True North with the AFSP in the Out of Darkness suicide prevention community walks

“Out of the Darkness” Fundraiser with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

As a society, we struggle with repressed emotions, feelings of hopelessness, and sadness to a worrying degree, and as a counseling practice, we see it in our own patients consistently. We provide assistance and care to those suffering, who walk in the dark – that’s why we felt that it was pertinent for us to form a team and partner up with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in their “Out of Darkness” Community Walk, taking place on November 5th, 2022.

We pledged our team to fundraising, and have set our goal to $250 with the intent to honor those lost to the darkness, but also to support those we see, those we love, and those we work with who struggle and grapple with this concept daily.

To donate, join, or support our team, you can visit https://supporting.afsp.org/team/297815. There, you have the option to donate to a specific member or the entire team, download checking forms for donations, or register to join the team.

The Community Walks have been going on since 2004, and we’re proud to be able to participate this year to band together with others who fight against suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the largest private funder of suicide prevention research, and their evidence-based programs implemented in local communities across the country reach millions of people every year, so we’re excited to contribute to their work as we continue in tandem with ours to provide a helping hand.

Together, we hope to open all the avenues of communication around suicide and to rid the negative stigma around getting help when you need it so that it doesn’t have to become a last resort. If you’re looking for a safe place to start your journey out of the darkness, we’re always here at True North for you, and you can contact us or call us at 502-777-7525 anytime.

If you you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, chat online at 988lifeline.org, text TALK to 741-741 for a texting option, visit a medical or emergency building such as Urgent Care, your local fire or police department, or talk to a trusted person in your life so that you don’t have to struggle alone.

We’re all in this fight together, and we want to be here for everyone in every way we can be!

Healthy Aging: Psychological Resilience 10 Practices to “Keep Your Head in the Game” of Life!

10 Practices to “Keep Your Head in the Game” of Life! | Healthy Aging Series: Part 12

I’m on a Southwest flight 31. Headed to Chicago and then to Cancun, Mexico. Vacation mode. With my wife. We work hard at helping others. We give a lot of ourselves. Often, times we see a lot of pain and suffering. I see broken families. I see men and women in despair, and yes, I see hopelessness. All of this takes a toll on us on us. That’s what life does.

Life Can Be Messy 

Throughout our lives we experience the loss of  jobs, of first loves, or the loss of money in the stock market. We live through the stress of a spiteful supervisor, the stress of an irrational neighbor, the stress of living in a partisan country. We carry the burden of wayward children and grandchildren, the burden of an ailing partner, the burden of a dying parent. We endure the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams, unrequited love, and undeserved betrayals. Life can be a mess.  How prepared are you for those messes, the mental and emotional upheaval‘s? How psychologically resilient are you? How quickly do you rebound from the disappointments, from the unexpected adversities, and from unwanted changes?

What is Psychological Resiliency?

I have written in an earlier blog about resiliency. In some ways it helps to understand that physical resiliency is the opposite of physical vulnerability or physical fragility. Psychological vulnerability and  fragility are similar in many ways. Psychological resiliency acts as a buffer between us and our adversity and helps preserve our emotional balance or what some call homeostasis. Why is this important and what can we do about it?

Psychological resiliency is important because of the body-mind connection. If we are fragile psychologically or physically it affects our mental resiliency. People that are physically frail often suffer emotionally and psychologically  and vice versa.

If psychological resiliency is that important,  how does one become more psychologically resilient? How does one develop emotional stamina, mental strengthen and endurance? The mindfulness community teaches the phrase “What we practice grows stronger. The AA community refers to the 12 steps and encourages its members to practice the principles in all their affairs.

Becoming and maintaining our psychological resilience takes practice.

In the same way that you need good nutrition and exercise for physical resilience, you need good mental nutrition and mental exercise for psychological resiliency. Becoming resilient and maintaining our  psychological resilience takes practice. Much like you need good nutrition and exercise for physical resilience you need good mental nutrition and mental exercise to grow your psychological resilience. It’s all about diet and exercise

Living My Life by Slogans (Practices)

I have based much of my own psychological resiliency on slogans and  mottos that reflect resiliency practices. What follows are a number of those slogans that I encourage you to practice. 

