Living in Illinois is wonderful, until the snow storms and gray skies come back into our lives each winter. This year has had its ups and downs. One day it is 45 degrees, the next it is 20 degrees. It can leave you feeling bounced around and more than a little confused.
I know that for some of us a cold, snowy, and gray day can be a little harder. Everything seems a little grayer and more depressing. It can affect how we look at our day and even situation in life, leaving us feeling a little sadder than we were before. Often in this busy season where we are welcoming a new year and trying to accomplish all of our new goals, it can be hard to look outside and see the gray weather and keep that excitement and encouragement up. Some people love winter and enjoy the cool, brisk air. But for those of us who do not, we have some tips to help you brighten your days and keep that excitement in the air.
1. Do something that You Enjoy, Alone or with Your Family
Sometimes, there are days where it is just too snowy or icy to be out, so to stay warm and safe it is wise to stay in if possible. Those days can be frustrating and make you feel antsy. Make it a self-care day! Sit with a blanket on a cozy chair with some warm tea and read a book! If that doesn’t sound like an enjoyable experience, do something that is! Maybe you like to craft, then do that! Maybe you enjoy movies, then watch one! Maybe you can have a spa day or relaxing day. Choose something that makes you feel good and happy.
If you have a family, maybe the kids are bored, or you just want to take this chance to spend some time together. Have a game night! Make some snacks, put the electronics away and get out your family’s favorite games. This could be an opportunity for your family to spend some quality time together. Tell funny jokes, stories about your lives, get to know each other a little better. Take the time to connect with your kids. Make the most of the opportunity with them.
2. Keep a Positive and Grateful Attitude
It is a fact that when the sky is cloudy and the world seems gray, our minds begin to automatically focus on the things in our life that are not necessarily the way we thought that they would be. We tend to focus on the negative things in our lives. If we keep our minds on the things that are going right or the things that make us happy, our moods start to lift, and we feel like smiling. So, focus on what you are grateful for. Whatever it is think and focus on that. You can even start a gratitude journal. You could also focus on the goals that you have created for yourself and your future. When your mind goes to the negative side of things, gently bring it back to what you are grateful for and what you are focusing on at the moment. Don’t let your focus be on the things that you are unhappy about.
3. Finish Unfinished Projects in your Home
Take the time to finish those projects that you have left unfinished. Whether it is things in the house to get fixed, or a to-do list left unfinished. Whether it is cleaning out a specific room, fixing an appliance that has been broken, getting to decorating a room that has been waiting, or many other things that you could want to get done. Sometimes these lists or projects that we know we still have to complete stay in the back of our brain. If you have a day where it is too cold to go out, then use that time productively and finish those unfinished projects. As a bonus, when a project is completed, you will feel better about yourself and you will lighten the load of things that you are carrying in your mind. You may feel more confident and excited, rather than depressed or bored.
4. Take time to Meditate, Think or Pray
Take time out of your days or once a week to sit and quiet your mind. Sit and put some calming music on or even a guided meditation for 10-15 minutes. There are many apps or videos on YouTube that you can find with these guided meditations. If you like you can choose to make this time time with God and pray and talk with Him. It is important to have a short break from the busyness to be calm for a moment.
If you don’t want to meditate, that is ok too. Take the time to think about what you want for your future, short-term and/or long-term. A person cannot accomplish his/her goals if they haven’t decided what they want to have. Make some time to sit and think about what you really want your life to look like.
Those are some tips that we have for brightening a day that may otherwise be a little more depressing. We encourage you to stay encouraged and happy during this season. Spend time with those you love and make time for yourself as well. If you feel like you need help or would like to talk things through with someone, reach out and ask. If you feel you would like some therapy, then feel free to contact us here at The Carlton Center. We would love to help you.
Here’s to a happy and warm winter season for all of us!
Written by Ann Solomon, ALMFT
Happy New Year!
Many of us take this time of year to reflect upon the last twelve months. For some, this brings peace and a smile to your face. For others, this time of year brings a heaviness and a sense of hopelessness. Whichever category or wherever on the spectrum you find yourself, we hope the new year brings more opportunities for you. An opportunity to maintain the areas of life you’re enjoying or opportunities to change the areas that aren’t as life giving.
As you’re making your New Year’s resolutions and goals, remember to keep them SMART:
Specific - Be specific with your goals.
Instead of saying “I’d like to lose weight” maybe you could revise your goal to “I’d like to decrease my body fat from 26% to 19%.
If you’d like to spend more time with your family, maybe your specific goal could be to have a family game night once a month for the next year.
Measurable - How will you know you’ve reached your goal?
Instead of saying, I'd like to learn to cook more homemade meals this year, maybe you could create a goal of mastering one homemade meal each month. You’ll know when you’ve mastered the meal when your spouse says it tastes good and you no longer need to read the recipe to cook it.
