Handling Your Emotions During The Holidays

Women friends hugging during the Christmas holidays

As I was decorating my Christmas tree this year, I was reminded that ornaments and emotions have something in common. And that is that each can be fragile and must be handled with care. I’ll get to the handling your emotions during the holidays part a little later on. But first, I want to share how I concluded that ornaments and emotions have something in common.

Ornaments and Emotions — FRAGILE/ Handle With Care!

A couple of years ago, I was looking for new tree ornaments to prepare for the coming Christmas season. I had been to the usual places you would typically go to find them, but nothing had yet caught my eye. Then, of all places, I happened to stop into a furniture store, and lo and behold. There they were. They were hanging on the store’s display tree. I was so excited I had found just what I was looking for.

However, my excitement was somewhat diminished when I found out the only available ones were the five on display. Even the warehouse was out (I had wanted at least fifteen). So, I decided to take the ones they had in the store and call them good. Well, long story short, when the worker helping us went to remove the ornaments from the tree, the first one slipped through their fingers and hurtled to the ground, and broke in half. Now, I was down to a precious four. A couple of days after this little experience, I got to thinking. And this was when I correlated the fragility of ornaments and emotions together.

Five things I learned from a broken ornament

1. Fragile things need to be handled with extra care.

ORNAMENTS:  After the first ornament crashed to the floor, the worker taking the next ones off the tree handled them with extra precaution. 

EMOTIONS: The holidays can stir up diverse memories and feelings, some pleasant and some heartbreaking, leaving us with fragile emotions. Our hearts ache over loved ones who are no longer with us. We find ourselves feeling alone due to splintered relationships, or maybe our children have grown up or moved away, leaving us with only memories of Christmases past. Or maybe living with depression make the holidays especially hard for you. Whatever the case, sometimes we need to give ourselves or others some extra love at this time of year.

2. Things can still be beautiful even when they are broken. 

ORNAMENTS:  At first glance, the ornament lying on the ground looked unscathed. But as I picked it up, I could see the whole back part was missing. But you know what? It was still beautiful, and I even considered taking it home and hanging it on my tree. I knew if I positioned it just right, no one would see the parts missing.

EMOTIONS:  And that’s where we come in. There’s not a person on earth who has not felt broken at some time in life. Even though we started this life as a perfect little bundle of joy, we have incurred scrapes, missing pieces, and jagged edges along life’s journey. Each blemish and missing piece tells our story. It’s what makes us who we are. And each one of us is unique and still beautiful in our own way. 

3. Some things can’t be replaced. 

ORNAMENTS: Welp! As my ornament “bit the dust,” I knew I couldn’t replace it. “Oh well! C’est la Vie.” Now I have some old ornaments of my grandmother, who has long since passed on. And no one or nothing can replace her, but when I unwrap those ornaments year after year, they hold a special memory of her in my heart.

EMOTIONS:Throughout life, anything lost is only sometimes detrimental. Therefore, it’s a good reminder for us to emphasize things that matter. A broken ornament? “Pfft!” But taking time to appreciate what we have and cherish those we have in our lives right now? Yes, very important! 

4. Sometimes, you just have to sweep up the broken pieces and move on. 

ORNAMENTS: Okay, I’ll be honest with you. Once I told the salesman, “I’ll take all of them,” in my mind, that meant the ornaments were mine. In other words, “BE CAREFUL WITH THEM!” So, when the first one was “yanked” (maybe a slight exaggeration) off the tree, I was a little miffed (okay, more than a little)! But what could I do about it? The damage was done.

EMOTIONS: There’s a lot of water that’s gone under the bridge called life. So as you gather with family and friends over the holidays, don’t let past hurts and injustices overshadow this season’s joy. Forgive, forget and move on!

5. There are more important things than ornaments. 

ORNAMENTS: Sure, it bugged me that the store didn’t have the number of ornaments I needed. And then more annoyed when they broke one. But after my initial huff, I realized it was no big deal. Good grief! It was just an ornament! 

EMOTIONS: There will always be little annoyances in life and things that don’t always go according to plan. By putting things into perspective, we will learn not to “sweat the small stuff.” Too often, things like looking for the perfect ornament or the busyness of getting everything done for the holidays receive more care and attention than where it truly belongs. And that is our family, friends, and the other people in our world.

“The only way to get over the pain is to face it, embrace it, hug it and learn the lessons embedded within it.” ― Adele Theron

Wow! Who knew you could learn so much from a broken ornament? Honestly, I believe that little ornament means more to me now than before it broke. There are many broken people in our lives and around the world. One of them might even be you. Yes, it is Christmas time, but only sometimes is it the most wonderful time of the year. And even though adversity can make us stronger, sometimes, getting there requires a little extra help and special care. 

If you are dealing with fragile emotions as we head into the holidays. A time of year that can come with expectations and a whole array of emotions, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop coping skills to help manage them.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. So, therefore, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And I believe together; we can help you move forward to find the beauty even in the shards of brokenness.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.

4 Reasons Why Practicing Gratitude Is Good For You

Family practicing gratitude around a dinner table.

In honor of this month being November when we celebrate “Thanksgiving,” I thought, what better topic to discuss than just that? Giving thanks, being grateful, and gratitude. And why practicing gratitude can be beneficial to our emotional and physical well-being. 

“Thank You!” Two little words can mean so much — or maybe not. I would hazard a guess to say that on occasion, we all probably throw that phrase out there without much thought or feeling behind it. How so, you might ask? Let me explain.

