15 Ways to Conquer Those “Blues”

15 Ways to Conquer Those “Blues”

When I stepped outside and onto my front porch this morning a cool breeze brushed against my face. I also felt a bit of warmth from the fall sun; and both sensations were very soothing.  I turned around to close my front door and while doing so I could hear a group of leaves bustling down the street behind me.

Naturally, I didn’t have to turn around to know that they were leaves that had recently fell from the neighborhood trees.  In my mind I called upon past memories of the season and I thought to myself, “this only happens once a year.”  This was fall in full effect and as I turned around to face the street, all of the leaves began to then scatter to different areas of the street and into yards like little colorful children laughing and playing a game of tag.

It’s always the little things that capture my attention, and where I find some of the most intriguing things to be grateful for.  Practicing gratitude allows me to readjust my focus so that I am always able to find “something” good in everything.  Even those things that I normally would not find pleasing – like cold weather months, for example.

When fall arrives I know that I will now have to try to plan my outdoor walks and hiking trips a bit more carefully for the next few months, if at all, and this alone contributes to my “blues” along with grieving and missing the sunshine.  However,  the cooler months also bring with them the opportunity to sit or lay by a fireplace fire, and if I keep looking on the bright side and maintain an open mind, I will also be able to appreciate the fact that I can still perform other exercises and activities indoors. Optimism is a beautiful thing. I guess that is why we as a society celebrate it.

A big part of conquering the “blues” involves maintaining a positive outlook once the weather changes. Yet, as I have discovered, this isn’t always easy to do especially if the shift to cooler weather and shorter daylight hours are affecting you while you are grieving. There are a few things that anyone can do to help make this time of year more pleasant and more manageable and I have listed fifteen tips below that I have personally tried and that seem to be helpful.

  1. Practice gratitude – Find something in every day, no matter how big or small, to be grateful for.  Begin by noticing something good about the changes that come with both the fall and winter seasons.
  2. Get a pet.  Pets can help keep you stay healthy by encouraging you to stay active. It may also help to care for something else other than yourself.
  3. Open your curtains or blinds as often as possible to allow the sun to shine in and keep your mood positive.
  4. Exercise or find another way to keep you body active for a few minutes a day.
  5. Take up a new hobby or start a fall or winter craft. This can be especially helpful in easing any grief.  Try creating something in honor of the person who has passed away or create something that sparks your interest. Either way, creative expression is good for managing feelings and emotions.
  6. Find an exercise buddy to keep things exciting and for accountability.
  7. Eat healthy and don’t feel bad about treating yourself to a favorite treat once in a while…think balance.
  8. Volunteer or donate to a cause that you care about, or that your loved one cared about. When we help others it can give us insight and remind us that things aren’t as bad as they may seem.
  9. Join a club such as a grief group, book club or hiking club, or any club that sparks your interest. This is a great way to maintain social contacts and prevent feelings of isolation.
  10. Create fall or winter rituals such as decorating for the holidays, cooking holiday meals, baking desserts, (especially those that your lost loved one enjoyed), or burn  candles and make a fire in the fireplace. These things can help you enjoy the “warmth” of the season.
  11.  Avoid negativity  – Surround yourself with positive people and positive environments.  Negativity can be stressful and may trigger unfavorable emotions and memories.
  12. Look forward – Create something special to look forward to in the coming year such as a memorial event,  or a solo or family trip or vacation.
  13. Stay social – Spend time with family and friends, share family memories and create new ones, or simply get together with friends to watch a movie or have brunch or dinner out at a restaurant.
  14. Play music – Listen to your favorite music regularly in your home or car to give your mind a break.  You may also enjoy playing a little holiday music during the holidays to add a little cheeriness to the gloomier seasons.
  15. Create a morning and evening ritual – such as practicing meditation, yoga, prayer or journaling as these practices can help with maintaining a positive outlook.
Thankfully, seasons change, and “the blues” will too, but until the seasons actually do change and bring back the longer, brighter days with the trees and other foliage beginning to show hints of a less monochromatic world  we have just a few months in which we can savor the beauty that fall and winter bestows us. Let’s enjoy it together. Shall we? Happy October!

Until the next post.


