This page contains articles and information that can help you improve your mental health.
I hope this proves meaningful to you.
If you need further assistance, Buttonwood Counseling is here for you.
Confidential Email: email@example.com Confidential Phone: 561-866-9066
Please see the article from last year, further down, about the benefits of gratitude. And in the meantime, please accept this small gift from me for your holiday festivities!
LESSONS LEARNED FROM GETTING SOBER AT 21
“Shame and secrets made me a guarded kid, and alcohol equipped me with the chainsaw to take down my own walls.”
09/18/2017 12:42 pm ET Updated Sep 18, 2017 Huffingtonpost.com
Drunken college mayhem is as much a part of the American Dream as a station wagon and a 9-5 job. The alcohol-related deaths of young, bright-eyed hopefuls evoke sadness and even surprise from the media, but anyone recently enrolled in college knows the binge-drinking culture runs rampant across college campuses of the most privileged seeking to live out their “Glory Days.” Drunken mayhem is more than a quintessential part of the college experience for most; it’s the currency used to establish social status, the lubricant applied to develop friendships and romantic relationships, and the magical potion invoked to diminish inhibitions. “Glory Days” have no place for inhibitions. Binge-drinking is obviously dangerous for anyone, but what happens to the students on these campuses who are alcoholics?
I started drinking heavily at 17. Growing up gay in suburban America means growing up with shame and secrets. As a high-strung perfectionist, alcohol was my release from the rope wire I walked along for most of my teenage years. Alcohol took me to a world where I was free, where the racing thoughts in my mind finally calmed down.
In college, booze is the great equalizer. Everyone wants to get messed up, so it unites people. Shame and secrets made me a guarded kid, and alcohol equipped me with the chainsaw to take down my own walls. Booze helped me make friends and step off my own razor’s edge.
Until it didn’t. Early on in college, things weren’t right. I blacked out regularly, waking up with immense shame and anxiety about the stupid things I likely did the night before. I skipped classes or went drunk. All of my choices were driven by the quest for alcohol.
I fell and cracked my head open at 10am on a Friday when I was blacked out with a .35 BAC. Not even that trip to the ER was enough to make me quit drinking. Months later, I landed in jail when cops found me passed out on a bush in the middle of my college town. I woke up with no memory at all of the night before.
When I got in trouble the first few times from the school for drinking, they assured me that they understood drinking was part of the culture for all college students, and I would just need to be more careful. But not anymore. My school’s administrators were ready to kick me out after the arrest. As good at I was at throwing my own life away, I could talk myself out of anything, and convinced them to let me stay if I started a sobriety support group.
I went home for the summer and after a few drunken nights, my parents were clear: you get it together or you’re not going back to college. Being gay was once the secret that drove me into the ground, but now my life was consumed by the attempts to hide my drinking. I was sick of hiding things, and I wanted something better, so I set out to get sober.
Getting sober wasn’t just a decision. It was a quest, full of failures, devestations, and mini victories. My identity and relationship with others and even myself was so heavily rooted in alcohol.
Embarking on the quest for sobriety amidst the binge drinking culture of American colleges seems impossible, but it taught me more about myself than a handle of Captain Morgan ever could. Here’s what I learned:
- Just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s right.
Bottom of Form
Everyone drinks in college. Even college disciplinarians didn’t task me with sobriety or downplay the normalcy of underage drinking in college, but that doesn’t make it healthy. I LOVED drinking, but sobriety forced me to step back and look at the destructive relationship that my generation and I had with booze. Life has challenges, and we use drinking as a way to avoid handling those through reflection and action. Instead of facing on our problems head on, we hide from them in a bottle.
- You’re not invincible.
I drank because it made me feel like my best self: calm, powerful, outgoing. Recognizing that I had lost control demanded coming to terms with my own weaknesses and limitations. I’m human. Realizing you’re an alcoholic is realizing you’re human.
- Alcohol didn’t make life beautiful.
“Stop and smell the roses” is a total cliche, but I spent years racing past all the things that made life worth living when I was drunk. My entire life was centered around the pursuit of alcohol. I didn’t care about relationships or experiences that weren’t rooted in drunken mayhem. When I stopped drinking, life became slower. A lot slower. But I found joy and beauty in things that were once mundane. I appreciated my college classes, the friends who were down to stay in and watch a movie, and books. Life is beautiful; alcohol isn’t necessary to see it. Getting sober helped me find power in peace and an appreciation of the moment.
I never thought I would be sober. There was a period of time when I couldn’t go to sleep without calming myself down with alcohol. I learned to trust. In myself. In a higher being. In the belief that there was a better life for me than one I couldn’t remember or control.
- Sobriety isn’t a fix-all.
