Last Thursday we were treated to Kirk’s most recent presentation with us entitled “ 100 Things “
Our friend Kirk shared that normally around this time of year, he tries to make New Year’s resolutions, but he doesn’t necessarily stick with those resolutions.
But Kirk did share with us several things that do help him to improve his life.
1) Exercise! He suggested with exercise to keep it realistic, and to start out by picking one day a week to choose to exercise. Kirk shared that in seven months time he has lost 15 pounds! Awesome work Kirk!
2) Buy a plant, or plant something that you have to care for. In addition, planting something may possibly help you with your depression during the Winter time.
3) The cell phone…something that we all can’t seem to live without.
Kirk suggested when texting a friend, try sending them a “ voice note” rather than a text message. That way it’s not so impersonal. Or trying to actually pick up the phone and make a phone call to that friend, wouldn’t that be a surprise!
4) Are you feeling a little sluggish at work? Kirk suggested trying to use the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique is a time management tool created by Francesco Cirillo. With this technique you use a timer to break work into 25 minute intervals, with a five minute break in between. This method may actually help with ADHD.
5) Make a daily list , or ADL’s. ( activities of daily living) Kirk shared that he tried this for awhile, and it seemed to help. With this idea, you make a daily list of tasks you need to accomplish, and scratch the items off as they are completed.
6) Be nice to rude people! If you encounter a rude person, try and change the narrative. This may actually turn around the situation. This may prove challenging, but give it a try!
7) Try cooking something…or try and cook something new you’ve never cooked before.
8) Nap time..Kirk shared as an adult he has learned to appreciate the time spent taking a nap.
9) Set aside an hour a day to do something you truly enjoy!
10) Try and make a friend from a different generation.
11) Go out and connect with nature, maybe try taking a walk.
These are all amazing ideas that were shared by Kirk with everyone.
Amazing presentation Kirk!
Last Thursday we were treated to Haley’s first presentation with us entitled
“ Small Town Living “
Haley shared with us she grew up in Alliance, which has a population of approximately 8,000. She wanted to share with us what it was like to live in a small town, if you happen to be someone experiencing mental health issues.
She also shared that there were many pros and cons of living in a small town.
And statistics state that there are only 3 psychiatrists for every 100,000 in population, which meant that Alliance most likely did not have more than three. Statistics also state that there are higher rates of addiction and the suicidal rates are higher in smaller towns. There is also a lot of stigma in a small town if you have mental health issues, something we are all familiar with.
Haley mentioned that many psychiatric practices end up closing and move into hospitals, where they started to lose that personal touch. For awhile the psychiatrists offices in hospitals in small towns only consisted of a couple of folding chairs in a room, but apparently those conditions have improved somewhat in recent years.
People in small towns also seem to get discouraged in the small town setting, and tend to seek out their regular General Physician for help rather than a psychiatrist. This option may not be the greatest, as truly it is best to have a regular psychiatrist to help you with your mental health needs.
During a recent study of 500 people over the age of 60, 478 of those 500 were found to believe the mental health stigma that is so common these days.
In a small town there are many businessmen who are farmers, and even though these folks may need mental health assistance, they usually cannot afford the help. Many of them may be struggling financially and may also be on Medicare or Medicaid, with little to no coverage. Also most who live in a small town, and who happen to be struggling with mental health issues, have so much shame for their feelings that they are afraid to seek help.
For a long time there was a big lack of education on mental health, and many teachers were not educated on mental health issues. However things are starting to change a little bit for the better.
Haley shared that a school district in western Nebraska has now started to come together and has now budgeted every year for mental health care.
Every Summer a Doctor in this area hosts teens from across the state to take part in FARM camp. High school students attending this camp can take a class for college credit, receive education on psychology, and hear from mental health professionals . This program helps to educate teachers and parents on mental health. Haley also noted that 78 counties in Nebraska have no psychiatrists, so this is a great way to help fulfill that need!