Blessings,

Take Care + Be Well,

Carol xo

1-800-273-TALK(8255)

1-800-273-TALK(8255)
September was National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  I know… my post is a little late considering that we are now a few days into October, but the truth is, I wanted to wait to post this because oftentimes we tend to forget about the causes that we support the moment that the cause’s awareness month has ceased.  So, in a way, this is my way of reminding myself and others to remember that suicide is something that we should not just think about every September.  Suicide is something that we should be aware of year round.  This is by no means because I think that it is more important than any other cause; but because I think that it isn’t thought of as often as it should be considering that it appears to be a considerable, perplexing and somewhat mysterious problem affecting many individuals, their families and friends.
The topic of suicide is often something that people find uncomfortable discussing despite the fact that is such an important issue.  People, who for whatever reason, ultimately reach a point in their lives where they feel so despondent that they eventually feel that continuing their lives is no longer an option must be hurting, immensely, and beyond anything that anyone else could ever imagine…(I, of course am postulating here.)
We have witnessed celebrities and people who seem to have it all chose to end their lives and we are left to wonder why? Many of us have also witnessed people who lived less extravagant lives make the same decision again leaving us to contemplate what happened.  It is evident that there are many people hurting and suffering in silence – all while leaving their families, friends and others with the impression that everything is fine and normal as usual.  Yet, those are only appearances. Appearances that we tend to inaccurately assess; or perhaps maybe it is that they are just more adept at ensuring that no one ever gets a glimpse into that nebulous side of them – again for whatever reason.  Let’s think about that for a second. Really let it soak in.  You can’t help consider that something is terribly amiss here; but what is it?
From what I remember from my psychology courses when I was working on completing my degree a few years ago and through my own research, there aren’t any known actual causes of suicide.  However there are a few risk factors which include the following:
  • Family history
  • Mental illness such as depression or bi-polar disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Difficult relationships
  • Extreme hardship
  • Grief and loss
  • Extensive emotional and/or physical pain, and
  • Having had attempted suicide previously
Moreover, individuals considered at risk may
  • Seem extremely sad, withdrawn and hopeless
  • Lose or gain weight
  • Appear to be tired all of the time
  • Behave in an unusual manner 
  • Seem to avoid their usual activities or lose interest in them.
  • Talk often about life insurance and wills, suicide, or other things related to death and dying 

One important thing to remember is that it can be difficult to detect the symptoms associated with suicide, namely because they tend to hide their true feelings of sadness, by trying to appear “normal” by preoccupying themselves with work or other busy tasks.  They may also exhibit an abundance of energy or excitability and any of these can lead someone to miss the hidden signs of despair.
If you know someone who might appear to be exhibiting any of these signs. Consider reaching out to them because they need to know that someone is by their side.  They need to know that someone cares. Sometimes the reason that they don’t reach out to anyone themselves is because they were once taught to believe that feeling sad, depressed and hopeless is just weakness. Some were also brought up to believe that seeking mental help is also a sign of weakness or unnecessary when there are other sources of help such as through attending church for example. Yet, being that the cause could be medically related that belief is not very helpful. What is more helpful is listening to the person and trying to help them find the good in life again. What is more helpful than that is assisting them with finding a medical professional to help them in ways that no one else probably can.  Lastly, I’ll end by writing (typing) the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number one more time, you know, just in case you forgot it.  1(800) 273-Talk (8255) Pass it on to someone… anyone who you believe may be able to benefit from it.  
Until the next post.

Blessings,
Take Care + Be Well,
Carol xo

  

 

