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Self-care Habits to Remember

Self-care Habits to Remember

Resolutions are common in January.  So many of us want to start out the new year with resolve to do things better.  When it comes to resolutions, make your own self-care important and a part of your daily life.  You don't have to do it all at once, but make sure you are doing something on a regular basis to prioritize your health and well being.  Here are some ideas to start with:

  1. Don’t feel guilty when you take time to take care of yourself, and remember that your needs matter too.  

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

Your Own Worst Enemy

Your Own Worst Enemy

Negative self talk is one of the many things that hold us back from enjoying life to it's fullest.  Many people don't even realize how hard on themselves they are.  When you have it out for yourself you can't win.  

If you stop and listen to the chatter in your head, you may realize you are your own worst enemy.  If this is true for you then you will want to change your thought habits.

Here are some of the method's you may use against yourself;  Name Calling

by Gretchen Flores

Trauma at the Dark Knight Theatre Premier

Trauma at the Dark Knight Theatre Premier

In light of the movie theater shooting I thought I would write about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Initially we have our response to the deaths and visible injuries of the people who went to the opening night of The Dark Knight Rises.  I have been brought to tears several times thinking about what the victims went through and what their families are going through now.  It is just heartbreaking and so difficult to grasp why this would happen.  

Then there are the invisible wounds.  The wounds that are under the surface.  The scars that trauma leaves behind and that alter the lives of the people who were there.  Many people may have an acute stress reaction that will last only a few weeks or months.  Others may develop PTSD symptoms.  

I, myself, have PTSD.  I wish I didn’t, but I do.  I could describe to you several of my various traumatic experiences.  I have had, at least, a handful.  I could describe each one but then this blog post would be way too long.  Let’s see, I’ll choose the time I was held up at gun point. 

It’s an interesting story but I am not writing to talk about myself but to talk about how PTSD can affect you for a lifetime.  Those who were at the theater in Aurora, and survived, are forever changed.  They are deeply affected by trauma and it will be something that doesn’t just go away, but it may be something that they can learn to live with.  

For me it started on

by Gretchen Flores

Pushing Past My Limits and Breaking My Own Rules

I set my alarm for 5:10 am so I could head out to Colorado Springs for a Continuing Education seminar.  I remember thinking that I was over scheduled this week and wondering how this was going to affect me.  I reassured myself it would be okay. 

I used to push myself past my limits regularly.  Somehow I would always find time to crash and recover but 11 years ago I learned the hard way that it is not a good idea to push yourself past your limits on a regular basis.  That was before I had kids when time to “recover” has become more and more difficult to find. 

I groggily got up at 5 am on this midweek day, and headed out to Colorado Springs for my seminar on Play Therapy Techniques.  I was excited about this seminar but was also acutely aware of how fatigued I was.  My son had had the flu on the weekend and I was up with him at night helping him and cleaning up throw up.  Then by Monday I had an upset tummy myself but chose to push through it since my clients are counting on me to be there for them and I knew I would be taking the next week off. 

Because of the scheduled time off, I had a full work week with long days.  I managed to make it through but felt the effects on my body as I slogged into the next day with the enthusiasm of a hippo wallowing in the mud.  Then by Friday I got home from work and my husband seemed cheerful and excited to emphasize that I had made it through the tough week.  Even with the flowers he brought me my happiness waned.  I was grouchy and couldn’t even stand the sound of my favorite music.  I turned off the radio.  I reminded him in a monotone voice that I still had a Toastmasters meeting the next day. 

I was supposed to do a speech after the main meeting for the nursing home residents in the “Speech-a-thon.”  Fortunately I came to my senses and chose not to do the speech-a-thon but went to the main meeting with my makeup on to cover over my dark circles, and a smile (faking it was one of my old coping skills).  I managed to win “best evaluator” and even did a Table Topics talk when you are given a topic on the spot to talk about without preparation time.  By the end of the meeting my muscles in my neck and back ached and my head hurt.  I knew I was well over my limit.  

What is a “limit” and why is it so important?  Learning what my limits are and respecting myself enough to honor them was one of the main components to my recovery from the severe burnout I experienced 11 years ago.  It is also one of the concepts I try to teach my clients when learning to manage stress and anxiety. 

A limit is an invisible line that exists between emotional, physical, and psychological well being and becoming anxious, irritable and stressed.  Once you have crossed the line it is important to pull yourself in quickly by slowing down, implementing self care, and getting rest. 

There was a time in my life I had no perception of a limit.  I had no awareness that one should exist and I lived past my limits all of the time.  I thought I was just driven and “hard working.”  My need to please others, to work hard, and be involved was tremendous.  I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do, and I had an insatiable need to do because I lacked the self esteem to understand that my worth was not linked to how well I did things.  I would push and push.  I pushed myself all of the time, and the funny thing is, when people find out you are a hard worker, something else get asked to do more things.  Then I found that the pressure also came from others that were expecting me to do for them.  I was programed to feel that nothing was ever good enough so I would strive and strive to perfect things. 

My burnout was actually a gift.  It was a gift that helped me to understand what a limit is and how to enforce it.  I learned that you can’t expect anyone else to enforce it for you.  You have to first respect yourself and your well being enough to be determined to honor your own limits.  I went over them this past week and the result was not pretty.  I don’t  even like being around myself when I am in that place.   Fortunately, last week was an exception and there were parts that were out of my control.   I’ll get back on track and be determined to take better care of myself this week.  That should be easy since I am on vacation.  What are your limits?  How can you honor your limits this week?  

I welcome your comments. 

