Are we having fun yet?

Another way to stay sane is to move. Exercise. Dance. Crawl. Jump. Run. Walk.

marge hiking
Hiking in autumn weather is the best!

Finding something you love to do as a form of exercise will insure it happens more than once. Walkers find time each day to get out for their walks – and they think of it as fun, not work. That goes for anything you get excited about – cycling, tennis, cross-country skiing, swimming, dancing, figure skating, running and on and on.

One friend started swimming last year. Not only is she stronger than ever, she is part of a group of swimmers who connect 2-3 times each week. The social piece of it is just as important as the endorphins that are giving her the exercise ‘high.’

People who regularly work out do so because they plan ahead. They know what time they have to get up in order to work out before the day begins, or they pack a lunch and get out of the office and into the fresh air.

Another friend rides her bike to work and is amazed at how wonderful she’s been feeling. It takes a huge effort to get up and out an hour earlier but she is so grateful  for it. She is happy, feels fit and has time to herself on the trip. She is already coming up with alternative exercise as the days get shorter and colder.

Movement – in any way that feels fun to you is not only great for your body, it’s great for your head. It give you time away from the things that take you down. It gets the blood flowing and the brain cells popping (that’s a medical term) and the end result is how much better you feel after one session.

I joined an aerobics class at the YMCA when my son was just a toddler. That class not only became the highlight of my week, it also was a place to have conversations with other adults that included more than one word at a time (Hot, NO, airplane, milk…) the typical conversation for babies. The class, teacher and participants were my mainstay for years as we learned each other’s stories and became friends.

Exercise can be a walk around the block. It can be dancing in the living room. It can be taking the stairs to the top floor (just for the heck of it) and other little activities. Once you turn it into a game it really can be fun –  a true way to stay sane!

 

The Pull of Music

One of my favorite ways to stay sane is to listen to music. Depending on my mood the music could be upbeat to raise my energy or low-key to help me settle down and concentrate. In the mornings I enjoy classical music, no words, just the familiar sounds of lilting notes.

When I’m outside the music of nature soothes my senses and helps me get into a new sort of rhythm.  I also enjoy the sounds of nature at night, with my windows open, I welcome the cricket symphony which eases me into slumber.

Music helps me remember past moments as well. I am pulled back in time when I hear a song from my childhood, or a song from my teens. I can go right back to another time and place when I hear a particular song. Music helps bridge where I stand today with happy moments, celebrations, and reunions of yesterday.

Music makes me cry too. Does that ever happen to you? A song about lost love, car accidents, war casualties, and other real life experiences just reach out and grab me. And, it usually happens every time I hear the song, not just the first the time. And that’s ok too.

Ok, time to wipe my eyes.

I hope your day is filled with sweet sounds that bring smiles to your faces.

Volunteering: Give and Take

As you may have guessed, I am a people person. I love connecting with friends, strangers and soon to be friends. Although I enjoy silence and time alone, I find I am at my best when I am with others.

I realized the best way to connect is to join an organization that does somethigold rotary wheel-smng I approve of and want to take part in. Organizations like local Rotary Clubs, Peace Corps, Meet-Up groups, clean-up committees, volunteer projects, house building organizations, school tutoring and other similar organization appeal to me.

The act of volunteering allows me to contribute to something bigger than myself. The act of connecting gives me a venue to meet and socialize with others who are drawn to the same issues that interest me. It makes me feel good about myself mentally and emotionally. When I am doing something physical it’s even better because I feel as if I am giving and receiving at the same time.

Another way I receive while giving is by meeting new people. I may be cleaning up a highway or taking tickets at an event and you can bet I am talking to the people next to me, the patrons and the organizers. I learned long ago that we all have a story to tell so when I meet people I wait for their stories. Sometimes it takes a few minutes; sometimes it takes years. In the meantime, I am listening, sharing and enjoying the give and take of it all.

