‘It’s Coming on Christmas’

by Catherine DeAngelis
(Reprinted 2018)

“I never wanted to be a star. I didn’t like entering a room with all eyes on me. I still don’t like the attention of a birthday party. I prefer Christmas, which is everybody’s holiday.”            Joni Mitchell

A  favorite time of year is when we have radio play that gives us the elegant, melodic and familiar voice of Canada’s Joni Mitchell as she sings “River” over the air waves.  This song, written and originally performed by Joni Mitchell, captivates listeners as we hear the song by other various performances by Sarah McLachlan and Robert Downey Jr.

The song beckons sentiments of being at home in the heart or maybe some of the absurdity wrapped up in our trying to be something other than human.

The lyrics may have different interpretations e.g. – a song about missing home, lost love, a need for belongingness or an escape from whatever pains us. Even if we knew, is it a mood too sullen by  triggering memories, a feeling or emotion? For some we over extend ourselves, reach out more than usual, turn up the love meter a couple notches. We are compassionate and more forgiving. And, so we become kinder to family, friends, our neighbors.

SongsofaPrairieGirlCoverRiver comes from Mitchell’s famous Blue album recording, released June 1971, and added  to the  Songs of a Prairie Girl known as her last series of compilations.

In a Canada CBC TV Life and Times documentary about Joni Mitchell, we learn about her life and her music, and her artwork.  Joni Mitchell, Woman of Heart and Mind (2)written and directed by Susan Lacy. Canadian-Born Joni Mitchell is one of the foremost singer/songwriters and poets of our time.  Her eclectic and unique body of work still touches us today as much as it did more than three decades ago. She has also led an equally fascinating and inspiring personal life.

Mitchell has come full circle from the days back when the Mariposa Folk Festival evolved Mitchell to a magnificent songwriter with a creative career that stemmed from her earlier childhood interests in painting, poetry, and music. She performed in Toronto’s downtown Yorkville coffeehouses such as the Penny Farthing and up to this day her songs and lyrics resonate with the same precision as ever before. Some of her very first songs like ‘Day After Day‘ are as inviting today as they were back then – Canadian Encyclopedia of Music.

Quotes by Joni Mitchell

“At the point where I’m trying to force something and it’s not happening, and I’m getting frustrated with, say, writing a poem, I can go and pick up the brushes and start painting. At the point where the painting seems to not be going anywhere, I go and pick up the guitar.

Back then, I didn’t have a big organization around me. I was just a kid with a guitar, traveling around. My responsibility basically was to the art, and I had extra time on my hands. There is no extra time now. There isn’t enough time.

  • I can’t remember anything I ever wrote.
  • I learned a woman is never an old woman.
  • No one likes to have less than they had before. That’s the nature of the human animal.
  • Not to dismiss Gershwin, but Gershwin is the chip; Ellington was the block.
  • Sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell.”  

For any Joni Mitchell fan of beautiful melodies, we’ve posted lyrics and a video below – browse and explore your response to the song and lyrics.

River

by Joni Mitchell   

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

But it don’t snow here
It stays pretty green
I’m going to make a lot of money
Then I’m going to quit this crazy scene
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I made my baby cry

He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I’m so hard to handle
I’m selfish and I’m sad
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Oh, I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby say goodbye

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpFudDAYqxY


Read and learn more about Christmas:

 

A Canadian Christmas Eh!

…No Such Thing as Santa?

Kicking at the Darkness

Lone Wolf

Britannica Encyclopedia

Christmas Day

 

A Life Steering Act

by Catherine DeAngelis

Image:  Ships Wheel
by Elizabeth Wenner

“It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
– from the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

What would it be like if we were to imagine ourselves steering our way through life, setting goals as if we were a captain at the helm of a ship? We could control and navigate the ship across ocean or sea waters skilled at facing from mild and calm, severe and harsh to wet and cold weather. Some might say we can do this travelling alone or have done it alone, but even a captain needs help with actions and tasks before setting out onto open waters.

We have read story books about ships that sailed the many seas around the world and heard the myths and legends built famous on superstition.

With a sea map in hand, the captain’s duty is to make it across waters safe and with smooth operation, securing the ships seaworthiness, meeting conditions even those potentially hazardous.

Think about our life map and how ready we are to adjust and meet head on the task or situation that tests our abilities whatever life throws at us.

What is a Life Steering Act?

