Written by: Colleen O’Brien, LPC
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss US author & illustrator (1904 – 1991)
Recently one of my clients said that she can tell me how she feels, she can tell her friends how she feels, but she can’t tell the men in her life how she feels. I’ve heard this before and have had experience with similar feelings myself. Whether it’s the man or woman in our lives, our family, our colleagues, or someone else, sometimes we don’t say what we think or how we feel.
There are a variety of reasons why we do not say what we think or how we feel – we simply do not want to, it will make the situation awkward, we don’t feel empowered to say what we wish we could, it’s uncomfortable, it might hurt the other person’s feelings, etc. The reason why we hold back in self-expression can help us determine if it’s important to make a change. For example, if we simply do not want to express ourselves when we hold back then there is no problem (unless we are rationalizing, see below). But if we do not feel empowered to say what we wish we could say, there may be a problem.
The need to express ourselves will vary depending on several factors, including the importance of the relationship and how passionate we are about the topic being discussed. Sometimes it is appropriate to leave the internal dialogue in our heads. Other times, it is important for our self-esteem and/or our relationships to disclose our thoughts and feelings (and to pay attention to how they are received.) If we are not sure if we should express ourselves or not, how do we make this decision?
Sometimes we are not sure if expressing ourselves is the right thing to do. Other times we make the decision to suppress and then rationalize to feel better about the choice we made. Either way, our behaviors or our bodies may send us signals to let us know when we are not happy with our decision. These signals can include:
- Fatigue or withdrawal from others
- Racing thoughts or nervousness
- Increased use of alcohol or other substance
- Over eating
- Constant analyzing
- Constant exercising
- Watching television all the time
- A lump comes and goes in our throats
- Digestive issues, including IBS
- Pain in the body unexplained by medical reasons
If we continue to suppress ourselves when we know we would feel better expressing ourselves, our self-esteem and/or our relationships suffer. Suppression in these cases does not allow the other person to see us as we are and could reinforce a false belief that we are not desirable as we are. These situations can contribute to feelings of low self-esteem. In addition, if we are in a healthy relationship of give and take, we can sacrifice the quality of that relationship when we sacrifice expressing our thoughts and feelings.
So next time you find yourself suppressing your thoughts and feelings, ask yourself why you are making (or made) that choice. If you find yourself experiencing regret of some sort, or any of the symptoms above, know that you can use that information to spark healthy change! If you are not sure how to go about making that change, a clinician who specializes in behavioral health or your EAP can help.
Written by Robin Contreras, PCPC Counselor
As the days get shorter, many people find themselves feeling sad. You might feel blue around the winter holidays, or get into a slump after the fun and festivities have ended. Some people have more serious mood changes year after year especially into the fall and winter when there tends to be less natural sunlight.
Winter blues is a general term, not a medical diagnosis. It is fairly common and it is more mild than serious. It usually clears up on it’s own in a fairly short amount of time. The “winter blues” are often linked to something specific, such as stressful holidays or reminders of absent loved ones.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is different. It is a well defined clinical diagnosis that is related to the shortening of daylight hours. It interferes with daily functioning over a significant period of time. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects up to 5 percent of the population. It is linked to a reduction in light exposure from shorter days and gray skies, which is thought to cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. A key feature of SAD is that it follows a regular pattern. It appears each year as the seasons change and end during the spring or summer.
If you have SAD, you may:
- Feel sad, grumpy, moody, irritable, or anxious
- Lose interest in your usual activities
- Problems getting along with other people
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Eat more and crave carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta
- Gain Weight
- Sleep more but still feel tired, Low energy
- Have trouble concentrating
Symptoms come and go at about the same time each year. Most people with SAD start to have symptoms in September or October and feel better by April or May.
How is SAD diagnosed?
It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between SAD and other types of depression because many of the symptoms are the same. To diagnose SAD, your doctor will ask if:
- You have been depressed during the same season and have gotten better when the seasons changed for at least 2 years in a row.
- You have symptoms that often occur with SAD, such as being very hungry (especially craving carbohydrates), gaining weight, and sleeping more than usual.
