Friday, 20 February 2009

the end is near. . .

People are dropping like flies.

Every person I talk to that has any symptoms of anxiety or depression prefaces it with, "It's because I am so sick of the winter . . "  "I'll be better when I can start getting outside." "Who doesn't feel like this with this weather?"

Then today at Starbucks I heard someone bawling their eyes out (no, I really have no clue what was going on), and I've just witnessed from afar another out-of-the-blue-crying spell from someone who otherwise is a non-crier.

This year's particular brand of the winter blues is almost as pervasive as the nasty hanger-on-cold-bug that is flying around.

February is notoriously the worst month for those of us that dislike winter.  I'll refrain from going on and on about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you can google it and find out all you want to know, but like I've inferred before-- most "mental health diagnosis" run on a bit of a continuum and you can certainly have a little of the winter blahs or cabin fever without it being full-blown SAD.

I just saw one online poll the other day asking people if their moods were negatively affected negatively by winter and 74% of the responders affirmed.

We've been struck with a couple of brutal winters in succession.  Here are a few tips that have helped me get through this winter relatively unscathed:

Now don't laugh-- but when it is grey and nasty out and even when mounds of snow have that dingy film on them, I put on my best inner mary-sunshine voice and say to myself, "I love days where you never see the sun . . . the colder the better . . . nasty sludge is just as pretty as new fallen snow . . ." and idiotic things of a similar nature.  All I know is that playing Pollyanna is better for my mood than the alternative (when is this ever going to end . . . I HATE winter . . . I am miserable and frozen . . .)

I do much better if I can get out in the sun or even just outdoors every day.  I can dread hauling myself out in freezing weather with a vengeance, but after I'm out there I am always thankful.

I always handle winters better the years I exercise more consistently during the frigid cold. 

Mainly, my purpose here today day was that I wanted you to know that if you are quite ready for this winter to move into spring you are absolutely not alone.

Just tell yourself the age-old parenting mantra for difficult times, "this too shall pass . . ."

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Head 'em up ~ Move 'em out (southern twain implied)

The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.

- Albert Ellis

I woke up to these words being in my inbox today.  

I cannot tell you how poignant I believe they are for mental health and optimal functioning.

There was a day that psychotherapy was about regurgitating past traumas and wrongs ad nauseam . . . then exploring your subconscious manifestations of these wrongs and traumas . . . and the person having to return for further therapy about these wrongs and traumas . . .   (or NEVER leave therapy).

You get the picture; it was a vicious cycle.

Then a trend started.  What if we help the client acknowledge that there were in fact wrongs and traumas (real or perceived-- it doesn't really matter if a person is obsessing on them and it is ruining their lives) and taught people that they could move on and have a more pleasant life if they actually let the wound heal and didn't keep ripping the scab off?

Solution-focused therapy, brief therapy, and an increased use of cognitive behavioral approaches (from which Ellis' work spawned) were some of the methodologies born of this concept.  

A person could be taught symptom control techniques and then be encouraged to stay in the here and now and deal with their life in the here and now:  i.e. take responsibility for their present moment and stop putting the blame on the power they let someone or something have over them , in many cases, for many years. 

Many times revisiting the past wrongs and blaming the past wrongs becomes a convenient diversion and/or excuse for people to not accept responsibility for the here and now and move on with their lives.  

The power, then, given to those previous "wrong-doers" in their lives is enormous which is why the person's anger towards these entities grows more and more out of control, in turn wreaking more havoc in the persons life sometimes than the initial trauma.

I'm reminded of a Saturday Night Live skit where Bob Newhart reprised his long time role as a psychiatrist.  It showed clients coming in and spilling their guts to him about their misery, as he appeared to listen intently.  Then his response to each and every issue for each patient was leaning over his desk and yelling, "THEN STOP IT!!!"  

In essence, that is what Albert Ellis' (who developed Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy) quote is insinuating:

  • stop blaming the parent that called you fat for being fat or thinking you are fat and figure out what you need to do to feel better about yourself; then do it.

  • stop blaming previous relationships for your inability to trust or control anger and set a goal to master those traits FOR YOURSELF.

  • stop blaming the fact you were never taught how to manage money on your parents or educators and seek education now so you can accept responsibility for your financial future.

  • stop blaming that you were never picked for any sports teams growing up or made fun of in P.E. for your aversion to exercise and MOVE for your health.

You understand where I'm going with this and if you've read this far, a great exercise would be to actually pull out a piece of paper and pen now and list those issues that are a struggle for you and that you've blamed on someone other than yourself.  

Acknowledge that it is a disappointment that you feel you were wronged.  