Last Thursday Steve shared with us his most current presentation,
“ Defeating your Inner Critic “
Steve began by sharing his definition of your inner critic. Does this inner voice dictate your daily actions, and use hurtful judgments about your abilities and your worth? If so, this may be your inner critic talking. Normally your inner critic is formed from painful experiences you may have had when you were younger.
Maybe this inner voice tells you;
1) that good outcomes only happen because of good luck, and maybe bad outcomes mean that you are not good enough?
2) your date didn’t go well because you’re not interesting, and who wants to be with you anyway?
3) You will never be good enough, no matter what you do.
This inner voice has a harshness, which we only seem to use on ourselves. This inner voice doesn’t offer to us the kindness and consideration that we would normally give to our best friend. Usually our inner critic does not motivate us. A voice of encouragement motivates us. Self-compassion motivates us. This inner critic may be holding you back from moving forward.
So, how do we fight off this inner critic? The key may be curiosity. We can embrace curiosity, since it loves to notice everything. If you use curiosity, you can look more non-judgmentally at your inner critic, and ask questions like;
-how did this voice develop?
– when did this inner critic start?
– When did this inner critic come out, and when does it go away?
– Does this inner critic serve a purpose?
Can an inner critic be helpful?
Some believe that an inner critic can be used to avoid an embarrassing situation. But it could also encourage you to move forward and succeed.
As an example, I had a situation about two years ago, where I decided on a whim to join my church choir. Now realizing at the time that I have had no previous singing experience, in a choir or elsewhere, my inner critic came into play. That inner voice was telling me, “ you fool, why would you join a choir? You can’t sing! What are you thinking? “ Thankfully, I didn’t listen to my inner critic. Today I am still a part of my church choir, and enjoying every minute.
And I learn something new every time I sing.
Unfortunately the inner critic never really disappears. But there are things you can do that will teach your inner voice to be kinder, more like a coach rather than a critic.
1) try to identify your inner critic…see if you can figure out what your inner critic is telling you. Remember that this is not your real point of view.
2) try using humor to cope with your inner critic. Try imagining your inner critic’s voice as that of an animated character you cannot stand.
3) acknowledge and accept your inner critic..accept that your inner critic will not disappear, however we can change how we react to it. Maybe try and come up with different coping techniques to change how you feel when your inner critic surfaces.
Coping techniques for your inner critic;
Meditation…try meditation to be more mindful. Usually meditation will help you to become more mindful, and recognize your negative thoughts before you invest too much time in them.
Don’t compare yourself to others..easier said than done, but try to stop looking outward, and look inward. Instead of comparing yourself to others, try only comparing yourself to the old you. Don’t give any time to comparing yourself to others, which your inner critic thrives on. Just focus inward and how you can improve you!
Self-compassion..try to remember that we are not perfect, and accept that.
Remember try to be kind to yourself if you feel you have failed or during a difficult time. Practicing self-compassion will help to build your confidence.
Self-gratitude journal…so every day, try writing down one thing about yourself that you’re grateful for. This is actually positive self-talk, or even a form of self-compassion. If you tend to compliment others, shouldn’t you also compliment yourself?
Don’t ignore your instinct….remember your initial thoughts about a situation are probably correct. Don’t second guess yourself. Learn to trust your own instincts!
Positive affirmations to quiet your inner critic:
Love myself at all times…when you try and practice self-love, you will become more accepting of yourself, and your inner critic will probably come out less.
I am my best friend..The old saying “ treat yourself as you would want others to treat you “ applies here.
I learn from my mistakes..with this one, try and not focus on a mistake you may have made. Rather than letting your inner critic beat you up on this one, just try and learn from your mistakes and move on.
I am doing my best..this is an important one to use against your inner critic. All throughout life, this one will remind you that you are doing your best, and there’s nothing more you can do.
