Women: Being Brave in Mid-life

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Mid-life often brings changes for most women. Some of these changes are problematic and out of their control (health changes, divorce, empty nest), while others are self-initiated and/or goal oriented (remarriage, beginning a new career, etc.). In either case, changes can be draining on emotions, energy levels, and relationships. While each woman’s level of resilience differs, when changes in mid-life happen, women can be overwhelmed by negative thinking.

Skill: One skill to help moderate or reduce any fear or anxiety during changes is to replace self-defeating/negative words with positive ones. Change the word problem to challenge. For example, some women say, “I have a problem with my adult kids because they never call me.” Using the Skill, it could be restated, “I have a challenge with my adult kids because they never call me.”

A problem seems daunting, and perhaps insurmountable. Yet, a challenge may be overcome!

Below are three simple, yet challenging, Tips women in mid-life can use to be brave while working through changes:

1) Smile Wear a smile when you are thinking about or talking about your challenges- there are neurochemical advantages. You can try this now! 🙂

2) Speak Intentionally use positive language, as if you are expecting the desired outcome to actually happen. For example, “I am excited to be working toward improving my health,” instead of “I can’t believe how much weight I have gained.”

3) Strategize For each challenge, think of five potential solutions. Yes, this is time consuming, but it is better to spend the minutes of our day thinking of solutions rather than ruminating on the problem.

Simply stated, the thoughts, words, and expectations that women in mid-life intentionally utilize can have an incredible impact toward overcoming all types of challenges and can also bring enjoyment to the journey!

Be brave!

~Rebecca Trouse, MA, LPC, NCC

Thinking and Your Brain: The Neuroscience Inside

Thinking and Your Brain: The Neuroscience Inside

The word real estate is often associated with homes, buildings, or parcels of land. Consider, for a moment, the notion of a much smaller form of real estate, mental real estate, the physical structure of the brain. Modern neuroscience reveals that when a person thinks, the actual structure or real estate of the brain is changed. The activity of thinking can be viewed on several types of brain imaging instruments. In addition to thinking, speaking and reading ignites neurological chemical effects, which also impact both body and brain. Science affirms that the human brain exhibits neuroplasticy, which is the ability to adapt and change over time. This article will explore how the brain’s neuroplasticity is specifically evidenced in response to thinking.

Humans have the unique ability of choice when it comes to focus of attention and thinking. Thoughts that are dwelt upon are instructed by the individual engaged in thinking. Research indicates that the way a person chooses to think, either positively or negatively, affects the structure of his brain in exponentially different ways. Therefore, thoughts have a documentable physical/structural impact on the brain! This means the chemicals, proteins, and neuronal wiring of the brain are directed by thoughts, which can be intentionally driven.

Nobel-Prize winner and neuropsychiatrist, Eric R. Kandel, purports through his research that not only thoughts, but also imaginations, submerge into DNA and change the neurons in the brain by turning certain genes on and certain genes off (Leaf, 2013). It is astounding to consider that thoughts have the power to direct genetic expression. In essence, genetic predisposition does not mandate DNA expression, in all cases.

Negative thinking is toxic and creates stress in the mind and body. Too much stress has long-reaching consequences as it creates emotional impairment and weakens the body’s natural healing process. This is evidenced by DNA actually changing shape. When someone is experiencing stress, the negative emotions of fear, anger, and frustration may be felt. As a result, DNA responds by “tightening up and becoming shorter, switching off many DNA codes, which [reduce] quality expression” (Leaf, 2013, p. 35). This is outwardly evidenced by emotionally shutting down.

Conversely, feelings of love, joy, gratitude, and appreciation have been found to reverse poor quality DNA codes. Researchers at the Institute of HeartMath found that HIV patients in their study had “300,000 times more resistance to the disease than those without positive feelings” (Leaf, 2013, p. 35). The participants were able to shape their DNA positively. These patients renewed the structure of their minds by thinking hopeful, helpful, and ultimately positive thoughts. When compared to the other study participants who did not experience positive thoughts and feelings of love, joy, gratitude and appreciation, this group fared well. Healthy thoughts can bring positive feelings which elicit a like response from DNA.

To operate optimally, the body (including the brain!) needs balance in thoughts and function. Adequate sleep is also necessary. One way the brain experiences neural regeneration is when the body is asleep. This is called neurogenesis. New neuronal cells develop and are ready for shaping.

