Holidays: Great or Grief?

Holiday time can be some of the most emotionally challenging times of all. Depending on your current life circumstances, this could be an extraordinarily happy time celebrating good news or the opposite. Loss of a loved one changes everything around the holidays. Rituals, traditions, preparations, social connections take on entirely new dimensions. These changes can be quite challenging. There are ways to manage the holidays while honoring your loss or grief and staying engaged.
Rather than avoiding the feelings of grief, lean into them. It is not the grief you want to avoid; it is the pain. Grief is the way out of the pain. Grief is our internal feelings and mourning is our external expressions.

As difficult as it might be, find social support to help support you through the holiday season. Consider creating new traditions, rituals and experiences that honor you and your loss. 

Do’s and Don'ts
·      Do be gentle with yourself and protect yourself.
·      Don’t do more than you want, and don’t do anything that does not serve your soul and your loss.
·      Do allow time for the feelings.
·      Don’t keep feelings bottled up. If you have 500 tears to cry don’t stop at 250.
·      Do allow others to help. We all need help at certain times in our lives.
·      Don’t ask if you can help or should help a friend in grief. Just help. Find ways; invite them to group events or just out for coffee.
·      Do, in grief, pay extra attention to the children. Children are too often the forgotten grievers.

Tips: 
  1. Acknowledge that the holidays will be different and they will be tough.
  2. Decide which traditions you want to keep.
  3. Decide which traditions you want to change.
  4.  Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one.
  5. Decide where you want to spend the holidays – you may want to switch up the location, or it may be of comfort to keep it the same.  Either way, make a conscious decision about location.
  6. Plan ahead and communicate with the people you will spend the holiday with in advance, to make sure everyone is in agreement about traditions and plans.
  7. Remember that not everyone will be grieving the same way you are grieving.
  8. Remember that the way others will want to spend the holiday may not match how you want to spend the holiday.
  9. Put out a ‘memory stocking’, ‘memory box’, or other special place where you and others can write down memories you treasure.  Pick a time to read them together.
  10. Light a candle in your home in memory of the person you’ve lost.
  11. Include one of your loved one’s favorite dishes in your holiday meal.
  12. Be honest. Tell people what you DO want to do for the holidays and what you DON’T want to do.

 This is a time to discover how to make these holidays honest, genuine and purposeful.  You can and will get through the Holidays!!!! 

How to Start, Sell & Run an EAP

Next week, I am headed to Chicago next week for the EAPA World Conference. Marina London, LCSW and I will be presenting an 8-hour pre-conference training on creating a new line of business in your practice. This is a "hands on" experience to go over all of the essential elements of the scope and operation of an employee assistance program.  This is a great opportunity to create a new business opportunity.
This is the link to registration. EAPA World Conference

FEAR!!!!!!!!

How can you proceed in your life IF you are ruled by fear?The simple answer is, you can't. Fear will make your life small, then make it shrink to isolation. If you find yourself avoiding going out, trying new things, turning down invitations, it may be time to examine how and why your are holding yourself back from taking risks, adventure, socializing, and being proactive about giving your life purpose, meaning and fun. How do you start to face your fear?.........borrowing from Cheryl Sandberg, you have to "lean into your life." Her reference is women in the workplace and leadership, but all of these ideas apply to anyone holding themselves back. To sum up my notion about conquering fear, "the only way out of fear is through the fear."  Lean into the fear and you will find the barriers are easier to penetrate than you imagined you may have skills now to cope, manage and overcome those mental/emotional barriers. Fear can grow into anticipatory anxiety or even panic attacks if unchecked. Your fight or flight response (Amygdala) actually hijacks your limbic system causing a flood of stress hormones to flow and either paralyze you or cause you to want to escape.  
You may need to find support, a coach, or engage in psychotherapy to get in touch with and break the patterns or cycles that perpetuate the fear. The more you avoid taking on your fears, the stronger and more entrenched they become.  Many times I find once confronted, the fear of the fear has been so great, there is a complete shutdown. Examples of fear of driving, flying, speaking in public make you a prisoner. The brain can be helped with Cognitive Behavioral Techniques to change those patterns and create new calming, reassuring circuits that boost confidence, calm and competence in your own mind and world. 

Medication Assisted Treatment

Addiction to opioids kills 78 people a day in America, which has more than quadrupled since 1999. This drastic spike has demanded the attention of the mental health field, and resulted in new treatments. One in particular is gaining momentum...

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) combines the use of specific medications in combination with therapeutic services, ultimately resulting in a drug free life. Medications have been used widely in the past to overcome substance abuse, but not until recently has the field strongly positioned the emphasis on therapeutic services as well. It has evolved into a whole-patient approach.


