Friday, June 23, 2017

Taking Proactive Steps to Reduce Stress

I've no doubt mentioned before that I don't like to drive.  Well, I had a doctor's appointment today with a doctor I only see once a year, so I always have to refamiliarize myself with the route to his office.  His office is located at a very busy intersection, and I'm always nervous that I'll get into a fender bender on the way there.  But I was tired of being afraid.  Tired of worrying.  So, I decided to scope out other routes to his office.  It occurred to me that it was a particularly difficult left-hand turn followed by the need for an immediate lane change in order to turn right into the office parking lot in time, that always gave me fits.  

I remember talking with my sister-in-law about driving years ago, and she said that it doesn't matter how you get there, as long as you arrive safely.  So, I started thinking of creatives ways to get to the office without making those tricky maneuvers.  And, it came to me that I have no problem driving to another doctor's office located a mile or so down the same street from the office I was headed to today.  So, instead of making that pesky left-hand turn, I drove straight through the intersection down to the left-hand turn I felt comfortable with, made the right turn into the other doctor's office parking lot, meandered around the lot to the exit, drove to the pesky intersection, hitting it from the other direction, took a right and another right into the parking lot, and, viola, I made it without incident.  

Now that I've discovered a more stress-free way to get to the doctor's office, I won't feel so crazed the next time.

What activity stresses you out every time you have to do it?  Do you get overly nervous before a doctor's appointment?  Do you freak out when confronted with anything unfamiliar?  If so, take a step back, relax, and brainstorm ways you can tackle the problem and make the situation much less stressful.  What bothers you most?  What adjustments could you make that would ease the stress?  Who could you ask for help?  Good luck!

I would love to hear how you help avoid, or at least diffuse, stressful situations.  Email me at amy@acnlifecoach.com or post a comment below.  Thanks!  Have a great weekend.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chronic Illness and Feeling Low

Hello, everyone!  I hope you're having a great day.  Here's today's vlog post on chronic illness and feeling low.  Have your life plans been hampered by health issues?  It's frustrating, I know, but remember to put your health first.  Do what you need to do to get passed those stumbling blocks, then concentrate on work, school, that new job, that new activity you'd like to try.  Nothing is as important as your health.  

If you have a specific topic you'd like me to cover in a blog post, let me know.  Anything on special needs/abilities, health issues, or friendship.  Either post it in the comments below or shoot me an email (amy@acnlifecoach.com).  Thanks.  Take care.


Monday, June 19, 2017

What to Do When You Just Aren't Interested in Continuing a Friendship Anymore

Do you hear from old friends out of the blue periodically with long stretches of time in between?  Does it surprise you that they keep contacting you?  Do you find yourself rolling your eyes and wondering when they will give it up?  Do you "forget" to return their calls?  Are you just not interested in continuing the "friendship?"  Do you feel guilty about any of these feelings or reactions?

I've had similar friendships.  The person acts as if the two of you have been in constant touch for a lifetime and that it's perfectly normal to pick up the phone or send an email without any explanation or introduction of any kind as to why they have been basically ignoring you for the last six months or, oh maybe, 10 years.  They commence dumping all their news, woes, tragedies, celebrations, and accomplishments on you without one word of inquiry about what's been going on in your own life, and then they're gone again.  For another six months to 10 years.

Maybe they needed to vent.  Okay, fine.  There are many different types of friends, and, as long as they are nurturing and positive, there's room for them all:  the talker, the listener, the comedian, the thinker, the mentor, the volunteer buddy, the exercise buddy, the work buddy, the best friend, the casual acquaintance.  I have no problem with that.  What I have a problem with is a lack of consistency and give and take. Don't just drop back into my life when it suits you if you aren't planning on committing to a full-on friendship.

Friendship is a commitment, whether that friend is across the hall or across the world.  It means you commit to meeting three times a week to work out together; visiting regularly in person, on the phone, or via messaging; or inviting each other to events periodically. Commitment.  It's not a one-sided, drop in-drop out relationship.  

So, what should you do if you are faced with this situation?  Well, if you still like the person and remember their friendship fondly, you could just deal with it.  Call, chat a bit, and then let it go until the next time they pop back into your life.  But if you have outgrown this particular person or they annoy you and you're just not interested in continuing the "friendship," you need to be honest.  Let the person know how you feel about these surprise calls and one-sided conversations.  Maybe they don't realize there's anything wrong with what they're doing.  Or maybe they will fly off the handle about it, thinking you are an ungrateful jerk.  Either way, you'll have cleared the air and will know where each other stands.  

