Sunday, March 29, 2020

Dealing with Depression

                                                                                      Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay 

Depression is a medical condition and the most common mental health issue in our population. Most people experience some days of depression, especially in troubled times. If you are depressed for more than two weeks, you probably should tell your doctor and get a referral to a mental health counselor.

How do you identify depression?

  • Persistent Sadness:  When sadness lasts for days or weeks, especially when it is accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, helplessness, depression, might be the cause. Sometimes you might feel sad and have no idea what you are really sad about.
  • When you feel hopeless you become even more depressed. And you may believe there is no way to ever feel better. It is important to break the cycle of negative thinking in order to escape from all these negative feelings. 
  • Feelings of worthlessness Worthlessness can lead a person to suicidal thoughts and even suicidal attempts. If a person feels worthless than he/she is more likely to withdraw from social contact, to become lethargic, start abusing with alcohol and often with drugs too. Over time  a person may even neglect self-care like eating, taking a shower, changing clothes, washing clothes, etc.
  • A depressed person will respond differently to guilt compared to a person without depression. There will be exaggerated guilt over little things, leading to more and more negative thinking.
  •  Anhedoinia is a major sign of depression. Anhedonia is the loss of interest in family, friends, food, any of the things that once felt good. This then feeds into the guilt and other negative feelings.
  • Disrupted sleep pattern. Depressed people may go to sleep but not be able to stay asleep. Or they may lie for long periods of time without being able to go to sleep. Of course, this is going to change their energy level even more. 
  • Loss of focus and memory problems are another sign. They will have trouble getting things done and function normally.
  • Suicidal thoughts are the most dangerous symptom of depression. Anyone who has thoughts of suicide or death needs to get help right away. They should not wait when they seem to go away, because they will probably return and bring them closer to self harm actions.
  • Constant fatigue, low energy, and tiredness are part of the experience of depression. It isolates them, which will make them feel even more tired and even more depressed. This is a circle is hard to escapefrom which it’s hard to escape. Fatigue will affect a depressed person both physically and emotionally.
  • Weight gain or loss is common. Overeating is more likely in early stages of depression, while loss of appetite and not eating may be present in deeper depression.

I've been depressed for most of my life. For many years I didn't know what was wrong with me. Eventually I had a doctor who recognized what was going on and prescribed antidepressants, which helped.

I became a mental health counselor and learned a great deal more about my malady. In the years since I've had periods when the struggle was difficult and times when I functioned well. I have learned that the medication alone isn't enough and that I have to take some life-style steps.

It is these steps I will share next week.

Sunday, March 22, 2020


                                                           Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

If you aren't anxious at some level, you aren't paying attention. There are a lot of things going on that can be frightening and frustrating. So much we don't know, yet we have to deal with it. 

Let me remind you that almost everyone is dealing with some level of anxiety. When people are anxious they can be irritable, angry, depressed, quarrelsome. 

Living with such limitations right now can bring out the worst or the best in a person. You can choose that for yourself. But you can't control that for others.

So, tread lightly with family, friends, and neighbors. Find an outlet for yourself or your kids. Do something to burn off the anxiety without causing greater problems. 

Limit alcohol and drug use. It only makes things worse. Ask yourself what you can do to help others in this time of trouble, then do it.

If you are healthy, donate blood. Contact your local Red Cross and arrange for a safe donation. They desperately need blood.

Check in with your friends and family, by email or phone or skype. Make connections without physical presence. 

If you are healthy and out of work, supermarkets are hiring people to clean and restock shelves.

Don't let yourself get mired in a sense of total powerlessness. We may not be able to control the virus completely, but we can do our part to reduce the risk for people. We must all pitch in to do what is necessary to beat this invisible enemy. Physical distancing, washing hands, cleaning surfaces, avoiding touching your face. Wash your hands. Please.

And please stay home to protect everyone from spreading the disease.

Be safe. Be cautious. But be determined to do your part.

                                                              image by Prawny from Pixabay

Sunday, March 15, 2020

National Emergency: What Can We Do?

