and very serious guilt trip.

5. They Refuse To Let You Grow Up

"You're still my little girl" is kind of sweet, sometimes. It only becomes toxic when your parents actively resist you showing autonomy and becoming an independent entity. The line may seem blurry here, but this brand of toxicity means that you aren't allowed to grow up. Your adult decisions are undermined, or you're harassed until you change them. They demand the same level of control they had over your life as they did when you were small. Or they are extremely offended, puzzled, or aggressive when that's not allowed.

6. They Don't Recognize Your Boundaries

This is a fairly epic toxic element. The door you shut can be opened at any time, without knocking. The phone can be called at any point, regardless of your sleep schedule or work. They can say anything they want to you, in public or in private, and demand that you talk to them about any topic they like. And if you do assert a boundary forcefully, they react with anger, confusion, denial, or guilt tripping.

7. They Constantly Undermine You

Negging isn't just for dudes in fedoras. In one particular toxic situation, it's the defining characteristic of a parent's treatment of their child. Small digs about vulnerable attributes — height, weight, academic achievement, basically anything — can be covered up as "jokes," but they're actually a way of asserting dominance and control over a kid, even when they grow up. And not liking or reacting to the jokes means that you, the child, are flawed for not "having a sense of humor." Don't buy it.

8. They're Insanely Passive-Aggressive

The "I'm fine" parent who sulks through meals, and who refuses to express their feelings except through oblique references, can just be a bit aggravating. But it can also be their way of maintaining a stranglehold on the family dynamic. Passive aggression is still aggression, after all — just expressed in a "socially acceptable" way. If your parent regularly gives you the silent treatment, that's passive-aggressive, and toxic as well.

9. You're Still Scared Of Them

Are you, in your adult life, with your secure job and your awesome friends, still frightened of what might happen if you disobey or displease your parents? Have you tried very hard to put yourself in a position where they can't do anything to hurt you, your possessions, or your equilibrium? Do you get a shock of adrenaline when the phone rings showing their number? Congratulations: You're an adult remnant of a toxic childhood.

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. Research has been done with more than a million people, and found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralize toxic people.

Coping Strategies for Keeping Toxic People at Bay:

  • Set Limits (Especially with Complainers)

Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.

You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

  • Choose Your Battles

Successful people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

  • Rise Above

Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. So why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix? The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink, if you prefer the analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.

  • Stay Aware of Their Emotions

Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.  Think of it this way—if a mentally unstable person approaches you on the street and tells you he’s John F. Kennedy, you’re unlikely to set him straight. When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.

  • Establish Boundaries

This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve found your way to Rise Above a person, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t.  You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

  • Will not let anyone Limit Your Joy

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them.  While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

  • Focus on Solutions rather than Problems

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.  When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control, and it will reduce the amount of stress you experience when interacting with them.

  • Forget Me Not

Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Successful people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

  • Squash Negative Self-Talk

Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.

  • Limit Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re surprised in the hallway by an angry coworker.

  • Get Some Sleep

The importance of sleep increases your emotional intelligence and the way you manage your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.

  • Use Your Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as explaining the situation can lead to a new perspective. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.

  • Bringing It All Together

Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you’re going to have to pass some tests. Most of the time, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people. Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.

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Co-dependency is characterized as person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior.

Do you expend all of your energy in meeting your partner’s needs? Do you feel trapped in your relationship? Are you the one that is constantly making sacrifices in your relationship? Then you may be in a codependent relationship.  In fact, if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill parent, you could also be codependent.

Symptoms of Codependency

The following is a list of symptoms of codependency and being in a codependent relationship. (You don’t need to have them all to qualify as codependent.)

Low self-esteem- Feeling that you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others are signs of low self-esteem. The tricky thing about self-esteem is that some people think highly of themselves, but it’s only a disguise — they actually feel unlovable or inadequate. Underneath, usually hidden from consciousness, are feelings of shame. Guilt and perfectionism often go along with low self-esteem. If everything is perfect, you don’t feel bad about yourself.

People-pleasing- It’s fine to want to please someone you care about, but codependents usually don’t think they have a choice. Saying “No” causes them anxiety. Some codependents have a hard time saying “No” to anyone. They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.