Do you have a friend who drops in out of the blue periodically?  How do you handle it?  Are you comfortable with it or is it a friendship that's been limping along for years that you would like to end?  Think about what impact your actions would have on your life and that of your friend.



Friday, June 16, 2017

"Me Before You:" My Take on It

"Me Before You," by Jojo Moyes, has gotten a lot of attention.  As soon as I read the blurb about it on the back cover, I grabbed it.  I tend to favor books exploring male-female friendship, so that was the first thing that jumped out at me about this book.  Then, the fact that one of the characters used a wheelchair captured my interest.  I haven't seen many books like that.  

Louisa is hired to help take care of Will, who is a quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair.  Another reason she's hired by his parents, unbeknownst to her at first, is to help Will find joy in life again in an attempt to prevent him from going through with plans for assisted suicide in 6 month's time.

The Controversy

The book has sparked somewhat of a controversy: there is no point in living if you have a disability.  This because no matter what Louisa does to try to perk him up and otherwise help him, he doesn't back down from his original intention: to end his life.  He's got parents who love him, a woman who loves him, friends who love him, but it's not enough.  He still faces years in the "prision" of his wheelchair, only able to move his fingers a bit, with the promise of deteriorating health, and total dependence on others.   

My Take on It

Assisted suicide is a very personal issue, and it is difficult to know how a person would react if he were in the situation for real of being paralyzed with the strong possibility of losing more ability and function as times went on.  It was up to Will to decide.  It was his life.  No one could step into his shoes and realize how he felt, or suddenly flip a switch that made all the problems go away.  He needed to do what he felt was right for himself.  The same is true for someone who is adamantly opposed to assisted suicide.  The decision is, ultimately, his.

I thought it was a fabulous book.  It felt authentic.  Since I spent a large chunk of my life in a wheelchair due to the effects of spina bifida, I could relate to Will's character so much.  Moyes either is a very talented writer with excellent research skills, or she has experience with being in a wheelchair or has someone in her life who uses one because she was spot on with the feelings, frustrations, stares, difficulty getting around barriers, and so on.  Her characters had conversations nearly word-for-word from those I've had in my own life. I hated every minute I spent in that chair.  Rather than treat it as a means of independence and freedom, I loathed it as something that made me stick out and look different in a sea of "normal" kids.  I wasn't paralyzed like Will, but numerous foot surgeries and issues kept me in the wheelchair for extended periods of time.  It caused countless headaches trying to get from one place to another. It was just a nuisance in my eyes.  

By the time I hit high school, I had had enough.  I was angry, depressed and concerning my parents with talks of wanting to die.  I hadn't come up with a way to do it yet, but I was very close.  My mom took me to a psychiatric nurse who was experienced in counseling teens.  The nurse helped some.  But, as nice as she was, I found myself play-acting with her; telling her what she wanted to hear.

The real breakthrough came when I met a fellow classmate at school.  He was in my freshman history class.  I never usually looked around the classroom, just at my lap, my books, or the teacher, but that day, I looked to my right and we both did a double take.  I clicked with him immediately.  He was interested in medical stuff, we were both outsiders at the time ( he was new to the school while I wasn't, but I didn't feel like I fit in), he stuck up for me, and he boosted my confidence.  

Will and Louisa's relationship reminded me somewhat of ours in reverse, but his friendship helped me decide to live, not die.  I'm thankful for that.  Thoughts of death were replaced with a determination to ditch my wheelchair.  I fought to walk and I finally won at age 16.  

I didn't read the book thinking that it sent a negative message to people with disabilities.  I thought of it as a story of two people coming together to help each other live the best lives possible.  Sometimes endings just don't turn out the way we want them to, but that is what made the book so authentic to me.  It wasn't a storybook ending.  It was about real life issues and the tough decisions we have to make in the face of adversity.  He made his choice.  She was devastated but supportive in the end, and that's what real friendship is.  That's what it means to love and respect another person.