Image by ar130405 from Pixabay 

First of all, don't panic. As the British say, "Keep Calm and Carry On." That is exactly what we must do. As Americans we can pull together our talents and our compassion to make it a smooth passage through the chaos.

In order to contain the covid19 virus we all have to do our part. That means we need our wits about us. We need to listen to the facts from the experts about how to behave in a way that prevents spreading of the virus.

It will mean that we will temporarily make sacrifices to have the best outcome. We will be confronted by lots of inconveniences for a while. And we can do that. And we will need to look out for the folks who don't have what they need to follow the guidelines.

There are solutions to every problem. We just need to put our creative energy to coming up with alternatives. We will need to think out of the box for a while.

Companies, corporations, and agencies are getting together to help. For instance, in Columbus, OH, the electric company is waiving shut off orders for a limited time. The school system has spent the weekend preparing several  weeks of class study sheets for students to learn at home and they are offering free to-go lunches to be picked up at various places, with school buses delivering to some areas. 

Citizens are banding together to petition the state to order banks to freeze mortgage payments until the crisis is over. Wherever possible, employees are working from home. Many businesses and restaurants are staggering shifts so that parents can care for children who are out of school. Meals on Wheels are expanding to provide meals to more people who are too high risk to leave home. We are trying to get the large grocery chains to waive delivery or curbside pick up fees until the crisis is over.

If you'll notice. These are things that people do together, things that can't happen if only one person or entity can do alone.

Neighbors are checking on neighbors in the high risk category. They are running errands, doing shopping, etc., for them so they are not exposed to places that they are more likely to be exposed. I'm 78 and have a heart condition. I don't want to go to the public places where I might be close to someone who is carrying the vaccine. Thankfully, I have an adult and healthy granddaughter who has offered to shop for us.

Talk to folks on the phone or on line to find out what they need help with. If you are young and healthy, maybe you could baby-sit with school aged children that need to stay at home. Research activities for kids that keep them engaged in learning and healthy activity. 

And we must each do what we can to keep ourselves healthy, keep our immune systems strong enough to ward off the worst of the symptoms if we do come in contact with the virus. Each healthy, get enough sleep, avoid excessive  alcohol (which dries out your body and diminishes your immune system), stay active, and find ways to distract your mine from being too focused on the situation.

Think about how to help others instead of worrying about yourself. You must, of course, be aware of your own caution. But helping others also helps you.

There are so many things we CAN do, Think about that and stay positive.

We are going to take care of each other. That is what humans are meant to do.

Remember: Stay calm, and carry on!

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Sunday, March 8, 2020

What Did You Learn Today?

                                                            Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay 

I celebrated my 78th birthday last month. So I decided I needed to learn something new. That's how we keep our brains young, isn't it?

I'm building a FaceBook page to sell my crocheted items. I've crocheted for years. But I have always done just somewhat simple things. Using the same few stitch patterns. 

I had to learn some new stitches and follow new patterns. But that was just the start of what I had to learn. There was the whole experience of developing a page to sell what I make. And, believe me, current technology is way above what I've known how to do.

So I'm learning about developing a page, a catalog, pricing, shipping, marketing, inventory management. Whew. 

But I'm learning lots of new things. What are you learning? Let's encourage everyone to keep learning, at any age.

Learning Something New

Sunday, March 1, 2020

What's Bugging You?

                                                Image by prettysleepy1 from Pixabay

I find myself often irritated these day. Is it my age? I am a senior citizen, you know. Just had another birthday. So am I more sensitive to frustration because I've lived so long?

Or, is it the current culture of negativity and fear-mongering?  And it has been like this for a few years now. Is my emotional shield worn down by it all? Could very well be. It surrounds me, even when I stay home. It's on the television and internet. So do I need to withdraw even more? 

That's an issue of balance. I don't wan't to be totally detached from reality, yet I need to limit the invasion of negativity. Where is the fulcrum? How far is far enough from it all and still keep me enough in reality to make good decisions?

