6 Mental Health Benefits of Plants

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6 Mental Health Benefits of Plants: Does Flower Power Boost Your Mood?

By Dr. Adam Simon

We all know that flowers and plants have the power to make people happy. They can delight you on a special occasion, cheer you up when you’re sad or make a dull, dreary room much more appealing.

But what is it about flowers that puts you in a good mood? And do they really have that much influence over your mental health?

Our smart network of UK doctors have shared a few facts for you to bear in mind next time you’re buying a bunch for your home, or for someone you care about.

1. Flowers can improve anxiety

Stress and anxiety are part of everyday life. According to mental health charity Mind, 6% of the UK population experienced anxiety issues in 2016.

While there are many things you can do to manage your mental health, flowers can help restore some short-term calm to your situation.

It turns out that this is true even in very worrying situations. A 2008 study found that hospital patients who had flowers in their room felt less anxious. They were also more positive about their recovery and needed less post-operative care than patients without plants.

Before you turn up at your loved one’s bedside with a huge bouquet, it’s worth noting that many hospitals don’t allow flowers on wards. This is due to issues such as mould, hay fever and lack of space.

However, there’s nothing to stop you filling your home and garden with beautiful blooms to take your mind off things.

Have some in your bedroom to create a calming environment when you go to sleep and when you wake up, or make space for a plant in your study to help you keep a handle on work-related stress.

2. Flowers can help you sleep

Sleeping properly is really important. In fact, it’s so important that we’ve already written a whole post about it. So, where do plants come into it?

When it comes to sleep, we’re going to focus on one flower in particular. The smell of lavender is proven to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, which will help you to relax. The more relaxed you are, the more likely you are to drift off into a restful sleep.

Obviously, lavender can’t cure insomnia on its own, but it can certainly help as part of your bedtime routine.

3. Flowers can improve your memory

Specifically, rosemary can sharpen your powers of recall.

In 2015, researchers conducted a very interesting experiment, in which participants went into one of three rooms and completed a memory test. One room smelt of rosemary, one of lavender and the other wasn’t given a specific scent.

Each participant had to look at a series of objects hidden around the room and remember them for later. The project tested the impact of different smells on ‘future memory’ – in other words, how much you remember to remember.

In real-life terms, this could be posting a letter you wrote yesterday, or paying your bills on time.

The people in the rosemary-scented room scored highest in this test. The lavender room scored significantly lower, presumably because the people here were far too relaxed and sleepy to keep up with everything!

4. Flowers can change your emotions with colours

We all associate colours with different moods. Red can mean love, anger or danger. Yellow is usually associated with happiness and sunshine. Blue can signify calm or sadness.

Green is linked to safety, which could explain why having lots of leafy plants around creates such a comfortable environment.

On top of this, we each have our own personal relationships with colours that can bring to mind a happy or sad memory and influence our reactions.

Suddenly, choosing the colour of your flowers becomes a bigger decision than you thought! Of course, it’s also a great chance to create a particular emotion or feeling in whoever will receive the flowers.

5. Flowers can make you more productive

Studies have shown that offices with plants increase brain performance and encourage creativity.

Sparse, clean offices might look impressive to people passing through, but they don’t offer any visual stimulation for those that have to spend all day there, which could have an impact on productivity.

It’s not just workers, either. Studies have also shown the putting plants in classrooms and lecture halls increases attendance. It turns out that having plants around can make you happier and more attentive, wherever you are!

Going back to the idea of colour, red is connected to concentration and attention to detail, while blue is considered a better way to encourage creativity and free-thinking. So, if you notice a lot of plants with the same colour around your office, your boss might be trying to tell you something!

6. Gardening and your mental health

Why wait for someone to present you with flowers, when you could grow your own? We know that flowers can make you feel great and there’s also evidence that gardening itself can be good for your mental health.

A 2015 study found that 88% of people cited mental wellbeing as a reason for heading out into the garden. All that digging, planting and pruning provides fresh air and a sense of achievement.

Some people find value in having something to care for that relies on them to survive. Gardening is also an activity you can do as a group, such as tending a community garden, and spending time with friends and family is a sure-fire way to boost your mood.