Do you remember, as a young tot, your parents teaching (and reminding) you to say “Please” and “Thank you?” I know I taught my children to say it. And it is good manners, and we should do that. But, if I am honest with myself, I’m not sure if I was always teaching them to practice gratitude or just teaching them good manners. I mean, after all, what parent wants their children to be thought of as rude and ungrateful? I want to think that my intentions were always for the right reason, but I’m not 100% sure.

A lesson to be learned

When I was about six years old, I was excitedly waiting my turn to open my Christmas gift in front of the whole family. You know, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandmas and Grandpas — the entire gang. And when I finally ripped the paper off and opened the box, the only thing that popped out of my mouth was, “I already have one of these!”. Well, needless to say, my parents did not appreciate my candor and outright honesty! 

The “talking to” I got on the way home must have made a big impression on me. And I’ll tell you why. Because when I finally had kids, they knew  the drill. It didn’t matter what was in that gift when they opened it. They were expected to smile and say, “Thank You!”. In fact, my children got to the point where they would pipe in and finish my little mantra before any family gathering where there would be presents. So the goal was to teach my children that even if they didn’t like what they got, they should recognize that the gift giver thought enough of them to give them a gift, and for that, they were to be grateful regardless of what was inside.

So, how important is it to be grateful? Robert A Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. In addition, he has researched and written many books on gratitude that reveal why gratitude is good for our bodies, minds, and relationships. I want to share a couple of key points of his research.

What practicing gratitude can do for you

 1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something. When we do that, we can enjoy its benefits and will be less likely to take it for granted. We notice the positive more, allowing us to appreciate life’s pleasures as they come.

2. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions. Emotions like envy, resentment, and regret can destroy our happiness. You can’t be grateful and envious at the same time. They are conflicting feelings. Research that was done by Emmons’ colleagues Michael McCullough and Jo-An Tsang suggests that people with high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy.

3Grateful people are more stress-resistant. An interesting finding in several studies showed that people with a grateful disposition in life recover more quickly in the face of severe trauma, suffering, and adversity. He believes gratitude gives people a perspective that guards them against post-traumatic stress and lasting anxiety amid negative life events.

4. Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. When you are grateful or practicing gratitude, you sense that someone else is looking out for you or maybe has somehow provided for your well-being. You are mindful of your network of relationships, past and present — people who have helped you along the way to where you are right now. You can change how you see yourself when you acknowledge how others have contributed to your life.

If you look for goodness, you will find it

There is goodness in our world. We have all benefited from it in some way. Of course, it doesn’t mean that life is perfect and that we don’t have discouragements and burdens along the way. That would be unrealistic. But we can strive to make it a habit to be present in our daily living and recognize all the good things in life that we get to enjoy. 

It can be such simple things that we take for granted every day. For example, the next time you brush your teeth, consider that all you have to do is turn the knob, and instantly you have fresh, clean water. You didn’t make that happen — it took lots of people to make that happen. 

Another part of practicing gratitude is figuring out where the goodness comes from. When it is not because of something we did, we must acknowledge others. Or even higher powers, if you are of a spiritual mindset, to give thanks for the many gifts received. Whether big or small, they have helped us to attain goodness in our lives.

Gratitude takes practice, just like any other skill. Thanksgiving Day is an excellent time to start, but don’t stop there. Keep practicing it daily so you can reap the benefits all year long. I’ll be right there with you practicing it too! 

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” — William Faulkner

Working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop new techniques to incorporate into your life as part of a healthy mental and physical lifestyle. And now, in closing, it would be appropriate to give thanks to you, my readers, for reading my blogs. I hope you find them informational and inspiring. So, “THANK YOU!” for checking in to see what’s new, and I wish you all a very “Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know I am here to help. Therefore, please don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I’d love to work with you as you make daily changes regarding gratitude that can lead to big results in improving your satisfaction and success in life. 

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.

Yes, Your Changes In Emotions Could Be Tied To The Calendar

Black woman with eyes closed holding colored leaves

Autumn is here, and I can deny it no longer seems how the calendar and the weather are now in cahoots with one another (sigh). I sigh because I love and live for summer, so I wring as much out of it as possible. Now because my usual modus operandi involves kicking and screaming into the colder months, I always have to talk sternly with myself to deal with it. How about you? Do you notice changes in emotions this time of year? How about other times of the year?

Are you one of those who get giddy at the first hint of crisp air and buy anything with the word pumpkin in it? Or do you go into a deep sense of mourning and want to hibernate until spring? For the latter, I feel your pain.

I’m sure you have observed how people approach this season or at different times of the year with vastly different views. But have you ever noticed how and when your feelings come at certain times of the year? 

What could the calendar have to do with changes in my emotions?

A leading Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. John Sharp, who wrote a book titled “The Emotional Calendar,” believes he has some answers. In his practice of over 20 years, he has seen many patients with specific and deep emotional reactions tied to the calendar. His book reveals how the seasons can profoundly shape our emotional lives. 

We all have personal experiences that have conditioned our emotional responses, and we probably don’t even realize it. However, we are keenly aware that at particular months, holidays, or seasons our mood changes in a way that sometimes we don’t understand and can’t quite pinpoint the reason.

It’s troublesome at particular times of the year when our changes in emotions do not coincide with expected feelings. These connections are often tied to memories of significant events in our lives. Such as the loss of a loved one, parental divorce, personal struggles, or holiday-related family gatherings. Or, it might have been a pattern that played out over many years, and if those years were early in life, it was especially bound to have left an impact. These emotions then seep from the past into the present. Dr. Sharp explains that everyone has “emotional hotspots” in times that are indelibly tied to their past.