A Little Bit of Nature Helps

A Little Bit of Nature Helps

Neither of us knew how to explain exactly how we felt, but… Last year as summer began to come to an end, the last thing that my husband and I wanted to hear was anything that had to do with going out to “do something.”  As far as we were concerned, we were doing something…something called trying to process what happened and trying to heal.  Was that not enough?  Even after all that we had just been through?  Celebrating, exercising, or vacationing was not something that we were interested in making a priority at the time.
It took us nearly 3 months to feel even the slightest bit comfortable going out to do anything; and once we were finally ready, we decided that a simple hike would be a great way to relive some stress and get our endorphins going again.  That trip turned out to be one of the best decisions that we ever made.
Well, it’s that time of year again, and this week we got the same little “itch” that provoked us last year to get out – not to do anything “fancy” – but to just go somewhere where there was peacefulness. Somewhere where we could just go and reconnect with nature ( and ourselves) and contemplate the meaning of life yet again.
When you are immersed in nature and enjoying all of it’s beauty, it helps you remember that there is still so much outside of ourselves, our jobs, and our homes to be thankful for.  You begin to realize that even through difficult times life is still amazing. Furthermore, it gives a boost to your immune system and the change of scenery can help brighten your outlook and change any negative perspectives that you may be holding. Personally, I don’t think that there is a better natural mood booster than spending time outdoors, getting lots of fresh air and taking in the sights and sounds of our beautiful planet.
Not to get off topic but let me revert back to the issue of celebrating while grieving for a moment…We found ourselves feeling a little guilty for going out after having turned down invitations from a few family and friends. It makes you feel really bad, but in all honesty it was better being truthful about how we felt instead of being more concerned with what everyone would think, only because it would be devastating to attend an event that could likely be a trigger for our grief. More important we would never want to ruin anyone’s celebration with our sadness. It just didn’t seem worth it and we figured that it would be best if we didn’t attend anything until we were completely prepared to be good company. The right time, unfortunately, was not a couple of months after our loss. We were confident that anyone who had invited us to their event during that time would understand…and  gratefully they did.  More often than not your family and friends will understand – especially if they have witnessed your pain.  Just be sure to let them know that you will do your best to join them the next time; and if possible it couldn’t hurt to send a small gift to remind them that you do care about them as well.
The important thing to take away from this is to not focus on what you are not yet able to to do while healing from your loss. It is more helpful to stay focused on what you can do now.  Just do  whatever you can do to motivate yourself to get out and back into your life – enjoying your life, and if you can’t seem to get out at least make sure that you are doing something positive for your mental and physical well-being. Doing something is always better than doing nothing in this case and if you have to take baby steps to get back to your normal self that is completely acceptable. 
Until the next post.

Blessings,
Take care + Be well,
Carol xo 

Staying Strong After Loss

Staying Strong After Loss

When we experience loss we tend to become internally disoriented. That internal disorientation comes to us in the form of sadness + anger + misery + regret + trepidation + (because we’re often hoping that the person that we lost could come back…) wishfulness.

We’re often affected physically as well, which is where those things like losing your appetite (or having it increase ), being unable to sleep or feel rested, and having an overall sense of discomfort + uneasiness takes over. I’ve learned that these are all normal responses to the process of grieving.

Having to bear the weight of, (what at the time seems like), almost unimaginable tasks such as adjusting to a new relationship with with the person that you have lost + trying to fully understand the loss + trying to develop a whole new way of being in the world after the loss adds to the burden and oftentimes we are not prepared to manage all that has been placed before us.

Yet, finding a way, (or ways), to adjust to our loss can help keep the pain from consuming us.

Learning to adjust is necessary because life is going to keep revolving around you – and if you don’t find a way return to life you are going to have a very hard time with those internal and physical symptoms – making it much more difficult to heal and live your life.

Some of the things that have helped me return to myself include:

• Showing myself a little compassion by resting when I felt as though I needed to…and not feeling guilty about doing so.

• Asking for (or accepting) help from others when I needed it. This helped me feel less overwhelmed, but it also gave others the opportunity to feel good about helping someone through a rough time. It’s so important to not push these “beautiful” people away.

• Trying to laugh again without feeling as though I was dishonoring my lost loved one. Remembering that he wanted (wants) me to be happy. This helped me remember to keep looking for the joy in life and to not take it too seriously…to always remain open.

• Giving my loss meaning by focusing less on the fact that my loved one is no longer here…and more on how he positively impacted my life + that of others + keeping his legacy of loving life alive.

• I am a nature lover so getting out and enjoying the sights + sounds of nature was a given for me while on my healing journey. There are so many lessons in nature that can help with trying to understand + learning to appreciate loss of life. Nature tends to offer a neverending abundance of beautiful comparisons.

This list of mine is not exhaustive and as always we all have different methods that we can apply. These are a few that helped me through the early days when I was days + weeks into my loss. Please feel free to try any of them for yourself and if you do – let me know how it worked for you.

Until the next post.


