The holidays are here! Are you ready both mentally and physically to ramp up? If not, take off your boots, grab a warm cup of your favorite coffee, and take a break to read further. For many people, the holidays bring up varying emotions that can easily make one wallow in sadness by remembering those that have passed on. Let us open our hearts in a new manner: it is also essential to add a pinch of laughter, as we reflect on the great times spent with our loved ones. In many cultures, it is common for people to reminisce with a splash of relief, as all suffering has ended, and eternal peace takes over.
What if we had a different mindset to help curb the sadness by focusing on the wonderful memories that will only put a smile on our faces? Helping others is a great way to forget our own problems and help spread goodness in our community.
What about opening your home to a new pet this coming year? Love comes in many sizes and shapes. Be creative and adopt a pet that may not fit the image of what you may initially had in mind. There are so many children that could benefit from a visit at their residential care facility or hospital wing. Bring them what they cannot give themselves.
Lastly, take a risk and repair a friendship with an old friend, or do something brave (such as ice skating, especially if you are over the age of 50!). Spread your inner peace and joy as far and wide as possible. One day, you will see it make a full circle.
From a botanist's perspective, a pumpkin is known as a fruit — it's a product of the seed-bearing structure of flowering plants. On the other hand, vegetables are the edible portion of plants that include leaves, stems, roots, bulbs, flowers, and tubers.
Did you know that Fall pumpkins can do so much for us? After eating a heavy meal (or a big Thanksgiving dinner), there is an antidote for the onset of sleepiness. Just a handful of pumpkin seeds can provide some much needed energy, as the potent level of tryptophan in pumpkin seeds facilitates a boost in the production of serotonin. Pumpkins can also decrease and ease levels of anxiety and stress — overall mood changes become possible and easy. Did you know one cup of pumpkin seeds has 544 mg of magnesium? Our bodies need magnesium each day, and during exercise, it’s even more important.
Pumpkins can ward off viruses and infections. Vitamin C is found in pumpkins, and can minimize colds and encourage quicker recovery. Harvard Health Publications states that pumpkins can even help with fertility. Over 17,000 women have been assisted by fertility foods that also include spinach, beets, and tomatoes. Have you heard of “bad cholesterol” or LDL? Pumpkin seeds can also reduce elevated levels in the body.
What a wonderful and inexpensive treat
for us as we near the holidays!
I still remember trying to face my fear of riding a bike. Today, I am 56 and many fears have replaced that one. I was an anxiety test taker in school and needed help to feel accomplished. I was so vulnerable to the fear that raced inside of me. It stole my hope and most memories of good things that I had done. I sometimes felt like a turtle and just wanted to bury my head in the shell. After a long journey, I chose to get help. I found an awesome tutor. He was wonderful at explaining things in a variety of ways, somewhat like a math formula. You can get the answer several ways with a new perspective. Later, fear came to visit me again. It manifested in the stress of relationships. No one really prepares you for experiencing the ups and downs of love. These fears can emotionally tear you down as a person or when you learn to execute fear and you feel it build up. It was not until 10 years of a merry-go-round that I figured that one out.
It felt good to leave high school! I feel like labels stay with us from our academic years and stain our ability to be what our dreams were as a little child. Shame steps in and alters the beautiful sense we just want to feel about ourselves. I look at my first communion pictures and wish I could go back to that innocence. Then I realize I have grown immeasurably and do not want to go back in time because I would lose my wisdom. Whenever you are feeling sad or stressed, remember you are exactly where you need to be. The lesson is right in front of you. Grow from it, do not let an experience defeat you. Get a mentor who you trust to assist you to navigate through your journey and be proud of the strength you will gain from another perspective. I love the below inspirational quote:
I am not what has happened to me.
I am what I choose to become.
Carl Jung - 1875-1961 - Swiss Psychiatrist
As 2021 unfolds, there is much to ponder about the past and future. One thought is to compare happiness and level of progress from last year’s season. We can have a healthy reflection and decide this rather quickly. Many of us tend to be hard on ourselves, so I ask that we slow down and actually do a self-inventory. Below is a more balanced look at our life as a whole.
Score these from 1-5 below.
1. Spiritual footprints left to assist others?
2. Motivation in paying it forward?
3. Determination to try something new?
4. Is our journey going to an acceptable finish?
5. Did we honor our value system?
Notice money and financials did not make the list. Yes, it is a very important facet of life, but for our psychological peace, it may not need to be a point of top interest. The reflection of our soul may be the most valuable asset we have to stand on high ground and contentment.
If you scored a 25, you may think about teaching others how to become a light in this ever-changing world. If you scored between 20-24, you have become grounded and can look forward to prosperity in your life. A score of 15-19 may just need some extra refining to achieve greatness. Finally, scores of 14 and below may be a sign of depression, anxiety, and unhappiness.
Consider seeking therapy, or widening your social support circle. Humans are likely to accomplish their goals with just the right mixture of hope, determination, and praise. It is almost as if we are on a scavenger hunt. Never give up. If your exploration has not provided you with greatness, you may be on a slightly skewed pathway that only needs a simple adjustment.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Years are just around the corner.
Are You Prepared?
With all of the excitement that accompanies the holidays, some people, just thinking about it, provokes a great amount of anxiety and grief. If you’re one of those people, there is a great benefit to continue reading. Even if you handle the holidays with great aplomb, you can get through it while experiencing more joy, less anxiety and sadness.
Here are three steps:
1. The amygdala in the back of our brain registers memories and is thought to play an important role in emotion and behavior. Sometimes these are not the best. Think about having an EMDR session to reduce the intensity of any anxiety inducing trauma memory.
