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Encouraging

Patience

Patience

I have learned that it takes around 3 years for a bamboo plant to be fully established once it is planted. It will have long periods in which the plant doesn’t appear to be making any growth progress.  It is during this time that growth is occurring underground within the root system.  The roots are actively growing and pushing water up to the plant above ground.

by Gretchen Flores

Benefits of a Positive State of Mind

Benefits of a Positive State of Mind

Every single hour of every day, we have choices.  We have choices about how we view what we are experiencing.  Every choice we make is creating a habit, or a neural pathway, in our brain, that stays connected.  The more we think a certain way, it becomes easier to travel down that path, because our neural synaptic connections are created and sustained by how we think.  In other words, If we persistently think negatively, then we will have trouble seeing the positive, even if there is positive to be seen.   

by Gretchen Flores

Have you ever had the "peace that surpasses understanding?"

What is the peace that surpasses understanding?  Is it even possible to have peace when everything seems so upside down and topsy turvy?  I read a lot of mainstream news and non-mainstream news, and to be honest with you there is a great deal of suffering in the world on a daily basis.  My heart hurts to see it.  I sometimes cry when I read the stories.  I listen to the stories told in my office and know that life can be full of heart wrenching pain.  Yet, there is a promise that we can have peace within our hearts that wouldn't otherwise be attained.  

Hold onto the promise that... 

by Gretchen Flores

Discouragement

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105

Was last year tough?  Did it seem like you had more steps backward than forward?  Did you feel alone in the struggle?   

God promises to lead you down a path when you cannot see in the darkness.  If you are confused or lonely or afraid, He will lead you forward if you look to him.  I remember going to a cottage of a friend of ours that was in the deep woods.  If you came in at night you had to park your car and then walk a long narrow path through the woods.  It was so dark your eyes would not adjust to the sky so you could see where you were going.  The only thing that was visible was the next step lit by a flashlight.  After stepping over rocks, roots, and along the path, eventually we would make it to the front porch of the cottage.  This experience really helped me to understand the above verse.  Sometimes you really cannot see where God is taking you, and it seems dark as night in the woods.  Only He can guide your footsteps.  

Prayer;  Lord, help me to look to you to light my life path when I cannot see where I am going.  Help me not to get distracted by things going on around me.  Help me not to give into despair but to trust that you are taking me to a better place.  

by Gretchen Flores

Mrs. Lonely and Her Rejection Complex

Introducing Mrs. Lonely:  How her core beliefs set her up for feeling badly and how she changed it.

In my counseling work I often ask clients to fill out worksheets using Cognitive techniques.  The worksheets help clients develop greater insight.  Often, what we think about life is deeply ingrained in us from early experiences.  It is called internalization which I often describe as a process of absorbing messages that influence us throughout our lifetime.  Children especially are like sponges soaking in every word and every attitude that comes their way.  If our early experiences are mostly negative we often develop negative thinking patterns.  Breaking those patterns is part of how therapy helps us move forward.  

 

by Gretchen Flores

Announcement on My New Endeavor

Announcement on My New Endeavor

You may have noticed the face of my company has changed.  Over the years, one of the main questions I am asked is, “What do you specialize in?”  I have been blessed with a wide range of experiences in the field of counseling.  I have worked with, adults, adolescents, kids, couples, elderly, and disabled populations.   I have also worked in hospital, agency, addictions and in private practice settings taking on just about any problem that comes my way.     

I have loved the challenge of working with diversity and with a wide range of people.   It definitely keeps my work interesting.  I have often considered specializing in women’s issues, but haven’t taken the initiative, until now.  

I am thrilled to specialize in women’s issues.

by Gretchen Flores

Feeling Weak

After years of slipping into the sedentary lifestyle I decided to start running again.  I used to be an athlete able to run fast or far depending on the race.  Hurdles and the 200 yard dash were among my races, and I also ran cross country.  On the cross country team the coach would load us on a bus and drop us off miles from campus.  We had no choice but to run until we got home.  

Now, years later, I set out to run again.  At first it felt great!  I was thrilled to get my stamina back and to push the pace.  I felt the thrill of getting back in shape again, that is, until my knees seized up in pain.  Pushing the pace was not an option as I stopped on the trail and gave my legs a shake in dismay.  I had no choice but to slow my pace considerably, ice my knees and run shorter distances.  It was discouraging.  

