Archive for October 2010

Recovery- The view is worth it!   1 comment

Posted October 29, 2010 by Hope in Recovery in Recovery

Care First!   Leave a comment

People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.

John Maxwell

There can be no truer statement than this, and it does not matter the nature of the business that one is in. Banking, Industry, Sales, Management, Healthcare, or Social Services.  In addition, it does not matter whom is defined as “people”: clients, employees, buyers, or “ordinary Joe Public”.  

 However, this statement is the most true when connected with any kind of “helping” occupation, such as ours here providing care and treatment the individuals that we serve. It does not matter to our customers whether I have a PhD or a GED, if I have 20 years of experience or 2 weeks unless I put forth an effort to show them that I genuinely care about them and their recovery.

 And what is the BEST way to demonstrate this care to those with whom we interact?

 COMMUNICATION!

 Not just talking to them, or probably more descriptively, talking “at” them.

 Really slowing down and talking to them; and not just hearing what they are saying, but truly LISTENING. Even then not only listening to there words, to what they need or want at the moment, but listening deeper than that, listening to their heart.

 Now, don’t get me wrong, there are only a handful of individuals actually trained to be “counselors or therapist”, but we can all offer an open ear and mind to the needs of our consumers.

 When all is said and done at the end of each shift, ask yourself, did I show one person that I cared about them today. Did I share a glimmer of hope? If you can answer either question, “Yes”, then pat yourself on the back. YOU, have allowed yourself to be an instrument of Recovery and Change in the life of another person’s life. For that you should be proud!

When those around us know that we care, they will not only be willing to listen and receive knowledge and information from us, they will ask for it.

CARE FIRST!!

Seize the Day   Leave a comment

Inspired by a quote from a movie released during my early adulthood, Dead Poets’ Society, I have long loved the simple phrase “carpe’ diem”. In the movie it is quoted by John Keating as played by Robin Williams:

“…Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

The quote is actually taken from a poem written by the Roman Poet, Horace, between 23-13 BC.  The full quotation in the original Latin is “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.” The best translation that I have found is “Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future”.

I was recently doing an activity in my Road to Recovery class, and the question was asked, “If you had a slogan for your life, what would it be?”

 My answer was easy for me, as it is the statement that I have as a part of my signature on my work e-mail account:

Carpe’ Diem

Remember Yesterday, Hope for Tomorrow

LIVE Today!

 So, why am I making such a big deal out of this little phrase that was not even written in English and is over 2000 years old? Because I believe this simple quote has some very valuable inspiration for us as we proceed along this journey. To start, lets look again at Harace’s original quote,

 “Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.”

 One definition that I read actually translated Carpe’ as “to pick, pluck, pluck off, cull, crop, gather.”  What I envision is a farmer harvesting the bounty of his labors.

 We must take time to savor, and enjoy the goodness in our lives. Borrowing another well known quote, “Stop and smell the roses.” For some of us this may not be an easy thing to do.  We find ourselves with very little positive to enjoy. In that case, you may have to look a little deeper or wider, but no matter what our current circumstances, there is something positive in our lives, even if is as simple as taking another breath, having clothes on our back or being loved.

For others we have a lot of positives in our lives, but we are SO busy going here, doing that….

There is neither time nor energy to slow down and enjoy or savor even our own successes. Often time, we are over obligated simply because we are trying to take care of everyone else and “keep them happy”. The only way that we feel fulfilled and valuable is in our ability to keep everyone else happy thus, very often ignoring our own needs. We have to learn to say that magically, yet difficult word, “NO”. Many of us treat the word “no” like it is a four-letter word, and will not use it even to our own demise. It is a necessity that we re-evaluate our obligations and priorities and do some proverbial house cleaning, making hard choices and decreasing the number of activities and obligations that we have on our plate.

 The most widely accepted and used translation for carpe’ is “seize”, and connotes a more military or aggressive action.

            Seize:

  1. To take hold of suddenly or forcibly; grasp: to seize a weapon.
  2. To grasp mentally; understand clearly and completely: to seize an idea.
  3. To take possession of by force or at will: to seize enemy ships.
  4. To take possession or control of as if by suddenly laying hold: Panic seized the crowd.

Thus, another way of looking at this simple word and apply it to our lives and recovery is this:

I make a choice by an act of my will that I am going to forcibly take control of my life, my recovery and my destiny.

I take responsibility for my feelings, thoughts, choices, and behaviors. Yes, I may have a mental illness or struggle with an addiction, but they are simple a part of who I am, they do not and will not control the direction of my life.