If you would like more help in boosting your mood, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Embracing Anxiety to Exterminate Anxiety

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Embracing Anxiety to Exterminate Anxiety

By Dr. Henry Cloud

The chills are eating me from the inside-out. I can barely feel my hands, gripped tight to the steering wheel as they are, and what I can feel is coated with clammy perspiration. My heart is racing in a flurry of shuddering beats. Instead of being warmed by the heat blasting from the vents in my car, cold blankets my skin, and I might as well have been exposed to the elements in the thick of winter. Blinking twice, I remind myself that I’m not dying — yet.

Driving somewhere new. Going to an interview. Calling a business on the phone. Meeting new people. They can all make my hands shake and my skin crawl. The anxiety wells up like blood in a fresh cut and spills over into my whole body, paralyzing my senses and making it difficult to talk, and even walk.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health[1], anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. Myself, and an estimated 40 million other people, live a not insignificant amount of our lives in a state of mortal panic.

Anxiety is the “fight-or-flight” reflex[2] built into our physiological systems. This means that, when we’re anxious, our fight-or-flight response charges our metabolism and prepares us for what has been deemed the inevitable: an all-out battle, or a mad dash. This is one of those adaptations that seems beneficial to other mammals, but humans? Personally, I don’t have to literally fight for my life with any regularity.

Anxiety may be our fight-or-flight response, but that doesn’t mean we have to let it be our only response, nor must we be defeated by its chilly grip. In fact, engaging that chilly grip is one method of — believe it or not — extinguishing it. I may not be able to escape my anxiety, but by embracing it I have a chance to let it exist without owning my existence. As my hands begin to shake and my palms sweat, rather than turn a blind eye to my body’s reaction and let it run its wild course, I take the chance to step back and observe its approach.

As the cold takes over I allow myself to mentally take flight, observing my physical reactions to insignificant stimuli with interest and curiosity. When anxiety sets your heart racing, don’t simply ignore that absurd cadence. Instead, stare it down, consider it, mull over why your body is responding in such a way, and understand that its response is out of proportion to the situation. The physical feelings of anxiety tend to ebb and flow differently for every person. Figuring out the when, how, and why of your overwhelming anxiety is the first step to embracing it — and then, ultimately, to exterminating it.

By understanding your body, you give your mind the chance to take back control, and when your mind comprehends the situation, your emotions inevitably will follow suit. You may not be facing a literal lion when your anxiety kicks in, but that anxiety itself may be the real lion. By acknowledging its existence and giving the physiology behind it a nod, you can conquer one side of your anxiety disorder. Anxiety often plays off of uncertainty, and by being certain that you don’t need to be anxious you can help to lessen its damaging- and deeply uncomfortable- physical effects.

The next time your body thinks it needs to fight or fly, embrace that instinct. When I do that, my mind stays in control, my emotional state doesn’t waver, and eventually my anxiety subsides.

Study Examines the Effects of Prayer on Mental Health

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New Study Examines the Effects of Prayer on Mental Health

By Traci Pedersen

What are your deepest beliefs regarding the nature of God? When you pray, do you talk to a loving, protective and easily accessible God? Or does God feel strangely distant and unreachable? Perhaps a disciplinarian? A new study says that your beliefs about the “character” of God determine the effects of prayer on your mental health.

Researchers from Baylor University found that people who pray to a loving and protective God are less likely to experience anxiety-related disorders — worry, fear, self-consciousness, social anxiety and obsessive compulsive behavior — compared to people who pray but don’t really expect to receive any comfort or protection from God.

Researchers looked at the data of 1,714 volunteers who participated in the most recent Baylor Religion Survey. They focused on general anxiety, social anxiety, obsession and compulsion. Their study, entitled “Prayer, Attachment to God, and Symptoms of Anxiety-Related Disorders among U.S. Adults,” is published in the journal Sociology of Religion.

For many people, God is a source of comfort and strength, says researcher Matt Bradshaw, Ph.D; and through prayer, they enter into an intimate relationship with Him and begin to feel a secure attachment. When this is the case, prayer offers emotional comfort, resulting in fewer symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Some people, however, have formed avoidant or insecure attachments to God, explains Bradshaw. This means that they do not necessarily believe that God is there for them. Prayer starts to feel like an unsuccessful attempt at having a close relationship with God. Feelings of rejection or “unanswered” prayers may lead to severe symptoms of anxiety-related disorders, he says.