These services empower the patient to break through addictions with the initial use of a suppressant. The prescribed medications, such as suboxone and methadone, curb cravings, and allow the patient to focus on the issues that led to substance abuse. This is particularly effective for opioid and heroin addiction, in which physical withdrawals are extreme, and especially those who are at risk for overdose. But the the modality been found effective in smoking and alcohol addiction as well. MAT confronts the physical dependence that addiction creates while also understanding the need to work through the psychological component of addiction. It's a blended; two-pronged approach.

Treatment centers around the country are adopting this method after research has shown its effectiveness. And it is spreading like wildfire. It is a hot topic for SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), IRETA (Institute for Research, Education, and Addiction), and The Association for Addiction Professionals. Stay tuned for updates from these organizations!

The "Imposter Syndrome"

Feelings of self-doubt can plague any of us. An internal negative dialogue can be debilitating. We may not feel worthy of our accomplishments or even devalue them because they don't meet our expectations. Of course, the expectations are for perfection!!!! Since no one can be perfect, we arrive at not feeling very good about ourselves, perhaps even a fake, imposter about to be found out as incompetent. This fear and negativity generates a lack of self-worth, poor self-esteem can threaten confidence and happiness, thus fueling our feeling like a fraud.
Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes first documented the Imposter Phenomenon. Their research documents how high achievement doesn't automatically translate or correlated to a deep sense of confidence. Many people fear being discovered as imposters which feeds a sense of doubt and fear. In fact, questions arise that dominate the negative self-talk with questions of "Do I deserve to be here?", "Do I really have what it takes to succeed?" Anxiety levels rise. Fear of being "discovered"  as less than competent or even a fraud can be a plague as you progress through the career ladder. What to do?
  1. Squelch the negative inner voice and replace it with positive and affirming self-talk.
  2. Don't fall into the "perfect trap." Being a perfectionist will cold your judgement and cause you to procrastinate and drive more negativity. Who can really be perfect anyway?
  3. Learn by taking risks to achieve your goals. Mistakes are opportunities to improve. Setbacks help you grow. Embrace them and then enjoy the journey.
  4. Doubts? Get some coaching or help to focus on what is really important to gain a new perspective.
  5. Focus.......stifle the inner critic and build an self-affirming. Validate yourself, focus on successes and what you do well.
  6. Validate, affirm and enjoy your accomplishments and successes. 
Confidence is knowing you can do something well. Self-esteem is "how you feel about what your are doing."  So, work on every project, relationship and effort to focus on doing your best, then confidence and self-esteem will emerge. Then, you won't feel like a fraud or imposter. 

Embrace Your Challenges & Choices

The photo to the right of this weight lifter at the Rio Olympics dramatically illustrates an important psychological principle. You must find a way to embrace your challenges and fears. Can you see and feel how this athletes loves for her sport makes her "one" with the experience? She "loves" the weights because she strives to make her competition a cooperative venture with the weights, not an adversarial one. How often do you avoid taking on a challenge, or act afraid of taking a test, trying something new, breaking out of your comfort zone? 
There are 3 routes you can take with any challenge in your life,
  1. You can resist, become perfectionistic, find the negatives of any situation, which only serves to make you an adversary to your challenge. Problems arise for many people when they feel performance is pressure rather than fun or exciting. Stress, fear, and anxiety about performance always negatively impacts achievement. 
  2. You can avoid and distract yourself with excuses & rationalizations and live in fear or,
  3. You can "take the call to adventure" (Joseph Campbell-Hero's Journey reference) to face your fears by leaning into them. Get prepared, get support, learn the skills, get coaching, find the best practices for your endeavor. 
If you have a fear of elevators, driving, heights, public speaking, taking tests, intimacy, or change, there is help and hope. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) provides skills, tools and techniques to assist you in overcoming these limitations. The best way out of fear is going through it. So, embrace the fear with a guide and teacher to partner with it. You can accomplish your goals and conquer those fears.

Video of a Smoker's Lung.......Yikes!!!!!

If you are a smoker or have family member that is currently a smoker, this video may change you forever. Having developed smoking cessation programs and run them in many corporations, worked as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society as Chairman their Tobacco and Health Committee for 16 years and heading the Great American Smokeout on several occasions, I feel qualified and committed to helping people quit smoking to save themselves from a the addiction of cigarettes. The video link below will take you to one of the more convincing and graphic ones that I have seen to help convince anyone on the harms of smoking. Although the adult rates of smoking have dropped in the US and Texas in the past 10 years from 26% to about 19% of the population, rates for teens have gone up to about 33%. The problems from smoking related disease are very tricky because they don't usually show up for about 30-40 years. Then, emphysema, lung cancer, and other health problems emerge. Take a moment to view this brief video and imprint in your mind a commitment to quit smoking. When you have a plan to quit, support, education about how to manage urges and mental tools, you can be successful. Call if you would like some direction to help yourself or someone you love.
Quitting any addiction is difficult, so you need support, resources and the right tools to manage. Let me know if you would like more information. 

Click on the link below. 
Lungs from Smoking