What are emotional hotspots?

These emotions are a form of pattern recognition. Your mind makes sense of your experiences without you really thinking about them. For adults, positive and negative memories become “triggers” that cause feelings from the past to emerge.

Some emotions lay dormant until your senses stir up the memories. It might be a certain smell, a song that you hear, or walking outside and feeling the chill in the air. Whatever it is, we all have these experiences that are unique to us. 

For example, as a child, I always enjoyed going to Vacation Bible School in the summer. I especially loved craft time. And to this day, whenever I smell burlap, I am instantly transported back to a youngster at the craft table. Or, when a certain “oldie” starts playing on the radio, I remember the feelings of being a broken-hearted teenager. It’s amazing how our brain encodes our unique memories, catalogs those collections, and cross-references those events.

It’s a great feeling when the memories are pleasant. But what do we do when the memories are not so lovely? Especially when the calendar gives us a yearly reminder. While we cannot change the events in our past, we can replace our usual changes in emotions by purposely altering our responses to those memories. Each one of us has lived through emotionally hard and trying times. And to be honest, some people have had more than their fair share. However, our brains need not be chained to memories keeping us a prisoner to past circumstances.

Be proactive with your emotional health

Here’s an example of how a family friend decided that a sad situation wouldn’t become an “emotional hotspot” for her. My friend’s sister fell ill with cancer. After becoming apparent her sister was terminal, my friend took her into her home to care for her. As you can imagine, the family endured months of emotional turmoil until she eventually passed away.

Thanksgiving was going to be the first holiday without the sister. She knew it would be hard on the family to celebrate it in the same living room where their loved one had just died weeks before. Therefore, she rented a place that provided space to cook a meal, play games, and go on a hayride. She had determined to start a new tradition. By allowing the family to continue to share memories and laugh with each other, they were also making new memories, helping them all cope with the loss. That was over ten years ago, and this Thanksgiving, their “new” tradition continues. Something born out of sorrow has now become a special time for their family.

Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Working with a coach can be beneficial in helping you recognize how your changes in emotions might be affected by personal, cultural, and environmental changes throughout the year. In addition, a coach can help you discover the techniques needed to manage those moods and deal with them successfully. A negative mindset need not be set in stone.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or make an appointment online. Together, we can work on which strategies will work best for you to manage your emotions so you can enjoy any season that is at hand.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Nix The Negativity For A More Positive Position

Smiling woman holding smiling face balloon

Would you say that your thinking is more negative or positive? Well, if you said negative, you’re not alone. Not that there aren’t any positive people out there. Because there are, but for the most part, our brains have a negativity bias. They naturally tend to zero in on the negative more than the positive. 

For example, You might have positive experiences like your boss praising you frequently for your work. Still, if he expresses concern over a particular area of your job performance, you can’t stop thinking about it. Or, you might have insults stuck in your brain somebody slung your way decades ago.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” Wow, isn’t that the truth! I believe that you could also apply that quote to mean that if you are always looking for the bad in every situation, you will find it. So why not flip the phrase into “If you look for the good in people or life situations, you will surely find it.”

TURNING NEGATIVE THINKING INTO POSITIVE THINKING

Positive thinking boils down to being able to acknowledge both negative and positive events but choosing to focus on the positive aspects rather than the negative ones. It is not avoiding or ignoring an adverse event but dealing with it by allowing the appropriate amount of time for the negative emotions to surface and then moving on from it by focusing on the positive.

Even though the process is simple, it does take time and practice to create new habits. So let’s look at some ways to think and behave more positively and optimistically:

 ▪ Acknowledge what areas need to change. What areas of your life do you typically have negative thoughts about? Maybe it’s family, a relationship, a work environment, or even your daily commute to work. Whatever it is, start small and focus on one area of your life that you can start approaching more positively.

▪ Check in with yourself. Throughout the day, take a moment and evaluate how you have been thinking and acting. If you find that your behavior has been primarily negative, change course and put a positive spin on it.

▪ Surround yourself with positive people. Spend time with people who inspire you to be a better person. Look for people who will be supportive and make you feel good. Negative people can sap the energy right out of you and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.

▪ Practice positive self-talk. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t talk to yourself in a way you wouldn’t talk to someone else. When a negative thought about yourself comes into your mind, be reasonable with yourself and respond with affirmations about what is good about you.

▪ Look for the humor. It’s okay to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Look for the funny in everyday situations. When you can laugh at life, you will feel less stressed.

▪ Live a healthy lifestyle. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. Find time to exercise at least three times a week. Exercise is proven to affect your mood and reduce stress positively. It is also helpful to learn techniques that manage stress.

PRACTICE POSITIVE THINKING EVERY DAY

I like to say just a few essential words about practicing positive self-talk as it relates to positive thinking. And that is, positive thinking often starts with positive self-talk. Self-talk is that constant chatter in your head that never stops. It is automatic thoughts that can be positive or negative coming from logic and reason or misconceptions stemming from a lack of or wrong information.

If the majority of your thoughts running through your head are mostly positive, you are probably an optimist (someone who practices positive thinking). That’s great! You can be an example and inspiration to others who aren’t, so keep it up! 

On the other hand, if the thoughts running through your head are mostly negative, you more than likely are a pessimist and would benefit from the suggestions listed above to become more positive. 

