A Beginner’s Guide to Therapeutic Meditation

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“Meditation” is a loaded word.  Some immediately think of Eastern religious experiences. Some think of yoga. Some think of Christian practices.  Others don’t know what it means at all.

In the world of counseling, meditation does not have to have any kind of religious connotation.  In fact, the therapeutic practice of meditation is used to help a person out of an unhelpful mental or emotional state. It has even been shown to have positive impacts upon the brain when practiced regularly.

The following video, produced by a non-religious organization, gives an introduction to the therapeutic use of meditation:

The video guide purposefully focuses in on the science and practice of therapeutic meditation to help overcome any religious hangups a person may have with a loaded word like meditation.  A good counseling agency also knows that a person’s faith can be very important to them. If you wish to incorporate the skills of therapeutic meditation with your worldview, talk with your counselor and they can help you with that process.

If you would like to learn how to practice therapeutic meditation in your life, or how to incorporate your faith with therapeutic meditation, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614.459.3003 to speak with a counselor or a coach.

Why Your Anger Builds Until You Explode

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Why Your Anger Builds Until You Explode

By Brent Flory

Profile of man screaming.Do you struggle to keep your temper in check? Do you find yourself feeling angrier throughout the day until you are ready to lose control? Is it all you can do to not take out your work frustrations on your family?

Once at basketball practice in high school, I became so incensed by a teammate’s trash talking that I picked him up in a bearhug, determined to hurt him. After about five seconds of awkwardly holding him in the air, I remembered that I had no idea how to fight, so I put him down and we moved on with practice.

Unfortunately, too many stories of people becoming furious end in great harm or tragedy, rather than the comedy of my high school experience. Whether it is road rage, shootings, or some other situation, we are all too familiar with examples of people becoming angry to the point of violence.

What is going on within us that can drive us to this point of losing control?

According to the search of psychologist Dolf Zillmann, anger is evoked when we believe our safety is in jeopardy, whether we are talking physical, emotional, or psychological safety.We can become just as angry if someone hurts our feelings or wounds our pride as we do when we feel physically threatened.

The Effects of Anger on Our Brain

1. It triggers a release of catecholamines, prepping the body with energy for the fight-or flight response.

You have a sudden influx of energy, so you are prepared to take action and combat your opponent, or run depending upon whether or not you fear them.

2. It triggers adrenocortical arousal, keeping you on edge for hours or even days.

This longer reaction keeps you ready to fight or take flight much more quickly in case the threat returns, or another shows up. This is why people who have had a difficult day are so quick to escalate and blow up if something else happens.

How Your Anger Builds

When a high-rise apartment complex is being constructed, the building gets taller as each floor is added on top of the others. Anger works in a similar fashion. According to Dr. Zillmann, anger builds upon itself. After the initial event that makes you angry, you are on edge, and every incident or thought that incites you further grows the level of your outrage.

For example:

  • At breakfast, your spouse comments that she is concerned about your weight gain, which you interpret as an intended insult.
  • As you are getting into your car, your neighbor criticizes how your lawn looks for the fourth time in the last two weeks.
  • Your manager yells at you and blames you personally for your team being late in completing the design prototype. To make matters worse, his outburst takes place in front of your team and you feel humiliated.
  • On the drive home, you keep ruminating on how your boss embarrassed you, replaying the situation through your mind over and over again.
  • After dinner, you ask your teenager about her homework, and when she gives a sarcastic response, you blow up at her.

Each incident that upsets you and comes later in this process evokes a far higher level of anger than if it had been an isolated occurrence. Just as the apartment complex reaches higher and higher, so does uncheck anger until it builds into unfiltered rage.

This building process has to be interrupted before you lose control. Next week we will look at ways to diffuse anger before you get to that point.

The Relief of Forgiveness

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Forgiveness

If you are struggling with forgiveness – of others or of yourself- please contact CornerStone Family Services to set up an appointment with a coach or a counselor.  There is hope and there is freedom available to you.  Please call us at 614-459-3003 for more information.

Dr. Amen’s Top 5 Good Mood Foods

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Dr. Amen’s Top 5 Good Mood Foods

By Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD

food plateIf you want to feel your best and do your best thinking, you have to give your brain and body high-quality nutrition.  Certain foods offer an abundance of bliss-enhancing nutrients that can help you feel more relaxed and lift your mood, naturally.   Here are just 5 of my favorites:


1. Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate:
  Cacao beans—used to make chocolate—contain hundreds of blissful, health-promoting properties that support a positive mood, the natural ability to focus, and a healthy cardiovascular system.  One such property is a phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural chemical released by your brain when falling in love.