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/Newsroom/Articles/Feed/UnitedHealth%20Group/2013/0619HealthVolunteering.aspx

volunteering can improve mental health, extend life

http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/08/23/volunteering-can-improve-mental-health-help-you-live-longer/58787.html

 

Simple Conversation

Today I sat next to a woman who was holding her 18 month-old daughter on her lap. The daughter had just fallen off the bench and her nose was all bloody and she was crying . The woman was trying to soothe her daughter but she was agitated and eager for the service on her car to be finished.

She was really fragile and as we chatted she told me she had no family nearby and her husband worked out of town. It was just her and the baby all day long and she was so homesick. I remember how I felt when I moved to Colorado. I so wanted to be back where everything was familiar. Where I had my long-time friends and where my family was my source of entertainment.

And I remember when our phone was installed and I cried because I had no one to call. Then within a year or two of living here, I had to return to my childhood home and as the car was pulling away, I looked back at my house and felt a pang of homesickness for it and I hadn’t even left.

This woman is focused on what she doesn’t have (her family) and not creating what she needs (new friends) right here and now.

This is the thing:  it takes time, energy and effort to make friends and create a support network. It takes boldness to stand in front of strangers and share your story with them. It takes patience to be available to connect but not appear too needy.

And making friends is about give and take. You can’t share your life story all at once. You can offer some information and then gauge how safe you feel. After sharing, it’s time to listen.  Then share a bit more, then a bit more. I have a feeling you’ve been in her shoes. Moving to a new  place only to realize you have to start all over again with new friends, routines, doctors, services, schools and on and on. It’s hard and scary in an exciting sort of way. And it’s lonely until you make that first friend.

Seeking Sweet Silence

Sometimes the best place to find sanity is in silence.

Seeking silence is different from meditation. This is more about silencing the world around you – avoiding conversation, turning off the radio, tv, phones, and turning away from people. Silence allows the mind to run and play without having to be accountable.

My friend worked as an office manager and was out in front of people all day. Answering phones, welcoming clients, facilitating meetings and when she got home from work she was done. She was in a dead zone and shut down. It was her way to cope and recharge for the next day.

There’s something about silence that allows you to power-down for a while. The brain is allowed to see the world as it is … no judgment, just allowing.

Growing up, I had an early bedtime. In my opinion it was TOO early. However, my parents lived for this time of day. As a parent myself, my children went to bed early on a regular basis. An early bedtime allowed me respite from the questions, lessons, parenting and allowed me to just BE. It was the silence I craved.

I find when I work with my plants I enjoy the silence. Expect for the words I share with them about their beauty, progress and delightful growth – it’s usually done in silence. Ok, sometimes I sing to them  but only when they need it.

I suppose silence is the reason I enjoy walking so much. It’s my time away from the distractions. When I walk, I am the one to choose when to break the silence. Do I want to start a conversation with that adorable young toddler, shall I visit with my neighbor, maybe I’ll say hello to the new people moving in – or maybe I won’t.

Silence is clearly something we can achieve – and usually it’s something that we need to plan. On the way to work – silence or a phone call? Silence or the radio? Silence or a book on tape? Silence or visit with the person sharing the ride?

Have you noticed that silencing the world around you for just a little bit can make a big difference in the way you feel?  After I enjoy some silence, I welcome music or conversation or interaction with more relish than before.

Friend Therapy

Lately I’ve been writing about ways to save your sanity. In the insane world in which we live it is sometimes hard to have quiet moments. In my last post, about claiming your space I offered some suggestions on how to make that happen.

This post is going to flip that idea and suggest you talk.  Or listen.

I will refer to this as FRIEND THERAPY. It’s when you are able to share your issues with another person in a safe environment. Yes, we can pay for this and go to a counselor but most times that will never happen.

Women sitting on a dock, having an intimate conversation during friend therapyFriend Therapy happens all the time. It’s give and take. It’s the freedom to badmouth a spouse, regret words said in anger or words never said at all, and cry like a baby. In the presence of a friend, these words are not acted upon, they are not resolved, and they are not repeated. Often just the act of voicing our thoughts is the cleansing part.