1. You have to adjust to the things that won’t adjust to you. I believe this means living life on life’s terms. There are a lot of stressors and things that happened to us throughout our years and our expectations of life, and these events can create a reactivity to the stressor that takes its toll on us both mentally and physically. Excepting the things that we cannot change is part of the process of developing resiliency.

2.  Easy does it. I have learned to not push so hard when pursuing my wants and needs. As a therapist I’ve learned that working with families involves being a change agent. I use the Easy-Does-It approach when is work with families. This means taking it slow and not pushing so hard for change.

3. The golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If there is any guiding principle in life that I use, it’s the practice of treating others the way that I want to be treated. Practicing this principle eliminates conflict in relationships.

4. Memento Mori: “Remember that you will die.” I think about dying every day. There’s a lot to be said about this. Stoics believed that life only has meaning in light of dying. Resiliency grows as you make the most of each day, and that comes as we appreciate the meaning of each day.

5. “I treat everyone like my peer.” A few years ago I was watching an interview with Norman Lear, the creator of “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.” At the time he was 93 and his interviewer asked him how it was that he seemed so youthful. His response was, “I treat everyone like my peer.“ There are practices that can alleviate resistance and difficulty in relationships. This is a practice that helps people or puts people at ease when they are with us and allows us to create it environment for them and promotes your resiliency.

6. Do the Next Best Thing. Life can present us with difficult decisions to make in the future. We fast forward at times into our future and think about all the things that we might face. We become overwhelmed by what “might be.” Doing the next best things means focusing on the here and now and dealing only with the problems that you face now. The future can rob you of your serenity and contribute to your loss of resiliency.

7. Build a Repertoire of Positive Sentiment. I go places with my wife to build a repertoire of positive sentiment. I hike for the same reason. I backpack for the same reason. I read and listen to new music for the same reason. I spend time with my sons and granddaughters for the same reason. This repertoire is a protect bubble that protects you from the hardships of life.

8. Balance Giving and Receiving. I know you’ve heard the slogan: It’s better to give than receive. This is BS. You must be a receiver for someone to be a giver. I love giving, but only being a giver ensures that you will become cynical and burned out. Learn to be a receiver.

9. Balance Work with Play. If you are going to be resilient you must play. You must have fun. You must be a little boy or little girl and play in the mud and make mudpies. You must make playdough cookies. You must laugh. You must tickle and be tickled. 

10. Spend Time Alone in Your Head: -reflecting -creating -using active imagination. There is the saying in the religious world, “Let go and let God!” I prefer, “Let go and let the wonderful, hidden thoughts that you’ve repressed and suppressed express themselves in those quiet moments that you spend by yourself.” I often do this while hiking by myself in the Jefferson Memorial Forest. I also suggest one of the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork parks. Reflect on the day. Reflect on the year. I love thinking back on the old year each New Year’s Day. Not all the memories are good but reflecting in them is necessary. 

These are my life-affirming practices. What are yours? What’s working for you? What gets you through the hustle and bustle of life? What helps you decompress from the stressors in life? What you practice is growing stronger.

This is part twelve in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

Healthy Aging Series: Part Six: Five Ways to Make Time Slow Down

Five Ways to Make Time Slow Down | Healthy Aging Series: Part 6

My wife and I were running errands the other day. We were fighting traffic on Bardstown Road and she shared some of the posts from some of her Friends on her Facebook page. Then, one of her past memories popped up from ten years ago. It was one where we had gone to Waterfront Wednesday for an outdoor concert ten years ago to see Company of Thieves. “Time flies,” I said, with a smile. It does seem to go by faster as you get older. You wake up and it’s December. Before you know it, a decade has passed. 

Disclaimer: It is scientifically impossible to slow down time, and I’m pretty certain that time moves at the same speed whether you’re twenty or sixty. So, I’m really not going to give any suggestions for actually slowing down time.

What I am going to do is give some suggestions for making time more meaningful, or making the most of the time we have. 

Your life is a tape measure.

A friend of mine told me the lesson that his father-in-law gave him about the value of the time we have left. He held out a tape measure to about 12 inches. He explained that the twelve inches represent your whole life. He then shortened it to 3 inches and said, “If you’re lucky, this is how much life you have left when your sixty.” Hold your hand out in front of you with three inches between you thumb and forefinger. Three inches, that’s it.

Making the Most of those Three Inches.

Okay, how do you make the most of the time you have left, whether it’s forty or twenty years? I’ve collected five practices that can help. 