I am not perfect…no matter how hard we try, we won’t make it through life without making mistakes. Remember you are not perfect. Try and use this affirmation often, and add your own message..something like “ I’m not perfect, and I’m doing the best that I can! “
On Thursday July 28th, Carolyn offered her presentation entitled “ Channeling your Thoughts through Art”
Carolyn began by sharing her story about her hospital stay of some years ago. During the time leading up to her stay in the hospital, she had trouble trusting others and was dealing with a lot of paranoia. It was during this time that she didn’t want to see anyone. Finally with some encouragement from her daughter, she was admitted to the hospital for some help. It was during her stay in the hospital that her daughter brought Carolyn some art supplies, to help her pass the time.
During her stay in the hospital, Carolyn experimented with her art talents, and became very inspired. It was during this time that Carolyn’s imagination would also inspire her to create art. She had discovered that we need to look for things we might enjoy. While in the hospital, Carolyn came to the conclusion that most people are really not lazy, that they are probably just uninspired.
Carolyn’s co-presenter for the evening, Don, shared with us a little information about the infamous phrase “ right brain vs. left brain “ He shared that usually right brained may be people who use their imagination more, and tend to be more creative and involved in the arts. Whereas left brained people may be more analytical and logical, and interested in the facts. Don shared that the left side of our brain controls the right side of our body, and the right side of our brain controls the left side of our body. Don said that ideally a person would want to be somewhere in the middle, and occupy both sides of our brain. He then demonstrated by playing us some music. First the “left side” by playing exactly what was on the sheet of music, using math and language skills. He then played the exact same song after engaging the creative “right brain”. This made a huge difference as the music became much more musical and less mechanical. The bottom line to what Don was telling us is by playing music, both sides of our brains are engaged, providing a great escape from living in our heads!
Carolyn shared that during this hospital stay, she felt that her treatment was working, as she was beginning to trust people again. Carolyn said that the art that she produced during her hospital stay gradually changed during that time, and she became more creative. She felt that being in the hospital was a good option, as she learned different ways to cope. Eventually Carolyn became very grateful and humble for her hospital stay.
Carolyn did share with us many of her art pieces that she created during her hospital stay. Carolyn is a very talented artist indeed! I’m grateful that she so kindly shared her artwork with us.
Last night we had a unique presentation, co-presented by Miriam and Don on “Imperfect Success” Don started out by asking us, “What did you want to be when you were 5?”
The point was, we all wanted to be something different when we were five, and like in that example, what we define as success changes as we grow older and hopefully wiser. We also start seeing the success does not have to be perfect. It can be a step along a path. It can be something only you value. Don pointed out, some of our greatest successes are things that mean nothing to others or are not even noticed by others.
Miriam took over and we talked about definitions of success including:
What success isn’t – what other people think.
What other people think success is for them
What other people think success is for you
Don continued with pointing out that we need to recognize that there are many parts of our life we can be successful in and they are not always tied together. We then talked about defining areas of life we can be successful in, such as personal, family, social, and career success.
Miriam then talked about obstacles to succeed in our lives including depression, anxiety, our sometimes dysfunctional families, and lack of family support.
Don and Miriam then both shared what they thought were their life successes.
The meeting wound up with Don asking the group “What is your biggest success?”
What did you overcome to get there?
What were the little successes along the way.
What did you learn from those little successes along the way?
What did you do today that was a success?
We all have successes every day, some big, some little. As imperfect as they are, they are our successes. Even if nobody else notices them. What mountain are you going to climb tomorrow? What is going to be your next success?
We were excited to participate in this year’s Pride Festival at CHI this past Saturday. Our seven volunteers met and handed out information to over 1200 attendees. The best part was the sincere interest and gratitude we felt. What a great event and we hope to see some of our new friends at a Thursday night meeting soon!
On Thursday July 7th, Don gave us his most recent presentation entitled “ Knowing Yourself “
Don began by asking us Who are you? What makes us who we are ? He advised that we all have triggers, what are yours? Volunteers from around the room offered their triggers, mine happens to be fireworks. First thing that came to mind. Others mentioned loud voices, and people yelling. We all have different triggers. Don went on to share how music has been and still is a huge force in his life. He said music allows him to express his inner voice.