2. Raw Spinach:
  Dark leafy greens such as raw spinach, chard and kale are full of magnesium, an essential nutrient that encourages mind/body relaxation, decreased pain, better sleep, and so much more.  Substitute raw spinach anywhere you would use lettuce for an instant bliss-boost!


3. Lean, High-Quality Protein: 
Protein satiates, helps balance blood sugar and provides the necessary building blocks for brain health.  Eating a little bit of high-quality protein multiple times per day will help your brain produce dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter involved in pleasure, focus and motivation.

 

4. Walnuts:  Reminiscent of tiny brains, walnuts are the perfect on-the-go brain food!  They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential nutrient that supports healthy brain cell membranes.  Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids are wonderful for supporting a positive mood, the ability to get a good night’s sleep, a healthy memory, and so much more.


5. Saffron:  
Ancient cultures around the world have cherished saffron for centuries and have cultivated it for use as a culinary spice, digestion aid and mood-boosting aphrodisiac.  This vibrant-hued spice is known as the most expensive in the world—for good reason.  New research suggests that saffron may support healthy levels of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being.

 

July 4 Fireworks and PTSD

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While many Americans love a good Fourth of July fireworks display, there are many men and women who served their country who do not share that same love of fireworks.  It is not because they are unpatriotic but because they are struggling with PTSD.

On this Fourth of July weekend, take time to thank a serviceman or servicewoman.  If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD, please look into ways of getting help.

CornerStone Family Services is one place that has men and women professionally trained to come alongside of those wrestling with PTSD to help in the healing process.  Please give us a call at 614-459-3003 to schedule an appointment.

PTSD fireworks

 

3 Practices of Friendship

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3 Practices of Friendship

By Darrin Patrick

Most men are not good at friendships. The last thing I thought I would struggle with as a middle-aged man is friendships. But, that is exactly the place I found myself in a couple of years ago. I had to go back to the foundations of how friends are made, invested in, and enjoyed. I offer these 3 practices for dudes who want to have some dudes in their life.

Three skateboarder kids standing together

1. Presence

There is nothing novel about this practice. But there are several layers to intentional presence with other men: availability, routine, and retreat.

For a lot of guys, presence can simply mean making ourselves available to other people and allowing others to enter into our daily rhythms. When I work in my yard, I regularly get into conversations with my neighbor. And when I run errands, I invite young leaders in our organization along with me. It’s odd, but it allows us time together while doing the mundane activities.

Friendship is often found within the ordinary.

A general posture of availability is a good start, but there’s more to it. Men need to gather together routinely. I meet with a group of guys once a week. We gather before we go to work and talk to each other and pray for each other between sips of coffee. We sacrifice a little of our sleep because we know how important it is for us to spend time together.

That’s the routine dimension. But it is also helpful to get away together, as friends, and go on retreats. The relationships forged in those concentrated times can be very deep. I know several guys who use an annual retreat to stay connected to their high school or college buddies. Don’t underestimate the value of concentrated, intentional community.

I recently did a two-day retreat with four of my friends. We all work in a non-profit together, so we had some business to attend to. But, the vast majority of the time together was spent reminiscing, laughing, and mocking each other. It was glorious. It happened because we all decided to sacrifice other things and be present with each other.

2. Productivity

There’s something real to a friendship where you’re producing something together. Real friends have a cause; in other words, something deeper than just themselves brings them together. This is one of the reasons the retreat I mentioned was a success. We didn’t just go and play and focus on ourselves. We had some objectives to meet, items to attend to, and decisions to make.

You don’t have to be “working” to have a productive retreat, as friendship itself can be the focus of improvement. Friendship builds character, but only if the parties involved are building the friendship. Hard words from a friend can be like the pruning that goes on in gardening: a rose emerges, but only after a lot of the plant has been cut off in winter. A real friendship isn’t simply oriented toward having a good time together, or even hearing each other’s opinions about barbecue and baseball. It is oriented toward the formation of virtue in the other person and it pursues such formation intentionally.

3. Perseverance

It’s unavoidable that we gravitate to people that look like us, smell like us, root for the same teams, and vote for the same policies. But there’s more to friendship than affinity. When commonality is the only basis for friendship, it’s even easier to drift apart. A lot of times it’s a crisis or disagreement that drives friends away.

Friendship doesn’t mean gathering with guys you always get along with. It means learning to get along with the guys you gather with. It takes perseverance to face hard conversations, poverty and wealth, good times and bad. A good friendship resembles a good marriage in this way. Perseverance means fighting through the hurts and the brokenness of each other’s failures, and enduring the wounds in order to cultivate a relationship.

5 Enemies You Must Combat to Be Self-Aware

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5 Enemies You Must Combat to Be Self-Aware

By Brent Flory

challange acceptedThere are a variety of reasons why I care so deeply about how people deal with stress. One motive that I have shared about in the past is seeing many of my friends grapple with it mightily. Another reason is that my own failure to cope with stress almost destroyed me.