I only had a couple of gripes with the book:  1.  Will and his family just had to be loaded.  I suppose to finance all the joyful experiences someone would have to be rich, but I really wish more books were written with the message that you don't have to have piles of money to be happy or for your dreams to come true.  2.  Will died.  I was hoping he'd change his mind at the last minute, but no.  

If you are feeling down about your health issues, surround yourself with positive, caring people--friends, health care professionals, family, clergy, colleagues, and the like..  Or you may only need that one friend who sticks his neck out to make you feel whole, capable, happy, and ready to take on the world--or at least your little corner of it.  If you feel depressed, please seek help from a qualified mental health professional.  Whatever works, go for it--for life.

So, have you read the book?  If so, what did you think of it?  And, if not, I'm sorry for the spoilers.

-----
Note:  I just happened to write about this book because, like the graphic above says, it spoke to me.  It was about friendship and health issues and I loved it.  I am not writing this as a review for an affiliate.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Importance of Having Different Types of Friends

I've talked about the benefits of friendship before, including stress relief, reduced sense of loneliness, and overall feeling of well-being, as well as how to find new friends.  But today I'd like to talk about the importance of having a variety of different types of friends.

Three Friendship Models

In a study on the effects of social connections on academic performance published in the October 2016 issue of the journal Contexts, three friendship models were identified:

  • Tight-knitters:  You tend to hang out with one big group of friends who basically all know and offer significant support to each other.
  • Compartmentalizers:  You have different smaller groups of friends who are unrelated and don't intermingle.  For example, work friends, church friends, book club friends, sports/fitness friends, and school friends.
  • Samplers:  You like one-on-one friendships.  
I have been a part of all three types of friendships over the years.  My favorite type of the three is one-on-one.  I like to form deep friendships which is difficult in a group setting where I tend to clam up and get drowned out. If I had to choose a second favorite, it would be compartmentalizing.  I like having all sorts of friends with different interests and personalities, so the smaller groups of this friendship model suit me.  At one time Jim and/or I had these friendship groups: football, church, school, volunteer, work, workout.  We've had friends of different ethnic groups, ages, socioeconomic status, lifestyles, interests, faiths, and political views. The most important thing is to have quality friendships, no matter the number.  

Types of Friends

There are many categories of friends who can have a positive impact on your life.  Here are some examples:
  • Cheerleader:  This person is always in your corner supporting your new project at work, relationship, or fitness program.
  • Good-Time Charlie:  You are guaranteed to relieve stress with this friend.  This is the friend you go out dancing, play games, and go on road trips with.
  • Kindred Spirit:  This friend just "gets" you completely.  You can be totally open and honest with each other without fear of feeling stupid or being betrayed.  
  • Polar Opposite:  Opposites attract, right?  This friend helps keep you balanced, and you do the same in return.  
  • The Neighbor:  Neighborliness still exists,  Scope out your area for friendly neighbors.  You may just talk over the fence once in awhile, but it's important to make that connection. Getting to know your neighbors not only may spark a friendship, but it gives you a sense of security as well.
  • The Mentor:  This friend guides and challenges you to do your best whether professionally, spiritually, or in other facets of your life.  
  • The Guardian Angel:  This friend comes into your life when you need him the most. This person provides support that no one else can give you at that specific time in your life.  The friendship may last a few days, a couple years, or a lifetime. 
  • True Friend:  This friend doesn't fit into any specific category.  She is there to provide emotional support without fail, during your high and low points; through the good, the bad, and the ugly.  
Again, I have or have had many of these types of friends and they have each taught me important lessons about trust, loyalty, honesty, self-confidence, and tolerance.  It takes me awhile to establish a friendship, but that's pretty normal.  It takes time to build trust and feel comfortable exposing vulnerability that fosters close friendships.

What type of friendship model do you prefer?  Do you have a variety of friends, or a few close ones?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or email me at amy@acnlifecoach.com  








Monday, June 12, 2017

Don't Be Afraid to Travel: Prepare, Relax, Have Fun, and Be Well

Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 2017
Hello!  I'm so excited to be back!  Jim and I went on an amazing vacation to Denmark to visit Naja, who we hosted when she was an exchange student during the 2015-2016 school year in Utah.  

