15 Ways to Stop Obsessing Tips for how to reel in your ruminations and keep your peace in the present moment. By Therese J. Borchard For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with obsessive thoughts, with severe ruminations that can interfere with daily life. My thoughts get stuck on something and, like a broken record, repeat a certain fear over and over and over again until I scream out loud, “STOP IT!” The French call Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) “folie de doute,” or “the doubting disease.” And that’s what obsessions are—a single doubt caught in an endless loop of thoughts.
But even those not diagnosed with OCD can struggle with obsessions. In fact, I have yet to meet a depressive who doesn’t ruminate, especially in our age of anxiety. Every day gives sensitive types like myself plenty of material to obsess about. So I’m constantly pulling out the tools that I’ve acquired over time to win against my thoughts, to develop confidence--the antidote for doubt--to take charge of my brain, and to STOP OBSESSING. I hope they work for you too.
Name the Beast My first step in tackling any obsession: Identify the thought. What is my fear? What is my doubt? I make myself describe it in one sentence, or, if I can, in a few words. For example, when I was released from the hospital’s psych ward the first time, I was paranoid that my co-workers would find out that I’d been there. I obsessed about it and obsessed about it and obsessed some more. Finally, I named the fear: I am afraid that if my co-workers find out that I was hospitalized with severe depression that they won’t respect me anymore, and they won’t assign me any projects. There it is. There’s the beast. Phew. I named it, and by doing so, I can rob it of some of its power over me.
Find the Distortion Once I have named the fear or doubt, I try to see if I can file it under any of the forms of distorted thinking that Dr. David Burns describes in his bestseller “Feeling Good,” like all-or-nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions, magnification (exaggeration), or discounting the positive (ie “None of my accomplishments count”). My obsession almost always involves at least three forms of distorted thoughts. So I then consider Burns’ ten ways of untwisting distorted thinking to help me to undermine my obsession. For example, using his “cost-benefit analysis” method, I examine how my fear of my co-workers finding out abound my depression is benefitting me and what it is costing me. In the end, I decided to tell my colleagues the information because I realized that I wanted to write about my experience (benefit), and that was worth the risk (cost) of having them reject me based on my diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
Pencil It In Awhile back, when I was especially tormented by some obsessions, my therapist told me to schedule a time of day where I was free to ruminate. That way, she said, when you get an obsession, you can simply tell yourself, “Sorry, it’s not time for that. You’ll have to wait until 8 in the evening, when I give you, My Head, 15 minutes to obsess your heart out.” I remember recording in my journal everything I was dwelling on for 20 minutes every night: that I was a horrible mom, an inadequate writer, that no one liked me, and so on. Eric was reading a book next to me and asked me what I was writing. I handed over my journal and he shrieked, “Yikes and I was just thinking about what to have for breakfast tomorrow!”
Laugh at It Alas, that obsession-journal story brings me to another tool: humor. As I wrote in 9 Ways Humor Heals laughter can make almost any situation tolerable. And you have to admit, there is something a little funny about a broken record in your brain. If I couldn’t laugh at my depression and anxiety and severe ruminations, I would truly go insane. I mean, even more insane than I already am. And that’s pretty darn insane. I have a few people in my life who struggle with obsessions in the same way I do. Whenever it gets so noisy in my brain that I can’t stand it, I call up one of them and say, “They’re baaaaaack…….” And we laugh.
Snap Out of It I mean, literally snap out of it. That’s what I did for a few months when I couldn’t take the obsessions. I’d wear a rubber band around my wrist, and every time my thoughts would turn to an obsession, I’d snap the band as a reminder. (Fair warning: by bedtime, my wrists were a tad red. Another behavioral technique you could try is to write out the obsession on a piece of paper. Then crinkle it up and throw it away. That way you have literally thrown out your obsession. Or you could try visualizing a stop sign. When your thoughts go there, remember to stop! Look at the sign!
