September is National Suicide Prevention Month

September 15, 2017

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared September 10-16, 2107 as Florida Suicide Prevention Week.

Are you or someone you know having suicidal thoughts ?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. The Lifeline is comprised of a national network of over 160 local crisis centers, combining custom local care and resources with national standards and best practices.

What Happens When You Call The Lifeline?

1. You’ll hear an automated message featuring additional options while your call is routed to your local Lifeline network crisis center.

2. We’ll play you a little music while we connect you to a skilled, trained crisis worker.

3. A trained crisis worker at your local center will answer the phone.

4. This person will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support and get you the help you need.

Lifeline Center calls are free and confidential, and are available 24/7.

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How to Respectfully Disagree

August 31, 2017

All relationships experience conflict. Disagreements cause stress for everyone, even those with a healthy emotional intelligence. Whether it’s romantic, professional, or familial, navigating a disagreement with respect is a sure sign of personal growth and maturity.

BEST WAYS… TO DO IT POORLY

Conflict is often uncomfortable at best, and it is easy to fall into poor habits. However, we can learn to converse respectfully and constructively disagree. If you identify with any of these disagreement no-no’s, it would be wise to reconsider your approach. The best ways to disagree poorly include making a disagreement any of the following:

  • Personal – Do you find it challenging to separate the issue from the person? Remember, it’s an idea or concept being suggested that you are actually upset or disappointed by, not the individual.
  • A put-down – Have you found yourself saying things like, “That’s a dumb idea?” Avoid putting down the other person’s ideas, culture, or beliefs. Use respectful language, such as, “I don’t see it the same way you do.”
  • Emotionally charged – It’s easy to grow passionate and heated about topics that matter to us. Instead of lashing out or saying regretful statements, take a deep breath. Think before you speak or ask to continue the conversation at a later time if need be.
  • About you – Do you stop listening and begin mentally formulating your argument? Maybe you avoid it altogether and simply comply. Instead of shutting down or over-talking, try listening for understanding. Ask questions to gain insight into the person’s thoughts and feelings. Listening is a universal sign of respect.

PHYSICAL CUES

Learn to listen to your body’s clues and dues during a disagreement. Be mindful of overreacting, or “the amygdala hijack.” Our brain’s pre-frontal cortex is the center for rational thinking. Yet during an emotionally charged disagreement, the brain’s amygdala takes control and activates the fight, flight, or freeze response. Watch for physical cues such as a racing heart, increased breathing rate, or feeling tense to recognize the amygdala is kicking into high gear. Take some deep breaths to calm down and lower your heart-rate.

Navigating disagreements takes courage and maturity. Creating a culture and relationship built on mutual-respect amidst conflicting points of view is a worthy and rewarding pursuit.

Becoming an Effective Team Member

August 18, 2017

All eyes seem to be looking for a strong leader. From the ballot box to the boardroom, we value and praise trustworthy leaders. While leadership skills are critical they are of little use without followers. Yes, the idea of being a follower is often frowned upon. But think about it: if everyone is a leader, nothing gets done. Talk about a waste of time, energy and money. Learning to be an effective follower is an invaluable skill that can help you in both your work and personal life.

“FOLLOWERSHIP SKILLS”
So what does it take to be an effective follower? For starters, humility and the ability to be led. Critical thinking skills and active participation are also big components. Other habits effective followers practice are: adaptability, honesty, loyalty, and integrity. Effective followers identify with the goals of the leader and collaborate accordingly.

BENEFITS OF FOLLOWING
We spend the majority of our time in groups. Our work, family, friends, and neighborhoods represent some group settings. While we may possess leadership skills, there are countless benefits to developing our “followership skills” as well.

