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How Do I Know When to Help?

Watching someone die is very difficult. If you have been through the process with a loved one you know exactly what I mean by that statement because you, yourself, have walked through that valley of the shadow of death with someone you love. As the onlooker, all you can do is try and bring comfort to the process, but rarely can you empower the dying individual in ways they do not desire to be empowered. Rarely can you change the ravages of what the disease is doing to the person. Walking with the dying is a powerless place to be and yet we, as the helpers, try to do all sorts of things to try make ourselves feel more powerful and less powerless. This same journey with the the dying can be replicated a thousand times in our daily life with those with whom we have relationships. Be it parent, child, spouse, friend, coworker or stranger there are people all around us dying emotionally in one way or another through various means and we try very hard to not feel that emotional pain with them. Be it the friend who cycles through one bad relationship after another, the teen that makes impulsive choices, the spouse who numbs themselves through isolation, the family member who fails to take responsibility for their actions, or the coworker who always blames others for their mistakes, we feel their pain with them because their choices make us feel powerless. So how does one not feel powerless when most of us were taught to give care to others? People generally do one of two things: they create strong emotional boundaries to prevent themselves from feeling vulnerable, or they do a lot of self-medicating. Neither option promotes good mental health because rock solid boundaries prevents good from penetrating the hard exterior and self-medicating in excess usually brings forth some sort of self-sabotage to your own personal goals. Being around other people’s pain and feeling powerless will affect us, but you have the choice of how much you allow it to affect you. Medicate in measure and use boundaries in measure. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “not my circus, not my monkeys”, but how does that apply to how you interact with those you love? The following are five questions to ask yourself when faced with the pain of others:

1. Does this situation require me to be involved?
2. If I am required to be involved, what are the boundaries I need to establish so I take care of myself?
3. If the situation doesn’t really involve me, what is my motivation for getting involved?
4. What are the costs to me and my family and friends if I do get involved? Emotionally/ Financially/ Socially/ Physically, etc.
5. What are the costs to me if I do become involved?

Life is not about just caring for the masses, but caring for yourself and your own purpose. Jesus himself many times left the care of others in other people’s hands as he went off to care for self. When it doubt, prayer and meditation often helps to determine what your place is in the situation but in the end, you will be the one who determines what power you give away in the process of walking with others through pain.

Fall is Here so New Can Come

 

I love the season of fall to take walks and hike because there is something richly exhilarating about the crisp air that has not yet become frigid, the sky which seems to be vividly blue due to a lack of humidity in the atmosphere, and the lovely colors emerging in the leaves that were once green. I find myself pondering transitions in life as the leaves slowly change color and drop to the ground, and today I was pondering the idea that nature sows its seeds for the next season as the pods of plants drop to the ground in fall. Most people perceive spring to be when new life emerges and yet spring is the product of fall and new is the product of nature releasing old. In order for us to embrace new in our lives, we have to release the old. So what does that mean for you and me when we look at the transitions happening in our lives? We may need to look at some of the things falling away in our lives as the transition to allow new into our lives in the next season. Be it children heading off to to college or to pursue their dreams, deaths, changes in jobs or even relationship changes, while the seasons change, they do not stay the same and new comes again. Are you grieving losses right now? Though the season change there is God whose love remains the same.

Ecclesiastes 3 1:15 New International Version (NIV)
A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.

Are you “Eating” the Things That Make you Emotionally Healthy? 8 Emotional Needs that You Need to “Eat” Regularly