Pull Over One of the most helpful visualizations for me has been to imagine that I am driving a car. Every time my thoughts revert back to an obsession, I have to pull over on the shoulder, because my car is misaligned. It’s dragging right. Once I’ve stopped, I ask myself: Do I need to change anything? Can I change anything? Can I amend this situation somehow? Do I have anything I need to do to find peace? I spend a minute asking myself the questions. Then, if I don’t have anything to fix, it’s time for me to get my car back on the road again. This is basically a visualization of the Serenity Prayer . I am trying to decipher between what I can’t change and what I can. Once I have made the distinction, it’s time to start driving again.
Learn the Lesson I often obsess about my mistakes. I know I messed up, and I’m beating myself over and over again for not doing it right the first time, especially when I have involved other people and hurt them unintentionally. If that’s the case, I will ask myself: What is the lesson here? What have I learned? Just like the first step--naming the obsession--I will describe the lesson that I have absorbed in one sentence or less. For example, I recently reprimanded my son David for something that, it turns out, he didn’t do. I automatically believed a fellow mom’s appraisal of the situation. I didn’t think to ask David first. When I realized that David didn’t do anything wrong, I felt horrible. Here I jumped to conclusions and didn’t believe the best about my son. So here’s the lesson: I won’t jump so fast the next time someone accuses my son of something; I’ll get the facts first.
Forgive Yourself After you take away the lesson, you have to forgive yourself. This is a hard one. Especially for perfectionists. And guess what? Perfectionists are natural ruminators. Julia Cameron writes about this in “The Artist’s Way”: Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop--an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole. Instead of creating freely and allowing errors to reveal themselves later as insights, we often get mired in getting the details right. We correct our originality into a uniformity that lacks passion and spontaneity.” Forgiving yourself means concentrating on the insights gained from mistakes, and to let go of the rest. Um. Good luck with that.
Imagine the Worst I know this seems wrong--like it would produce even more anxiety. But imagining the worst can actually relieve the fear that’s triggering an obsession. For example, when I was hospitalized the second time for severe depression, I was petrified that I would never be able to work again, to write again, to contribute anything to society. Done. Let me get into my nightgown and bury myself somewhere. I was literally shaking with anxiety I was so scared of what my illness could do to me. I called my friend Mike and rattled off to him all my fears.
“ Uh huh,” he said. “So what?” “ What do you mean, ‘So what’? My life as I know it might be over,” I explained. “ Yeah, and so what?” he said. “You can’t write. No biggie. You can’t work. No biggie. You have your family who loves you and accepts you. You have Vickie and I who love you and accept you. Stay home and watch ‘Oprah’ all day. I don’t care. You’d still have people in your life who love you.” You know what? He was right. I went there in my mind: to the worst case scenario...me on disability, hospitalized a few times a year, unable to do so much of what I did before. And there I was. Still standing. With a full life. A different life, yes, but a life. And I was okay. Really okay. I felt such freedom in that moment.
Put It on Hold Sometimes I start to obsess about a situation for which I don’t have enough information. Example: Awhile back I was worried about a family member in a dangerous situation. I dwelled and dwelled on it, and didn’t know what to do. Then Eric said, “We don’t have all the information yet that we need to make a decision or pursue a plan. So it’s useless to worry.” Therefore I put my obsession “on hold,” like it was a pretty lavender dress at a boutique that I saw and wanted but didn’t have enough money to buy. So it’s there, waiting for me, when I get enough dough—or, in the case of my family member, enough data.
Dig for the Cause So often the object of the obsession isn’t the real issue. That object or person or situation is masking the deeper issue we’re too afraid to face. A friend of mine obsessed and obsessed about the placement of his fence in his backyard because--unlike his wife’s illness, a problem over which he has no control--he could manage the fence. So he went out with his measuring stick day in and day out until he could finally surrender to his situation. A woman I used to work with fantasized about a colleague whom she was attracted to. It was an especially stressful time for her—she was caring for four young kids plus her mother—and daydreaming about running away with her co-worker gave her the escape she needed. Her obsessions weren’t about her co-worker, however, as much as they were about her need for some fun and relief in her life.
