Hipsters, Blocks, and Keeping Stress at Bay

I am so pleased to have Celeste Coffman as a guest writer today. Celeste is a licensed professional counselor who knows much about managing stress and anxiety, which is what we talk a lot about here on the blog. I truly appreciate her taking her time and talent to share with us some practical ideas on how to manage life when we are overwhelmed. Celeste has graciously offered my readers a MAJOR discount on her Stress Management & Anxiety membership community, Quiet Mind Collective. Details are listed at the end of this article. 

Hipsters, Blocks, and Keeping Stress at Bay

Outside a bustling hipster coffee shop downtown you’ll see a black iron bench in the shade of a bushy pear tree.    Every afternoon around the same time, you’ll also see the same slim, hipster guy seated on that bench, adorned with tattoos and most likely dressed in black.

He’s usually smoking a cigarette (which, I’ll admit, I don’t love) and he’s always totally focused on one thing:  the pen and paper in his hands.

This hipster guy?  He’s the barista at the coffeehouse downstairs from my office.  Day after day he serves up my lunch (and everyone else’s) with a huge smile, the most endearing laugh, and a hearty dose of zest for life.

He’s like the neighborhood’s adorable little brother, making us smile to ourselves because of his cheerful antics and undaunted enthusiasm.  He even raps every word to Gangsta’s Paradise when it comes on the radio.  How cute is that?

CoffeeCouchGlassesBut here’s the really unusual thing about Hipster Guy (HG):  when he’s on the bench, there’s no fun and games.  HG is decidedly “off” during that break every day, ducking his head down into his crossword puzzle or sketchbook and completely ignoring passersby.

When I first moved to the neighborhood, I was a little disconcerted by this.  After all, we live in a tiny southern town where congenial small talk is a way of life.  So when HG deigns to deliver even as the locals stare him down, I have to realize that it’s intentional.

He’s taking an intentional break from the grind.  (Pun intended.)

See, HG clearly knows that in order to stay fresh and totally “on” during his shift, he also needs to escape that persona for a time each day.

How many blocks can you stack?

I encourage you to consider when you last took a true, intentional break from the work you do as a mother, a caregiver, an employee, or an entrepreneur.  Was it today?  A few days ago?  Longer?

Stress is a normal reaction to the annoyances, issues and problems we encounter daily, but I believe that carrying stress is like stacking little wooden alphabet blocks.  At first we can stack several – maybe 4 or 5 – all at once without much effort.  After the tower gets to a certain height, though, we notice that it takes more care to add blocks.  Eventually, the tower becomes too weak and falls, even though it was standing just fine only a moment earlier with one less block.

You see, if we don’t take time to reinforce the block tower by building a stronger base or providing more support, it will eventually topple with just one more block.  It’s like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The toppling of those blocks is a great metaphor for anxiety and burnout that can result from unmanaged stress.  The problem is, we’re not used to caring for ourselves when we’re just a bit overwhelmed; we instead wait until something like true anxiety happens, leaving us defenseless and in utter panic.

EspressoAndTextbookManStress and burnout can be hard to recognize until it’s too late.

WebMD says that up to 75-90% of doctor visits are actually anxiety related, even though the patient believes there to be some actual physical cause for the ailment.

Research shows us that stress worsens or causes:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Skin problems
  • Intestinal distress
  • Chronic pain
  • Anxiety disorders, including panic attacks
  • And many more

For me, stress comes in the form of a nagging ache behind my shoulder blades.  It’s tough to recognize because every time the pain crops up, I automatically assume that it’s simply from poor posture.

I usually spend several hours trying to adjust my body position, stretch, or prop up on more throw pillows before I realize, Hello!  This is unresolved stress!  You would think that as a therapist I’d know better!

It’s time to stress smarter.

Face it: you have little control over how many blocks – concerns, worries, problems, issues – that life hands you.

Just like adding support can make us more successful in stacking our block tower, adding support to our lives can help reduce the harmful effects of stress even as we continue to address the concerns of life.