  • Complementarity – Becoming a good follower is learning how to be an effective team member. In a group setting, everyone has something valuable to bring to the table. Strengths and weaknesses balance out as each individual offers their unique skill set.
  • Community – Learning best occurs in shared environments. What better way to bond than through laughter or voicing frustrations with your fellow sojourners.
  • Increased Opportunities – Curious how others think or work? Humble followers can respect the differences of their fellow group members and learn from them.
  • Stronger Together – Working with others creates an environment of accountability and support. This power can motivate individuals to perform at a greater level of success than if alone. Satisfaction rates also increase dramatically with the encouragement of others.

Even if you’re a strong leader, becoming an effective follower will only improve your leadership skills. Understanding group dynamics, while valuing everyone’s role, will equip you to lead with success. And that’s a win for the whole team.

Conflict Resolution

May 16, 2017

Everyone faces conflict in varying degrees at some point in life. Because conflict happens in any relationship, including those at work and at home, no one is immune to its complexities. How we choose to deal with conflict is unique, as everyone brings his or her own personality and experiences to these difficulties.

CONFLICT DEFINED

A conflict is a difference of opinions, priorities, or perspectives, whether friendly or hostile. Because people react differently to conflict, the situation may be difficult to assess. Those who view conflict as a threat usually experience anxiety and stress, and those who see it as an opportunity for growth can overcome it and even benefit from conflict.

CONFLICT IN THE WORKPLACE

One environment where conflict is common is in the workplace. We spend the bulk of our time there and often can’t choose our co-workers. Since conflict is inevitable, there are real benefits to improving your resolution skills. Some of the paybacks include improved relationships, a smoother working environment, fewer delays in production, increased communication, and improved health as tension symptoms decrease. The following strategies will help you in your workplace conflict resolution:

  • Tackle potential conflict – If you sense tension in the workplace, take a proactive stance. Calmly confront the other individual with honesty. This could prevent a future blowup from occurring.
  • Choose your battles – Not every little item is worth the conflict. Knowing when to let things slide and when to take action about conflict makes for a more success work environment.
  • See growth in conflict – Being able to resolve conflict in relationships is a sign of maturity. Try viewing conflict, at work or home, as an opportunity for growth instead of something to be avoided.

TAKE ACTION THROUGH LISTENING

The following tips demonstrate how to resolve conflict with listening skills:

  • Listen actively – Active listening aims to understand the thoughts, feelings, and emotions behind what the other person is saying.
  • Acknowledge the message – You don’t have to agree with the other person to respect and validate their opinion. Recognize their value as a fellow human being and affirm the importance of their beliefs.
  • Know your message – Before you respond, consider your own emotions and thoughts about the situation in conflict.

Breaking Bad Habits Now

April 4, 2017

Habits form when we repeat an action and often they are very helpful to us. We form bad habits because they have short-term benefits, and we ignore the long-term consequences for this momentary payoff. The more enjoyable the instant gratification, the harder the bad habit is to break.

When behaviors are enjoyable, even if they’re unhealthy, they can release a chemical in the brain called dopamine. The habit becomes even stronger, and we continue doing it regardless of how we feel afterward (i.e. overeating, obsessively checking social media, etc.).

STRATEGIES TO BREAK BAD HABITS

Along the path to better habits, we must start by making a choice. Here are several strategies to break bad habits:

GETTING STARTED

  • Identify purpose – Perhaps the most helpful strategy is to understand what purpose the bad habit serves. If you weren’t getting something from it, you wouldn’t keep doing it.
  • Identify progression – What actions typically lead up to your habit? Disrupting the progression of events that trigger your bad habit sets you up for greater success.
  • Identify motivation – How would you assess your commitment to change? Feeling a deep connection to your “why” helps make difficult choices worth it.
  • Identify influence – Try to avoid individuals who are linked to dangerous habits like excessive drinking or drug use.