Reel It In We all know how fast obsessions can take on a life of their own. A slight hitch in a project becomes a massive hurdle, a friendly gesture by a friend turns ugly and threatening, and a minor criticism from a colleague turns into a 150-page dissertation about your flaws and inadequacies--you know, everything that’s bad about you and why you shouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Granted, buried within any obsession are usually pieces of truth. But other parts are way off in fantasyland—with about as much accuracy as there is in a juicy celebrity tabloid story: “Celine Dion meets ET for drinks.” That’s why you need some good friends that will help you separate fact from fiction. When I call up my friend Mike and tell him my latest obsession, he usually says something like this: “Wow. Reel it in, Therese. Reel it in…You are way out this time.” And then we laugh at how far out I got.
Interrupt the Conversation Here’s where a bad habit can come in handy. Are you always interrupting people? Can’t help it? You get curious about a detail in someone’s story, and you want to hear more about that, not the end of the story? That’s how an obsession works in your brain—like a conversation over coffee: “This is why he hates me, and this, too, is why he hates me, and did I mention why he hates me? I’m sure he hates me.” Practice some of your rude manners and interrupt. You don’t even have to say, “Excuse me.” Ask yourself a question or throw out another topic. By doing so, you catch the snowball as it’s accumulating matter, and you throw it back with momentum because, as most of us learned in physics, a body in motion stays in motion. Now your internal conversation goes something like: “These are the reasons he should like me, and this, too, is why he should like me, and did I mention that he probably likes me? I’m sure he likes me.”
Stay in the Present I grit my teeth when people tell me this. Because I’m a ruminator and we ruminators operate in past and future. We don’t think NOW. But, this advice is so true. When you are grounded in the moment, you’re not thinking of what bad things can happen to you in the future, or dwelling on the mistakes of your past. To get myself into the present, I start with my senses. I try to hear only the noises that surround me—cars, birds, dogs barking, church bells—because if I give myself the assignment of listening to the actual sounds around me, I can’t obsess on a fear. Likewise, I concentrate on seeing what’s in front of me. At the very moment. Not in the year 2034. If I’m supposed to be playing baseball with David but my mind is on work, I try to bring it back to the baseball game, where it should be.
Give it Back to God The last step is surrender, as usual. “Okay, God, I give up! Take the bloody obsession from me!” That’s how I usually phrase it. It’s acknowledging that the last 14 steps haven’t gotten me where I need to be, and so I don’t know what else to do but give my ruminating mind to God and let him deal with it. Obsessions are almost always rooted in our attachments. So if we can think of them as borrowed from God—that God alone is the owner of this thing about which we are obsessing--we tend to become less greedy and possessive with our gifts, material and otherwise. In this way, we are mere stewards of whatever God has graciously given us.
When life has you feeling weighed down, laugh a little and feel your heart lighten. By Therese J. Borchard Of all my tools to combat stress-especially the stress of dealing with my illness or someone else's--humor is by far the most fun. And just like mastering the craft of writing, I'm finding that the longer I practice laughing at life (especially at its frustrations) the better I become at it, and the more situations and conversations and complications I can place into that category named "silly." G. K. Chesterton once wrote: " Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." And Proverbs 17:22 says that "a happy heart is good medicine." I'd add that human beings and their caretakers can heal and find joy again if they learn how to laugh. Here are just a few ways a dose of humor might transform something ugly and stressful to slightly entertaining, and, well, a tad less catastrophic.
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Humor Combats Fear </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>I know this first hand, having sat in the community room of a psych ward watching a video of a comedian poking fun at depression. Like everyone else in that room, I was scared to death of many things: that I would never smile again, or love again, or even WANT to love again. I was fearful of life. </li></ul>
That panic didn't instantly transform into a hearty chuckle once the psych nurse popped in the funny video. But the climate of the room was noticeably different. Patients began to open up more, to share some of the details they had left out in the prior group therapy session. Humor disengages fear because it changes your perspective both on the past and the present. A traumatic childhood episode loses its tight grip on your heart if you can place it into the "ridiculous" category of other stories from the past. With a playful perspective, you can remove yourself from a marital problem that has you debilitated with anxiety. Laughter forces a few steps--some much-needed distance-- between a situation and our reaction. We all would do well to follow the advice of Leo Buscaglia: "When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. And swing!"
