Letting The Air Get At It (K.Blais)

An old wives’ tale speaks about letting a wound get air in order to heal better. Although medical opinion varies on whether on a wound site heals better covered or uncovered, I am of the belief that both physical and emotional wounds heal better when air is allowed to get in and the wound is given permission to breathe.

Hurt, betrayal, disappointment, embarrassment, and even humiliation have become emotional wounds common in life. Whether intentional or unintentional, because of simple negligence or ignorance, or because of malicious spite triggered by envy or revenge, wounds occur.

We are hurt by those we thought would never hurt us. We are betrayed by those who we believed had our back unconditionally. We are disappointed by how we are treated by others, especially when we would never treat them in the same way. We are embarrassed when we are called out in front of others, or when we are ridiculed when we least expect it. We are humiliated when we believe that what we thought would never happen to us, has indeed happened.

Image result for emotional wounds free pics

So, what do we do?

Some of us may bandage it all up, wrapping the damage of the wound tightly to us. We may hide the injury away, underneath a protective covering, hoping that in time the wound will heal on its own. And perhaps the wound will heal. It may disappear entirely with only a trace of a scar or it may seep for a long while, oozing within itself, barely contained behind the bandage that holds it, before eventually healing in its own way.

Some of us may decide not to cover the wound. We may let the wound remain open, airing it out, because we believe that when we can air out our wounds they will heal more quickly and with less oozing and scarring. We leave the wound open instead of covered, baring our injury, in the hope that air and time will heal.

Airing out an emotional wound requires courage. For some it may be talking to a trusted friend about our feelings. For others it may be writing or blogging about a troublesome issue, or in a less public forum, it may mean journaling or writing private letters. In any case, the airing out is important for those people to heal.

Airing out takes courage because sometimes people perceive us as angry. They may think that we are on a rant and pissed off again. They may think we are too sensitive, that we take too much to heart, that we need to let things go a bit more. They may tell us to focus on what really matters (which is entirely subjective), and to let things roll off our backs. And maybe they are right.

Maybe we are angry and pissed off. Maybe we are too sensitive, too heartfelt, and too conscientious about justice and fairness to others. Maybe we believe that the world needs to remember that everyone has feelings and those feelings should be valued no matter who you are or what you can or cannot do for someone else. Maybe we feel that being kind will always be more important than being right.

But that doesn’t make us wrong in feeling any of these ways. Airing or ‘talking’ about when we have been hurt, when we feel wronged, even when we feel insecure can help us face our own perspective, as well as to see and hear someone else’s. We can heal faster when we realize that we are not alone, that others have felt and will feel this same, or in a similar, way. We can learn from another person’s experiences, we can receive valuable advice, or we can simply hear “I get it. I understand.”

We may be embarrassed by our wounds. We may feel childish or juvenile. We may think that we appear weak or ineffective when we allow our wounds to be exposed for anyone else to see. We may feel that we are to blame for allowing these things and/or people to hurt us, in some cases repeatedly. We may even believe that perhaps we someone deserve to be wounded.

But, it takes a strong person to speak about hurt and betrayal. It takes strength and courage to reach out and to bare ourselves and our hurt to someone else. We may be allowing patterns to repeat themselves in our lives, but that is why it is so important to air out our injuries. When things hit the air sometimes the reasons for them become more obvious to us. We are able to reflect a little more clearly on ourselves and on the situation surrounding us. We can see and evaluate the truth about ourselves and others. We can learn, we can understand and be understood, and we can grow.

It may also take time, but airing out our wounds can allow us to heal more quickly and healthily. We will still continue to be hurt by others at times, this is most likely inevitable, but perhaps we can learn to allow the air to heal us. And perhaps we may also learn how to prevent a greater wound from taking place in the future.

(photo courtesy of steptohealth.com)

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The Path To Peace (K.Blais)

Where do you find peace?

Is it in the quiet moments of the early morning when the house is silent and the world is only beginning to wake up?

Is it in the comforting presence of a quiet talk with a good friend?

Is it in the moment that you look out the window and see the pure and simple beauty of the earth and realize that the clouds, trees, and mountains have no stress and for a moment you feel like you are one of them?

Is it in the serene moments of prayer, faith, and personal belief?

In all the turmoil and ups and downs of the last few months there have been many days when I have felt anything but peace. I have let my own thoughts and doubts become my worst enemy and I have let the opinions, words, and actions of others attempt to eat away at my self-confidence. There have been moments when I have doubted my self-worth, my own abilities, and even my sanity. I have self-diagnosed myself in so many ways, probably none of which are true… probably.

I have struggled. Yes, I’ve had it pointed it out that I have and am struggling still. I’ve struggled with forgiveness, with understanding, and even with being able to move forward. I have struggled in allowing all of those things to happen, for various reasons, but in all of these ‘struggles’ perhaps I am finding peace.