A Life Steering Act is about being the captain at the wheel of our ship in life. As captain, we are in charge of the movement of the ship’s rudder and the direction in which it is going. Similar to life, we address our life map regularly and make a commitment to plot our goals in such a way to get us a desired result in our daily life.  

Keeping track of goals is never an easy momentum to maintain. We can reinforce the skill of steering in the direction we want to go by relying on either mechanical equipment or the tools to aid us.

The values we live by are important to help us understand what we deserve, especially to know our worth and usefulness and where all the stuff of life we are needing or wanting is coherent with our values. Also, to live and learn is by managing what we want or what we need and aim for the most important to us based on what are our life’s priorities.
img_reforient
A ship’s construct differs significantly from a human body. However, casually liken a human skeleton to a ship’s parts and connect them both as requiring a skill to operate that offers a miraculous ability to manage or guide someone or something.

SkeletonOur physical form for example is the mechanism that gets us to sit or stand, walk backwards or forwards. A ship has its various sizes but able to float on some of the deepest ocean waters. It too has its various structural components to get it to do what it does – float and, as humans we move.

Someone has to be present with the knowledge on how to reach a place or get something. And to get our brain and physical body in motion to steer into the channel to act the way we want to, can be a feat in itself.

Our Will In Action

Victorian Poet, William Ernest Henley aptly writes in his last line of his poem Invictus, “I am the captain of my Soul.” This poem was life affirming for Nelson Mandela. He used it to keep himself alive during his 27 years in prison. Mandela suffered incarceration. He lived with tuberculosis and during this period of solitude he had to grieve being unable to attend his son’s funeral. All this took place before becoming South Africa’s president. His force of reckoning got him to leading a nation out of apartheid and into democracy.

Another person with a will-in-action-of-another-kind is high-wire performer Nikolas Wallenda, the first accomplished aerialist who performed a tightrope walk over a 1,500-Foot Grand Canyon Gorge. Who would plan and scheme for such a feat let alone imagine ever doing it but instead succeeding at it non-fatalistically.

Our Emotions

Curiosity leads us to think what does it take to undertake such an astounding task. Wallenda is master of the all pervading emotion “fear” and he appeals to the crowd’s obsessiveness: how does he obliterate fear from knocking out his knees?

What might have been the optimism pumping through Mandela’s blood which gave him the fortitude to prevail over the depravity he felt in his prison: within the walls and within himself?

As captains of our soul, we ensure our vessel has prudent conduct and does what is needed to adhere to the discipline and stand by go in the path that is most compelling in us to get us there.

Our Getting Unstuck 

We do not need a brand new year to get ourselves revved up, ready to contemplate the list of goals for what we need and what we want. The crunch comes when we think and feel and dig deep into the essence of who we are and to who we know ourselves to truly be. Go ahead and pull out the pieces of our own scheming, whatever these may be, and add them to the list.

Get ready to boot-camp ourselves into realizing goals and making it a time of completion.

  • Who will make the changes in us whatever we think are the most important at work, at home, emotionally, physically or spiritually?
  • What is it we need and what is it we want that will bring us to a place to take better care of ourselves?
  • Why do we avoid that dreaded state of non-functioning and delay the leap to make changes without or with help?
  • When do we know it is time to get started on the almighty task list of wants and needs and succeed at attaining them?

In answer to these, we may find ourselves overcome by a whirlwind of thoughts that bring us to a full stop and get nothing done. The scenario replays itself over and over in our head and we anoint ourselves number one procrastinator and stay stuck there.

How to be Captain of Our Soul?

These things we are trying to get done or balance out, whatever we define them to be, are they calling out from under the despair of procrastination or from a depression creating a behavior to prevent us from achieving our aim?

Dr. Timothy A. Pyschyl explains the relation of Depression and Procrastination in his article of the same, that these are two common problems or experiences that people share – depression and procrastination — and that they are related. And, he teaches us that procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which “needs” to be accomplished. We get into this mode of procrastination because we prefer to be doing the more pleasing things in place of ones that are not so pleasing or are easier to tackle.

It is vital to ask ourselves what is in the way of meeting our needs and our wants and how come we are not the captain of our soul, the captain of steering our own life map?