Poor boundaries- Boundaries are sort of an imaginary line between you and others. It divides up what’s yours and somebody else’s, and that applies not only to your body, money, and belongings, but also to your feelings, thoughts and needs. That’s especially where codependents get into trouble. They have blurry or weak boundaries. They feel responsible for other people’s feelings and problems or blame their own on someone else. Some codependents have rigid boundaries. They are closed off and withdrawn, making it hard for other people to get close to them. Sometimes, people flip back and forth between having weak boundaries and having rigid ones.

Reactivity- A consequence of poor boundaries is that you react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. If someone says something you disagree with, you either believe it or become defensive. You absorb their words, because there’s no boundary. With a boundary, you’d realize it was just their opinion and not a reflection of you and not feel threatened by disagreements.

Caretaking- Another effect of poor boundaries is that if someone else has a problem, you want to help them to the point that you give up yourself. It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but codependents start putting other people ahead of themselves. In fact, they need to help and might feel rejected if another person doesn’t want help. Moreover, they keep trying to help and fix the other person, even when that person clearly isn’t taking their advice.

Control-Control helps codependents feel safe and secure. Everyone needs some control over events in their life. You wouldn’t want to live in constant uncertainty and chaos, but for codependents, control limits their ability to take risks and share their feelings. Sometimes they have an addiction that either helps them loosen up, like alcoholism, or helps them hold their feelings down, like workaholism, so that they don’t feel out of control. Codependents also need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. In fact, people-pleasing and care-taking can be used to control and manipulate people. Alternatively, codependents are bossy and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This is a violation of someone else’s boundary.

Dysfunctional communication- Codependents have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. Of course, if you don’t know what you think, feel or need, this becomes a problem. Other times, you know, but you won’t own up to your truth. You’re afraid to be truthful, because you don’t want to upset someone else. Instead of saying, “I don’t like that,” you might pretend that it’s okay or tell someone what to do. Communication becomes dishonest and confusing when you try to manipulate the other person out of fear.

Obsessions- Codependents have a tendency to spend their time thinking about other people or relationships. This is caused by their dependency and anxieties and fears. They can also become obsessed when they think they’ve made or might make a “mistake.” Sometimes you can lapse into fantasy about how you’d like things to be or about someone you love as a way to avoid the pain of the present. This is one way to stay in denial, discussed below, but it keeps you from living your life.

Dependency- Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves. They’re afraid of being rejected or abandoned, even if they can function on their own. Others need always to be in a relationship, because they feel depressed or lonely when they’re by themselves for too long. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive. They end up feeling trapped.

Denial- One of the problems people face in getting help for codependency is that they’re in denial about it, meaning that they don’t face their problem. Usually they think the problem is someone else or the situation. They either keep complaining or trying to fix the other person, or go from one relationship or job to another and never own up the fact that they have a problem. Codependents also deny their feelings and needs. Often, they don’t know what they’re feeling and are instead focused on what others are feeling. The same thing goes for their needs. They pay attention to other people’s needs and not their own. They might be in denial of their need for space and autonomy. Although some codependents seem needy, others act like they’re self-sufficient when it comes to needing help. They won’t reach out and have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy.

Problems with intimacy- By this I’m not referring to sex, although sexual dysfunction often is a reflection of an intimacy problem. I’m talking about being open and close with someone in an intimate relationship. Because of the shame and weak boundaries, you might fear that you’ll be judged, rejected, or left. On the other hand, you may fear being smothered in a relationship and losing your autonomy. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable, but he or she is denying his or her need for separateness.

Painful emotions- Codependency creates stress and leads to painful emotions. Shame and low self-esteem create anxiety and fear about being judged, rejected or abandoned; making mistakes; being a failure; feeling trapped by being close or being alone. The other symptoms lead to feelings of anger and resentment, depression, hopelessness, and despair. When the feelings are too much, you can feel numb.

There is help for recovery and change for people who are codependent. The first step is getting guidance and support. These symptoms are deeply ingrained habits and difficult to identify and change alone. Joining a 12-Step program, such as Codependents Anonymous or seek counseling is helpful and known to be highly effective.

Work on becoming more assertive and building your self-esteem.

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How to set healthy boundaries:

1.  Name your limits

2.  Tune into your feelings

3.  Be direct

4.  Give yourself permission

5.  Practice self-awareness

6.  Consider your past and present

7.  Make self-care a priority

8.  Seek support

Common Boundary Myths:

  • If I set boundaries, I'm being selfish
  • Boundaries are a sign of disobedience
  • If I begin setting boundaries, I will be hurt by others
  • If I set boundaries, I will hurt others
  • Boundaries mean that I am angry
  • When others set boundaries, it injures me
  • Boundaries cause feelings of guilt
  • Boundaries are permanent, and I'm afraid of burning my bridges

Resolution of Boundary Problems with Family

Establishing boundaries with family members is a tough task, but one with great reward. It is a process, with certain distinguishable steps.