- A close relative—a parent, brother, or sister—has had SAD.
Since SAD season is upon us (October – April), here are some personal tips that might help with seasonal depression.
Lift your Mood
Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, and go ice skating or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.
Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative
Eat nutritious foods and avoid the carbohydrates like cookies and candies.
Be patient. You won’t suddenly “snap out of” depression. Your mood will improve gradually.
An antidepressant drug may prove effective in reducing or eliminating SAD symptoms.
If you have thoughts of suicide, get help right away. Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For more information, visit www.perspectivesltd.com.
Written by: Jonathan Eisler Director of Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group
In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled ‘Why Everything You Think About Aging May Be Wrong,’ it was shown that 6 commonly held myths about getting older actually only pertain to <10% of the aging population. Overall, the myths relate to the common misconception that as “we age, life becomes less enjoyable and satisfying”.
After reading the reality that debunks the 6 myths, I was struck by the fact that all of us, regardless of age, have the opportunity to live fuller and more satisfying lives today as a result of wisdom that experience imparts on others.
As we charge into 2015, let’s explore the 6 ‘truths’ that lead the aging, at least 90% of them, to fully engage life and see what applications there may be for our happiness today, regardless of our age.
- Myth: Depression is More Prevalent in Old Age
- Reality – Numerous studies show that older adults tend to be happier, less anxious, less angry and tend to adapt well to their circumstances. This is because as people age, they tend to prioritize emotional meaning and satisfaction, giving them an incentive to see the good more than the bad.
- Application for All – Stay mindful of what you’re focusing on and cognizant of the emotional response evoked.
- Myth: Cognitive Decline is Inevitable
- Reality – Research has shown that when younger people had negative stereotypes about aging, over 38 years their cognitive decline was 30% greater than those with less negative views.
- Application for All – Focus on the future you want, not the one you’re afraid of.
- Myth: Older Workers Are Less Productive
- Reality – This stereotype has been perpetuated by the assumption that younger workers are more adaptable, when in reality, no relationship has been found between age and job performance.
- Application for All – Always look at what is needed for the moment and see who is best fit for the task.
- Myth: Loneliness is More Likely
- Reality – Until about age 50, most people add to their social networks. After that, they eliminate people they feel less close to and maximize interactions with “close partners who are more emotionally satisfying,” says Prof. Carstensen
- Application for All – Take time to quantify the value your relationships add to your life. Yep, I’m suggesting developing a scale of meaningfulness and then rank ordering your relationships…or something along those lines though not necessarily as explicit. Then make time to focus on nurturing the relationships that add to vs. subtract from the quality of your day and life.
- Myth: Creativity Declines with Age
- Reality – Creativity around problem solving, think ‘conceptual’ artists, typically peaks earlier in life, but creativity with things that involve accumulated knowledge, think ‘experimental’ artists, typically peaks later.
- Application for All – While younger, make it a point to step outside of what comes natural and stretch your comfort zone while consciously ‘strengthening’ your imagination through exercise thereof so the decline is lessened with age. As we age, do the same by exercising your imagination rather than relying solely on ‘experience.’
- More Exercise is Better
- Reality – With exercise, there is always a point of diminishing returns.
- Application for All – Establish exercise habits today that keep you limber, your muscles active and your cardiovascular system operating efficiently.
Since smart people learn from their own experiences and wise people learn from other’s, let’s all resolve to be a bit wiser in 2015 and learn from what aging can teach us in regards to living an engaged, fulfilled and happier life!
Written by: Sara DePasquale
With the end of 2014 approaching, we thought we’d take a look back and review some of our favorite blog posts from the year. These blog posts were written by Perspectives staff with the idea to inspire workplaces and provide leadership insights for human resources specialists, C-suite executives and other management professionals that impact the workplace.
If you haven’t already, take a look back with us on some of our most popular and favorite blog posts of 2014! What are your favorites?
- The Power of Perception
- Caregiving: The Sandwich Generation
- Perspectives’ Top 10 Tips on Creating a Happy Workplace
- Helping Responders Who Help Us
- FMLA/EAP: What’s the connection?