In the presence of a true friend, there’s no judgment, just allowing.

Last week, in the presence of a friend I related a story about a time in my youth when i was in a bad car accident. In the ambulance and at the hospital I was holding my breath with the fear that when my mom found out she would ‘drive like a bat out of hell’ and get herself killed on the way to the hospital. In the meantime, my dad showed up and suddenly I was able to be a 15-year-old child again. I didn’t have to be the parent and could just be an injured kid. The relief came through in waves of tears and gut wrenching sobs.

While sharing this story, it was as if I was still holding my breath. My shoulders, muscles and throat were tight… all over again.  What I received from my friend was a hug, validation and silence so I could continue.

When my story was over we discussed the topic of children of alcoholics and she related her story too.  Even with friends it takes courage to share a piece of you. And yet, I’ve found when I put myself out there, I’m met with more understanding and openness from them as well.

There are times, however, when going to a therapist is the right thing to do. In therapy, you can dig deeper and express thoughts without worrying if you are upsetting anyone. A therapist can offer insights and help you remember what’s important. A therapist is totally focused on you and offers a place to lay down your innermost burdens.

Friend therapy or professional therapy? I’ve sat on both sides of the table and know there are benefits to both. If you need talk therapy a friend may be able to help. If you need intensive, long term help – ask around for someone you can trust and schedule an appointment. with a therapist.  Knowing when you need more than your friend can offer is key to getting balanced again.

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Sanity: Mental Health in Motion

Sanity is defined as the quality or state of being sane; especially soundness or health of mind. Sanity comes from the Latin word Sanitas. (Merriam-webster.com/dictionary)

There are many ways to keep sane in this insane world. Previously I mentioned flexibility and the ability to change.

Another way to keep sane is to move. The act of moving, whether it’s up a steep mountain, along a sidewalk or inside a mall has healing properties.  Aerobics, dancing, cycling, running, swimming and walking helps :

  • Increase energy
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Keep depression at bay
  • Increase self-esteem
  • Elevate your mood
  • Lighten your load (mentally and physically)
  • Improve sleep

For me movement is a huge part of my world.

Walking and talking is even better and makes for an easy conversation. The ability to share stories, offer comments and learn from others during a walk are benefits that last much longer than the act. When the movement takes place outside there are other elements that add to a good frame of mind. Elements might include fresh air, cloud movement, landscape, people-watching,  children at play, artists at work, and more.

marge-gem lake hike1I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve expressed words of gratitude when I was out walking. There’s a feeling of freedom and appreciation for the world around me when I am moving.

The words that spill so easily from me soothe my heart and calm my soul.

“Thank you so much for this wonderful day…
~For this sunshine
~For the open sky
~For strong legs to help me climb
~For my friend who agreed to join me.”

And then there are times when walking alone works best. It allows me time for introspection, problem-solving, ideas for new blog topics, planning, praying and they all help lighten my load.

Movement is a good thing. It’s a reminder that I am alive. It’s a reminder to take care of this precious body of mine. It’s a reminder to say Thank You.

Thank you for reading, feel free to add your thoughts and ideas on what works for you.

For now  – ITS TIME TO DANCE. Turn on video below and move that body!
(We should both be dancin’, yeah!)

Related articles

Choosing Sanity: Flexibility

I read about a 31 day challenge that forces me to choose a topic and blog about it. I decided to blog about 31 ways to improve your mental health in this glorious month of October but I was unable to get into the challenge by the deadline date. So, here I am with a great topic and every intention to follow through on my own.

Tip #1 – Be flexible. As you can see, I’ve already altered my original goal, refocused my work and am moving forward. Flexibility is key to a good state of mind. The alternative is rigidity which can be pretty painful in a world where change is the norm.

Looking at the Grand Tetons in Felt IdahoI believe flexibility is an art. It allows one to bend like a willow but still be rooted when it matters.

Adventure comes to the person who is standing with arms wide open!