You see, I don’t need my struggles pointed out to me. I don’t need to be sung the same song over and over again. I don’t need any advice in how to quit practicing my pain. What I need is to allow myself to find peace to move past, not even forward or upward, but just past. And sometimes that moving past is still done in darkness. Sometimes it means that walking beside someone in their darkness is more important than offering them your light on the other side.

There comes a time in our lives where we begin to see people and things for how they really are. We begin to truly see who we can rely on, and even though they may be as flawed as we are, we know we can depend on them. There comes a time when we realize that opening up to some people is only going to cause us disappointment and pain and so we keep to ourselves for a bit. There comes a time, maybe we call it growing old, when we start to realize that trusting ourselves and our own instincts is what is going to be the best for us and our loved ones, because perhaps we are the only ones with our best interests at heart.

Maybe finding peace isn’t about an intentional quest or journey we must embark on. Maybe there aren’t 10 or 15 steps to moving forward, past, or wherever we’re headed. Maybe peace is just about accepting a struggle for what it is: a struggle. Maybe peace isn’t about having someone offer you light on the other side. Perhaps peace is about forging your own way through the darkness and realizing the light isn’t where you need to be right away anyway.

Peace can mean something different to all of us, but maybe peace is accepting, acknowledging, and embracing our struggles. When we acknowledge a problem, that’s half the battle, right? So perhaps peace begins with the acknowledgment that things are not ok. Perhaps we may need to embrace the fact that our struggle does mean something; that it’s not meant to be brushed off with simple words or phrases that seem to say a lot but mean nothing. Perhaps peace is accepting that things are not ever going to be the same because they’ve changed. Maybe the peace is in realizing that things MUST change.

One thing I do know is that writing is often therapeutic. Sharing and talking to kindred spirits has made me realize that there are many of us who ‘struggle’. Part of my path to peace has been realizing that I do not need to feel that I struggle alone. There are others who are willing to open themselves up and share their feelings, to join someone in their struggle in darkness, and to walk with them to wherever the path may take them.

That path to peace, even through the dark, will evermore be more important than the promise of a light waiting on another side because it is the journey there which will make all the difference.

Perhaps the most important thing about finding peace is the path we take in finding it.

CAUTION: Drifting Snow Ahead (K.Blais)

caution
I see this sign to and from my way to work every day. It’s posted on the side of the road year round and I read it each and every time I drive by.
I love this sign. Let me tell you why.
This sign reminds me to be prepared. In the winter time I am reminded literally to be prepared about this section of the street as the open fields on either side of it allow for continuous blowing and drifting snow. The blowing and drifting often make the section of the road marked with these signs a bit treacherous at times. I am also reminded throughout the other 3 (usually non-snow) seasons that I should be prepared because ANYTHING could happen.
Now I don’t mean that I am always living life in a state of worry or even anxious anticipation. There is enough stress in life without being constantly worried or anxious about what may happen next, especially from reading a road sign. I try to remember to put my trust in God when I have those moments (days, weeks) which are worrisome and when I find myself fretting over things which are beyond my control. Things like the actions of others, what others are thinking/believing, and how their actions, however insensitive or unkind, may continue to affect me or my loved ones are issues which I don’t have much control over. Usually I am wise enough to remember that it is only the ways in which I choose to deal with and handle those concerns which I can directly control.
Preparedness is much different than worry, however. Preparedness is about being mentally ready for things in life which may happen and to not only be ready for them, but also ‘being ready’ in knowing how to deal with them.
I know it is not always possible to be ‘ready’ for everything which may occur or happen to us, or even because of us, but I do find that being prepared to handle things as they may come makes a lot of sense.
Mental preparedness can be associated with traumatic events (such as mentally preparing for survival, emergencies, or disasters), and it’s even connected to preparing to change one’s lifestyle as in quitting a habit or beginning an exercise regime or diet. But mental preparedness can also be appropriate and relevant to handling crises in the smaller, everyday life occurrences as well.
Mental preparedness is not tensely waiting for the worst, but being ready to accept things as they come.
Mental preparedness is not being completely set in our ways, but being flexible enough to go with the flow and roll with the punches.
Mental preparedness is being ready for whatever may come.
Mental preparedness is also the belief that we can make things happen and that we can have faith in ourselves to overcome whatever is in our way whether it be self-doubt, weakness, or uncertainty.
Being mentally prepared also means that we strive to become mentally strong. One way to build this is through self-talk – turning pain or discomfort into a positive, perhaps by choosing a mantra or phrase which continues to motivate us to persevere.
Another way to build mental toughness is through breathing and/or meditation practices which can reduce stress and conserve energy in order to use it in more valuable ways such as problem-solving.
Chunking whatever challenge may face us into smaller issues or tasks is another effective way to build up strength in mental preparedness. If we place our focus on these smaller steps and set mini goals we will be less likely to become overwhelmed with the larger picture.
Visualizing is often an important key to preparing to handle whatever may be presented to us. Mentally rehearsing and picturing what a successful outcome will look and sound like helps to answer the questions, ‘How will I overcome this challenge?’ and ‘What will it feel like to get through this?’
Reading that road sign every day helps me to remember that life is a series of drifting snow events.
I need to hold on to the steering wheel, scan the road in front of me, and remember to have faith because whatever drifting snow may lie ahead, I will strive to be prepared for it.

