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Emerton Seanne

 Therapist's Corner...
Tis The Season

     Each season offers up its opportunity for mindfulness. I love how Winter brings us the chance to slow down, hibernate a bit and reflect on what is working in our lives and what needs adjusted. What aspects of our lives...in our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual domains... do we want to keep, add in or let go of? I have rather long lists in each of those categories.
      In this season of giving and receiving gifts, another thing I like to reflect upon is what non material gifts would I like to gift others, and to gift myself? And, how would I like to receive gifts, material and non material, that honors the giver and the relationship we have?
     The first gift I would like to give myself is the gift to slow down. To pause, to breathe, to notice, and to connect with my heart, so I can more fully connect with others. To be truly present. That doesn’t come naturally for me. I have to work at it. I usually have too many plates spinning and this is the first Christmas season in three years where a close family member hasn’t been in the active stage of dying. I can easily lose my equilibrium and balance when there is too much external stimuli or stress. Just ask my family, friends and colleagues….they know!
      We can’t control external circumstances but we can choose to learn and practice management systems that can help us. These systems obviously serve us best if we can find a way to have that discipline in our lives before facing the trauma of losing someone we love, other major life changes or just the stress of life and the season.
     My dad role modeled a system that worked well for him. He took time for himself every morning by reading the bible, praying and walking. He also practiced moderation in everything. He was always either singing or humming and he golfed when he could. He watched comedies on television in the evening and he gave thanks always. He seemed to manage life events pretty well and I think it had something to do with this ability to keep his equilibrium intact.
     One size doesn’t fit all in terms of finding what works for you. I like to have a repertoire of practices to draw upon and find I add in new practices with each life stage, and sometimes with the season. This season, while keeping my practices of yoga, prayer, devotions, and HeartMath meditation, I am adding in Mindful Self Compassion. (A great resource for this is the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion: www.CenterForMSC.org).
     In a nutshell, Mindful Self Compassion teaches us to:
     1. Stop and Notice….when we feel a sense of suffering or hurt
     2. See. Notice the facts around the situation we perceive to be causing our hurt
     3. Respond. Extend acts of kindness toward self. Ask “What do I need?” Then be intentional with stating how you want to be...i.e. “May I be patient, brave or have an open heart with  _____”.
     4. Self soothe by giving yourself gentle touch, firm pressure and quiet vocalization.
     Whatever helps you be present to giving and receiving the gifts of love that are inherent with this season, may you be intentional with this present to yourself. Here’s to the magic and wonder that is all around us if we are awake and present to it! May your season delight an
d bring you deep joy.

~ Seanne Emerton, Founder/Therapist 

JMcCasslin

 Therapist's Corner...
From The Heart

     In this season of giving, let us all remember that it is the small acts of kindness and love that give us the most joy. Tangible gifts are fun, and some are very meaningful, but many take up space in our homes, collect dust, get forgotten under the bed - whatever it may be. What about the gifts that take up space in our hearts? They don't gather dust. They don't end up stuffed under the bed or in a closet. Those gifts grow with us, and help us to be better people.
     How do you gift an act of kindness and love? It doesn't come wrapped in shiny paper or with a bow. These acts come from the heart. You can wrap it with a hug or a smile, blow a kiss or spend some quality time.
     Need ideas? They are as limitless as your imagination but here are a few to get you started:
     1. Wipe away a tear and listen.
     2. Visit others and invite the lonely over for dinner (especially those who had a loss in the past year).
     3. Dedicate a song on the radio to a loved one.
     4. Cuddle with your children or your significant other - or both.
     5. Play a family board game.
     6. Smile at everyone you meet on the street.
     7. Do another person's chores or help with their responsibilities.
     8. Shovel the neighbor's sidewalk.
     9. Take food and conversation to a home-bound person.
     10. Attend your children's concerts and productions - take a few photos!
     11. Give experience gifts instead of "stuff" - pay for ball teams, children's museums, family camping permits, etc.
     12. Set aside time to spend as a family, maybe planning a grandparent gift or working on a project.
     13. Decorate your house, or help someone decorate their home if they are physically unable.
     14. Volunteer as a bell ringer or at a homeless shelter.
     15. Start a tradition.
     Remember, the best things come from the heart, and are something we carry with us forever.

~ Jessica McCaslin, Therapist 

Lenz

From Our EAP...
Managing Stress for Holiday Family Get-Togethers

Holiday family get-togethers can be stressful. All of those old childhood wounds can get reopened, and, in some families, new issues are created. Even in families that appear to get along, unvoiced resentments from the past can linger behind a mask of normalcy. You can relax and enjoy your family this holiday season with a few simple tips.
Prepare a “Self-care” Plan 
     Decide how long you want to interact with difficult family members and determine your boundaries. One boundary might be for you to stay at a hotel instead of in your family member’s home so that you can have some downtime. Another might be for you to determine what topics you want to avoid. 
Practice Answers to Triggers 
     You can bet that topics you hope won’t come up, in fact, will. If your cousin is still angry that you inherited your grandmother’s antique pitcher, think ahead about how you will handle it. One way is to “redirect,” which is simply the strategy of changing the topic of conversation. You can also tell your cousin you don’t wish to discuss the issue at this time and then change the subject.
Let Go of Resentments 
     Decide what grievances you’ll let go of for the day. Sometimes, being around family requires us to forget about past issues and simply enjoy everyone despite them. It may be worth it to not avoid your brotherin-law, whom you don’t like, if you don’t get much time during the year to enjoy your little nieces and nephews. 
     Save the big issues for another time. If you need to confront your Aunt Suzy about something that hurt you, address it after the holiday get-together. Remember the holidays are supposed to be about love and peace. You can put the war off for another day.
Practice Mindfulness 
     The reality is, we only have right now. Not dwelling on the past and not worrying about the future can make your holiday celebrations a success. It can also make you a happier person in general. Focus on your needs and what is happening at this very moment and enjoy it. 
Have a Lifeline 
     Make plans ahead of time to connect with a friend during the festivities to support each other. Hearing a friendly voice can help you sort out your feelings when you are “triggered.” And processing stress with a friend usually leads to a few therapeutic laughs. 
You’re Not the Only One 
     Remember, others are hurting too. You aren’t the only one feeling stress or getting triggered. It’s a part of many families’ dynamics. Be thoughtful if another family member gets upset or doesn’t live up to your expectations. Keep perspective. You just might find a little humor in some of the less serious gripes that seem to linger over the years.
Set Your Sites on What You Enjoy 
     Have something to look forward to. After your family celebration, schedule a get-together with friends or part of the family that brings you joy. Knowing that this event is coming up can give you that extra bump to get through time with some of the more difficult personalities. 
     Family get-togethers are often a mixed bag of emotions. But learning to enjoy family members for whom they are while setting boundaries can make these celebrations some of your favorite times of the year.

~ Lana Lenz, EAP Coordinator (article from Daniel Feerst, LISW-CP, WorkExcel.com

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