Are you sitting on the back burner?

Are you sitting on the back burner?

I can ruin anyones day for no reason. I make you loose sleep and have mood swings.
I can weaken your immune system. I can cause ulcers, high blood pressure,
hives, fertility problems, low sex drive, migraines, eating disorders,
depression and anxiety just to name a few.

What am I?


Stress doesn’t skip over anyone. It shows no mercy. It swoops in and takes over in a moment's notice. To beat stress you have to stay ahead of the game. Be intentional. Take time out for yourself and de-stress. Now, sitting in front of the TV binge watching your favorite show is not what I’m talking about here. That is still a very draining activity because most of the time when you finally turn off Netflix you start feeling guilty that you didn’t get all the stuff done that you needed to.

I get it! You have little people to take care of and finding 10 minutes for yourself seems impossible. I know!! I promise you that it doesn’t have to be complicated, you just need a plan. You got to get yourself off the back burner!!!

My Mom was a strong woman. She always put us girls first, to the best of her ability. She went without a lot. She was always stressed and on that back burner. I wish I would have known how that stress was gonna affect her life’s path. She was always unhappy, she didn’t eat right at all, she lived off ibuprofen, she got wrinkles prematurely and ultimately ended up with cancer. You can almost pinpoint the time in her life where she was overrun with stress. Of course, then, we had no idea. But hindsight is 20/20. Since her death 2 years ago I have been struggling with stress. Somedays I find myself on that back burner just trying to get through the day until I can go to sleep and start again, and that’s no way to live.

So what have I done to intentionally de-stress? Lots of little things! We all have so much on our plates already that I find it easier for me to break it up into little bits of time throughout the day. Like 5 mins here and 10 mins there. Here are a few examples of things that I have done that really help.

1. Breathe.
Breath-work is one of the simplest forms of mindfulness that you can do. Did you know that breath-work lowers your blood pressure. Taking deep breaths can help the brain to calm down as well as activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This will result in lowering your heart rate. Just breathing!! So stop what you're doing. Close your eyes and take 4 deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth!! Make it a habit to do this often… how bout every time you go into the bathroom!

2. Set yourself up for a positive day as soon as your alarm goes off!
Set up a morning routine that is doable for you. Some people get up and exercise. I settle for just laying in bed stretching for 5 mins before I get up. During my stretches I focus on 2 things that I am looking forward to that day. Go have your coffee on the porch or take a walk. But no matter what, no negative thoughts aloud during this time!

3. Give the kids a bedtime.
I know when I was growing up we had a bedtime but somewhere down the line, at least in my house, that went sailing out the window. Kids need to de-stress just as much as we do, so, technically this would be great for everyone. Once the kids are in bed use this time to do something you like. Read a book, start a gratitude journal (check out this one I created), do you have a hobby? Just spend this time doing something you enjoy that often gets neglected.

No more neglecting yourself!!! You do not belong on the back burner. You are important and your health and wellness matters!!

XOXO Deanna

Sister Sleepovers

Sister Sleepovers
Every year, my kids take turns putting the angel on top of the Christmas tree.  On Christmas Eve, after church we make cookies to set out for Santa and then they practice their Christmas morning wake up routine.  

Have you ever heard of such? A Christmas wake up routine?  It's so cute to watch them. The wake up routine actually starts with a sister sleepover.  I have four girls and on Christmas Eve they all gather in one of the girls’ rooms for a sister sleep over.  This way on Christmas morning, they are all together to wake each other up and the wake up routine begins.  The girls hide their eyes on the way down the stairs to wake us up before seeing what Santa stuffed in our stockings.  It's the smallest, simplest routine.  I'm not sure why the need to practice it.  I think it must be the excitement of anticipation.

They have done this together for at least 14 years.  It started because the oldest two shared a room and expanded as we added daughters and adjusted as girls switched rooms.  The sister sleepover is now a fully integrated tradition.  Their tradition has become our tradition.

Times are about to change, though.  My oldest will graduate in June and be off.  We don’t know what the future will hold for holidays.  As the girls grow older and older each one will leave the house and start families and that tradition will fade until our nest is empty.

I anticipate grieving that loss.  I know our Christmas will be very different after that.  What traditions are different for you now?

When circumstances change or we experience significant loss there is a ripple of impact that hits at the holidays.  Because the holidays only come annually and not daily, the impact of the loss sometimes takes years to process.  You are used to not seeing that loved one you lost at the dinner table daily now. But maybe it’s only been two Thanksgivings or two Christmases and the loss at these holidays still feels raw.