The mind controls the brain, which in turn, directs the body. Of course, situations and circumstances are often out of direct control, but it is important to remember that intentional thoughts and reactions may be chosen at any time. Yes, it is possible that the brain can be positively physically restructured by carefully selecting and dwelling on thoughts which aid in creating new healthy neuronal patterns. Knowing that the brain exhibits plasticity and is able to change is motivational and brings hope to many therapists working with clients who desire change.

Keep thinking positively! 🙂

Rebecca Trouse, MA, LLPC, NCC

Reference: Leaf, C. (2013). Switch on your brain. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Adapted from article originally published in Chi Sigma Iota, Theta Chapter, The Encounter, 2015 Fall, Volume 31, issue 2.

 

Forward

J. Hess-Forward

Forward

January 1st moves us into a new year. “Due to the nature of time, there is only one direction to travel, and that is forward,” says Sarah Young (2012). Some people anticipate the New Year to bring hope and excitement, while others face the upcoming year with fear and worry. Whatever feelings we may have toward the New Year, one thing is certain; it is a blank canvas.

My aunt, author Nora Smith, expressed her thoughts about the New Year this way: “Sometimes in life you come to a place you just do not want to move forward. Maybe someone you love is sick or has died, maybe you are facing a scary illness yourself, maybe someone you adore no longer wants you in their life, [or] maybe you hate your job or school but have no prospects for a change. That is when faith steps up and whispers you do not have to go it alone. There is no way to go but forward yet no tunnel is so narrow God cannot walk with you.”

As of yet, 2015 is mistake free. There are no missed opportunities and no regrets. The great news is that we can plan for a successful year ahead. We can explore and develop ideas of what might be ideal for us, individually and collectively. Instead of making “resolutions” or too many unreachable “goals,” we may choose to have a theme in 2015.

For example, last year I chose the theme “Thankfulness” and focused my thoughts, actions, and time toward being thankful. While I did set small goals, it was not overwhelming because it was approached as a way to live rather than having a long checklist of things to do. This year, I have a new theme for 2015. Perhaps you will see it emerge in my upcoming posts over the next few months. Stay tuned!

Let us move forward into the New Year together with love, friendship, and support for each other. Many blessings to you in 2015 and beyond!

Rebecca

References:

Young, S. (2012). Jesus Today: Experience Hope through His Presence (pp. 74-75). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Photograph courtesy of my friend, J. Hess, while on a recent road trip to Pennsylvania. Thank you, J.H.!  🙂

christmasstress

 

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christmasstress

The holiday season is filled with joy and happiness, but along with it comes stress! Do not let the stress of the holiday season weigh you down. Learn how to quickly recognize and reduce the symptoms of stress in my latest article, published by Chi Sigma Iota, Theta, in The Encounter Volume 30, Issue 1.

Recognizing and Reducing Symptoms of Stress

Rebecca S. Trouse, MA, LLPC, NCC

Modern life is replete with stressors. People of all ages face stressful situations, both real and imagined, on a daily basis. We cannot avoid stress, yet we should not allow it to cripple us or prevent us from living a healthy, satisfied life.

How do we know when stress is getting out of hand and causing a negative impact on our general wellbeing? Insel and Roth (2012) suggest the symptoms of excess stress fall into three categories: Physical Symptoms, Emotional Symptoms, and Behavioral Symptoms (which include Social problems). Below is a list of common problems associated with stress.

  • Physical Symptoms: dry mouth; excessive perspiration; frequent illness; teeth grinding; high blood pressure; and neck and/or back pain.
  • Emotional Symptoms: anger; anxiety; depression; impulsiveness; hypervigilance; irritability; trouble concentrating and/or remembering things.
  • Behavioral Symptoms: crying; disrupted eating and/or sleeping habits; harsh treatment of others; increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs; problems communicating; or social isolation.

