relatively-stressful-holidays

Surviving the “relatively” stressful holiday season

You decorated, cleaned, cooked, baked and changed the sheets. You checked everything off your list. Then you went back for round two and checked it off twice. But your palms are still sweaty. Your heart is pounding. Your face is flush and your breath’s short. Any second now that doorbell is going to ring and usher in a season of festive “in-law” cheer.

To them, their presence is the best holiday gift they could bring. But for you, the anxiety from the expectations to entertain and host may be overwhelming. But don’t worry! If you make a list and stick to it, you’ll be sure survive the “relatively” stressful holiday season.

Here are five places to start.

  1. Create something that brings you joy. Building, designing, constructing and creating are great ways to take your mind off the stress of the holidays. Doing something you enjoy can provide distance from stress and give you time to recharge your spirit. And, yes, it’s OK to be a little selfish and just focus on you for a little bit. It’s the same concept as the instruction you’re given on an airplane regarding the emergency oxygen mask. Put on your own oxygen mask first; that way you’re better equipped to take care of others.
  1. Help someone you don’t know; who can’t pay you back. There are countless opportunities to help the widows, orphans and the sick this time year. Doing something for a person you don’t know who can’t return the gesture can actually pay off in some unexpected ways. Playing the role of the Good Samaritan not only stretches you out of your comfort zone, but it can be a great way to give the greatest gift of all – your compassion.
  1. Discover something new about someone. It’s really amazing how little we know about our family and friends. Use the holidays as a time to learn something new about someone you care about. Find activities that invite discussion – host a game night or a gingerbread house building party. Go on a walk around the block with your aunt, or ask your nephew to show you his latest car interest. You may be surprised by what you learn, and discover you have more in common than you thought.
  1. Share your struggles! If you know the holidays will be a time of struggle for you, let someone you trust know about it. Choose a couple of close friends who can serve as a support group. Let them know what your triggers might be, and ask them if you can check in and let them know how things are going.
  1. Look up! The holidays are replete with opportunities to bolster your spirituality. You don’t have to be religious to find the kind of soulful healing that comes from this time of year. When you’re feeling down, or stressed, or anxious – look up. Look towards that higher power in your life, be it God, a patron saint, meditation, scripture or prayer. Connecting with your higher power allows you to find strength that may otherwise seem out of reach.

If you are looking to find some peace this holiday season, please give us a call or email us. We can help you get the most out of this holiday season.

bees-in-the-chimney

Last spring I was on my way home from work when my wife called in a panic. “Honey,” she exclaimed, “there are bees in the chimney.”

“OK,” I replied dryly (it had been a long day), “I’ll drop by Lowes and grab some bee spray.”

A couple minutes lapsed and I got another call. This time more frantic. “Honey there are bees in the house!”

“How many?”

“A lot!”

“Five? Ten? Hundreds? How many is a lot?”

“Honey, there are bees in our house! Just (insert adult word) get here!”

A few minutes later I pulled into my garage. And the mental picture I snapped when I walked into our house will be forever etched in my mind. (Spoiler alert, you could count the number of bees “swarming” our house on two hands…maybe add in a couple toes.)

But there was my sweet wife of 15 years, standing in front of the fireplace shouting as she masterfully thrust, parried and deflected each bee with her hot pink fly swatter.

My 12 year old son, my wife’s wingman, was bopping up and down on our couch pointing and shouting, “Right there mom! No mom, over there! Above your head, mom! You missed it mom!”

My daughters (9 and 10 years old) were huddled together in the corner of our den screaming as loud as they could. (I’m pretty sure they were just screaming to see who could out scream the other.) And the commotion and noise was all too much for our Mini Yorkie, who darted from room to room barking and leaving a trail of treasures for us to find later.

After a few minutes of trying to calm everyone down, we taped up the fireplace, got rid of the few bees that were “swarming” the living room and made a few phone calls. Within 24 hours we were bee free!

My point is, it’s really easy to let the small things of the world make a big impact on our lives – especially during the holidays. The holidays are meant to be fun! But, too often we allow the small things (like a family dinner, the office party or rude shoppers) to bother us. And that can lead us down a path to seasonal depression or left with a sense of anxiety. Both can cause us to miss out on the joy of the holidays.

