Sunday, January 30, 2011

6 states, 2 countries, 1 month

In the month of January, I have been in 2 countries and 6 states. I love traveling, experiencing new things, and getting to see people:) However, I'm also a little tired; tired of waiting in lines, boarding planes, losing luggage, and breathing stale air in the plane. It's sort of a love hate relationship, really, but it allows me to do many fun and wonderful things!

So, this weekend I was in Florida. I went through security, and got pulled to go through the Xray machine. Nothing popped up on the xray, but apparently that wasn't good enough for them. So I got pulled into the 2nd screening area, and got the "pat down". I put that in quotes because it was more like a groping/rubbing session, and one which I turn someone in if it happened out in the real worried. It was humiliating, violating, and VERY inappropriate. Plus I had to pull down the top of my pants and lift up my shirt. I'm not really sure why that was necessary seeing as nothing popped up on the x-ray machine (and, fyi, I'm not a terrorist!). I'm all for safety, but what I experienced really crossed the line. I was furious. But mostly, I kept wondering how those people who have been sexually abused might feel. I kept wondering how many people have been triggered by this experience...I certainly don't know this answer, but it made my heart hurt for those people.

Anyways, then my flight was delayed, causing me to almost miss my next flight (i sprinted through the airport and got there as they were closing the door!). Because I've had bronchitis, I had a lot of sinus pressure. I was expecting some pain, as I've flown many times with a sinus infection before, but this past weekend I experienced the most excruciating pain in my forehead, and almost passed out from the pain. It was horrible.
Sounds like complaining. But here's what I'm thankful for:
1. I have the ability to travel
2. I get to see people I love and care about
3. I get to learn about and experience new cultures
4. I get to people watch & have time to read fun magazines!

And here's some great airport pictures from my month (and some pictures from my travels):

 Waiting areas...

Rows of luggage from stranded travelers. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Telling Our Secrets

"That may be your secret, but that doesn't make it true."
I've seen the musical Wicked twice, and I'm convinced I could go every weekend and not get sick of it! I absolutely love it, and think it shares so many great truths about human nature and mental health. The above quote was stated by Glinda (the "good"witch) to Elphaba (the "wicked witch of the west"-not wicked by the way!). 

The idea of telling our secrets, being truly authentic and real with people close to us, is an interesting concept. I love this quote by Frederick Buechner. “…they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition-that what we hunger for perhaps more then anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are-even if we tell it only to ourselves-because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly are and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable then the real thing” (from his book Telling Secrets, p. 2-3).
When we keep our secrets to ourself, we run the risk of believing things about ourself that just aren't true, leading to depression, anxiety, or stress. We certainly can't live a flourishing and honest life if we believe things that aren't true, or if we only see an edited version of ourselves.

I talk to others all the time, and I definitely share some things about my life. However, I have a list of things which I have shared with no one. I hold these things tightly, not wanting anyone to know the real me. By opening myself up to that level, I open myself up to being hurt, to disappointment, to betrayal. The thought of telling someone these things absolutely terrifies me. At the same time, clutching these secrets so tightly can be exhausting and overwhelming. There are times when I desperately want to be seen for who I truly am, to be able to relinquish the tight reigns I hold on my life and present myself as exactly who I am. These two opposites fight constantly within me, although usually, to be on the safe side, I allow my secrets to stay locked deep within me.
But I know this isn't healthy. And I certainly don't go around "word vomiting" on those around me, because that can be overwhelming to them, and it certainly isn't appropriate sharing. But I found people I can trust, and so I share my secrets. It's in sharing these secrets that I've seen deep love and acceptance, encouragement, and the fact that I'm not so different from everyone else around me. When we share our secrets, we find that humans are generally the same, experience the same things, and struggle with the same emotions. We realize how we've distorted things in our life, and punish ourselves for secrets that aren't even true. It's through sharing our secrets that we find truth and health. 