Is it the physical pain? I have plenty of that and it does wear me down. But is that what keeps me so easily frustrated? anxious? I am looking forward to pain relief treatment in a few weeks. So I'll see if being pain free makes a difference.I do know that pain can be exhausting, so maybe that is the problem. Maybe I just don't have the energy to protect me from the constant battering by negativity.

Is it my own self-talk? I often find myself making negative thoughts like, "You can't do _____; "You are too old for that;" You can't afford that"; etc. And I do interrupt that with taking a few minutes to practice gratitude and positive thinking. Yet it could be that I'm sabotaging myself at times.

So what kinds of things bug you? Do you get worn out with frustration and/or anxiety? How do you deal with that?

What can we do about that? Sharing good thoughts, ideas, observations is a good place to start. Doing good for others makes a difference in the world and inside ourselves. Random acts of kindness really do create a better environment for everyone, yourself included. So what could you do today, right now, to be kind?

                                                                  Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Sunday, February 23, 2020

If Not You, Who?

Who can take care of you? Who can make you feel better, physically or mentally when you are stressed? 

Oh, You! You know what?

We have stress all around us - and even inside us. And it can be very damaging over time. You can save yourself from that by learning personal self-care techniques and use them every day.

TED Talk by Susannah Winters

Try it. Stay well. Love yourself enough to take care of yourself.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Kindness Is Wired In Our Brain

Human nature is often portrayed as selfish and power hungry, but research by Dacher Keltner finds that we are hard-wired to be kind.

So, if our brains are wired to kindness,  why do we not see more of it in our environment? 

Actually, there is a lot of kindness that doesn't get observed because we aren't looking for it.

It isn't as sensational as unkind behavior, so it doesn't get in the headlines often. We have the power to change that by looking for kindness and acknowledging it.

And look for opportunities to practice kindness. Even the little kindnesses can change our perspective and that of others.

Keep looking for the good in people. Practice compassion, caring about others needs. Smile often. Speak kindly, especially with those who seem selfish or power hungry. Look for peace in them. They may be defended against negative influences and really need kindness. Give them some of yours. You won't run out unless your shut yourself off like they do.

It can be pretty scary to open up your heart to others when you first begin.

Just let your kindness begin with yourself. Be kind to yourself, to your friends and family. It gets easier with practice.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

This Is THE Day!

                                                 Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

Yep, this is the day, the day that is "the first day of the rest of your life." This is the day you can make a change, any kind of change, good or bad. This is the day for all kinds of good things.

This day! It is the only day you can definitely count on having. Past days are gone and there is no guarantee you will have tomorrow. So, what do you want to do with it?

Have you ever thought of how many choices you do in a day? From the moment you wake up you are making choices about your behaviors. Will you expect good things? Will you get out of bed, or roll over and go back to sleep? What will you do first? What are you thinking? Are you thinking positively? What will you wear, eat, do in the first hour of your day.

Every behavior is a choice. Even your thoughts are a choice, or can be. So many things we do are habitual yet are still choices, choices you've made before and continued without thinking much about it.

Check it out: take and hour of the day and pay attention to what you are doing/thinking. Then do and think something different to see if you are really making thoughtful choices. What foot do you usually put a shoe on first? Try doing the opposite. Try changing the way you do habitual behaviors. Be aware, mindful.

Want to start something new? Make that choice and get started. Want to stop something you've been doing? Today, don't do it. 

Use today to shape your tomorrows. Save the day!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

What If You ...?

                                                       Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

All too often we made decisions and take actions without considering all the consequences. Then we have to deal with consequences you didn't consider.

So, what if you made an angry post on social media. What consequences did you consider before posting? What might we have expected to happen? Did you think you would get positive feedback, "likes", "shares"?

Well, there probably would be some people who agree with you and even "share" you comment. There are likely a few who are turned off by your anger. They might think you are right but don't like the way you stated it. Someone might even block you. Some might reply in anger and argue with you.

What are some other consequences that go beyond your post and the social media? What you post may resonate with other angry people so that they have something to inflame their anger. They my pass it on to others. Someone might take it as an attack and become very defensive, turning others away.

Someone could even be so malleable they use your post as a reason to act out against whomever your post was aimed. They may be unbalanced enough to try to harm someone.

