Unprecedented Times

Unprecedented times call for ……. healthy coping skills.  Regardless of your viewpoint on what is happening in our country, you can’t deny that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused you to feel a multitude of emotions.  First, let me tell you that ALL of your emotions are valid.  If there is anyone out there telling you that you “shouldn’t” feel a particular emotion, don’t listen to them.  They are wrong.

All emotions are God-given.  You are entitled to feel any and all of them at your leisure.  However, the controversy comes in how you express those emotions.  Right now you are thinking, “Yes, but so many of my coping skills are not available.”  You are right.  Maybe you are someone who can’t go to work right now.  Or, maybe you are an essential worker and your life has become that much more stressful.  Maybe you cope by going shopping, going out to eat or for coffee with friends or family, or maybe you are active in other community activities.  Yes, these activities are not necessarily options right now.  BUT – you have a choice.  Yes, you could choose to veg out in your pajamas all day binging your favorite show or watching your favorite movies (and that’s ok – sometimes).  This activity is very isolating though and, long-term, can lead to some more unfavorable emotions.  So, let’s explore your other option that involves beating isolation.

I am one of those essential workers that can still work, but the rest of my “available options” for activity are no longer options.  So, I have chosen to allow myself to veg on occasion, but also to get creative.  We all have a lot of time on our hands to brainstorm how to be less isolated during these times of forced isolation.

So, options for those of you that need some assistance:

1. First and foremost, don’t hesitate to reach out for emotional support.  Whether that means phoning a friend or family member, or getting in touch with professional services; this is a must.  Remember that we are all feeling isolated right now.  You would be surprised at how much reaching out to really anyone can help (even if it’s just waving at your neighbor across the street.)  Know that most mental health services are not only taking insurance, but some also offer sliding fees for the uninsured (I am one of them.)

2. Become familiar with the vast amount of technology options there are to make number 1 above possible, or ask someone to teach you.  Many platforms even offer “training” videos on how to use their free or low cost services.  Video services are a great option to continue to utilize face to face contact with those you care about.  Once you are utilizing these services, the options become numerous.  There are several board games that can be played virtually (albeit, you might have to pick one person to move all of the pieces.)  Enjoy playing and/or listening to music together.  If you are a student, study together.  Start a book club with a gathering of friends virtually.  The options really are numerous.

3. Remember that we are isolated, but only to a 6-foot distance.  You can still get outside, go for a walk (with or without your dog that has surely been begging to get outside).  Gather a few friends and walk together – 6 feet apart.  Just get moving (inside or out.)  Your heart will be healthier and so will the rest of your body (you know you eating more now that you are home all the time.)  Company is company.  If you and/or your friends are fortunate enough to have hatch-back vehicles, grab some food, park in a 6-foot-apart circle, and visit from your trunks.

4. Some of you are already living where spring has been welcomed with beautiful weather to get outside.  So, start thinking about what your yearly springtime projects are – maybe gardening or landscaping, maybe mowing the lawn, maybe playing basketball in your driveway.  Those of you that are living where maybe spring is still forthcoming, nothing stops you from planning your garden or what flowers and/or plants you will have in your yard.

5. What about inside options?  Think about all the projects you put off because you are normally too busy.  Make a list; really, it will surprise you.  Maybe it’s a list of good books, or finally working on that menu plan you’ve been saying you’ll do for ages, or maybe something needs to be fixed or cleaned and you’ve been putting it off.  Incidentally, it’s really fun to grab a friend or family member on some virtual platform and cook and/or meal prep together.  Maybe it’s as simple as a puzzle, or a craft.  Maybe, you have always wanted to learn something new.  There are a crazy amount of free resources out there right now to learn just about anything.

Point being, you have choices – a whole lot of healthy choices.  So, pick out your favorite playlist, a good project (just you, your immediate family or with a friend virtually), jam to some feel good music and embrace the feeling of not being too busy.  Before you know it, the quarantine will be over and you’ll be left asking, “What did I do with all that time.”

