Emotional Spring Cleaning

Finally, after what seemed like an endless winter, spring is in full bloom. No more long grey days and no more snow! (At least for a few months)

I don’ t know about anyone else, but when spring comes I always feel the need to clean out the clutter. Out with the old, in with the new!

While I was thinking about my spring cleaning plans and all the organization I was going to be doing, I thought this is the perfect time to do some personal spring cleaning! A personal reflection, if you will.

As I was reflecting on my own emotional health and thinking about the stressors in my life, I was reminded about this article I read a little while back on toxic family members. You check this article out here.

Personally, I found this article a little comforting because I have some strained relationships with certain family members in my life and often would feel guilty for distancing myself. It made me realize that just because they are family doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my own mental or emotional health. Sometimes keeping a good amount of distance is the best thing you can do. Does anyone else struggle with this?

Now that I have my mental health in check, it’s time for me to get back to cleaning out closets. I should also probably get to work on my yard or those dandelions are going to be taller than me soon!

Here’s to good mental health!

-L

Eye Opener

Disclaimer: Uncharacteristic Serious Post 

Yesterday I put my father on a plane back home to Kansas City. I walked him to his terminal, bought him a burger and fries for lunch, and waited with him until it was time to board. As we said our goodbyes, while I knew things would be much less stressful at home, I was sad to see him go.

I have mentioned this in a previous post, but for those who don’t know my father has early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It is in the very early stages, he still knows who we all are, and he can still take care of he basic daily needs, but there are many things he is no longer able to do. He can no longer drive himself, he has extreme difficulty reading, he can’t cook like he used to, and he is much slower than he used to be. His short term memory is pretty much nonexistent, he asks the same question over and over again, and he has picked up some habits that he never had before. But thankfully he is still the same dad I have always loved.

Since he lives at home with my mom and sister I decided that I would take him back to Chicago with me after my latest trip to KC. My sister and mom needed some time to relax and get things done around the house so I thought he would enjoy a few weeks with my husband and I. While I knew he had some difficulties and could tell his memory was getting worse, from our regular phone calls, it wasn’t really until he was living with us for a few weeks that I realized how much worse he really is. I think part of me never really accepted the Alzheimer’s diagnosis and just kept the facade that everything was still perfectly fine. As I said before he isn’t completely helpless, but he does need help with a lot of things.

First off, I am going to say that caregivers are fucking SAINTS. I was only with my dad a few weeks and I was completely exhausted. Before work each morning I had to make sure he ate and took his medicine and then make sure his lunch was made so that all he had to do was heat it up in the microwave. I can’t even count the number of conversations we had about how our Keurig works. He really wanted to work it, he just couldn’t get there. Luckily I work from home a couple days a week so I only had to worry a few days that he was alright at home while I was gone. Totally nerve wracking. At least he had our two dogs to keep him company and I think they enjoyed his daily naps as much as he did.

Since he doesn’t get to do too much back at home, we tried to show him a good time. We went out to eat a few times, he hung out with my father-in-law, whom he really enjoyed, and we even had a cookout with some of our friends.

While we had a good time, I am ashamed to say that at times I was extremely annoyed. I knew he couldn’t help it, but at night after working all day sometimes I just couldn’t hear the same question over and over. Thankfully I have a loving husband who was there to help me.

The scary thing for me is that unfortunately, he is going to get worse. I know this and I am terrified to death. Right now he still knows who I am, but there will come a day when he won’t and that is something I can’t even deal with right now. I never thought that I would be taking care of my parents, parents are suppose to take care of you. However, this is where we are at and it is something I will gladly do.

 

 

The Power of Positive Thinking

With all of the new changes that have been going on in my life and all of the associated stress, I have been very anxious and completely exhausted. Many times, when I become overwhelmed with life I tend to be more pessimist about things in general and a little bit cranky.

This past week there was one night in which I was particularly cranky and was laying in bed whining to the fiance when I realized that there was no real reason for me to be so negative. Yes, I moving is a lot of work and yes, I work all week and it wears me out, but that is no reason to be so cranky. At this particular moment there is nothing horrible going on in my life and being negative does nothing for me. In fact, negative thinking can be quite destructive to your life. With all those negative thoughts floating around in your head there is no room for positive ones and who wants that?!?

With this realization I decided that I am going to make more of an attempt to be aware of my thoughts and try to focus on positive thinking. Speaking of positive thinking, I thought I would share a small article I wrote about how powerful positive thinking can be. Enjoy!

Can thinking positive really help you live longer? Many aging researchers think so. In fact, studies have found that individuals who have more positive perceptions of their own aging lived on average seven and a half years longer than others.(Seven and a half years!) Furthermore, having a positive attitude has been known to help improve interpersonal relationships, increase self-esteem, and lower a person’s risk for the development of heart disease. These individuals also tend to have less stress, are less likely to become depressed, have a stronger immune system, and better overall psychological health.

Clearly there are a large number of benefits that come along with positive thinking, but what exactly is it about thinking positively that has such a large impact on a person’s physical and mental health?

While no one knows that exact answer to this question, there are a few ideas that have developed. One of the most common theories is that positive people are not as affected by stress. When an individual is stressed they will experience more inflammation on the inside of the body, which has been known to speed up the aging process. Less stress means less inflammation on the inside of the body, promoting a longer life. Another theory is that those who are positive tend to lead healthier lives in general, meaning that they more likely exercise, maintain a healthy diet, and engage in less harmful behaviors such as smoking or drinking.