Our human vessel is sensitive during times of e.g. loss of a parent or a child, being fired or laid off from a job, uncommunicative relationships or physical illness. The body and mind shuts us down and emotional exhaustion tears away at the tendons; exercise or practice of some sort to get to the bull’s eye of the matter of identifying these needs and wants becomes just another four letter word in our minds.

Psychologists report procrastination and depression are related. And, if we are poised for awareness of these, then we can apply managing tools so that we can feel better. At the same time, we can zero-in and identify what are the priorities, the goals we want and need to set for ourselves, and steer toward it all within our choosing based on our values that matter to us the most.

Taking action to steer our life in the way we want it to go is to know what it is we need or want simple as that. True, maybe we already know like Mandela knew or Wallenda knows (true captains of their souls). Maybe we need or want specific things we haven’t yet been able to navigate onto the right course to bring to us what exactly we need or want right here, right now.

For us to make it a time of completion, i.e. a time of letting go of procrastination, talking to a doctor and getting assessed for depression is a magnanimous move forward to where we need to start off for a restored life map.

Taking a Life Steering Action

Find a quiet place to sit or take a a meditative walk to think about what are the things in life that are a want or a need and matter the most?

Write a list down of the multitude things that need to get done or want to get done – just write it down and hold yourself back for shoving this task aside.

Answer below truthfully:

  • What is I WANT now? – to have a desire to have or do (something); wish for.”I want an apple” synonyms: desire, wish for, hope for, aspire to, fancy, care for, like. Explore the  WHAT? HOW? WHY? WHO?
  • What is it I NEED now?  to require (something) because it is essential or very important. “I need help now” synonyms: require, be in need of, have need of, want; WHAT? Start off by working off Deviations: regroup/ replenish/restore and look at real issues that have made you deviate from getting things done or simply procrastinating and feeling less than.
  • What are my Life Steering ACTION Goals? – To get us to identify what we need and what we want within the realm of our Life Steering Action Goals we may check our life skills and how comfortable we are with our emotional; physical; spiritual, financial, relationships and work life. We prioritize the identified wants and needs in these areas and place them in the order of our choosing to gather them into our life – we may ask if we are effectively balancing these life skills.
  • HOW? – Change Environment/perspective – e.g. Change Beliefs – better nutrition, more exercise, develop meditative/spiritual Practice, play and have more fun.
  • WHY? Embrace/expand Strengths – e.g. Lesson learned and opportunities or any violation to your values that may have been experienced.
  • WHO? Partnerships/collaborate – e.g. do I need further tools, more training/education, need to go for a routine check up or ask a family member, or friend for a shoulder to lean on? Are you a lone wolf?

Captain of My Soul WorksheetA Life Steering Act Worksheet – Download this Worksheet for easy use for a quick and easy getting started tool. This will help set you off to a start or continuum in defining needs and wants.

Many services are available for people to work on setting life goals and support for overcoming the debilitating affects of depression.

Everyone is different! We are our own captain steering our own life-ship.

Life coaching is available to give supportive listening — without attempts to repair but help resolve some strong feelings that may arise in the writing of our list. A life coach offers strategies to help map out a life plan and work together on creating a renewed method of managing life skills.  Other helping professionals are available e.g.: social worker, psychologist or psychotherapists.  Talk to a family doctor to work through if any concerns about mental well being. Giving up is never an option and seeking self-love and understanding; find support to uplift and build a life map which declares “…I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

~ All rights reserved ~

Break free from emotional blockages standing in the way of your potential. Catherine DeAngelis’ Out of Pocket Emotions’ 5-way tool is customized to fit your needs and guide you
to meet goals head-on.

Belonging – The Search for Acceptance

by Catherine DeAngelis

“My vision is that belonging should be at the heart of a fundamental discovery: that we all belong to a common humanity, the human race. We may be rooted in a specific family and culture but we come to this earth to open up to others, to serve them and receive the gifts they bring to us, as well as to all of humanity.”     Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, p. 36.


Jean Vanier
has been acclaimed as a “Canadian who inspires the world”(Maclean’s Magazine) and a “nation builder” (The Globe and Mail), he is the founder of the international movement of L’Arche communities, where people who have developmental disabilities and the friends who assist them create homes and share life together.

There are over 100 L’Arche residential communities in 38 countries on five continents. L’Arche International confirmed in a report summary Jean Vanier, who died in 2019 at the age of 90, had “manipulative” relations with at least six women between 1970 and 1995, relating he had used his power over them to take advantage of them through different kinds of sexual behaviours. (See Article The Canadian Press 02/22/20).