I Am Silent (K.Blais)

Today our school joined with the Free The Children and Me to WE foundations and participated in the #WeAreSilent campaign with people from across the world. We Are Silent is about taking a stand against social issues such as child labour, poverty, hunger, homelessness, lack of education, health care, bullying, etc., and being a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

This campaign originated from the Malala Fund, affiliated with Free The Children and Me to WE. Malala Yousafzai is a teenage Pakistanian girl who stood up and spoke out for the rights of young girls to have an education. She was shot one morning by the Taliban while on her school bus. She survived and her voice has become stronger. She speaks out for those who do not have a voice, because she knows what it is like to have someone try to silence her.

The We Are Silent event had a huge impact on our school and in my classroom in particular. A great discussion arose about the issues which concern my students and young people throughout the world and in our society today. Unfortunately, bullying has affected most of my students in one form or another. In many cases the students admitted to worrying that they won’t be listened to if they report the bullying, or that the bullying would worsen if they should say anything about it. Some also expressed a concern that they felt that sometimes it wasn’t certain that someone would actually listen to what they had to say anyway.

How many times have we, as adults, also felt like we did not have a voice, at least one that was heard? Sometimes we just need to know that we are important and that someone is listening to and understanding us. We may have simply had a bad day and we just need to find someone who will truly listen to our words, even if our words don’t make complete sense, even if our thinking (and speaking) is disjointed. There are other times when our mental health is hurting, when the days seem dark, and the promised light at the tunnel seems so very far away. It is those days that we also need someone to listen.

(photo courtesy of shutterstock)

Today I chose to be silent for those whose voices cannot be heard because they truly feel completely alone and that no one cares. I chose to be silent for the frightened, the lonely, and those without hope.

While I care deeply about the lack of education for girls in countries around the world, and the lack of clean water and food for families, as well as many other issues which plague children and families in the world today, I have always held a spot in my heart for those who feel that they don’t fit and that they don’t belong. This is why I personally feel the most like myself when I am working with children in my career and within my church as volunteer work. Children often are searching for their own place in the world and sadly many children aren’t always offered a sense of belonging. Within the church, especially with my efforts in children’s ministry, it is a wonderful feeling to share that we all belong to God as His own children. I have witnessed the light on children’s faces and the comfort in the faces of adults as they realize and come to know that there is a Love and a Hope that never ends.

Whatever your own beliefs are I believe that we all belong in this world together. We were all created and put here for a reason. We each have a purpose and have been put on this earth to help one another. No one is an island. We are not alone.

Today I am silent for those without a voice, without hope, without love, without the comfort of realizing that someone will listen. Today I am silent for those who feel alone, even when surrounded by people. Today I am silent for those with mental health issues that are afraid to reach out for help. Today I am silent for loved ones lost and loved ones who have lost their way.

Today I am silent, because sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

 

 

The Straw That (Almost) Broke The Camel’s Back (K.Blais)

After my post last week, Grace Under Fire, a friend reached out to me. This friend has had a rough go of it lately; she has felt overwhelmed, on more than one occasion, she is and has been extremely stressed, she has been coming close to “losing her s@#t” (in her exact words), and she is getting to the point where she feels that she is reaching her ‘final straw’. In other words, she is almost at the point where the next issue she faces, however big or small, will become “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

(image courtesy of Google images)

With her full permission she has allowed me to share her story because I know, and I have reassured her, she is not the only one to have gone through these things and to have felt this way.

So, let me tell you about Joy*.

Joy is a generous and giving person who is often taken advantage of because of her kind nature. She likes to see others happy and so will give of herself completely in order to please everyone else. She is a thoughtful individual, something which is sometimes noticed by others but seldom appreciated. She uses her time, energy, and even her money to help others, at times barely even getting a thank you for her efforts.

Joy is also a great listener. She not only listens but listens with the intention to help others. Unfortunately, when Joy has a problem she often feels her concerns and issues are pushed aside or ignored by the very people who she has worked so hard to help. Perhaps the thought is that because Joy is so wonderful and skilled at helping others, it is not realized that she may also require help sometimes herself. When Joy needs someone to listen to her she often feels alone. There seems to be no one around to help her pick up the pieces when she begins to fall apart.