Feel free to leave other healthy option ideas in the comments!  We’re better together – even if only virtually.

Stay well and spread kindness – we all need it.

Be Still

Wait, then wait some more. Hurry, rush, then hurry more. How much of our lives are dictated by time? How often are you exactly on time? We are most often early or late. Even in music, dance, and so many other technical professions, timing is so important. Even still, often our timing can just be off.

God’s timing is never off. All things happen when, how, and why he wants…every time. We rarely understand God’s timing, but do you ever pause to reflect on what God’s plan is in the moment? It’s usually easier to see why things happen long after the fact, but I think it’s easier to be grateful for God’s plan when we recognize it in the moment.

I see this frequently in my office. My schedule will be packed full and suddenly I’ll get a cancelation. It’s frustrating to have a hole in my schedule, but I’ve learned to be still in these moments. God always has a plan. Maybe there is an errand I can run to save my sanity during the craziness of life, but most often, another patient will call that just really needs to be seen. It’s such a blessing in these moments when I can tell that person that I just happen to have one opening in my schedule that just so happens to work for their schedule. That’s God….every time.

What happens when you have a disruption in your schedule or life just doesn’t go the way YOU planned? Try stopping for just a moment to reflect on what God might be trying to insert in your life instead. Or, maybe He’s removing something that would have been in your path that wasn’t part of His plan had you proceeded with YOUR plan.

Go forth my friends and be still.

Essential Oils and Anxiety

I think it would be safe to say that I’m not the only one in the world that deals with stress on a pretty regular basis.  Well, I have some fantastic news for you!  I have discovered that essential oils make dealing with the stress of life so much easier!

So, what is anxiety anyway?  Anxiety is the way the body reacts in order to prepare for emotional battle (also known as the fight or flight syndrome.)  You might also recognize it as being called an adrenaline rush.  When our bodies recognize that we could be in any level of stress or danger, it feeds us what we need to get out of that situation.  Our heart rate increases to pump more blood through our bodies to give our muscles the strength they need to get us out of there!  It is a completely natural bodily reaction to stress and the way that God beautifully designed our bodies.  Wait, does that mean that we can blame God for having anxiety?  No way!  What we do and how we act when our body naturally responds to stress is fully in our control.  God designed our bodies for a purpose and he knew exactly what he was doing.

Anxiety can present itself in both physical and emotional symptoms.  These symptoms can include fear, nervousness, nausea, sweating, increased blood pressure, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and panic attacks, and can occur on a wide range of severity.  Well, (and here it comes) there’s an oil for that; actually, there’s more than one.

Basil is considered the oil of renewal.  The smell of basil can bring strength to the heart and relaxation to the mind.  It can strengthen the adrenals and restore the body to its natural rhythms of sleep, activity, and rest.  Basically, it brings balance to the mind and body.  The benefits of basil can be achieved by either inhaling it (putting a drop in your hands, cupping your hands over your face, and inhaling), or diffusing it into the air aromatically.

The Respiratory Blend includes the following oils: Laurel Leaf (Bay), Peppermint, Eucalyptus, and Melaleuca, as well as other oils.  If you are using doTERRA essential oils, this would be the Breathe oil.  During excessive worry and even panic attacks, the lungs and air passages can become constricted, preventing air and emotion from being released.  This oil blend opens up the lungs and air passages and encourages deep breathing which is very helpful to someone struggling with anxiety.  The benefits of this oil blend are best achieved by applying topically around the outside of the nose, on the temples and the back of the neck, inhaling, and diffusing.

The Tension Blend includes the following oils: Wintergreen, Lavender, Peppermint, Frankincense, Cilantro, Roman Chamomile, Marjoram, and others.  If using doTERRA oils, this is the Past Tense oil blend.  This oil blend assists in releasing stress and tension that can or already has produced tension headaches.  This oil can calm severe stress, soothe trauma, and bring balance to the body.  The benefits of this oil blend are best achieved by applying topically on the temples and back of the neck, as well as inhaling.