So here are a couple of BEE-attitudes (pun intended) to help us keep things in perspective.

BEE mindful of your time
During the holidays make “good, better and best” your measurement of time. You’re going to have all kinds of parties to attend, meals to make, deadlines to keep, shopping to do, travel to arrange, gifts to buy – your to-do list can be extensive and exhaustive. There are lots of good things to fill your time with during holidays. But we can’t do everything! We’re not supposed to do everything! So pick the best ones (the ones that amplify your fun and joy) and forget the good ones. By doing so, we’ll clear our calendar of those activities that add to our stress level, rather than add to our holiday joy. We’ll also be more likely to give greater attention and time to the things that matter most. And in return, get more joy out of them.

BEE prepared
Without fail, we all converge on the same places at the same times during the holidays. Parking lots, shopping malls and grocery stores, despite being decked in boughs of holly, can be a train wreck of humanity. But, why are we surprised by this? It happens EVERY year. We don’t have to like it. But we can prepare for it.

So when we go shopping, prepare mentally and emotionally, for the adventure we’re about to undertake. Leave the house prepared to sit in traffic, to wait in long lines, to battle crowds and deal with tired kids. When you head off to the office party, be prepared for the awkward questions about your recent divorce. When you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, be prepared for the political argument with uncle Joe.

Prepare a plan. Prepare a response. Prepare an exit strategy, if you must. When you have a plan in place, it’s easier to manage expectations and keep it all in perspective.

To be perfectly clear, seasonal depression is not a small (or joking) matter. It affects people differently and because of different reasons. For some people there are circumstances that lead to depression or anxiety that are simply out of their control.

i360 Dallas can play a big part in helping you work through the depression, anxiety and stress that inevitably comes packaged with the holidays.

Please visit our Hope for the Holidays page for more tips to cope with seasonal depression and anxiety. We have some great videos that are a great resource too. Then give us a call or email us if you, or someone you know, is struggling with seasonal depression, stress or anxiety this holiday season.

We can walk the journey with you. We can help.

HR 2646

#JoinTheConversation

This month we celebrate our nation’s independence. But, did you know that nearly 20% of our population is struggling with their individual freedom from mental illness?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million)  experience mental illness in a given yearref.  Despite the impact it has on our country, the topic has often been ignored or brushed aside. That is until events over the last several years have put mental illness in the spotlight.

Turn on any evening news program (or just scroll through your Facebook or Twitter Newsfeed) and you’ll see the controversy swirling around mental health. From gun control and terrorism to hate crimes, mental illness has become a mainstream conversation. Finally.

The importance of mental health has even caught up to the federal government (again).  There’s been some “across-the-aisle” collaboration in the House of Representatives in the form of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015 (H.R. 2464).

Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, who sponsored the bill (also known as the Murphy Bill), outlined how he hopes H.R. 2646 will help fix the nation’s broken mental health system. Here are a few goals of the bill:

  • Empower parents and caregivers: Break down barriers for families to work with doctors and mental health professionals and be meaningful partners in the front line care delivery team
  • Drive evidence-based care: Creates an Assistant Sec. for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders…to elevate the importance of mental health
  • Drive innovation: Drive innovative models of care, develop evidence-based and peer-review standards for grant programs
  • Improve transition of care: Require psychiatric hospitals to establish clear and effective discharge planning to ensure a timely and smooth transition from hospital to appropriate post-hospital care and services.
  • Alternates to Institutionalization: Incentivize states to provide community-based alternatives to institutionalization for those with serious mental illness, such as Assisted Outpatient Treatment and other assertive-care community approaches

Of course H.R. 2646 is more extensive than this. (You can read Murphy’s full memo here or the actual bill here).  But it passed out of the House of Representatives on July 6th with an impressive 422-2 vote. It goes up to Senate for next consideration.

While this month gives us a reason to celebrate our country’s independence – it’s also a great time to reflect on the work that’s still ahead of us to provide some freedom to those who struggle with mental health challenges. This bill, current events and increasing news coverage is making it possible to openly discuss mental health issues without fault. It’s certainly worth our efforts to #JoinTheConversation.