Do you want to get more blogs on a specific topic in 2015? Let us know by emailing Sara DePasquale at email@example.com.
Written by: Lindsey Patrick, Counselor Intern, Perspectives EAP
For many of us, November and December are the months of Thanksgiving and several religiously-based holidays. This time of year is usually devoted to family and gifts, both given and received. In the preparation for different activities and events, it is easy to lose sight of why we celebrate a day of thanks and why we exchange gifts. The two common threads, regardless of religious/spiritual affiliation or lack thereof, are gratitude and charity.
Gratitude is a concept heavily researched in the field of positive psychology. Active expression of gratitude is positively correlated with increased happiness and helps focus thoughts toward positive emotions, experiences and relationships. It has been my experience, though, that expressing gratitude does not come as naturally to people as one may think. It is easy for somebody to tell a loved one to “be grateful” or “count your blessings.” However, some people need to be taught how to be effectively gracious.
I will always remember an assignment one of my graduate school professors gave to us (and gives to her therapy clients) which was to keep a gratitude journal. Keep a written list of things for which you are grateful (big and small; tangible and intangible). Each night, add one more item to that list. Let this be the last task of your day so you go to sleep thinking of this list. Review the growing list each morning so you begin your day with positivity. This is a simple and quick task to begin shifting your mind from the mundane to the great.
When I think about charity, I think of people who make Forbes Magazine’s list of Most Generous People in America. How can I possibly live up to these people with my limited resources? How can an average person realistically fulfill this seemingly large and amazing concept of charity? For me, I conceptualize charity in a smaller way than others. I entered the counseling profession not with the notion of changing the world, but with the hope of having an impact on a small amount of people and making the small piece of the world in which I do exist, a better place. This helps make the enormous concept of charity more realistic for me.
What can you do?
Some ideas for giving charity are…
- Placing the change from your morning coffee in the Salvation Army tins around town
- Leaving a dollar bill or two taped to the office vending machine with an anonymous note saying “Have a treat on me”
- Calling a friend who is struggling to say “I am here if you need anything”
- Paying for the coffee of the person behind you in the Starbucks drive-thru
Charity does not have to take the form of a large donation to an organization. Small and random acts of kindness can have a big impact.
So in this spirit, I challenge you to list 10 things for which you are grateful. I also challenge you to do 5 random acts of kindness between now and the end of the year. You may be surprised to find the amount of personal satisfaction you can gain by actively practicing gratitude and charity.
Written by: Wendy Kramer
Halloween decorations are lingering in people’s yards and children are just finishing up their bags of candy when discussions of Thanksgiving and Holiday plans emerge. We are all planning ahead to keep expectations manageable and to make sure we can count on the people we love. But it can be much more complicated than we want it to be with family at times. Family relationships can require the delicate art of negotiations at high levels of diplomacy.
Whether you plan a cultural holiday, a religious one, or both, it is important to consider what you want to celebrate at this dark cold time of year. In many Celtic, Greek and Roman traditions in Western Europe, this was a time of introspection, analysis, seeking and finding order. Even in pagan celebrations having reasons to come together to celebrate with the light from fire and candles, making music, dancing and feasts were an essential part of making it through the winter. Make your wishes and plans known to family and friends early, especially if you are changing them from past years patterns and expectations. What most people want in order to be content is to have relaxed time with friends and family.
I am challenged to be in the holiday spirit without spending money! Most important is to agree to keep to a budget. How much expendable income do you have at this point in the year? Think of others’ limitations of time and money as well, and perhaps agree to a grab bag where each of you draws a name and only buys one gift for a family member instead of the whole group. Consider the spirit of the season and it may come to light that it is most important to be together, and agree NOT to exchange gifts. Perhaps the gift of donating your time together to a charity would mean more than having to get the perfect gift for each other.