L’Arche United States also conducted an internal investigation and their report revealed similar findings to that of L’Arche International. L’Arche USA encourages anyone who has experienced or witnessed abusive behavior of any kind within L’Arche to report their concern.” (Article by Michael J. O’Loughlin 02/22/20 – American Jesuit Review)

Good, Bad or Saint

The news reaches  spiritual communities with much disappointment and sadness. Jean Vanier once a Winner of the 2015 Templeton Prize and nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work at L’Arche as founder. (Read: “How can I reconcile the good and evil of Jean Vanier? by Colleen Dulle, American Jesuit Review)

Need To Learn…

The bishop of Bristol,  Vivienne Faull, appointed by Her Majesty the Queen, is the 57th Bishop of Bristol. She said she looks forward to leading a church that shows the love of Christ to everyone, whoever they are. The Bishop tweeted in reply to the news of Jean Vanier:

“Thinking of those who had the courage to disclose, all those who have been part of the L’Arche community and all those who have been betrayed. But we need to learn what it is that produces and protects such abusers within the Christian church.”  (Bishop of Bristol)

June 2019: L’Arche International commissioned an external organization to conduct a thorough and independent inquiry in order to better understand its history, refine its work to prevent abuse and to improve its policies and procedures.


The 2015 Templeton Prize was awarded to Jean Vanier and cited for “his innovative discovery of the central role of vulnerable people in the creation of a more just, inclusive and humane society. The Templeton Prize, which has previously been awarded to Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and others, is one of the most prestigious honors in the world, and is valued at close to 1.7 million USD.”

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.

**The 2015 Templeton Prize Laureate, Jean Vanier, speaks on the Big Question: “What does it mean to be fully human?”

Jean Vanier is a Canadian humanitarian, spiritual leader, and internationally esteemed pioneer in the field of care for people with intellectual disabilities. Born in 1928, he joined the Royal Navy at age 13 and left it at 21 to begin a spiritual quest and to study for his PhD. Appalled by conditions of institutions where people with intellectual disabilities lived, in 1964 he welcomed two men to share a home with him. Thus began what has become the worldwide movement of L’Arche. In 1971, he co-founded Faith and Light, an international support network for families.

**The Inspiration and Story of L’Arche

(At the time of filming, Love and Belonging, the reporting on people with disabilities used a common, but now an outdated word “Handicap.” A Way with Words and Images (pdf download) is a reminder to be respectful of terms when writing and speaking about people with disabilities or about issues that affect their lives). We need to be factual, objective and inclusive.


Jean Vanier took as his inspiration the biblical passage from the Beatitudes that declares that the poor are “blessed.”

L’Arche believes that every person is blessed with important gifts to offer to others and that we are called to create a society in which each one’s gifts can be given and recognized. L’Arche communities reflect the cultural and religious makeup of the locales where they were founded. Thus, while in France L’Arche drew largely from a Roman Catholic population, Canadian community have welcomed people of various Christian denominations and also sometimes people of Jewish, Muslim or other faiths as well as people with no faith affiliation.

More important than the need to be loved
is the need to belong.~


“Learn more about the L’Arche Foundation and its continued efforts to improve the lives of those with disabilities by visiting the
Love and Belonging website.

 A Way with Words and Images – Suggestions for the portrayal of people with disabilities includes a Download the PDF version (1.81 MB) of this content.

Article updated 02/23/20

~All Rights Reserved~

Naturally, There I Go Rising…

 

By Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson
(April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)
American poet, Memoirist, and Civil Rights Activist.
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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
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“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it,
change your attitude.”
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“There is no greater agony than bearing an
untold story inside you.”
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Still I Rise
Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

 

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.

Today, Rise Up with Love!

Cerebral Palsy and Emotional Health

 

by Alex Diaz-Granados
Chief Editor
cerebralpalsyguidance.com

 

What is Cerebral Palsy (CP)?

Cerebral Palsy is one of the most common disabilities of childhood, but it is also without a cure and persists into adulthood. Caused by brain damage at a very early age, cerebral palsy affects muscles, movement, coordination, and posture. It can also cause a number of complications, from hearing loss to intellectual disabilities. A child with cerebral palsy is also at risk for emotional and behavioral challenges.