Another issue which Joy finds frustrating is that she stands up for others and defends them, but has found herself “thrown under the bus” when a scapegoat or someone to blame is needed. She admits knowing that there are times when she has ended up “under the bus” completely intentionally, but other times it may have happened simply out of the negligence of others. Either way, trust has become a major issue in her life. She limits her trust to only a select few because she has been burned too many times in the past.

Unfortunately, Joy has found herself criticized, judged, and even looked down upon most recently because she and her family have experienced some successes. Instead of finding that people in her life, family, friends, acquaintances, are happy for her and her loved ones and want to cheer them on, she feels she is often spoken about behind her back, shut out of social circles, or worse “pretended” to be liked. Envy does terrible things to the character of others and when you are the victim of envy it can leave you feeling very hurt and as if you yourself have done something wrong. She has also found herself to be criticized and judged in regards to her parenting skills, her qualities as a friend, and even her professional abilities. Sometimes you don’t even have to succeed at anything in particular in order to be raked over the coals in jealousy.

Perhaps the most compelling part about Joy’s story, and maybe even the one that I found most intriguing, is that most people believe that Joy is this outgoing, confident individual who always takes on the world with class, style, and grace. Even though she feels she truly isn’t that person, she has asked me if I think that this ‘confidence’ which she portrays actually pushes people away. Her thoughts are that if people don’t think she ‘needs’ anyone because of how confident she is, then maybe that is why she is held at arm’s length. My response to her has never changed: even the most confident people still need someone in their corner rooting for them.

Joy’s story is not a rare one. We may have felt some of or all of these same ways, or have had friends who have shared these matters with us. We may have all had moments where we feel we have reached a breaking point, where if one more thing happens we may totally flip out, especially when everything comes down on us at once like the saying, “When it rains, it pours.”

While I don’t claim to have any superb advice or stellar words of wisdom, Joy did ask for my thoughts and perspective, so here are my words for her, and for all of us who can relate to Joy’s story:

You are NOT a camel. One more straw loaded down on your back will not break you because you are much stronger than that. People do not always treat you with respect or with kindness even, but you can rise above those times and be a better, stronger person because of them.

When you find that you are at your lowest, look to the highest. Use your faith, your values, and your beliefs to steer you in the direction of how to handle things in the best way you know how. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back from people or situations where you continue to find yourself uncomfortable or unhappy. There’s nothing wrong with demanding respect and space.

Practice saying no, especially to those people who do not appreciate you. If they do not respect your ‘no’, then perhaps stronger language is needed. Turn the other cheek when necessary, but don’t allow yourself to be anyone’s emotional punching bag.

When you think that you are going to break, make a conscious, determined decision that you will not. You are the author of your story – you decide how each chapter will end. Make the decision that you will NOT go down like that.

Remember that YOU are a good person; a sincere, true, and honest individual. Find people who see that and love you for who you are, not what you can do for them. Choose people who will help you carry your load, not add to the burden of it. Select your allies to be those who build you up, and not those who work to tear you down.

Most importantly, decide today and every day that you WILL NOT become broken by the final straw.

Believe this: You are UNBREAKABLE.

 

*name has been changed

I’ve shared this post on the Fire Fly Dance blog site as part of a writing community. Check out the site: http://fireflydance.net/2014/03/07/weekly-writing-challenge-unbroken/#comment-3061

“This, Too, Shall Pass”: Finding Inner Strength (K.Blais)

It struck me today that these are trying times. That may end up being the understatement of the year, but it’s a statement nonetheless.

So many of us, as well as our friends and loved ones, are going through various personal, emotional, and financial difficulties that there doesn’t seem to be much sense to any of it. As if viewing a film, we stand back and watch helplessly, hearts breaking, as those we care about damage themselves, relationships with others fall apart, and the stress and strain of finances take their toll. Maybe we even experience it ourselves. The universe can seem dark and unforgiving. So how in the world can we and our loved ones experience some of the most life changing trials and expect to carry on, to look ahead to a better future?

Perhaps it’s not about the future years from now though. It could be about the future as far ahead as we can see. Maybe it’s the next hour, the next day, or the next week that we need to get through. Perhaps simply getting out of bed in the morning is the hardest step for some of us to take. Whatever the future is to each of us, I believe that we all can find the inner strength to make it happen.

(image courtesy of Google images)

Inner strength is often called resilience, and is thought of as the ability to cope with stressful situations which occur in life. Finding our inner strength can be thought of as staying positive and finding light even in dark situations. (information courtesy of ask.com)

We were all born with inner strength – the drive to survive and thrive.

But what if we don’t think we can? What if we really don’t feel strong enough to see any future? What if we don’t believe that we can get through whatever tribulation we have found ourselves in?

