stress

Time to Revisit the Greek Concepts of Well Being

health, mental health, self care, spirituality, stress, therapy, wellness

What we find fascinating is that the ancient Greeks were leaders in holistic thinking – viewing the world from an integrated point of view, not just looking at the parts or events of our lives as being separate. They believed that nothing and no one was separate, that everything was connected. They were ahead of their time with their insights into the integration of body, mind, and spirit. (Much later, the body and mind were viewed as separate entities, leading to what we believe are many of the issues we face in the pursuit of well-being today.)

CONNECT MEANINGFULLY WITH OTHERS
“Man is a social animal.” – Aristotle
Aristotle believed that we are gregarious beings who flourish in groups or communities. Importantly, it is our nature to belong. Today, we live in a global world but, despite our social media connectivity, our emailing and our texting, research has shown that many people feel increasingly alienated. Depression, anxiety, and addiction are all on the rise, leading to a general decline in well-being.
A related challenge we face today is that, instead of relying on those we know for the necessities of life, we’re dependent on strangers and institutions for our survival. We don’t barter with neighbors, or even know where our food comes from; instead, we shop at supermarkets. We don’t depend on others for information or advice; we turn to the Internet. At the same time, we’re also more independent; rather than borrow things from our neighbors, we simply buy our own. Instead of asking others to help us, we do the chore ourselves or hire professionals. What have we lost? Have we tried so hard to be self-sufficient that we have cut ourselves off from each other?
Ancient and modern Greeks have much to share about connecting meaningfully with others. They teach us that we’re all important participants in the different “villages” in our lives, whether that village is our family, our friends or coworkers, or a larger organization. Greeks teach us to extend hospitality to others and always include them – “there is always room for one more.”
SHARING AND CARING
“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.” – Epicurus
Throughout Greece, building relationships through conversation is an integral part of daily activity. Stopping to greet others acknowledges their presence – their human existence – and tells them they’re an important part of the “village.”
It’s about the conversation and the connection. The cashier in the local grocery store in the town of Chania, Crete, engaged in a long conversation with a young woman in front of us in line; she takes an interest in her customers as people, not just as business transactions.
Every interaction is an opportunity to strengthen or weaken connections with others. In no small way, the depth of our lives depends on the depth of our relationships with others. This is an important part of the Greek way of living.
EMBRACE LIFE WITH ZEST
“The sun is new each day.” – Heraclitus
The ancient Greeks taught us that life is short and ever-changing. Importantly, the need to embrace the fullness of life – all its ups and downs, joys and sorrows – with gusto and an appreciation for being alive is built into the Greek DNA. Indeed, to be “enthusiastic” about life means, literally, to manifest the spirit within!
Greece could lead the world in teaching a holistic approach to well-being. Taking good care of spirit, mind, and body is ingrained in the culture. Greeks know that life is about energy, and well-being is about keeping this important life energy flowing. We can all adopt the essence of the Hippocratic Oath, to “do no harm,” by replacing inactivity, excessive stress, overeating and eating poor quality foods, with healthier choices.
In times of crisis and undue stress, where we are struggling or lacking fulfillment, we need to go back to the basics in life and search for sources of true meaning and well-being. As Heraclitus taught us, the sun is new each day. Every day is a new chance to connect meaningfully with others, find a deeper purpose, and embrace life fully. It’s a new opportunity to follow the Greek path to well-being.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
“I am not alone in my fear, nor alone in my hope, nor alone in my shouting.” – Nikos Kazantzakis (author, Zorba the Greek)
The famous Greek saying “Know thyself” is inscribed on a plaque above the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, a sacred place where ancient Greeks came to seek guidance. Their questions were answered by Pythia, the priestess of the Greek god Apollo, but her answers were usually cryptic and open to interpretation. Once the visitor received an answer from Pythia, the challenge was what to do with the answer. Should they blindly follow her advice, believing they had received “the answer,” or was the inscription “Know thyself” a warning to decide the validity of the answer for oneself?
In his speech defending himself at his trial, Socrates described how he would, like Heraclitus, go within and listen to his inner voice to discover the “right” thing to do. His approach was clearly metaphysical; he combined logic and reason with intuition, consulting what we refer to as his “inner oracle.” Like Socrates, the challenge for many of us is whether to trust our inner oracle, our sense of inner knowing, or whether to allow ourselves to be swayed by others.
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
“There is one life for each of us: our own.” – Euripides
The ancient Greeks taught us to always act in accordance with our true nature. In the final analysis, the greatest challenge in our life is to discover and embrace our core essence. Many people tend to focus on what job or career they think they should have, or how they might define their overall purpose in life. However, in actuality, a truly meaningful life starts from, remains engaged with, and, ultimately, returns to one’s core essence … awakening our true selves by connecting with whom we really are.
The Greeks taught us that if we drift away from our authentic selves, perhaps by focusing on achieving or acquiring “external things” instead of focusing on our true purpose, we will never realize our highest potential. They believed that the end goal of life is evdemonia, a concept involving deep fulfillment, inner and outer prosperity, and being of service to others. Alex Pattakos, Ph.D., and Elaine Dundon; 

