Will Tottle, editor of Dog Owner in the U.K., has written a comprehensive piece on how dogs can help with mental health. We recommend that you take a look here.
Thanks, Will, for a highly informative and enlightening piece.
Will Tottle, editor of Dog Owner in the U.K., has written a comprehensive piece on how dogs can help with mental health. We recommend that you take a look here.
Thanks, Will, for a highly informative and enlightening piece.
Guest blogger Hollie Grimaldi-Flores warns about the dangers of too much giving, which can lead to burnout.
Many years ago, when I joined a service club for the first time, one of the members warned me to be careful about taking on too much, lest I burn out. At the time, I could not even imagine what she was talking about. How does one burn out from socializing in the name of community service? Frankly, my membership in the service club was my social life. It took more than twenty years, but I now see she had a valid point. Too much giving, without enough getting, leads to burnout. It is true in the workplace, as well.
According to psychologytoday.com, “Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.” Each of these stages comes with its own set of symptoms, including fatigue, insomnia, loss of enjoyment, pessimism, detachment, feelings of apathy, and increased irritability.
These symptoms arise from caring too much, which is part of the problem. The article goes on to state, “Because high-achievers are often so passionate about what they do, they tend to ignore the fact that they’re working exceptionally long hours, taking on exceedingly heavy workloads, and putting enormous pressure on themselves to excel”—all behaviors that can cause burnout.
I used to call it the “east coast work ethic,” because many of the people who felt the way I did were also from the east. Surely it was the way we were brought up—to work hard and not complain. But now I see it all around me, with coastal upbringing a non sequitur. There are always people in any group who are the doers, just as there are those who are happy to let the doers take on all the work.
I worked for years in a place that gladly let me log as many hours as I possibly could, usually without extra pay. Once the workday was over, a few of my co-workers and I would represent our place of employment by engaging in community events—bowling or running for a cause, emceeing fundraisers, and attending numerous meetings. We did it with pride for the organization and for the pure joy of helping others. But it took its toll—on time away from family and on our own well-being.
I burned out, and I have no one to blame but myself. Because I didn’t recognize the symptoms, I didn’t see it coming. It’s likely that I never would have stopped if my body hadn’t held a mutiny. I was forced to surrender.
These days when I say yes, I do so gladly. I learned a valuable lesson and intend not to repeat my mistakes.
To those who do too much, I advise you to keep the risk of burnout in mind to protect your health and well-being. To those who are not quick to give, I encourage you to consider stepping up to the plate, at least occasionally. Find the cause that brings you joy or concern. Be part of the solution by giving your time, energy, or resources to the extent that you are able. That might just be the fan needed to keep the flame from burning out.
According to research, pets are good for your health. There are lots of reasons, but I think the main one is that they provide an endless source of unconditional love. The relationship I have with my cat and dog are in many ways as good as it gets.
Most mornings begin with my cat, Flea, an inch from my face, staring at me, looking for a sign that I’m awake. I know what she’s thinking: It’s almost 6:00 a.m. Get up, you lazy human, and open a can of Friskies. Relentless in her pursuit of breakfast, her behavior escalates if I feign sleep. She paws at my cheek, and if I still don’t move, she gently nibbles at my nose. Get up! Like the plants in The Little Shop of Horrors, her mantra is Feed me!
And so I do. We have an understanding. I provide the food and she provides affection. Later in the day, she’ll wind herself around my legs and purr, or bring me a dead bird or mouse—an expression of unconditional love.
Once the cat is fed, I turn on the computer, make a pot of coffee, and begin my day by writing a blog post. Coming up with ideas that motivate, inspire, or inform isn’t always easy. Life isn’t always that exciting. I haven’t taken an exotic vacation in years, and fortunately, I’m not dealing with any catastrophic issues (pun intended) other than my pet.
I can’t imagine life without pets.
In addition to Flea, I also have Loki, a Golden Retriever who is twelve today, April 20. She has shoulder dysplasia, arthritis in her joints, and glaucoma, but loves life despite her disabilities. She has the sweetest disposition, and she greets everyone with affection and enthusiasm. Like the cat, Loki is also motivated by food. It might take her a few minutes to get out of her bed, but her day always begins with a dental bone.
While Flea spends most of her days outdoors, Loki spends her days near my feet, waiting to do something exciting. Before she had trouble standing, every day was filled with walks. Now, walks consist of roaming the back yard and maybe going down the driveway to the mailbox. The days of long walks on the trails near my house are over. Even though she can’t do it anymore, as soon as I pick up my boots, she furiously wags her tail in anticipation of an adventure. Hating to disappoint, I now keep my boots in the car so she can’t see me put them on.
I know our days together are numbered.
