Coping with Change/Mood Issues

[LOW]

Congratulations. Your score on the Coping with Change Scale indicates that you are already using excellent skills to manage change in your life. It is important to continue to use your skills to maintain overall wellness in your life. We are often faced with changes of one kind or another in our life.  Changes pose unique challenges to our current way of functioning.  While we are not able to eliminate changes from our lives, we ARE able to manage our responses to those changes and maintain a healthy perspective at the same time.  Here are some things that may help you to maintain your overall wellness.

[/LOW]

[MEDIUM]

Your score on the Coping with Changes Scale indicates that you are already using good skills to manage changes in your life but may also be struggling in others areas.  It is important to continue to use your skills to maintain overall wellness.  We are often faced with changes of one kind or another in our life.  Changes pose unique challenges to our current way of functioning.  While we are not able to eliminate changes from our lives, we ARE able to manage our responses to those changes and maintain a healthy perspective at the same time.  We recommend that you review some of the materials available on our website……………………………… which may help to bolster those skills you already use and add additional coping strategies which you may not have considered.

[/MEDIUM]

[HIGH]

Your score on the Coping with Change Scale indicates that you may be experiencing some difficulty in coping in this area.  We are often faced with stressors in our life that pose a challenge to handle or overcome. We are not able to control some events that may occur in our lives, learning to manage our response to those events can help reduce the negative experience and move us toward healthy reactions in the future. There are ways to improve your ability to manage these everyday stressors.  We suggest that you visit our website________________ to review the materials on coping with change and managing moods which you will find there. Some of the suggestions there might help you to cope with work stress and improve your overall wellness.  We would like for you to contact a qualified professionals in the area who may be able to offer you additional assistance to reduce your overall stress level.  We will contact you in 30 days to see how this is going.

[/HIGH]

[Q22]

Sometimes we experience change in our lives which make it more difficult to handle daily stress.  Feeling more tired and moody than usual can indicate that stress is taking its toll.  Being more tearful, not caring about your appearance, and/or not having the energy or motivation level you used to have can signal a problem in managing your stress.  Other signs of feeling overwhelmed by life’s stressors can be losing interest in things you used to enjoy, such as playing golf on the weekends with friends, going to a movie, or working on that project you haven’t finished.  Carrying around anger and being more irritable than usual are also signs that things may not be going well.  Depression looks different for each person who struggles with this mood change.  Getting help to manage our depression can be a difficult but greatly beneficial choice toward our overall wellness.

[/Q22]

[Q23]

You might also try some soothing grounding prior to going to sleep to help set the stage to fall asleep easier with less anxiety.  Grounding is an exercise that can help reduce your anxiety.  You can do grounding pretty much anywhere as you keep your eyes open.  Grounding helps you to “be in the moment” and centered again.  It helps you to move your thoughts away from the worry or anxiety that you have been thinking about and onto things that help to calm you.  Since anxiety is always related to your thinking and is never in the current moment, rather it is focused on the future or the past, bringing your thoughts to this moment will reduce you anxiety.  Rate your mood before you begin (example 0 to 10 with 10 means extreme anxiety).  Try to think of favorite things, such as your favorite color, food, movie, season, person, animal, smell.  Remember a song that you love and say the words to yourself.  Focus on a positive memory in your life, remembering it in detail including sights, smells, words, sounds, textures,  temperatures etc.  Pretend that you are in a safe place and create that memory in your mind as vividly as possible.

You might also want to try some deep breathing to calm yourself as well.  For this exercise, breathe in only through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth.  First, take a slow deep breath in through your nose to the count of 4.  Try to fill your lungs.  Then pause to the count of 4.  Next blow all the air out of your mouth to the count of 4.  Then pause again for the count of 4.   Do this for about two minutes.  If you can, try to let go of any tension in your neck and shoulders every time you breathe out.  This type of breathing can be used whenever you notice that you are feeling anxious.  It is amazingly calming.

[/Q23]

[Q24]

Sometimes we experience change in our lives which make it more difficult to handle daily stress.  Feeling more tired and moody than usual can indicate that stress is taking its toll.  Being more tearful, not caring about your appearance, and/or not having the energy or motivation level you used to have can signal a problem in managing your stress.  Other signs of feeling overwhelmed by life’s stressors can be losing interest in things you used to enjoy, such as playing golf on the weekends with friends, going to a movie, or working on that project you haven’t finished.  Carrying around anger and being more irritable than usual are also signs that things may not be going well.  Depression looks different for each person who struggles with this mood change.  Getting help to manage our depression can be a difficult but greatly beneficial choice toward our overall wellness.