By practicing positive self-talk daily your inner voice will eventually contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance, which will probably help you become less critical of the world around you.

In June, I wrote a blog titled 5 Steps To Overcome Harmful Self-Criticism”. It provided information about self-criticism that you might find helpful. Or, if you have read it and are still struggling with critical self-talk, maybe rereading it would benefit you as a refresher course. We all need reminders at times.

Filling your head with more positive thoughts can make a big difference in how you see AND react to things in life. You can better handle everyday stress more constructively when your state of mind is generally optimistic. And we all know how stress can play havoc with our health. So, it is not surprising why researchers believe that having the ability to think more positively may contribute to the widely observed health benefits.

“Choose to be optimistic; it feels better.” — Dalai Lama

In closing, I would like to give you an exercise that can help you on the way to becoming more positive. At the end of your day, share with someone close to you one great moment that you experienced that day. If you can make this a habit, it will encourage you to be on the lookout for positive moments throughout the day. This exercise is also a great way to increase feelings of gratitude for even the simple things in your life. Things that you might not even realize that you’ve been overlooking.

Also, while writing this blog, a specific song kept coming to my mind. It’s an oldy but still a classic. It’s called Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive.” Give it a listen and let the words get into your brain. And when your thoughts want to turn in a negative direction, hopefully, the words will return to you, and you can turn the negative into positive.

If you want to develop a more positive view, working with a coach can be very helpful. A coach can help you explore and walk through various techniques to help you see the bright side of things more easily.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today.

I’m looking forward to your call.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

5 Steps To Overcome Harmful Self-Criticism

Woman smiling in a mirror not letting harmful self-criticism get in the way of her success.

Could self-criticism be holding you back from leading a meaningful and fulfilled life? Is it derailing your success in the pursuit of your goals?

For many of us, self-criticism is just the way we talk to ourselves. Our inner dialogue goes something like this: “I can’t do anything right.” “I look horrible.” “I’m such an idiot!” “What’s wrong with me?”

How would you answer if I were to ask, “What does it mean to be kind to yourself?” Would you say, “I’d buy myself something expensive, or I’d go on a long trip somewhere exotic?” Or perhaps I’d hang a sign in my kitchen saying, “Out of order until further notice,” and head to the beach with a book all by myself. Oh — the possibilities are endless, aren’t they?

But, I wonder if anybody answered with “I would talk nicer to myself” or “I would look for the good in me and not just the bad.” 

Be Kinder To Yourself

Often, and probably too often, we are our own harshest critics. If we treated our friends like we treat ourselves, we probably wouldn’t have any. 

Case in point, after two friends recently attended a wedding, a curious thing happened while discussing some pictures posted on social media. What one friend saw in the photos was her and her friend smiling, laughing, dancing, and enjoying themselves at the beautiful event. However, the other friend saw a long list of what she perceived was wrong with herself. For example, she thought her arms were too fat, and her hair wasn’t right, she hadn’t said the right things, etc.

The ironic thing is, she did have a wonderful time at the wedding. But while looking at the pictures, she didn’t focus on how happy her friend was that she had been there or even the great time she had. Instead, all she could zero in on was what she perceived to be wrong with herself.

Effects of harmful self-criticism

Unfortunately, people mistakenly think such self-critical statements safeguard them against mistakes, laziness, and complacency. Or they will keep them in line and ensure they achieve their goals. However, the opposite actually happens. 

It can drain their energy and confidence and paralyze progress. Destructive self-criticism triggers feelings such as guilt, shame, anger, sadness, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment, and hopelessness. 

Whether being overly critical of how they look or because of something they did, people who rebuke themselves are more likely to become depressed, anxious, and lonely. 

Is all self-criticism bad?

I say absolutely not, for we all benefit from constructive self-criticism from time to time. 

Why? Because it’s vital for our growth and development and, ultimately, our success. If self-criticism is used correctly, it can be a helpful tool for pointing out problematic behaviors. The kind of behaviors that could be standing in the way of us achieving our goals. If misused, it can have a damaging effect on our self-worth and confidence.

When we can objectively observe the behaviors we don’t like, we can take the necessary steps needed to change that undesired behavior so we can become the best version of ourselves.

So let’s look at how you can practice self-criticism without undermining your self-worth and confidence. 

5 Steps to overcome harmful self-criticism

Millions of us find ourselves battling self-criticism that is hard to escape. But, the good news is that you CAN defeat harmful self-criticism and challenge that voice that puts you down. Below are five steps that will help you answer that voice.

  1. REPLACE SELF-CRITICISM WITH SELF-CORRECTION. Instead of criticizing yourself, thinking it will correct your mistake and motivate you to do better (which it will not), look for a solution, and change your behavior.
  2. ACKNOWLEDGE THE POSITIVES. No one needs help seeing the negatives, and even if some of the negatives are true, why not consider the positives also?
  3. BE AS KIND TO YOURSELF AS YOU ARE TO OTHERS.  Recognize it as a double standard when you are harsher on yourself than you are with someone else. Just like you need your friends on your side, you need yourself to be in your corner as well.
  4. LET YOURSELF BE HUMAN. If you make a mistake, don’t think you look perfect, treat someone wrongly, etc. Don’t spend hours criticizing yourself. We ALL make mistakes and have flaws and defects. Just like we accept and love the people we know who make mistakes and have imperfections, accept and love yourself. At times, we all have some unlovable, quirky, and somewhat bad qualities. We can recognize our shortcomings without digging a hole and climbing into them. You can rise above your self-critic and say, “YES, I am human. Deal with it!”  
  5. FOCUS ON YOUR GOALS, NOT ON YOUR SELF-CRITIC. Sometimes no matter what you do, that loud voice will still be yapping away, telling you something negative. So give it a wave and say, “Yes, I hear you, but I am going to get on with my life doing what I have to do.” 

