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HAVE A WONDERFUL FIRST DAY! Approach with curiosity and not anxiety.

August 31, 2015

The first day of college – old hat for some of you but for the vast majority of those here today there will be some anxiety – will you  like your professors, will they like you, will you meet people or be sitting somewhere alone pretending to text on your phone while others walk around seemingly with it all together.

All of us are a bit anxious – professors who wonder if their 8 o’clock class will be awake, if the opening comments they prepared will go down well, if the students are glad to be there or they are there because their parents said it’s either go to college or get a job or get out. Students who may be unsure about their abilities to succeed in college or students who are on their way to somewhere else and wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into (or more likely their parents who want to save money and recognize great value).

Be curious today. Breathe and take time to look around and notice where you are.  Yes college costs money and it is true that in some countries it is free but in many more countries people don’t have the luxury to even go to school – elementary school or higher.  Embrace this opportunity and know that you are in the same situation as many others on campus these first few weeks. Take a risk, smile, say hello and ask for help.


July 14, 2015

Red and Green Flags in Relationship dynamics

July 14, 2015

Green Flags and Red Flags in Relationships

Green Flags: Good Signs in a Dating Partner

There are plenty of single people who are conscious and healthy and have some insight into themselves. The following is a list of the traits and behaviors that an ideal healthy dating partner will exhibit. While no one may fit all of these, use this as a general guide to assess the health of your partner.

Healthy dating partners:

  • are comfortable in discussing their feelings about their past and present life
  • have good relationships with their family members but are also living a physically and psychologically independent life
  • respect your physical and emotional boundaries and reveal vulnerable information about themselves gradually over time
  • use intoxicants occasionally or not at all, and when they do use them, they do so without losing control or significantly changing their personality
  • are comfortable and secure enough within themselves to be satisfied with attention from you; do not need to constantly seek out attention and admiration from others
  • are psychologically finished with previous significant relationships
  • have had enough time to get over the breakup of their last significant relationship (at least three to six months from a breakup with a dating partner and at least one year from the legal date of a divorce or breakup from a cohabiting or marriage relationship)
  • are financially stable and seem to be able to handle financial issues without losing control
  • can balance the need for control with the ability to be flexible when appropriate
  • are able to express fears or vulnerability in emotionally safe situations
  • are reliable; follow through on pre-arranged plans; show up on time for most meetings
  • have an appropriate emphasis on physical or sexual themes as an integrated part of an overall blossoming romantic relationship; do not always need external “props” to become aroused or perform sexually
  • have one or more personal friendships that they have sustained for at least several years
  • show an interest in you and your feelings and activities as well as in their own
  • have a lifestyle which is conducive and allows for the addition of an intimate relationship; are able to balance work and personal life and create enough time for both
  • have a positive, optimistic outlook on life
  • have a good sense of humor
  • take responsibility for their life, their feelings and the consequences of their decisions without blaming others
  • take care of self physically and emotionally; dresses in a clean, attractive manner and eats right and exercises regularly
  • are able to receive constructive feedback from others without getting defensive
  • if they use computers, they use a computer as a tool, not as a constant companion
  • have more friends and acquaintances in their real life than in cyberspace
  • know how to resolve conflict in a constructive manner, or is willing to learn how to do so
  • allow themselves to feel their anger and resentment and expresses anger in an appropriate manner

Remember, this list is only a guide. If you are dating someone you really like and find them don’t have all of these qualities, don’t be overly concerned. In that case this list may be a guide for how to improve your relationship even more. On the other hand, if you find that your current dating partner has less than half of the qualities on this list, you may want to re-evaluate whether or not the relationship is truly healthy for you.


Red Flags: The Importance of Dating Defensively

In the beginning of dating, when the love, infatuation and romance is out in full force, there is a strong desire to move closer and deeper as quickly as possible. The danger in this is that you really barely know the true person you are dating. “Dating defensivel” is a good idea, especially in the first few months.  It is essential that you determine how emotionally and physically safe you are with this person that you barely know.

The following is a list of the most common issues to be mindful of in your new dating partner. While none of these issues means you should immediately stop seeing someone, realize that the greater the number of issues your new dating partner has that are on this list, the greater your potential to be hurt. And remember that in the beginning of dating, this is as good as it gets! So if you’re seeing red flags during a time in which everything is set up to be easy and fun, it is not a good sign and you should proceed very cautiously.