Life is hard. Buddha said that pain is inevitable. When I first got sober, I really believed that this would fix all my problems. It didn’t. Alcoholism isn’t the root cause of loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, and sadness; being human is. Struggle and sadness are universal; self-love isn’t. Sobriety will NOT cure all of your problems, but self-love will remedy them.
- Life is short.
I threw my life away so many times that I am just lucky to here. I still get caught up in wanting the perfect job, body, relationships, blah blah blah, but I got a second chance at life. It’s human nature to strive for something more, but I’m lucky to wake up every morning, so I owe it to myself to honor my dreams, follow my bliss, and do something better with my life. You do, too.
PARENTING GOT YOU STRESSED?
HERE ARE SOME WISE WORDS ON HOW TO MANAGE IT!
LET’S ALL LEARN FROM THIS BOSS!
A recent article on BuzzFeed featured a boss’ perfect response to an employee saying she was taking a “mental health day.” What a wonderful working environment that values an employee’s state of mind, and that does not stigmatize an employee for needing some time off. You can read the article here. Let’s not be shy or apologetic when we need time for ourselves, and not be demeaning when others need it for themselves.
NEW ONLINE PAIN MANAGEMENT TOOL
So many of us have chronic pain issues, whether from an injury, illness, or accident, or just the everyday movements of life and the natural aging process. Taking narcotic painkillers long-term can dull the joy of life and the judgment we need to get through it, and can lead to tolerance (needing higher and higher doses to get the same relief) and then to physical addiction, with withdrawal symptoms, including body aches, nausea, vomiting, tremors and more if we try to stop.
Much research has been done on alternative ways to manage chronic pain, and a new FREE online pain management tool is now available. It’s from a website called My Strength , which offers a multitude of programs to address mental health issues. The link to the pain management program is My Strength Pain Management Tool . Wishing you a pain-reduced day!
Are you a People-Pleaser?
These funny cartoons may help you identify your people-pleasing traits:
If you want to get better at pleasing people, check out these people-pleasing tips and learn how to get the least out of your life.
#1 Always seem happy with everything
Never show negative emotions. Make sure there’s always a smile on your face. This will make people feel good, as if you’re totally fine with everything all the time. They’ll love being around you even if they sometimes feel really uncomfortable.
#2 Never end a phone call
When talking on the phone, never be the first to say you have to go. Wait for the other person to say she has to go before saying goodbye. This gets tricky with telemarketers sometimes, but remember, you need them to like you, too.
#3 Never say what you want
If someone asks you what you want to do, ask him what he wants to do. Never be the first to offer up a suggestion. This way you avoid disagreeing with anyone as well as any real enjoyment in your life.
#4 Offer to do things you don’t want to do
If there’s something you know your friend would like, offer to do it for him, even if you have no intention of doing it or don’t even know how to do it. Ultimately, this will piss him off, but in the moment it will feel like you really made him happy.
#5 Get so used to going along with other people that you don’t even know who you are anymore
Always go along with the group even if the group wants to do something you hate. Get so used to saying yes to everything that you forget your own likes and dislikes. Your suffering is the key to fitting in anywhere you want to go.
#6 Don’t ask for anything
Never come right out and ask anyone for anything. Always give them several ways of saying no, if you even end up asking them at all. People will appreciate how much you don’t need anyone and you’re fine being all by yourself and God why are you so alone.
#7 Always leave without saying goodbye
The Irish exit is your friend. It means you don’t have to admit to anyone that you don’t really want to be there anymore. The last they’ll remember of you is what a great time you were having, and none will be the wiser.
Sarah Cooper is a writer, comedian and creator of TheCooperReview.com. Her first book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings comes out October 4th. Sign up for her free email newsletter to get updates.
But seriously if you find yourself putting other folks’ wants and needs before your own, Buttonwood Counseling is here to help! 561-866-9066
Creativity is the Original Anti-Depressant
Carrie Alton, MD
Carrie Alton is a psychiatrist who has written “The Creativity Cure,” a book about the role creativity plays in our mental health. She stresses you don’t have to be an artist to reap the benefits of creativity–it’s about the creative process, not the outcome. (That’s a relief to me, as I don’t have much artistic talent!) Check out the link below to see a video about her ideas–and then GET CREATIVE! Creativity is the Original Anti-Depressant
A Note on Stigma and OCD
Every once in a while, I read an article that really hits home. This one, from the website of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill ( http://www.nami.org ) really makes a lot of sense. Its premise is that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is often trivialized by people saying “Oy, I’m having such an OCD day.” What message does this send to folks who battle this disorder on a daily basis? Do we as a society have a real understanding of its effects on their lives? Please check out the link below and let me know what you think.
Are You Tired of Drama in Your Life?
If family members, coworkers, friends, or others are bringing drama to your life that’s getting in the way of your living your life, then this information is for you:
|Anger. Jealousy. Misunderstanding. Gossip.