Several weeks later my knees are starting to get stronger.  I don’t look at all like the athlete I used to be.  I kind of shuffle along monitoring my knees and giving them time to build up muscle again.  I never had knee problems before.  It used to be my shins but never my knees.  I guess after years of a sedentary job, putting off running after two kids and a busy life have caught up with me.  

I realize that this applies to many areas of life, physical, spiritual, emotional and mental.   I like to tell my clients that

by Gretchen Flores

I Resolve NOT to Resolve

To resolve or not to resolve...that is the question.   


There are a bazillion different things we all could resolve to do or not do in 2011. There is the classic resolve to lose weight and exercise more.  However, as I contemplate my potential resolutions I recognize that unfortunately, that one is always on my list anyway.  I infrequently make much of a dent in it.  I exercise in spurts and eat better in stages.  I could also resolve to be more disciplined, but that again is always something I’m more worried about then actually implementing.  It's a kind of constant struggle. 

How about resolving to get more organized?  Again, that one is a challenge that always stays on my plate.  I used to be able to multi-task like a champion weight lifter adds weights to his bar and stands victoriously while others watch in awe.  Now, I struggle to stay focused on one task at a time before I have forgotten what I set out to do, and then am off onto another random task (maybe I should review the symptoms of adult ADD because I seem to have all of them).

How about resolving to learn more, or read more, or focus on more honorable goals.  Maybe I should set out to be better at something specific.  Are you trying to be better at something?  Are you trying to be more disciplined?  Do you hope to lose those 20 pounds?  (I think I have lost the same set of pounds over and over).  

Resolve to do less:

Here's the twist.  Having been an over achiever before...and, as a result, I desire to resolve to do less.  To be less productive in some areas so I can be more focused on others.  I assume you too work hard and you feel pretty overwhelmed with life much of the time.  I assume that means that adding a lot of 

by Gretchen Flores

Combating the Three F's of Holiday Stress

Holiday Anxiety;  How not to let the Holidays stress you out.

Holidays can be an anxious time.  For many it is a time filled with pressure to make it perfect and for others sad reminder of what is missing from your life.  Some will dread the holidays, others will use it as an escape.  Many of us love the holidays and want them to be ideal and we want to treasure the Joys of Christmas.    How do you keep the joy in Christmas when life can be so challenging sometimes?

Combating the Three F’s of Holiday Stress:

Frenetic Activity  - Most of us are already busy without the extra demands of holiday activities.  Once the holidays hit it becomes difficult to manage the pressures of extra parties, to do lists, shopping trips, card sending and home decorating.  We often kick into high gear and then droop with fatigue and then kick into high gear and then droop, and on the cycle goes. 

We started our Christmas shopping this year with our two little ones in tow and admit it was less than ideal.  Bribing them with a chance to purchase their own little $3.00 toy we bravely hit the stores.  Admittedly the kids were pretty good, but my 4 1/2 year old wanted to push the cart up and down all of the isles at TJ Max.  I tried to stay with her but soon realized she was never where I needed to be to find gifts, so I ventured out keeping a wary eye on her activities nearby.   Occasionally I would see her wiz by gleefully.  She nearly ran a store clerk over and she almost knocked some dishes on the floor before we decided maybe we had been in the store too long and it was time to try the next one.  

We came home fatigued ready for bed and ready to leave the dishes in the sink overnight so we could crash.  Sound familiar?  Maybe you don’t have the gleeful kiddos crashing into things but you certainly have the demands of extra holiday stress.  Be sure to simplify your schedule; eat out, get fast food, use paper plates, say no to some things, stuff a pile of unfolded laundry in the corner and pull out your clothes as needed.  sometimes it’s just not worth it to keep up the pace and do it all perfectly. 


Family -  The holidays are always a time for Christmas joy right?  Wrong.  Sometimes they are a time for grief, anger, or pressure to do things you don’t want to do.  Criticism from family members is a common problem many people face.  Families divided over past hurts have to face each other and decide whether or not to spend time together without bringing up the past.  Many of us feel anxiety about facing our family issues and are nervous about setting healthy boundaries.  

It is also common to feel grief at the loss of a loved one.  If a beloved family member has died the Christmas festivities just bring up a new wave of sadness and missing the person we loved.  Newly divorced men and women have to figure out how to spend the holiday time remembering last year they were an intact family.  Possibly friends have been lost, loyalties have shifted and the holidays make you feel hurt all over again. 

