Let’s Talk

Why is Change So Hard?

Q. You said in your last post that change was hard
– why is that?

A. Let’s Talk! Let me give you a couple of physical examples of how our own bodies resist change, and then we’ll talk about changes on a cognitive level.

Sit in a chair and circle your right foot clockwise. Now add something new: draw the number 6 in the air and watch your foot react! It doesn’t like your change of direction. Your foot will get confused and follow your writing. Next example: if you are right-handed, try to write with your left. Not as easy; you already knew that. One more example I think I have posted before: sit in a chair and cross your arms. Now do it again. Did you notice that the same arm ends up on top each time? We are creatures of habit. To illustrate how uncomfortable change is, switch the bottom arm to the top position. Ugh.

Even if you are super creative, new ideas are usually mulled over before acceptance. The time it takes to go from an old idea to a new one varies with one’s season of life, one’s mental resilience, one’s temperament, and one’s general pattern of life. There is an initial resistance, and then comes the possible adaptation to a new idea if it fits in your cognitive system. If you are a problem solver, there is less resistance to new ideas generally. There is also less resistance if the new idea meets a need..

So, as we brainstorm the traditional “goal setting” that is entertained by many at the start of a new year, I have an idea. You may already know your top one or two, but have you thought about asking God to show you His goals for you???

Those goals are the ones that will be anointed, empowered, and joyful. Hope you’re not resisting too much. Let me know how it goes!

For Deeper Reflection

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

Your Best Is Enough

Back in 2011, I caught part of an episode of “The Biggest Loser” in which Hannah lost 102 pounds in five months. With her crying sister at her side and a world of television viewers watching, Hannah proudly exclaimed, “My best is enough.”

I love Hannah’s battle cry. When we’ve given something our all and truly done our best, it is enough. We are free not to second-guess our efforts or self-judge our performance. Enough means “sufficient for the purpose.”

Being a person of perfectionist tendencies, I am aware of letting go of pushing just a little more for the A+ instead of the A, the most memorable presentation, the beyond excellent word choice. Ordinary is just not at word I gravitate toward to describe me. But I’d be honored if someone would say of me, “Beth knows when her best is enough.”

Knowing when we’ve reached enough is part of our staying resilient no matter what the scale, the client, the spouse, the teacher, or boss says. Our “best enough” means learning to dial it down, turn it off, and sometimes just stop.

And with those words, I will push “send.”

P.S. I chose to say “best enough” when I couldn’t decide between a simple white A+ photo and this more vivid red A+. I’m in process!

Brave and Resilient Tip #121: Your best is enough is truly best enough.

 

Tribute to Millie

Q. Would you share more personally about a time when you were not in a good place?

A. Let’s Talk! Thanks for asking. Last week as my column posted about not being in a good place, I faced an even darker cloud. My absolutely wonderful dog Millie died suddenly from pneumonia. My heart is broken beyond belief. All of our Let’s Talk conversations about grief are being lived out now as I process the many losses and changes this brings. I can hardly see this page for my tears.

IMG952984I would love to share some of the helpful stories and words of encouragement sent to me. I expect there are many of you who have had a pet die and your own heart sought or still seeks recovery.

Why dogs live fewer years than humans A vet was called to examine a ten-year old dog named Belker. The dog’s owners and their son Shane, age 6, were hoping for a miracle. But the vet examined Belker and broke the news: Belker was dying. As the vet and family talked about the sad fact that animals’ lives are shorter than humans, the young son spoke up and said he knew why. “People are born so that they can learn how to love everybody all the time and be nice,” Shane explained, “and dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

The way of the doggie “We know when we get these small warm beings that we will outlive them, but somehow we think it will be easy when the time comes, but it never is, for anyone,” my friend Margaret Stocker shared. “This makes me wonder why we do that, but then I believe what [pets] give us in life far outweighs the heartbreak and sadness when they leave us. That is the way of the doggie and it is what they live (and die) for. . . .” Margaret has encouraged me to think of the good times, to remember that I did my best for Millie, and that I loved her deeply.

As I reflect on my own new transition from a not-so-good place, let me share this collection of sayings about things that dogs teach us:

  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up an opportunity to take a joyride.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Never pretend to be something you are not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle the loved one gently.

For Deeper Reflection
And this verse on the source of comfort is as applicable whether our loss is a person or a beloved pet:

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of mercies and GOD OF ALL COMFORT who comforts us in ALL our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in ANY affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant though Christ.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

 

Beyond Your Priorities

Smart. Compassionate. Intuitive. Committed. I’ve long admired these qualities in Florence Nightingale, the British heroine who is credited with founding the modern nursing profession. Born into affluence, Florence refused to settle for the pampered lifestyle of high society women of her day. Instead, this determined lass focused on poverty instead of privilege, serving instead of superiority.

Just beforBritish Postage Stamp Commemorating Florence Nightingalee turning seventeen in 1837, Florence sensed her lifelong calling to infuse faith and mercy into her advocacy for the ill and the dying. I appreciate Florence’s spunk. I respect her unswerving devotion. She is the energy and empathy in every needle poke and comforting word that compassionate nurses extend.