Don shared that 31 years ago he was at rock bottom. He had recently lost his treasured business he had built with trusted friends. However one of those trusted friends helped to bring the business down. This was a shock and a very tough time in Don’s life. He shared lately that he feels like a dark hand is trying to reach him, grab him, and drag him back to his past.
So must of us are familiar with our bad triggers. But are all triggers bad?
How do we determine what our good triggers are? Don went around asking the room what their positive triggers were. My positive trigger is chocolate brownies, one person mentioned a certain beach in Florida, another mentioned the smell of fresh baked bread.
Don suggested to come up with your own playlist of your favorite songs, and use this playlist as a positive trigger. This in turn will bring out positive feelings.
Have a positive playlist ready for those difficult low moments. Sometimes, somehow just derailing our negative thoughts can help make a big difference! Knowing yourself, and how you react to certain triggers is an important item to have in your tool box.
With that, Don actually gave us a homework assignment from this presentation, which I am ready to try. He advised us to write down 4 or 5 items you have with you all the time, that are positive triggers in your life. I plan on trying this! Can’t wait to give it a try!
At our June 30th meeting, we were transported to a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, as Don, wearing a full Jedi costume, looked at mental health through the eyes of a Jedi.
When we take a step back and really look at Star Wars, we find the George Lucas had done his homework. All the fun and explosions had been built on a chassis that carried so much more. The further we got into Star Wars, the more we heard of this thing called “The Force”. “The Force” is really a combination of many religions, and myths, with a large dose of historical values. It is storytelling built on a well thought out, rich moral code.
When we get to the second movie, we are introduced to the most unlikely of great warriors, Yoda. But Yoda is much more than a warrior, he is the moral center of the story. He is the philosopher, the high priest, the unassuming core of what makes Star Wars tick. We found Yoda teaches many of the same things we talk about here every Thursday night. Things like self confidence, fear, failure, choice, darkness, the future, the force, your role in the world, and even the value of community.
Don then took us through about 20 of Yoda’s most famous quotes and analyzed them based on how they apply to mental health, and specifically, us.
While many of the quotes brought us thoughtful and sometimes fairly dark subjects, there was also the story of the Ewok and Jawa acted out with Star Wars Build a Bears with help from everyone in attendance! The story illustrated Yoda’s quote “Do or do not, there is no try”, featuring the two fearsome Sith lords in pool floaties and sun glasses! Hard to explain in a blog, you just had to be there.
On Thursday June 16th, Miriam gave us a presentation entitled; “ Herding Cats”
I have to begin by saying, I love the title of Miriam’s presentation. It puts a smile on my face. That aside, Miriam described Herding Cats as, the difficulty of getting people to agree on anything. The harder you try, the more frustrating and impossible it may become. For example when ordering a pizza or two to be delivered, it can be difficult to get everyone to agree on the same toppings. Miriam also described a recent situation when her family had gathered together for her Father’s memorial service, where she could not get several Aunt’s and Uncle’s to agree together on the same restaurant for dinner. In fact once they decided where to meet, some of her relatives couldn’t find the restaurant. Miriam said she learned from that particular situation that it’s impossible to control the uncontrollable. Things sometimes will just collapse on their own and transcend into a new level.
If this should happen to you in a given situation, it’s possibly a good time to fall back into your own safety net. Your initial assessment of the situation can determine your own reaction. If necessary, you may even want to step outside, get some fresh air, and gain some new perspective.
Miriam offered these steps to proceed:
1) determine your #1 priority
2) assess what needs to be done
4) take inventory of your external and internal resources
– Internal resources can be your own life experiences, or just having the self-confidence to know you’ll come up with a solution to the problem.
– external resources may come from others in your group, who may be able to assist you in resolving the problem on hand.
In handling situations, we need to accept the imperfections in our lives, and realize there will be different approaches to handling problems.
It’s important in these situations to:
1) prioritize by urgency, or the size of the problem
2) determine what matters to you the most
3) realize every approach has risks/ consequences
4) control what you can control
So, how do we prepare for chaos in our own life?