First off, we have to believe that we truly do have the strength to overcome difficulty. So much of our success, and failure, in life is determined by the mental attitude with which we approach things. If we think we can, we can. If we think we can’t, we can’t. Mind over matter isn’t just a saying. If you believe in it, you can make it happen. Likewise, if you believe that something will destroy you, then that can happen too. Keeping a positive attitude can go a long way.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ll even say it as many times as necessary, we need to surround ourselves with people who help us draw on the inner strength deep within us. Immersing yourself in people who truly believe in you and your capabilities is one of the main keys to finding, and maintaining, your own inner strength. Choose people who share the same values as you and hold them close. Finding people who support you, your choices, and your actions (maybe even if they don’t always agree with them) can be enough to hold you up when the going gets tough and the waters are murky.

Lean on your faith, your beliefs, and trust that God knows what’s best. If your faith isn’t a strong element in your life, then sometimes simply believing that things happen for a reason and that everything will work out for the best can help too. Have faith and believe that you can handle “this”, whatever the “this” might be.

Sometimes it is necessary to just let go. Try not to “sweat the small stuff”. Let go of past hurts or mistakes that you may have made and focus on the present situation and how you can best handle it. You don’t have to handle it perfectly either. Do your best and then let it go.

Be thankful for the hard times because they will help you appreciate the good ones. There are many things in each of our lives for which we can be immensely grateful for. Cling to those ‘good things’ when the going is rough. The ‘good things’ will bring you peace.

Remember: “This, too, shall pass”. You are never given more than you can handle. A door doesn’t close without a window opening. The road may seem dark, but believe that you will find the light to show the way.

Inner strength may not always seem like your own strongpoint. You may find yourself in the middle of some ‘disastrous situation’ and not know where to turn or even if you have the strength to continue on. When inner strength is needed though, you will find your resilience and the courage to move forward one moment at a time. A small step, a deep breath, and the knowledge that each day is a new beginning may be enough to keep you going. It may never be easy, but it will always be worth the effort.

Immeasurable Loss (K.Blais)

How do we measure loss?

This week our small community was rocked by the loss of another young person, a life cut short, too short, a life full of promise and hope. We ask ourselves why. We search for reasons and an understanding, but we often come up with nothing. There seems to be no measure for loss.

I’ve written several posts on the topic of time, life, and the search for fulfillment and emotional happiness. There doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by where these huge, all encompassing topics don’t somehow filter into my writing. This week I chose to write about loss and how it affects us.

I pause here to note that it affects each and every one of us differently and our own personal reactions to loss are just that – personal. There is no right or wrong way to react to loss, because it is as individual as the loss itself.

As I thought about loss and its immeasurability, I considered the five stages of grief, a hypothesis introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as she studied terminally ill patients. The Kubler-Ross Model was expanded for use in multiple, different situations in which people experience a significant loss. It is important to note that not all individuals experience all stages of the model, nor do they necessarily occur in the order presented. Kubler-Ross stated that an individual will always experience at least two of the stages. Often the stages will be experienced in a roller-coaster effect – switching between two or more stages, returning to one or more several times before working through the experience itself.

These stages have evolved since their introduction and have been often misunderstood over the past three decades. In an article defending the Five Stages Model, Elisabth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler stated that the five stages were “never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages” rather “they are responses to loss that many people have, but there is no typical response to loss as there is no typical loss.” (www.grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/)

Below is a quick overview, restated in my own words, which outlines my understanding of the five stages of grieving and dealing with a loss:

Denial – The first stage which helps us survive the loss. This is the stage in which the world feels meaningless and overwhelming. It is in this stage where we feel numb from the state of shock and denial. It is this denial and shock which help us to cope and to “pace our feelings of grief”. It is our mind’s way of protecting us and only letting in as much as we can handle.

Anger – This is another necessary stage of healing from a loss. Allowing ourselves to feel the anger will help the anger to disappear more quickly. The anger may be limitless – extending to everyone involved somehow in your loss, maybe even to God. Under the anger is pain and perhaps a feeling of desertion and abandonment. Anger may give us strength and act as an anchor or focus for our feelings.

Bargaining – This stage involves bargaining with God or attempting to form some kind of truce to return life back to the way it was. “What ifs” and “If onlys” prevail in our thoughts. Guilt often accompanies this stage as we find fault within ourselves and imagine what we could’ve done differently.

Depression – The depression stage moves our feelings into the present as we begin to accept what has happened. We may feel empty and begin to withdraw from life. These are very natural feelings and are not a sign of mental illness, rather a natural response to a great loss. This stage may seem to last a long time, but that again is individual to the situation.

Acceptance – This stage is often mistaken as the idea that we are “all right” and “ok” with the loss that has occurred, but this is not the case. The acceptance stage is actually about accepting the reality that the loss has occurred and that a new reality is now permanent. This stage is not even about liking the new reality but it is about accepting it and beginning the slow progress of moving forward.

Loss may never be understood. Loss may never make sense to us or seem “fair”. We may even want to try to deny it in our minds. We may lash out in anger towards anyone near us. We may attempt to bargain with God, praying for things to return to the way they were. We may fall into despair and depression, losing all desire for the things and life we once enjoyed.