The purpose of dating is to learn as much about the person as possible, and have fun at the same time. The following list will help you get a good sense about how safe this person is for you.  Read this list over after you start dating someone.  Refer to it frequently, so you don’t let denial set you up to get hurt.

Red flags should go up when the person you are dating…

  • avoids discussing their past or present life, or does so only vaguely
  • appears overly dependent on family members
  • seems to have few or no personal boundaries
  • exhibits excessive alcohol or drug use/abuse
  • exhibits frequent flirting or staring at others; seems to need constant attention
  • is not emotionally finished with ex-spouses/ex-lovers
  • is recently divorced or broken up from relationship
  • has credit problems, debts, shaky finances, undergoing a “temporary bad time”
  • seems to need to be in control at all times
  • never shows any fear or vulnerability
  • is unreliable; doesn’t follow through on prearranged plans; is constantly late
  • expresses an overfocus on sexual themes
  • has few or no long-term friendships or previous relationships
  • interrupts without listening; talks only about self and never asks you about you
  • is unavailable through overwork or excessive interests, family, children
  • has a negative, pessimistic outlook on life; constantly critical of others; sarcastic sense of humor
  • does not take care of self in diet, exercise, appearance
  • cannot tolerate feedback from others without getting defensive
  • exhibits excessive computer use
  • has inappropriate ways of handling conflicts, or avoids conflict entirely whenever possible
  • exhibits an inappropriate expression of anger


Distracted? Try a little sitllness.

May 12, 2015

The ‘Big Luxury’ You Should Indulge In Every Day

Between text message alerts on our phones and e-mail notifications on our watches, the amount of electronic “pings” we get on a daily basis can be a huge distraction. A quick glance at your phone or a short click over to Twitter may seem harmless, but a new field of study called interruption science is showing us just how disruptive these daily distractions really are.

Pico Iyer, author of The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, explains his fascination with interruption science in the above “Super Soul Sunday” video. “They found it takes the average human being almost 25 minutes to recover from a phone call, but the average human being gets an interruption every 11 minutes now,” he says. “So we’re never caught up.”

With distractions all around us, Iyer says it’s more important than ever to take a few moments each day to unplug. “I’ve realized the big luxury for so many people now is just a little blank space in the calendar every day where you collect yourself,” he says.

In The Art of Stillness, Iyer writes about how crowded, noisy and chaotic our lives are. He believes we all need to give ourselves permission to slow down and practice stillness. “So when you ask what stillness gives to me, I’d say it’s sanity and it’s balance and it’s a chance to put things in perspective,” Iyer says. “And then we can come back to our lives with much more kindness and purpose and clarity.”

Meditation is one way to practice stillness, but it’s not the only option. Iyer laughs that even he’s “a bit too lazy” to meditate with any consistency. Instead, he suggests making simple changes, like turning off the radio in the car or shutting down the computer in the evening.

“When I’m waiting for my wife to come home from work, and I don’t know if it will be one or two hours, I used to scroll through my emails, and then I thought, ‘Just turn off all the lights and listen to some music,'” he says. “I noticed I was so much fresher when I heard her footsteps on the stairs and said hello. I slept better. I woke up better. So just tiny, everyday things just to clear some space in one’s head and one’s mind.”

Myths about panic attacks

January 29, 2015

9 Panic Attack Myths We Need To Stop Believing
Posted: 01/29/2015

Imagine that you’re walking down the street, when out of the corner of your eye you spot a semi-truck barreling toward you at an astronomical speed. Your instincts kick in and your stress level goes into overdrive. You have to move as fast as you can to get out of the way. For the next few moments, you feel like your life is hanging in the balance.
Now imagine dealing with that feeling when you’re casually shopping at the grocery store.
These intense episodes are an all-too-familiar reality for those who struggle with panic attacks and panic disorder — a mental health issue that many people still don’t understand, says Ricks Warren, Ph.D., a psychologist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan. Below Warren highlights nine common misconceptions people believe about panic — even the ones that suffer from it.
Panic attacks are just an overreaction to stress.

Panic attacks are more than just being “too worried” or “high strung.” They’re debilitating episodes that can last anywhere from a few moments to 10 minutes, Warren says. The body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered. As a result, sufferers can feel like they’re in danger and they work to avoid the source of the problem at all costs.
“They often feel shame about the fact that they have panic attacks and they feel the need to do all this avoidance,” he tells The Huffington Post. “It’s a major, major problem.”
You can pass out from a panic attack.
Fainting is caused by a dip in blood pressure and during these episodes your BP actually rises, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. While it may feel like you’re going to lose all control, it doesn’t necessarily happen, Warren says.
However, there are other very real physical symptoms of panic attacks. Due to the increase in blood pressure it can also feel like you’re having a heart attack (even though you’re not). You may experience chest pain, dizziness or difficulty breathing.
Panic attacks and anxiety are the same thing.