1. Practice Reflection.

Take some time each day, preferably before you go to bed, and think about your day. Think about your actions during the day. Reflect on the people that you had contact with during the day. How did you treat them? Did you follow the Golden Rule? You ask yourself if you could have done things differently, things that happened during the day. Reflection is about self-examination and growth. How did you handle criticism during the day? Did you spend the day honoring the things that you value? Consider the emotions that you expressed during the day. Did you overreact to anyone? Did you blow things out or proportion? If so, what would you do differently next time? 

Reflect on each day’s activities, not for self-condemnation, but for self-appraisal, not for shaming yourself, but for learning lessons.

Tip: Before you go to bed this evening, find a quiet place and write a few lines in a journal about the day, successes and failures, and most important, lessons you learned. 

2. Practice Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the process of disconnecting from time. It is the practice of finding the meaning of the moment. You find a quiet place. It could be a corner in your home in a corner of the forest. I find that mindful-hiking helps me. I get lost in the forest and in my thoughts. I walk without thinking. Without judgment and with full acceptance, I let my ego fall silent and allow the shadow to come to consciousness. At times, I talk to my parents, who passed on years ago, and I let them speak to me from my unconscious. I dream during these times. I let my senses affect me: the bird-sounds, the musty smells, the glossy leaves, and the intermittent breezes.

Tip: Take a one-hour walk in the woods or the park by yourself. Let your mind drift. Hikers experience something called Hiker Dissociation. It’s amazing.

3. Practice Youthfulness.

We tend to take things way too seriously! I’m not sure if this is a side-effect of the PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFESTYLE that has become popular on social media. Maybe it’s because we’ve forgotten how to play. Maybe it’s because we have forgotten how to see the world the way children see the world. Alan Watts, the philosopher said, “The physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere.” He rejects the idea of life being a journey and compares to dance. Dancing should be fun! Dancing is invigorating! Dancing is play! Watts’ admonition is: Don’t take life to seriously!

Tip: Take some time today and be playful. Turn on some music and dance. And sing. Try to see things that way a child would see them. 

4. Practice Gratitude.

The Stoics used a practice called Negative Visualization. It involved visualizing your life without the things that you value, like your health, wealth, or family. “All things human,” Seneca reminds us, “are short-lived and perishable.” Negative visualization is a for of gratitude. Its ultimate goal is to help us value the things we have and the people in our lives by imagining what our lives would be like without them. It teaches us to have gratitude for what we have. We stop wanting more and teaches us to value the things that we already have. It teaches us the meaning of a goodbye kiss, knowing that it could be the last. Practicing gratitude forces you to stop and think about what you have now.

Tip: Take some time today and imagine your life without someone or without something that you value in your life. Take this very slow and ponder on it for an extended period. 

5. Practice Flexibility.

One of the slogans that I live my life by is You have to adjust to the things that won’t adjust to you. Life will always throw you a curve ball. No matter how hard you plan things, sooner or later, those plans are going to have obstacles. Being flexible means living life on life’s terms. I can go on and on, but you get my point. Rigid people are always frustrated because rarely do things turn out the way they expected. Maybe, being flexible means lowering your expectations of people, places, and things. It insures that you’ll rarely be disappointed with the mundane events that make up our day to day existence. 

Tip:  The next time you get frustrated about something not going the way you planned, take a few minutes and breath. Tell yourself, I can’t control people, places, and things; I can control my expectations.

This is part six in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

ROMMIE’S THOUGHTS ON ECKHART TOLLE’S THE POWER OF NOW

Rommie’s Thoughts on Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now

Where is your mind? Right now. In this moment. What is on your mind?

Imagine picking up whatever is on your mind and setting it outside the door. It will be fine sitting there. Now, look up. What do you see? What do you hear? Notice I did not ask what you feel.

I’m outside. I hear a soft rustle of leaves. A robin’s song. A buzz. The subtleties of a distant jet.  This is the Now. There are no problems in the Now. Life just is. This is the wisdom of Eckhart Tolle (ET), author of The Power of Now. Every moment of every day is what it is, as if we had chosen it that way, good or bad—and even “good” or “bad” are just concepts of the mind. The things we judge. The things we react to. The things that we empower to literally suck the life energy out of us as if the problem shouldn’t be what it is.  As if we shouldn’t accept life as it is just now. As if we shouldn’t accept, that in large portion, we have likely created whatever “problem” we are reacting to. If we accept the “problem”, what will happen?  We will become conscious. ET’s philosophy is to become aware, conscious, awake to what is. Accept what is as if you had chosen it. Then observe the transformation. The evolution of consciousness, of acceptance, of peace.