“Being self-critical is good; being self-hating is destructive. There’s a very fine line there somewhere, and I walk it carefully.” — Daniel Radcliffe 

Answering your self-critic is the best way to fight for your self-esteem. It would be best if you had yourself on your side. You have to be willing to give yourself credit for what you do that is right and improve what is wrong. In other words – Be Kinder To Yourself! 

Changing the way you respond to your self-critical voice will not occur overnight. So be patient with yourself. Thinking style is a habit, but with time and practice, you CAN change that habit into more of a healthy balance.

Working with a coach can be very helpful if you want to explore additional strategies to cope with being too self-critical. A coach can walk you through various techniques that can help you learn how to be self-critical in a healthy way to increase your overall success in pursuing your goals

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I’m looking forward to your call.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Don’t Overlook Nature To Ease Anxiety And Depression

Woman outside using nature to ease her anxiety and depression.

Back in March, when old man winter was stubbornly refusing to leave, I wrote a blog about dealing with “the winter blues.” And now that spring has finally sprung, I’m a little curious. Did “the blues” fade away, or are you perplexed to find they still hang on? Or maybe, feeling blue was never your issue. Perhaps you lean the other way and deal with feeling stressed out, anxious, and overwhelmed. Either way, I have something you might find interesting. And that is, spending time in nature has been found to help with anxiety and depression.

Indoor generation

Let me ask you a question. How much time do you spend outdoors? If you are like most adults, it’s often limited. However, according to researchers, you might be surprised to know that the average American spends as much as 90% of their life indoors.

People don’t realize just how much time they spend indoors. With modern technology, we can work from home, shop online, do our walking on a treadmill in front of a tv, and communicate with our friends. I mean, good grief, you don’t even have to leave your house to get groceries nowadays.

Get Outside

So, with that being said. Let’s say you are dealing with anxiety or depression. What can you do about it? Here’s where spending time in nature comes into play. I want to introduce you to a term you probably haven’t heard before. And that is “Ecotherapy.” 

Have you ever heard the term “Ecotherapy?” It actually goes by a couple of different names but boiled down; it basically means — contact with nature. So it is a name given to a wide range of treatment programs that aim to improve your mental and physical wellbeing through outdoor activities in nature. And here’s the best part — you don’t have to pay for it, it’s free! And you can access it anytime! 

Feel Better

Ecotherapy can make a significant difference in how you feel. For example, it can help you feel more grounded, provide an alternative perspective on life, and allow your mind and body to relax. It can:

  • lessen feelings of anxiety and stress
  • reduce depression
  • decrease anger
  • improve your mood and self-esteem
  • increase your emotional resilience

One technique called “green space therapy” or “green time” involves spending time in areas with grass and trees, such as a park, yard, soccer field, or farm. Outdoor activities could include walking, backpacking, gardening, playing games, sports, or even tackling a backyard project.

I have even found that taking my work outside sometimes can make a big difference. I can sit at a desk or table and look out the window and see nature all around, but when I go outside, I can feel nature. 

And somehow, it can lift my mood. Especially now that spring has popped, being in the yard or park watching the squirrels chase each other, hearing the birds chirp, and watching the bees and butterflies flit from flower to flower,  somehow makes me feel more peaceful and contented inside. 

And who can deny the calming effects of listening to the wind rustling through the trees? Or burying your toes in warm beach sand and listening to the waves breaking on the shore? (I know, there’s a sappy song in there somewhere!)

Nurture Yourself Through Nature

Depression can make you feel like you are in a dark place. And I don’t want to make light of it and imply that just going outside will take it away. However, what can it hurt to try and maybe help yourself in the midst of it? Someone expressed using ecotherapy this way, “I do ecotherapy to get sunlight onto my skin and into my mind. It shines light through the dark fog of depression.”

I thought that was awesome! It’s like the solar lights that you put in your yard, and all day, it soaks in the sunshine (to power up) and then takes that energy to shine through the darkness of night.

A study done by researchers at the University of Essex found that, of a group of people suffering from depression, 90 percent felt a higher level of self-esteem after a walk through a park in the country, and almost three-quarters felt less depressed. Another survey by the same research team found that 94% of people with mental illnesses believed that contact with nature put them in a more positive mood.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature-the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” — Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

I encourage you to discover (or rediscover) the therapeutic effect nature offers. Exercising, playing, working, gardening, backyard projects, swimming, etc. In truth, the opportunities are endless out there. You just have to open the door and walk through it.

Working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop coping skills to help manage unhealthy emotions. Therefore, I’d love to hear from you if you suspect those emotions are hindering your success personally or even in the workplace.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. So I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And until we meet, if you’re able, step out into nature to energize your mind and body.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.

Are Your Perceptions Hindering Your Relationships?

Co-workers having a disagreement because of their perceptions.

Have you ever had a situation where only after some time had passed did you discover that someone had been upset with you? And when you finally found out, you were completely dumbfounded? You had no clue they were upset at the time. But later, something upended their cart, and all the pent-up emotions started gushing forth. Then, they start recalling some event in the past where you hurt them, and the details of their story do not line up with your recollection of the same event.