Big or small, drama can take over your life. The thing is, drama does nothing for you. It doesn’t add “spice” to your relationships. It just drains your energy and attention. It brings a big cloud of negative energy into your life.
Unfortunately, drama is addictive and it is everywhere. In a world where people are quick to anger and take insult, drama may seem like a natural part of life. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips for cutting the drama out of your life.
1. Don’t take it personally
So much drama comes from taking things personally when they aren’t. So stop for a moment when you feel something is personally directed at you. Come up with three alternative reasons – not involving you – why the person acted as they did. Which seems most realistic?
Example: If a friend didn’t invite you to a party, rather than believing she meant to hurt you, consider that, more likely, she: 1) Forgot 2) Figured you’d hear and come anyway – you’re automatically invited! 3) Wanted to spend time with other friends (and that’s OK!).
2. Decide: Is it worth it?
Most drama is best just ignored. But sometimes it points to something that needs fixing. Say that friend repeatedly excludes you from events. Maybe it is time to speak up and confront him about it. The trick is to do so from a place of calm and desire to understand. Explain why you feel hurt. Then truly listen to what he has to say.
3. Diffuse drama
Did something you do cause an upset? Don’t give drama time to grow. The more people who get upset (and the more upset they get), the stronger drama gets. Stop the cycle early by apologizing. Figure out what went wrong and have a calm, honest conversation with the people involved.
4. Break ties with a drama queen or king
Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to help stop the drama. You might have a friend who seems to create drama out of thin air. You feel like you have to tip-toe around him. You never know when he’ll get mad at you or someone else. Reevaluate your friendship with this person. Does he bring more negativity into your life than positivity and support? It may be time to break ties.
Cut drama out of your life as much as you can. Spend your energy on people and activities that bring you joy, peace, and wellbeing.
Copyright © 2016 myStrength, Inc., All rights reserved.
Or to put it simply, adopt this mantra from 12-Step wisdom:
“What other people think of me is none of my business!”
I know knitting helps me relax…
and now Jane Brody of the New York Times confirms my experience!
Several months ago, Buttonwood Counseling offered a depression support group that incorporated knitting a bear for a child in Africa as part of the curriculum. The theory was that as the group members worked on their knitting, they would begin to relax and become more open about sharing the roots of their depression and turning to each other for support.
Now a recent article from the NYT explains the benefits of knitting, both individually and as part of a group! Please click this link From The New York Times: The Health Benefits of Knitting to read more, and Happy Knitting!
And if you want to learn more about the amazing program that has sent more than 100,000 bears to African children, click here: Mother Bear Project
ATTITUDE MAKES A DIFFERENCE
The power of a positive attitude cannot be underestimated. It may not change the outcome of whatever challenges we face, but it can certainly make facing them a better experience for us.
The following article illustrates this beautifully, and I hope you find it helpful.
Do You Have Recurrent or Persistent Pain?
Chronic pain can affect our mental health, and vice versa. Learn more about the connection between pain and mental health by clicking on this link to an entertaining and educational video. Contact Buttonwood Counseling for help managing your pain and its mental health side effects!
A Good Prescription: A Nature Walk!
Just about everyone who lives in a city can say there are times when it becomes emotionally taxing. Long commutes, tight living spaces, and unpleasant interactions with others are only some of the reasons so many people can’t wait to get out of the city for vacation — many times ending up in areas surrounded by nature. Whether these vacationers know it or not,they’re improving their mental health, as a growing body of evidence shows green spaces can dramatically improve a person’s sense of wellbeing. But how? A new study may have the answer.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found that nature walks reduce a person’s chances of ruminating, which in turn lessens their chances of developing depression and other mental illnesses. People who ruminate mull over particular issues in their life continuously, regardless of how much power they have over them, according to the American Psychological Association. Most of the time, these issues are also negative.
Over time, rumination can cause a downward spiral of negative thinking, which in turn impairs thinking and problem-solving, and may even lead to the loss of social support — once friends have become frustrated with the lack of an improved outlook on life. With everything that happens in a city, it’s easy to see how someone can get caught up in the negative thoughts that accompany their stress. This is why spending time in nature is all the more important.
“It’s really the blink of an eye that we’ve been living in urban areas. It’s not what we’re evolutionarily adapted to do,” Greg Bratman, a PhD candidate in conservation biology and lead author of the study, told Healthline.
For their study, the Stanford University researchers had 38 men and women fill out questionnaires that asked about their tendencies to ruminate. Then, they underwent brain scans to measure activity in a part of their brains associated with “self-focused behavioral withdrawal” — rumination — called the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC). Once done, they were told to either go on a 90-minute walk in a nature setting or an urban one. The results: Those who took part in the nature walk reported ruminating less often during their walk, and subsequent brain scans showed the sgPFC was less active as well.