 I had a college professor once that provided this analogy. Imagine that your life is a book, and everything that has or will happen to you is written in that book. Many of us allow other people, our “issues”, our addiction / mental illness, situations to be the author of our destinies.  Or on the other hand, we can take the pen in our own hand, become the author of our own stories and destiny by choosing to be responsible and be proactive in the direction of our lives rather than being at the mercy of ebbs of our circumstances and the flow of others opinions.

 That brings me to my next thought regarding this quote, specifically the final phrase:

“quam minimum credula postero” or  “trusting as little as possible in the future”.

 Too many people, whether they are in recovery or not, spend useless energy and time “Worrying” about tomorrow and obsessing in their minds over all of the “What ifs”.

 Luke 12:25-26 (NIV): Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

 I agree with the words of Jesus, worrying and stressing over things to come can not add to our life or provide any other benefit to our lives. I would actually contend that it has the potential to do exactly the opposite.  It does this both in the here and now, because every minute that I spend in worry is a minute that I have given away and it can not use to enjoy and savor the goodness of that moment. On the other hand, it will steal time from the end of our lives as well. Due to the physiological effects of chronic stress on our bodies it can actually steal away time from the end of our lives as the result of developed related medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc.  Please do not misunderstand me; I am NOT saying that we should live life up to the fullest with no concern for the future. I believe we must prepare and plan and establish goals that we are striving towards. However, we can not be so focused on worrying about what could happen between now and then we loose focus and are unable to do what is necessary today to insure that we are in a position to accomplish that goal that we have set for ourselves.

Tomorrow will have its trials and its victories, but I can assure that I am prepared for them if I will simply focus on today’s issues and face them head on as they come. Though this is the most difficult part of “seizing” each day, it is likely the most important.  If I deny a given problem or run from it, I am setting myself of for more pain and suffering in the future when it comes back around again, and it will! So, if there is an issue, a conflict, a problem that has been troubling you, DEAL WITH IT! Here again seize control of your life and do not allow this troubling issue to continue to steal your fruit.

In closing I again say to you, “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.”  Stop, enjoy, savor, and harvest the goodness that TODAY has to offer, taking responsibility and control of your life, your recovery and your destiny with hope and a plan for the future, but not allowing yourself to worry about what tomorrow holds. 

TODAY is your day to LIVE and take control of where you are going rather than simply following where the road takes you! 

SEIZE TODAY!!

Stress   2 comments

Silent Killer with a Deadly Bite!

Stress is an equal opportunity destroyer! It effects every human being no matter how old/young, wealthy/poor, healthy/ill. Stress and specifically one’s response to it is one of the primary factors that leads individuals with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues to relapse.

With that in mind I would like to share with you a few highlights from the materials that I use to in my Stress Management class.

 As has long been said, the first step to solving any problem is identifying it. So lets look briefly at a definition for stress.

   Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, your body releases a burst of hormones to fuel your fight-or-flight response.

When the threat is gone, your body returns to normal

 In other words, Stress is a normal and believe it or not, HEALTHY, response to some of what we are exposed to in living our life from day to day. Although we do not experience the types of life threatening demands that our ancient and not so ancient forefathers did, the physiological stress response (Fight or Flight), is the most basic and animal-like response, in that there is one and only goal… SURVIVAL!

 The Physical stress response results in the release of 2 primary chemicals- adrenaline and cortisol.

 Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies.

Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.

This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.

So, what does all that mean in English? Basically, Adrenaline gives you increased energy and “speeds you up” They don’t call it an “adrenaline rush” for nothing. At the same time, Cortisol, also boost energy levels by increasing blood sugar levels. In addition, it slows down the functioning of other “non essential” systems and diverts those resources to muscles and brain fro the “fight or flight response”. Once the threat has past, the body returns to a balance of energy throughout all systems.

So, that is how things are suppose to work, but what happens when an individual experiences too much stress over a long period of time?

The body does not return to balance and the medical problems ensue including: high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep problems, digestive problems, depression, obesity, memory impairment. Recent research has also identified a connection between chronic high stress and the development of diabetes.

So what is the answer?  A life without stress? Don’t we wish… or do we.

Is there such a thing as good stress?

Well, I guess I would not ask the question and bring it up at all if it were true, right?

Of course there is good stress, but so much attention is given to negative stress, that most people don’t even consider its existence.