Our egos love to react.

Our egos love to argue, to fuss, complain, and demand that life be “better” as if the ebb and flow of life should be something other than what it is. 

I’m here to challenge you to give the “Now” a chance.

It takes practice to live, speak, and enjoy the Now, which is really all anyone has.  Becoming conscious of one’s self, one’s ego, one’s identification with mind is the first step towards acceptance, towards peace. ET teaches to observe your thoughts but don’t believe them. Think about when you quarreled with someone last. If you’re honest about your role in the non-peace, it likely comes from a place of fear. A fear of being wrong. A fear of “losing”. Losing what? And even if you “lose”, what does that mean about you, if anything? Can you accept the circumstances without judging them?

Which brings me to resistance. Can you accept the circumstances without resistance?

ET teaches that suffering does not come from the circumstances but our resistance to them. Again, whatever the circumstances are, this is the way it’s supposed to be. Our response, not reactivity, is to embrace whatever “is”. Whatever the circumstances are is the way the circumstances are supposed to be…or they wouldn’t be that way.  It is our reaction or response that determine whether or not we suffer.

Surrender to what is.

ET teaches that “surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to what is rather than opposing the flow of life.” When you stop resisting what is, when you surrender, the past and future cease to have power. 

But what if someone wrongs me? Does acceptance and surrender mean I allow others to mistreat me?  Does surrender mean give up? Give in? Enable disrespect?  What if I have disrespected another person?  Do I accept that, do I surrender to that? ET teaches that “resentment and pain arise from the false sense of self we’ve created for ourselves and others.”  That our grievances are reactions to the artificial egos of others. He teaches how to bring non judgment and equanimity when others overstep our boundaries. He also teaches how to forgive our past selves and what to do when the pain of memories hijack our emotions. Holding on to old wounds is one of the surest signs that we are caught in the egotistic thinking of the false self. However, ET shows us the way to let go and embrace the liberation that living in the present moment, the Now, brings us.

Make the present moment the primary focus of your life.

Rommie OshriehRommie Oshrieh is Co-Founder/Owner of Sage Support Services and True North Counseling.

She serves as Executive Director of Sage and has served as a Case Manager/Supervisor for individuals with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities for the past 15 years. 

body image

Improve Your Body Image Satisfaction with Instagram… Seriously!

Written by Rachel, Eichberger, our Masters of Science in Couples and Family Therapy Intern

How many times have you scrolled through social media platforms and been overtaken by a hopeless, discouraged feeling as images of thin-ideal, white bodies zoom past view? You’re not alone. These images of unattainable, altered body images seem to dominate algorithms and then contribute to viewer body dissatisfaction across genders and ages in the United States. For individuals identifying as female, “body dissatisfaction is pervasive with 91% of women indicating that they prefer an alternative body size or shape and this dissatisfaction remains relatively stable across the lifespan” (Wallis et al., 2021, p. 1). Ultimately, body dissatisfaction can lead to the “development of risk factors for eating disorders in adolescent girls, including body dissatisfaction, internalization of appearance ideals, drive for thinness, and dietary restraint (De Vries, Peter, de Graaf, & Nikken, 2016; McLean, Paxton, Wertheim, & Masters, 2015; Tiggemann & Slater, 2016). 1

So, what can be done?

It seems unrealistic to completely unplug from social media in our society. This presents an opportunity to determine if platforms like Instagram and Facebook can be used for a shift and positive change toward body image acceptance and self-love. Studies have shown that Facebook can indeed have a positive impact when harnessed correctly. For example, a study conducted with mothers in Australia demonstrated that after frequent views of non-thin ideal images and body positive content, participants may have decreased body dissatisfaction. Some of the moms set goals to “change attitudes and behaviors about body functionality, improved self-compassion, and reduction of internalization of the thin-ideal.” 2

If you find yourself seeking content that doesn’t leave you feeling ostracized, less-than, or even hopeless, consider following body-positive influencers for exposure to non-conformative content. Here are a few posted in “20 Body-Positive Instagram Accounts to Follow Right Now” by Kaitlin Pirie:

@theshirarose | Eating disorder therapist, LCSW + body positive style blogger. 🌈🦄 🏳️‍🌈 Fat positive + Health At Every Size. NYC ✈️ LA

@mynameisjessamyn | HBIC. @theunderbellyyoga @jessamynscloset. Author #everybodyyoga #yokebook. Podcast @dearjessamyn. Advocate @wegohighnc

@laura.iu | 🧁Anti-Diet Dietitian • She/Her 🌱Inclusive Nutrition Therapy • Intuitive Eating • Body Liberation ✨Learn how to feel good in the body u already have

@theantidietplan | 🛋 NYC Psychologist 📖 Author of The Diet Free Revolution 👇🏻

1. McLean, S. A., Wertheim, E. H., Masters, J., & Paxton, S. J. (2017). A pilot evaluation of a social media literacy intervention to reduce risk factors for eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 50(7), 847–851. https://doi-org.echo.louisville.edu/10.1002/eat.22708

2. Wallis, K., Prichard, I., Hart, L., & Yager, Z. (2021). The Body Confident Mums challenge: a feasibility trial and qualitative evaluation of a body acceptance program delivered to mothers using Facebook. BMC Public Health, 21(1), 1–12. https://doi-org.echo.louisville.edu/10.1186/s12889-021-11126-8

 

Friday Waypoints

Friday Waypoints – 05/17/19

Mark Neese is back with another Friday Waypoints blog post. On this weeks Friday Waypoints, Mark discusses how drugs cause parents to abandon their children, why the internet is a dangerous place for teens, and he revisits The Parklands of Floyd Forks. Mark discusses his previous visit to The Parklands of Floyd Forks, a hidden gem in Louisville, KY, in his Friday Waypoints on 5/10.

Drugs and Parents that Abandon Their Kids

I’ve been working with families for about 25 years. My early career was working in the rural counties surrounding Louisville. The families that I worked with were struggling with poverty and at times intellectual disabilities. It was challenging and rewarding. Every now and then I run into one of the family members that I worked with and it is very gratifying to see them doing well these many years later.

Today things are different. I have never witnessed an epidemic as I have today: parents abandoning their children because of drugs. This past weekend was Mother’s Day and two of the teens that I work with wanted to call and talk with their mothers but were unable to contact them because they were both AWOL. Both mothers are semi-homeless and have serious drug problems. To compound the problem, one of the teens witnessed his father being taken away in an ambulance because of a suspected overdose, on the very same day. Not such a “Happy Mother’s Day.”

Meditating in The Parklands of Floyds Fork (Reprise)

I was back at the Parklands yesterday to visit the Moss Gibbs Woodland Gardens. It is the gem of the new park system. It’s beautiful, and quiet, and I anticipate spending many of my mornings there. I’m practicing Mindfulness and using guided meditations by Donald Seigel. For those interested in learning more you can visit his website for free meditation downloads: http://www.mindfulness-solution.com.

The meditation that I used yesterday while sitting in the midst of the garden was one that focused on self-compassion. During this meditation you focus on the phrases: “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live at ease,” or “May I be safe, may I be at peace, may I be free from suffering.” You can do this while driving, walking or sitting in a quiet place in your home. The Woodland Garden offers a place to sit quietly and listen to the Towhees, wrens and Cardinals. It offers a place to be part of a forest.

The Internet is a Dangerous Place for Teens

I am working with a Teen that was nearly swallowed up by Internet. Her mother saved her. It started with the website, “Wattpad.” This is a social storytelling platform. It ended with her sending pictures of herself to perfect strangers through a group on Instagram: #ddlg. She was being groomed for something dangerous and evil.

These are adult sites and 13-year olds should not be on them! She had no clue what she was getting into.

Parents, monitor your teenagers on the internet. There are predators that will take advantage of their innocence and take it from them!

Quote I’m Pondering

“Your smile and your laughter lit my whole world.”

Ranata Suzuki

What the Organizational Experts Get Wrong

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” “It’s All Too Much,” and “Outer Order, Inner Calm” have been a frequent topic in many circles as of late, especially with the demands for a season two of the Netflix version of Marie Kondo’s empire. All of these books have value, but each takes a slightly different approach to de-cluttering and organization. And all miss some things that may run deeper than just “stuff.”