Plan an evenly paced holiday season. Talk it over and share memories of your favorite family traditions. Select a few of them to update and share the stories about them without having to fully recreate them all. Create new traditions that are scaled back in production time and money, but carry the theme and meaning of the holiday to you and your friends and family. My favorite one for Thanksgiving is to go around the table after a blessing and ask each person to voice their own blessings from this year. The children love it and I am always moved to tears with gratitude.
Keep it simple and healthy. Ask people to contribute by bringing or helping with preparation. Yes, leftovers are important, but so is your energy and time. I always feel my best when I can help out get involved and be a part of the production of the celebration.
Written by: Bernie Dyme
Recently I was asked to go onsite to help police, fire and emergency medical personnel with a municipality that was dealing with a horrific murder. This one was so horrible that the chief and leadership were concerned about how their team might be affected. As I was preparing for my meeting with them, I thought about a number of things that we often forget about when these terrible incidents occur, and what our public servants are called out to assist with. These insights made me pause and I want to mention them for both the public at large and any helpers out there who do the good work we so often take for granted. I am referring to law enforcement officers, fire fighters, medical personnel, teachers and anyone else in a “helping” position.
- We’re all human. We often think that handling these situations are a part of their jobs and don’t give much thought to the possible reactions that they may have to these incidents. After all, they too are people with emotions just like the rest of us. Although these folks are trained to handle crises, sometimes things happen that are so unspeakable that even these very strong and resilient folks would have a powerful reaction. We also forget that these folks see so many of these incidents that they may also suffer from an accumulation of emotions.
- Get help. Since these folks are supposed to be “tough and strong”, they learn that it is not okay to have any emotional reaction, which turns into bottling up their feelings and not asking for help. Unfortunately not dealing with these traumas can lead to serious consequences such as depression, anxiety, alcohol or drug abuse or physical illness.
- Resources. Sometimes resources aren’t always available to help, nor are there well thought out strategies to help engage these folks and break down the barriers that prevent them from asking for or receiving help. There are a number of sources that should be made available after a crisis, but more importantly these resources should be promoted regularly so that they are seen as safe places for people to get help. There are a number of options including employee assistance programs, chaplains, peer support teams and physician or nurse assistance programs to name a few.
- Support. Leadership support is a main ingredient in getting these helpers assistance. In the presentation I did the other day, it was because leadership set up and actively encouraged the meeting. Furthermore, they were in attendance and participated by asking questions and giving permission for attendees to ask for help.
- Health. It is all about creating a culture that consistently promotes good mental and physical health. That culture also regularly educates its professional staff about the value and need for taking care of themselves before and after a crisis. Safety is important and if helpers don’t feel that they have safe and confidential places to go for help which are “okay to use”, they won’t use them.
Finally, there are some things that can be done to help folks in helping positions deal with their own reactions to crises. These are detailed in Emotional First Aid after a Trauma or Crisis.
First responders have very hard jobs that require resiliency and toughness but let’s remember that they are people too with emotions, reactions and needs just like the rest of us. So if you are a community member who has been assisted by one of these professionals or an employer who manages them, thank them and encourage them to be human and ask for the same help that they are giving to others.
Written by: Bernie Dyme
Well, here we are again. Another year almost done with another Thanksgiving beginning the season. At this time we are supposed to think about what we are thankful for, but I often wonder how this gets translated in today’s fast-paced, commercially oriented, internet based world.
Oh sure, we can be thankful for all of those things that we have.