It’s true. Long before I was a counselor, I found myself broken and in counseling. The entire story of how I got there is too long to share in a single blog post. But a huge factor in my stress-driven breakdown years ago was that I had poor self-awareness.

This is the second post in a series on self-awareness. Last week I talked about what self-awareness is and why it is important. This week I am going to cover the enemies you have to defeat in order to be self-aware.

My breakdown was sparked by making poor decisions in several areas of my life which could have been avoided had I practiced better self-awareness. After finding healing, I have seen people both professionally and personally make the same mistakes that I did to put them at risk of being overwhelmed by stress.

Without question, self-awareness is vital to learning to triumph over stress, and these opponents will do everything they can to take you down. Don’t allow them to do so.

The Enemies of Self-Awareness

1) Denial

You are in denial when you refuse to accept who you are, or the reality of a situation. When someone has survived a painful event, they may deny how much they were wounded by it, or that the incident even took place. Denial in this respect is not a bad thing, as it can protect you from feelings that you are not yet ready to process.

However, denial can be very destructive. For example, if you are never willing to deal with upsetting emotions that stem from a failed business venture, they will linger under the surface, building and gaining more power over you as you fight to ignore them. The stress that these emotions cause will fester, and the wound will grow larger and may in time turn into shame.

You also have to acknowledge that you have limitations to what you can do and what you can handle. Trying to do too much will eventually tear you down if you keep pushing too hard; this was a painful lesson that I had to learn. To deny your physical and emotional limitations puts you and those you love at risk.

2) Fear

It can be scary to be self-aware. Owning who you are and who you are not can be intimidating. If I accept responsibility for who I am, who I want to be, and where I want to go, what happens if I don’t get there? Who is left to blame? The classic Michael Jordan quote, “I can accept failure…But I can’t accept not trying,” sounds great, but the fear of failure can grip your heart so strongly that it feels safer to not take a risk rather than face the possibility of failure.

3) Insecurity

Have you ever needed a new prescription for your glasses? You come to realize this as road signs begin to look a bit blurry, and reading a book takes more effort to focus on the words. Too often the prescription through which people see and interpret the world can be off and lead them astray. The problem is, people may miss this because they think they are seeing the world as it is, when in fact they need to try a new prescription.

This happens to people who struggle with insecurity. If you are insecure, you acknowledge only negative comments, and toss aside positive affirmations from trusted friends as inaccurate. If you don’t believe in yourself, then you won’t invest in your strengths, or put yourself out there and pursue what you really want because you believe your efforts won’t amount to anything.

4) Pride

Of course, there is more than one way to view the world through the wrong prescription. If you allow arrogance to creep in, you will choose to only hear the positive feedback you receive from people, and may ignore constructive criticism that you need to heed. Having weaknesses and shortcomings is a part of the human condition, and you only need to read a little history to see how disregarding your own is a great recipe for falling on your face.

5) Busyness

Our culture wears being busy like a badge of honor, and to be a contributing member of society means you must pack as much activity as you can into each day. Yet you need to rest, and to create space to think and consider the direction in which you are heading. A sea captain on a voyage who never takes the time to check his compass to make sure the ship is on the proper course would be a fool, and it is no different for any of us. It is impossible to maintain healthy self-awareness if you don’t allow yourself any time for self-reflection.

To lead ourselves well, let alone others, requires growing self-awareness. And to be self-aware isn’t to be self-obsessed; it is to be brave. It takes courage to face yourself as who you are and who you are not. The enemies of your self-awareness will do all they can to defeat you, but choosing to battle them is well worth the struggle.

Question: How have you struggled with these enemies of self-awareness? What do you do to overcome them?

 

4 Tips for Choosing Wise Friendships in Your Marriage

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Marriage Friendship

4 Tips for Choosing Wise Friendships in Your Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Friendship is a gift. We need our friends, and that need doesn’t come to an end when we get married. Here you’ll find tips for choosing wise friendships that will enrich your marriage, as well as balancing the intimacy in your marriage with the important friendships in your lives.

1. MAKE PAST FRIENDS PART OF YOUR SHARED LIFE

When you get married, the landscape of your relationships changes. There are many adjustments to make because it becomes impossible to cultivate your marriage while supporting the same time investment you put into past friendships.

While there’s nothing wrong with each of you having individual, separate friends, it’s best to try to make each of your friends a part of your shared life as a married couple. You feel a sense of loyalty, ownership and responsibility for friends you’ve been close to through your single years. You can maintain a healthy sense of continued connection with them as you transition into this new season of your life.