I also have been known to mix my own blend of oils for different purposes.  I mix them in a glass rollerball bottle and then apply as needed throughout the day topically.  By doing this, I am also able to get the benefit of inhaling the oil when it’s on my skin.  One of my favorite blends for anxiety includes these oils: Serenity (Calming Blend), Bergamot, Lavender, Balance (Grounding Blend), and Breathe (Respiratory Blend).  I mix these oils in a 1:1 ratio with fractionated coconut oil in the rollerball and use it in combination with the Past Tense (Tension Blend) oil.

So, when life is weighing you down, don’t stress.  There’s an oil for that!

Essential Oils and Anger

I addressed dealing with anger in a previous post.  Everyone has grumpy days.  Sometimes the day just starts out that way.  Other times, a series of events can cause anger to build throughout the day.  There are so many out there that rush to the doctor for medication for emotional issues.  Sometimes there is just no other option.  However, in many cases, essential oils can be used to ease these emotional issues naturally.

When dealing with anger, there are several oils that can be used.  For application in the case of emotional issues, I would either recommend inhaling the scent of the oil, diffusing the oil, or applying the oil topically.  If applying topically, the best places to apply are the inside of the wrists, along the brain stem on the back of the neck, and on the bottoms of the feet.  See the introduction post in this category for more specific notes on application.  Single oils useful in dealing with feelings of anger include Cardamom, Thyme, Geranium, and Ylang Ylang.  Essential oil blends include the Calming Blend, and Women’s Blend.

Cardamom can help to bring balance, mental clarity, and objectivity to an angry state.  It is particularly helpful with people who seem to get angry with other people.  For this, Cardamom is helpful in eliminating emotional distortions that allow people to see others as inconveniences.  As a result of using Cardamom, a person could feel more responsible for their own feelings rather than blaming others.  This will lead a person to feel more at peace and more in control of their feelings.

Thyme is known as the oil for emotional cleansing because of its ability to bring old, stagnant feelings to the surface.  It is beneficial specifically with deeper feelings of anger such as hate, rage, and resentment.  Thyme rids the soul of negativity and allows a person to feel tolerance and patience for others.  This then leads to the ability to work toward forgiveness.

Geranium is known to assist a person with issues of love and trust.  It restores confidence in the goodness in others.  Geranium encourages emotional honesty, love, and forgiveness.  It softens anger so that more effective work can be done to heal emotional wounds.

Ylang Ylang is very beneficial for someone who feels stuck and is having trouble releasing emotional wounds from the past.  It is very helpful for the person who tends to “bottle up” their emotions.  In releasing the body and mind from this “stuck” state, Ylang Ylang helps a person to feel that joy and happiness can be experienced and that they can work through those “stuffed” emotions.

One of my favorite oil blends to use in emotional healing is the Calming Blend.  It is most useful for people who have a very difficult time with forgiveness.  This oil blend helps to soften the heart so that healing can happen.  As a society, I think that we have the tendency to have much too high of expectations of others.  The Calming Blend works to ease our critical nature and be more tender and compassionate.  It encourages the person to examine their own issues first rather than turning immediately to blaming others.

The Women’s Blend is not just for women.  It can encourage one to let go of their pride, and, when placed directly over the liver, can tame feelings of anger, tension, and irritability.  The Women’s Blend has the ability to assist in knocking down the tough exterior we sometimes put up as a defense against raw emotions.

Again, essential oils cannot do the emotional work for us.  Emotional healing is a process and essential oils are meant only to assist in this process.