Obviously you don't have control over others who read your post. Their reactions are their own choices of behavior. But with stating your concerns assertively, without angry tone, you would probably get better responses. You might get a conversation exploring different viewpoints. That could be constructive.

Try looking at any situation with "What if I ..." Take some time to  consider possible reactions. Try using the exercise to look at what it might look like if you were more kind, a better listener, a positive influence, etc. How would it look if you were more kind, or a better listener, or a positive influence.

Then practice what you see. Become the best person you can be.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Who Are You?

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay 

There is a lot of talk about personal identity. And I was pondering what that really means. Imagine you are entering a room full of people. Some are people you know and a few are people unknown to you. So one of your friends is speaking with one of the unknown people when your friend is asked who you are. What does your friend say?

And I imagined that for me it was clear to me that even your closest friend wouldn't be able to explain all of who you are. Each person that knows you would probably have different beliefs about who you are.

If a stranger walks up to you at a gathering and asks "Who are you?" What would you reply?

You might start by telling them your name. And even that might be different to others. Think of all the names that you have gone by. You have had nicknames. If you are a woman you may have taken your husband's name. And there are names for the various roles you have played in your life: Son or Daughter, Mother or Father, and all of the relationship names like that: uncle, aunt, cousin, gramdpa grandma, etc.

And, of course, none of them are all of who you are. Humans are very social in nature and have myriad roles. There are even diminutive names like Honey, Sweetie, etc. 

And interesting exercise I often used in groups was to list all the nicknames we have for men and women. We discover that most of the social names for women are for baby animals or other weak images. Whereas the men's social names are for more powerful or "hard" images. The labels spellings often are more vowels or soft letters for females and more hard consonants for male. Try it. Make a list.

So our identities are shaped by the language we use. And we even might have different perspective of who we are, one that no one else knows. What kind of self-talk goes on in your head? Do you have a positive image of yourself? Or do you think you are less than what others believe you to be.

So, who are you? Try exploring your identity. And if it isn't positive, make some changes in how you think about yourself, how you behave, how you feel. Our identity may not be obvious, so it might be a helpful thing to spend some time exploring all the things you are and want to be. 

Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

I Don't Know

                                                              Image by Robin Higgins

My creativity is lacking this week. I don't know what to write about.

And that got me to thinking about how much I don't know. Have you ever thought about that? While my seventy-seven years of life has taught me many things, there are far more things that I DON'T know!

Usually when I'm thinking of a blog post I search a subject on line or in a book (the kind with paper pages :-) ). But I'm so dull this week that I couldn't even decide on a subject to research. So this is what you get: consider what you don't know as a fact.

Discount the multitude of things you believe but have no facts to back it up. That is still a big number.

I know that gravity exists, but I don't know what it actually is. I know there are sciences that explain it, but I don't know what they have to say. And, frankly, I don't really care. I'm o.k. not knowing.

And I guess that is true of many things that I don't know. Because if I cared to know I could be seeking the answers, and I'm not. At least this week I'm not.

What about you? What do you know that you know because you have facts to back it up? And what do you not care enough about to learn?

Some blog post, right?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Did You Resolve To Expand Your Mental and Emotional Well-being?


                                           Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Our thoughts and our feelings are intertwined. What we think about something determines 
what we feel about that something. Most of the time we aren't at all aware of that inter-

If you are over-reacting emotionally, take a breath and check what you are thinking. 
Then determine if those thoughts are logical. When I was teaching prison inmates to 
take more care of their emotions that get them so upset that they act out and they get 
negative consequences when they act out on those emotions. I would use the example
of two different inmates who receive the same news and how thoughts can get them
out of control.

Inmates A and B come back from visitation after hearing from their spouse or girlfriend
that she is pregnant. Inmate A has been incarcerated for more than a year of his sentence.
Inmate B has only been in prison for three months. Now either inmate's spouse or girl-friend 
could have been sleeping around.  But Inmate A is certain it isn't his baby, whereas Inmate B 
believes his sexual partner has been with no one but him. 