Children are always so joyful and excited for holidays.  I’ve heard adults comment that they wish they felt the kind of joy at the holidays that kids do.  Some of us live vicariously through our kids excitement while they are with us.  Maybe our recognition of loss of traditions and people over time is why the joy of anticipation seems to fade for adults.   If that is the case then we can expect to experience more change and loss over the years increasing the likelihood for falling joy in years to come. I hate this for all of us because I believe we are meant to live a life of abundant joy!

In addition to the suggestions I made a couple weeks ago in the blog post, Falling Joy, I offer another suggestion.  Think ahead and plan healing rituals and traditions to help you process the loss and change.  

My sisters and I did this for the one year anniversary of our mother’s death by getting matching tattoos. On the second anniversary we took all three of our families to the beach for a week.  During the holidays, some families will light a candle or set a place for their missing loved one.  There is no one way to do this.  There is no right way to plan and do healing rituals. The trick is to plan something of meaning with intention. Something meaningful and symbolic for you and your family.  

As my girls get older and we loose the Christmas wake up routine tradition, we can still keep the sister sleepover one alive by planning them for other times of the year.  Then at Christmas we can create new traditions.  Finding and keeping abundant joy sometimes means adapting to and accepting change.  May your holidays be filled with abundant joy this season.

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Grateful or Numb?

Grateful or Numb?
I had to undergo psychological testing.  All people seeking candidacy as clergy in the United Methodist Church do.  I also had to answer a series of questions about my theological perspective at the end of my journey to be reviewed for recommendation for ordination.  The questions they asked in both instances forced me to look at and reflect on the pains of my life and explain how those experiences contributed to my perspective and faith journey.  

Phew!  That was challenging, digging deep to answer those questions.  In the end, though, I came to the conclusion that I was grateful for the pain and it created a reflective habit for me.  

I know saying, "I’m grateful for my painful experiences" sounds a bit self-defeating, but it isn't.  Because I was poor, I appreciate generosity.  Because my parents divorced, I treasure my husband. Because I’ve seen mental illness up close I value counseling.  Because I know loneliness, I value friendships. Because I’ve grieved deeply, I know I loved deeply.  

I don’t want to experience those or other hardships and I don’t wish hardships on anyone but the truth is that we will face more hardships in our future.  Knowing that those hardships have formed the person I am today gives me strength and hope to face future hardships.  It's generosity, relationships, health, friendship and love that contribute to me building a happy life.

Are you in the midst of hardship now? Do you feel like you have strength and hope for that journey or are you numb?  

Have you experienced that? Feeling numb?

Has there been a day when you were sitting and looking around at others who were laughing or crying and you are just sitting there feeling nothing.  Sometimes it lasts a short while, other times it seems to drag on and on. Sometimes we do this on purpose and other times it sneaks up on us. I think going numb is a coping mechanism we use to protect ourselves that backfires.  What do you think?

What do you do when you are under high levels of stress for a prolonged period of time?  What do you do when your responsibilities and to-do lists leave you no room to breathe? How have you coped with deep grief? How do you deal with relationships that turn toxic or abusive?

I have gone numb.  I know other women who have gone numb.  Sometimes it feels like self preservation mode to ensure the family carries on and is taken care of.  But I challenge you to consider if going numb or staying numb is really the best path forward.  

                         When you numb your pain, you also numb your joy.   Brene Brown

Our energy, our mood, our presence is an important contributor in any space.  Our family observes and knows when our lives are absent of joy and over time it begins to drain them of their joy too.  

There comes a time when the best, healthiest thing to do is face the situation or circumstances that caused us to go numb.  This is hard.  I’m not going to sugar coat it.  When we take the time to intentionally address the hardships and pain that caused us to go numb it is hard.  In the long run, though, it strengthens our emotional reserves and opens us up for more joy.

I hope that you can find space this month to be thankful for how some of your hardships have brought you strength.  I hope you appreciate those experiences that have formed those positive characteristics that make you, you.  So I encourage you to start the hard work and keep at it. But don’t do it alone.  Find a trusted friend to confide in and a professional counselor.  On the other side of the wall you’ve built is a life of joy waiting for you.

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Falling Joy

Falling Joy
Pumpkin spice season is well under way.  People are counting down the Fridays till Christmas and putting up their decorations before Thanksgiving.  Everyone seems eager to celebrate, but not you?

For many the holiday season brings joy, but for just as many the holiday season is a reminder of loss.  So while others’ joy is rising, your joy is falling.  

We want to say, we see you.  We know this feeling, we’ve felt this loneliness and we see you.  

As your friend, If I were with you right now I would hug you.  As your resident recreational therapist, I have a couple suggestions as we proceed into the holiday season.  

Suggestion #1: One of the best things to do right now is to name the feeling, name the loss, identify your falling joy.  