Emotional Challenges and Their Causes

Researchers have found that children living with cerebral palsy are more likely to struggle with emotional and behavioral challenges than their peers. This may be explained as a direct result of the brain damage that caused the child to have cerebral palsy, but there may also be other factors at play. For instance, a child with cerebral palsy often looks and moves different from his peers. This can lead to poor self-esteem and low self-confidence, but also inappropriate behavioral responses due to frustration and embarrassment.

Children with cerebral palsy are also likely to feel more isolated and tend not to be included by their peers. They are also at a greater risk for being bullied, which can take a hugely negative toll on emotional health, even triggering depression or anxiety disorders. Finally, parents of these children are likely to experience more stress and parental stress correlates with emotional problems in their children.

Coping with Emotional Difficulties

Cerebral Palsy is a condition that cannot be cured. There are many treatments and interventions, though, that can help and make a real difference in children’s lives. For some of these children, there may be something physical that underlies behavioral or emotional outbursts. Pain, for instance, is common with cerebral palsy, but it can be managed or treated with medications, surgery, physical therapy, and other strategies.

Children living with cerebral palsy and struggling emotionally can also benefit from treatments that directly address those issues. Behavioral therapy, social therapy, recreational and play therapy, and even psychotherapy with older children, can all help a child learn to manage, cope with, and change negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

Also crucial in helping children cope with the difficult emotions of living with cerebral palsy is the strong support of parents and other people close to them. When parents model and teach good emotional health strategies, such as talking about feelings, expressing emotions in healthy ways, and socializing appropriately, their children will be more likely to learn and develop those skills too.

Cerebral palsy is a disability that a child has to live with for the rest of his or her life. Childhood is the perfect time to learn how to cope with the emotional challenges that come with living with this disorder. And when a child does learn those healthy coping strategies, parents can ensure that their child will grow up to be a healthy and happy adult.

Alex Diaz-Granados is the chief editor for the blog at cerebralpalsyguidance.com. His life with cerebral palsy began in early March of 1963, born eight weeks before his due date. As a result, he suffered irreversible damage to the motor control center of his brain and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy some months later. Despite this, he has overcome many physical and emotional obstacles and is now a freelance writer for Examiner.com.

He is also the author of Save Me the Aisle Seat:The Good, the Bad and the Really Bad Movies: Selected Reviews by an Online Film Reviewer, as well as the co-writer of an unproduced screenplay with actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. He represents the cerebralpalsyguidance.com website because he believes in their mission of providing quality cerebral palsy information and assistance to families in need. For more information on vital guidance and assistant to parents of a child with Cerebral Palsy — Visit this link.

~ All rights reserved ~

Hallelujah a Rejoicing…

 

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“Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen –
Meanings and Thoughts” by Amos

 

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Amos is a self-proclaimed ‘cohenphile,’ touched by Canadian songwriter, Leonard Cohen’s philosophy, music and character. Amos is a blogger at Itsallaboutall.com who has contributed an illuminating perspective into the depth of song and emotions attached to Cohen’s “Hallelujah;” a contemporary song given birth in the 80s and covered by some of the most honorary vocalists of our time. A song possibly as epic as the chorus Handel’s Hallelujah.

 

Have you ever tried to understand what is the meaning of this tremendous song –
Hallelujah“? Is it a love song? Is it a spiritual-religious song? Is Leonard Cohen trying to tell us there’s no hope for love? Or maybe there’s something else that Cohen aims to in his lyrics?Let’s go on and  try to figure out some of these questions…

Read more:
“Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen – Meanings and Thoughts”
by Amos
http://itsallaboutall.com/leonard-cohen/hallelujah-meaning/

 

 

2lotusinhand

all rights reserved with copyright permission by Amos

R.I.P. Leonard Cohen

Suzanne
Leonard Cohen

Shame, Shame…

Catherine DeAngelis “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before – more sorry, more aware of my own … Continue reading

Improving Emotional Health

Strategies and Tips for Good Mental Health

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jeanne Segal Ph.D.
Last updated: May 2016 (Reprinted with permission)

Improving Emotional Health

People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their emotions and their behavior. They are able to handle life’s challenges, build strong relationships, and recover from setbacks. But just as it requires effort to build or maintain physical health, so it is with mental and emotional health. Improving your emotional health can be a rewarding experience, benefiting all aspects of your life, including boosting your mood, building resilience, and adding to your overall enjoyment of life.