So here's my challenge to you: Find a safe person and share some secrets. Be honest with yourself, determining if those secrets are true or not. How have you edited yourself?

Monday, January 24, 2011

My little Lifesaver...

You may think that I'm a nerd after this post. Since I was in elementary school, I've gotten sinus infections most of the winter. This progressively got worse until my junior year of college, when I had a sinus infection for 7.5 of the 9 months of the year, even being put on steroids. I went to the ENT (ear, nose, throat) doctor after my junior year, and he said he had one last thing to try, and then we'd have to resort to surgery. I definitely didn't want surgery, so I was willing to try anything! At that point, the doctor pulled out a little bottle that looked like this:
Ok, so it looks like I'm advertising for them. But seriously, this little guy has saved me hours and hours of sick time, going to the doctor, and tons of medications. I know I have bronchitis right now, but this is the first time I've been sick on meds for some sort of cold for 4 years! And obviously this is a huge change from the years I spent getting sick. So basically, this rinse clears out allergens (yes-this is PERFECT for allergy season) from the sinuses, and helps decrease swelling and pressure. So, instead of taking medicine for sinus headaches or migraines, this usually does the trick.

So, my suggestion: RUN OUT AND BUY ONE FOR YOURSELF AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Here's a link to the website that will give you more information. This little rinse will help you have a healthier winter and allergy season!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bienvenidos a Ecuador-dos!

Well, I've been home from Ecuador for just over a week, but in many ways it seems like many more weeks. I've had multiple dreams about Ecuador, from the amazing fruit there to chasing guinea pigs around the neighborhood I grew up in to save them from being eaten:) I miss Ecuador (specifically, Cuenca) terribly. I found the people wonderful and incredibly friendly to interact with every day I was there. I had mentioned before that mental health was a few decades behind the US in Ecuador (not just from what I saw, but this is coming from discussions with multiple people there). It was such a joy for me to go and share what I know, study, and love about mental health and wellness. The people there were incredibly receptive to listening to lectures on Wellness, Depression, Work-Life Balance, and Suicide, and many of them stayed after to have individual conversations. Many of them have asked for supplemental materials to be sent down, and I'm just so happy to be helping out down there!

I have to say that my time there wasn't just about me lecturing and teaching, but I also learned a lot from the people there. I obviously learned about the current state of mental health and counseling services, but I learned about relationships too. I think in many ways, Ecuadorians have a much better view of relationships then we do here. I think I learned a little more about pausing in my busy schedule to talk to those around me, and to really be in a community with them. I value this so much, and it definitely made me feel more appreciated there.

Ecuador was an absolutely wonderful experience, and I definitely want to go back as soon as I can to continue having conversations and sharing what I know about increasing wellness. I feel so blessed to get to see the things I saw, experience the food and the culture, and meet all the wonderful people I did over the course of the week.

As promised, here are some other pictures (a few are here in my first post about Ecuador):
 Cajas National Park in the Andes Mountains

 Outside the Trout Restaurant in the Andes Mountains

 The New Cathedral in Cuenca. It's so beautiful!

 This is the "school bus" that Ecuadorian children take to school.

 At the open air market. I love all the bright colors!

 Cute old Ecuadorian women walking in Cuenca.

 Sunset above the clouds. It's hard to see in this small picture, but the black gaps are the tops of the Andes mountains.

 Older woman in Turi

More Inca ruins in Cuenca with the Andes Mountains in the background

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Having the Courage to REALLY live

"The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be BRAVE. LIVE."
~Buffy (from ep The Gift)

Since I first watched Buffy back in the spring of 2008, this has been one of my favorite quotes, a quote I repeat to myself many times each month. I see people around me, whether it's people in my extended family, or my clients, who are terrified of some aspect of living. It takes a huge amount of bravery and courage to grab life by the shoulders, look at it straight on with brute honesty, and really live in it. 