The findings add to the growing body of research confirming a connection between a person’s perceived relationship with God and mental and physical health. In fact, a recent study by Oregon State University found that religion and spirituality result in two distinct but complementary health benefits. Religion (religious affiliation and service attendance) is linked to better health habits, including less smoking and alcohol consumption, while spirituality (prayer, meditation) helps regulate emotions.

Another recent study by Columbia University found that participating in regular meditation or other spiritual practice actually thickens parts of the brain’s cortex, and this could be the reason those activities tend to guard against depression — especially in those at risk for the disease.

This article courtesy of Spirituality and Health.

If you would like to incorporate spirituality into your mental health care, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our qualified coaches or counselors.

How to Slow Down And Enjoy Brewing Coffee at Home

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How to Slow Down And Enjoy Brewing Coffee at Home

By Michelle Flandreau

Frenzied. Hurried. Chaotic. Is this what your morning coffee routine feels like?

Andie Wilber, a barista at the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery & Tasting Room, encourages people to take 10 extra minutes when they can and slow down while brewing coffee.

“If that’s how you start your morning, that’s the tone that will follow you throughout your day and hopefully your life,” Andie said.

For the full article on brewing and decor tips to help with staying in the moment, visit the original article. 

If you would like help in slowing down and staying in the moment or reducing your stress and anxiety, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise (Part 2)

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The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

By Helpguide.org

Reaping the mental health benefits of exercise is easier than you think

Wondering just how active you need to be to get a mental health boost? It’s probably not as much as you think. You don’t need to devote hours out of your busy day, train at the gym, sweat buckets, or run mile after monotonous mile. You can reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise with 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can also work just as well.

Even a little bit of activity is better than nothing

If that still seems intimidating, don’t despair. Even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all. If you don’t have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after 5 or 10 minutes, for example, that’s okay, too. Start with 5- or 10-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have, so eventually you’ll feel ready for a little more. The key is to commit to do some moderate physical activity—however little—on most days. As exercising becomes habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off.

Can’t find time to exercise during the week? Be a weekend warrior

A recent study in the UK found that people who squeeze their exercise routines into one or two sessions at the weekend experience almost as many health benefits as those who work out more often. So don’t let a busy schedule at work, home, or school be an excuse to avoid activity. Get moving whenever you can find the time—your mind and body will thank you!

You don’t have to suffer to get results

Research shows that moderate levels of exercise are best for most people. Moderate means:

  1. That you breathe a little heavier than normal, but are not out of breath.  For example, you should be able to chat with your walking partner, but not easily sing a song.
  2. That your body feels warmer as you move, but not overheated or very sweaty.

Overcoming mental health obstacles to exercise

So now you know that exercise will help you feel much better and that it doesn’t take as much effort as you might have thought. But taking that first step is still easier said than done. Exercise obstacles are very real—particularly when you’re also struggling with mental health. Here are some common barriers and what you can do to get past them.

Feeling exhausted. When you’re tired or stressed, it feels like working out will just make it worse. But the truth is that physical activity is a powerful energizer. Studies show that regular exercise can dramatically reduce fatigue and increase your energy levels. If you are really feeling tired, promise yourself a 5-minute walk. Chances are you’ll be able to go five more minutes.

Feeling overwhelmed. When you’re stressed or depressed, the thought of adding another obligation can seem overwhelming. Working out just doesn’t seem doable. If you have children, managing childcare while you exercise can be a big hurdle. Just remember that physical activity helps us do everything else better. If you begin thinking of physical activity as a priority, you will soon find ways to fit small amounts in a busy schedule.

Feeling hopeless. Even if you’re starting at “ground zero,” you can still workout. Exercise helps you get in shape. If you have no experience exercising, start slow with low-impact movement a few minutes each day.

Feeling pain. If you have a disability, severe weight problem, arthritis, or any injury or illness that limits your mobility, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to safely exercise. You shouldn’t ignore pain, but rather do what you can, when you can. Divide your exercise into shorter, more frequent chunks of time if that helps, or try exercising in water to reduce joint or muscle discomfort.

Feeling bad about yourself. Are you your own worst critic? It’s time to try a new way of thinking about your body. No matter what your weight, age or fitness level, there are others like you with the goals of getting fit. Try surrounding yourself with people in your shoes. Take a class with people at a variety of fitness levels. Accomplishing even the smallest fitness goals will help you gain body confidence.