FOX4 News Depression

Dr. Gilliland Discusses Depression Treatment on FOX4 News

Dr. Gilliland was recently featured on FOX 4 News in Dallas to discuss depression treatment. You can watch the video here.

season-of-second-chances

A Season of Second Chances

Have you ever heard someone say I EARNED a second chance? Or I MADE a second chance? What about I CREATED a second chance? No, not really. Generally, we say we GOT a second chance. So why is it that we feel we GET second chances?

Because we do! We all GET second, third, fourth…countless “second” chances. Just take a look around you. Brown lawns are turning green. Bare trees are growing leaves. Flowers are blooming. The sun’s filling the days with more light. Spring rains are washing away the winter.

It’s like the earth is saying, “Hey guys, I know it’s been dark and cold for the last few months, but that was just a season. We’re turning this around now.”

Spring is a season of second chances. It’s a time to break cycles. Change behaviors. Start fresh.  And even if you’re not religious, it’s a time of resurrection – rebirth, new life. Because it really doesn’t matter how many times we fall, it matters that we keep getting up.

Here are three things you can do now to take advantage of this season of second chances.

Forgive. Few things impede development like blame. Learn to forgive AND accept forgiveness.  Withholding forgiveness usually does more harm than good. It often leads to bitterness, anger or resentment that ultimately takes a toll on our physical, emotional and mental health. Forgiving yourself – or accepting someone’s forgiveness – is also a critical part of shedding burdens that weigh us down.

Hope. Depression, anxiety and addiction can lead to feelings of helplessness. This can leave us feeling vulnerable and strip away our hope.  So it’s critical to find and embrace hope. Hope comes in lots of forms. It may be in a conversation with a good friend, attending worship services, professional counseling or a morning run. Wherever you find hope, embrace it.

Serve. Nothing helps us look past ourselves like helping others. A religious man once said, “He who gives money gives some. He who gives time gives more. He who gives of himself gives all.” Serving others through volunteerism can be rejuvenating. Some studies have suggested that a part of our brain lights up when we help others. That part of our brain produces feel-good chemicals like dopamine that may lead to reduced stress, anxiety, possibly even mild depression.  Find ways – everyday – to incorporate small acts of kindness or help bear someone else’s burden.

Take this time of year to start fresh and embrace your second chance. If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety or addiction, this is another opportunity to find hope, new life and a resurrection from your old self. If you have trouble finding that hope, please call us and let us walk that path with you.

coping-in-a-climate-of-fear

Strategies for Coping in a Climate of Fear

In the wake of the horrific attacks in Brussels,it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by sadness — and fear.

These are times that we’ve never seen on such a global level, and that’s part of the challenge with coping—we’re in uncharted territory. There are countries that have lived with the daily reality of terrorism and violence for decades or longer.  But for many parts of Europe and especially for us in America, this is something relatively new that we’re learning to live with.  The other challenge is that when a terrorist attack happens, we have an overabundance of information and images at our fingertips.

The two mistakes we don’t want to make are looking for something terrible to happen everywhere we go—or—acting as if those things will never happen. So how do we live with the in-between?  How do we balance that tension and guard against irrational thoughts and fears in this new reality?

A few ways to cope:

Be responsible with information and limit how much we take in
24-hour news and social media expose us to an overload of information that can actually magnify an event in our minds. When something horrible happens, we almost immediately have access to graphic pictures, iPhone videos, eyewitness accounts and seemingly endless news stories.  We see things up close in a way we never did before.  So one of the things we have to do is manage how much of our mind and our time we occupy with it. It’s critical to limit how much we watch and take in, and guard against obsessively reading or reviewing coverage.

Be mindful of our thoughts
When a violent attack like yesterday’s or those in Paris or San Bernardino happens, it’s easy to slip into a mindset of fear and start looking for a threat around every corner.  Because these events are so shocking, they strike us at an emotional level.  So we have to step back and let our rational thoughts mix in with our emotional thoughts to have a realistic perspective on our safety and the probability of danger.  Think about getting on a plane soon after reading news of a plane crash.  We all know that statistically, flying is much safer than driving around our own neighborhood, but at an emotional level our thoughts can get the better of us.