“How much longer do you think you’ll have Loki?” my daughter, who has two young dogs, asks. It’s a question I can’t bare to think about, let alone answer. That’s the problem with pets. They don’t live long enough, and then we must deal with losing them.
That’s also the problem and the beauty of getting close. Life is so fragile and transient.
What other option is there than to appreciate each moment for what it brings and generate as many positive memories as possible?
The lesson I’m learning right now is that change is inevitable, even thought I might resist it.
Three days a week, I spend some time lifting weights and taking a dance class. Weightlifting is good for muscle tone and strength. Dancing is a great way to burn calories while listening to music.
Leaving the house to exercise also has a social aspect. Because I spend so much time at the computer, going to the gym forces me to change the scenery. In other words, the gym is an important part of my life. It’s where I go to have fun and de-stress.
Like a lot of women at the gym, I’ve been taking Teresa Cull’s classes off and on for about twenty years. Based on our shared interest, we’ve formed an informal community. We might not know the intimate details of each other’s lives, but there’s a camaraderie of kindred spirits.
Because Teresa’s Fit Jam class is so popular (and crowded), the management is now limiting the number of people who can attend. In the past, there have been more than seventy people in the room at times. Now that fire and safety codes are being enforced, the new limit is fifty. While it’s nice to have more room to move, it means that many women who have been coming for years can’t get into the class.
The chirpy guy at the desk smiled and said, “I can put you on the wait list.” Let me just say that my reaction was not pleasant. I was angry and upset. Although management has been making people sign in and get a card to enter the class, the reason why was never clear. At no time did I realize that the class size was exceeding the limit set by the fire marshall. Had this been made clear, I would have been much more proactive in making sure to claim my space.
Instead of fuming in silence, I expressed my frustration to the staff. I suggested that an email be sent to other members explaining the reason for the change, but that was never done. I was at a conference on Friday, so yesterday was my first day back at the gym. You can be sure I signed up early the day before. My space was secure, but another regular didn’t get in. Of course, she was upset for the same reason I was.
I’m sure the dust will eventually settle, the people who love the class will make the extra effort required to get in, and others will find something else to do. For now, I’m going to continue going. But if by the end of April my attendance continues to cause stress—which is clearly not the ideal outcome— I have a Plan B.
Put my gym membership on hold (perhaps indefinitely). Go to Jazzercise, which I also love. Hike often—especially now when the wildflowers are out. Work out with free weights at home. Call the gym friends I miss and schedule time for coffee.
The first time I understood the power of hypnosis was in 1978, when I was hired to videotape a hypnosis workshop. The instructor was a PhD psychologist. The participants were social workers interested in using hypnotherapy in their practices. Through guided imagery and trance states, participants learned and practiced techniques to help people make lasting change. I was fascinated.
Several weeks after the workshop, I had an opportunity to try hypnosis myself. I had been offered a job I really wanted, but it was in a non-smoking environment and I was a smoker. At the time, I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. I was aware of the health perils associated with this bad habit. I’d try quitting before, but now my situation was dire. The new job started in a week.
I remember being in a very relaxed state listening to the hypnotherapist’s voice. In my mind, I descended a stairway to a beautiful safe place where changes could be made. I don’t remember much else, but I do know that after the session, my desire to smoke was insignificant. A few weeks later, at a follow-up appointment, I learned that I’d been given a post-hypnotic suggestion to drink water whenever I wanted to smoke. I do recall carrying a thermos of water with me long before this practice was fashionable.
Fast-forward to the present. My friend Marge is a hypnotherapist who recently emerged from retirement to start practicing again. I have a session with her every couple of weeks. Sometimes we work on a specific concern, like my chronic low-back pain. Other times it has to do with difficult relationships or issues with my spouse or kids—the usual stuff of life. Regardless of the issue, Marge likes to work directly with the deep unconscious. She’s also a devotee of Milton Erickson, an American psychiatrist who specialized in medical hypnosis and family therapy. He’s also known for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solution-generating.
From what I understand, the deep unconscious is the part of ourselves that knows what the conscious part of us doesn’t comprehend—or doesn’t want to. In a deep state of relaxation, it’s possible to tap into that inner knowing. The hypnosis framework is similar for everyone, but the transformational journey is always unique.
What I love about this state of mind is the awareness and insight that result. How simple solutions to difficult problems appear so seamlessly. For example, I recently gained insight into an old thought pattern that has affected me since I was very young. A dialogue between adult Jan and young Jan helped me reframe the circumstances. In the process, I felt an enormous emotional release.
If you’ve ever thought about giving hypnosis a try, I encourage you to do so. At the very least, it’s completely relaxing. It also has the potential to change your life in beneficial and significant ways.
We welcome guest blogger Hollie Grimaldi Flores, whose musings will appear on Tuesdays.