2. When we are suffering, sometimes it is best to reach out to others and offer help. Not only does it aid in distracting you, it also produces the brain chemical, oxytocin, which helps balance our mood when we are joyfully helping others.
3. Get in touch with your boundary system and make sure it is secure. Sometimes when we conjure up an actual image, it helps us to better protect ourselves and to focus on the details of our boundaries.
Think of it like this: If you wanted horses to live on your property, you would install appropriate fencing to keep them extra safe. Investing in a good security system that provides alerts, will prompt you to check that your fence is secured, ensuring the horses can't get away. The same is true with boundaries. As soon as anxiety sets in, one should be aware of the many characteristics that can emerge. Take a quick assessment of yourself -- and-- know yourself well. If you seem to be falling, your fence must be down somewhere. Fix it by focusing on the issue at hand and get back to healthier living.
If you feel like you need additional assistance about how to better prepare for the holidays, please schedule a session.
What can we do with all of the negativity that we are recently and chronically faced with? Actually, many things! We can be a light for others. We can be confident this will pass and compassionate towards others who need our help. Empathy is a draining emotion. Often, our gas tanks are not filled, but we keep filling others. There is a fine line about having too much empathy for others. Compassion shows our integrity and richness in boundaries.
Study the above image, the famous artwork, “Watson and the Shark,” by John Singleton Copley, 1778.
Compassion shows others reaching out to assist the drowning man. Empathy shows men looking over in fear, imagining themselves falling into the freezing water, preparing to be eaten by the shark.
Who are you in the picture?
Moods are often genetic, but can also intensify in our everyday environments. We have the power to change our moods. This can be done under the care of a physician with medication, and good, consistent therapy. You can make change happen. If you are lucky to have a good self-care regimen, this is also a perfect add-on.
1) Take note of what is not pleasing to the eye in your home. I like to begin with bathroom or bedroom spaces, as we tend to spend a lot of time there. The vision you can create with some basic modifications can be greatly beneficial. Maybe you could add a calming paint color to the walls, ceiling, or cabinets?
2) Adding some simple baskets to the countertops or floors shows good organization and adds texture to a room. Creating looks that are pleasing to the eye, while in organization mode, helps to release and declutter our minds.
3) Bring home flowers that categorize yourself, while showing an appreciation of nature. This can be very rewarding for a hard day. I also enjoy putting window boxes outside my bathroom or bedroom window. It gives me such joy to care for plants and to let them give back to me. Lavender is pretty, useful, and inexpensive.
4) Spritz your favorite perfume around the house or light a few multi-use soy candles. Sometimes after lighting them, I take the warm, melted wax, rub it in my hands, and apply as a hydrating face mask.
5) Invest in a basic sound machine or create a soothing playlist.
6) Wash away negative messages. Make special scented bath scents for the tub (or drop in a tea bag). Visualize all of your worries leaving through the window or a drain. Have plush towels waiting and relax and enjoy the simple things in life.
The question is, how can we shed ourselves of the negative memories and unhealthy loops that we allow to play repeatedly in our minds? Many of us have been a victim of one thing or another. Does this have to defeat goodness and happiness from coming into play? If honest, many people would probably answer, “I feel guilt and shame to enjoy life again.” They may go as far to think, “Do I deserve to live happily?” I want to try and turn your thinking inside out. Let us distinguish how to release darkness from our minds, and to appropriately heal from the experiences that have devastated us. If we have been bodily harmed, did we receive the appropriate care, and have the opportunity to physically heal? Is it time for mental healing? Our body knows pain.
There is a great book, The Body Keeps Score, by Bessel Van der Kolk, MD. The idea is to deliberately shift our mind to a humble place and to be able to let go and start again. With this thought, it is impossible to assume blame of others that have not hurt us. It is a time when we can erase the slate and live again without prejudice. This is no simple task. However, you can gain many years of life with less hurt and stress on your body and mind.
Increasing self-esteem is extremely helpful during this process. Do you go the extra mile to surround yourself with good people to build yourself up? Do you think about your smallest accomplishments and reward yourself? Do you allow yourself time to forgive others and yourself? This can become routine — and you can start instilling small amounts of goodness each day. Without apology, show your emotions and let them flow as a river. When sadness comes, visualize the beautiful ocean in all its power and glory. You are strong and built to restore your hurts and shortcomings.
That is why we always have “Tomorrow.”
This is a great chance to perform goodness in changing your perspective during the COVID-19 crisis. It promotes self-care and relaxation, while giving our bodies a chance to relax. With new guidelines imposing people to work from home, it offers the opportunity to gain additional knowledge about technology. It teaches us other ways to connect and to become supportive through apps such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, and other remote conferencing services.
When big stressors happen, such as school bullying, unexpected low grades, relationship woes, divorce, death or sudden illness of a loved one, your mind can be your worst enemy. It can spiral into a place of fear and depression, leaving you with paralyzing feelings and constant worry. This results in the loss of creativity to be able to solve problems. The situation only worsens as time goes on, because your mind wants to replay a negative outcome over and over again.
My approach to these types of situations suggests envisioning your ideal outcome — medical test results will come back clean, a teacher finds a successful way to explain algebra to your child, the infamous school bully becomes a victim too, and your finances will line up perfectly. After “reaching” these satisfying results, you end up feeling simple gratitude. By expressing thanks for what you hope will blossom (even though it hasn’t physically manifested yet), exercises and reinforces your faith and brain muscle.
You remove yourself out of the frightening box of mental doubt and open up to faith and opportunity — allowing your ideal scenario to occur rather than accepting it will never come to fruition.
Find happiness through
Christine Cantilena Barnes
A licensed clinical mental health counselor, Christine has been a part of Atlanta’s professional community for over 25 years.