Blessings,

Take care + Be well, 

Carol xo

Shattered

Shattered

It was a very long night. I didn’t sleep at all that night.  It was 6:14 a.m. on that early August morning that I took this photo as I sat in this room staring at the white walls and these deep green seats, waiting for someone to come and tell me that I could smile again.  I kept thinking about how just twelve hours beforehand, my youngest child and I were enjoying one of his favorite meals, while conversating as we got our “little nerd fix while watching the show Battle Bots.  Ten hours beforehand we had, unbeknownst to us, said our last real goodbyes right before I reminded him to drive safely as he opened the front door to leave to meet up with friends out of town.  The moment that I took this photo I had enough hope for the world. However, evidently, some plans are much greater than our own wishes, hopes, dreams, efforts and prayers.

It often begins with shock.  That initial feeling that sends shock waves and copious amounts of cortisol throughout your body, filling every part with enough stress to make your hands shake and your entire body quiver.  Then the numbness seeps in ever so slowly.  So slow, in fact, that you’re barely able to recognize that your body is being possessed by some strange form of extreme sadness; and for a minute you begin to wonder if you’re losing your mind.

You’re in disbelief.  Yet, you somehow know that this may not end well, so you reach deep down inside your heart and gut and pull out as much strength, courage and hope for a happy end result as you possibly can – and even so – you still don’t feel as though that effort will be enough.

Now all that you feel is fear.  You are still numb and outside of yourself, but the hurt that you feel is now becoming so overwhelming and all that your heart and mind are telling you is that you absolutely cannot lose this person.  Suddenly, you start doubting that this is actually happening and hope that you are just having a really terrible dream.  You can’t believe that this is even possible. How can it be possible?  Nothing feels real at the moment.

You can’t seem to stop the tears from falling from your eyes and down your cheeks. Nor can you stop the ache in your chest. You’re antsy and you want to do something to help, but you are told repeatedly that there is nothing else that you can do. That they can do. That anyone can do. That doesn’t stop you though. Each day that you return to this place you keep asking and trying to find solutions. All you know is… this hurt likes like hell.

This was my experience and I cannot speak for all parents who have lost a child, but there is not doubt that when someone you love loses their life, so many feelings and emotions rush through your mind and you have to mourn the loss in order to help you process it.  Mourning is essential to the healing process and there is no time frame that one can be expected to “get over” their loss. That is always personal.  It is as personal as the relationship that you had with the person that you lost.  This is why bereavement healing times tend to vary from person to person. Bereavement should not be rushed.  So, the next time that you encounter someone who is grieving, show a little patience, kindness and be genuinely supportive because that is what is going to help that person overcome their grief in the healthiest way possible.

Until the next post.


Blessings,

Take care + Be well,

Carol xo

Remembering You

Remembering You

 


“When I speak of you it’s because I need to remember you.  I need to remember how you made us smile, laugh and feel.  The memories are all that I have now, to remind me that the “gift of you” was real.”  – Carol C.M.

 

Until the next post.

Blessings,

Take Care + Be Well,

Carol xo

Gearing up for “D” Fall

Gearing up for “D” Fall

When you can’t get enough sunshine…create your own.

-Carol C.M.

Can you feel it? It’s there in the air. The slightly cooler weather. The change in the way that the sun lights up a room? The yearning for comfort food. The cries for pumpkin spice everything. The Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations inside every store that you set foot in. Wanting to pull the covers up to your chin and press the snooze button on those early chilly mornings before you get out of bed.
Regardless of  whether you call it Autumn or Fall… it’s here. That time of the year that makes us want to hibernate a little bit and spend more time indoors.  As someone who enjoys both the outdoors and warm sunshine on my skin I am going to miss the warmer months and the opportunity to soak up vitamin D naturally.
Spending time in the sun, of course, has its pros and cons.  We want to avoid exposing ourselves to too much sunlight as not to increase our chances of getting skin cancer — even with sunscreen. Yet, with sunlight being a natural and ideal way of getting vitamin D into our bodies to maintain our health, we also want to be able to reap that benefit.
During the spring and summer months our bodies produce vitamin D naturally when we spend at least ten to twenty minutes outside receiving ultraviolet B rays from the sun.  Yet, during the fall and winter months most of us are less likely to be able to so, which means that we are often left to find others ways of ensuring that we are getting enough vitamin D and maintaining our health and nutrition.
We can do this by eating more vitamin D rich foods such as fortified milk, orange juice, cheese, eggs, mushrooms, or fatty-fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines.  For my vegan friends, tofu or fortified plant milks can be good sources of vitamin D. Just be sure to double check your labels.  Furthermore, vitamin D supplements tend to be good options for those who may feel as though they are are not receiving enough vitamin D from their food sources. These are just some of the ways that I manage my vitamin D levels as a flexitarian. As always, it would also be a good idea to check with your physician or nutritionist to determine what your unique vitamin or nutritional needs might be.
I think we all know that vitamin D is important for our bone, nail, hair and teeth health, but did you know that it also plays a role in the human cell life cycle and helps regulate both immune and neuromuscular systems?