Good stress, also known as eustress, is that “just right amount” of stress that motivates us to perform at our highest and best capacity. It is in this zone that we are the most calm and creative.  Good stress is the motivation that pushes us to be at work on a daily basis and do our best. It is the deadline that is approaching for that report or project that you have been working on for 2 weeks. However, even then, good stress can turn into bad stress, if we are not effectively motivated to complete the project in a timely manner and end up feeling overwhelmed due to our own procrastination.

Well, thanks Gary for stressing me out even more!                              Now what?   

What am I suppose to do about all this stress?

 Unfortunately, healthy and effective stress management is not something that is as easy “Do A,B & C” or “Don’t do D,E & F”. Healthy stress management is a new lifestyle and way of seeing one’s world and thereby responding to it. Most stress management training programs focus on dealing with acute stress and coping with emotions resulting from a given threat or demand. I contend that stress management starts with developing a lifestyle that minimizes stress causing situations, but, at the same time understanding that they are still going to be present and learning ways to reduce the intensity and longevity to one’s response to them.

Unfortunately, I can only give a very few brief ideas, but many communities and/or employers are recognizing the need and are offering stress management classes, which can provide you with more information.

The First and most important tool for managing stress is IDENTIFY YOUR STRESSORS.

Effective stress management starts with identifying your sources of stress  One way to do this is to make a list of the situations, concerns or challenges that trigger your stress response.

Take a moment to write down the top 10 issues you’re facing right now. You’ll notice that some of your stressors are events that happen to you while others seem to originate from within.

External stressors are events and situations that happen to you. Some examples of external stressors include:

       Major life changes. These changes can be positive or they can be negative

       Environment. The input from the world around us can be a source of stress.

Unpredictable events.       

Family.

Workplace.    

Social.

Not all stress stems from things that happen to you. Much of our stress response is self-induced. (See previous post regarding the 90/10 Principal)  Those feelings and thoughts that pop into your head and cause you unrest are known as internal stressors. Examples of internal stressors include:

        Fears. Common ones include fear of flying, fear of heights and fear of public speaking.

       Uncertainty. Few people enjoy not knowing what might happen. Think about how you might react when waiting for the results of a medical test.

       Beliefs. These might be attitudes, opinions or expectations. You may not even think about how your beliefs shape your experience, but these preset thoughts often set us up for stress. Consider the expectations you put on yourself to create a perfect holiday celebration or advance up the career ladder.

The good news is that we have the ability to control our thoughts. The bad news is that our fears, attitudes and expectations have been our companions for a long time and it often takes some effort to change them.

Other “Preventive Maintenance” techniques include:

       Scale back. Cut back on your obligations when possible

       Prepare. Stay ahead of stress by preparing for meetings or trips, scheduling your time better, and setting realistic goals for tasks both big and small.

       Reach out. Surrounding yourself with supportive family, friends, and co-workers can have a positive effect on your mental well-being and your ability to cope with stress.

       Take up a hobby. When you engage in something enjoyable, it can soothe and calm your restless mind.

       Relax. Physical activity, meditation, yoga, massage and other relaxation techniques can help you manage stress.

       Get enough sleep. Lack of sufficient sleep affects your judgment and makes you more likely to snap over minor irritations.

       Get professional help. If your stress management efforts aren’t helpful enough, see your doctor or other mental health professional.

       Laugh. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body.

       Connect with your Faith: Spirituality has many benefits for stress relief and overall mental health.

       Exercise: Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.

       Relaxation Techniques:  Relaxation is a process that decreases the wear and tear on your mind and body from the challenges and hassles of daily life

What about acute stress (I am stressing NOW!)?

Many of the techniques identified above can be utilized to help address acute stress as well.

They are included in this final list of techniques for dealing with acute stress.

  • Hobby
  • Laugh
  • Meditation / Prayer
  • Listen to Music
  • Deep Breathing
  •  Exercises
  • Rest / sleep
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Exercise
  • Read
  • Journaling
  • Visual Imagery
  • Pets

 As I said in the beginning, Stress Management is more than just a handful of techniques. Effective stress management requires us to re-evaluate our priorities and obligations. The biggest reason that many people have high stress is their own inability to say a simple yet very powerful 2-letter word – “NO”. We HAVE to start saying it, stop considering it a 4-letter word. Your friends, family, church, boss, etc. had much have you around and healthy in body and mind than to not have you around there at all.

 

 

So… Take a deep breath and

RELAX!!

 

 

 

References 

The American Institute Of Stress –  http://www.stress.org

 Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.com/

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