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Humor Comforts </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Charlie Chaplin once said, "To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it." I suppose that's why some of the funniest people out there-Stephen Colbert, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Art Buchwald-have journeyed through periods of torment. There is an unspoken message hidden within a chuckle that says this: "I promise, you'll get through this." Just like the comforting hug of your mom when you were three. In fact, New York City's Big Apple Circus has used humor to console sick children since 1986, when they started sending teams of clowns into hospital rooms with "rubber chicken soup " and other fun surprises. "Its for the children, yes," explains Jane Englebardt, deputy director of the circus, in an "American Fitness" article. "But it's also for the parents who, when they hear their children laugh for the first time in days or weeks, know everything's going to be O.K." </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Humor Relaxes </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Like any exercise, laughing relaxes you and works against the chronic stress that most Americans wear on their shoulders. Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., a heart surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, explains why this is so in a 2005 "Reader's Digest" article: "When you push any engine, including your body, to its maximum, every once in a while it slips a gear. The ways the body manifests that are: irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, and increased sensitivity to pain. When people use humor, the autonomic nervous system just tones down a bit to take it off high gear, and that allows the heart to relax </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Humor Reduces Pain </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Apparently the psych nurses at Laurel Regional Hospital weren't the only ones gathering patients around the TV to watch funny flicks or videos. Dr. Elias Shaya, chief of psychiatry at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore also tries to instill the importance of laughter in his patients. Says Dr. Shaya: "I advocate finding ways to laugh by watching comedy or engaging in looking up jokes and sharing them." “Humor rooms," which encourage people to use humor in their recovery from any kind of illness, are now available in some hospitals. And science backs these efforts. In a study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing, humor very definitely seemed to diminish pain. Says Dave Traynor, M.Ed, director of health education at Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield Center, Connecticut in "American Fitness": "After surgery, patients were told one-liners prior to administration of potentially painful medication. The patients exposed to humor perceived less pun as compared to patients who didn't receive humor stimuli." </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Humor Boosts the Immune System </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Whenever I prick myself accidentally, I tell a joke, and my finger doesn't bleed! Well, not exactly. But if you are laid up in bed with a terrible strain of the flu that your four-year-old brought home from her play date yesterday, try to find an itsy-bitsy thread of humor in your situation, and you'll be back to work in no time. Or, better yet, dwell in the misery and stay away from the cubicle longer. </li></ul>
In 2006 researchers led by Lee Berk and Stanley A. Tan at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, found that two hormones-beta-endorphins (which alleviate depression) and human growth hormone (HGH, which helps with immunity) increased by 27 and 87 percent respectively when volunteers anticipated watching a humorous video . Simply anticipating laughter boosted health-protecting hormones and chemicals. In his "American Fitness" article, Dave Traynor explains a separate study at Arkansas Tech University, in which concentrations of immunoglobulin A were increased after 21 fifth graders participated in a humor program. (I'm nervous to hear about the details of that fifth-grade humor program, because my kids roar whenever you throw out a bathroom term.) Laughter was once again found to increase the ability to fight viruses and foreign cells.