Getting started exercising when you’re anxious or depressed

Many of us find it hard enough to motivate ourselves to exercise at the best of times. When we feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have other mental or emotional problems, it can be doubly difficult. This is especially true of depression and anxiety, and it can leave you feeling trapped in a catch-22 situation. You know exercise will make you feel better, but depression has robbed you of the energy and motivation you need to exercise, or your social anxiety means you can’t bear the thought of being seen at an exercise class or running through the park. So, what can you do?

It’s okay to start small. In fact, it’s smart.

When you’re under the cloud of an emotional disorder and haven’t exercised for a long time, setting yourself extravagant goals like completing a marathon or working out for an hour every morning will only leave you more despondent if you fall short. Better to set yourself achievable goals and build up from there.

Schedule your workout at the time of day when your energy is highest

That may be first thing in the morning before work or school, or at lunchtime before the mid-afternoon lull hits, or in longer sessions at the weekend. If depression or anxiety has you feeling tired and unmotivated all day long, try dancing to some music or simply going for a walk. Even a short, 15-minute walk can help clear your mind, improve your mood, and boost your energy level. As you move and start to feel a little better, you’ll experience a greater sense of control over your well-being. You may even feel energized enough to exercise more vigorously—by walking further, breaking into a run, or adding a bike ride, for example.

Other tips for staying motivated when you’re also struggling with mental health

Focus on activities you enjoy. Any activity that gets you moving counts. That could include throwing a Frisbee with a dog or friend, walking laps of a mall window shopping, or cycling to the grocery store. If you’ve never exercised before or don’t know what you might enjoy, try a few different things. Activities such as gardening or tackling a home improvement project can be great ways to start moving more when you have a mood disorder—as well as helping you become more active, they can also leave you with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Be comfortable. Whatever time of day you decide to exercise, wear clothing that’s comfortable and choose a setting that you find calming or energizing. That may be a quiet corner of your home, a scenic path, or your favorite city park.

Reward yourself. Part of the reward of completing an activity is how much better you’ll feel afterwards, but it always helps your motivation to promise yourself an extra treat for exercising. Reward yourself with a hot bubble bath after a workout, a delicious smoothie, or with an extra episode of your favorite TV show.

Make exercise a social activity. Exercising with a friend or loved one, or even your kids will not only make exercising more fun and enjoyable, it can also help to motivate you to stick to a workout routine. You’ll also feel better than exercising alone. In fact, when you’re suffering from a mood disorder such as depression, the companionship can be just as important as the exercise.

Easy ways to move more that don’t involve the gym

Don’t have 30 minutes to dedicate to yoga or a bike ride? Don’t worry. Think about physical activity as a lifestyle rather than just a single task to check off. Look at your daily routine and consider ways to sneak in activity here, there, and everywhere. Need ideas? We’ve got them.

In and around your home. Clean the house, wash the car, tend to the yard and garden, mow the lawn with a push mower, sweep the sidewalk or patio with a broom.

At work and on the go. Bike or walk to an appointment rather than drive, banish all elevators and get to know every staircase possible, briskly walk to the bus stop then get off one stop early, park at the back of the lot and walk into the store or office, take a vigorous walk during your coffee break.

With the family. Jog around the soccer field during your kid’s practice, make a neighborhood bike ride part of weekend routine, play tag with your children in the yard, go canoeing at a lake, walk the dog in a new place.

Just for fun. Pick fruit at an orchard, boogie to music, go to the beach or take a hike, gently stretch while watching television, organize an office bowling team, take a class in martial arts, dance, or yoga.

 

If you would like help establishing a mental/emotional self-care plan that involves exercise, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise (Part 1)

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The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

By Helpguide.org

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for the body. But exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.

What are the mental health benefits of exercise?

Exercise is not just about aerobic capacity and muscle size. Sure, exercise can improve your physical health and your physique, trim your waistline, improve your sex life, and even add years to your life. But that’s not what motivates most people to stay active.

People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it’s also powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.

Exercise and depression

Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects, of course. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.

Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

Exercise and anxiety

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out.

Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this mindfulness element—really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head.

Exercise and stress

Ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches. You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. You may also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomachache, diarrhea, or frequent urination. The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turn lead to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body.

Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle. As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.