We all live with a little clutter—it seems to accumulate around us without us even knowing, despite Peter Walsh’s assertion that people don’t “accidentally” accumulate things. As anyone who has moved after living someplace for a significant period of time knows, stuff has a way of accumulating.

In “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo takes the approach of thanking our items for their service before relinquishing them, whether they are sent to a resale shop where they can have a new life with a new owner, or sent to recycling, where they can become a new thing, or (least preferably) to the trash, where they can complete their life cycle and return to the earth. However, Peter Walsh writes, “Start with the stuff (as most people are inclined to do when they try to conquer their clutter) and you are pretty much guaranteed failure. Start with the vision you have for the life you want and you have taken the first real step to long-term and remarkable change.”

But what happens when you find yourself completely overwhelmed by the task before you? Hoarding disorder, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association, is closely related to anxiety disorders. People who engage in hoarding feel tremendous distress at the idea of getting rid of their things, and may react with anger, sadness, or shutting down when a family member (even a well-meaning one!) attempts to “help” by ridding them of their possessions. (One of my favorite television shows, “Call the Midwife,” had a recent episode in which an elderly woman refused to leave her stuff, even though she was in need of medical care. Her backstory was that she had endured tremendous deprivation during the first World War, then subsequently as a Suffragist in Holloway prison.)

Often, hoarding begins as a symptom of trauma. It is not unusual for therapists who specialize in hoarding disorder to see clients with tremendous trauma who begin accumulating “stuff” as a way to, quite literally, wall themselves off from the scary, outside world. Unfortunately, this accumulated trauma and accumulated stuff have a way of getting between people and disrupting relationships. “Stuff” can cause people to not invite friends or family into their home, can be a contributing factor to separation and divorce, to say nothing of the stress it causes for individuals engaging in it.

If you have a loved one struggling with mental illness, your first thought may not be to seek out therapy for yourself. But a qualified mental health professional may be able to help you deal with the challenges of a loved one’s illness—reach out!

Friday Waypoints- 1/11/19

Job Satisfaction

Every now and then something happens that makes you question yourself and what you’re doing. This week I had a brief encounter with a young man that is struggling with life. He’s living with his mother, unemployed, and bearing a mental health burden that no one deserves. My heart goes out to him and his mother. Unfortunately, he is unable to handle the gentle pressure that therapy sometimes places on you and our session ended prematurely due to his very agitated response. And unfortunately for me, his response triggered memories of similar incidents over the past 25 years. That’s the nature of the work we do. Sometimes people come to us and change us. I shared this incident with a colleague and she shared a similar incident that almost caused her to quit being a therapist. She was assaulted by a client during a session. We are people. We love helping people.

So, what do we do? We see the next client, weather the negative reviews on google, share our burdens with family and friends, get out and hike. We listen to the latest Bon Iver album. At times, we see a therapist. And we stoke the flames that that burn deeply within us, that brought us to the very first therapy session, that for some of us was 25 years ago.

I love what I do. Later in the week, I sat across from Harper, a 14-year old that needs my help. She was abandoned by her father and struggling to make sense of it and of life. She’s growing and it warms my heart. Like I said, sometimes people come to us and change us.

Stoic Quote

A friend gave me “The Daily Stoic,” by Ryan Holiday. The quote for this past Wednesday was from Epictetus: “Some things are in our control, while others are not. We control our opinion, choice, desire, aversion, and in a word, everything of our own doing. We don’t control our body, property, reputation, position, and in a word, everything not of our own doing.” Those of you that know me, know that I live my life based, in part, by slogans. It helps me stay focused on the important stuff. One slogan that relates to this quote from Epictetus is “Adjust to the things that won’t adjust to you.” This slogan reminds me that there are things that are not going to change no matter how much effort I apply to them. In a way, that’s why I love the Jefferson Forest, and the Red River Gorge, and the Grand Canyon, and all the other places that I explore. They are not going to adjust to me no matter what I do. We need immutable things in our lives. And we need to adjust to them. That includes places AND people.

Student Intern

Our new Student Intern started this past week. Her name is Sharonda Tunstull. She is a graduate student at Campbellsville University, working on her Master’s in Social Work. We are so fortunate to have her with our agency. She is going to be developing an Adolescent Group and seeing individuals and families for therapy. She is also going to co-lead a group for individuals with development and intellectual disabilities called, “Positive Relationships.” Welcome aboard, Sharonda!!!!