4 Strategies for Understanding and Managing Your Stress

Period Tracker Lite (free in the App Store). When clients visit my office for help with anxiety, one of the first tactics I’ll use is charting data on the feelings. Knowing exactly when and how stress manifests itself for the individual client helps us address the problem more effectively. Period Tracker Lite is an app that allows clients to quickly check off the moods they’re feeling each day so that we can look for patterns, such as increased nervousness on Mondays or excessive fatigue during certain days in the menstrual cycle. This mood tracker is ideal even for people who do not menstruate, by the way.

Care for yourself like a newborn.  Remember your main goals when you brought home your baby?  You were an effective parent if you made sure the baby was sleeping, eating, and clean.  I cringe when I hear mothers report that they don’t even have time to go to the restroom.  That’s horrible!  Set systems in place so that you can eat, sleep, use the restroom, and shower as part of your daily routine.  Letting your basic needs slip by unheeded can cause not just stress, but serious health risks.

Act like a kid again.  As adults we often put aside fun because it seems so frivolous.  However, one of the most widely used clinical interventions in therapy is to incorporate something fun into the client’s schedule on a daily basis.  I encourage you to work in just 10 minutes a day of doing something that you remember as being fun for you as a child.  Drawing, coloring, singing, exploring outside, or even watching cartoons can give you a healthy dose of nostalgia and relaxation.

Set a regular routine for self-care.  One of the reasons I created QuietMindCollective.com was to give women a convenient, consistent way to learn about stress management and anxiety on their own time.  Every week I diligently provide videos, articles and activities to help members understand how to stay well in an overwhelming world.  When you set aside a little time each week to pursue information on these topics, you’re investing in your wellness.

Air travel teaches us a great lesson about self-care.

Remember that in order to serve your family, community, and customers well, you simply must care for your own well-being, too.  Just like the flight attendant always warns, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before trying to assist someone else.  Otherwise, you’ll lose your ability to help others or yourself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my coffee break downstairs . . .

RealJoyAd

 

Celeste is offering Living With Real Joy readers their first month’s membership to Quiet Mind Collective, a stress management and anxiety community, for only $1! Use coupon code REALJOY at QuietMindCollective.com.

 

 

 

Celeste CoffmanCeleste Coffman is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Thoughtful Journey Counseling in Florence, Alabama.  She focuses her practice on helping women make small changes that bring big impact in the arenas of stress, health, relationships, and emotional wellness.  Celeste’s stress and anxiety management membership site, www.QuietMindCollective.com launches this summer.

Twitter:  @ThoughtfulJ
Facebook:  @YourThoughtfulJourney
Instagram:  @CelesteTheCounselor

Creating Your Mission Statement

As I’ve been recently expanding my blog into a mentoring and consulting program, I discovered myself writing humoungously long lists, having no idea which of the 500 bullet points to begin working on. (OK so that is an exaggeration.) I found myself desperately needing some direction, so I can focus on what’s important and not let myself be sidetracked by the shiny fun items I’d rather tackle then the most urgent ones.

So I went to my favorite place for all inspiring ideas – Pinterest. Oh, Pinterest, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. Seriously, I love Pinterest. And no, I’m not one of those people who compares my entire life to someone else’s perfectly decorated home or well manicured backyard landscape. I simply love getting ideas from what other people are doing.

I came across this article, Define Your Purpose – Writing a Mission Statement. Seriously all of the steps I used can be found in her article. (Thank you Becky Marie!)

I also liked this method because it was simple and took me less than 15 minutes to complete the first four steps. Nothing this detailed usually takes me less than 15 minutes. I get so hung up on making sure it’s “just right” and the instructions she used help keep me right on track.

The mission statement I created is specifically for my mentoring programs and my business. You can use this method for your career, yourself as a parent, as a spouse, or as a person who desires to make a difference in the world around you.

So, let’s begin!

Mission Statement post

WHO

First I wrote down the who of my mission statement. Who am I currently working with? Who do I hope to work with in the future? Who do I want to influence? If you’re writing this as a parent, the WHO would be your children, if as a spouse then your husband/wife, and so on. Then choose one person or group you want to focus on the most.