  1. Identify the Symptom- Look at your own life situation and see where boundary problems exist with your family members. The question lies under: Where have you lost control of your property? Identify those areas and see their connections with the family you grew up in, and you are on your way.
  2. Identify the Conflict- Discover what dynamic is being played out. For example, what "law of boundaries" are you violating?" (Do you reap what you sow? Do you take any responsibility of your actions and life? Do you have the power to change and acknowledge what you need to do? Do you have issues with not receiving respect? Do you lack motivation? Do you evaluate the effects of setting boundaries? Do you fail to enforce consequences and end up paying for their behavior? Are you passive and reactive toward them and the conflict?  Understand what you are doing and how it will effect these changes. You will be able to see clearly to deal with your family members and see yourself as the problem and find your boundary violations.
  3. Identify the Need That Drives the Conflict- You don't act inappropriately for no reason. You are often trying to meet some underlying expectation or need that your family did not meet. Maybe we are still entangled because of a need to be love, accepted and approved. You must face this deficit and accept it so you can move forward.
  4. Take in and Receive the Good- It isn't enough to understand your need, so you must get it met by being humble to yourself, embrace your talents and learn to respond to and receive love.
  5. Practice Boundary Skills- Your boundary skills are fragile and new. You can't take them immediately into a difficult situation unless you practice them in situations where they will be honored and respected. Begin saying no to people in your supportive group who will love and respect your boundaries. It's like when you are recovering from a physical injury, you don't pick up the heaviest weight first, you build up to the heavy stuff over time and practice.
  6. Say No to the Bad- In addition to practicing new skills in safe situations, avoid hurtful situations. When you are in the beginning stages of recovery, you need to avoid people who have abused and controlled you in the past. When you think you're ready to reestablish a relationship with someone who has been abusive and controlling in the past, bring a friend or supporter along. Be aware of your pull toward hurtful situations and relationships. The injury you are recovering from is serious, and you can't reestablish a relationship until you have the proper tools. Be careful to not get sucked into a controlling situation again because your wish for reconciliation is so strong.
  7. Forgive the Aggressor- Nothing clarifies boundaries more than forgiveness. To forgive someone means to let them off the hook or to cancel the debt they owe you. When you refuse to forgive someone, you still want something from that person, and even if it is revenge that you want, it keeps you tied to them forever. Refusing to forgive a family member is one of the main reasons people are stuck in their own ways for so many years and they are unable to separate themselves from the dysfunction. If you don't forgive, you are demanding something your offender does not choose to give, even if it is only confession of what they did. This "ties" them to you and ruins boundaries. Let the dysfunctional family you came from go. Cut it loose and you will be free!
  8. Learn to Love in Freedom & Responsibility, Not in Guilt- Love always wins. The person who has to remain forever in a protective mode is losing out on love and freedom. Boundaries in no way mean to stop loving. They mean the opposite: you are gaining freedom to love. It is good to sacrifice and deny yourself for the sake of others. But you need boundaries to make that choice.

Freelancing for Idiots

Freelancing For Idiots

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

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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 .

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

Mental Decluttering

Just like decluttering your physical spaces, mental decluttering takes in account two forms: discarding & organizing.  In order to give fewer, better fucks, to get the most out of your limited time, energy and money, you really should consider discarding obligations, such as things, people, events & etc. that annoy you. This process will make more room for the things, events, people & etc. that you look forward to and most comfortable to be your truest self around; called MAKING A FUCK BUDGET.

Getting your shit together is organizing what you have left (in the form of time, energy & money) and deploying those resources wisely- not only on things you need to do, but on those extra bonus-level things you want to do. I am not saying to start making major changes, but become mindful of the process at hand. However, change does start with cleaning out your mind. This process of cleaning out your mind also goes hand in hand with whom you live with. If your roommate is a slob, their clutter becomes your clutter. You have to compromise your collectables and how full your closet and dresser drawers are. With mental decluttering, you don't have to sort through or "trip over anything" but you will start to get stressed and sick and tired of the bullshit that is laying around that you technically don't need.