“This study reveals a pathway by which nature experience may improve mental wellbeing, and suggests that accessible natural areas within urban contexts may be a critical resource for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” the researchers wrote, noting that more than 50 percent of people now live in urban areas. By 2050, that percentage is expected to grow to 70 percent.
The World Health Organization estimates as many as 350 million people across the world live with depression. Though only a fraction of these people live in urban areas, adding more public green spaces may help lower depression rates. Many cities in the United States, such as Chicago and New York City, have already begun. “It’s important to incorporate these ‘psychological ecosystem services’ into urban design, to help bring nature to the city, and to improve easy access to these landscapes and nature experience,” Bratman told the Huffington Post.
“We’re in a unique moment in human history,” he said. “Never before have so many people lived in cities, and never before have people been so disconnected with the natural world.”
Source: Bratman G, Hamilton JP, Hahn K, Daily G, Gross J. Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. PNAS. 2015
May is Mental Health Month
…and there have been many excellent articles on the subject throughout the month. One of the best, from Huffington Post, addresses the stigma still associated with having a mental health issue. Here’s a table answering the question: “Should You Be Ashamed of Your Mental Illness?” There’s a link at the end of the table to the rest of the article.
The Benefits of Writing
For years, I have encouraged clients to journal their thoughts and feelings to help them gain clarity and healing. I’ve also personally experienced the power of writing about my own experiences and how they have affected me. Journaling has made a profound difference in my own life and in the lives of so many clients. Now , there is research that validates the multiplebenefits of writing. To learn more, click the link and read the article from the New York Times. And, keep writing!
A Change of Scene
As beautiful as the Florida Keys are, there is the danger of taking that beauty for granted, not truly seeing it. This is true wherever we may live. We may get so caught up in our daily routine that we don’t take, or make, time to appreciate the natural beauty around us.
Today I am in the North Carolina mountains, enjoying tall trees, lush greenery, and cool weather, even though it’s July! Since I don’t live here full-time, it’s easy for me to be grateful for everything here. But what a lesson–I need to work on being grateful for everything at home, too.
There is a saying from my faith tradition that says “Help me to see wherever I gaze that the bush burns unconsumed.” There are miracles all around us; it’s our job to be mindful of them.
What I Am Reminded When I Fly
We’ve all been there. Sitting on the plane, waiting to taxi, listening to the pre-flight announcements. Safety features, exit doors, keep your seat belt buckled, no smoking…blah blah blah. Many of us could recite the script ourselves and we tend to just tune it out.
BUT–there’s one part that always strikes me with its wisdom, and its application beyond flying on airplanes. When the flight attendant talks about the oxygen masks, s/he says: “Always put your own mask on first before helping others.”
Many of us would have a knee-jerk reaction of rebellion to this bit of advice: “What do you mean? What about the importance of always helping others, especially children we may be travelling with? How can you tell me not to think of them first? I can’t be that selfish!”
Let’s look at this from a practical, not emotional, point of view. The reason for putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others is that if you don’t, you might be unable to help anyone else! And then you, and the person you care about, are in real trouble. If we don’t take care of ourselves, in all aspects of our lives, we will be unable to take care of anyone else. There is nothing selfish, or cold, about putting your needs first. Indeed, this is the only way you will be any good to those you love.
Call Buttonwood Counseling today to learn how to take better care of yourself. You’ll appreciate the change!
Confidential Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Confidential Phone: 561-866-9066
Giving Thanks & the Power of Gratitude
from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, UC, Davis:
- Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions and optimism and lower levels of depression and stress
- People who keep gratitude lists are more likely to make progress toward important personal goals than people who don’t keep gratitude lists
Other research links cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety, higher long-term satisfaction with life, and kinder behavior toward others.
Developing your gratitude will help you keep your problems in perspective and will help you break out of a “pity party” that can lead to all sorts of emotional and relational problems. Gratitude helps you keep your resentments under control; we all have resentments, but we need to work to not let them rule our feelings and behaviors. Gratitude also helps you connect with your Higher Power, however you understand Him or Her, in a way other than asking for something.
Some additional points of gratitude:
- Spend at least as much energy being grateful for what is right and present in your life as you spend worrying about what is wrong or missing.
- Gratitude is a behavior as well as an attitude. Keep a daily gratitude list in your journal and voice your gratitude out loud!
- Helping someone else can help you develop your attitude of gratitude.
- As your sense of gratitude grows stronger, your resentments grow weaker, enabling you to cope with them appropriately.
- Let go of the old habit of comparing yourself and your possessions to others and their possessions.
- Expressing gratitude keeps you in touch with your Higher Power, and will help you turn more naturally toward your Higher Power when you need extra support.
I am grateful that you read this message, and wish you a life filled with gratitude.