This is what it looked like when I was done:

Women with or recovering from depression/anxiety

Women wanting to grow spiritually and overcome their life struggles

WHAT

In my case I’m answering the question: What is my focus or what is my passion? What do I feel called to speak to others about? What do I want to write about? What issues do I want to help others with? Write down as many as you’d like. Then choose 2-4 that are the most important to you.

Here’s a list of my What:

mental health

Christian life

special needs

changing mindset

HOW

How do I plan to spread my message to others? How am I going to convey my passion to my readers? Use action words for this one. Write as many as you’d like and then choose 2 – 4 words that describes how you want to speak your message.

Here’s my How:

encourage

equip

mentor

METHOD

What methods will I use to spread my message to others? What tools do I have or can I develop/use to convey this message? Again write as many as you’d like and then choose up to 4.

Methods I chose:

blog articles

mentoring

books

podcasts/videos

CREATE YOUR MISSION STATEMENT

Look at your list. Use the words you circled to create your mission statement. This part did take me longer than 15 minutes but it was so nice to have a place to begin. A direction to focus on.

After combining different words and statements, using an online thesaurus, and emailing my best friend about 10-15 different combinations this is what I finally came up with.

Living with Real Joy is a community designed to encourage, equip and mentor those who desire to change their mindset and overcome their life struggles. Samantha is a Life Mentor and Family Consultant specializing in battling depression and anxiety, parenting special needs children and inspiring personal growth.

I really think it explains what I want to accomplish, who I want to focus on, and how I intend to convey my passion to others. I did not include the methods in this particular statement but now I have them listed so I have a variety of tools I can call upon when I’m trying to get a specific message across.

Are you ready to create your own mission statement? If you do let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook page.

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mission statement graphic #2

 

I Thought Anger Was Bad

I Thought Anger Was -Bad-Depression can be a funny term. When I realized I was suffering from depression, I didn’t think I had the classic symptoms – not wanting to get out of bed, crying all the time, feeling sad constantly. My most noticeable symptom was anger, and then guilt over how I reacted to that anger. Before learning more about this mental illness, I would have never placed “anger” and “depression” in the same category.

The anger I felt and displayed was over some of the smallest issues. Our son throwing his plate of food on the floor for the 27th time that day. My husband not cleaning up his dirty dishes from the living room. Our middle spilling grape juice on the kitchen floor leaving a sticky mess. Really silly things.

Then there were some major things that made me angry. Our oldest as a 2 month old infant, crying constantly, and me not knowing at all what to do. Finding out that “friends” of ours at our church had said some very personal, hurtful things about my husband. Angry with myself for not being responsible with our money and it affecting our whole family’s lifestyle. Whether I experienced anger over the small things or the major things, I still experienced it. And I had no idea how to handle it.

My counselor explained to me that anger is not good or bad. It’s what you do with it that is good or bad. For instance, if I were to throw the TV out the window because I was angry, that would be bad. He even talked with my husband a bit about how to help me deal with my anger in a healthy way. He explained that anger will come out, one way or the other. He told me he preferred I didn’t throw appliances out the window, BUT he did say if that was the only way for it to come out, then so be it. Anger is much more dangerous being left inside, to fester and grow, causing you to become a bitter, miserable person.

So am I suggesting that if you’re angry you go home and begin to throw things, slam doors, kick the cat, or punch a hole in the wall? Absolutely not! I tried some of those things and ended up no happier than I was. In fact, I felt guilt over how I reacted. And guilt can take a terrible toll on you too. Anger must be dealt with in a healthy way.

Meeting with my counselor, I learned that my anger stemmed from my un-forgiveness toward my father. At that time, I had over 3o years of anger built up that had to be released. The best way to release is to talk about it. It could take days, weeks, or months before you get all the anger out. For me, most of this occurred during my counseling sessions, but my husband was also supportive and helped out too. It was hard for him, because of the way I had treated him all those years, but he was willing to do anything to help me become a person filled with joy.

During my sessions, I was also taught there is such a thing as righteous anger. Jesus displayed righteous anger. You can read about how he was angry with those selling animals at the temple. And if you’ve ever read how He spoke to the Pharisees, it would be obvious to you that He was angry with them.