Be aware of what is driving our choices
When we find ourselves limiting our activities and what we do and where we go because of fears, we need to check those things out.  Without pausing to examine the reasoning behind our choices, we risk making our world so small that we are missing out on life.  It’s the same as not getting on an airplane because sometimes airplanes do crash.  If we continue to let fear make our world smaller and smaller, we’ve allowed our thoughts to irrationally affect how we move about and how we live (exactly what terrorists hope we’ll do).

I’m not saying we should be reckless and careless.  But we shouldn’t swing the other way and think we live in a world where there is no safe harbor.  Because the reality is that terror attacks, plane crashes and other horrible tragedies simply don’t happen as often as we might think. And it’s our thoughts and our conscious choices that can help us navigate this uncharted territory without the burden of fear.

If you try these strategies and are still feeling overwhelmed by fear or are experiencing obsessive thoughts, we encourage you to reach out to us or another professional.

Innovation360-Dallas

The politics of anxiety

Bored at the office today? Try this. Go over to your co-worker’s desk and (depending on their political slant) tell them you can hardly wait for Donald Trump to get his finger on “the button”; or suggest that Hillary Clinton is a victim of the system and never intended to delete classified emails on her personal server!

Yup. Nothing brings out the political Honey Badger in us like a presidential campaign. Especially this one. We’re worried about big problems – national debt, education, race relations, immigration and terrorism – so public anxiety is steadily climbing to its summit. (Just rummage through your Facebook feed and you’ll see what we’re talking about).

A recent Washington Post / ABC News poll backs us up on this. The poll reported that 69% of Americans were anxious about a Trump presidency. And on the flip side, 51% of Americans were anxious about Hillary Clinton becoming president.

But there’s a take away here. (By the way, I was just joking about starting a political debate with your co-worker). You see, on a macro scale, society’s anxiety that is bubbling up over the presidential campaign is similar to our personal struggles with anxiety. There are certain triggers (job, sickness, relationships) and causes (genetics, how you were raised) that lead to anxiety, which in turn lead to panic attacks, worry, an active mind, fatigue or even sweaty hands.

Fortunately, anxiety disorders can be highly treatable (unlike our political problems). We work every day with people to make it possible for them to move forward with daily life activities in a supportive and encouraging environment. If you feel like you’re struggling with anxiety, we can help. Sit down with one of our trained professionals and start identifying the underlying cause or triggers that lead to your anxiety. And oh yeah, we promise not to bring up politics…

 

Innovation360-Dallas

Even celebrities can be vulnerable

In December I joined with 11.2 million other people who watched Adele Live in New York City. Jimmy Fallon introduced her as a “once in a generation artist.” She belted songs from her former and most recent albums with such power and sincerity that I had tears welling up more than once. She got a standing ovation for When We Were Young, and then, she surprised me.

This woman: the voice of a generation, the one who can capture the attention of millions and whose album has stayed at the top of the iTunes charts since its release, she started to cry and thank the audience for welcoming her back.

She expressed her worry about being gone for so long and how she wasn’t sure about the response she’d get. She was overwhelmed by the acceptance this standing ovation communicated. Her worry had lied to her, seemingly made her doubt her abilities.

How often do you worry or feel anxious? How often do you look at others and only see confidence? Do you compare yourself? My guess is that this happens from time to time, and that’s why Adele’s crying moment was so surprising to me.

I tend to get caught in those comparisons too, thinking that if someone appears confident/successful/famous (fill in the blank), they must not struggle with anxiety. I start thinking that I’m different in the way I struggle.

The truth is that we all have times when worry gets out of hand; we get anxious. We all feel fear and wrestle with the questions of whether we’ll be accepted. It’s one of the needs we long to have met as humans – to belong. If you’re resonating as you read this, why not take a moment to consider how often you compare yourself.

If you’re spending more time on comparison than acceptance, worry might be dominating your life, and if that’s the case, we can help. Come talk, come play, come practice what it’s like to let that comparison go and to instead accept your feelings, knowing that most likely, they’ll change in another hour or two. And if you need something to do in the meantime, watch Adele sing and show us what it’s like to be vulnerable.