You don’t know whether to tell them you’re sorry or whether to tell them they’re completely nuts! You wonder how they have such a different memory of the event than you do. In fact, you recollect that they did something to hurt your feelings.

Sound familiar? I thought so. It happens all the time in personal, social, or work-related relationships. Each person carrying around hurt feelings about what the other person said or did to them. The interesting thing is, if there were a third party involved, they more than likely would have a somewhat different version altogether.

PERCEPTIONS

So why does this happen? It is called “Perceptions.” We all have them. But what creates them? Perception is individual. It is how you think about or understand someone or something through the senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell). Heredity, culture, needs, peer group, interests, and expectations all influence our perceptions.

Not to get too deep, but perception is how we interpret the information we sense. The way we interpret the world in many ways dictates our sense of reality. Even if our senses are sharp, we will not understand the information we sense if our perception is skewed.

Let me give you an example. You disagree with a friend one day, and it’s not the first disagreement you and she have had. However, you decide to take the high road and apologize. And because in today’s world, everyone texts back and forth, you text her the following day and say, “You are sorry.” Expecting a response from her in short order, you’re surprised not to hear back from her. Yet, by evening, you still have not heard from her. What do you think your perception of this situation would be? It probably depends on your perception of that person and the relationship.

First scenario — You believe your friendship is in good standing. Therefore, you wait it out and give that person the benefit of the doubt, thinking they must have a good reason for not getting back to you yet.

Second scenario — You believe the relationship is on rocky ground. Hence, you start imagining that she is intentionally ignoring you, causing you to stew about it all day. You start thinking about other things you’ve experienced with this person. You then feed on your perceptions of this person, even creating a whole new argument in your mind with this person.

What is Reality?

Reality is the actual state of things. It’s how things are, whether we perceive them to be as such or not. Things in themselves are basically neutral. WE are the ones who supply the perceptions and our beliefs about them. Reality supersedes both our expectations and assumptions. How OUR reality appears to us says a lot about our perceptions.

So let’s go back to the two scenarios above. The reality of the delayed answer back from the friend is that she fell ill during the night and took some medicine to help her sleep. She had put her phone on silent so as not to be disturbed. She still didn’t feel well the next day, and because she didn’t feel well enough to call anyone, she forgot that her phone was on silent. It didn’t occur to her that anyone was trying to get a hold of her.

So if you put yourself in the first scenario, you go about your day as usual. You don’t even give it a second thought about why your friend has not answered you back. However, if you put yourself in the second scenario, you spend the whole day in turmoil. You probably work yourself right up into an unnecessary dither by incorrectly interpreting her delayed answer as a deliberate action on her part. Because of your already negative perception of your friend and relationship, the delayed response confirms your beliefs even though they are wrong.

Don’t confuse perception with reality

Can you see how your perceptions can influence your relationships? We get into trouble when we confuse perception with reality — we mistake how we understand something for the way that they really are. So even though our thoughts and feelings seem real to us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are true.

Unfortunately, we do not often realize how our perceptions can cloud reality. They seem like the same to us. Yet, our perception is essential to recognize because it is the driving force behind our reactions to people and events in our lives.

It’s hard to change our perceptions because we see and feel things from our perspective and have difficulty seeing from another person’s perspective. Something that sticks in my mind is I remember popping over to my neighbor’s house one day, and as I was talking with her, I happened to look out her window. I stopped talking to her suddenly because I was so caught off guard to see my house from across the street. My house looked so different to me from that angle, and I remember thinking, “Oh wow, this is what my house looks like from over here; this is how she sees my house.”

We would do well if we could keep that analogy in our minds when relating with others. Depending on where you stand, you will see some things a certain way or see something that somebody else might not, and vice versa. So, knowing that we can change our perspective stands to reason that the perception can change along with it. Thus, perception is far from a fixed truth.

“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” – Wayne W. Dyer

If you suspect you might have formed some unhealthy perceptions in your life that are causing you to struggle with relationships and it is even hindering your success in the workplace, working with a coach is a great way to learn some techniques that can help you. I’d love to hear from you. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple adjustment of your thoughts and behavior to change a perception problem. If you want some personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together we can discover which strategy is likely to work best for you to work toward finding the peace of reality and not letting the wrong kind of perceptions stand in your way of success.

This article originally appeared at Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan

How To “Spring” Out Of The Winter Blues

Women with the winter blues staring outside her window.

Grumpy, dreary, tired, depressed, unfocused, listless. No, these are not the names of Snow White’s new companions. Instead, they are emotions you might be experiencing as you deal with the winter blues because of the time of year.

It’s been a long winter (as always), so I thought it might be good to check in and see how everyone was doing and encourage you that we ARE getting nearer to turning the corner.

I’ll confess, I am dying for spring to come. At the beginning of winter, I just hunker down and resign myself to the fact that I have to get through the coming dark and colder months. However, I’m usually still riding on somewhat of a high from all the fun and festivities of the holidays. So I start out by saying, “All right, I can do this.” But by the time March rolls around, I’ve had MORE than enough, and my resignation turns into irritation. At the very least, I’m tired of having my car look like a giant salt lick and having to deal with the dirty and slushy snow. 

Beating the winter blues 

You have to make up your mind that you are going to beat the winter blues. If you can hold on just a little longer, that pinprick of light at the end of this cold tunnel will continue to get bigger and bigger. And soon, you will finally be into full-blown spring. Even as I’m writing this, we are just over a week away from “springing” ahead with Daylight Savings Time by turning our clocks forward. YES, one more hour of precious daylight! 