MOVING TOWARD GOOD HABITS

  • Plan ahead – Don’t trust your strength in the moment. Making a plan ahead of time for dealing with temptation prepares your mind to resist the urge.
  • Change environments – Be mindful of situations and temptations where it might be easy to continue in your behavior. This will help to eliminate the potential for a slip-up.
  • Practice mindfulness – Pay attention to your mind and body. Be mindful of the emotions you’re experiencing and what’s going on in your body.
  • Replace with good – Trade out your bad habits for good ones. For example, swap out the time you once spent overeating and use it to exercise.

POSSIBLE SETBACKS ALONG THE WAY

  • Not alone – You don’t have to do this alone. Find someone wanting to quit one of his or her bad habits and team up.
  • Forgive – If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up. Change takes time. Some days you might take a step back before you keep moving forward. Forgive yourself and keep trying.

All About Feelings

March 24, 2017

While much has been said about the differences between men and women with respect to awareness of feelings, the truth is, it’s easy for everyone to lose touch with their feelings once in a while. Yet, feelings provide powerful clues as to what we’re thinking and how we’re reacting physically.

EXPERIENCING FEELINGS

There are three main ways we encounter an emotion. First, we experience the feeling. Second, our body reacts to it. Last, we express the feeling through our behavior. Therefore, if you were angry, you’d interpret the emotion as anger. Perhaps, your body would tense up and your heart would begin to pace, and then you might lose your temper and begin to shout.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FEELINGS

Exploring your feelings can benefit both your body and behavior. For example, if you find that you often feel afraid you may also discover that you regularly experience association anxiety and physical symptoms of stress. Perhaps your heart is continually racing and your sleep is affected, these responses can have a long-term impact on your health. If you start to examine the root of your fear, you might find that your thoughts aren’t factual. Recognizing this faulty or irrational thought pattern is the first step in modifying it and ultimately feeling less anxious and afraid.

TIPS FOR MANAGING EMOTIONAL REACTIONS

Controlling your reactions to emotion takes time and practice. The following ideas will help you learn how to regulate your reactivity.

Track your feelings – Keep a log of your feelings throughout the day. This experience will give you greater insight into how you see the world and react to it.

Scale emotions – Emotions exist on a broad spectrum, so rating them on a scale of one to ten might help you look for patterns and situations that trigger certain emotions.

Reduce stress – When you experience negative emotions, tracking the methods you use to lower your stress provides invaluable insight and guidance on when and where to use these methods to reduce stress.

Stress Stoppers: Stress Stretch

February 14, 2017

When you are under stress, tension accumulates in your neck and jaw. Take a minute to gently and slowly move your head from front to back, side to side, and in a full circle. For your jaw, stretch your mouth open, and slowly move your lower jaw from side to side and front to back. (NOTE: If you notice any pain or if you have had any injuries to your back, neck or jaw, check with your doctor first.)

Set a Goal (and Achieve It!)

Unrealistic goals that never seem to be reached add to your stress level. Try setting one goal for yourself this week. Pick one small goal and write it down. Can you count it or check it off a list? Is it realistic? If not, make it smaller. Decide how to reward yourself when you reach your goal. Set a specific, realistic date to finish or achieve your goal.

Comedy Break: Laugh at Stress

Set aside some time for laughter, your body’s natural stress release mechanism. Rent your favorite comedy video. Tape a TV show that you know makes you laugh and keep it on hand for stress emergencies. Go to the library and borrow a book by an author who can make you laugh. Read the daily comics in the newspaper. Or, phone the funniest person you know!

Walking Breaks

Walk away from stress. Instead of sitting down for another cup of stress-inducing caffeine on your coffee break, lunch hour or when you’re at home … try going for a stress-relieving and energizing walk. If you don’t like walking by yourself, try forming a walking club with two or three of your friends or coworkers.

Sleep Hygiene

January 27, 2017

Have you ever sat down and suddenly realized just how tired you are? When it comes to staying fit and being healthy, sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise. Not only is the amount of sleep key to staying fit, so is the type. Whether you’re tired of sleep eluding you or just looking for more quality sleep, the following are proven strategies to help catch those zzzz’s.