We will at some point come to terms with our loss and accept that life has changed. This new reality may be approached with reluctance and trepidation but it will come to us.

There is no measure for loss, there is only our own personal grieving process which comes after the loss has taken place. There is no magic cure, no click of a button, or flipping of a switch. There is hope in the certainty that out of darkness there can shine light, however dimly at first. Our love and compassion for one another can bring peace to those who suffer loss. We can listen and be there for those who grieve. No one needs to feel alone.

Loss does not need to be measured. It only needs to be understood.

(photo courtesy of smartcanucks.ca)

(Dear Readers, My prayers are with those who suffer loss – present and past. May you find comfort and peace. Love, ~ K ~)

Mental Health Matters (K.Blais)

Spring is finally here! The sun is shining, the breeze is warm, and the grass is turning green! There is a feeling of lightness in the air, but, boy-oh-boy, am I tired! Spring is a time for renewal and regeneration, but also the time when I it seems that I need to recharge my batteries the most. My seasonal allergies come out to play and, unfortunately, they aren’t great playmates. Everything is sprouting and beginning to bloom around me, but I am emotionally and physically drained.

I know that everyone feels like this from time to time, and yes, we do all get tired. I think what I forget, and maybe some of you can relate to this, is that when we feel this exhaustion it is very important to listen to our bodies and minds and take the breaks and the rest that we need. I personally work in an emotionally demanding profession with children – a career which I love, but which can take its course on my mind and body. Taking on multiple roles (counselor, mediator, nurse, motivator, organizer, role model, etc.) in addition to being an educator in a classroom to twenty some little people, while rewarding on most days, can also be stressful and draining on others. And that’s just my day job!

For those who may not be aware, this is Canadian Mental Health week (May 6-12), also called Children’s Mental Health Week. (Check out www.cmha.ca for more information about mental health awareness and education.) (Please note: Mental Health Week is not to be confused with Mental Health Awareness Week which occurs the first full week of October in the United States, and other Mental Health Awareness Weeks around the world!)

(image from teentalk.ca)

Mental Health is truly one of the things which most of us take for granted, but is really so instrumental in our daily functioning and how we deal with what life throws at us. We often forget how important it is to maintain and preserve our mental and emotional well being. Good mental health (just like good physical health) is something we may not appreciate until we no longer have it. You know, kind of like, you don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone?

Truth be told, I’m a big supporter of “Mental Health Days”. By this I mean taking a day off when you need it, before you actually get sick from stress and from overtaxing yourself. I think it’s important to take a day (or two) to relax and unwind before, and to prevent yourself from, becoming ill, either physically or mentally, and having to take longer periods of time off because you HAVE to.

Mental Health Awareness is becoming increasingly important in our children as well. (See www.kidsmentalhealth.ca for more information.)

I read a few statistics about mental health and, while I find stats help me to put things into perspective, the following were alarmingly staggering:

  • 1 in 5 Ontario children and youth has a mental health problem (that’s about 500,000 children in Ontario).
  • Mental health problems in children can be termed ‘disorders’ which range from anxiety, depression, and conduct disorder to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder.
  • Left untreated, mental health disorders can lead to failure in school or loss of job, family conflicts, drug abuse, violence, and even suicide.

It is becoming more and more evident that nourishing and nurturing our minds and working towards good mental health is so integral to how fully we can live and enjoy our lives. Being physically active, having and promoting positive self esteem and confidence in ourselves (and others), and knowing ourselves well enough to recognize triggers and limits are all practices which can help to maintain and protect positive, emotional well-being. When we feel stressed it is a good idea to have a personal list of strategies and techniques which we can use to help recharge and refocus ourselves in a positive and uplifting way. For some ideas, check out one of my previous blog posts: 12 Ways to Restore Balance and Renew Your Spirit.

In our children, it is vitally important to portray to them positive examples of taking care of our mental and physical health and work to eliminate the stigma which is associated with Mental Health issues. There is no shame in asking for help and in confiding in a trusted friend or family member when we need to talk to someone. There is no shame in admitting our feelings of despair, loneliness, frustration, and emotional fatigue to someone who cares. There is no shame in reaching out for professional or medical help when our burdens are too much to bear.

Violence in our world today has often been attributed to the mental illness of the perpetrator. I would agree that this is often the case. It’s a fact that there is sadness and evil in the world: see Let Light Shine Out Of Darkness. Increasing knowledge of mental health issues is what an awareness week is all about. We need to have resources in place in order to help those individuals who aren’t mentally or emotionally ‘well’. There are over seven billion people living in God’s world right now – NO ONE needs to feel ALONE.