The idea of needing or wanting to give a fuck about something is not the same as actually being able to do it. So get your shit together!! For example, you may give a fuck about taking a vacation and be willing to devote the time, energy and money towards it. BUT if you DON'T have your shit together, you many not have money to pay for it. You can clear your calendar of less appealing obligations all you want, but without funding it won't happen.

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With that all being said, here are some ways to declutter the shit out of your mind:

Make a List- Lists are like the Container Store for the mind—they help you compartmentalize your mental clutter in a thousand different ways. Sounds simple, yes, but adding a few lists to your life really works.  First, parking something on a to-do list frees up some valuable mental room, because once a nagging task is on your list, you don’t have to worry about remembering it anymore. With all your responsibilities organized in one place, you can strategically choose what to do next instead of flying by the seat of your pants. (Check out a few of my favorite tips for maximizing your to-do list .)

But, a to-do list alone can only get you so far (more on that later). To go a step further, make a priority list in addition to or based on your to-do list. This is a daily list of your top two or three priorities (it’s key to keep it limited to avoid creating just another general to-do list) to help ensure you’re making progress on stuff that matters. This is where you choose impact over what you might feel is urgent. When you actively identify something as a priority, you’ll be more likely to focus on it like a laser beam through the clutter instead of pushing it off to another day.

And finally (don’t worry, just one more!), create a done list to record everything you’ve accomplished during the day . Then, when you feel like you’re getting lost amidst the buzz, you can take a look at what you’ve done—which will give you a boost of motivation and renewed focus to keep achieving.

Automate Away- That being said, a word of caution: When your to-do list is cluttered with small, repetitive tasks, it’s easy to get caught up in whatever comes up first, rather than what’s actually the most important. To cut out some of those less-than-urgent responsibilities, try an automating service, like Zapier , which gives you the ability to delegate repetitive work tasks to a personal internet assistant.

For instance, as part of my job, I need to keep track of pitches and guest bloggers, so I set up a “zap” to automatically save specific kinds of emails to a separate Evernote notebook. That way, when I need to sort through potential posts, I don’t have to waste time rooting around in my inbox. Other popular “zaps” include automatically adding Eventbrite attendees to MailChimp and automatically scheduling social media posts through Buffer.

The beauty of this kind of automatic delegation is that you can simply set it and forget it—majorly cutting down on your to-do list. So instead of interrupting the flow of your workday with little tasks, you can concentrate on the high-impact stuff that requires your full focus and attention.

Embrace the Junk Drawer- The junk drawer is a home and office vice and necessity where you stuff crumpled up notes, maybe-dead batteries, and all sorts of odds and ends that don’t have a proper home.

Surprisingly, this strategy can also work for your mind: Instead of continually accumulating mental clutter, take a load off by creating a digital “junk drawer.” Start by dumping your thoughts onto an electronic page with a tool like Evernote. This allows you to shove all your brilliant ideas, notes, lists, and saved articles that don’t have another home into one digital place, which will help you clear out some valuable mental space—without adding papers and notebooks to your actual junk drawer. And don’t worry—with a quick shuffle through the “junk,” (i.e., a quick search), you’ll easily be able to find anything you need.

Manage Your Inbox- I’m no Inbox Zero wizard, but I know I get more done when I don’t have to cringe every time I open my email. Knowing your inbox isn’t overflowing can save you a lot of mental stress, which can help you focus on other, more important tasks. So, save yourself from slowly drowning subject line by subject line by doing some inbox spring cleaning.

First, unsubscribe from promotional emails (that you never actually open) and turn off those clogging notifications from LinkedIn and Facebook. Then, filter and funnel different types of nonessential email into specified sections of your inbox, so that you can have them on hand if you need them—but don’t have to see them every time you log in. I also like to use programs like Boomerang or Followup.cc to schedule emails and send reminders, so I can deal with emails on my own time.

Think About It- When you have a never-ending list of things to do, it often feels counterproductive to spend time reflecting—more thoughts will just add to the mental clutter, right? But, in my experience, charging ahead without taking time to reflect will just make the mess worse.

Turns out, regularly reviewing how you’ve been spending your time will give you insight into how you got to your present state, how to move forward strategically, and how you work best in general. So, start making time for quiet reflection or journaling . Think about (or write down) what’s stressing you out, why a particular project isn’t taking off, or when during the day you’re most productive. By unpacking and articulating your zooming thoughts, instead of feeling like one big exclamation ( argh! and blergh! are common ones for me), you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what you need to do to move forward.