Life is scary, hard, and overwhelming. It's easier to try to dull or deny the pain, and move through life without much conscious thought. It's easier to continue in the same life patterns then in honestly evaluating life, creating goals, and having the courage to change. When we are overweight, ridden with anxiety, have children or a spouse that has been abused, a child or friend in trouble with the law, or grieving over the loss of someone close (to name a few things!), it is much easier to move through life without really living in the world. But here's the thing. THIS is the life that we have. And, whether we want to or not, we need to live in it-really, deeply live. We need to have the courage to be brave and face our life, to make changes, take chances, and be honest with ourselves and others. 

To be honest, the idea of doing this is, at times, enough to turn me into an anxious ball of nerves. There are times in my life that I have lived without truly living. And I know that this is no way to live. I wish all my clients could identify the ways they weren't truly living, and be brave enough to make the changes necessary.

How are you being brave currently? What do you need to change to really live? 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bronchitis (my current BFF)

I've been home sick from work the last 3 days with a fever reaching 103.5 degrees & bronchitis. I don't think anything has knocked me down from work this long except for influenza. You'd think that I could muster some strength for a creative post about Ecuador (don't's coming!), but for now, this is a post dedicated to Bronchitis (it's on my mind a little bit!). I know a number of friends around the country have also been diagnosed with bronchitis, so I thought I'd post the signs and symptoms for bronchitis. Knowing symptoms can help you seek treatment faster, and hopefully catch it before it sets in too deeply. The following is from the Mayo Clinic Website

For either acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis, signs and symptoms may include:
  • Cough
  • Production of mucus (sputum), either clear or white or yellowish-gray or green in color
  • Shortness of breath, made worse by mild exertion
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Slight fever and chills
  • Chest discomfort
If you have acute bronchitis, you may have a nagging cough that lingers for several weeks after the bronchitis resolves. However, bronchitis symptoms can be deceptive. You don't always produce sputum when you have bronchitis, and children often swallow coughed-up material, so parents may not know there's a secondary infection. You can develop chronic bronchitis without first developing acute bronchitis. And many smokers have to clear their throats every morning when they get up, which, if it continues for more than three months, may be chronic bronchitis.
Treatment includes:
The goal of treatment for bronchitis is to relieve symptoms and ease breathing. Sometimes, all you may need to recover from acute bronchitis may be:
  • Rest
  • Drinking fluids
  • Breathing in warm, moist air
  • Taking an over-the-counter (OTC) cough suppressant and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or aspirin (for adults)
Here are a few things I've found that have helped me:
1. Lots of hot tea with honey. This has helped to break up blockage in the throat, decreasing coughing and helping with ease of breathing.
2. "Steaming"- My mom did this with me while growing up. Fill a sink with hot water, and hang your head over the sink with a towel over your head to trap in the heat.
3. Deep Breathing to help decrease the chance of Pneumonia
4. SLEEP! I have a desire to push myself, force myself to clean, organize, or go to work. But I've forced myself to rest and sleep all day
5. Nasal Lavage- This helps to clear out my sinuses and decrease the passage
6. Cough into your elbow or sleeve. DO NOT COUGH INTO YOUR HANDS, because this will spread to others... 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bienvenidos a Ecuador!

Well, I am back from my week in Ecuador. I was there speaking at one of the best universities in the country, as well as touring Cuenca, Ecuador. I absolutely loved my time there, both as a tourist and as a visiting professor at the University. Mental health in Ecuador appeared to be, in many ways, a few decades behind where we are at in the United States. I spent most of my time lecturing on Wellness, with different spins (i.e. Work-Life Balance, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Depression, Resiliency, and Suicide), and it was a lot of fun. People had a number of really wonderful questions, and I had a lot of really wonderful conversations with different individuals. I hope to be able to continue those conversations, and will be spending the next few weeks typing up materials to send down there. I love the people, the culture, and the food, and it was pretty sad to leave. Of course, the warm weather also didn't hurt:) I will be posting pictures  sometime later this week, but I need to edit first, and I'm behind in everything in my life due to being out of the country.
To tie you over, here are a few pics!
 Such a cute design for an airlines flying all over Ecuador!