Be open about your feelings with your family and friends.  When they ask you how you are, tell the truth! Too often we answer, “good” or “okay” and go on with our day.  For me, holding my truth back just makes me more exhausted and the path to falling joy accelerates.  The more of us who speak our truths only helps to start normalizing the importance of emotional health.

So tell people, “I always miss my mom this time of year,” “the holidays have been hard for me lately”, “I’m working on getting into the spirit of the season,” or whatever is your truth.  

Then when people say they are sorry or awkwardly respond, speak more truth.  Tell them what you do that helps.  “My sisters and I are making plans to be together,” “I do enjoy baking, I’ll be doing that this weekend,” or “Getting together with my friends helps, would you like to make plans to go to dinner”?

Speaking your emotional truth can be freeing but it can also catch you and others a bit off guard.  Take the time to think about how you are truly feeling and what you would say so you are prepared.  

Suggestion #2: Schedule an extra counseling appointment.  My employer has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).  It’s a benefit that gives me four free counseling sessions each year.  I’ve seen a counselor off and on over my adult life.  I use my EAP program because mental health is important.  Somehow it is less valued than physical health by mainstream society.  I’m not sure why.  We go to the doctor annually for check-ups and physicals.  We should go annually for emotional and mental health check-ups too.  Even if we aren’t dealing with a crisis or emotional hardship, getting in to see a counselor periodically is good mental health maintenance.  

If you do see a counselor regularly or periodically, if you know that the holidays are lonely and challenging for you, go ahead and add another appointment to your schedule.  Be proactive about working with your emotions.  Yes, I said that right, work with your emotions.  Don’t deal with them, work with them so you can work through them.

Suggestion #3: Make a plan to insert more opportunities for joy.  Make a list of activities and people that help you feel better, safe, and connected during the holidays.  For me, I like baking good food.  I enjoy admiring the changing leaves.  I like browsing the stores with a Starbucks praline latte.  I like sitting in front of the fire watching Hallmark Christmas movies.  I like visiting family.  I like pajama days, reading books and eating chili.  

What do you like to do?  What makes you feel better this time of year?  Don’t wait for things to spontaneously happen or people to call you.  Step out with a plan.  If you wait and don’t plan then when your free evening arrives it feels too late to ask anyone to do something and like too much trouble to get the ingredients to bake and you will end up doing nothing and feeling disappointed.  

Your joy may be falling, but it doesn’t have to plummet.  Keep going.  Keep seeking joy.  There is a path for Rising Joy too.

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Wonder Can Be Your Gateway to Joy

Wonder Can Be Your Gateway to Joy
Spring has sprung! Isn’t it wonderful? I love the vibrant shades of green in the grass.  Pair that with a beautiful back drop of forsythia bushes and its hard to beat.  It’s as if the extra rain at this time of year wakes nature up from its winter slumber.

I have a question for you…. Are you awake?

We’ve spent the last 13 months in our own hibernation…..isolated, siloed off from each other, laying dormant, waiting.  

Human activity declined so much that there was a reduction of air pollution and greenhouse gas emission, a reduction in water and noise pollution, and dolphins returned coastal areas, canals, waterways and even ports of Venice Italy after not being seen for a decade. 

During their winter slumber trees, flowers, grass, animals, and bugs spend the winter resting, protecting, and renewing.  We haven’t had the same luxury in our 13 months of hibernation.  It would be nice if we could all say we spent the last 13 months renewing our body mind and spirit? But we weren’t.  We’ve been living under high levels of stress, navigating many uncertainties without our routine and without access to many of the coping strategies we use under stress. 

Here we are approaching a new beginning, a different kind of spring.  The CDC and states are slowly relaxing precautions, children are back to in-person school, and we are being allowed to gather in larger numbers again.    As we approach this new and different kind of spring, are we rested and renewed? 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say no.  We’ve been worried, longing for normalcy, disconnected from social groups, snacking all day and adapting to change…… so much change.  
I”m sure there are some well adjusted introverts who have thrived during this time and some determined go getters that never let the world get them down who have plugged along with perseverance.  But my guess is that most of us are about to emerge hopeful but cautious and a bit wounded.  

I’m a recreational therapist and would love to walk through all the domains of function setting physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual goals with each of you to help you emerge prepared, rested, and renewed. It is going to take intentionality for resiliency.  Not sure where to start? Let's talk about wonder, curiosity, and discovery.

Wonder is a natural motivation technique. I use it in my work with people with dementia.  Depression and apathy run high while engagement runs low for people with dementia.  What I find, is that if I can get engagement running high then depression and apathy run low.  Curiosity, wonder, and discovery: these are strategies I use to engage people.

When we feel disconnected from others or God and apathetic, depressed, awkward, or just unmotivated in our lives, marveling in creation can ignite a wonder that will re-engage you.