How do we get past all of the family stress to enjoy some of the Joy of Christmas?  First of all we need to realize the holiday is not really for us.  It is a celebration of Jesus’ birth to save us from our sins and to heal our hurts.  It is an act of worship to lovingly put up the lights and play the Christmas music.  If we remember that the true joy of Christmas is that we have been given the biggest second chance ever considered fathomable, then it is a time for joy.  A sense of relief comes when we realize with all of our imperfections that we are loved dearly by the King of Kings who came as a babe to demonstrate the unconditional love of the Father. 

Family issues aside, we are loved and that is worthy of celebration! 


Finances - In a down economy many of us are wary of any spending during the holidays.  Around 14 years ago I used to keep a tight budget writing down every penny I would spend on my paper ledger before bed.  However, when the holidays came up I would stop.  I would intentionally go into a bubble of denial for about two months and then start tracking my spending again sometime in February.   I had no idea how much I was spending because Christmas was supposed to be big. 

In my family growing up it was always big.   Oodles and oodles of presents would just keep coming.  My family liked to spend so I tried to keep up but realistically on my budget I couldn’t keep up so it went on the credit cards.  There was an unspoken rule that you had to buy several nice and special gifts for each person in the family.  Now I am married, have kids and have two, well three, sides of the family to buy for plus kids.  We can no longer be in denial about what we have to spend and we DO NOT use credit cards anymore.   As a family we sit down and decide what we can realistically spend and then we go out with our calculator and keep track.  

It is important to realize that shopping on a budget can be fun...it can almost be a game to see how many great deals you can find.  Many of you shop on Black Friday to bring cost down but I personally find it too stressful and shut down like a deer in headlights when stores are that busy with crazed shoppers trying to find the best deals.  We have found that Ross, TJ Max, and other stores always run discounts and if you are willing to look thoroughly you can find some great gifts.  

Keep in mind that Christmas is a special time but it is not an excuse to be excessive and irresponsible with finances.  I read recently that bank robberies go up before the holidays probably due to pressure to provide gifts.  Now, most of you won't go that far but if you can’t do much this year then admit it and be creative.   It is not worth it to strain your finances to keep everyone else happy.  Sometimes it is okay to admit that you have to hold back.  If family members are disappointed then let it go.  Remember what the holiday really is about and stay focused on the relationships that are important to you.  Make cookies and hot cocoa, and enjoy the worshipful music that fills the airways every year, go sledding or do something fun. 

Truthfully, some stress is unavoidable but if you can keep perspective then it can be a whole lot easier.  Three F's can also keep us on track:

Flexibility - Be flexible with scheduling.  If you need to change plans last minute then roll with it.  If something needs to change or not be included in the holiday repertoire then let it go!  Sometimes it is not worth the stress to try to do it all perfectly.

Focus - Focus on what is important.  Relationships are important but having the perfect dinner is not. If you ruin the potatoes, laugh it off and set them aside.  If you forgot to buy bows, leave them off this year.  Bows aren't important...love and laughter is.  Focus on what is important and let the little details go. 

Fun - If you aren't having any fun and the people around you are miserable because you are demanding perfection then something is off.  Don't forget to have fun, relax and laugh a little! 

 

I pray you have a wonderful holiday season and a very Merry Christmas!

 

In him-Gretchen

 

 

 

 

by Gretchen Flores

Insomnia: Causes and Cures

2:15, 2:21, 2:47, 3:06… watching the clock during insomnia can be tormenting. When will I finally fall asleep? You wonder. Finally, you drift off into a deep dreamy sleep and what feels like moments later; BEEP, BEEP, BEEP! The alarm irritatingly reminds you that you can’t sleep in to make up for hours lost. Groggy and tired you drag yourself out of bed and reach for that extra strong cup of coffee.

Insomnia, a frustrating condition to have. As an insomnia sufferer myself I understand the struggle. There are things that do work and that can help you get a better night’s sleep. You might still have the occasional night of wakefulness but hopefully not as often.

 

What causes insomnia?

There are different causes for insomnia for different people. Some may have chronic worry and cannot seem to turn off the worry switch in their mind and so obsessive thoughts disturb peaceful sleep. Others just wake up unable to fall back asleep. Still others sleep fine once they fall asleep, but may take hours to relax enough to sleep. All, equally frustrating, may require different method’s to solve.

 

Possible Causes:


  • Worry

  • Too much caffeine

  • Too much ginseng or other stimulants

  • Not enough exercise

  • Sensitivity to sound and light

  • Depression or anxiety


 

What solves insomnia?