In chasing “the good life,” many of us sacrifice our relationships, our health and our sanity, and still find ourselves with lives and work that bring us little fulfillment. But while our lives may seem complex, the solution to this challenge is actually quite simple. We just need to follow the path the ancient Greeks have laid out for us!

 

Secrets for a Wellness Inspired Holiday Season

Exercise, health, holiday, mental health, positive thinking, self care, stress, Uncategorized, weight, wellness

‘Tis the season to spend time with friends, family, and loved ones – and to celebrate, indulge, and be merry.

But, the holiday cheer can also invite quite a setback in your mind-body health goals and wellness routine.  To avoid the stress and weight gain of the season – and remain light in your mind and body – follow my guide to indulge, without losing your healthy edge.

Let me show you how to:

  • EAT healthy and in moderation.
  • MOVE your body, stretch, and get your heart rate up.
  • DE-STRESS and balance your emotions during the busy chaos of the holidays.

How do you enjoy the holiday season without falling into the trap of weight gain, sugar crashes, and poor choices?  Sticking to a healthy plan is important.  However, depriving yourself of certain foods can have negative results.  Restrictive eating can lead to binge eating as well as disliking healthy foods by associating them with something you ‘have’ to do.  When it’s time to pile food on your plate, eat what you know you love, guilt free, but keep this advice in mind:

  • If smaller plates are an option, use them. You’ll fill larger plates just because room is available.  Second trips are better than overeating on the first round.
  • If you’re trying something new, only take a bite-size portion.
  • Eat a snack before you arrive so you aren’t at the onset of the feast.
  • You fall in love with your Aunt’s new dessert and even though you’re too full to enjoy it, you’re tempted to have a second portion. Instead of grabbing the last bite in fear of not eating it again until next year, ask her to email the recipe out to the whole family for those who can’t wait another year.

 

Maintain an Exercise Plan

Holiday gatherings often consist of sitting, eating, talking, drinking, and more eating.  We often find ourselves sitting for longer periods of time because we enjoy the conversation.  Your legs want to move, the food is on the counter, and off you go for food you’re not even hungry for.

This year, try some of these actions with the family to reduce the march to the kitchen:

  • Go for a 5-10 minute walk after each meal to aid digestion. Increase that walk to 15 minutes after every meal to help lower blood sugar levels, especially after eating holiday sweets.  You may be surprised at those who will join you for your walk!
  • Run/walk the stairs in your home.
  • Organize a family yoga session, check out YouTube sessions’.
  • Go for a family hike.
  • Bring a board game to the family feast. Although you’re still sitting, this can provide some excitement and victory movement.  Plus, it’ better than just eating.
  • Shovel snow
  • Ice skate
  • Make snow angels
  • Dance to Christmas music
  • Walk the neighborhood or mall to see the holiday decorations.