My counselor suggested that I direct my anger toward Satan. He was the one who wanted my destruction, and was using my anger to do just that – destroy my family and myself. You and I, as believers and followers of Christ, have authority to tell Satan to go back to hell and leave our families alone! I know as Christians we do not use that power enough. Some of you don’t even realize you have it. And Satan likes it that way. I didn’t realize it until someone showed me in God’s Word.

Releasing anger by talking about it, and exercising the authority we have over Satan, was not enough. I needed to fill my heart and my mind with God’s Word. Ephesians talks about how God renews our minds, and He does that by allowing us to learn about Him through His Word. To grow closer to Him through binding His truth to our hearts. I struggle with this area to this very day – learning and believing the truth of God. I feel like I can never read the Bible enough, and I often have to recite scripture to myself in order to fight off the negative thoughts and feelings of guilt, anger, and self-pity.

To sum up, there were 3 things that helped me with my battle with anger:

Releasing it in a healthy manner.

Using the authority I have as a follower of Christ and telling Satan to go back to hell and leave me and my family alone.

Learning God’s Word and allowing His Truth to permeate my heart and my mind.

For those of you struggling with anger, I hope this helps. I know for me it felt like a cage I was in, that I could never escape. But remember, there is hope. There is always hope in Jesus. Choose one of these areas to begin working on. Find a trusted friend, counselor, or pastor, that can help you work through this issue.

I’ll leave you with this verse from Exodus 34: 5-7

Then the Lord came down in a cloud and stood there with him; and he called out his own name, Yahweh. The Lord passed in front of Moses calling out: “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.”

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Follow along as Samantha shares her story, exploring three foundational truths she learned during her years of Biblical counseling. These three truths found in God’s Word, have helped her experience joy while living with depression.

Special price of $7.00 for the month of June!!

Regular price of $12.00 will return July 1.

 

A Conversation Between Myself & God

A Conversation Between Myself & GodI came across an entry in a journal of mine that I use to take notes at church or when I’m reading. This particular entry was from a few years ago.

I remember when I wrote it. I had finally realized that despite my depression, whether medical or emotional (which for me it’s both), God would lead me through it and could still bless me and use me in spite of it. I knew He could take me to another level but I had no idea how He was going to do it. I had many ideas for Him but obviously He has His own.

This entry is a window into my mind; a picture of a conversation I had between myself and God. I am sure I’m not alone. Many others deal with the same type of conflict. We know where we want to go, but we have no idea how to get there.

Looking back I can see exactly why I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I invite you now to read my thoughts and my prayer. Some of it sounds selfish, but I wanted to be completely honest with God.

I am angry today for no good reason. I’m not happy with our situation. I don’t want to work full-time. I want my own house and am tired of moving all the time. I want to be available for real ministry. But I am doing real ministry. Chad could probably be more effective if I was supportive and respectful of him. I am the primary example for my kids. I don’t want my job to be my priority – and I don’t think it has to be, although I spend a majority of my time there.

I once told God that I would not stop seeking Him until He blessed me. He has blessed me but I want more of Him. I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want to be free of this depression and bondage. I don’t know why He hasn’t taken it away, but I will trust Him anyway. I have to will myself to trust Him. That is not my natural response.

Help me to practice self-denial. This is not my nature.

Help me to love my whole family the way You love me. With patience, grace, and a deep love.

Help me to trust You with our money. Help me to remember if I obey, You will provide. And I need to ask before You give. You desire to bless.

Have you ever been honest and open with God? Completely honest? If not, now is a great time to do so. He already knows what you’re thinking and feeling inside anyway.

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Join me next Monday, June 6 for a FREE 5 day email challenge,

“Hope for the Journey: Choosing Joy Through the Darkness of Depression.”

If you struggle with self-condemnation, believing the promises of God in His Word, or simply need to be reminded who you are in Christ, this challenge is for you. Don’t wait – It’s free!!

I’m looking forward to sharing this time with you.

Hope for the Journey: Choosing Joy Through the Darkness of Depression