Say “no” to long naps – A long nap actually works against you at night. If you do need to rest your eyes, stick to about thirty minutes around mid-afternoon.

Exercise – Physical activity during the day may help you fall asleep faster and stay in a deep sleep longer. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as it may energize you.

Lose the gadgets – Okay, don’t literally lose all your devices, but you should nix reading, watching television, or web surfing while in bed. you’ll fall asleep faster without them.

Be consistent – Pick the same time each day for bedtime and waking to establish a regular routine.

Be comfortable – Keep your room the temperature and brightness you prefer to create a calm and relaxing environment.

Cope with stressors – Worrying can keep us up all night. Find positive ways to relieve stress throughout the day and leave the worries behind.

Sleep is essential. While it is nothing new, remember this: when life’s demands increase, sleep is usually the first area we skimp. Experts are quick to recommend seven to eight hours of sleep for adults each night. Sweet dreams!

Growing Self-Esteem

December 16, 2016

Self-esteem is a loaded concept. We don’t have enough, or we have too much. Maybe it causes flashbacks of awkward teen years, or reminds you of someone who thinks to highly of himself.

Growing self-esteem means fostering confidence in yourself and your abilities. It reflects an overall sense of value or worth and filters our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Self-esteem impacts our physical, emotional, and mental health, and it plays a role in our relationships and jobs.

If you are someone looking to better your self-confidence, here are some practical steps to take inventory of your thoughts.

Triggers – First, identify what or who triggers negative thinking. A difficult coworker? Checking your bank account? Interactions with certain family members?

Self-talk – Next, listen to your thinking, or “self-talk.” What do you tell yourself? is it based on fact or emotion? Rational or irrational? Perhaps you are simply assuming the worst-case scenario.

Accuracy – Are your thoughts true? If not, challenge them. Often times our thoughts are influenced more by perception than reality. We jump to conclusions, downplay the positive, or overgeneralize.

Positivity – Finally, replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Avoid thinking of “should have” and “could have” scenarios. When mistakes are made, forgive yourself. Give yourself credit for good things and small wins.

Taking Care of Yourself

A health self-esteem translates into accepting and valuing yourself for exactly who you are, even your flaws. Rearranging your thoughts and prioritizing emotional self-care takes time and practice. The more you challenge your negative thoughts and habits, the greater the pride you can take in yourself. Remember, there is only one unique you, and you are valuable to this world!

Learning to Relax

December 8, 2016

Stress! It’s everywhere and affects everyone. Without proper self-care, stress can feel like it might swallow us alive. Why? Any time a change or interruption occurs in your life, your body, emotions, and mind react. This is known as the stress response.

The Stress/Relaxation Relationship

Having a constant or hyper-normal stress response to life wears down the body. Relaxation techniques are specific practices used to produce the body’s natural relaxation response. The advantage of practicing relaxation include better concentration, reduced anger, lower heart and breathing rates, fewer stress hormones, and less muscle tension, pain and fatigue.

Types of Relaxation Techniques

Autogenic relaxation – Being aware of your body can help decrease stress. First, focus on peaceful images or words. Next, tune in to your breathing, heart rate, and body’s sensations.

Progressive muscle relaxation – This technique slowly tenses and relaxes individual muscles. Start with your feet and work up to your head. This practice teaches awareness of muscle tension when you are stressed.

Tips for Relaxation

Pay attention – We can often ignore what our body is trying to tell us. Pay attention to where you feel stress and tension in your body.

Laugh – Watching your favorite funny movie or catching up with a witty friend can be just what the doctor ordered. Laughter lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and releases endorphins to uplift your mood.

Be present – Practice being present in your relationships at work and by yourself. Push aside thoughts about your to-do list, future events, and things in the past. Try keeping your thoughts on the here-and-now.

Relaxation techniques may not completely eradicate the stress in your life, but they can lighten your stress load. So, why not try it? There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose, except maybe some extra stress.