(photo from themindsanctuary.com)

We were put on this Earth to help one another. Let’s reach out to someone, to anyone, who needs a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, or even just a passing smile. Simply sending an email, a text, or placing a phone call which says, “Hey, I’m thinking of you!” can brighten someone’s day. We need to make time for those who contribute to us feeling good about ourselves and who help to eliminate stress, instead of adding to it (intentionally or unintentionally). That can be a tough reality – not everyone may want what’s best for us, unless it’s what is best for them too.

Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle (T.H. Thompson). Show compassion. Be gentle with words and actions. We need to take care of ourselves and others. A mentally ‘well’ society is best for everyone. Mental Health Matters… to all of us.

(Dear Readers, In the words of Jerry Springer (and yes, I somewhat cringe while quoting him, but his words are true and exactly fitting for this note): Take care of yourself… And each other. Love, ~ K ~)

The Power of Forgiveness (K.Blais)

Insulted. Attacked. Belittled. Taken for granted.

We have all been there at one time, in one way or another. How do you handle a situation when you or someone you love has been hurt, betrayed, or abused? Once we get over our initial anger and frustration, we know that we must forgive in order to heal and move forward ourselves. But, that is not always an easy task. Many professionals have theories and techniques in dealing with forgiveness, and while I am by no means a professional in this field, I do believe that forgiveness has three basic steps. It’s not a simple process, by any means, and one that does require time. (Please note: Some situations may require a professional’s help in working through. I am a strong believer and advocate for counseling and therapy. There is no weakness in asking for help.)

Forgive others.

This is not an easy task, especially if we have been wronged in a way that hurts us greatly. Forgiving is not forgetting or pretending that it didn’t happen. The truth is that it did happen and we must learn from the experience without holding onto the pain.

Forgiving is not excusing the behaviour, or allowing others to make excuses for themselves. Only someone who is not to blame is excused. We forgive when a wrong has been committed.

Forgiveness is not giving others permission to continue their hurtful behaviours towards us; nor is it about condoning the behaviour in the past or in the future. It is about letting others know that this type of behaviour is not acceptable, but has been forgiven.

Forgiving others is not about admitting weakness in oneself. It’s about showing your own personal strength in realizing that other people make mistakes and need forgiveness.

Forgive yourself.

Sometimes the hardest part on the road of forgiveness is forgiving yourself for being hurt; for allowing others to hurt you. You may feel angry and betrayed with yourself for permitting the situation or hurt to take place. At times, the biggest betrayal may be in feeling that you have let yourself down in not standing up for yourself, in not stopping the behavior earlier, and in even not recognizing the warning signs in order to prevent the hurt from happening in the first place. This may even be especially difficult when the hurt has been part of a repetitive cycle. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself: but we shouldn’t be harder on ourselves than we would be on anyone else.

Move on.

Reconciliation may come with forgiveness, and it may not. The decision to reconcile with the person we are forgiving is an individual choice. We can also choose to maintain our distance. Forgiveness is not always about forgetting. It can also be about remembering and learning from our own mistakes in the future. We have to move on in order to heal and to find peace. We can remember in order to take away something valuable from the experience and to prevent it from happening again in the future. Yes, we are taught to forgive “seventy times seven times”, but we were also given thinking minds and human will in order to do our best to learn from the experience and to prevent the situation from happening again.

This Easter weekend, remember that forgiveness began on the Cross: our best and truest example of what forgiveness is and the power it has.

We can find the power to forgive others, as well as ourselves, and we can find peace in order to move forward.

Strength. Wisdom. Compassion. Freedom.

(image courtesy of drbexl.co.uk)

(Dear Readers, Wishing you a Blessed Easter! May you always find strength, wisdom, compassion, freedom, and forgiveness in your heart. Thank you for your continued support. Yours, ~ K ~)

12 Ways to Restore Balance and Renew Your Spirit (K. Blais)

The stress and strain of the daily grind often wears us down. While I am not a professional or a doctor, I’ve come up with twelve simple ways that I have found to be effective in restoring balance and renewing my spirit. Maybe you will find them helpful too.

  1. Prayer, Meditation, or Think Time

    Find your thoughts and your inner voice. Talk to God and meditate on truth. Take a few moments to think, really think, about the blessings that you’ve been given in life. Realize that every struggle is an opportunity for growth. Learn from each experience. Ask for serenity to accept the things you cannot change, pray for courage to change the things you can, and strive to recognize the wisdom to know the difference.

                                    

                                    (photo courtesy of google images)

  2. Water

    Submerse yourself in it, be near it, drink it, whatever you need. Water has incredible healing properties. I personally have always been drawn to water, whether it is a hot bath, a waterfall, a small river, lake, or ocean. In a pinch, try washing your hands in a sink full of warm water. Take a few moments and wash them lovingly. In an article in WebMD Health News
    (read it here), studies revealed that washing your hands can remove doubts about choices, “what washing does is wash away the compulsion to justify choice”. Placing your hands in warm water can bring a feeling of calm into your mind.