What does it mean to be retired these days? Lately, I have found myself around a good number of retired people. I have to say, it is exhausting! I hear from them, time and time again, that they are busier now then they have ever been. It inspires me to keep my day job as I watch them over-commit to one project and cause after another. I believe that when people contemplate retirement, they envision unlimited time and resources. But when the time comes that they no longer have to go to work every day, they constantly say yes to things. Suddenly, they realize they are the busiest they’ve ever been.
Once retired, there is something to be said for having a schedule and someplace you have to be on a daily basis. It gives structure and purpose. It reminds you there are only so many hours in a day. It serves as a gauge for what is really important. It is almost natural selection. However, too much of a good thing can leave the retiree pining for the days of old, when the eight-hour workday was the primary obligation.
Given the number of retired people I know, there is no shortage of examples of how to do it. There is the guy who is perpetually remodeling his house—much to the delight of his still-working wife. There is the friend who finally wrote her book. There are the retired ladies who have made a routine of art classes, service clubs, and lunches. There is the grandmother who spends one day a week as the primary caregiver of her little darlings. There is the woman who started a new business. All of these examples make me understand that retired certainly doesn’t mean idle.
I bring this up as a message of hope and possibly as a way to curb my jealousy. Even though I’m still working, I spend more than a few minutes a day fantasizing about what my retirement will look like. To be sure, there will be a lot of travel and most certainly a second home on the water somewhere. There will be days and days of doing nothing. There will be endless hours spent reading novels and even more hours writing. There will be long walks on countless trails and mindless floats in pools and lakes.
There will be long, meaningful conversations with dear old friends and precious new ones. There will be classes taken for the pure joy of learning. Of course, there will be service. There may even be naps. Most of all, there will be days filled only with what I deem important to me: selfish, egocentric (which is redundant, by the way), retired me.
The challenge for anyone retiring is more often about finance than it is about what activities will or will not fill their days. And that is where I am most envious of all of these friends and acquaintances who have already figured it out—some at a younger age than I am now. They did something right and are now reaping the rewards. But the real trick is to stay healthy and live a good, long, joy-filled life, no matter how you choose to spend it.
Many women who are in their fifties and beyond are caring for elderly parents or other family members. Even if you’re a daughter who always expected to fulfill this role, the timing isn’t always ideal. The actual job can be much more demanding and difficult than you ever imagined. On the other hand, caregiving can be an opportunity to step up and heal old wounds. It can even make a loved one’s experience more satisfying and comforting.
Over the years, I assumed this role for both of my parents in varying degrees. As it turned out, my mother got sick, went to the hospital, and passed away six weeks later. Cause of death: complications resulting from exploratory surgery. When it looked like she wasn’t going to recover, I flew from California to Ohio to join my father in keeping vigil by her side. My mother lived long enough to acknowledge their 60th wedding anniversary before she died.
A couple of months later, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. For the next year, I left our two teenagers and my husband to fend for themselves. I flew back and forth as often as possible to be with him. I loved my dad and wanted to be with him. Because I couldn’t always plan these trips enough in advance to get a good deal on flights, I often begged and borrowed air miles from family and friends who were frequent flyers.
Dad was not ready to die. He was willing to put his affairs in order while he still felt good enough to go out. Since my mom was gone and I’m their only child, it was simply a matter of adding my name to the bank accounts, the condo, the car, and his stocks.
A man of few words, my dad said I didn’t have to do anything but be around. When he was awake, I’d watch TV with him (poker, golf, and tennis were his favorites) or read him a Janet Evanovich mystery. When he napped, I got things done. I went grocery shopping and planned meals, but most of all, my priority was ensuring that my dad was well cared for whether I was around or not.
My first call was to Hospice. It was essential that he had nurses and visitors that he liked to check in on him. Then, I called Meals on Wheels. I had two reasons for that. One was to have a friendly person drop food off every day, and the other was to provide him with something he might eat. The back-up plan was his older sister, who drove across town every day to have supper with him.
Next I contacted Jewish Family Service, which arranged for housekeeping. I then called my dad’s poker buddies—guys he’d grown up with—to make sure they continued to visit. After I returned home, I called my dad’s house daily to ask the Hospice nurse how things were going.
If you end up caring for your parents or another loved one, don’t think you have to do it alone.
Inspiration isn’t always available when I need it most.
Knowing I have to catch up on blog posts, I woke up early this morning, made coffee, and plopped down in front of the computer. Usually, morning is when words flow. An idea pops into my head, I do a little online research, and an hour or so later, I have a 500-word post.
This morning, I’m about as far from inspired as I’ve been in a long, long time. I think it’s because I’ve spent the last few days catching up on bookkeeping and tax prep. For me, bookkeeping is the antithesis of creativity and inspiration. To get through it, I suspect that my subconscious puts my creative brain on hold.
