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JMcCasslinA Time for Positive Reflection

     As I scroll through my newsfeed, it seems like I see a lot of negative comments about 2017. It's been a challenging year for many, and many are asking 2018 to be better. On the other hand, I've seen many posts about things for which people are thankful. Yes, I know November just ended, and many people post daily one item for which they are thankful.
     What if we found something for which we are thankful ? Daily. I'm talking Every. Day. Of. The. Year.
     Some days would be harder than others, sure. Then there would be days we'd lose count of our thankful items because there are so many. Positive psychology is an empirically-based study of what makes life worth living. It focuses on three paths to happiness - pleasant life, engaged life, and meaningful life. There are areas in our life which can be improved upon, but we also need to focus on our strengths in the context of hope, positive emotions, and health (Peterson, 2008; Lopez & Gallagher, 2009).
     In other words, the people who have some of the worst things in life happen to them don't have to be defined by those things. They are more and care about much more than just finding relief for their suffering. We can tackle any problem and stay focused on positives - it's a matter of training our minds to learn from negative things that happen, to identify our strengths, and to use those strengths to benefit ourselves and others every day.
     For example, I know several people who lost everything in home fires this past year. They escaped with the most important things - their lives and the lives of their family members and pets. Other than that, they lost everything. Everything. Yet, they were able to find positives. One noted she would save money because she didn't need to rent a U-Haul to move (she was literally packed to move in two days when the fire hit). The other family noted how they'd left their home for a trip only hours before it burned to the foundation. Blessed. Miraculous. Luck. Whatever you want to call it, they found positives within their tragedies.
There are days when I get down on myself. I'm not doing the things I wanted to be doing at this point in my life. I'm definitely NOT making the money I dreamed I would be making. I want more education but can't afford it. My mortgage is high, my house repairs are high, my resources are low. I'm a chauffeur, coach, referee, cook, housecleaner, emergency management, teacher - all within my own home. It can be overwhelming.
     However, the positives can also be powerful, if you let them. My gifts. My spouse. My children. My opportunity to raise them at home. My boss who allows me to work on things for the business from home until I go back to counseling. I use my counseling degree daily with my kids and the people with  whom I interact in the community. I volunteer at the school in MANY activities. I've made some amazing friends. I volunteer at a local thrift store where my children can come to work with me, and I get to help people find things they need. I can't even begin to tell you some of the stories I've heard because people just want a listening ear, and the bonus of a helpful hand. Research has shown doing things for others can increase your happiness - my life is so blessed to have time to devote to others! I also have a deeper understanding of "stuff" and how much extra "stuff" we carry around, thinking it makes us happy. We have food, friends, shelter, clothing...
     As we approach the end of 2017, take time to reflect on your blessings and to appreciate all that you have. What went well for you in 2017? What goals do you have for 2018? What strengths do you have to complete those goals? (If you need an amazing list of strengths, check out the one from Peterson and Seligman on our resources website: http://www.family-resources.net/client-resources.aspx).
     Remember the movie Field of Dreams? "If you build it, they will come," it said. Well, if you think it, it will happen. Most times, it doesn't happen exactly as we planned but things do come. What are your blessings?