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

When Life Drains You: Adrenal Fatigue

Do you find yourself wondering, "What happened to the days when I had tons of endless energy?" Do you drag yourself out of bed with no motivation for the day?
Do you feel dread has replaced enthusiasm? Possibly you have adrenal fatigue.

I developed an interest in adrenal fatigue when I completely ran out of steam.  After years of taking on too much and not getting enough sleep I finally crashed and couldn't rebound.  I wondered how I had rebounded so well in the past and why suddenly I wasn't able to any more.  I started researching.

At first, my research was focused on how I could recover so I could start pushing myself hard again and be as productive as I used to be.  I soon realized that if I was going to recover, I needed to learn how to slow down and pace myself.  No more two and three hour sleep nights so I could do more than humanly possible.   No more taking on a full time job, a full time ministry, and saying yes to everyone who asked me to do something for them.  I was at the end of my rope and realized that if I kept up my insane pace I was in serious trouble. 

Recognizing why I pushed myself so hard was critical.  What drove me to push myself so hard? What was I trying to prove? What would my identity be once I learned to say no? Would people still like me?  A good hard look inward is a critical part of the process.  Unless you figure those things out, it will not matter what you learn about recovery from adrenal fatigue.  You will certainly fall back into old habits. 

What is Adrenal Fatigue Anyway?

Adrenal fatigue is when you have drained your adrenal system of it's reserves and you no longer have adrenalin or other similar hormones to keep you going.  Your body does a pretty good job of regulating itself on it's own when we pace ourselves reasonably.  It's when we push our body past it's own capacities over and over again that they system becomes taxed. 

If you push yourself past your limits of fatigue to accomplish more then your adrenals release powerful hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline; God given hormones to help us arise to a stressful situation if needed.  I'm glad for such a system in case I need to outrun a bear someday.  However, what research is showing is that modern day bombardments of work related stress and demands of an over-scheduled life tax our adrenals constantly.  It's like we are trying to out run a bear everyday.  As a result, a system that is supposed to help us out "in case of emergencies only" becomes a daily factor in our lives. 

Eventually, the adrenals will announce "I've had enough" and will shut down.  To keep up with my commitments I used to function on two or three hours of sleep, and then I would crash by going to bed at 6:00 pm and sleep 12-14 hours and then start over again.  Each time I was able to rebound with new energy to press ahead, at least until I couldn't anymore. 

Why are you reading this article?

Possibly you are reading this because you too are tired beyond belief and you are wondering how you can possibly keep up with the demands.  Or, possibly you are wondering how you can continue to be be Superman or Wonder Woman and want to make sure nothing stops you.  Or, maybe you see yourself on the path to self destruction and you realize at some point you need to stop but you just don't know how. 
Whatever your reasons are, I hope you learn something important to apply to your life to make it more fulfilling and not more demanding. 

Tips For Keeping a Better Balance

  • Get enough sleep! Do not skimp on sleep.  When you do it forces your adrenals to produce more stress hormones to keep you going.  Eventually you will run out and a taxed adrenal system will leave you vulnerable to a variety of health problems.
  • Take vitamin C and eat foods rich in vitamin C.  This will help your body recover from stressful events or lifestyle habits that tax the adrenals by lowering oxidative damage.
  • Take a vitamin B complex to help you recover.  Your adrenals need vitamin B especially B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), and B6 (pyridoxine) to function.
  • Eat a well balanced diet with whole grains, fish, legumes, meats, and veggies. Processed foods will not help your body recover.  In fact they will tear it down. 
  • If you feel a need to pump your body with caffeine take a nap instead.  Fatigue means you need sleep.  If you consistently push yourself past your limits, you will tax the adrenals causing greater and greater levels of fatigue later on.
  • Eat breakfast.  This helps stabilize your blood sugar and supplies your body with nutrition so it doesn't have to draw from stress hormones that can be toxic at higher levels.  Go for whole grains and protein for breakfast. 
  • Give up the notion that you have to accomplish it all perfectly. My dad once asked me how I manage to get blogs done with a family and a job.  My answer; if I get a blog out then I am probably behind on laundry (and a few other things).  It’s okay to prioritize.
  • Learn how to say “no.”  For some of us this is a frightening proposal.  Your need to please others and attain approval is so high you cannot fathom saying no.  Well, it’s time to learn.  Go ahead...practice.  Say it out loud several times.  Say “no” to yourself in the mirror.  Start saying no to people who ask you to do things.  Realize that the world doesn’t come to an end and you are still liked and appreciated. 
  • Honor your limits.  Learn to tune into your body and when you reach a threshold don't ignore it.  Take a break, put your head down on your desk and take a power nap, go home on time.  To honor your limits you need to tune into yourself and learn when you start to go beyond what is necessary. 
  • Prioritize.  If you need to take some things out of your busy lifestyle then do it.  Tell yourself you can fit in in later.  If you are adding things take other things out.  You cannot do it all at the same time.  Tame the over-achiever in you and slow down.
  • Keep fulfilling things in on your priority list. What fulfills you?  Time with friends? Family? Golf? Jogging?  Don't skimp on is not just about being productive.  It is about having some fun too!

Truthfully, if you learn these important skills then you will be more satisfied with the things that you do choose to do.  You will have more energy for your family and less dread when you head to the office.  I hope you can find some of this useful.   Depending on how far along your adrenal fatigue is it may take time to recover.  Start implementing a few things and don’t give up if you don’t see results immediately.  For me it took a good year to start to feel better.  Then, each year after that just got better. 

Best wishes to you! 


great resources:

by Gretchen Flores