Brave and resilient, Florence Nightingale led a team of nurses to care for wounded and disease-ravaged Crimean War soldiers and established the world’s first secular nursing school. Florence modeled unwavering dedication, living a life stripped of other people’s conventions and expectations.

Even simple things like listening to someone or asking about a person’s day moves us too beyond our own priorities to attend to others with genuine interest and ardent humility. The Lady with the Lamp would have it no other way.

 Brave and Resilient Tip #88: Move beyond your own priorities to assist others.

Let’s Talk

What About Victimization?

Q. Would you please share some thoughts about victimization?

A. Let’s Talk! We see “victims” every day from stories around us to stories on the news. It’s a huge subject and hugely important. If I may, I’d like to even take the next several weeks to talk about its prevention and also treatment.

A victim is someone who has been disrespected and feels powerless to respond . . . and so a pattern begins. Someone has hurt this person’s body or feelings or property and the words “Stop – that hurts” don’t come out. The words get stuffed or not heard.

Those of us who are observers often feel powerless to help, so the wounded person can give in to a pattern of ignoring the problem or making excuses, further enabling victimization. Can we help? I think we can.

Most every business or company has a mission statement. What if in your world of influence, you could encourage or facilitate others via a written statement to agree that it is not OK to disrespect others? It’s a bottom line agreement. It’s zero tolerance for any form of disrespect in schools, families, neighborhoods, and workplaces.

I served as a school counselor for 12 years, and respect was one of my favorite guidance lessons to teach at the beginning of each school year. Four-year-olds even get it! There is a glorious look on their faces that they KNEW it wasn’t OK for someone to hurt their bodies, their feelings, or their property. I’ll share next week what you teach next, once the belief system is in place.

For Deeper Reflection

Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
1 Peter 2:17 “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God . . . .”
Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor . . . .”
Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves . . . .”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

Let’s Talk

Seeking Clarity in Pain

Q. How can I better deal with emotional pain during chronic physical pain?

A. Let’s Talk! We can experience emotional pain without physical pain, but physical pain nearly always brings a level of emotional pain. Of course, emotional pain varies, depending on the length of physical pain and its intensity. It’s totally within the normal range to have these emotions . . . but not healthy to hold
onto them.

So, while emotional angst is normal, what is a next step for helping our emotions while we are still suffering physically? Seeking clarity is always a great place to start. Untangling the dark tangles is a reasonable goal – to list and even separate out our struggles if possible. When the emotional tangle is still in one big wad, there is no clarity.

One of my favorite exercises is to be still before God and ask Him to illuminate and name all of the issues in my dark wad. Then I write down what gets identified. There’s encouraging victory in calling emotional issues by name! Examples are grief, depression, anger, or self-pity.

If this practice is new for you, keep persevering to listen to Him and to your own heart. God longs to unlock unhealthy strongholds in our lives. Really.

Next comes the opportunity to reframe and recalculate. You’re probably quite familiar with Siri or other GPS guides that correct your wrong turns with, “recalculating.” We want to do the same thing when we have gained some light on a dark emotion. After reframing, recalibrating, and recalculating, we can move forward better. We are wiser about what’s going on, and have warded off a heap of discouragement just knowing the issue(s) of our heart. Bite-size pieces are easier to chew on.

I always want to encourage you to not go at this journey alone. God longs to clarify, but has a lot of folks on this earth able to help us too. Do be careful, though, because sometimes well-meaning friends can make it worse. One example is for a friend to say, “Don’t feel that way!” Remember that when we finally can name what we are feeling, much truth is underneath—almost like panning for gold. Let’s seek the courage to dig.

For Deeper Reflection

Habakkuk 3:17-18Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be nofruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

 

Caregiving for Aging Parents

Q. Why is it so difficult as a caregiver for aging parents?
I need help!

A. Let’s Talk! When a child begins to care for a parent, there is a sense of frantic panic, a feeling of inadequacy, and of course the sadness or grief present. For all the many needs — physical, mental/emotional, spiritual — we do need help.

So, I asked a good friend of mine to share some of her expertise on this subject. I need and value her insights on family caregivers. Meet Jan Hair. Here is some of her wisdom:

“More often than not, caregivers end up worse than the spouse or parent for whom they are caring. They become isolated, depressed, and ill because they are not always eating properly nor surrounding themselves with people who can encourage them. Spiritually, they also suffer because they tend to drop out of church activities and/or Bible study, and slowly lose touch with their faith system support. They also tend to do everything themselves instead of hiring help. Support groups for the person aging or diagnosed with a particular disease serve as vital resources, and are great resources also for caregivers.”

Maybe this is worth mentioning too. Years ago I began making a mental comparison of two words: caretaker and caregiver. [You know how I believe words matter!] Well, guess who is the healthier of the two concepts? I propose it is the caregiver. Think with me. A caretaker takes on maybe more than is his or her responsibility. There are some codependency issues and unmet needs going on with the caretaker. Conversely, the caregiver is not going to neglect his or her responsibility, but will be more open to ask for help. He or she will give, but not deplete the supply. The caregiver will more likely go the distance, whereas the caretaker may suffer burnout. It’s okay to ask for help. If we aren’t healthy, how can we care for others effectively?