Then take the only self-loving and self-caring step you can:  write down a couple of actions for each one of those issues that could help you learn more mastery, put them in motion and end the pattern of being a victim of your past.

And catch yourself when your anger flares or memories return and you have a tendency to blame the past.  Remind yourself that if you are constantly going back to the past (or jumping to the future) you are missing out on living your life, which is the present moment.  

Don't let past disappointments rob you of today.

It is time to move on.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

be kind, unwind . . .

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
~Albert Einstein

Do you run and hide from your mistakes out of embarrassment?  Do you avoid situations or challenges out of the fear of being less than perfect or making a blatant error?

While striving to do the best job we possibly can is an admirable endeavor, not accepting less than what we perceive as perfection sets you up for a life of stress and anxiety.

Why are perfectionistic people always so stressed out?  Because they are consistently proving themselves a failure when they fall short of their goal.  Perfect is not possible, therefore a person striving for perfection ALWAYS feels like a failure at some level.

Look at the successful people around you.  Look at Albert Einstein's legacy.  Look at President Obama and from whence he came as well as the challenges he has before him.  Amazing people from our history would be just another person had they let themselves be limited by their ideals of perfection; paralyzed to risk and move forward.

This is an excellent reminder when you look holistically at your life:

  • maintaining your health by exercising isn't an all or nothing deal; there will be stumbles but your health will only improve if you get up and keep moving . . .
  • eating a healthy diet is a challenge; choosing something less than healthy doesn't mean you need to abort your goal of an overall average of healthy choices . . . 
  • positive communications in our relationships is a worthy goal; if your anger gets the best of you at some point does that mean your a failure in relationships?  no, you are human.  how do you learn from your interaction?   make amends and move forward . . .
  • doing the best job you possibly can in your work, be it President of the United States or parenting your children is a great goal to set; life and work and the unknown will throw you curve balls in the future.  accept that challenges arise and each time you face one you can use the knowledge gained to help you be a bit more effective in similar circumstances in the future.
  • practicing your faith or your practice of centering  yourself in the face of chaos is sometimes touch and go; don't puncture your life boat just because you can't always reach it-- it will be there for you when you can make time for it.

Be kind to those around you that show their less than perfect selves.  We are all on this journey together and supporting each other does much more for the greater good than constantly pointing out perceived mistakes.

And most of all, if you find yourself frequently stressed due to striving for perfection~ be kind to yourself.  

Ultimately, you are the only person that will stand by you and support you throughout your entire life.  Any wasted energy spent on beating yourself up could have gone to many, many more positive endeavors.

be kind, unwind . . .

Thursday, 5 February 2009

No. More. Lies.

"Integrity is telling myself the truth.  And honesty is telling the truth to other people."
~Spencer Johnson

People lie.

Some people are so caught up in the habit of lying, they do not even realize they are doing it and haven't a clue that their lies are so transparent and the truth is so, uhm, true, that people around them usually pick up on the lie in the moment.

Lies aren't pretty and the people that have the habit build a big, huge, ugly alienating wall around themselves.  In fact, how can you relax and enjoy life when you are constantly deluded by the world you have created around yourself.

This can take on very pathological proportions.  The person with the habit of lying can be confronted with the real issues, real evidence in front of them and yet continue to lie as if saying their deluded belief or writing long enough about it will suddenly turn it into truth.

This is a horribly sad and anxiety provoking life.  Many people that pathologically lie have narcissistic traits as discussed in last week's post.  After all, how can you perpetuate so much twisting and inventing of facts unless you dwell in a belief system that has you existing on a higher plain than the mere peons you are habitually lying to?

If you habitually lie, even little lies: Stop It.  

It will eventually destroy you and your life and your relationships.  If you can't break the habit, then seek help.  Hopefully if you lie you are not so wrapped up in that component of your functioning that you have deluded even yourself into believing the untruths and you have an ability to see the need for change.

M. Scott Peck the renowned author of The Road Less Travelled wrote an excellent follow up book: People of the Lie.  He adeptly describes the inherent evil that is perpetuated by lies and the people that refuse to acknowledge their aberrant behavior. 

His premises are:

1. The evil hide their motives with lies.
2. Evil people want to appear to be good.
3. When confronted by evil, the wisest and most secure adult will usually experience confusion.
4. Evil seeks to discourage others to think for themselves (fosters dependency).
5. To oppose evil we must have an ongoing dedication to reality at all cost.

Note number 3.  That is why you feel that way if you have a pathological liar in your life.  

Do Good ~ Avoid Evil = strive for honestly in action, word and deed.