We all get older, there is nothing we can do to stop the aging process, but there are some things you can do to increase your positive thinking and increase your overall well-being. Consider the following tips that can help you identify your negative thinking and replace them with more positive thoughts:

  • Avoid negative self- talk or thinking critical thoughts about yourself.
  • Try using humor and learn to recognize the potential for humor in each situation.
  • Take a moment to analyze each event in your life and give yourself credit when it is due. Attribute the good things in your life to you own skill and do not blame yourself for the things that are out of your control in order to become more optimistic.
  • Continue to work on positive thinking, the more you practice it the better you will become about it.

Changing negative thinking can be extremely challenging and it can take practice to learn how to think positively. Positive thinking is more about taking a proactive approach to life instead of letting life’s challenges get in the way of your happiness. While transforming your thought process may not be easy the positive influence that it has on you emotional, mental, and physical health is well worth the effort. So while you can’t stop yourself from getting older you do have control over how you age. The key to living a longer, happy life may actually lie within positive thinking.

Would love to hear any other thoughts about positive thinking! Have a good rest of the week, it’s almost Friday!

Ooohhhmmm….

Once again life has been extremely crazy. Work is as busy as ever, I’m getting ready to move out of the city, and most recently I got engaged so wedding planning has been added to my never ending to do list. I am beyond thrilled, but I never realized how much went into planning a wedding. (Ecstatic in fact!)

Anyway, last week I was able to escape work to attend a meditation seminar and I thought I would share some information I learned about meditation and a little article I wrote about the seminar. Because why not? Everyone can use some relaxation and rejuvenation. I know I can!

Here are some things I learned from the session:

Life can be extremely stressful. Each day we are met with multiple responsibilities from work, family life, and even social engagements. Week after week we try to cram everything we can into our already jam-packed schedules; leaving us exhausted, worried, and honestly at times, completely overwhelmed. While you can’t quit your job or neglect your family obligations, there are some things you can do to help relieve some of your stress.

One thing that many people have found to be very helpful at stress reduction is meditation. Originally meant to help individuals gain a deeper understanding of life, today meditation is used for relaxation and stress reduction. In fact the practice of regular meditation is linked to many benefits including increased self-awareness, increased focus and discipline, stress and anxiety reduction, increased emotional stability, helps you think more clearly, and helps your overall physical health. When you take a little bit of time out of each day to meditate you can begin to clear your mind from the abundance of information that tends to build up each day and causes us stress.

Through techniques such as meditation,  you learn how to quiet your mind so that you can break free from overwhelming stress and get what you really want out of life.

On Monday February 16, 2015, I attended a meditation session at the Junior League of Chicago (JLC), where we learned about a few different types of meditation. These different types of meditation only take a few minutes of our day, but can do so much for our emotional health and overall well being. The four different types of meditation we covered included breath meditation, guided visualization, mantra or affirmation meditation, and finally yoga nidra, or sleep yoga. Each one is discussed in more detail below.

Breath meditation: The overall purpose of breath meditation is to calm the mind and develop a sense of inner peace. With some simple breathing we are able to change the chemistry of our minds, creating more space and making us think more clearly.

Guided visualization: Based on the concept that the mind and body are connected, this technique uses thoughts and suggestions that guide your mind toward a relaxed, focused state. When you imagine the details of a safe, comfortable place you are able to reach a state of complete relaxation. To help with the visualization it is common to use an instructor, tapes, or scripts.

Mantra or affirmation meditation: In this type of meditation you silently repeat a thought or phrase over and over in your mind to help prevent distracting thoughts. Mantra meditation is more challenging, but it is good for building strength and power in your thoughts.

Yoga Nidra: Also known as sleep yoga, this type of meditation brings about an incredible sense of calmness, quietness, and clarity. It is one of the deepest types of meditation where you go into a deep sleep, past the dreaming state, but still remain awake.

At first you may find that no matter what you do you are unable to keep your mind focus, but the idea is to start small and gradually add more time as you go. You will never be able to completely stop certain thoughts from entering your mind, but with practice you can create more space or focus, giving you more control over your mind.

So if you are looking for a way to focus better, stress less, get better sleep, and be a better partner meditation may just be the answer.

Today I Brushed My Hair

I’m a writer for a living, which means that on a typical day I sit at my computer (often in sweats) and write all day long. I don’t talk to any of my clients in person and other than an early morning yoga class the only other human contact I have each day is with the other members of my small content team and maybe the cashier at Starbucks. (Or Chipotle, one can never have too much Chipotle).

So generally speaking, I don’t put too much effort into getting ready in the morning. I may or may not wear makeup, if I do it’s very minimal, there have been multiples times when I will just rock a sweatshirt with leggings, and most of the time I just put my hair up in a bun without bothering to blow dry it. On the days I work from home I make no effort at all to look even somewhat presentable. If I want to sit around all day in a robe with a mess of hair tied up on top of my head, that’s not a problem.

While in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter what I wear to work in, something can be said for taking a few extra minutes in the morning to look nice each day. I’ve noticed that how you look can have a pretty large impact on how you feel. Sometimes on those extra lazy days, when I feel like I would much rather sleep an extra 30 minutes and go sans makeup, I find that I am not in as good a mood as I could be. Honestly sometimes I feel down right dumpy. When I take time to do my hair and makeup and put on a nice outfit (even if it’s just jeans and a t-shirt) I am in such a better mood.

As I said in a previous post 2015 is all about being a happier person and in the spirit of sticking to New Years resolutions I am going to make it a point to get dressed each morning, even if I am working from home. However, this doesn’t include Sundays. Sundays are meant to be lazy and fully intend to keep wearing my pajamas all day.