Exercise and ADHD

Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

Exercise and PTSD and trauma

Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma. Instead of thinking about other things, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints and muscles, even your insides as your body moves. Exercises that involve cross movement and that engage both arms and legs—such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming, weight training, or dancing—are some of your best choices.

Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing (downhill and cross-country) have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.

Other mental and emotional benefits of exercise

Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.

Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.

Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.

More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise a day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized.

Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.

For more help in establishing a mental/emotional self-care plan that involves exercise, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

How To Reduce And Deal With Holiday Stress

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How To Reduce And Deal With Holiday Stress

By Bruce Y. Lee

Even though songs such as “Winter Wonderland” and “Jingle Bells” can make the winter holiday season seem like a time for pervasive cheer and mirth, in actuality, holidays can bring stress, depression and anxiety, which in turn can lead to physical problems such as weight gain and Holiday Heart Syndrome. But many people may be suffering in silence. After all, we don’t have songs such as “Rudolph the Depressed Reindeer,” “Santa Claus has Overeaten Again” or “Jingle Bell Stress” to raise awareness. So why may the holidays be stressful to you and what can you do about it?

Here are some common causes of holiday stress:

  • “Little Drummer Boy and Girl”: Many people have to work hard with looming year-end deadlines and potentially increased business, especially if sales are tied to the holiday season in any way (such as for retail stores, restaurants, health clinics and candy cane manufacturing). More work can mean less sleep, less exercise and less healthy habits, which can exacerbate stress. Also, gift shopping and holiday planning for friends and co-workers can feel like another job.
  • “Sleigh Ride (will be delayed indefinitely due to unforeseen circumstances and we will be charging extra for checking in luggage and wearing pants)”: Holiday travel can be unpleasant with the increasingly crowded conditions and expenses.  
  • “All I Want for Christmas Is Some Cash”: With all the gift giving, parties and travel, the holidays can really stretch your budget, heightening any financial concerns.
  • “Santa Claus is Coming to Town and So Are Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, Your Cousins, Your In-Laws, Your Aunt, Your Uncle, Your Daughter and Her New Boyfriend, and Your Son and Several Strange Friends”: The holidays can bring together people and accompanying drama.
  • “Let It Snow! Let It Snow!…Stop Snowing, Already!”:Inclement weather, cold temperatures and less daylight can trigger seasonal affective disorder, depression and road rage (from worse driving conditions), as well as limit activities that would help relieve stress (such as sports and walking outside).
  • “Last Christmas”: The holidays can remind you of painful memories such as break-ups, divorces and deaths, especially when you see people experiencing the opposite (for example, seemingly happy couples).
  • “Frosting the Snowman”: Food and beverages, including lots of unhealthy ones with lots of fat, salt and sugar, are everywhere, which can lead to overeating, weight gain, heartburn, remorse, regret and then more eating and drinking.
  • “I Saw Mommy, Daddy and Everyone Else Kissing Santa Claus”: When people are stressed, lonely, depressed or drunk, they can do unusual and unpredictable things, which in turn can cause more stress (especially if that person is another family member, your significant other, your boss, your employee or you).
  • “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…this Holiday Sale That You Can’t Miss and Don’t Forget That Diamonds Show That You Really Care”: The holidays pummel you with advertising convincing you of what don’t have and need to buy.
  • “Do You Hear What I Hear?”: During the holidays, many others may seem happy and cheerful, which may make your situation seem less favorable by comparison.
  • “Silent Night”: Unfortunately, not everyone has loved ones or a social circle with whom to spend the holidays.

So what can you do to prevent and combat holiday stress?

