Anxious? Didn’t sleep well last night? Take a minute to find your center.


For one minute, be in this place.

Hear the water trickling and cascading down the rocks. Smell the moss and damp earth. Let your gaze follow the beams on light from tree canopy to the pool below. Breathe in slowly and gently, pause. Exhale easily and slowly, pause. Repeat. Now smile.

Turn Something Dreaded Into Something Fun & See A Difference

My friend Mac posted this video from on my Facebook wall. Thank you, Mac!

Hmmmm… I wonder how can I apply the fun theory to encourage people to seek help when they need it and not think of it as The Dreaded Therapy?


5 Tips If You Love Someone Who Has a Mental Illness

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in every four adults – approximately 57.7 million Americans – experience a mental health disorder in a given year. One in four, and that’s just the US! And for every person in the world diagnosed with a mental disorder there is at least one, probably more, trying to help, cope and support that person any way they know how.

Mental illness is often a family issue. Parents, siblings, spouses and extended family provide housing, care and support, emotional and financial, sometimes to the point of  becoming proverbial case managers. It’s hard enough when the chronic illness is something everyone recognizes, like diabetes. It’s a whole other thing when the disease is a mental illness which is ripe for misunderstanding, misinformation and stigma.

By helping yourself you will help your loved one better. Care givers often have a hard time with this concept. Here are a few tips:

1) Be informed.  Go to the library or do a Google search to learn more about whatever diagnosis your loved one has. Be judicious, however. Go to reliable websites like Psych Central, the Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Mental Health or WebMD. Remember that mental illness falls along a continuum of severity. One person’s depression, bipolar or borderline personality disorder may be quite different from another’s.

2) Join supportive organizations. Before you reject the idea of support groups because you are “not a joiner” or you “can’t relate to those people” go to at least two meetings. I’d bet my favorite pair of shoes that you will be surprised who is there and what you get from them. Mental illness and addictions touch people everywhere from all walks of life.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness: NAMI, provides thousands of families with much needed support. NAMI’s mission statement says: From its inception in 1979, NAMI has been dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. They have a terrific website and local meetings.

Al-Anon also has a great tradition of fellowship and comfort. Al-Anon and Alateen are a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope in order to solve their common problems. There are meetings everywhere, at all times of the day and night, all around the world.

3) Keep healthy boundaries. Boundaries are hard to maintain when you love someone with a mental illness, but it is crucial. Take time out for yourself. Nurture yourself by exercising, keeping involved in activities that bring you pleasure, getting respite and taking a trip. Such actions are not self-indulgent; they are your prescription for good health and resiliency like food, water and air.

4) Do not work harder than your loved one. It is their job to do what they can to get well. You cannot make them well. You cannot do their therapy homework. You cannot force them to go to sessions, groups or meetings. As much as you wish you could, you cannot take their medication for them.

Two good books to help you let go, even as you maintain a relationship with the person with mental illness, are Co-dependent No More by Melody Beattie and Stop Walking On Eggshells by Mason and Kreger.  It doesn’t matter whether or not your mentally ill loved is an addict or a borderline personality disorder. The insight and advice in these books is reassuring and practical and transcends diagnosis.

5) Find a therapist for yourself. Caregivers often get depressed themselves and could use a professional’s eyes and ears to help them gain perspective again. Please do not wait until you are down for the count before you give yourself this valuable gift.

Please share any other tips you have found helpful below in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Theoro via Flickr

When Asked, Don’t Panic: Just Say “I’ll think about it.” Then say No.

Last week I was asked to serve on the board of the local chapter of the psychological association as president-elect. They were in a bind because the president-elect they thought they had couldn’t finish her term. I rather liked being called in to be the pinch hitter. Sort of like the runner up to Miss America. But before I accepted the position I did some thinking. *Dissolve to flash back*

Ten years ago I picked up the phone in my kitchen. The president of the psychological association at the time was a friend of mine. She asked if I would take the same post. Over the phone she said it wasn’t a big deal; you reside over some meetings, facilitate projects, blah blah blah. The feeling I had as I listened to her wasn’t honor or pride. It was pure panic. My children were little, my parents were living with me, my husband was going through a rough time at work, I had a chronic illness, I had a job… Maybe this sounds familiar?

I could not possibly do one more thing without dissolving into a tiny pile of ashes and blowing away. And yet I thought about it!

Finally I did the right thing and turned down the position. I told my friend I would serve as president some day but not now. What I remember was the guilt I felt saying No. Can you believe it? I am no martyr, believe me, so what the heck?!

*Dissolve to further flash back* Fifteen years ago my family enjoyed a neighborhood block party. Picture this: A lovely autumn day, the leaves bright oranges, yellows and reds falling like snow flakes. The kids ride their decorated bikes, play in the bouncy house and eat homemade cookies while parents smile and drink beer.

The supermom who always pulled the block party together got everyone’s attention. She announced that this was her last year as block party coordinator. She decided the best way to find the next coordinator was to have a raffle! She took it upon herself to throw everyone’s (meaning of course all the women’s) names in a hat for a drawing. Isn’t this fun?

Oh. My. God. Panic! Somehow I knew my name was going to be called. I was going to be embarrassed in front of the entire neighborhood when I said No. And that’s exactly what happened. It was awful. Looking back, why didn’t I get mad? I mean, the nerve of this woman, right? But no, instead I felt the familiar guilt that I was letting my neighborhood down because I couldn’t do it all. Somehow I managed to say No although I apologized a LOT as I said it.

*Flash forward to the present.* A few days ago I accepted the president-elect position calmly and confidently. Next year I will be a new empty nester in need of a diversion. My parents passed away many years ago, my husband and I both have work that is hard but fulfilling. The time is right.

There was an article in the Sunday paper about Hillary Clinton being passionate about taking an entire year off. Imagine having days and days before you without responsibility or obligation, guilt free! After decades of service you can watch all the episodes of ‘Love It or List It!’ you want (apparently a Hillary favorite) and sleep until Noon.

We don’t all have to be a former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State to deserve a sabbatical. Every one of us who ever raised a child, cared for elderly parents, nursed our own health, sustained a job, served as a community volunteer, put dinner on the table, did our bit as a good partner – all of us deserve our time to refresh.

So no more guilt when you need to say No! Listen to your inner voice. If it sounds at all stressed or panicked when someone asks you to do “one more thing” say No first and ask questions later. Or at the very least say a polite “I’ll think about it.”

Then say No.

If that’s too hard for you then give me a call and we’ll learn to say No together.

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