Emotions and Essential Oils

Over the last three years, I have been on a journey to bring more natural and organic living to myself and my family.  I have learned so much in the last three years.  Out of everything we’ve done to change our lifestyle, maybe the most beneficial has been the addition of using essential oils as a natural form of health care.  Now, I know there are many out there that might be thinking that we’re a family who now refuses to seek medical attention for any reason, serious or otherwise.  I can assure you that we are not one of “those” families.  I have no animosity toward families that choose this way; it’s just not for me.  We all still seek medical attention when necessary.  We’ve been using essential oils in my house for almost 5 months now and the changes have been remarkable.  We mostly use them for physical health issues (headaches, muscle aches, tummy aches, etc.)  However, as I learned more about using the oils, I started reading more about using them to help with emotional issues as well as physical issues.

Naturally, I then started thinking that this would be a great topic to bring to my blog.  So, in addition to writing about what God says about the different emotional issues, I will also be writing about how one might use the various essential oils to ease some of those same issues.  Coincidentally, God has a lot to do with both of these topics; given that God gave us these great oils to use to our benefit.

Now, before I start talking further about essential oils, let me first give a little disclaimer.  What I write about on my blog is purely for educational purposes.  It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, or treat emotional and/or physical issues.  I will write what I’ve learned about using essential oils, but hold no responsibility to any person who chooses to try the oils as described in this blog, no matter if the effect is positive or negative.  It is important to follow all recommended usage described by the oil manufacturer that you choose and to consult a physician before adding any new protocol (prescribed or not) to your health care regimen.

It is important to realize that essential oils don’t do the emotional work for us.  In my practice, I tell patients all the time that I will teach them the tools they need to cope with the issues they struggle with, but I can’t make anyone use those tools.  Essential oils are just another tool to help us cope.  They can prepare the body to do the work needed to heal emotionally, but they cannot do the work for us.

There are many different brands of essential oils out there.  I will only be writing about using therapeutic grade essential oils.  I believe that only the highest quality essential oils should be used for any type of healing.  If you ever have any oil questions (or questions about anything else I write about), be sure to ask and I’ll do my very best to answer them.

Essential oils can be used 3 ways: aromatically, topically, and internally.  To use essential oils aromatically, you can place a few drops into a diffuser which will diffuse the oil into the air, you can simply smell the oil in the bottle, or you can place a few drops into your hands, rub them together and inhale the scent from your hands.  To use essential oils topically, you would place a few drops into your hands and rub onto the recommended area of concern on your body.  Some essential oils need to be diluted with what is called a carrier oil (ie. fractionated coconut oil, almond oil, etc.)  Please be sure to read manufacturer’s recommendations before using any oil.  I will be sure to make the proper recommendations in my writing about each of the oils that I mention as well.  Finally, to use the essential oils internally, some can be dropped directly into the mouth or mixed in water, while others need to be placed into a capsule before swallowing and/or diluted with a carrier oil before taking internally.  Be sure to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer and/or consult a reputable essential oil guide (ie: Modern Essentials) before following any oil protocol.

Before I close, I would like to take just a moment to talk about a most common question: What IS an essential oil?  Essential oils are natural aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants.  When you peel an orange, the reason your hands smell so good is because they are full of essential oils from the orange itself.  In addition to giving plants their distinctive smells, essential oils provide plants with protection against predators and disease and play a role in plant pollination.  Basically, God gave everything he created survival skills and plants are no exception.

So, join me as I take a look at how each of these oils can be used as tools to assist in healing our emotions!

What Does God Say About….Anxiety

Someone who struggles with anxiety tends to be so preoccupied with the future that they forget how to deal with the present situation.  They get stuck in the “what if” cycle.  Physical symptoms of anxiety include, but are not limited to nervousness, sleeplessness, headaches, difficulty in breathing, and excessive sweating.  None of these symptoms help to alleviate the problems of anxiety and worry.  These symptoms only make anxiety worse.

In Philippians 4:6-7 it is written, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  God does not want for us to worry.  We are to remember that God has a path for all of us.  Our stories are already written.  We might not always understand or enjoy the path we are on, but we are to remember that God already has it all worked out.