While both are equally difficult to deal with, Warren stresses distinguishing just the episodes (i.e. one or two panic attacks) from disorders. Anxiety is more of an umbrella term, which can encompass panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more.
“Anxiety is more worrying about something bad that could happen in the future, whether it’s in the next five minutes or later in the week,” he explained. “When [panic] starts affecting their life, when they start worrying about the next panic attack, when they start avoiding situations to prevent them, that’s what we would call panic disorder.”
You’re stuck with the disorder for the rest of your life.
“It’s a common misconception that [being diagnosed with panic disorder] means that you’ll be on medication for the rest of your life,” Warren said. There’s a huge stigma when it comes to mental health, which can make sufferers prolong getting help. However, the sooner you do so, the sooner you can control your panic.
Research shows that medications are effective, but so is CBT without medications or a combination of both, Warren added. “There’s also a myth that there isn’t any hope or any effective treatment, which isn’t true,” he said. Your doctor can help you determine which method works best for you.
It’s hard to relate to someone who has panic attacks.

Remember that truck scenario from before? Chances are you can recall a time you’ve been in a similar situation where you needed to spring into action. Those are versions of panic attacks, Warren says. It’s just not as easy for some people to write them off.
Warren suggests practicing compassion the next time a loved one goes through the experience. “Listen and let the person tell you about what it is they’re experiencing,” he said. “Empathize. Think of a time in your own life when you’ve been terrified of something. It might have been external, but you still remember how terrifying that is.”
Panic is a gateway to a more serious mental illness.
Many people believe that being diagnosed with panic disorder or having a panic attack means they’re going to develop another serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. “Panic disorder is something that’s kind of in its own right,” he said. If you’re still worried, bring up your concerns with a mental health professional, he added.
Deep breaths will calm a panic attack.

“We hear all the time that if you’re really anxious to take a deep breath — but with people who have panic attacks … you put yourself in a hyperventilation state,” Warren said. By inhaling deeply, you’re releasing extra carbon dioxide. This causes an increase symptoms like dizziness and and numbness, which can make you feel like you’re suffocating and lead to more rapid, deep breaths. Focus on more shallow inhalations and exhalations instead.
Loved ones can’t help when someone is having a panic attack.
Panic attacks are a personal experience, which means each person who sufferers from one reacts differently than another. Some people may want you to talk them through it, others may want you to distract them, Warren explained. “The point is to try to respond non-judgmentally and get it from their point of view,” he said.
Looking for more ways to help? Check out these supportive phrases (and what phrases you should avoid).
You should avoid what causes the episodes.

It may be the first instinct to avoid whatever is causing you pain, but Warren advises to do quite the opposite. “Once you start avoiding places because you think you might have a panic attack, you start restricting your life,” he explained.
Engaging in “safety behaviors,” i.e. not going to places that will trigger the attack or even avoiding exciting movies that cause a rush of adrenaline, the sufferer may not learn that there’s nothing to fear in the first place, Warren says. The best way to manage them is to employ the CBT techniques or other methods that have been discussed with a professional.
Have a story about mental illness that you’d like to share? Email, or give us a call at (860) 348-3376, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Change the World!

December 19, 2014

Watch Drew Dudley’s brief TED talk and ask yourself Have you had a lollypop moment?

March 19, 2014

” How many of you guys have a lollipop moment, a moment where someone said something or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better? All right. How many of you have told that person they did it? See, why not? We celebrate birthdays, where all you have to do is not die for 365 days — (Laughter) — and yet we let people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it. And every single one of you, every single one of you has been the catalyst for a lollipop moment. You have made someone’s life better by something that you said or that you did, and if you think you haven’t, think about all the hands that didn’t go back up when I asked that question. You’re just one of the people who hasn’t been told.

4:45 But it is so scary to think of ourselves as that powerful. It can be frightening to think that we can matter that much to other people, because as long as we make leadership something bigger than us, as long as we keep leadership something beyond us, as long as we make it about changing the world, we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it every day from ourselves and from each other. “