  • “Running Around the Christmas Tree”: Keep a regular exercise routine. Maintain your regular hobbies and regular eating habits…unless they are unhealthy.
  • “Chestnuts Roasting in an Open Fire”: Try to eat healthily. Your mood and health are very closely tied to what you ingest.
  • “Away in a Manger”: Get enough sleep to re-charge and help handle stress. Also, take time out during the day to take breaks.
  • “Blue Christmas”: Don’t be afraid to tell others about how you feel. You may be surprised to find that they are struggling with similar problems and can help provide empathy and social support. If you feel truly overwhelmed or ill, seek professional or medical help.
  • Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go…but Maybe Try Another Path “: Don’t keep repeating the same mistakes each holiday season. By now, you know what conversations and actions will make you unhappy, anxious, regretful and remorseful (such as going to that same holiday party each year, overeating, overdrinking and ending up with a lampshade on your head) and trigger unresolvable arguments with others, such as family members. Try something new.
  • “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)”: Meaningful social connections can help protect you against stress. Avoid people who are not genuinely interested in you. Connect with those who are. Know when to sever relationships that are toxic and harmful. Be willing to let go of grudges for relationships that are worth mending.
  • “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: Stop comparing yourself to others. Embrace your uniqueness. Each of us has a different path in life and faces different challenges and successes. Beneath their superficial appearances, you often don’t know what people are really experiencing. As the Batman has shown us, ostensible success does not mean the person is not struggling and miserable.
  • “Feliz Navidad”: Keep in mind that the world is a big place and that you are not necessarily trapped in your current social circle and circumstances.
  • “Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Feed the World)”: As Supergirl has shown, helping others can keep you physically active, distract you from your other concerns, be therapeutic, and lead to new friends.
  • “Twelve Days of Christmas”: Keep perspective and if the Holidays are tough for you, remember that the Holiday season is temporary and will pass. Try not to take yourself and things too seriously. Just make sure you maintain healthy habits and avoid behaviors that will lead to health problems (such as gaining weight) beyond the holiday season.
  • “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Even if it doesn’t seem so to you, try to stay optimistic. Research has shown that optimism can have health benefits. Be open to new experiences and possibilities. Sometimes the best things in life are the most unexpected.

And if all of this doesn’t do enough relieve your stress, you can always try singing…

If you would like help with dealing with holiday stress, anxiety, or depression, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: A Counseling Story From Bob Uhle

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Blood, Sweat, and Tears: A Counseling Story From Bob Uhle

When Carson came to see me for counseling, his life was falling apart. He had lost his job as a welder because of downsizing. His young wife had left him and moved back to West Virginia to live with her parents, taking their six-month-old with her. His car was repossessed, and he was now reduced to taking the bus. Now on welfare, Carson barely had money to eat and rent a room. I agreed to meet with him pro bono until he could get back on his feet, but Carson was a proud young man, and would have none of it! He committed to meet with me weekly to work on his depression and anxiety, and was insistent on paying $10 per session. After several months, Carson’s mood stabilized. Nevertheless, for several appointments in a row he showed up late, apologetically blaming it on the bus schedule. He looked gaunt, like he had not slept for several days. When I finally pressed him, he confessed that he had been covering the cost of his $10 sessions by regularly giving blood.

Carson has long since completed his counseling. With his depression and anxiety in remission, he returned to West Virginia to reunite with his wife and young daughter. Like most of the people who come to see us for counseling, he could not afford to pay $125 per hour, nor did he have insurance to offset the cost. He needed a hand, but not a handout. He was invested deeply in the process, not only putting skin in the game, but his very life blood as well.

Bob UhleAt CornerStone Family Services, we believe in the counseling/coaching services we offer, and the healing it provides for people like Carson. We believe in meeting our clients where they are in life. We believe in helping individuals and families who are falling through the cracks. And we believe in providing all individuals access to caring counseling and coaching when they are in need.

CornerStone offers a helping hand to hundreds of people like Carson who walk through our doors every year. Please consider becoming a partner in our mission through a year-end gift or a monthly scholarship contribution. For more information about the CornerStone mission and how you can contribute click here.

Holiday Depression and Stress

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Holiday Depression and Stress

By Mental Health America Wisconsin

Although the holidays are supposed to be a time full of joy, good cheer and optimistic hopes for a new year, many people struggle during the holiday season when expectations are high and disrupted routines can feel overwhelming. However, some mental preparations and planning can help everyone cope with the season — and even enjoy it.

Self-care. Pay special attention to your eating, sleeping, and downtime. It might be OK to skimp on a few hours of sleep just before a relaxing weekend, but think again if that weekend will include the stress of traveling, visiting or other activities out of your normal routine. Don’t forget to factor in downtime, too. Planning every hour of your time off can seem like a great idea, until you realize there is no time left to unwind.

Fun, not perfection. Resist the urge to do everything you can to make the season perfect for everyone. Just have as much fun as you can and don’t expect it to be perfect.