Remember, your state of mind is intertwined with the quality of your work and relaxation. So, ditch the disco ball attention span, take some deep breaths, and do some mental tidying. In the end, you’ll get back in touch with your true priorities.

Stretch the body, stretch the mind- Sometimes it seems like all I can do to calm down, to declutter, to make space, is to flow with breath and body through a sequence of yoga poses. Even your basis stretches of your quads, doing lunges or squats will help. After, lay down or sit comfortably in a chair and take a few minutes to meditation. Become mindful and present in the moment of your emotions, and bodily sensations you are feeling.

Listen to/sing your favorite song- When I am particularly overwhelmed by negative thought clutter, and it seems as though it will never end, I put on some music to relax and detach from those negative thoughts.

Get up and move- One of my favorite ways to instantly declutter is to dance or go to Zumba! I bust out one of my favorite dance moves, and even get the added bonus of the endorphins. I grew up with tapes, not CD’s, so can anyone say THE RUNNING MAN (or the ELECTRIC SLIDE)! If you’re at work and your colleagues might not approve of your sweet moves, you can try mindful walking.

4. Remember the good times- Go back to that time and place where you felt peace, light and love. It might be when you were little, with friends, or just the adventures you might have taken in the past by yourself. Bring yourself back to those sensations and surrender to sweet nostalgia.

5. Practice gratitude- One of the most effective ways to clear out mental clutter is to say thank you. You don’t necessarily have to have a god, or the universe, or anyone in particular in mind. Just a general “thank you” to express gratitude for everything you are or aren’t, and everything you have or don’t have. This is by no means easy, and I do NOT mean to placate you or undermine any difficulty you are experiencing. But there is actual literature in the field of positive psychology that expressing gratitude is a huge part of mental health, which includes stress reduction.

 

Hope this all helps ! Please post any comments with insights, advice, ideas and questions!! 

15 Practical Ways on How to..

By: Tatiana Gjergji, Executive Director and Founder of NWR of Albany, Inc.

It isn’t easy to get your shit together but in reality, you need to get your life before life gets you.  The older I get the more I am starting to realize that people, especially those older than me, don’t know what they are doing with their lives even though they seem like they do from their social media account portrayals. You can take that as either a horrifying opinion or reassuring.  I noticed that it was time that I needed to get my shit together when I realized that I was in the bath tub, fully clothed and sobbing from internalizing my father’s substance and alcohol disorder and other crap that brought me deep down into anxiety and depression.

Yeah, I apologized in my first blog post that this isn’t your ordinary blog, shit is going to get real. I feel like I need to be upfront about some of my life experiences because out there in our cruel, cold, closed-minded world, there is someone out there that probably is or went through the same thing I have. So, as I get my life by seeing a professional therapist, working at a job that I enjoy being apart of, building my own empire of my newly developed nonprofit community resource center (NWR), in a loving and supportive relationship, I still need structure and guidance on how to maintain getting my life together. Through coping strategies, grounding exercises and keeping an open-mind I am on the path to getting my entire life.

It isn’t easy to get your life and to be real, it will never completely together. However, that is not to say that you can’t still look and feel like you have got your entire life. So, here are some “real” ways to get your entire life, or seem like you got it all going on.

Get Organized

Whether you are the person who likes to write in a planner, calendar, and Google calendar or using an app on your phone, it is easier and beneficial to you to put it to good us.  Write down due dates, meetings, appointments, birthdays and/or special events, bill deadlines and etc. These visuals help you get your life in order and set out the map as to what to look forward to. Write it all out- Write down a to do list and start to plan out what you need to get down in the 7 days that make a week. You don’t have to take care of things all at once, plan it out by settling things one step in the right direction. Visuals are key to understanding and prepping yourself for future plans, obligations, and expectations.

 

De-Clutter It All

Stop buying shit that you don’t need!!! Throw shit that you don’t need out!!!! This goes to your car, office, whole entire apartment/house, and don’t forget your email inbox. Clutter in your physical environment and relationships energetically block the flow of abundance, getting in the way of the success we are reaching for, sounds contradicting but nevertheless facts. When we have clutter and unwanted stuff in our lives, there isn't room for the abundance we need. We want more money, nicer clothes, more delicious food, yet all we have is lots of mediocre, old, unused crap taking up our precious space.  This applies to our mental and emotional environments as well. Often we hold onto resentment and deny forgiveness, then wonder why it's so challenging to feel grateful and truly appreciate the things we have that matter. When I de-cluttered my bedroom and closet, it made me feel like I was starting fresh and getting rid of the bullshit that I don’t need, it also looks really nice to have a clean, neat bedroom and closet (that didn’t last long, but still working on it).