What is mental health or emotional health?

Mental or emotional health refers to your overall psychological well-being. It includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.

Good mental health isn’t just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental and emotional health refers to the presence of positive characteristics. Similarly, not feeling bad is not the same as feeling good. While some people may not have negative feelings, they still need to do things that make them feel positive in order to achieve mental and emotional health.

People who are mentally and emotionally healthy have:

  • A sense of contentment
  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships
  • The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change
  • A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem
  • These positive characteristics of mental and emotional health allow you to participate in life to the fullest extent possible through productive, meaningful activities and strong relationships. These positive characteristics also help you cope when faced with life’s challenges and stresses.

The role of resilience in mental and emotional health

Being emotionally and mentally healthy doesn’t mean never going through bad times or experiencing emotional problems. We all go through disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress.

The difference is that people with good emotional health have an ability to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience. People who are emotionally and mentally healthy have the tools for coping with difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook. They remain focused, flexible, and creative in bad times as well as good. One of the key factors in resilience is the ability to balance stress and your emotions.

The capacity to recognize your emotions and express them appropriately helps you avoid getting stuck in depression, anxiety, or other negative mood states. Another key factor is having a strong support network. Having trusted people you can turn to for encouragement and support will boost your resilience in tough times.

Physical health is connected to mental and emotional health

Taking care of your body is a powerful first step towards mental and emotional health. The mind and the body are linked. When you improve your physical health, you’ll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well-being. For example, exercise not only strengthens our heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that energize us and lift our mood.

The activities you engage in, and the daily choices you make, affect the way you feel physically and emotionally.

Ladies working out

  • Get enough rest. To have good mental and emotional health, it’s important to take care of your body. That includes getting enough sleep. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep each night in order to function optimally.
  • Learn about good nutrition and practice it. The subject of nutrition is complicated and not always easy to put into practice. But the more you learn about what you eat and how it affects your energy and mood, the better you can feel.
  • Exercise to relieve stress and lift your mood. Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity to your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going on a short walk. To get the most mental health benefits, aim for 30 minutes or more of exercise per day.
  • Get a dose of sunlight every day. Sunlight lifts your mood, so try to get at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun per day. This can be done while exercising, gardening, or socializing.
  • Limit alcohol and avoid cigarettes and other drugs. These are stimulants that may unnaturally make you feel good in the short term, but have long-term negative consequences for mood and emotional health.

Improve mental and emotional health by taking care of yourself

In order to maintain and strengthen your mental and emotional health, it’s important to pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Don’t let stress and negative emotions build up. Try to maintain a balance between your daily responsibilities and the things you enjoy. If you take care of yourself, you’ll be better prepared to deal with challenges if, and when, they arise.

Taking care of yourself includes pursuing activities that naturally release endorphins and contribute to feeling good. In addition to physical exercise, endorphins are also naturally released when we:

  • Do things that positively impact others. Being useful to others and being valued for what you do can help build self-esteem.
  • Practice self-discipline. Self-control naturally leads to a sense of hopefulness and can help you overcome despair, helplessness, and other negative thoughts.
  • Learn or discover new things. Think of it as “intellectual candy.” Try taking an adult education class, join a book club, visit a museum, learn a new language, or simply travel somewhere new.
  • Enjoy the beauty of nature or art. Studies show that simply walking through a garden can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. The same goes for strolling through a park or an art gallery, hiking, admiring architecture, or sitting on a beach.
  • Manage your stress levels. Stress takes a heavy toll on mental and emotional health, so it’s important to keep it under control. While not all stressors can be avoided, stress management strategies can help you bring things back into balance.
  • Limit unhealthy mental habits like worrying. Try to avoid becoming absorbed by repetitive mental habits—negative thoughts about yourself and the world that suck up time, drain your energy, and trigger feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression.