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Humor Reduces Stress </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>The same research team in Loma Linda, California, conducted a similar study recently to see if the anticipation of laughter that was shown to boost immune systems could also reduce the levels of three stress hormones: cortisol ("the stress hormone"), epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopac, a dopamine catabolite (brain chemical which helps produce epinephrine). They studied 16 fasting males, who were assigned to either the control group or the experiment group (those anticipating a humorous event). Blood levels showed that the stress hormones were reduced 39, 70, and 38 percent respectively. Therefore, researchers suggest that anticipating a positive event can reduce detrimental stress hormones. </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Humor Spreads Happiness </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>I remember playing the game of "Ha" as a young girl at my third-grade slumber party. I would lay my head of my friend's tummy, and she would lay her head on another friend's tummy, and so on. The first person would start the chain of laughs with a simple, "Ha!" The second person, "Ha Ha!" The third, "Ha Ha Ha," at which point everyone would break into hysterics. About absolutely nothing. The way a person's abdomen tightens and moves when she says "ha" makes you want to giggle. My point: laughter is contagious. That's why there are 5,000 laughter clubs around the world-where people laugh for no reason at all. Say what? According to Dr. Shaya of Good Samaritan Hospital, "These clubs have exercises that teach how to move your face, how to laugh more intensely to involve the shoulders, then the belly." Laughing yoga classes are also popular today. </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Humor Cultivates Optimism </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Humor is like gratitude in that it nurtures optimism, and Dan Baker writes this in "What Happy People Know": "[Appreciation] is the first and most fundamental happiness tool...Research now shows it is physiologically impossible to be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time. Thus, appreciation is the antidote to fear." So if humor can change a perspective on a painful memory of the past or a gnawing issue of the present into opportunities to laugh at the inherent craziness of life at times, then a person can better facilitate his own healing. </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Humor Helps Communication </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>This is good marriage advice for anyone. But especially for the person prone to anxiety and depression. Most of Eric's and my fights end with one of us making a sarcastic remark that is met with a snicker, and then a yuk, and then a roar. Voila! The quarrel is magically resolved! Sort of. Humor is a way to articulate those truths that are so difficult to express otherwise. It's handy language for someone like myself that doesn't like to use big words, who is still fretting about her low verbal SAT scores because the college administrators didn't think they were funny. If only they had read this article! </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Guide to Caring for a Parent with Alzheimer's </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>The complex world of caring for your ill parent means practicing love, acceptance, and sometimes even yelling at God. By Virginia Stem Owens </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Expect Denial </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Even the most self-reliant of parents can grow ill or infirm, becoming dependent on a child. Indeed, the more independent the parent is, the harder it is for the family and friends to believe in the parent's uncharacteristic incapacity. The parent's need for help can happen gradually or overnight. The more gradual the decline, the easier it is to ignore or deny. Setting up specific markers for estimating abilities, such as balancing checkbooks or remembering medications, can help you judge your parent's need for aid with some degree of realism. </li></ul><ul><li>Parents may not realize, may ignore, or may deny their new neediness. If they are aware of it, they may well be embarrassed, even humiliated by their situation. Nevertheless, once parents begin receiving help, they will expect that assistance to continue as naturally as they expect to breathe oxygen. And they will be generally just as minimally conscious of the help as they are of oxygen. </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Expect Anger </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>The parent will often feel her freedom being taken from her, and almost surely get angry with this child at times. This child (who are we kidding?--it's you) will get angry with the parent--for no longer being independent and invulnerable, the way mothers and fathers ought to be. And then for not being properly grateful for the care you provide. The parent will not want to hear or know about any illness or difficulties you are having, any more than a small child wants to think about its parents being vulnerable. </li></ul><ul><li>You cannot follow even the ones you love best into their darkness. Nor should you. Letting yourself be sucked into their fear will only lessen your ability to help them. </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Expect to Feel Alone </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Friends and relatives may offer their sturdy support, but they cannot bear your pain for you. Not your friends, not your own children, not even your spouse. It is both unrealistic and unfair to expect it of them. When they offer their help or comfort or companionship in your grief, accept it gratefully, but remember that their lives are distinct from yours. Which is as it should be. </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If You Need to Yell, Yell at God </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>The only one you can always rely on to listen to