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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

More Empathy Please.

More Empathy Please.

First I apologize for not writing in my blog for so long.  We moved, and other things have held my attention and so I have not been actively writing in here for you.  I plan to resume my writing and offer topics of interest.  First, on a personal note, I felt compelled to write about my own quest to find a counselor here in Colorado. 

Yes, counselors do go to counselors for help with their own personal issues.  My personal quest to find a counselor in Colorado has been a challenge.


by Gretchen Flores

Is it Just Worry or Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

In today's world we have a lot to be worried about; job loss, bill payments, rising grocery costs, keeping our children safe, and keeping up with everything on our plates all while maintaining a smile in public.  Some of us are chronic worriers and some not.  Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a condition of chronic worry.  It occurs when our worries never seem to subside.  An ongoing wave of anxious thoughts and behaviors invade our lives daily and we may struggle to let go of them.  My counseling intern, Jill Oulman, Unlicensed Psychotherapist, who will be completing her counseling degree in the next few months, wrote a few thoughts on Generalized Anxiety.  I thought that I would share them with you.  

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

By Jill Oulman

It can be easy to confuse Anxiety for Depression.  Both affect one’s ability to concentrate, both affect mood, often both anxiety and depression affect sleep, and with both disorders one can appear agitated or restless.  Because anxiety is a part of natural human existence, it can be something many individuals brush off as normal.  When it begins to affect their daily lives, they assume it must be something more severe than anxiety.  Many people assume they are depressed and seek help because they cannot deal with their feelings of hopelessness.

By properly assessing the condition as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the therapist can work to teach the client tools to reduce anxiety and feel in control again.  Human beings are programmed with a fight-or-flight mechanism.  In an individual with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, that mechanism can be faulty and the body is not able to restore itself to a decreased state of adrenaline once that mechanism has been activated.  Often the feelings of anxiety are automatic and not controlled by the client.  Using relaxation techniques can be an effective management tool for the client to restore order to their day.  

When patients can be taught techniques to help themselves, it brings the focus of control from external to internal.  That may be the most important skill as often patients feel as though the source of their anxiety is beyond their control.  This lack of control is what worries them the most.  Enabling clients to have control over their treatment can be a first step in healing.  The therapist can allow the client to focus on controlling their environment instead of the other way around.

Many individuals live with anxiety but it can be

by Gretchen Flores

The Worry Box

Worry is a constant struggle for many of us.  Sometimes our mind will latch onto a concern and not let go.  It's as if worrying will somehow solve the problem.  If we obsess, we reason, we will figure out a way to solve the problem eventually. 

Worry is often linked to feeling out of control of something.  It is a fear that something "horrible" will happen and we will have no control to stop it.  I often call it living in "what if land." We ponder; "What if I lose my job," "what if my son gets in a car accident," "What if the dog throws up on the carpet," "What if I don't like my new job."

Many worriers have trouble falling asleep.  It can take an experienced worrier hours to fall asleep sometimes.  Often, a worrier will be awakened at 3 am stare at the clock helplessly while the redundant list of worries cycle through; 3:00 am, 3:15 am, 3:45 am, 4:30 am.  Sometimes even though we know worry doesn't help anything we still do it.  It just is a hard habit to stop.  

A well known sleep specialist described the worry box as a method to combat nighttime obsessions.  I have been pleasantly surprised by

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 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 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

How to Find Balance

Imbalance Causes Strain:

Balance is one of the biggest challenges in today’s society.  Striving for it is a challenge worth pursuing.  Imbalance comes when we spend too much time, effort, or thought on something that steals time away from other important things in our life.  When we are overly focused in one direction, other areas of our lives suffer.  Pressures to perform at work, our own perfectionism, demands from others can all create a lack of balance.  Imbalance in our lives can cause incredible strain.  It can also lead to burnout. 

Is there imbalance in your life?  Are you weighted too heavily in one direction or another?  If so, what can you do to change it? 

Ask Questions:

Start by asking a series of questions;  What is it that has fallen off the back of the truck while you have been so busy pursuing other goals?  What is it that you want to have back in your life?  What are the things that drain you?  What are the things that revive you?  Is where you are headed so important that you don’t have time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life?  How do you slow down enough to regain perspective on what truly is important and find the balance to maintain it?  

Follow Through on Change:

Once you have asked the questions needed to see what needs to change you need to change.  Asking the questions isn’t enough.  You must actively shift your priorities back to what is essential; time with family, time with friends, time with your spouse or your children.  Rest time is essential to recover from the burden of stressors in our day to day lives.   Rest can include sleep, relaxing, time doing something that you enjoy doing such as reading, fishing, calling a good friend. 

Why is this so important?  Because life can slip away when we are too busy chasing dreams.  Sometimes when my daughter looks at me with her large beautiful eyes and says, “Mom play with me,” I have to stop and consider what is most important at that moment.   Knowing she will soon be asking for the car keys instead of asking to play, I stop and get on the floor and play with the paper dolls for a moment and savor every moment of it.  Dishes may sit in the sink, work projects are calling my name, but I choose to let the world stop for a moment and savor a piece of heaven to bring the balance back.  What or who is it that you need to pay more attention to?  What do you need to pay less attention to in order to accomplish that. 

Stop for a minute and savor a moment of life.  Let the harried pace slow down and do the work to keep a balance in your life.  Perspective on what is truly important to you helps to focus your time.  Stop and consider what needs to change.  You will be happier and more fulfilled.                                                                      

by Gretchen Flores

What I Learned From Adrenal Fatigue; A Faith Perspective (part 2)

Before I experienced burn out 10 years ago, I thought I was super spiritual.  I never ever missed church.  Even a Chicago blizzard couldn't keep me away from Sunday am church. I arose early to shovel my way out and brave the snow covered streets to get to church on time.  Truth was, I loved going to church.  I rarely missed my small group bible study and I always kept my commitments.  If I said yes to something (and I said yes to most things) I showed up.  I showed up even if I had a splitting headache, a stomach ache, or little sleep.

I never said it, but I looked down on people who only showed up to church occasionally thinking they were lazy.  I took great pride in my faith and my works oriented approach.  Very dutifully I went above and beyond what was expected of me and I thrived on it.   Sometimes, I got a rush out of it.  Little did I know I was soon headed for a downfall.  God was going to allow me to experience severe burnout (see also previous post on Adrenal Fatigue). 

After I burned out, I could no longer keep up with my own pace even if I tried.  Exhausted and depleted, I was forced to become what I had looked down upon.   I was forced to be the person who missed church, who stopped going to bible study, who said no to everyone who asked me to do something.  Or worse, just didn't show.  The life I had thrived on was gone. 

The Shift
Something important shifted in me and I became a more gracious person toward those I had failed to understand.  Pride was replaced with understanding, and arrogance with compassion.  Where I had  failed to comprehend what kept people out of church I now understood.  I became less judgmental toward the occasional church goer...shoot, I became one.

God had taught me an important spiritual lesson that his love and acceptance doesn't come from works.  It truly is his free gift.  He had allowed me to come to the end of myself to find him there ready to hold my weary body in his loving arms.   In his arms, just resting, I found relief and restoration.  The biggest surprise was acceptance and love from the one I thought would tell me to get up and do more.  I gained a new perspective and learned how to receive God's grace.

Verses for Consideration
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  Lamentations 3:22

Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:4-9 (from

by Gretchen Flores