I can’t lie, I really enjoy being in nature.  As a child, the only vacations we could ever really afford were camping ones and I loved them.  Green has always been my favorite color because it is the color of trees and grass and bushes.  As an undergraduate in college, I backpacked around Colorado for a month to achieve an outdoor recreation concentration. That Master’s of Theological Studies degree that contributed to my ordination as Deacon focused on camping and retreat ministry.  We’ve sent our girls to camp every year we could get them to go because I’ve experienced what being on retreat in nature can do for your faith.   The value and importance of nature as not been lost on me over the last year either.  When I think about it its as if God is often drawing me back to reflect, appreciate, and revel in nature.
Let's admire and marvel in a few amazing aspects of creation together.

Isn’t it wonderful how both the sky and oceans run beautiful shades of blue.  Close your eyes for a second and imagine either one.  You are alone under a big bright sky or sitting in the sand staring over the ocean to the horizon.  Both so vast you can’t truly comprehend their size, but you are some how comforted and at peace.  How many pictures of the ocean and horizon and sky have you taken? This is a modern way we marvel and appreciate it.  

Scientists are researching grounding effects on the human body.  The earth has a negative electrical charge because the earth has a limitless supply of free electrons.  Environmental medicine says there is mounting evidence that when we come into direct contact with the earth like walking barefoot or gardening with bare hands or yes, hugging trees we acquire these free electrons that connect with antioxidants and free radicals to reduce inflammation in the body.  In the last 100 years we’ve increasingly separated ourselves physically from the earth while we’ve also seen increases in chronic illness, immune and inflammatory disease.  Is there a correlation? Some thing so.

Did you know water has different flavors.  Pure good, clean water from springs is full of minerals.  Most of us are deficient in those minerals now that we drink recycled and filtered water.  Those minerals have healing properties. Salt in the ocean heals cuts, skin, and soothes joints and muscles.

We are all aware that vegetation provides the nutrients and vitamins we need to optimally support our body and that plants were the building blocks of modern medicine.  But did you know that they can sing!

"In 2012, two artists created a plant quartet by fitting each of the plants with small devices that translated biofeedback into sonic data.  The device sat on the leaves like a mini stethoscope and monitored the fluctuations of electrical conductivity on the leaf surface.  That data fed into a program that turned the signals into controls for electronic instruments.  As the plants frequencies changed according to its environmental changes the sounds changed.  The Data Garden Quartet instillation toured performing in arboretum and festivals.  The music didn’t just changed based on the space, the dispersion of light, or a breeze through a window.  The plants electrical signals also seemed to change sometimes dramatically when a particular person entered or left a room." 

Think about the sun, moon, and stars.  These run the world don’t they.  They mark time, set temperature and seasons, control the tides and balance our moods.  The sun is our greatest source of Vitamin D which is needed for balancing calcium and phosphorus, supporting our immune system and brain health and regulating our mood.  It kills some harmful bacteria and viruses and it brings the tiniest seeds to sprout up out of the ground.  

The moon’s gravitational pull on the earth changes over its 28 day cycle.  There is something else that naturally cycles every 28 days.  One research study followed 22 menstrating women, discovering 13-17% of them were synced up with the moon.  They also hypothesize that if women were exposed to less artificial light and more natural light, that percent would be higher.   I also found an article that discussed research showing that people get less sleep leading up to the full moon.  This study wasn't isolated to the United States.  It included several continents. As big and vast as the night sky and universe is and despite the motion and orbiting of the earth the stars are constant markers.   

Think of a coral reef. Really….. how long has been since you thought about a coral reef.  They are beautiful.  Everything seems to live in harmony.  What about a birds nest.  Have you ever gotten one of those boxes that suction to your window and watched eggs hatch and baby birds grow?  Did you realize that birds are natural warning signals.  Birds flee or nestle down when bad weather or other threats are near.  If you hear birds chirping all is well in the world.

The human body is fascinating. Each system works together toward optimal functioning,  It's made to protect and heal itself.  I remember when I was pregnant.  I couldn’t believe how my body changed to produce life.  One of the things I was most amazed by was how my senses enhanced as protective measures.  My sense of smell was off the chart and kept me from going into places with toxins.  I didn’t just crave sweets then, I craved foods with nutrients that my body was lacking.

What about nature do you marvel at and appreciate?  Did something I shared today catch your interest? Make you wonder? 

Marveling at nature reminds us that creation exists as system.  It’s a system so divinely intertwined that life as we know it would be completely different if even just one part wasn’t made just so.  It also reminds us how fragile each part is.  We have infinite wonders to marvel at around us if we just look with curious eyes.  I hope your are inspired to wonder, for wonder can be your gateway to joy.

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