Anticipate stress. Plan ahead of time what your strategy will be when times get stressful. Is it possible to take a walk outside for 15 minutes when a family gathering gets stressful? How about a trip to your favorite store if your schedule gets you down?

Coping with Stress During the Holidays

  • Keep expectations manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities.
  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t put the entire focus on just one day (i.e. Thanksgiving Day). Remeber that it’s a season of holiday sentiment, and activities can be spread out to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
  • Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
  • Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
  • Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some your time to help others.
  • Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping or making a snowman with children.
  • Be aware of excessive drinking. It will only increase your feelings of stress.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, or connect with someone you haven’t heard from in while.
  • Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.

Holiday Bill of Rights

You have the right to…

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Feel mixed up emotions around the holidays.
  • Spend time alone thinking, reflecting and relaxing.
  • Say “no” to party invitations.
  • Ask for help and support from family, friends and community service agencies
  • Say “no” to alcohol, drugs…and seconds on dessert.
  • NOT to ride with a drunk driver, to take their keys away and to call a taxi for them.
  • Give gifts that are within your holiday budget.
  • Smile at angry sales people and/or rude drivers and give them a peace of your mind.
  • Enjoy your holiday the way you want.

If you would like help dealing with depression or stress, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

3 Ways to Soothe Your Spouse’s Anxiety

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3 Ways to Soothe Your Spouse’s Anxiety

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Anxiety. Most of us have been there: an issue that–to the outside world–seems arguably small balloons into a crushing, suffocating weight. Our hearts race. Our palms sweat. We descend into a spiraling panic, and find that it’s difficult (and even hopeless) to stop the feeling of dread building inside our chests.

Most of us know what anxiety feels like when it’s happening to us, but it can be difficult to know how to help someone we love when they are being riddled with it. It’s easy to feel at a loss, not knowing what to do or say. Can’t they just get over it, already?

Unfortunately, it’s easiest to write off a spouse’s anxiety and come up short when it comes to offering comfort and help. So today, we’re sharing tips for helping your husband or wife overcome the panic monster when it attacks.

1. SOOTHE YOUR SPOUSE AND LISTEN TO HIS/HER FEARS.

When your spouse is in the throes of anxiety, it can be difficult to relate to the things that are bothering him or her. In fact, it may seem impossible to you. But it’s critically important to lend an ear and offer comfort to your spouse anyway, regardless of whether you can identify with his/her turmoil.

Encourage your spouse to talk to you about what’s upsetting them. Sometimes a person who is in a state of panic can calm down on their own if they talk about their worries.

If you can do anything to alleviate your spouse’s most pressing sense of panic, do it. Help him/her find ways to calm his/her body and mind. If the anxiety can be lessened, your spouse has a better chance of clearing their mind and approaching the issue from a calmer place.

2. DON’T TELL YOUR SPOUSE TO “JUST GET OVER IT.”

Panic and anxiety are driven by emotions, and even though an anxious person’s brain might be telling them one thing, their emotions are communicating a sense of urgency (and potentially danger) that they feel has to be resolved immediately. It’s classic fight-or-flight.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix for anxiety and panic. Telling your spouse to “get over” whatever is upsetting them is just going to make the situation worse. Instead, show empathy and determine what you can do to help.

If your spouse is feeling anxious about a decision that needs to be made, help him/her walk through the options, examining the pros and cons as a team. If work is making your spouse anxious or panicked, sit down and talk together about why, and explore possible solutions. If your spouse’s anxiety is rooted in matters at home or with family, see where you can pitch in and help.

If the anxiety is uncontrollable and has disrupted your spouse’s (or your, or your family’s) quality of life, gently encourage him/her to seek professional help. If the problem is complex and out of control, don’t be afraid to seek help. But if it’s something you can find a solution for between the two of you, all the better.

3. DE-STRESS AND UNWIND–DELIBERATELY.

If anxiety has had a hold on your life, focus on ways the two of you can unwind and find peace. Seeking out pleasurable activities and having fun together will boost your sense of well-being (and your intimacy, which is a huge bonus!).

The panic monster can be a hard one to beat, but by working together and focusing on ways to alleviate your spouse’s anxiety, it can be done. As you help your spouse deal with his/her feelings of panic, remember that most everyone experiences difficult seasons like this at some point. Armed with understanding, patience, empathy, and love, you can overcome this together.