Of course, it was incredible.  The weather was great, we saw so many beautiful sights, met some awesome people, hopped over to Sweden, where my mom's family was from, for a short visit which was a thrill, and I didn't get sick or hurt.  I repeat, I did not get sick or hurt!  I didn't even fall.  That was freakin' amazing!  It was pretty perfect.  Ah well, my knee hurt the whole time, but other than that, yeah, it was pretty perfect.

Then why did I spend the better part of the previous six months before the trip worrying about it? Ah, this is my nature.  A little gift of the genes that my dad gave me.  I have always worried about what might happen on a trip, especially one to another country.  In particular, I worry that I might get sick on the food and water.  I've gotten sick on the water in different perfectly decent countries in the past, so I was again fearful of that happening.  To try to ease my anxiety, I sent an email to Naja's mother letting her know what foods bothered my sensitive system.  And I drank bottled water throughout most of the trip.    

I think I worried just as much about having to spend so much time on health maintenance, and not being able to keep up with everyone while out and about sight-seeing.  I guess that wasn't so much a cause for worry as it was one of frustration.  These feet and short legs can only go so fast.  And, there were always medicine schedules to keep and medical mumbo jumbo to take care of, so I was off doing that instead of relaxing and visiting.  Of course, I visited, but I felt like I was pulled away from conversations too often.  

Also, I found myself managing my day in my head.  While Jim was care-free and getting deep into conversation about certain landmarks and customs, I was thinking, "I wonder if there's a bathroom around here?" or "I wonder where we will eat and will I be able to eat the food?"  or "I'm getting really low on water and I need to take my meds soon.  Must look for water."  Oh, it's annoying! 

I also spent time worrying that I would be a nuisance, having to stop for bathroom breaks maybe a bit more often than others, having to take breaks to rest my feet maybe more than others, or having to take my medication way before mealtime and, whups, I forgot. But, really, everyone was patient, kind, and understanding.  I was able to do everything I needed to do, and found everything I needed without much fuss  I went my own speed most of the time while walking around, and Jim stayed with me so I wouldn't be the only one at the back of the pack.  Ha!  Naja's mother had gotten some of the food items I needed before we even arrived, as well.  I had nothing to worry about.  

I have heard the saying that if you are nervous about doing something, it's a sign that you should do it.  That very thing you fear most could bring significant growth, boosted confidence, and feelings of accomplishment, if tackled.  

So from now on, I will face trips with this attitude and mindset:  Prepare, be confident, have fun, and be well.    

How do you handle traveling with heath issues?  Do you freak out, thinking of everything that could go wrong?  Or do you consider it an exciting opportunity and just take snags in stride as they come along?  I'd love to hear from you.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Using My Imagination to Cope

Did you ever make up an imaginary world to "live" in to help you cope with health issues or other problems as a child?

I did.  

From the time I was about nine years old, I lived in a fantasy world of my own making as much as I possibly could.  My bedroom was my sanctuary.  There, I entered a world where I was healthy, strong, popular, and happy.  In it, I was an actress, singer, writer, and artist.  I made movies, I sang on a television music program, I went on tour around the world, met celebrities. I walked with my imaginary friends throughout the family farm where I grew up, taking them on wild adventures and showing them my favorite hideouts. I took some of my fantasy world friends to school with me at times as well, and as soon as I got home, I'd scoot up to my sanctuary again until it was time to join the family for supper.  It never interfered with chores or homework.  I studied like crazy all through school.  Later, I married, had children, got divorced, remarried in my fantasy world.  Then I retired at the ripe old age of 24 when I, myself got married for real.  I still visited my fantasy world off and on for many years after "retirement," when a particularly challenging health issue came up.  But today I rarely venture there.  

I remember, several years ago, I was talking with a psychologist and the subject of my fantasy world came up.  The doctor said that I had chosen a very healthy way of dealing with the stress related to my health issues.  When I ventured into my fantasy world all those years ago, I had no idea I was actually providing myself with my own brand of therapy.  But it worked.  Along with my family, medical team, special friends, music, art, and writing, my fantasy world helped me cope through some of the most difficult times of my life.  I'm thankful that my nine-year-old mind came up with the idea and that I stuck with it for as long as I did.  

So, have you ever done anything like that?  If not, what did you do to help you cope during tough times during childhood or otherwise?  

  • --------
I will be on vacation for the next few weeks.  I promised my husband I wouldn't work during our time off.  I will see you back here the first week of June.  Be well.  Take care.