If you’re the first of your circle of friends to get married, they won’t want to “give you up.” Be sure to have empathy for them, as this is a major change in their lives, too. By being the pioneer in your group of friends and striking out into uncharted territory, you’ll have the unique chance to model marriage for them.

2. SET BOUNDARIES FOR OPPOSITE-SEX FRIENDS

Opposite-sex friendships don’t threaten a marriage unless you or your spouse feels uncomfortable. If your spouse is feeling unnerved by your friendship with a member of the opposite sex, then you need to respect his or her feelings and talk about it.

Maybe involving your spouse in the friendship will help make him or her more comfortable about your friend, or maybe you could make the relationship a couple friendship with that friend and their significant other. Ultimately, show your spouse that his or her needs are most important to you, and that you respect your commitment to the marriage.

You don’t necessarily have to sever relationships that might be enjoyable to you, but you do have a responsibility to find ways to build up your spouse’s confidence and reassure him or her. Setting healthy boundaries around these friendships will allow you and your spouse to maintain healthy relationships with opposite-sex friends. After all, there will be the unhealthy types – the type of friendship that they’d much rather watch www.fulltube.xxx while they get into bed together instead of an innocent movie on the couch.

You might set boundaries around the settings where you interact with your friend; maybe your spouse feels comfortable with certain settings, but uncomfortable with others. Find out what makes your husband or wife relaxed and comfortable about your friendship, versus what makes him or her uncomfortable and anxious.

In your friendship with that member of the opposite sex, always be sure to talk about your spouse in a positive way. If you’re in an office setting or a public place, display pictures of your spouse where they can be seen, to let people know you’re committed to your spouse and prize your relationship above all others.

Decide now to not get involved in situations where you omit discussion about your shared life with your spouse, or where you might feel tempted to talk negatively about him or her to a member of the opposite sex. This will set the tone for a safe, healthy friendship.

3. PROTECT YOUR MARRIAGE FROM DESTRUCTIVE FRIENDSHIPS

If your spouse’s friends are not your top choice (or vice versa), be open to allowing them into your life anyway. Shared history is a big deal, so honor that shared history as you get to know your spouse’s friends. Sometimes the hardest individuals to build a relationship with at first become your best friends later.

On the other hand, it’s important to use careful discernment when it comes to incorporating past friendships into your marriage. Is this friend someone who is dishonoring or disrespectful of you or your spouse? Is this person toxic and destructive? Does he or she negatively affect you as a couple? Does this person bring turmoil into your relationship? If you answered yes to any of the these questions, it’s time for a serious discussion with your spouse about whether to allow this person to remain part of your life.

When you approach your spouse to discuss a friendship that is making you uncomfortable, be honest, but be tactful and genuine. Don’t pass judgment, and don’t accuse your spouse of having an unwise relationship; simply let him or her know how vulnerable you feel about it.

In the case of an opposite-sex friendship that is making you uncomfortable, approach your spouse carefully. Often, he or she doesn’t realize that the friendship is making you feel unnerved. One way to approach your spouse might be to say, “You might not realize this, but when I see you interact with your friend, they seem more drawn to or interested in your than I’m used to. It raises concerns in me and makes me feel threatened.”

You don’t want to seem paranoid or suspicious, but you also want to open an honest dialog about your fears and hesitations regarding this relationship. Be patient with your spouse as he or she tries to process the discussion; there may be initial hesitance to change the tone of the friendship, set boundaries around it, or (in severe cases) end it.

Your energy and your focus should first be on your marriage; the most precious thing to protect is your marriage relationship. Maintaining friendships that are detrimental to your marriage, or that cause your focus to be shifted away from your marriage relationship, is counterproductive to this goal.

4. CULTIVATE COUPLES RELATIONSHIPS

Having a shared circle of friends is a source of happiness for married couples. You can expand the social horizon of your marriage by building intentional friendships with other God-honoring couples. Mentoring occurs when you watch another marriage play out in front of you.

Friendships are built on having things in common, so connect yourself with groups that include peers who are walking through similar life circumstances to yours–maybe they’re in same season of life as you are, or maybe you have shared interests.

Don’t limit yourself, however, to only having friends whose ages and lives are similar to yours. Maybe you’ve met an older married couple who can mentor you as your grow in your own marriage. Or maybe you and your spouse can model marriage for a couple younger than you are.

When you’ve identified couples you’d like to get to know better, invite them into your home. Be intentional about cultivating that friendship as you get to know each other better.

It takes work to combine friends and to bring other couples into your relationship, but it heightens the level of enjoyment of the activities you share together. You might share one another’s dinner table, go on outings, or even share vacations together.

CONCLUSION

As you wisely choose friendships as a married couple, remember, above all else, to cherish and protect your marriage. You need a solid footing, great confidence, and commitment to ensure longevity. Build a hedge around your marriage and care enough about it to protect it at all costs.