you and understand is the Spirit of God. And sometimes you're mad at him. I suspect, however, that you're safer being frustrated and angry with God than with your aging parents. He's used to it; he can handle it. So yell at him, not them. Having someone to yell at is only one of the advantages of being aware of God at this time. </li></ul><ul><li>It becomes harder to remember why or how you loved the person you're caring for in the first place, or why their failing flesh should be reverenced. All your energy goes into the utter drudgery of the thing. The person in the bed or the wheelchair more than anything needs to know she is not alone, that you are with her, still loving her. And you likewise need to know that someone, even if unseen, realizes what you're undergoing and will stick with you. </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Let Your Feelings Flow </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>You will worry about the crosscurrents of your feelings, especially the constant conflict between anger and guilt. Plenty of people will tell you not to worry, especially about guilt. I'm not sure they're right. Even this anxiety seems to be part of the caregiving experience. The truth is, you will worry your conflicting emotions like a dog gnawing a bone, regardless of what I or anyone else tells you. </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Watch for Moments of Grace </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>I offer one of the best pieces of advice I have gotten during this time: Don't make it worse than it needs to be. Take care not to savor your pain. When you have a good day, tell everyone. Concentrate on watching out for any gift, however small and from whatever improbable place that it might fall in your lap, from a convenient parking place to the use of a friend's Colorado condo for a respite week. Don't let fleeting moments of pleasure go unpraised. And when there's no pleasure, be glad of the flinty truth of pain that lets you know that you are, as Henry David Thoreau once said, "fronting the essential facts of life." </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Recognize What Endures in Your Parent </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Though toward the end, my mother lived in a perpetual semi-dream state, unable to articulate a thought or to communicate except by gesture or look, even then something essential remained of her self. I was there, it occurred to me, if for no other reason than to recognize that self, to say yes, this is my mother. I wanted to be able to comfort her with the knowledge that, even in her last suffering, she continued to teach me. What she had feared would be a burden has turned into a boon. Where else but at her bedside have I learned, as the psalmist put it, "to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom"? </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Learn to Live with Uncertainty </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Learning how to die--or how to care for someone who is dying--means learning to live with not knowing what to do or when to do it. With not knowing how much longer, or even if, you can hold out. I live in time differently than I used to, floating along rather than swimming against the current. </li></ul>
At times I longed to be free of my seemingly interminable vigil. If only, I thought, I knew when to expect the end. But that hope was a delusion. If the end had come the next day, I would not have felt liberated from the excruciatingly slow, painful loosening of our ties. Following his more or less solitary sojourn at Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau wrote out his reasons for undertaking the experiment. "I went to the woods," he says, "because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." In fact, if, like Thoreau, you're interested in fronting the essential facts of life, you're better off going to a nursing home instead of the woods. My mother has been my Walden Pond.
Six Tips for Caregivers By Jessica C. Kraft Caring for another doesn't mean you should forget to care for yourself. Take good care of yourself, and you'll be able to give your family member the loving care he or she deserves. Follow these tips to make sure you don't neglect your health.
Recognize the Signs of Stress If you are experiencing irritability, feelings of resentment, loss of sleep, increased susceptibility to colds and flu, or if you feel guilty about taking time for yourself, then chances are that you need to re-evaluate your situation.
Acknowledge the Pressure Ilana Nossel, M.D., a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center, says, "It's okay to be upset that your loved one is ill and recognize that it takes a toll on you." That's a normal--and healthy--reaction. Nossel recommends reaching out to your own support network and keeping a journal to help you cope, and seeking professional and spiritual advice if you're overwhelmed.
Take a Break In The Fearless Caregiver , author Gary Berg establishes some ground rules for caregivers. At the top of the list: time away. Meaning you should participate in activities that don't include the person you're caring for. At age 30, Rachel Weber found herself taking care of her ailing father. "You have to take time for yourself," she says, "or you won't be able to help anyone else." Get regular exercise--it's good for your physical and mental health. Stay involved in the activities you enjoyed before your family member got sick.
Ask for Help Often people who know your situation want to lend a hand, but they don't know how. Ask them to do specific tasks. Tell a friend you could really use a home-cooked dinner on Wednesday, or have a neighbor pick up your family member's medication from the drugstore.
Try Respite Care Hiring someone to help can reduce the burden on the regular caregiver. It doesn't have to be expensive: Respite care is when someone comes to give you a few hours off, and it's usually covered in part by insurance. If you're anxious about leaving your family member with someone else, make a checklist for the respite worker to understand everything that must be done.