Circadian Dis-Rhythms (Or, Why Can’t I Sleep?)

I started having problems with sleep a few years ago. Before that, I slept like a baby. I’ve learned a few things about sleep recently and I want to them share with you. I’ve learned about the importance of good sleep. And I’ve learned about sleep hygiene.

Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours demolishes your immune system,” writes Matthew Walker PhD. “It more than doubles your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease.” He goes on to write that, “Inadequate sleep disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that it would be classified as pre-diabetic.” It increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle.

I’ve learned that sleep, or lack of sleep, affects our memory, our ability to learn, and our ability to make logical decisions.

I’ve learned that insufficient sleep can increase aggression, bullying, and behavior problems with children.

I’ve learned as Joseph Cossman wrote: “The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”

So, here are some Sleep Hacks

Tips I’ve learn for getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. Stick to a schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time.
  2. Exercise is great but try to exercise no later than 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  3. Avoid caffeine 8 hours prior to bedtime.
  4. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.
  5. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.
  6. If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt sleep.
  7. Don’t take naps after 3 pm.
  8. Relax before bed.
  9. Take a hot bath or shower before bed.
  10. Dark bedroom. Cool Bedroom. Gadget-free bedroom.
  11. Have the right sunlight exposure. Get outside at least 30 minutes a day of direct sunlight.
  12. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you haven’t fallen asleep in 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing.

I am sleeping better now. I’ve started practicing good sleep hygiene. I’ve started taking Melatonin (recommended by most sleep researchers). I have more to learn about good sleep, and I’ll share more information as I get it. Sweet dreams.

Musings of a True Norther – How I Found My True North

You may or may not a fan of Jane Fonda, but she did a Ted Talk a few years ago that challenged people in there 60s to contemplate their lives. I am in my 60s and I took her challenge seriously. She divides out a person’s life into 3 acts.

  • The first act is from birth to 30. That is the period of becoming an adult.
  • The second act is from 30 to 60 and during this period we raise our children and work.
  • The last act is from 60 to death. One of the life goals during this act is to contemplate: How did I get here? Or, how did I get to be the person I am? What were the influences that made me the person that I am?

Or, how did I find my True North?

If you have any interest in being the person that you wish to be, or the person who has found their True North, consider some of the things that influenced me and helped me find my True North:

  • I followed my heart. I have always loved helping people and teaching them. I experimented with various things, but I dreamed about being a Family Therapist because I loved solving family problems. I have also loved working with young adults, that is to say, teenagers. I loved being a teenager and I believe that this should be the prerequisite for working with teenagers. Following my heart has led me to my True North.
  • I followed the voices of others. I remember as a teenager hearing a mentor of mine exclaim that you should never do the thing that you are passionate about as a profession. It took me a decade to unlearn that advice. I have come to believe that the truth is that you should follow your passions and pursue them as a vocation. So, not everything that you hear is helpful in finding your True North. Then there are those people that say things that inspire you to follow your heart. One such person was John Gilespie. It was in 1995 and I was in my last semester of my Master’s in Social Work degree. John was a friend and fellow student. As I talked to him about what I had been dreaming, he said, “Mark, I can hear the passion and excitement in your voice when you talk about being a Family Therapist.” I have never forgotten those words.
  • I nurtured and fed my curiosity.I have always been a curious person. Every time I get presented with a new problem or a new intervention, and I seek to know as much as I can about them. I cannot tell you the number of books that I have read. Reading is a way of sorting through the dreams of others. It helped me to find my way, to find my True North. Seeking knowledge and reading books is like holding a lamp over a map. It gives you the lay of the land that others have traveled. Reading gives you a direction to live, or helps you find your True North.
  • I acted on my dreams. You cannot find your True North if you do not act on your dreams. It means taking risks, working hard, and planning and organizing. It means surrounding yourself with people that can help you find True North. People do not find their True North by themselves. I did not find mine by myself. I have been successful at finding my True North because I have been successful at finding people that I care about, that also share my dreams. Acting on my dreams means sharing my dream with others and inviting them to be part of those dreams.

There is no “one way” to finding your True North. In fact, there are many ways. I’ve shared mine. I hope that this has inspired you to reflect on your journey in pursuit of your True North.