Innovation360-Dallas

The 3 R’s of talking about teen suicide

Recently, two teen girls from Murphy, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, died in apparent suicides. Both of the girls attended the same high school, but police are unsure if their friendship played a role in their deaths.  Last week XGames icon, David Mirra, took his life with an apparent self inflicted gun shot.

Meanwhile in Utah, Wendy Montgomery, a co-founder of Mama Dragons, a group of Mormon mothers with gay children, reported recently that she had been told 32 young LGBT Mormons died by suicide since early November. Of those 32, the average age was 17 and all were between the ages of 14 and 20. Utah health department officials have confirmed 10 suicides in that age range in Utah since the start of November.

Sadly, the fate of these youth is not unique. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death”. This is why it’s critical to talk with your teen about suicide.  But it’s hard. I get it. Bringing up a conversation about young people taking their own lives can be just as uncomfortable as talking to your teen about sex and drug abuse.

But, as a parent or guardian, you have to be proactive when it comes to opening dialogue about suicide. Here are 3 ways you may be able to approach the conversation with your teen:

  1. Be Relevant. Sadly, current news stories, like those noted above, can be powerful tools in engaging your teen in an open discussion about suicide. Ask open-ended questions like, did you hear about the death of the two students in Murphy? What do you think about what happened? By avoiding questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” and “no”, you’ll be more likely to engage in a meaningful conversation.
  2. Be Relational – No amount of money or latest tech toys can substitute for spending time with your teen. By regularly engaging with your teen through activities you both enjoy, you’ll build a relationship of trust that naturally fosters open conversation. Be attentive to the moments when a natural conversation can be engaged without appearing confrontational or suspect.
  3. Be Responsive – According to the Jason Foundation, 4 of 5 teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings. Nothing says “I don’t care” like not being responsive when your teen has questions or shows signs of depression or anxiety that may lead to suicide. As a parent or guardian of a teen, it’s your responsibility to be available to your child when they’re feeling vulnerable. Likewise it’s your duty to know the risk factors of suicide and to know your child well enough to spot a change in behavior that reflect those risks – and then act.Your teen has everything to live for. Yet because of societal/peer pressure, biological changes, depression or addiction, he or she may feel life is hopeless. There is no simple solution to ending teen suicide. But by staying informed and engaged, you’ll be more prepared to be a meaningful solution to helping your teen navigate a minefield of emotions that may lead to suicide. If you’re not sure where to turn, call us. We can help. Our trusted counselors can help you and your teen rediscover how to live a purposeful life.
Innovation360-Dallas

Music expresses what words cannot

“Music when healthy, is the teacher of perfect order, and when depraved, the teacher of perfect disorder.” – John Ruskin

Not everyone can speak the language of music, but we can all understand it. It has a way of evoking emotion and become the expression of feelings for which we do not have words. Music is around us so frequently that we are often unaware of it. It is playing in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, at work, and even in the elevator. We find music everywhere because it is so effective at influencing our mood.

Pay attention next time you are in a grocery store. Chances are you will hear soft and slow music playing in the background. Soft and slow music tends to put a person at ease. It slows our breathing and heart rate as well as our physical movement. Slower physical movement through the store often means more products in your cart.

Now think of the last time you were at a football game. Even if you are not a fan of the game, you can’t help but feel the energy in the air. The marching band plays loud and upbeat music to unite and energize the crowd to enthusiastically support their team.

When we have the opportunity to listen to music of our own choice, we often choose music to match our mood. Whether or not we aware of it, we are attempting to regulate our emotions by choosing music that helps us express what we are feeling. If you are heading out with your friends on a Friday night, you are going to play music that gets everyone excited. If you just finished a hard day at work where your boss reprimanded you, you will likely choose music with an aggressive or sad tone to it.

Regardless of what mood you are in, the music you choose can have a dramatic effect on your mental health. Recent studies have used MRI technology to see the brain’s unconscious emotion regulation processes and record neural activity as the participant listened to various kinds of music (see link below for specific study results). If music can have that kind of effect on our brains, it is very powerful indeed. As Bono famously said, “Music can change the world because it can change people.”

How will you let it change you?