Again, different people may require a different solution. Sometimes you have to work through different methods to find what works for you through trial and error. Each attempt has to be given some time and commitment, as it might not be solved in an instant. Here are some ideas to try:

 

Possible Solutions:


  • Go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule (to train your body to be in a certain rhythm).

  • Have a relaxing bed-time routine. Read, watch an unexciting show, slow down, get off the phone, computer or other things that require you to think. Drink herbal tea and wind down.

  • Stop drinking coffee or other stimulants by early afternoon. Some say by noon. Find what works for you. If you need caffeine to get you through the afternoon then try a type of drink with less caffeine, such as tea.

  • If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and sit on the couch or other place until you feel drowsy again. Then go back to bed. (This trains your mind not to think too much while in bed).

  • Some research has shown that those who take calcium supplements sleep better. http://www.ehow.com/how_4536607_calcium-sleep-well-night.html

  • Melatonin, a natural sleep aide can help. You can buy Melatonin at the grocery store. Take it 20 minutes before bed.

  • The worry box. For the worriers, a worry box helps. Buy note cards and a plastic note card box. Write down the things you worry about on the note cards. You are allowed to pull out the note cards for 10 minutes a day to worry. When you close the box you are not allowed to worry anymore. Some keep them organized in categories, such as Family, Work, and Misc…

  • Drink a glass of milk before bed or during insomnia. Some research shows it doesn’t work. I will say that it works for me. It is supposed to release melatonin naturally and help you to fall asleep.

  • Use the time to pray. If I can’t sleep I like to feel that I am using the time for something useful. I feel prayer is very useful and so I pray when I can’t sleep. Of course as I get tired my prayers become unusual “lord thank you for… help me to… eat pizza and get a new tire on my house…” But, I figure God understands. ;)

  • If the cause of your insomnia is depression, then you may need an anti-depressant to help. Talk to your counselor or doctor about what might be best for you.

  • For short-term insomnia a little bit of Benadryl can help. This is not useful for long-term insomnia and can cause dehydration.

  • Sleep prescriptions can be habit forming and have side effects. Only try these if nothing else works. Also, you can probably cut the prescriptions in smaller doses because they are pretty powerful.

  • Getting on a regular cardio exercise program can also help. People who exercise regularly sleep better. http://www.sleephotline.com/Sleep/categories/Excercise-Sleep.html

  • Avoid long naps in the afternoon. If you absolutely need a nap. Set an alarm and make yourself get up after 10 to 20 minutes but no longer.

  • Sometimes sleep deprivation can cause insomnia. Strangely, if you are over tired then you can’t sleep. Why? Because your body releases strong hormones to keep you going such as Cortisol or Adrenaline. If you make yourself stay up late to get things done, you may sabotage sleep later. http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/adrenal-fatigue-related-health-conditions/sleep-disruptions.html

 

 

Caffiene meter: (taken off the box of one of my favorite teas; Good Earth). http://www.goodearth.com

Coffee: 100 milligrams (Give or take)

Black Tea: 50 milligrams

Green Tea: 30 milligrams

White Tea: 20 milligrams

Herbal Tea: 0 milligrams

(Per 8 oz.)

 

Don’t make me give up my coffee!

For those of you who shudder when you think of cutting back on coffee or soda, let me tell you that the relief of a good night’s sleep is worth it. My doctor recently told me to “eliminate” caffeine for health reasons. Horrified, I kept repeating the word “eliminate” with a big question mark. “Eliminate? Certainly I can just cut back.” “No” she said. I had to stop.

Guess where the first place this compliant and willing patient went after the appointment? You guessed it. Starbucks! I headed straight there and ordered a Grande of my favorite coffee. That was my last one, though, for several weeks. I did stop drinking coffee. It was really hard to do. I was really tired and a bit grumpy. I was amazingly spacey and forgetful too. I became aware of how dependant on Caffeine I was to get through daily life.

I started to become aware of one nice side effect to my caffeine reduction…Sleep! Yes, I slept better. I felt better, and I had more natural energy during the day. It was great. Yes, I do drink a cup of coffee in the morning now, but I no longer drink three cups in the morning and then a cup or two in the afternoon. Why? Because I want to sleep! I have switched to tea for my afternoon pick me up and I do have more energy. Give it a try…I dare you. You might find you feel more rested and happier. Go for it.

Other resources:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleep/HQ01387

Blessings to you and to all a good night’s sleep! Gretchen

by Gretchen Flores