 

Reflect on the Shit you Need to Take Care Of

 I am one to know that life can be overwhelming at times but it makes it easier in the long run to reflect on what you need to tweek, change or adjust. Whether it being your bills, college, relationships, friends, work, exercise, your health, cleaning the house/laundry, and etc. it all needs to be given attention to and get done. Also, keep in mind to not only reflect on what you need to do but on what you have already achieved and happiness in your life. Remember, that your life is more together than you really think it is, so give yourself credit! For instance, this goes back to when I thought most adults who were older than me have their shit together. I am learning that at my age, even though I am not yet married, or have children, I have graduated college, am focusing on my own happiness and passion in life, and have started my own nonprofit, so in most cases, I am getting it together more than I give myself credit for.

 

Self-Awareness & Your Identity

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 DO NOT let life place you or make you into the person you don’t want to be! Put your phone down, FOR ONCE, and stop and look inward. What is your identity, what do you like and dislike; start sculpting yourself into the person you want to be that makes you happy and full! This sounds so cliché in a self-help world that we live in now but this is really important for our human experience. By understanding what makes you happy and content can be the hardest thing to warp your head around. If you honestly feel unhappy and feel like your life is out of your control, ask yourself “What will make me happy?” Be truthful and honest with yourself so you can help yourself focus on the positive aspects of life and start to GET YOUR LIFE!!! Also consider what your core values are: honesty, compassion, love, acceptance, forgiveness, dedication, hard work and etc.

 

Boundaries: Not Walls Up

I am all about this life! For real, setting boundaries with family members, coworkers and friends have really helped me socially, emotionally and mentally. People don’t need to hear my life story and struggles. I don’t need to talk about every aspect of my life and views on life with a family member who I know might be a little closed-minded to my point of view and decisions I have made in my life. I don’t need to say yes to every occasional hang out or bar hopping scenario on someone’s birthday. Allow yourself to set boundaries with people, its okay! You are not obligated to do most of the things you think you are obligated to do, especially when it comes to toxic people and situations.  Start by: Naming your limits, Tune into your feelings, Be direct, Give yourself permission, Practice self-awareness, Consider your past and present, Make self-care a priority, Seek support, Be assertive and Start small.

 

To All You Procrastinators Out There..Stop

 Did you know that there are five types of procrastinators? Well, now you know.

Busy Bee- This is the person that always says they are super busy to commit to their tasks, however, what they are doing is taking on the easier stuff so they don’t have to deal with whatever it is they’re procrastinating over. These people need to tackle the harder stuff in shifts. For example, when doing your taxes, work 10-15 minutes and then take interval breaks to ease stress and increase success.

Deflector- This person often avoids tasks based on fear of failure. I find this most common, like who wants try hard to achieve a goal and then end up fucking it all up? You might observe that these people are quick to blame others due to their lack of accomplishments and dealing with the fear. Sorry to break it to you but there are no shortcuts to success, so just stop and think about what the task is at hand and focus on what the best way to resolve it. With that said, it is possible to take responsibility without putting so much pressure on yourself. Perfect is an illusion and not reality.

Excuses, Excuses-  this person accepts the problem but doesn’t really do anything about it. “I’m too old,” “I’m too fat,” is not going to get you anywhere and is not the best outlook of yourself. So, there needs to be an installation of reinforcements and positive outlook on the situation you are dealt with. Try this mantra, “I can and I will” every day and believe in yourself!

Dreamer- This reminds me of children, most children are quick to act and don’t realize the consequences that come from the choices that they make. It’s important to understand the negative outcome of not completing a task. For instance, if you don’t pay your taxes, you could go to jail or if you don’t de-clutter your surroundings, you will lose shit, get frustrated and run out of room for things. So, think about the positive outcomes of completing tasks and how close you will get to achieve your goals.