More tips and strategies for taking care of yourself:

  • Appeal to your senses. Stay calm and energized by appealing to the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Listen to music that lifts your mood, place flowers where you will see and smell them, massage your hands and feet, or sip a warm drink.
  • Engage in meaningful, creative work. Do things that challenge your creativity and make you feel productive, whether or not you get paid for it—things like gardening, drawing, writing, playing an instrument, or building something in your workshop.
  • Get a pet. Yes, pets are a responsibility, but caring for one makes you feel needed and loved. There is no love quite as unconditional as the love a pet can give. Animals can also get you out of the house for exercise and expose you to new people and places.
  • Make leisure time a priority. Do things for no other reason than that it feels good to do them. Go to a funny movie, take a walk on the beach, listen to music, read a good book, or talk to a friend. Doing things just because they are fun is no indulgence. Play is an emotional and mental health necessity.
  • Make time for contemplation and appreciation. Think about the things you’re grateful for.Mediate, pray, enjoy the sunset, or simply take a moment to pay attention to what is good, positive, and beautiful as you go about your day.

Everyone is different; not all things will be equally beneficial to all people. Some people feel better relaxing and slowing down while others need more activity and more excitement or stimulation to feel better. The important thing is to find activities that you enjoy and that give you a boost.

Supportive relationships: The foundation of emotional health

No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and emotional health, you will still need the company of others to feel and be your best. Humans are social creatures with an emotional need for relationships and positive connections to others. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Our social brains crave companionship—even when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others.

Social interaction—specifically talking to someone else about your problems—can also help to reduce stress. The key is to find a supportive relationship with someone who is a “good listener”—someone you can talk to regularly, preferably face-to-face, who will listen to you without a pre-existing agenda for how you should think or feel. A good listener will listen to the feelings behind your words, and won’t interrupt or judge or criticize you. The best way to find a good listener? Be a good listener yourself. Develop a friendship with someone you can talk to regularly, and then listen and support each other.

Tips and strategies for connecting to others:

  • Get out from behind your TV or computer screen. Screens have their place but they will never have the same effect as an expression of interest or a reassuring touch. Communication is a largely nonverbal experience that requires you to be in direct contact with other people, so don’t neglect your real-world relationships in favor of virtual interaction.
  • Spend time daily, face-to-face, with people you like. Make spending time with people you enjoy a priority. Choose friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members who are upbeat, positive, and interested in you. Take time to inquire about people you meet during the day that you like.
  • Volunteer. Doing something that helps others has a beneficial effect on how you feel about yourself. The meaning and purpose you find in helping others will enrich and expand your life. There is no limit to the individual and group volunteer opportunities you can explore. Schools, churches, nonprofits, and charitable organization of all sorts depend on volunteers for their survival.
  • Be a joiner. Join networking, social action, conservation, and special interest groups that meet on a regular basis. These groups offer wonderful opportunities for finding people with common interests—people you like being with who are potential friends.

Risk factors for mental and emotional problems

Your mental and emotional health has been and will continue to be shaped by your experiences. Early childhood experiences are especially significant. Genetic and biological factors can also play a role, but these too can be changed by experience.

Risk factors that can compromise mental and emotional health:

  • Poor connection or attachment to your primary caretaker early in life. Feeling lonely, isolated, unsafe, confused, or abused as an infant or young child.
  • Traumas or serious losses, especially early in life. Death of a parent or other traumatic experiences such as war or hospitalization.
  • Learned helplessness. Negative experiences that lead to a belief that you’re helpless and that you have little control over the situations in your life.
  • Illness, especially when it’s chronic, disabling, or isolates you from others.
  • Side effects of medications, especially in older people who may be taking a variety of medications.
  • Substance abuse. Alcohol and drug abuse can both cause mental health problems and make preexisting mental or emotional problems worse.

Whatever internal or external factors have shaped your mental and emotional health, it’s never too late to make changes that will improve your psychological well-being. Risk factors can be counteracted with protective factors, like strong relationships, a healthy lifestyle, and coping strategies for managing stress and negative emotions.

When to seek professional help for emotional problems

If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and you still don’t feel good—then it’s time to seek professional help. Because we are so socially attuned, input from a knowledgeable, caring professional can motivate us to do things for ourselves that we were not able to do on our own.


Red flag feelings and behaviors that may require immediate attention

  • Inability to sleep
  • Feeling down, hopeless, or helpless most of the time
  • Concentration problems that are interfering with your work or home life
  • Using nicotine, food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions
  • Negative or self-destructive thoughts or fears that you can’t control
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you identify with any of these red flag symptoms, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional.