Potential Benefits of Vitamin D

  • May aid depression or S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder / Seasonal Depression).
  • May decrease inflammation.
  • May prevent bone loss or bone disease.
  • May provide relief for some chronic conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, Arthritis or Multiple Sclerosis.
  • May aid cognitive function.

A few signs of vitamin deficiency include hair loss, muscle pain, having wounds that heal slowly and fatigue. These are symptoms that could also, very easily, be associated with other conditions which is why you should seek professional medical help in the event that you experience any of these symptoms – especially if you are experiencing grief and assuming that your symptoms are solely related to stress from the loss that you have experienced.  Deficiency in this vitamin is common and easy to remedy so don’t be afraid to get any of these symptoms checked out.

Until the next post.


Blessings,
Take Care  + Be Well,
Carol xo

A Bittersweet Beginning

A Bittersweet Beginning

I recently came across this beautiful quote by Morgan Harper Nichols which says,  “Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide. ”  I don’t think that there have ever been words spoken or written that have inspired me to act more than these words.  After reading that quote I immediately knew that the time was right for me to start working on the blog that I had talked about starting for so long.

In the beginning my delay was due to fear.  Fear of not attracting enough readers. Fear of adding more expense to my already stretched budget. Fear of not being able to dedicate enough time to writing. Fear of not being able to manage a blog, etc., etc., etc.  My list of excuses was about as long as my arm, but deep down I knew what the real reason was. I was afraid of failing at something that I had my heart set on.  My passion was there, but fear has a way of playing with your mind and making you feel as though things are a lot worse than they actually are.

I learned the hard way though. When one day I woke up and found myself with a real, true, viable reason for procrastinating – known as grief.   Grief is difficult and it can be quite overwhelming as it affects your thinking ability and your energy level.  It basically takes over every aspect of your life – especially if the person you lost was an immediate family member who lived with you.

I had no choice but to put my blogging plans back on the back burner, and this time it would be without a planned future starting date.  There was another difference too. This time I didn’t feel guilty about not being able to start my blog. In fact, I didn’t care about it at all because my mind was so discombobulated and blogging just wasn’t on my priority list at the time.  I had to heal. I had to take care of myself and my remaining family members. I had to find ways to honor and celebrate the life of my loved one and  maintain his legacy.

Well, a year has passed and a lot has changed since then for me.  I am glad that I didn’t chose to rush my healing, because you have to give yourself time to grow through what you go through and it is no different when you’re dealing with loss. For me healing meant taking care of myself mentally, physically and spiritually so that all parts of me could heal appropriately.

With each passing day I felt the fog begin to lift from my life.  It’s still there, but now it feels lighter and more manageable thanks to my dedication to my own self care in which I allowed myself to feel my hurt and not avoid it. Learning to cope with grief is pivotal if you want to be able to withstand the triggers that will come along later.

So here I am today typing away at the keyboard. Thinking about that time I discussed starting a blog with my lost loved one over a year ago and hearing him reply, ” You should do it, Mom – When are you going to start it?” I hope that he can hear me today as I talk to him from this earthly plain, “I’m starting the blog today dear son – finally- today and in many ways, you are now my inspiration for doing so.

Thank you for taking the time to read my first post. If you are following me, I thank you for that as well and I hope that you enjoy my future posts.

Until the next post.


Blessings,

Take Care + Be Well,

Carol xo