Friday, March 27, 2015

Coping 201 - Put Life Into Perspective: Take the Long View to Cope with Life Challenges

Do you remember that last time you felt everything was going wrong for you?

You probably thought your troubles would never end, and that even one more would push you over the edge.

Most of us refer to this as being stressed out or simply being overwhelmed.

Illnesses, financial woes, and parenting issues, are all too common in modern life.

What can we do to deal with our overwhelming challenges?

One thing we can do is to put our problems into a long range perspective.

When you feel good, take the time to think through the sequence of events from the last time you had a period of feeling overwhelmed.

You will likely see that you were hit with several stressful situations.

And they happened close together, so that you never felt you had fully recovered from the last one before the next one struck.

And worse yet they overlapped in time so they formed one big problem.

They didn't have easy answers or quick fixes so you were forced to cope with them for a long time.

And you were probably tired or worried before they all started, so you were not at your full coping strength when you were hit with these challenges.

This is the general pattern for most of us when the process of feeling overwhelmed happens.

We will feel as if this is our personal process of disaster.

In the midst of our pain, we might even say to ourselves something like, "my life is falling apart" or "my family is crumbling" or "my marriage is going down the drain."

That is our own mental voice reminding us of how terrible things are. As if we needed such a reminder!

It is best not to take our thoughts or feelings too seriously in these times of distress. Recognize that our own negative thoughts will bring on more negative thoughts.

Remember that our human brains have evolved to look for danger. This is part of what has allowed our species to last this long.

So when we believe we are in danger, in the form of our challenges, we will tend to look for even more threats.

Unknowingly, we are creating an avalanche of distress.

Another part of the explanation is that when we feel overwhelmed, we will also feel vulnerable, as if the next problem might be the one that destroys us.

And the feelings seem entirely real when we are overwhelmed.

But they are not usually a true reflection of reality.

Instead our minds have seen the problems, and determined they are too much to handle and screamed at us, you can't handle this!

But you are resilient. It is a characteristic of your species.

Start with your awareness of what is happening. You might say something to yourself like, "I have a lot going on right now and I know I'm feeling stressed. But this has happened before and it will end."

Remind yourself you have dealt with these issues before and you know they can bring on these feelings. But you work through them.

Imagine looking back on this time after two years have passed. Everything is less intense in the rear view mirror of our lives.

And we do not have to be slaves to our feelings. Or our thoughts.

Look around you in a calm moment and notice that while you might feel distressed in general, nothing is physically threatening you right now.

You will feel safe and calm again and do those things to help you feel that way.

Be with friends and family that you enjoy
Be in nature, as it is our original pace
Meditate and/ or do yoga
Read your favorite books or watch your favorite movies that relax you
Life is to be enjoyed. Have some form of fun. Daily.

Plan to deal with the challenges and put your plan into action.

Make problems manageable by breaking them into workable pieces.

Taking action puts some control back in your hands. Even if it is simply choosing to take care of yourself. That is usually the best place to start.

We all get better with practice so make it a habit by sticking to these practices consistently and repeatedly.

Keep in mind, that coping can provide some relief from emotional pain, but nothing healthy makes life entirely painless.

We get through painful periods. We can't avoid them all. That fact too, needs to be one we accept.

We are all in this life together and we share these challenges even though, when they happen, they might make us feel totally alone.

You can tell yourself, "I am feeling what others have felt and survived and I will survive too."

Move to having a fun, pleasurable, or relaxing experience as soon after as you can.

Remember you are unique and you are one of us, fellow human. You are precious, and you will get through this.

And let me know if you need help.

Go live well and enjoy,

-- Rich


Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Self-Help Book Reviews and Recommendations Site is Now Up!

Lots of folks ask how they can keep their personal growth efforts going outside of our therapy sessions.

I have always recommended a variety of books as a way to keep their thinking and understanding growing.

I've never bothered to write up a definitive list until recently and I've started putting those books up on a site that is just getting started.

Read my opinion of the books and even buy a copy via Amazon, from the link in the review. Just click on the book cover!

A small commission earned on the sale of each book will help keep these sites going.

There are only a couple of books listed so far but more will be added frequently, since I have already read them all, unless otherwise stated there.

The site is so new it doesn't have a domain name yet, but you can click the link below to get there.

Let me know what you think of the site and the books you've read. Thanks for reading and good luck on your efforts to Live Well.

Click here, Your Self Help Book Reviews

-- Rich

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Living Well, Off the Treadmill: My Conscious Choice is Yours Too.

When I was in my teens and 20's, I could not get enough mental stimulation. I wanted more information about everything. And my mind moved nimbly from thought to thought.

Even trivia was fun for me. Who was dating whom? What was happening this weekend? What should I wear? What did I want around this and that issue?

I loved to wallow in the multiple layers of information as it gave me a sense of connection to all that was happening and the people involved. And I loved to speculate about what might or might not happen next in all these layers of possibility.

Managing the complexity was a fun challenge.

Now, I can imagine that style of thinking as a tennis match played with 10 or 20 balls in motion, where the object of the game was simply to hit the ball back over the net before I was overwhelmed by them. And I was good at that game because it was fun and I liked being a part of it.

At some point, life became more serious and that entertaining information transformed into needing to get daily things done. Important things.

Even though it was no longer fun, I continued the pace and the tiring effort.

And my mind still ran at full speed as it always had. But now I found myself thinking of solving problems and finding solutions to difficult questions, day in and day out.

And I recognized the chaotic functioning of my mind was a very inefficient way of finding solutions. Simply hitting the ball back over the net was not enough. I had to be concerned with where it went and all the other consequences of hitting the ball at all.

The game was no longer a game of course. Suddenly, I was aware that this was my life. And it was racing ahead of me as it carried me along.

And I didn't even see that this pace was largely within my control. So, years went by and I became pretty good at keeping up with the challenge. But I didn't enjoy it.

At some point, I recognized that I was not where I wanted to be, despite all the effort I had put forth. I was still playing the game without any benefit to myself now.

In fact, playing this game actually kept me from enjoying important aspects of life. Like thinking one thought at a time. Or being with family and friends and enjoying simple pleasures.

And my chaotic mind seemed permanently set to this fast pace to keep me playing on. But it was tedious and I knew I needed more to satisfy me.

I wanted to slow down and so I did. And the slower pace meant I got less done and I had to learn that it was okay to get less done. It was getting the right stuff completed that mattered.

And I tried to learn to see the value of being rather than simply doing. Over a period of years, I got better at doing less and enjoying it.

People around me were not always happy with my choice of doing less. They took it to mean they would get less from me and in some cases, this was true.

But in the important relationships of family and friends and community, they got more of me and my time and attention.

So slowing down was a key step as was learning to recognize that doing more is not inherently better.

But doing the right things to make your life the one you want to live, is the priority we each must understand.

And if you have drifted into a life that runs too fast and too far from what you want, you can get back on your own authentic track.

Slow the pace. Recognize what is most important to you. Plan to spend most of your time doing what gives you the most satisfaction. Avoid complicating commitments that would further someone else's agenda, but not your own. Meditate. Simplify.

I consciously chose peace and tranquillity with family and friends as my focus over hectic activity and a chaotic mind. It's all a matter of perspective and conscious choice.

Be conscious. Know what you want. Choose for yourself. Focus on being your best and happiest self and do those things that help you feel it. Be with people who support your good choices.

And ask for help when you need it.

Live well now my friend. It's a choice and only you can make it.

Enjoy! And let me know how it's going for you!

-- Rich