I remember thinking as a child that all adults must eat healthfully because they were constantly monitoring what I was eating. However, now that I am fully into adulthood, I realize many adults have the same problem that children have with their eating: THEY FILL UP WITH JUNK FOOD ON THE RUN! I live on protein bars. I use them for meal replacements for quick meals on the go for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Is it healthy? Of course not, but as my mother once told me, “Once you are over the age of 45, you stop wanting to cook a lot because you will have so many other things to do with your time.” The truth is, I do not eat a lot of junk food, but I do eat the same boring things over and over, and most of the time my diet is boring because I am too tired to whip up something healthy. In the same way that we need to have healthy food in our diet, we need to give ourselves the things we need to be emotionally healthy. What is emotional health? It is the ability to process the daily emotions that come our way in manners that do not adversely affect us or others physically, relationally, spiritually, etc. Our emotional reactions to people and self tell us that we need to ingest something other than what we are eating. My personal belief is that all people have inborn needs that must be fed regularly in order to remain healthy.
Here is a list of 8 emotional foods we need to eat to remain healthy;
1. A Need for Love – We were designed to be in community and we need to be heard, validated, hugged and basically have connections with people that bring us a sense of belonging.
2. A Need to Create – We were designed by the great Creator and we need to operate in our creativity to feel more energized. Be it art, music, cooking, writing, decorating or gardening, you have been designed to create because you have been made in His image. For some people this means creating order, structure or even cleaning, but somewhere in your life you like to create.
3. A Need for Beauty – Visual stimulation via color, style, beauty, the outdoors, etc. The way that colors and patterns helps to develop the infant’s brain is the same way in which we need continual exposure to visual stimulation. We need beauty because God has created our brain to be stimulated by it in ways that create positive or negative emotions.
4. A Need for Joy – Having a good laugh is food for the soul. We need to seek the people or things that make us laugh.
5. A Need for Peace – Being quiet, being alone, and doing things that bring peace to your body soul and spirit. Silence and lack of stimulation allow our brain to be creative and figure out problems. Scientifically, it has been proven that people are the most creative in silence and silence is where we are most likely to hear the peaceful whisper of God.
6. A Need for Passion – Excitement brings forth motivation and vision for our lives. New experiences, new knowledge, and healthy sexuality bring this forth.
7. A Need to Feel Safe and Secure – who are you allowing to fill your time? People need to feel safe in order to reduce depressive or anxious symptoms and make good decisions. When there is an absence of this in our lives we tend to make self-sabotaging decisions.
8. A Need to Make an Impact on Others and Our World – operating out of our spiritual gifting and purpose for which we have been created brings forth life. I have watch many a person spark to life as we sit in therapy discussing how they can fulfill their purpose for themselves and how that will impact others positively. When people are not making an impact they tend to have more self-hate and depression.
What do you need to take into your emotional health on a more regular basis? The above list can be your nutritional plan for healthy emotional intake

I Kicked A Snake Today

Today I kicked a snake on my morning walk with the dog. I felt pretty proud of myself when I looked back to see what I had just stumbled over on the sidewalk. I let out a mini yelp when I saw the foreign object I stumbled over was a snake flicking it’s tongue, but then I thought to myself, “ why am I yelling? I already kicked a snake and there is nothing of which to be fearful of after the fact.” I would have been fearful of the snake had I seen it before I kicked it, but after the fact the same level of fear was not there.
This same phenomena is true with fear of many other things. We fear what could happen and yet rarely does that fear come true, but somehow a negative emotion from our past is what we associate with that fear and from that day forward, we associated the feeling of a negative emotion with fear and specific things. When I was a child I learned to fear roller coasters from a negative experience at age five and I assumed I did not like roller coasters. At age five I begged my mother to take me on a roller coaster at a small local amusement park and the ride did not turn out well. My mother could barely hold me into the coaster because the straps were not designed for a five year old and on one occasion I almost fell out of the coaster. Between my mother’s fear and my physical fear I was quite sure I did not like roller coasters for many years. I was avoiding the feeling I felt at age five that were quite traumatic. I tried roller coasters again at age 15 and discovered I loved the thrill more than I felt fear and I would have never known it if I continued to avoid that feeling of fear.
Paul says it this way in I Corinthians 13 when he talks of making decisions based on emotions. “11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” What are your childhood or adult fears that you continue to hold onto as a result of a bad experience? Under what conditions will you decide to release that fear? Here is what I know to be true when it comes to fear; in addition to avoiding possible negative feelings, we may be avoiding joy and empowerment too. Kicking the snake today made me slightly more empowered in dealing with my fear of snakes. Whether it was a fluke or not, kicking the snake made me feel more in empowered with my fear of snakes. What fear is holding you back from joy and empowerment? And by the way, I am pretty sure I will never love snakes.

Ultimate Fail Days

There are days when you navigate life with tremendous skills and days when you have Ultimate Fail days. Sometimes I have days that I unintentionally let people down and the one who feels the worst about it is usually me. Today was one of those Ultimate Fail days. I forgot to call someone, I missed an appointment, and I forgot to email someone something – all within the course of few short hours. I had a choice as to how I was going to navigate those failures. My past was littered with pity parties and self-hate sessions that would last a whole day; however, I am trying to look at failures differently these days because I am learning that there are benefits to failing. Most successes are usually built upon previous failures and failure usually comes before success. Failures show me where I need improvement and failures are packed full of lessons on how to do life differently, but there is a catch; how do I do different if I do not know how to do something different? This is the question that can be addressed with others through therapy, your job, church, school, friends and sometimes your family. It seems we all know what we need to do, but we don’t necessary know how to achieve it because we need someone to teach us how to do that new way of living. Many times how we learned to navigate life is through the patterns our parents and grandparents taught us to deal with life. Alas, many of us enter adulthood lacking the essential skills necessary to be successful in multiple areas: having friends, pursuing education, pursuing purpose, making financial decisions, intimately relating to those close to us in our lives, etc, etc, etc.. Where are you lacking skills? Who do you see who is successful in those areas you are lacking? These are the people we need to learn from because we are never going to be able to teach ourselves something that was never modeled to us unless, of course, the person who is teaching us happens to be named God.