Focus on something to look forward to

Looking ahead and focusing on something pleasant to look forward to is a great way to lift your spirits.  As Michiganders, we, of all people, need to put the grey skies and cold weather behind us in anticipation of spring and the warmer months beyond. We eagerly await those crocuses and tulips poking through the ground and the robins making their nests. We can hardly wait to be  sitting out at Lake Michigan, sinking our toes in that warm sand as we look out over that beautiful blue water as sailboats float along. Ahh, doesn’t that sound lovely? So take a moment right now and just think spring and the new beginnings it will bring. 

Get out in the fresh air

Break out of the winter blues funk, and don’t let the weather keep you indoors with nothing to do but watch TV day after day mindlessly chowing down on unhealthy food. Instead, get outside as much as you can. I think (if we can believe the weather forecasters) we probably have put the most frigid weather behind us. Even if it is cold, bundle up and go for a walk, especially if it’s sunny. Trust me; you WILL feel more energetic. 

Keep active 

Look for something new to do. Grab a friend and try a Yoga class, pick up a hobby, start planning your garden, or what do you think about this? Go roller skating, yes, I said roller skating. I have some friends who take their whole family, grandkids, and all every week, and they are in their 50’s. The main thing is to do something.

Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder?

For us Michiganders, the winter blues can be quite common as we deal with winter’s colder and darker days. But sometimes, you can feel so blue that you just can’t feel any excitement or find any motivation to break the cycle you are in. If so, that sounds more like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that can appear during the fall and winter months. It can come on gradually or all at once but usually fade away as the warmer months approach. However, you needn’t let it affect your ability to enjoy life right now because there are many ways of overcoming both.

“Bleak sky, winter bites, harsh winds, unforgiving rain… Well, the weather isn’t just going to change, but you can find your own sunshine. Chase your happiness.”  ― Mystqx Skye

Working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop coping skills that can help manage unhealthy emotions. Therefore, I’d love to hear from you if you suspect those emotions are hindering your success personally or even in the workplace.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. So I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I believe you can rise above this and shake off the heaviness to live life from a more happy and balanced perspective.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.

7 Tips To Cope With Stressful Life Transitions

Smiling woman surrounded by her family helping her to cope with stressful life transitions.

And just like that, here we are at the beginning of a new year — again. The older I get, the faster it seems a new year rolls around. Sometimes I feel nostalgic when I have to say goodbye to a particular year, but not this past year. Nope, I was more than ready to drop kick 2021 to the curb. For indeed, the past year dropped some stressful life transitions on my doorstep, and I have a hunch that I am not alone. Is anybody with me?

Life transitions

Life is full of changes. And stressful life transitions usually mean a shift or an adjustment that impacts your lifestyle. Now you only have to glance back at the last two years to see how much our lifestyles have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And believe me, I don’t particularly appreciate giving it any more press than it already gets. But this is where we are. And like they say, “We’re all in this together.” UGH! Nevertheless, the pandemic and the lifestyle changes have brought about much anxiety.

Life transitions are nothing new

Truthfully, we as humans have dealt with stressful life transitions before the pandemic. And we will certainly walk through them again long after this pandemic dies down.

So putting aside the changes the pandemic has brought, let’s look at other transitions. They can be as simple as leaving work and driving home or preparing your kiddos for bed at night. Or, they can be exciting, such as getting married or starting a new career.

Others, of course, can be more challenging such as moving to another state, dealing with a severe illness, or trying to figure out how to live with the loss of a loved one.

Whether joyful or sad, planned or unplanned, transitions can be stressful and stir up mixed emotions. This then gives rise to the question of how can we cope with stressful life transitions successfully?

Tips for dealing with life’s transitions

1. Accept that change is inevitable 

However, keep in mind it’s a normal part of life. Transitions also have positive aspects that allow us to grow and learn, leaving us stronger, more confident, and better prepared for the next curveball in life.

2. Whenever possible, prepare for your transition

Sometimes you know ahead of time there is going to be a transition. In that case, planning ahead can help make the experience a little smoother. Set some goals of what you want this new phase of life to look like. Then decide how you can achieve those goals.

3. Expect to feel uncomfortable

Changes from stressful life transitions can be be confusing, and perplexing. So don’t be surprised if you feel vulnerable and anxious. But not to worry, these feelings are all a part of the process and eventually will pass.

4. Rely on your support system. 

Don’t go it alone. This is the time when you really need the support of friends and family members. They know you the best and will be able to encourage you without judging and allow you to express your true feelings.

5. Take it one step at a time

It can be overwhelming to feel like your life is in disarray. To regain a sense of control, find one small thing you can manage right away. Then, working out from there, break everything down into small, clear steps. Write them down, and one by one, cross off each step as you complete it.

6. Keep some consistency

Significant life transitions can make life feel topsy-turvy. Whenever you can, try to keep as much of your daily routine consistent as you can. Even as you walk through a transition, it helps establish a routine to help you adjust and provide a sense of consistency.

7. Give yourself time, care, and grace

As I’ve said before, transitions can be stressful, even in happy times. Sometimes you might not feel up to participating in your everyday activities. It’s okay. That’s why I say, give yourself some time. It takes time to adjust to your new situation. However, don’t neglect yourself in the meantime. Make an effort to take care of yourself every day by getting plenty of rest, eating well, and exercising. And it won’t hurt if you treat yourself to a fun or pampering activity occasionally while you manage this transition, either.