 

Stress and fatigue are often unwelcome guests during the holiday season.  Stress might join you while cooking a holiday meal, decorating your house in preparation for a party, or shopping at a crowded mall.  It can manifest as aches and pains, prevent you from sleeping through the night, and dampen your spirits during the holidays.  You can beat back stress, and the inevitable fatigue it causes on your body.

Focus on the Positive – bring your attention to the experiences you most enjoy about the holidays.  Try going into each holiday gathering or interaction with a positive and loving intention.  It’s easier to maintain a positive attitude when you arrive in that mental state.

Spend Time Outdoors in Nature – spending time outdoors in nature can help enhance mental clarity, energize your mind and body, and connect you to your loved ones as well as the environment.

Let Go of the Past – pretend you are a newcomer to your own family.  Approach them with curiosity and excitement.  Forget past transgressions, arguments, tears.  You are not condoning past wrongs by letting them go; you are just saying they cannot hurt you anymore.

Take Time for Yourself – the holidays can be a time when we put everyone else’s needs first.  It’s easy to lose yourself in the chaos of the season.  Take some time to reflect on what practices you do to keep you balanced and peaceful throughout the year and make sure to adhere to them when things get crazy.

Stay in the Present – what is the best gift you could give to yourself and others at your holiday gathering?  Being present.  Cultivate appreciation for your friends and family in your life at the moment.

Hold realistic Expectations – if you become frustrated that the holidays aren’t going according to plan, remember there is no such thing as a perfect family or perfect holiday.  What can you learn and how can you grow from your family?

Maintain Your Routine – as much as possible, maintain your typical sleeping, eating, and exercise schedules.  Your vitality can be weakened by changes in routine, which can lead to feelings of anxiety or irritation.

Make Clear Requests – your friends and family won’t know what’s important to you unless you voice it.  Clearly stating your needs can help to reduce holiday stress and develop closer family ties.

Practice Gratitude – gratitude is a powerful force that you can use to expand your happiness, improve your health, and – you guessed it – help you cope with stress.  Organize a time when your family sits down to share what they love about the holidays, or about individual members of the family.

Say Cheese – no one can deny the mind-body connection.  So, it you’re looking for a way out of stress, you’ll need to smile more.  Organize a family photo shoot or make sure to have your camera on-hand when everyone first arrives to the holiday meal, gathering, or party.  Capture those first hugs, ask for the best grins, and snap all those treasured moments.  You can revisit them mid-year to remember how great the holidays can actually be.

Make Restful Sleep a Priority – good quality rest is one of the pillars of healthy living.  In rhythm with the sun going down and birds flocking to their nests, we should also go to sleep early, ideally before 10pm.  If you are a late riser, try shifting your bedtime closer to 10pm by 15 minutes per night.  This will give you the time to enjoy nature’s early morning calm, ever-more important during the stressful holiday season.

The Secret to making your holiday inspiring is actually quite simple.  Be inspiring yourself.  As with any change, you must be the change you want to see in others.

All of us at ELM Mental Wellness wish you and your family a Safe, Happy, Inspiring Holiday Season!

 

 

 

How to Nourish your body so you can eliminate anxiety.

emotion, health, mental health, nutrition, stress, Uncategorized, wellness

There are many possible causes of anxiety, from trauma to medication side effects.  Many medical conditions also mimic symptoms of anxiety: thyroid disorders, and other hormonal imbalances, diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, and heart conditions.  “Much of our increasing emotional distress stems from easily correctable malfunctions in our brain and body chemistry-malfunctions that are primarily the result of critical, unmet nutritional needs,” The Mood Cure, Julia Ross (2004,3).

Improved nutrition, lifestyle changes, exercise, stress reduction techniques, supplements, and mind-body practices are all part of a natural approach to anxiety and other mood problems.  James Lake, integrative psychiatrist and author of Textbook of Integrative Mental Health (2007), supports these methods for mild to moderate mental health symptoms, as do many other holistic practitioners and researchers.