Perhaps you’d like to save more money this year. One way to measure this goal is to watch your savings account. What number are you trying to reach and maintain?
Attainable - Is this goal something that you can achieve?
Can you master five different instruments in one week? Probably not. However, can you learn one new instrument in ten months? Most likely!
Are you trying to fight less with your significant other? That’s a great goal! However, if you’re trying to never fight with your spouse ever again, that might not be quite as attainable. Instead, maybe your goal could be about how you fight. You can choose to always be respectful during a disagreement. You can choose to not raise your voice or to always tackle the problem and not insult the person you’re arguing with. You can also choose to never let a fight last more than twenty four hours, etc.
Realistic - Is this goal realistic?
Training to run a marathon may be a realistic goal. However, training to run a marathon while you’re eight months pregnant may not be.
Are you trying to sleep more? Creating a goal of sleeping at least seven hours a day may be more realistic than trying to sleep eighteen hours a day.
Time bound - What’s the time frame to accomplish this goal?
Wanting to learn a new language is great, but when do you want to learn it by? Perhaps you can learn fifty new verbs in one hundred days?
Perhaps you’re trying to travel more. How many different places do you want to visit and when do you want to travel by?
I hope this acronym was helpful for you as you're creating your goals. The examples provided were to help illustrate the goals and in no way were they meant to be all encompassing.
From us at The Carlton Center, we’d like to wish you a Happy New Year!
Wishing you much love, peace, and joy in this upcoming season. As always, if you’re in need of support and would like us to walk alongside of you as you journey through a tough season, please don’t hesitate to contact us for an appointment! We would consider it an honor to walk with you.
*SMART goals was first developed by George T. Duran.
Written by Jessica Hwang, ALMFT
The loss of a loved one is a major event in anyone’s life. It is a defining moment. It is an experience that can only be fully understood by someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one. It is a day when time stands still. A time when you might question your faith, the purpose of life, and the question “Why God?” may ring constantly in your ears. “Will I ever become normal again? Will I ever find something to laugh or smile about? How can I possibly go on? I don’t want to celebrate holidays because it is just too painful.”
All these feelings and thoughts are perfectly normal and almost expected. It is important that you know that everyone grieves very differently. It is harmful to compare your grieving process or allow others to compare your grieving process to theirs or others. Grief looks very different for each person and even for each loss you experience.
As we draw closer to the holidays, you might be wondering how you are going to make it through and may even be thinking of not celebrating. Holidays can be very painful and a lonely time because you may feel like no one understands and no one even remembers.
Here are a few helpful tips to survive the holidays:
1. Do not fight the feelings of grief and the process of grieving. Prepare for an onrush of sadness, joy, guilt and longing for the presence of your loved one. You may have intense feelings or a moment of sadness. Whatever feeling you experience, don’t fight it and don’t apologize for it. Allow yourself to feel the pain; it’s a healthy part of your recovery. Give your friends and family notice that you may not feel like doing anything or you may withdraw yourself from the festivities or shed tears unexpectedly. Be honest about how you feel. Don’t feel the need to be pretend like you are not hurting.
2. Spend time with friends and family that will allow you to reminisce and share memories of your loved one.
3. Give yourself permission to begin new traditions. Sometimes it’s helpful to start new traditions and ways of celebrating the holidays. This can include a different location, change in decorations, menu, etc. Be creative and possibly include a small part that will always remind you of your loved one.
4. Do something to honor the memory of your loved one. This can include serving at a local food pantry or soup kitchen. It can even be a monetary donation to charity that was important to your loved one.
5. Do what YOU feel like doing. Don’t overschedule yourself or accept invitations out of guilt. If you feel like being alone, do it but don’t allow yourself to get into despair. Have someone you can reach out to if you have feelings of despair. If you want to spend the day in pajamas and read a book or watch movies, do it.
6. Take time to worship with others. Though you may not feel like it, going to church can help you remember where your source of strength comes from. It can be a reminder to hope in God again, to know that God will never leave you He and comforts you in times of grief. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter; we can run to Him. We can open our hearts to Him and allow Him to touch us in that area that hurts.
7. Remember the day will come to an end. Holidays are not forever. Just plan how you will survive the holidays.
Here are some scriptures that you can meditate upon in the grieving process:
Psalms 23:4 (NLT) – Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. 14 Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Jeremiah 31:13 (NKJV)
“Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, And the young men and the old, together;
For I will turn their mourning to joy, Will comfort them, And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
Psalm 34:6 (NLT)
In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.
Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
Blessed are those who mourn, For they will be comforted.
Psalm 147:3 (NKJV)
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 119:28 (NKJV)
My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.
1 Peter 4:12-14 (NKJV)
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Written by Fiona Arthurs, ALMFT & Clinical Director