Winter Blues? Tip #3

Good Eats

Although I am not usually a big fan of turnips, I recently discovered how tasty they can be in a slow cooker soup with butternut squash, potato, onion and pear.  Yes, I said pear!  We have learned more and more that there is a strong connection between our physical health and our mental well-being.  Nourishing yourself with fresh healthy foods, including a variety of vegetables, grains and lean protein is a great way to combat the winter blues.  If you enjoy cooking, take this opportunity to try a new recipe with a winter vegetable.   Even if you don’t enjoy cooking…look for easy ways to get a variety of vegetables into your meals.  

Check out this article for more on the connection between nutrition and mental health:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

 

Winter Blues? Tip #2

Stay Active

Colder and shorter days mean it may be more difficult to find time to exercise.  But, don’t let the drop in the temperature stop you from getting your weekly dose of endorphins, a natural mood booster. Try a new gym membership…winter may be the perfect time to perfect your swimming stroke at an indoor pool.   Learn to rock climb at one of Atlanta’s rock climbing gyms. Or, embrace the winter sports and find an ice skating rink! It doesn’t have to be complicated or pricey, bundle up and take a walk in your own neighborhood, or pop in one of those old-school workout DVD’s with your rainbow leg warmers and get your endorphins flowing from the comfort of your own home.  If it has been a long time since you were active, check with your doctor about any new exercise routine!

Some more info on how exercise can reduce depression:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression

Winter Blues?

During winter months, sunlight is limited and especially this year in Atlanta, we have had some extra-grey, cloudy, rainy days. For those who are sensitive to this change in light it may feel more difficult to get out of bed and to stay positive over the winter months. Today is a rare sunny day….and the perfect opportunity to talk about the #1 item in beating the Winter Blues:

1) Chase the Sun–or at least stumble slowly towards it 
Even when it feels too cold to stay outside, find a way to bask in sunlight each day. Look for patches of sunlight through the window; open the blinds in your office, or step outside during your lunch break. If you are able, consider taking a few days away to a sunnier spot. If getting up in the morning is a struggle, consider using an lamp that mimics the sun’s rays or an alarm clock that incorporates gradually increasing light…sending the signal, it’s time to wake from your Winter slumber.

My favorite winter sunlight spot: Backyard hammock, with a blanket if necessary.
What is yours?

More than costumes and candy…

Re-member us,

you who are living

restore us, renew us.

Speak for our silence.

Continue our work.

Bless the breath of life.

Sing of the hidden patterns.

Weave the web of peace.

-Judith Anderson

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good costume and some mini chocolate bars, but the spooky costumes and sweet candy of Halloween are just one aspect of this special time of year.  This is also a time when multiple traditions acknowledge the connection between ourselves and those who have gone before us.   Regardless of your faith tradition or cultural background, this can be an opportunity to re-member those who have died recently,  in years past, or even distant ancestors who paved the way for us.

Why do I use a ‘dash’ in re-membering?

The process of thinking about those who have died is a way of recreating their place as a member of our circle.  In re-membering, we are keeping a space for them at the table, we create a place for them in our life story, we allow the important aspects of their lives to influence our lives again and again.  Re-membering is an active process, not just thinking about the past, but bringing the lives of our most important people into the present.

How do you create a space for re-membering?

Pictures, special items belonging to your loved one, or symbols of what they stood for, can be used to focus your attention on the important impact of your person.  You might make a special point to share memories of the person, highlighting the characteristics you hope to re-member and carry forward.  You might consider doing something in your community to honor a special cause your loved one supported, or simply visit one of their favorite places. Doing something they taught you, or something that they always wanted to do can also be great ways of re-membering.  The most important, is that you re-member in the way that feels right for you and is consistent with your person’s personality….quirks, flaws and all!

For more on Re-Membering check out this article on the Pixar movie “Coco” from the ladies at What’s Your Grief?

https://whatsyourgrief.com/five-things-pixars-coco-got-right-about-grief/

 

 

LGBTQ Pre-Marital Workshop

Starting in March we will have an LGBTQ Pre-Marital Workshop at Metropolitan Counseling Services.  This workshop is meant to provide a space for couples to discuss common issues that arise within any relationship as well as LGBTQ-specific concerns.  It is a 6 hour workshop split over three Thursday evenings.  Successful completion of the workshop will qualify participants for discounted marriage licence in Metro-Atlanta counties. Click here for: More Information

Tapping (EFT) to Relieve Chronic Pain, Stress and Anxiety on Today Show

I am excited to see Tapping get some attention in the National media because it is a useful, gentle practice for anyone dealing with everything from day-to-day stressful events, to longer term problems that feel stuck.