For Deeper Reflection

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

Let’s Talk

From Disappointment to Depression

Q. You just wrote about disappointment, and I think my disappointments have turned into depression. Would you speak about that connection? 

A. Let’s Talk! You are correct in making a connection between disappointment and depression. Depression is a pervasive mood of sadness or disappointment over a period of time. It is said that one out of every five people experience this mood disorder and would benefit from an appropriate level of treatment. Let’s talk about what it looks like and what to do when you sense it coming.

Here are some of the signs and signals of depression: sleeping problems, physical or emotional exhaustion, poor concentration, changes in appetite or weight, digestive issues, loss of interests, headache, backache, dizziness, sadness, hopelessness, worry, anxiety, fidgeting, anger, indecisiveness, feeling worthless, false guilt feelings, and suicidal ideation. These are the main effects, but you can find more symptoms and effects online. You can already see the effect of a downcast heart over time. It matters what we are thinking and doing and holding in our hearts, doesn’t it?

What do we do? Well, we can choose to stop the progression and pervasiveness. We can admit we need help as we reach out and share with a friend or healthcare professional. Uncovering the mask is a great beginning! Hooray for disclosure!

There are myriad interventions once depression is tagged. On the front end of depression, my favorite exercise is reframing: lasso-ing your thoughts and feelings, putting them on paper, and then asking the Lord to show you what’s happening or what’s the issue below the depression. He will show you through trusted others, His Word, and other avenues. Then you continue to process your new insight. It is this truth that begins the process of freedom from disappointment and depression – not necessarily free from our circumstances, but a freedom on the inside of us. [Next week we’ll talk more in-depth about working through depression.]

For Deeper Reflection

John 8:31-32 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

Let It Go

The passing comment slapped me unexpectedly. The words wildly twisted in my mind, then plunked with a thud. What did she mean by that? Is she miffed at me? What did I do to elicit her harsh attitude? I agonized over a comeback with my own shrill words, but chose to stifle my tongue. By the next day, I thought I had moved on from the verbal lashing, but I kept rehearsing the caustic conversation in my head.

photoI admit that I struggle with letting things go. Some days I’m like my friends’ German Shepherds locked in a tooth-grip battle over the same Frisbee. Only I wrestle in a tug of war with my mind and heart.

Last week on a visit with a close college friend, we talked about letting people’s disappointing actions or inactions slide off our lives. My long-time friend is wired more like Teflon®, and well, I’m more of sponge. She quickly deflects rude comments and behaviors and I tend to absorb and mull over them. (Okay, actually I’m known to stew and percolate over offenses.) But as my friend and I talked about learning to fend off bothersome situations and conversations, I realized how much these experiences can weigh us all down and trap us in an emotional wrangle.

I recently listened to young friend sing along to the popular “Let It Go” song from the movie Frozen. I resonate most with the lyrics: “It’s funny how some distance Makes everything seem small And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all . . . Let it go Let it go.”

So those icy comments and bitterly cold moods from others? A little distance and a fresh perspective are meant to teach us to let life’s stressors glance off us. In time, those mind-churning gridlock tugs will melt into things that seem small after all.

Brave and Resilient Tip #62: Learn to let go of things . . . one annoying moment at a time.

Determine to Bloom Anyway

Thirteen years ago yesterday, I let go of my mom’s hand for the last time on this earth. At age 70, she graduated to heaven because of a stroke caused by cancer treatment complications. My mom loved growing tulips and irises, really most any flower (I can still see her scattering mothballs in her flower beds to deter the neighbor’s cats from “visiting”). Bernice was one determined gal and would not let a few felines disrupt her floral beauty.

IMG_3057Since Mom’s passing, I’ve valued growing my own flowers. Last week I noticed the first tulips in my yard poking through winter’s crust. Spring is coming! But there’s more to the story. Last summer a friend added weed-barrier cloth and piles of new landscaping rock to the yard, but I forgot to dig away the rocks so my tulip bulbs could survive above ground. No problem—the tulips pushed, poked, and pulled their tender shoots through the semi-frozen, rocky earth anyway. Talk about brave, resilient, and determined!

Seeing these baby tulips coming to life, reminds me to take note of my own determination. Am I willing to push, poke, and pull my way through barriers that hold me back? Some rock piles in my life are fear, frustration, and fatigue. I can wilt under these weights and not rise above my circumstances. How about you? What rocks are holding you back these days?

I like how the apostle Paul commended the church of Thessalonica’s press-on lives. “We’re so proud of you; you’re so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you” (2 Thessalonians 1:4)

What would it take for us to live “steady and determined,” or more like a tulip—tenacious, resolute, and intent on adding beauty despite the rocks and debris in our way?

Live steady and determined. Push, poke, and pull your way through. Bloom anyway.

Brave and Resilient Tip #61: Forget the rocks. Determine to bloom anyway.