When all of the physical symptoms are taking over, however, how can a person possibly think about praying?  The best way to address immediate physical symptoms is through doing breathing exercises.  Breathing exercises are best learned in the context of a therapeutic relationship.  However, the basic idea is that the breathing needs to be slowed down.  The best way to do this is to breath in through the mouth and out through the nose, or vice versa.  There are more skills to be learned in this process, but doing this basic exercise will slow the breathing enough to be able to think a little more clearly.

It’s at this point that the anxiety and worry needs to be given to God.  As in the verse quoted above, God asks us to not worry.  A healthy therapeutic relationship will aide in guiding the exploration of the source of the anxiety and then the process of healing.

So, if you are struggling with anxiety, remember what it says in Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”  Find a therapist today that can assist you in managing your symptoms so that you can spend time with God and heal the source of your anxiety.

What Does God Say About ….

I get this question a lot.  Everyone wants to know what God says about “their issue.”  So, I thought I might take some time to address a few issues, one post at a time.  If you feel compelled to ask about a particular issue, please comment below and I will try to address it in a future post. 

I’ll address anger in this first posting.  Anger is really an involuntary response to a negative event.  It is completely normal to feel angry when involved in or being witness to sin, on any level.  It is only when we act out or behave out of anger that it can become dangerous.  Ephesians 4:26 states, “Be angry, and do not sin.”  “Be angry,” meaning feel angry, but do not act or behave with anger.  Some examples of acting out in anger include bad language, temper-tantrums, hostility, and physically or emotionally acting out on or toward another person.  “Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language,” (Colossians 3:8.) 

Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”  So, how do we accomplish this?  The first step is to try to figure out what your triggers are.  This means, find out what events cause you to act out in anger.  Once you have identified your triggers, pray about how God can help you to respond in a more God-pleasing way.  Part of this is learning how best to respond in negative situations.

The first step in doing this is to change your thought pattern.  Start with one trigger at a time and write down what your thoughts are about that trigger.  Next, think whether these thoughts are warranted and logical.  Most often, the thoughts that produce negative feelings and behaviors are not logical.  If your thoughts about the trigger become logical, your feelings and behaviors will also become more logical. 

These steps can be taken on your own, but often can be more easily accomplished with the assistance of a professional.  I treat patients more often than not that have been raised with the idea that anger is bad.  As a result, the proper reactions to anger are not taught and illogical thinking develops.  We are all sinners.  However, there is forgiveness and healing in sin.  If you struggle with negative response to anger, consider getting some help with the process of forgiveness and healing.

 

Take a hike!

Or a jog or bike ride.  Go swimming, listen to music, write in your journal, shoot some hoops, call you best friend, take a day trip or long drive, or pick anything that makes you feel great.  It doesn’t matter what outlet you choose, just take a break! 

In the Bible, specifically in Genesis 2:2-3, it says, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”  Yes, even God rested.

Life has gotten a whole lot more complicated since God created the world.  We have many things now to keep our anxieties running on high speed like deadlines, bills to pay, families to take care of, jobs to work, and even the soon to come tax day to worry about; just to name a few.  It almost seems that all we do is worry. 

God did not build us to be the Energizer bunny.  He instructed us to take one day each week and do nothing but rest.  If we don’t do this, our bodies wear out, both physically and emotionally.  It’s important to remember that if you are not healthy for yourself, you will not be healthy for anything else in your life.  All the things you work hard for will eventually fall to the wayside if you can’t keep up.

The solution is to take a break once in a while.  Now, I know there are going to be some Type A people out there reading this thinking, “Yeah right, take a break; ok, when?”  It’s a good rule of thumb that if you can’t make yourself take a break, you need to schedule one.  Then you have to follow through.  Part of this process is also setting priorities.  Deadlines are deadlines.  However, I would be willing to wager that if you sat down and made a list of things you have to do, most of those things don’t really have “specific” deadlines.  Sure, you might have an idea of when you’d like them to get done, but there is not really a “must get done by this date” deadline. 