Staying open to adventure, getting out of your comfort zone and taking risks (even itsy-bitsy risks count) helps us learn new things about ourselves.

What kinds of risks?

  • Talking to a stranger
  • Writing to an author
  • Wearing something different (new hairstyle, new cologne/perfume, bold colors)
  • Accepting a challenge
  • Saying no to a request
  • Asking a favor

When the ‘little things’ happen – like getting stuck behind a train, losing the car keys, an unexpected visit, a long line in the grocery store, how we respond to these events can make or break us. In the big picture, they don’t matter. Ok, in the small picture, they don’t matter either when you have a flexible attitude.

And of course, this flexibility allows me to sign up for a 31 day challenge when it’s 5 days underway and then realize I’m already out of that loop.  Yes, some would stop here and walk away. Really?

It’s about the challenge of finding fascinating topics to share with you during the course of this month. It’s about writing more in this lovely blog.
It’s about learning as I write.
And sharing as I learn.

I hope you stay tuned and enjoy the ride!

No Stress Cafe!

no stress cafeThis is the time of year to get together and celebrate friends.

An afternoon lunch, a walk, sharing a cup of tea, making cookies…

It’s the season to connect.

It would be ideal if there were no stress involved. No worries about gifts to buy for the kids, family or friends.

It would be totally sweet if we just had weeks and weeks of lunches, breakfast gatherings, some walks, and a few intense hikes.

Or maybe just a couple of tickets to someplace warm, with a beach and sand.

That works too!

 

Memorial Day Should be Outlawed

This is a repost from May 30, 2010:

Instead, Every Day the American public should express thanks to our veterans and soldiers.  If we were more caring and appreciative on a daily basis instead of squeezing our thanks in between a cold beer and a softball game, NASCAR race or Bolder Boulder on our day off, then perhaps veterans would be more honest with us about their experience and the stress they are dealing with each day.

Viet Nam Memorial WallWhat is it that is capturing their souls and leading our soldiers to commit suicide in record numbers? In the past five years the suicide rate among soldiers was the highest since 1980 when they were first recorded.

Military suicides make up 20% of all suicides in the US.  And for every death, five members of the armed forces tried to take their lives and were hospitalized instead.

http://www.caivn.org/article/2010/05/12/us-military-besieged-record-suicide-rate

The government is trying to stem this human exodus and is deploying mental health experts to work with the returning soldiers and their families.  In the beginning, when a soldier was deployed, he or she had the support of family back home. However, as the deployments were extended and increased, the support back home began to have their own mental health issues.

For the families left behind dealing with their own anxieties, running the household, making ends meet, parenting their children, holding down a job and fearing for the safety of their loved one, they may not have the strength to offer the support and hope to their spouse that they once had. They may be seeking mental health help for themselves, taking meds and antidepressants and trying to get support for their children.

In addition to being away from home, fighting a war that doesn’t end, with no actual date of return … these soldiers are learning about the stress they’ve put their family under. So to help out, they share less. They communicate less. They take the burden off the family back home as a way to protect them and hold it all inside.

And when they return home – they are wounded. Some are wounded on the outside, others on the inside and many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This disorder is commonly found in people who have lived through a traumatic event that caused them fear, stress and a sense of helplessness. They live in a cycle of despair. And for those who are killed in action? What sort of grief counseling is available? Their biggest fears have unfolded and besides their family circle, they are alone.

In Canada, according to my blogging friend Rebekah, there is a stretch of highway from Trenton, Ontario to Toronto, Ontario called the Highway of Heroes.

Highway of Heroes in Canada
http://www.thankasoldier.net/highway.html

This route is used to transport the bodies of soldiers and where citizens line the road to pay their last  respects. This Highway of Heroes is a public statement that shouts ” Thank You”  for all you’ve done.

It is a fitting tribute for the family and a good way for the community to join together to show support and appreciation.

I’d rather not have any more deployed soldiers, stressed out families, military suicides or war.  Until that changes, let’s find the support for these families and not leave them in pain.