“Even though I have this stress, I unconditionally love and accept myself.”

If you watch the video, it gives you a very basic description of how tapping works.  But, there are a few points I would add/clarify.  First, the segment below is part of a “spiritual renewal” series on the Today show.  In my view, Tapping is not a spiritual practice.  It is better described as a “mind-body” practice.  You do not need to have any particular spiritual belief to use tapping and it is not associated with any faith tradition.  In addition, the host Megyn Kelly describes tapping as being unorthodox.   There has actually been research on tapping: Trauma update: On the Tipping Point For Tapping therapy | HMS  and increasing investigation into this method.  There are a few different schools of thought and slight variations on how to practice tapping, known as the Emotion Focused Technique.  But, all use a basic sequence of acknowledging the problem in conjunction with a statement of self-acceptance while combining the tapping sequence.

If you are interested in trying tapping, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I can lead you through the introductory practice…and then you will have the tools you need (literally) right at your fingertips to continue at home.   See the Today show video below:

Could tapping be the solution to chronic pain and anxiety? – TODAY.com

Atlanta Grief Group Starting in March 2018

“In an important sense, stories are the medium through which we live, love and grieve.”  (from Remembering Lives pg. 44)

What are the moments you recall with your loved one?  How do those moments inform you today?  How would knowing your loved one benefit others?  The upcoming grief group at Metropolitan Counseling Services will invite reflection on these questions and more.  Often we are taught that in order to grieve properly we must let go and move-on.  In this group we may ask different questions: What would you like to hold onto?  How will your life be different if you carry this with you?

If you are intrigued by these questions call or email me:

404-321-1794 x316

evalera@mcsatlanta.org

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Maternal Mental Health Day

In honor of Maternal Mental Health Day, I want to acknowledge all the parents who have experienced the death of their baby.

World Maternal Mental Health Day at postpartum.net reports:

It is estimated that 20 – 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth. In addition to grief, many of these women also experience postpartum depression. Giving birth to a premature child, or having a child spend extended time in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, can also take a toll on maternal mental health.

When I began my career as a chaplain in 1999, my first internship assignment was in an Alzheimer’s Unit.  I would often listen to the stories of the middle-stage Alzheimer’s patients as they shared the glimpses of memories that passed through their minds, mixing decades together through loose associations.  At times, I noticed a woman would state that she had more children than we knew of.  Sometimes, it became apparent that she had a baby who died as an infant, who she had never really mentioned in public or included in her “official” count of children.  But, in her heart, the memory of that child was still there. Sometimes, a family member would put the pieces together and share the story behind the child that died. Often they would say, “Oh, she never talked about that.”  I always felt honored to hear those stories, even if I never could confirm their accuracy.

My second assignment was in the neo-natal intensive care unit.  I was with parents who were facing a serious illness and sometimes even the death of their own baby, in the here-and-now.  The natural questions arose: Why? What should we do? What should we tell people?  And, often the terrible false feeling that “I’m not really a parent.”  The women in the Alzheimer’s unit never stopped being a parent to their babies who died, and I learned to understand that the birth-mothers and parents in the ICU would always be parents to their babies, as well.  Each pregnancy is a little different, and the personality of the child may be present in those differences. For the generation of women in the Alzheimer’s center, it may have been taboo to speak about a miscarriage or stillbirth.

My hope for our generation is that the stories of these babies will be more and more interwoven into our family stories through the years, that we will know their names, that parents will not have to wait until our dying days to share the love that remains in their hearts for these babies.  Let us speak their names, and share their stories…they are part of us, and we will remember them.

Check out the H.E.A.R.T. strings Perinatal Bereavement & Palliative Care Program for additional resources from Northside Hospital in Atlanta  or Rachel’s Gift for support group at DeKalb Medical among others.