Either inmate could feel betrayed. But inmate B prefers to think she is pregnant with his
baby. And he feels happy, exited, because he's always wanted to be a dad. 

That is an over-simplification, of course. But it shows that we have more control over
our emotions that we realize. The choice to have positive thoughts goes a long way to 
making us feel and behave better. 

I don't suggest that you have no feelings. Far from it. Emotions are important in decision 
making and in relationships. And to block our emotions can cause all sorts of problems. But
if you find yourself getting upset over little things, it might be a good time to consider which
thoughts you are encouraging. Try pulling back and looking at situations from more than one

My grandmother was an expert in this. she could always find something positive in every
situation. She didn't deny the negativity but balanced it with positive thoughts. She was a very
lovely woman  who didn't let life batter her.

When you are exploring your thoughts, take a couple of seconds to ask if your thought
is true/real. This is especially important in relationships.And then ask yourself "how
important is it for me to think this way. What else could it mean."

When my spouse and I were courting, they were always late to things. I believed that reflected
a passive aggressive behavior. And would be on guard or disappointed that I wasn't 
important enough for them to be on time. 

Then we learned about the various personalities. We each had different personalities and
had different perspectives on time. For me, time was a straight line. But their personality
saw time as a rubber band and tried to cram everything into the stretchy band. Once we 
understood that the behavior wasn't about me at all, I felt comfortable talking about it with-
out being angry

Check it out. Go to the mall and sit and people watch. Purposely  look for negative things about 
each person. Their clothes might be wrinkles or colors not go together, or some other thing
you see as a flaw. You'll probably start feeling bad yourself. You might even start thinking 
about all of your own flaws.

Switch to finding something positive about each person. You might even give someone 
a compliment. Smile at people who catch your eye. Pass that positive feeling around. Make
the world a better place by looking for the good in it.

Image by Pixaline from Pixabay 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Did You Resolve to Be More Fit?

                                               Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay 

One of the more common New Year's resolutions is to be more fit physically. Even if you don't formally make those New Year's resolutions, you probably had an idea of what you want to change in 2020. New Year's resolutions help us set forth in the direction of something we want to change. Plotting your course is important, no matter what goals you may have.

So, in order to reach your goal you need to know how to measure it, why you want it, and what you are willing to do to get it. Things like weight goals are easy to measure - you know where you want your weight to be when you reach your goal. Pounds are track-able and measurable. You can set out objectives for a few pounds at a time; breaking down the process into measurable objectives. All you need for that is a scale.

If your goal is to change your weight, either up or down, you need to be clear on why you want it. It only really works to make changes be personal to you. If you are doing it to please someone else, that never works in the long run. Maybe you want to improve your health by losing a certain number of pounds. Or you want to feel better about yourself because your extra pounds feel unattractive. (Be careful of this reason, because if you are doing it to attract someone specifically, you need to realize that you can't control anyone but yourself.) 

Or maybe you want to be more fit, have more stamina or strength. You are just feeling sluggish or you tire too easily. Being more active can help that. But how to measure it?  Can you measure how sedentary you are? Maybe you could begin by getting up from sitting or lying down every so many minutes. You stand up and walk around your desk and sit again. Even that small behavior change can get you started. 

Or you can start walking more, farther. Or you can use the stairs more that use the elevator. You could start by counting your steps with a pedometer. Set measurable objectives so you can mark progress on your way to being more fit.

If you are good at following a diet, pick one you think fits with your lifestyle and track your 
successes. Or maybe you could eliminate one particular food. Have you ever tried an elimination diet? You eliminate grains for one week and notice if you feel better. Or you eliminate simple sugars for a week, or dairy, etc. You might find that you are sensitive to certain foods that make you feel sluggish. Many people are sensitive to dairy and find they have less joint pain without it.

Get to know your body and how it works for or against you. Chose a way to your goal that works for you. It may take a while to learn what your body needs or to what. it responds poorly.

The longest journey begins with the first step, you know. So set your sights on your goal and keep going. You can enlist someone to help you, maybe join a group that wants to change the way you do, or a group that is already doing what you want to do. You don't have to do it alone.

Just start. Do it!