 2 generations: Old and new, both in tradition dress for their generation

 Inca Ruins in Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuy (guinea pig) cooking in an open air market. So disgusting... This was the only thing that I refused to try on the trip.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Don't think of today's failures, but of the successes of tomorrow.

Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the
success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult
task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy
in overcoming obstacles.
-- Helen Keller

I kept this quote on the inside of my planner in grad school, and saw it daily as I completed assignments, wrote papers, and began seeing clients. I love it:)
In yesterday's post on affirmations & positive self talk I talked briefly about how we harm ourselves by the negative things we repeat to ourselves on a frequent basis. So often we repeat to ourselves the failures in our past that we cannot experience success in the future. Everyone falls, but success and beauty comes from continuing to keep your eyes forward and pushing onward to the future. 

In other news, I will not be on any form social media for a week. We'll see if I can last that long:)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Little Trick To Increase Self-Esteem & Identity (Affirmations!)

What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates his fate.  ~Henry David Thoreau

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

I was a very awkward middle schooler. Although I am no longer that awkward middle school girl, I inwardly cringe when I look at pictures or remember those 3 years of my life. Once we make it out of the "awkward years", we start to figure life out a little bit. However, due to experiences from that time period, or from other experiences (abuse, negative messages from friends or family, illness, etc...) in life, we often walk away feeling damaged.

I tell my clients we have this inner soundtrack to our lives, and if we really stopped and thought about it, we'd realize how many negative words and lies we tell ourselves on a daily basis. If you had a friend that said 20 or 30 negative things to you every day, would you allow them to stay in your life? Yet we can't get away from ourselves, so we continue to drag ourselves down day after day. Not only can we feel bad about ourselves, but we make life far more difficult for ourselves then it needs to be.

There is a simple little trick I have many clients do (yes-I have done this for myself in the past as well) to help them increase their self esteem or to help them "figure out who they are." The idea of this is that the more you say something to yourself, the more you will feel it, and the more you will behave as if that statement is true. What we say to ourselves is tied very tightly to our mood and to our behaviors. To change our feelings and behaviors, we begin by changing our thoughts (self-talk).

I start by having people write a list of the negative things they say on a frequent basis to themself. An example:

Once this is done, I have people write a list statements that are the opposite of the negative list, or other positive affirmations. An example:
Notice that the positive affirmations are always written in present tense, and always start with "I am ____". Read these to yourself a few times a day while looking at yourself in the mirror.

Even if you don't have low self-esteem, and you feel like you know who you are as a person, this little technique can be quite healthy and uplifting. Why not try it out this week? (This could even count as one of your little 5 minute activities-see here for idea for using time wisely)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Give Your Adult Children A Chance To Prove You Wrong!

We've all been there-the awkwardness we experience after we've moved out of the house (whether it's for college, a job, or just to become more independent) and now interact with our parents as adults. It takes some time (maybe a few months, a few years, or for some, maybe it will never happen) to figure out how to interact with your parents as an adult child, and for parents, it takes awhile to view your children as even semi-competent! 
For example, I went to my parent's house for Christmas, and when we'd get home from being out somewhere, my dad still told me "Go wash your hands." Ahem...if I'm old enough to counsel people, I'm pretty sure that I don't need to be told to wash my hands when I've been out. We've all been there. 

The frustrating thing is, we all easily revert back to our role in the family, and the way we functioned when we left the house. It takes an incredible amount of energy and intentional effort to change this. 