How do I get back on track? Merely asking that question resulted in five suggestions for inspiration that have worked in the past.
1. As fate would have it, a few minutes ago, a great article about how meditation changes the brain appeared in my inbox. Today, my brain could benefit from a change. The mere fact that the article popped up, now, while I’m writing, is certainly more than a coincidence.
2. Walking, dancing, lifting weights, yoga—anything that gets me out of the computer chair and moving around can change my attitude for the better and improve my mood. Later this morning, I’m planning to go to the gym. Maybe later today, I’ll find the motivation I’m looking for.
3. Years ago, I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and discovered the benefits of writing “the morning pages.” For many years, I spent a half hour every morning writing whatever came into my head without regard to spelling, grammar, or any other rules. The morning pages helped me clear my head and often became a source of future articles. Why did I stop? Now, that’s a story!
4. Clean or do laundry. Mindless tasks done to music are a great way to get over “it.” It can be a bad mood, negative thinking, frustration, anger, or any other emotion that’s getting in the way of happiness. Cranking up the music and dancing around the house also works.
5. Take a shower. The best ideas often come when I don’t have a way to take notes and I’m not trying. For some people, having a deadline is the ideal motivator, but I find that pressure to perform gets in my way. What does work for me is having a designated time set aside for writing.
Now, all I have to do is follow my own advice.
I just finished reading Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Dr. Joe Dispenza.
Joe Dispenza is a scientist, teacher, lecturer, and author. He was one of the scientists featured in the award-winning film What the BLEEP Do We Know!? He is also the author of several New York Times bestsellers. His works include You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter and Evolve Your Brain.
The first two section of the book are about the brain and how it works. Based on research conducted by others on the quantum field, it is a guide to optimizing the brain to make the most of life. What many people do not realize is how our thinking affects brain function and just about everything we do.
I’ve always believed the adage “You are what you eat.” But now, I’m also of the opinion that “You are what you think.” If I look back in time, negative thoughts have gotten me into a lot more trouble than chocolate cake or ice cream ever did. Negative thinking is a lot more insidious, too. At least when you overeat or indulge in a steady diet of unhealthy food, you see it on the scale or feel it when you zip up your jeans. But the impact of negative thinking can take more time.
How often have you pretended to be happy when you were seething with anger or frustrated beyond belief? When was the last time you said yes when you should have said no? Do nagging headaches, backaches, or other pains prevent you from enjoying your day? According to Dispenza, negative thinking can ultimately affect the body and spirit.
For today, pay attention to your thoughts and see how often you are angry, critical, judgmental, insensitive, egocentric, dishonest, hopeless, frustrated, apathetic, or anything else that gets in the way of your happiness. According to Dispenza, our natural state of being includes joy, love, peace of mind, satisfaction, and contentment.
It’s easy to blame our discontent on others. But imagine if you were to take 100 percent responsibility for the quality of your life. And then learn how to maintain your equilibrium regardless of the circumstances that come your way. I know, I know: crazy huh?
The last section of the book is a meditation course designed to help you change negative programming and unhealthy habits and create a “new mind for a new future.” If you’ve been struggling with negative emotions and want to do something about it, this book is definitely worth a read.
Of, if change isn’t your thing, you can always go to your closest Starbucks and order a White Chocolate Mocha with a Caramelized Apple Pound Cake chaser.
Age is just an attitude. If you don’t believe it, you need to meet my friend Nita.
I met Nita about twenty years ago at a Wives of Vets support group. Her husband had served in Korea, mine in Vietnam. It turned out she lived right around the corner from me, and we became fast friends. About fifteen years ago, she divorced her husband and moved to a 55+ community in Scottsdale. We make a point of seeing each other a few times a year, and I just returned from a delightful visit.
Nita, at 76, is an accomplished artist (oils and acrylics) and silversmith, who also teaches art to members of her community. In addition to being very creative and talented, she’s adventurous and fun to be around. What I like most about Nita is her attitude about aging, what she calls the “A” word. Words like aging, old, senior, and elderly simply aren’t in her vocabulary.
“We’re all just people,” she explains, “and depending on when you ask, some of us are doing better than others.”
Of course, Nita realizes that she’s getting older, but regardless of health issues (yes, she’s had a few scares), she prefers to focus on what she can do, not what she can’t. In all the years I’ve known her, I’ve never once heard her complain about anyone or anything. Believe me, she’s had many occasions to bitch and moan, but she encourages everyone who knows her to take the high road.
During my recent trip, I decided to figure out what makes Nita so positive. I took a close look at her life and lifestyle, and here’s what I observed:
For Nita, age really is just an attitude. For me, that attitude is an inspiration. I’m so grateful to have her as a friend and a positive force in my life.