Crisis Maker- I know a few people who say that they work best under pressure, but do they really put their full effort and potential into it? Probably not. This type of procrastinator is forever stressing primarily because they are not using their time and resources wisely. Organizational tasks such as chores, work deadlines, bills piling up are overwhelming when tackled all at the same time or in a rush. When tasks are taken care gradually they are manageable; you are not as stressed out, and you are more prepared financially, mentally, socially and physically. A great technique that I have learned is lying to yourself about deadlines. Yup, I said it. Set your personal deadlines for a couple of days in advance (before the official deadline) and work towards it instead of in the last minute.

 

Money

 Do you ever feel relieved when you pay your bills? Bills suck but they’re inevitable to one’s modern lifestyle and there is no way around them, unless you want to develop terrible credit where you can’t have anything under your name, such as a house, car, property, and etc. Trust me, I am still overcoming the deep sorrows of bad credit and it takes a lot out of you financially, socially, and psychologically. When you finally have financial peace of mind there is room for growth and fun! If you are inconsistent with paying bills, try signing up for automatic pay or even lying to yourself about the whole deadline to get ahead of the game. I feel like money comes and goes each day but my goal is to be financially stable so I don’t have to worry, stress or scramble for change to just live.

Health

 Ever since I was a young girl, my dad always emphasized the importance of three essential life focuses: health, honor and education. Without your health, you cannot help others, travel, be the person you were born to evolve into and etc. Get a checkup once in a while, especially your annual physical from your primary doctor and if you don’t have health insurance, which is one fucked up thing in this country that should be a right as a citizen alongside with voting (shaking my head), see if you can get Medicaid or an alternative plan. Try to eliminate sugar intake, reduce and/or eliminate alcohol/drug consumption, put down the coffee if you drink more than 1-2 cups a day, sleep more than 5-6 hours and drink more water!! Trust me, you will feel more alive and have more energy than you think. Give up those unhealthy vices that are damaging your health. I understand that most habits are hard to break but trying changing gradually so you don’t have room to fail and get discouraged.

 

Relationships

Make a list of people who you need to forgive, thank, apologize, and just say hello to. At the end of the day, are you going to rest your head knowing that you have regrets? Call your parents, your grandparents, and friends and just say hello, how is your day? Don’t only tell them that you love and care for them but show them (actions DO speak louder than words). “I want to be alone forever and don’t care about anything” said no one that was sober and really thought of the reality of what they just said. Humans are social beings. We want to love and give love, we want to share what happened to us during the weekend to our co-workers, give hugs to those who are suffering, smile back at someone who smiles at you and etc. Just like a relationship, it is 50/50. Phones calls can be received and made. No excuses.

 

Travel

Pick a desirable destination, determine costs, start a savings account specifically for this trip, set a date and gooooooooo! Stay curious, see the world, explore different cultures, peoples, languages, foods, beaches, music, dances and etc.!!!!!

 

Spirituality

Spirituality is a broad subject and can mean different things to people’s perspectives and human experiences. It can be defined as finding meaning and purpose in one’s life by patterns of daily prayer to a higher being, meditation and/or daily walks outside.  As our brain processes sensory experiences, we naturally seek out patterns and try to understand their meaning. As we ask big questions, the instinct seems wired in our minds. For instance, I have found my own spirituality without practicing a specific religion and have found where I want to be, what I want to focus on to enhance my inner growth and peace in my own experience of life.

 

Surrender

 I am not stating to give up and surrender your dreams and hopes! I am advising for you to let shit go that you cannot change. Things happen to us that are out of our control, so since you cannot change or fix it, let that shit go! Push it out of your platform, out of your way of thinking and focus on things you can change. Past events are beyond our control so learn from past mistakes but don’t dwell on them; you cannot successfully move your life forward if you keep looking back. Even when it comes to people that are toxic, negative, close-minded and narcissistic, YOU CANNOT CHANGE THEM!!  Don’t obsess over what other people do, however, talk to them about how they might have hurt your feelings or even state your boundaries/limits and just let it go.

 

Reacting vs. Responding

 A wonderful technique that I learned from my therapist is responding versus reacting to others who beat me down, tell me what to do, one-up me and all that bullshit. If someone has an opinion of you or shuts you down, that is their business and has NOTHING to do with you; that is why setting boundaries is so important.