- A Starbucks grande, non-fat, extra hot latte. Ask my family about this addiction
- The fact that the Chicago Bulls & Blackhawks are at the beginning of their seasons so they are still not yet losers (like the Bears). I will not include the Sox and Cubs as they are winners since we are still in the off season
- I will get to attend another Turkey Bowl, the 46th, which will allow me to see my friends again this year albeit most of us will not play or just barely get through the opening kick-off which now comes right after breakfast
- My wife’s pumpkin pie which is usually snarfed up before I can get any; the benefits of having 3 male adult children who are now much quicker than I
- The great sales that go on during Thanksgiving day, not only on Black Friday; making Thanksgiving the new “Greengiving” day
- Great televised football games although this year my beloved 4 and 5 Bears will be playing and will probably be thankful to get off the field
But for me what I am most thankful for are not things but those intangibles that are really important and lasting like:
- Friends and family who are always there to support me
- The health of my family, friends, colleagues and associates
- Children who have grown up understanding that success is not just in what you do to make a living but in giving back and helping others in need
- Working with the greatest team of folks who are passionate about helping people and providing workplaces and individuals in need of help with the highest quality services possible
- The luck I had to have chosen a profession that is dedicated to helping people
I could go on, but I think you get the message. We here at Perspectives want to wish you all a peaceful and Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you will not only enjoy the food, family and partying of the season but also take a moment to reflect on your blessings. We also hope that you will take a moment to think about those who are in need and offer them a helping hand in whatever manner you feel comfortable.
To find out more on how to help those in need, please visit, http://charity.org/donate/donate-charity.
Written by: Sara DePasquale, Marketing Coordinator
Every year International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is held. This day is for anyone who is affected by suicide loss and is to provide comfort in meeting at local events in communities for healing and support.
This day was originated when Senator Harry Reid, a survivor of his father’s suicide, announced in 1999 a new resolution into the US Senate. With its passage, the US Congress selected the Saturday before Thanksgiving to have “National Survivors of Suicide Day.”
What can these events do for you? If you or a loved one is affected by a suicide loss, you can attend a local event to hear stories told from people at all stages of healing. These events also allow new participants a chance to share their own stories, which can be very helpful in the healing process.
If you would like to find a Survivor Day event in your area, please visit: http://www.survivorday.org/find-an-event/ or for those who cannot attend any events, you can visit http://www.survivorday.org/survivor-day-live/ to join live events online.
To get more information regarding depression or getting help, please visit http://www.withhopefoundation.org/help-now/suicide-hotline-help or www.perspectivesltd.com.
Written by: Colleen O’Brien, LPC
“A mirror provides an objective reflection, but an eye is selective and subjective” -Text on placard by Magritte’s “The False Mirror” painting
The Magritte exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute was mind-bending. Painted items with the “wrong” names underneath, men chasing a flying item with a cricket bat on a tiled floor while enlarged children’s toys floated around, and a man with a nose that flowed into what we would assume was his pipe were among the images. I knew I had always liked Salvador Dali, but after this experience, the surrealist movement as a whole provokes my curiosity. This is not as surprising as after some light research I learned that the movement was based on some ideas of Sigmund Freud. Art and psychology combine in an effort to encourage freethinking in the masses.
Through provocative images and ideas to challenge the mind, surrealist artists created a way to push people past the boundaries of what is expected and normal. Their movement, in direct rebuttal to using logic and reason that they felt led us to World War I, possessed the goals of encouraging people to open their minds, realize that things are not always as they appear to be, and overall, to revolutionize human experience. We can apply this approach to our own lives and encourage flexibility with our thoughts and our interpretation of activities in our environment.
What would it be like if we no longer believed the negative self-talk that can occur when we are struggling within our relationships, our work, or ourselves? What if a break up with the person of your dreams does not mean there is something wrong with your personality? What if that bad relationship pattern you can’t seem to get out of doesn’t mean you are a loser? What if your struggle with addiction does not mean you are a weak person? What if that negative review at work is not necessarily a reflection of your talent? What if your lack of desire for commitment does not mean you are a flawed human being? What if another’s negative opinion of you holds absolutely no validity? What if experiencing anxiety while taking in the beautiful sites on your European vacation doesn’t mean you’re crazy or abnormal?
Of course there is a difference between denial and automatic negative assumptions. It is important to look at ourselves, practice self-reflection, and to be honest. These practices help us to be in touch with who we are and what we want for our lives. When we know what we want, we can take steps to achieve it.
When we lift judgment and preconceived ideas, we give ourselves a chance to explore and freedom to be who we are without negative ramifications. By taking our thinking to this level we create the opportunity to experience our true nature, without judgment and logic leading the way.
Theoretically, changing the way we view things can sound like an easy task. For most of us, it actually takes a lot of practice.