Why use a natural approach? Perhaps you already feel strongly about taking a natural approach to health whenever possible and want to learn more.  Or maybe your anxiety was so severe and you were so desperate that you turned to medications, but now they aren’t working as well or as expected, or perhaps they do help but you don’t like some of the side effects.  Perhaps you know deep down that addressing the root cause is the way to go.  Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for natural options for combating anxiety, you’ve come to the right place.

Using natural approaches in the form of foods and nutrients can address the root cause of your anxiety, alleviate symptoms, and keep them from returning.  For example, if your anxiety is due to a vitamin B6 deficiency, it makes the most sense to boost your levels of vitamin B6.  This will also help raise your levels of serotonin, which could improve your mood, sleep, cravings, and, for women, PMS symptoms.  It would also be important to look at why your vitamin B6 is low to start with.  Maybe you aren’t getting enough in your diet, aren’t digesting well, are under a great deal of stress, or have depleted levels from taking birth control pills.  This is just one example of a nutrient deficiency that can contribute to anxiety.

Good-quality food is the number one priority.  Taking supplemental nutrients to correct imbalances is ideally a short-term approach.  The exceptions would be if you have an inherited tendency to low levels of some nutrients, or you can’t or won’t take steps to ease high levels of stress.

It’s also important to remember that we are all unique, with individual biochemistry, imbalances, and life circumstances.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all magic solution, even among natural approaches. By eating better, reducing stress, and addressing any nutritional imbalances, you’ll also see an overall improvement in your general health and well-being.

Eating real, whole, good quality food is the foundation of my work, and any program to prevent and alleviate mental health issues such as anxiety, obsessive tendencies, worry, panic attacks, and depression, as well as maintain optimal mental health. This approach, combined with eating according to your own unique needs, will help calm your anxious mind.

How social connections support your health?

emotion, health, mental health, positive thinking, relationships, stress, therapy, Uncategorized, wellness

Are we losing our ability to connect?

Quite simple, Social Wellness refers to your relationships with others.

It encompasses the idea of having positive interactions with others since we are all social beings. It involves developing and building close bonds of friendship and intimacy, practicing empathy and effective listening, as well as caring for others and for the common good.

While we have numerous technologies connecting us to friends, family and people across the country, we find ourselves more and more alone and lonely. Take a moment to observe people in coffee shops or restaurants.  Many times conversations are happening over cell phones, between one person who is present and another at the other end of the phone, rather than among the people sitting together. Our behaviors suggest using the technology is primary and having the conversation is secondary.  These observations are not intended to criticize technology, but rather to suggest a more mindful use of this tool.  Important connections happen electronically and technology can be very useful.  It is remarkable the power of a few characters to make you feel connected.  Technology isn’t the only force contributing to a disconnection among people.  Our culture encourages individualism and distraction from the present moment, materialism, and results rather than progress.  We seem to be focused on the relatively insignificant aspects of our lives rather than our happiness, relationships, and well being.

Our social health is affected by social history, cultural values, open-mindedness, and knowledge of healthy relationships.

Social Wellness Facts

  • Socially isolated people are more susceptible to illness and have a death rate two to three times higher than those who are not socially isolated.
  • People who maintain their social network and support systems do better under stress.
  • Approximately 20 percent of Americans feel lonely and isolated during their free time.
  • Touching, stroking, and hugging can improve health.
  • Laughter really is good medicine.
  • Cholesterol levels go up when human companionship is lacking.
  • Warm, close friendships cause higher levels of immunoglobulin A (an antibody that helps keep away respiratory infections and cavities).
  • A strong social network can create a good mood and enhance self-esteem.