Take Pride in What You're Doing One way to take pride in what you're doing is to have a goal in mind. Aaron Brodie, a medical student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, notes that " caregiving goals can motivate you when you feel frustrated or saddened by your loved one's condition. Maybe your aim is simply to enjoy your precious time together, or maybe it's to help him get adjusted to a new medical regimen."
8 Steps for Aging Gracefully The suggestions in this gallery are intended to help you become more aware of your spiritual self. Any activity that makes you feel more alive, more connected to others and to nature, less isolated, more comfortable with change, is beneficial. It will enhance your physical and mental health. It will help you accept the fact of your aging. It will help you to age gracefully. By Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D.
Pay Attention to Your Breath Many cultures identify breath with spirit, seeing the breath cycle as the movement of spirit in the physical body. Simply minding the breath is a way of expanding consciousness beyond the ego, of experiencing transcendence.
Connect with Nature You can do this by walking or sitting in a natural setting; a city park will do just fine. Allow yourself to slow down, drop your usual routines, and just absorb the influence of the place.
Spend Time with Your Loved Ones Make a list of people in your life in whose company you feel more alive, happy, and optimistic. Make an effort to spend more time with them. Our spiritual selves resonate with others, and that connection is healing.
Remember the Little Things Bring flowers into your home and enjoy their beauty
Soothe Your Soul with Sound Listen to music that you find inspirational and uplifting.
Seek Out Beauty Admire a work of art that raises your spirits: a painting, sculpture, or work of architecture.
Make Amends Reach out and try to resume connection with someone from whom you are estranged; practice forgiveness.
Do Service Work Give some of your time and energy to help others. The possibilities are endless but do not include just writing a check to charity.
Seven Ways to Restart Your Day Beliefnet Feature from Oprah.com You've just woken up, and you're on the wrong side of the bed. Is there any way to switch to the other side? Absolutely. For those times when your mind is addled, and your center is shaky; open this little black bag of cures and find your beautiful balance!
As soon as the alarm rings . Spend your first 15 seconds awake planning something nice to do for yourself today. "This can really set you up in a good mood--even if it's just going by the farmers' market and getting fresh strawberries," says Alice Domar, PhD, whose next book-- Be Happy Without Being Perfect: How to Break Free from the Perfection Deception --will be out in March 2008. By Kathryn Matthews from O, The Oprah Magazine, October 2007 .
Get up The longer you lie there, the more you ruminate, the darker your outlook is likely to become, says Christine Padesky, PhD, coauthor of Mind Over Mood . So get vertical and make a cup of coffee, take a shower, feed the cat...
Drink... Make that two glasses of water upon awakening, the time when our bodies are dehydrated, says Susan M. Kleiner, PhD, author of The Good Mood Diet . Dehydration causes fatigue, which affects your mood.
Move it . You already know the number one way of chasing away a bad mood: exercise. A workout at the gym sure helps. But even just a few minutes of movement--a fast walk, for example--raises energy and reduces tension, says mood expert Robert Thayer, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, and author of Calm Energy
Investigate When you're dogged by anxiety or the dread you woke up with, try to pinpoint what's causing it. Did someone say anything the day before? Do you have a meeting today you wish you didn't? Was it the dream you were having when the alarm went off? "If you can figure out why you're upset, that's halfway to feeling better," says Domar.
Be kind and thankful This isn't exactly news, but generosity and gratitude are both big contributors to happiness, according to Todd B. Kashdan, PhD, who directs the Laboratory for the Study of Social Anxiety, Character Strengths, and Related Phenomena at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Do something nice for a stranger or friend and see if you don't feel better about yourself. Also, jot down three things that you're grateful for. It seems so simple, but counting your blessings just has a way of making you remember the sun is shining.
Laugh at yourself The best comedians point out the mundane aspects of life--relationship strife, a boring job, a closet full of too-tight clothes; they exaggerate those circumstances, and give us a perspective we can laugh about, says Mark Ridley, owner of the Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, Michigan. Look at your own life and try to appreciate the absurdity of what doesn't go exactly according to plan (the diets, the men, the buzz cut). Acknowledging how little control we actually have over what happens is sometimes a most freeing gift to yourself.
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