As children, we are taught to take time-outs when we feel stressed, overwhelmed, or over-stimulated.  Somehow, this very important life lesson is lost somewhere between childhood and adulthood.  It is absolutely necessary to take a break and rest in order to maintain positive physical and mental health.

So, take a hike, or whatever you need to do to take you away from the stress of life.  Listen to God, or best teacher, and rest.

Everything is awesome!

Recently I went with my family to see The Lego Movie.  The theme song in that movie is titled, “Everything Is Awesome!”  These are the lyrics to the chorus:

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is awesome, when we’re living our dream

Well, what if you don’t feel like you are part of a team?  What if you aren’t living your dream and everything is not awesome?  Everyone has this feeling at least once in their life.  Some live their whole lives with this feeling.  When I was growing up, a very important person in my life frequently said to me, “You can always find something happy in any situation; you just have to look hard enough.” 

 
Sometimes it’s difficult to hear this advice.  Sometimes you just might want to stay mad, sad, anxious, depressed, etc., and that’s alright; for a short time.  After a while, it is important to ask yourself, “How is this working for me?”  If it’s working to continue to feel down, great!  Keep feeling that way.  Chances are though, it’s not working so well. 
 
I would challenge you to think about things this way.  Before you were on anyone else’s team, you were on God’s team.  You were created in His image.  He picked you.  Then, after He created you, He formed your path in life…..your dream.  So, when you are feeling down and looking for something happy, looking for your team, or your dream, look to God first.  Sit down with a pen and paper and look at your life.  Make a list in two columns; one side of things that are working well for you, the other of things that aren’t working out so well.  Then, pray about it.  Look for direction from the leader of your team. 
 
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be equipped for every good work.”  God wants you to be equipped for EVERY good work.  Not everything that you encounter will be “good work.”  However, if you look hard enough, you will likely find some piece of God’s awesomeness.  Choose to be on God’s team and follow your dreams.  On God’s team, anything is possible.    

Wash your brain

I said there would be humor….well, here it is.  While discussing a name for my blog with my family, my eight-year-old son blurts out, “Wash your brain!”  We all had a good laugh.  In reality though, he didn’t realize how close to the truth he really was when he said that. 

We do many different things to keep ourselves healthy.  We learn how to develop a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and take all kinds of vitamins.  We participate in proper oral hygiene and general body cleanliness.  We grew up being told to wash behind our ears, but what about between our ears?  Yes, I’m talking about washing your brain.  

Taking care of your mental health requires you to keep your mind healthy.  What steps do you take to do this?  There is a song written by the Christian rock band, Skillet, called “American Noise.”  The lyrics of this song talk about how the world is filled with negative “noise,” and you have to cut through it all to sing your own song.  Basically make your own day rather than letting the noise of the world decide it for you. 

We all fall victim to the noise of the world.  It could be a dysfunctional upbringing, bullying at school, peer pressure, demanding bosses, bad grades in school, speeding tickets, addiction, abuse, and just plain listening to the bad news of the world.  All of the American noise that we live in daily.  In order to take care of our mental health, it is necessary to filter the noise.  Just as we filter our bodies of unhealthy food, we must filter our brains of unhealthy noise.

So, how do you filter the noise?  Each person has to find what works for them.  For some, it’s spending time in God’s Word on a daily basis.  For others, it’s releasing that negative energy through music, exercise, art, sports, reading, journaling, being a mentor, or being mentored by a good friend or through professional counseling.  Whichever you choose to be your filter, be sure that it leads to a path of positive energy and not further down the path of despair.

So, listen to your mother.  Wash behind your ears, but don’t forget to wash between them too.  A clean brain is a happy brain.

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