I had 3 clients complain to me today that all they want is for their parents to give them the chance to show them how they've changed instead of just assuming that they are the way they were when they moved out of the house at age 18. Parents (and aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, and family friends!)- Please give your kids a chance to show you have they have grown and changed since they graduated from high school. Guess what-they might not have changed. But more then likely, there will be a lot of changes that you'll have missed too! Of course there are always those people that just don't seem to grow up, but the vast majority of us are not the same people we were when we were 18. If everyone around us is trying to stuff us back into that mold, we would never have had the chance to continue to grow, change, and fulfill our purpose in life. PLEASE! Step back for a moment and watch for the little changes and progress that your kids make, and encourage them on in the changes. And don't treat them like they are incompetent little children:) We all remember how we felt when others did that to us... 

Feel free to DM me on twitter or leave comments here telling your own funny stories!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

No excuses for not working out!

Confession: I am the queen of coming up with excuses for not working out. Seriously. I once sat and did nothing but come up with different excuses for not getting on the elliptical for 45 minutes. Pathetic right? Once winter hits, my excuses become more frantic as my desire to stay out of the cold increases. However, I have found a solution this year that has allowed me to still get a number of miles in every week! (And if I can do it, so can you!)

1. When I do walk outside, I walk with another person. We laugh and tell stories and not only does it help keep my mind off my exhaustion or sore feet, but it also keeps my mind off the cold. Plus, not only am I engaging in the "physical" area of wellness, but also the "sense of humor" and "relationship-friendship". Plus it helps to decrease stress (are you sensing how many areas of wellness we're hitting in this single activity?)

2. When it's really just too cold to walk outside, I do the two walking videos on the website (click here for videos). This not only allows me to stay warm while working out, but I can also do something enjoyable like watch TV while doing it. Hmm...some of my excuses go right out the window!

Remember that flexibility is important for your health too! Good luck working out, and make sure to set healthy goals for changing your behavior! Click here for some information on how to write goals for successful behavior change!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Using Time Wisely

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great Christmas break filled with fun, laughter, family & friends, and healthy choices! I spent New Years weekend with some friends from college, and had a wonderful time. It's hard to be back to real life, bills, dishes, and work.

Today while I was waiting in line to check out at the grocery store, I picked up the latest issue of Real Simple Magazine. They had an article discussing the idea "If you have just five minutes, do...". Interesting. One thing I see in my life and in the lives of those around me is black and white thinking when it comes to using our "down time." We have all sorts of little five and ten minute sections of time throughout the day, and we tend to use it on facebook, playing a game on the computer, or turning on the TV. Then, at the end of the day, we have a pile of chores and responsibilities on our To-Do list. So, what if we could change our thinking about those little 5 minute chunks of time? What if we began to use those little chunks so that we could be more efficient, or have a chunk of time at the end of the night to truly relax? Wouldn't we be less stressed, happier, and more relaxed people?

So here are some of my suggestions of how to use little 5 and 10 minute chunks of time:

1. Do the dishes
2. Clean the sink
3. Dust a room in the house
4. Respond to a few important emails
5. Do deep breathing to increase relaxation
6. Write a quick note of encouragement or appreciation to a friend
7. Re organize a drawer or shelf in your house
8. Throw out any trash that has collected in your car
9. Look up a recipe for dinner
10. Write out a few bills for the month
11. Fold a load of laundry
12. Order some prints of your digital photos
13. Do jumping jacks, planks, crunches, or another short burst of activity
14. Fill up the car with gas and wash the windows
15. Clean out a shelf of your refrigerator
16. Clean your toilet bowls or tub/shower
17. Reorganize your document or picture folders on your computer
18. Return a phone call
19. Make the bed
20. Put DVDs or CDs back in their correct cases

So there's 20 things I do in my little chunks of down time. Remember, you don't have to clean the bathroom or kitchen all at once. It's OK to split up chores like that over the course of an evening or a day. Or even two days:) Don't lock yourself into rules that create time wasters instead of using time well. And your reward: extra sleep or down time at the end of the evening!

Any other thoughts or suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me!