 

Social support is thought to impact physical and mental well being in several different ways.  Social support provides an individual with a route to receiving psychological and material resources.  These resources exist in three categories: instrumental (money or services), informational (advice or important information), and emotional (empathy, caring, trust, and reassurance).  Being a part of a community offers various social relationships that provide many different emotional benefits, i.e. experiencing stress-buffering due to sense of belonging.  Relationships provide identification with social roles, promote positive psychological conditions such as purpose, meaning, a sense of identity and self-worth.

In my profession of counseling, I work with individuals on a daily basis struggling to connect with others and have meaningful relationships.  Here are some guidelines:

Social Wellness Tips

1.Articulate your thoughts both in public and personal conversations.

2.Think before you speak.

3.Volunteer in your community.

4.Make others feel important, while being genuine.

5.Get to know your personal needs and pursue things and people who nurture those needs.

6.Join a club or organization that interests you.

7.Visit neighbors and friends.

8.Contact and make a specific effort to talk to the people who are supportive in your life.

9.Ask questions, and refrain from doing all the talking.

10.Send “Thank You” notes for kind deeds done in your favor.

11.Allow others to care for you.

12.Balance your social life with your personal life.

 

 

As you travel the ELM Mental Wellness path, you’ll become more aware of your importance in society as well as the impact you have on multiple environments. You’ll take an active part in improving our world by encouraging healthier living and initiating better communication with those around you.You’ll actively seek ways to preserve the beauty and balance of nature along the pathway as you discover the power to make willful choices to enhance personal relationships and important friendships, and build a better living space and community.

I can help you grow your social wellness by developing:

  • comfort with expressing yourself
  • supportive and fulfilling relationships
  • Attitude towards your relationships (and your willingness to ask for help)
  • Peer acceptance, close bonds and social skills (like assertiveness or conflict resolution)
  • The ability to accept others for being different

 

It is better to contribute to the common welfare of our

community than to think only of ourselves.

 

It is better to live in harmony with others and our

environment than to live in conflict with them.

How to use Emotions to your advantage.

emotion, health, mental health, positive thinking, stress, therapy, wellness

Do you feel like you can handle whatever life throws at you?

The emotional dimension of wellness recognizes awareness and acceptance of one’s feelings. Emotional wellness includes the range we feel positive and enthusiastic about our self and our life. It includes the capacity to manage feelings and related behaviors including knowing our limits, development of independence, and ability to cope effectively with stress.

Emotions are a part of who we are and how we are perceived by others.  Your mood can affect your thoughts and behaviors.  Your emotions are affected by certain events like thinking about friends and family and past and future events.  Good emotions can motivate and excite us to look forward to new things and activities.  When we feel unpleasant emotions, it can be a sign that we don’t want a certain activity or event to occur or continue.

There are good types of stress that make you feel energized, and there are bad types of stress that can have a negative impact on us – not only emotionally but physically as well.

How to deal with situations that cause bad stress: The FOUR A’s

  1. Accept situations that you can not change.
  2. Avoid things and people who cause you stress.
  3. Alter the situations you can change by communicating more effectively,
  4. Adapt to the situation with an open mind and focus on the positive.

(Ideas from http//:www.helpguide.org)

 

For many of us, it’s not a great disaster that weakens our health but instead how we handle the more frequent everyday stresses of life.  So like a rock in a stream, if we do not cope well with daily life our health is slowly worn away until it is time for a significant health effect like a heart attack. P. Granello from Wellness Counseling, 2013.

On the ELM Mental Wellness path, you’ll be able to express feelings freely and manage feelings effectively. You’ll be able to form relationships with others based upon a foundation of mutual commitment, trust, and respect. You’ll take on challenges, take risks, and recognize conflict as being potentially healthy. Managing your life in personally rewarding ways, and taking responsibility for your actions, will help you see life as an exciting, hopeful adventure.

 

It is better to be aware of and accept our feelings than to deny them. It is better to be optimistic in our approach to life than pessimistic.

 Be Well,

Kelle Greeson, LPCC CWC

Owner, ELM Mental Wellness