Neslon Binggeli (1999), from the Georgia State University Counseling Center, published the Stress Management Problem & Solution Inventory. This self-rating screener targets common problems related to stress. It also suggests practical solutions aimed at reducing and relieving stress symptoms. Some helpful solutions are listed below:

Physical relaxation skills such as natural abdominal breathing, body awareness/relaxation, and meditation may help alleviate general stress symptoms. For negative thoughts and emotions, utilizing rational thinking skills is recommended for treatment. Rational thinking skills include identifying and changing maladaptive thought patterns and beliefs individuals hold. Communication skills, such as assertiveness, conflict resolution, and relationship building may alleviate social pressures. Applying time management skills, including prioritization and organization, can assist with managing multiple responsibilities and reduce time pressures, thus relieving stress.

Good self care is imperative to wellbeing. A few suggestions for good self care include: good eating and sleeping habits; physical exercise; good financial management; seeking social support when needed; and limiting alcohol, drug, and caffeine use. When we take care of ourselves, we are more apt to provide better care for others.

If you find that currently you are easily irritated or notice behavioral/emotional changes departing from your norm, be aware that you may be exhibiting symptoms of stress. Monitoring daily stress is the first step to managing it. Some people find it useful to document stress symptoms and triggers on a weekly or monthly chart. As a result, patterns may be observed and addressed/treated accordingly. If you find your symptoms do not improve, cause impairments at home or work, or worsen over time, please seek professional help from someone trained to recognize and treat these symptoms. Be well!

Rebecca S. Trouse, MA, LLPC, NCC

Aspects Counseling

414 S. Main Street, Suite 207B

Rochester, MI 48307

248-845-4144

www.AspectsCounseling.com

Resources

Binggeli, Nelson (1999). Georgia State University Counseling Center

Insel & Roth (2012). Connect Core Concepts in Health, Twelfth Edition (12th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Photo credit: Tree decorated and photographed by Tami Roberts. Thank you, Tami! 🙂

 

 

Relationships

Relationships

Relationships

“We understand ourselves when we understand our relationships with others and our relationships with the world.” Peg O’Connor, Ph.D.

How are your relationships with others and with the world? Could they be improved? Sometimes, we are unaware of the current condition of our relationships. This can be detrimental. Therefore, it may be helpful to periodically evaluate our relationships to see if we are satisfied with the assessment of where we are.

If you find there is work to do, you can begin today. Taking one step toward improvement may increase the momentum to continue toward your goal of better relationships. The reward is worth the effort. When we actively engage in healthy relationships, we yield greater satisfaction with our self and with others.

Make it a great day by intentionally creating and maintaining great relationships!

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let it Be

BeckyButterfly

Let it Be

Sometimes people enter counseling hoping their counselor will give them the answers they need to solve their problem(s). At first glance, this may seem like a reasonable request. However, the process of struggling to find one’s own solutions and wrestling with one’s personal past will result in greater strength for the individual in the future. Counselors support and sometimes help as clients work through their pain, make sense of the past, and prepare for a better future. The following excerpt from Living Courageously: You Can Face Anything, Just do it Afraid, by Joyce Meyer (2014), provides a vivid example from nature showing the results of interference in the beneficial process of struggle:

A man found a cocoon for a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly.

He took a pair of scissors and snipped the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. Something was strange.The butterfly had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected at any moment that the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its short life crawling around with a swollen body and deformed wings. It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the small opening of the cocoon are God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight one it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. (p. 86-87)

Don’t be afraid of the struggle. Find a friend or counselor for support. We can live courageously and face anything, even if we have to do it afraid. I wish you well.

Photo: My  niece and nephew bought me two larvae which, in time, developed into beautiful butterflies!

S.L.O.W. D.O.W.N

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S.L.O.W. D.O.W.N

Think before you speak. That is a phrase many of us are familiar with. But, why should we? Melanie Booth-Butterfield, communications professor, says we should ask ourselves a couple of questions about the intent of our words before speaking them aloud.

  • Will the communication benefit the relationship?
  • Will the words profit only the speaker?

Considering the consequences of our words can lead to greater satisfaction in our friendships, business relationships, and with loved ones. It takes effort to pause and contemplate the potential results of our speech. However, doing so is a practice well worth participating in.

To think before speaking has the potential of yielding desired results in all of our relationships. Therefore, remember to ask yourself, “Why should I say that?” and “Will this benefit the relationship?” before uttering the first word. You may be glad you did because we cannot retrieve words once we release them!

“Speaking recklessly is like the thrusts of a sword, but the words of the wise bring healing.” Proverbs 12:18 NET Bible

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