                                    

                                    (photo courtesy of bing images)

  3. Block Out The World

    Turn on the fan in the bathroom, blare the music in your car, run the jets in the bathtub, put on headphones, whatever works. Go on a mental vacation. Close your eyes (if it’s safe to) and visualize yourself somewhere else. Block out the world for just a few moments. The world will still be there when you get back, trust me.

     

                                    

                                    (photo courtesy of redbubble.com)

  4. Read

    The Bible, a good book, your favourite blog (*wink): read whatever it takes to remove you from your current stressors and to separate from yourself for a bit. Reading can offer an escape from reality and let you live in another world temporarily.        

                                    

                                    (photo courtesy of bing images)

  5. Walk (or Exercise)

    Taking 25 to 30 minutes a day to walk, by yourself or with a friend, can improve your mood and rejuvenate your soul tremendously. Sometimes just getting the blood flowing and your muscles working can help to reevaluate your current status and improve your outlook on a situation. I prefer to walk outside, but you might prefer an indoor track or a treadmill. Whichever your preference, focus on your breathing and the good you are doing for your body and soul by simply moving.

                                    

                                    (photo courtesy of bing images)

  6. Candles

    Our sense of smell directly affects our emotions. Part of our nervous system which helps to control our emotions is connected to our nose. The scent from burning aromatherapy candles can have a direct impact on attitudes and emotions helping us to better handle and deal with issues in our lives. My personal favourite candles are the Gold Canyon brand. The Aromatherapy line has a wide variety of candles to suit your needs. The scents are pure, true, and long lasting. Check out my dear friend’s website www.chipper.mygc.com to find the scent that most appeals to you.

                                    

                                    (photo courtesy of goldcanyon.com)

  7. Write / Talk

    Journaling, even if you’re not a writer at heart, can help you to release feelings, thoughts, emotions, and stresses. Sometimes simply by putting your feelings and thoughts into words you can narrow in on what is “not right” in your life balance and perhaps even why the imbalance happened in the first place. If writing doesn’t appeal to you then consider talking to a good friend, or even to yourself. Verbalizing can help minimize stress and identify plans for action.

                                    

                                    (photo courtesy of bing images)

  8. Tea, Coffee, or Soothing Beverage

    Comforting yourself with a warm beverage, or a refreshing one, can often renew a positive outlook on life. By treating yourself to a simple thing like an herbal tea, or a specialty coffee, you can allow yourself a simple pleasure in a busy, stressful day. Sometimes a soothing cup of something special is just what your body needs to know that everything will be ok and that your best is good enough.

                                    

                                    (photo courtesy of bing images)

  9. Sing and/or Dance Your Heart Out

    You don’t have to be good at it. Singing uplifts the soul. Have you ever tried to sing when you’re mad? It just doesn’t work. The same goes for dancing. Sing like no one is listening. Dance like no one is watching. My all-time favourite music to listen and sing along to is anything by Blue Rodeo or Jim Cuddy. For some reason, Jim’s song “All I Need” seems to speak to me and puts my life into perspective when I need it most. (Listen here.)

                                    

                                    (photo courtesy of bing images)

  10. Be Alone in Nature

    Find your favourite spot in nature and just “be” there. There is nothing more humbling than being in a big open field alone with God. My mom gave me a poem once which she found in a magazine. It was called “Out In The Fields With God”. I was probably only twelve years old at the time, but she said the poem reminded her of me. I still have it to this very day.

(This poem is attributed to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The little cares that fretted me,
I lost them yesterday,
Among the fields, above the sea,
Among the winds at play;
Among the lowing herds,                                
The rustling of the trees,
Among the singing of the birds,
The humming of the bees.
The foolish fears of what may happen,
I cast them all away
Among the clover~scented grass,
Among the new mown hay,
Among the rustling of the corn,
Where drowsy poppies nod,
Where ill thoughts die and good are born~
Out in the fields with God!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



(photo courtesy of bing images)

  1. Cocoon

    Put on comfy pajamas, wrap yourself in a big, warm blanket, snuggle yourself on the couch or in a favourite chair. Go easy on yourself. You deserve this time to nurture and rest. When you’re ready to emerge again, you’ll be better able to reestablish balance and calm in your life.

                                

                                 (photo courtesy of google images)

  2. Laugh

    Laughter really is the best medicine. Find something, anything, to make you laugh. Laughter can strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Humor can lighten your burdens, inspire hopes, connect you to others, and keep you grounded, focused, and alert (information courtesy of helpguide.org).

                                        

                                    (photo courtesy of bing images)

    There is nothing weak or wrong in realizing when you feel out of balance. Know your body and your inner self. Give your spirit what it needs. Love yourself.

    (Dear Readers, Thank you for all the love you reciprocated with last week’s blog post