~ Jessica McCaslin, Therapist

Ryan Linda

Time For Myself

     They say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff."
     Me: But what if it’s ALL big stuff and you have to sweat!
     They: OK, settle down Linda, it can’t be all big stuff, it just seems like it is.
     Me: Of course it’s all big stuff. My life is full of big and important stuff.
     They: Yeah, but you see what is happening here?
     You can’t find time for yourself and you’re becoming more and more anxious.
     Me: Yes, I know and it’s driving me nuts!!!
     They: So, what do you need to do?
     Me: I hate it when you say that.
     OK, so I know I am not handling things well, and that I need to get back on track. It only seems to take a few hours to feel like life is spinning out of control. I do know what is helpful. I know that taking some time just for myself is probably the most important thing for me. I just need to sit quietly and not think, not solve anything, and not plan a list of things to do. I know I just need to sit and breathe. It works every time.
     So why do I forget to do it?
     When I just sit and breathe, everything seems to slow down. My head gets quieter.
     So why do I forget to do it?
     When I just sit and breathe, I become so much more centered. I can feel my body slowing down.
     So why do I forget to do it?
     I guess it’s because I am a creature of habit. Or maybe because my attention gets pulled in so many directions. Maybe it’s because I am not assertive enough in taking care of myself. What ever it is, I know what is best for me and I know I just need to do it.
     What about you? I’m guessing you also know what is best for you, but you have the same argument going inside your head that I do. So, let’s make a deal! During this season of giving, let’s give ourselves the very best gift ever. TIME. Yes, just a bit of time to sit, be quiet, and breathe.

~ Linda Ryan, Therapist

Lenz

Alone For The Holidays

     Holidays can be a lonely time for some. If you end up by yourself, there are a lot of creative ways to overcome the feeling of isolation. No matter the time of year or season, develop Life skills to avoid and intervene with loneliness, because research shows it can have adverse effects on health. Don’t get mad at loneliness— get even using the ideas found below.
Being Alone Is Not Uncommon
     Humans are social beings, so the holiday period always puts an accent on overcoming loneliness. With slightly more than half of Americans now single—the most in history—a sizeable portion of the population may spend the holidays on their own.
     People end up as singletons on holidays for a variety of reasons. Some live far away from family or have jobs that require they work the holiday. Those who are grieving sometimes choose to spend the day alone. Others have dysfunctional families that can turn a happy holiday into a depressing day of drama that they would rather avoid. Some people need the social stimulation the holidays offer, while others may not.
Avoid the Rut and Triggers
     If you find yourself without holiday plans and wish to celebrate, take action. Don’t sit and reason, trying to think your way out of feeling bad or down.
     The most effective way to intervene is by taking action. Behavior works faster on feelings than reasoning, and it’s more efficient. Plan now, and create action steps. Doing so can help you avoid “depression triggers” that can throw you into a rut.
Create an Intervention Plan
     Grab a calendar and plan concrete steps in writing that you will take when the holiday period arrives. Will you open your home to other single friends? Will you seek volunteer opportunities nearby? What about helping feed the homeless or perhaps singing carols at a nursing home? These activities are tried-and-true intervention steps others have used to overcome loneliness and experience gratitude.
     Check the newspaper, and begin your to-do list of events, special “me-time” treats, day trips, and new and unusual ways to fill the days. Look for free events around town at galleries, museums, dressed-up old homes, and parades.
     Look to your community for creative opportunities, such as spending the day with military members stationed in your town or baking cookies and taking them to your city’s first responders.
“Reframe” Loneliness
     Reframing is a healthy way of choosing to look at a situation another way. An example of a reframe is recognizing that although you can’t be at a certain holiday event on a specific day and are alone right now, you will be with those people you care about or love in the future at another specific event, so you choose to look forward to that time instead of feeling trapped in a lonely state at the moment.
Avoid Social Media Tailspin
     Social media can contribute to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression, especially during the holidays. So, consider limiting your time online. At the very least, remain aware of its potential to show you an unrealistic view of life— friends post only the good.
Yes, Google It
     A quick way to find 1,001 ideas to intervene with loneliness is to search “how to avoid loneliness during the holidays.” It’s nearly guaranteed that you will find ideas appropriate for your situation.
Engagement Is the Secret
     The secret to lifting your spirit is engagement with others. Enjoy the holidays whether you are with others or alone. However, be sure you experience daily interactions with people to safeguard your health throughout the year. You will feel more uplifted, experience less negative self-talk, and have accomplishments you will look
back on with fond memories.

~ Lana Lenz, EAP Coordinator (resource: Daniel Feerst, LISW-CP, WorkExcel.com)

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