1) be ready, try to stay relaxed and be resilient
2) learn to say no to people. After you’ve said no, ask others to help instead. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
3) make time for hobbies and exercise
4) take time to “ wash out your brain and reframe your thoughts “
A challenge to take on;
Try writing down three things you’re grateful for every day, for an entire month. No repeats allowed. Sounds like a great exercise to me! I plan on trying this one.
A thought; try to remember that chaos causes us to adapt and change.
If you start to realize that you can’t predict the future, or control everything in your life, that can be very freeing! It’s important to adapt, and encourage yourself to stay resilient!
On Thursday June 9th, Kirk gave us a presentation entitled; “ PTSD “
Kirk began his topic of discussion by sharing a little bit of history on PTSD ( post traumatic stress disorder)
He advised some of the most common PTSD symptoms are fatigue, tremors, being easily startled, also insomnia or nightmares, irritability, and severe anxiety. During the beginning of World War I around 1914, soldiers began to experience shell shock, which was an earlier term used for PTSD. Shell Shock was diagnosed when soldiers were unable to perform their required duties.
This shell shock became even more prevalent during the Vietnam War, and was eventually diagnosed in 1980 by the DSM3 ( diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders ) as PTSD. They defined as an anxiety disorder that reacts to severe mental distress.
Kirk went on to give us a little bit of history on the beginnings of his own PTSD. It was during junior high that Kirk began to experience some of his symptoms. He grew up with his family living in a small town, and was relatively happy. It was during this time that his family experienced a home invasion. During this frightening incident he and his family were holed up in a bedroom with the doors locked, listening to the intruders. Finally his Father became so frustrated that he bolted out of the bedroom and chased the intruders out of their home. Up to this point, Kirk had always felt safe at home and well protected. As a result of this incident, Kirk began to experience the symptoms of PTSD. After realizing that his family life at home had turned into a high stress household, Kirk began to contemplate moving out of the state to escape all of the bad memories he had as a result of the incident. It was at this point that he moved away to Texas to attend college.
Once he had graduated college, he realized he needed some help with his ongoing anxiety and depression. Eventually he ended up moving back to Omaha on 09/11. With the significance of this date about to be a part of our country’s permanent history, he also had a life changing experience happen to him. Kirk had just moved into a new apartment, and noticed a new neighbor moving in next to him, a friendly young man. Shortly after his new neighbor moved in, it was during this time Kirk started noticing a strange smell in the apartment building, and finally reported this several times to the landlord. The owners of the building brushed off the situation as meaningless and unimportant, and that maybe it was a result of someone’s cooking. After this situation went on for entirely too long, Kirk eventually found out from his landlord that his neighbor had indeed taken his own life. The landlord’s had discovered the situation, and the apartment where this gentleman lived had actually been completely gutted by this man. At the time of this incident, naturally Kirk became very bothered by what had happened in his own building, which didn’t help with his symptoms. During this time he went to visit his family in Florida, to try and get some much needed relaxation. Even when he was visiting his family, his Parents’ neighborhood seemed to be filled with the sound of constant sirens, which became very triggering to Kirk.
During this time of his life, Kirk realized he needed help to handle his PTSD. Eventually he began attending helpful support groups such as DBSA.
Kirk advised that there are several signs of PTSD, that are usually triggered by a life-threatening event. Such as;
– you may have internal reminders, such as night terrors
– if possible you may want to try and avoid external reminders, such as sirens
– watching the news can be another trigger
– changes in your mood or thinking
– fainting spells
– high anxiety
– trouble with simple tasks
Kirk also discussed several different tips for handling PTSD;
– EMDR ( eye movement desensitization and processing)
– trying grounding techniques , such as the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique for anxiety
– and of course therapy groups
Kirk’s presentation tonight showed true signs of bravery, as sharing your life story with others is not always easy. I admire him for having the courage to share his journey with us, which helps all of us learn from his life experience.