If you want your relationships to be more satisfying, fulfilling, and supportive, FEELING LOVED can help. Read: Feeling Loved: The Science of Nurturing Meaningful Connections and Building Lasting Happiness 2015

 

Resources and references


The Road to Resilience
– Guide to resilience, including ten ways to build your resilience, how to learn from your past, and how to stay flexible. (American Psychological Association)

Mind/Body Connection: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health – Learn how emotions affect your health and what you can do to improve your emotional health. (American Academy of Family Physicians)

Mental Health: Keeping Your Emotional Health – Defines good emotional health, describes how stress affects emotions, and offers tips for avoiding problems. (American Academy of Family Physicians)

Making and Keeping Friends: A Self-Help Guide – Offers practical advice and tips on developing supportive friendships. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health – Parenting advice on how to provide the love, security, and boundaries every child needs for mental and emotional health. (Mental Health America)

Download Meditations – Download or stream a dozen free meditation recordings to help you cope with life’s inevitable hurdles. Comes with handouts. (Sitting Together)

Emotional Health – Written for college students, with special sections on adjusting to college life, how relationships factor in, and why it’s important to reduce stress. (Princeton University)

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Robert Segal, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: May 2016.

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On Being Stuck!

by Catherine DeAngelis

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When you are thinking to yourself you are falling into an emotional abyss and you just don’t know how to stop spiraling downward! Is it that tyrant inside your head controlling your thinking that you don’t know what to do forcing you into a shut-down mode and paralyzing you from living the fullness of life?

Being stuck sucks because it is that silent oppressor that can cause depression, emotional outbursts, insomnia, indecision, procrastination, and addictive behaviors such as smoking, too much sex (not enough), drugs, alcohol, food, and exercise to spending or gambling compulsively!

What is it you use as a conduit to be in control of, or in distraction from, being stuck?

When you get stuck in the negative thought streams, find out what it is you can do. Make yourself accountable. Be responsible! Blaming others for your inaction only fuels the pain and it takes you further into this ineptness and inability to move forward.

The best way to unstuck yourself is to open up to the realization that it is okay to ask for help. Watch the taboo mind-set and avoid “what, me, I don’t need any help – I can help myself!”

Is it the stuff in your head that you think should or could or is not being done to lighten the pressures of having to do everything needed to be done right now at  this moment? The repetitive negative thinking pattern only gets you into a state of nervous agitation.

Think about what is getting in the way.  Stress might just be the first thing that deters you or makes you feel like you are knee-deep in mud. Think about your own stress level, your own health, and help yourself. Think about what are the stressors in your life. If you don’t spend time thinking about how to relieve that kind of stress, you will be stuck and those around you may have no idea what is wrong and then who will give you the love and care that you need?

Many think finding help is a sign of weakness or defeat!  Stay away from the shame or embarrassment. To admit that you are experiencing impact to your emotional and mental well-being is crucial. Seeking guidance and support meets your courage head on and makes self-awareness a start to pulling yourself out the kind of “mental sludge” that’s got you going like Whirling Dervishes!

Do what you can to make sure you are eating well, keeping physically active, and managing your stress ensures your brain will be healthy.  Check out this source if you don’t know where to start eatrightontario.ca.

Getting stuck in negative thought patterns can hinder you in your life in many aspects – don’t go it alone — ask for help. There are all kinds of talk therapies and support services available to explore solutions – if you don’t know where to start read about the resources available to you to get you on track and living life you are responsible for and deserve!

Get out of your way and make YOU matter! Affirm the positives, find ways to reverse the self-deprecation. Tools are available that work to halt the ongoing belittling or undervaluing of yourself.

Resources to Keep You On Track…

There are many sources available, able to give you answers and found within your community from life coach, psychologist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist to group supports, family practitioners or community services in your neighbourhood.

Overall most of us look to trusted family members and close friends or spiritual members of the community to give us the love, support and understanding we need. Take the path of support and lead yourself into being uplifted and out of the state of “going nowhere fast.”

Many communities have information centres that produce lists of available services which you can view at social service agencies or public libraries. Other sources of information include books about specific problems, also available at your public library or local bookstore and films, videos and audio tapes, courses and workshops offered through community centres, secondary schools, colleges and universities..

More Information: Canadian Mental Health AssociationMental Health America or Global Mental Health.

Contact Catherine DeAngelis certified master coach practitioner and founder of Out of Pocket Emotions  to ask about a complimentary offer for individual life coaching session – we promise to answer any specific questions you might have – please write info@catherinedeangelis.com  or call 416 246 0025.

 

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