Let me just vent: in every area of life throughout your community/world, someone is going to disagree or criticize you…but no one and their opinion about you matters…what YOU want for YOUR OWN LIFE matters!.. You cannot make everyone happy and you cannot give them credence.. The best defense/revenge for individuals who are judging you and criticizing you is INDIFFERENCE & COMPASSION…the day you realize that someone else’s opinion of you is entirely THEIR business, then YOU ARE FREE!! Sorry, I am not sorry! I had to splurge and tell you that, this is what I even tell the students (2-6th graders) that I teach at my day job. But I digress, knowing what responding and reacting is, the differences and outcomes of them is important and helpful to know when you interact with people.  

Reacting is an instant act that is driven by the beliefs, biases, and prejudices of the unconscious mind (when you say/do without thinking). Reacting is presented in the moment and is not throughout to consider what the long-term effects might be.  This is survival-oriented and is somewhat a defense mechanism for many individuals that don’t know any better than acting out through emotions rather than thinking things through and being considerate to others and the situation presented.

Responding is based on information from both the conscious and unconscious mind that is more ecological, meaning that it takes into consideration the wellbeing of not only you but those around you. Responding to others weighs the long-term effects and stays in line with your core values. I find that when I am about to respond to others, I experience an outer body experience where I am seeing from another perspective what is happening and what is the best/right way to handle it for myself and the other person I am interacting with.

 

 

Well, I hope this gets you on the right track into getting your entire life. It isn’t easy but just remember that we are all on this Earth just trying to make the best out of the life we are given and of course GETTING OUR ENTIRE LIFE!

Please comment and/or send email with questions, ideas, stories and struggles.

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.

Chakras

“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

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. 

Real Talk Though... Get. Your. Life!

I apologize in advance for not being the blog writer you want me to be. I am one that just speaks my mind, kind of like "word vomit" (yes, a Mean Girls reference), but most of the time without a filter. So, I am going to start by saying that it is never too soon to talk about getting your entire life. When the students I teach ask me for a pencil or to go to the bathroom or what page we are on, I tell them they need to "GET. IT. TOGETHER!" You might think this is too harsh for students at an elementary level, but I know that they totally get it by the smile  on their faces validating that they know I am being honest with them, which also gives them control over what they need to get back on track.  

Anyway, "Get Your Life" blog is geared towards getting real and deep about life in the way we process our human experiences. I will focus and explore topics from the affects of societal norms, addictions, holistic healing, philosophy, identity issues, body image, how to set boundaries, cultural diversity to DIY crafting, local events, stories and everything that relates to getting your life together.

Noteworthy Resources of Albany, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit community resource center that is newly developed in the Albany, NY and provides a variety of networking, educational and empowering support groups and workshops for guests to increase their sense of belonging in our community.  Alongside of all that, I thought "why not start a blog" about all the things I really want to talk about without being censured and to spread awareness of all the topics that we really want to get deep on rather than being judged for doing so. 

I am going to be honest, I don't know what I am doing. I've never been apart of a blog before so hear with me. My posts will not only include my opinions and experiences but I definitely will include factual information based on research done on each blog topic.

So you might be asking, WTF does "Get your life" mean.. It is pretty simple..GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER!! It is a slang gesture based on an individual organizing him/herself "so as to be able to deal with or achieve something." If you hate your job, your apartment, your friends, your body, the way people see you, what society enforces, and etc. --What are you going to do about it? Are you going to let it go or get your fucking life before life gets you? Are you going to let shit go because "that is just how it is" or are you going to stand up for yourself, your being, your soul, spirit and will to live a life that is worth living? I am not trying to sell you the important of happiness in saying this, but do you feel like your living your life to the fullest? I hope so.

It isn't easy to quit your day job and start focusing on what you are passionate about, I get it; change is a bitch, but just think about what it means to "Get your life!" I owe this saying to Chirstina Pazsitzky , comedian and podcast host of both "That's Deep Bro" and "Your Mom's House." Each episode she posts, she answers emailers' questions, talks about her upbringing. Her honesty and sense of humor warms my soul and inspired me to start my blog related to my nonprofit organization. My initial intention of this blog is to spread awareness about life struggles that we all face at one period of time or another. Whether it highlights the facets of anxiety, trauma, setting boundaries, relationship questions, sharing home remedies and DIY crafting ideas to how to deal with grief, toxic people in our lives and etc.

Get your Life also wants your input and asks for readers and the community to get involved and stay curious. Email me all the questions, stories, ideas, and struggles you might be facing so we can shine a light on the darkness to help someone else who might be going through the similar experiences.

I hope you find it with your open mind and heart to stay tuned to my next blog post