“Your life is a story of transition. You are always leaving one chapter behind while moving on to the next.” – Anonymous

Everyone experiences stressful life transitions. And most assuredly, some will be harder to navigate than others. But I believe using the above tips can help make the whole process easier. However, if you want to learn additional coping skills, working with a coach is a great way to do it. They can help you develop the skills and abilities you need to deal positively with whatever life puts in your path.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together, we can work on strategies to help you move forward through any transitions you may be going through right now as well as ones you may encounter in the future.

This article originally appeared at My Anxiety Link

Why Do I Feel Overwhelmed Being My Parent’s Caretaker?

Woman standing beside her son and elderly father asking herself, “Why do I feel overwhelmed being my parents caretaker?”


“Why do I feel so overwhelmed?” If you are a caretaker of aging parents, you’ve probably asked yourself and others that question more than once. And even if you have the most loving parents and you love them to pieces, let’s face it. Switching roles with your parents and becoming their caretaker can be exhausting and overwhelming.

Why do I feel so overwhelmed?

Each individual’s experience will be different, but some common themes affect everyone. Here are just a few:

It’s emotional

Watching your parent, who was once sharp, healthy, and robust, decline and become less able to care for themselves is very hard to watch. It raises the realization that they will not live forever to the forefront of your mind.

Watching a parent age also confronts you with the possibility of what might happen to you as you age. It can be scary to think,  “One day, that could be me.” 

It’s time-consuming

Needs such as grocery shopping, helping with bills, doctor visits, and the like take time away from your family — spouses, children, etc. And when they get less of your time and attention, it can cause stress in the family.

It can cause conflicts within the family

Suppose there are brothers and sisters involved (or not involved) in making the caregiving decisions. In that case, it can turn into random battles. Some family members can be front and center to dole out advice but then seem to disappear when requested or needed help.

You end up doing things you never imagined

It’s one thing to go to the store to pick up a few things for your parent, but it raises to a whole new level when they require help with dressing, bathing, or bathroom needs. This role of caregiving becomes a whole lot more stressful.

You’re laden with guilt

More than likely, you started out being understanding and caring for your parent. However, as time goes on and the level of care increases, feelings of resentment and possibly anger start to creep in. And with that, feelings of guilt set in.

You remind yourself how many sacrifices your parent made on your behalf, but you still can’t rise above your feelings.

You feel like you’re caught in the middle

Sometimes caring for a parent become necessary when you’re in your thirties, forties, and even fifties. When this occurs, it means being responsible for bringing up your children and caring for your aging parents at the same time. Hence, the feeling of being caught in the middle. The term for this is the Sandwich Generation, and individuals who are a part of it experience a great deal of stress. 

What can I do when I feel overwhelmed?

Caring for a parent can be an all-consuming and demanding job. Below are some tips to help you feel more in control and hopefully reduce any stress in the future.

Ask for and accept help from friends and family

By all means, if your family is offering to help, take them up on it!

But if your family does not jump in to help, you might have to ask them to help and then delegate some day-to-day responsibilities to them.

Or maybe ask for a friend if they would be willing to step in to give you some much-needed rest periodically.

Hire a parent sitter or professional help

I had a friend who used this tip when she had a parent living with her. She knew she had to have breaks to protect her sanity. So, she found reliable people who could sit with her parent providing her the opportunity to get some things done.

Or possibly, hire a professional caregiver. Here’s a link to a list of resources available.

Find a safe place to vent

Whether you become your parent’s caregiver gradually or suddenly because of a crisis, you know that many emotions rose to the surface— some right away while others took a while. Just know that all your good and bad feelings are normal, valid, and meaningful.

And like I said earlier, you might love your parent, but after a while the responsibility takes its toll. When you admit to your feelings, you can then look for productive ways to express and deal with them.

To help with this, look for safe places to share your feelings beyond other family members and friends. For example, try online private groups to find support from other caregivers.

Have freezer meals on hand

The friend I mentioned earlier found it overwhelming to provide three meals a day for her loved one. She lamented it was one thing when she was younger and in the habit of providing meals for her growing family. Yet, once she and her husband had become empty nesters, it was easier to just get something to eat on the fly many days. So to provide three square meals proved exasperating at times.

She found it helpful to have freezer meals on hand. So when she would make a meal, she tried to make extra to put some in the freezer for days she didn’t feel like cooking

Make it a priority to make time for yourself

Depending on how much care your loved one needs, it can be quite overwhelming not to have time and space to yourself. In my friend’s case, her mom wanted to be smack dab in the middle of whatever was going on. 

This loss of privacy was too much for her, so she set some boundaries in place. For example, she would get her mother up and ready for the day an hour and a half after waking up herself. Thereby giving her an opportunity for some quiet time and morning coffee. 

A nighttime routine of getting her mother settled in her room at a reasonable time each night left her time to relax with her husband before retiring for the night.

“There are four kinds of people in the world: People who have been caregivers, people who are caregivers now, people who will become caregivers in the future, and people who are going to need a caregiver.” — Unknown

All in all, it truly takes a plan and patience to figure out what works best for you and your loved one. Caregiving can be a blessing, but it is also challenging. These are just a few things you can do to help navigate through some of those challenges with less stress. If you want to learn some stress-reducing techniques that can help while taking care of your parent, working with a coach can be very beneficial to you.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together we will work toward a better understanding of your relationship with your parents to promote a happy, healthy, and balanced relationship with less stress.

This article originally appeared at My Anxiety Link