[/Q24]

[Q25]

Sometimes we experience change in our lives which make it more difficult to handle daily stress.  Feeling more tired and moody than usual can indicate that stress is taking its toll.  Being more tearful, not caring about your appearance, and/or not having the energy or motivation level you used to have can signal a problem in managing your stress.  Other signs of feeling overwhelmed by life’s stressors can be losing interest in things you used to enjoy, such as playing golf on the weekends with friends, going to a movie, or working on that project you haven’t finished.  Carrying around anger and being more irritable than usual are also signs that things may not be going well.  Depression looks different for each person who struggles with this mood change.  Getting help to manage our depression can be a difficult but greatly beneficial choice toward our overall wellness.

[/Q25]

[Q26]

 

[/Q26]

[Q27]

Finding meaning is at the heart of having a fulfilled life. At the most basic, being able to look at events which happen in our lives and being open to the possibility that these events, no matter how stressful, emotion filled and difficult, may lead you to a greater understanding of yourself.  At the core of finding meaning is the awareness that there is a constant struggle between the desire to acknowledge reality as it is and then to judge reality and react to the judgment versus the reality.  This is especially true when the reality may be painful and require change in some manner that we don’t want to make. It is very easy to acknowledge reality when things are going our way but much more difficult when we don’t like the moment we are in.  This skill attempts to help you in those moments when we don’t like.  This skill may take a long time to master but continued use of this skill can result in you having an excellent approach to change and difficulty all of your life.  We will focus on flexibility and resistance.

Each of the following steps should be practiced for about one week.  If you find that you succeed sooner than one week,  move to the next step. If you struggle with a step, feel free to take longer to practice.

Before we can decide to find meaning in a situation, we must first know what we believe.  Make a list of what you consider priorities in life.  Priorities are defined as things that are important to you because you feel they are important.  This may be going to school, spending time with family, or being honest with others.  Now, you need to make a list of what are demands on you.  These are things that other people have you do because it is important to them.  Things like picking up dry cleaning for your significant other may be a demand because they want you to do this, attending a meeting because it is part of your job, or go somewhere because you have been asked but don’t really want to go there. Compare for yourself if you have more priorities than demands or more demands than priorities.  Are there some that are mutually both like taking care of your children because you both love them and want to but then at times they want more from you than you can give?  Are there others that you do because someone wants you to and you like to do it because you like the individual?  Spend some time thinking about whether you are balanced.  It is difficult to feel fulfilled in your life if you are burdened with too many priorities or too many demands.

Before we can find meaning in an event, we must first identify the event or issue that you are struggling to acknowledge.  List situations that you are struggling with.  Specifically attempt to list them in the most general, neutral, fact based language you can.  For example, facing changes in your job that are unfair and other people aren't expected to do the same hours or held to the same expectations may need to be changed to listing the specific job duties, the hours you work are not the same as other people’s hours or your job duties are not the same as other people’s duties.  The idea is to identify and define by being aware of the judgments and emotional content attached to the situation and attempt to separate this.

Now that you have an idea of the things or events that you are struggling to acknowledge, the next step is to commit to acknowledging it versus pushing it away.  There are a variety of ways to do this.   Sometimes people develop a prayer or mantra or saying that they use to remind themselves that they are trying to commit to reducing their conflict.  Some people will write this on a note card or sticky notes and post it somewhere that they even keep it visibly in their mind.  Some sayings people have used are:  “Everything is as it should be,” “This too shall pass,” or “May I have the strength to survive.”  Whatever you choose needs to be in words that have value to you and you can repeat it whenever the event or situation that is cause emotional conflict is in your mind.  Some people even will have breathing exercises coupled with their saying so they breath in and say half of their saying, breathing out saying the other half whether it is out loud or in your mind.  Sometimes more than once is useful.

The next step is to notice when your mind fights against it.  We know our thoughts will be pulled into thinking thoughts that validate our emotions as a coping strategy.  When we are struggling to find meaning, we need to both acknowledge those emotions but not fuel the emotions.  One way is to think or talk about the event or situation and be aware of any thoughts about “this is unfair/not right/shouldn’t be” and re-frame those thoughts to just the facts.   For example, you may notice that at your job you feel some co-workers are allowed to have overtime but you are not.  A lot people would thing this is “unfair” and become angry.  So to take that thought of “unfairness” and break it into the facts such as “this person does have expertise in this area that others don’t, they did ask for this overtime before other people, and there have been times where I or other people have gotten overtime” are ways to try and see what the facts are.  Another way is to be mindful of your body posture.  Usually when we are struggling against acknowledgement we tense up.  Whether it is in your shoulders, hands, arms, stomach, or legs.  Try and take a stance of willingness—hands at your sides with your fists unclenched, relaxing your shoulders and letting them naturally drop, and holding your head up to make eye contact with others as you talk about this situation.  Be aware of other things you notice when you feel that you begin to fight against acknowledgment.

Once you notice the things that you do when you are fighting against acknowledgement, you need to turn your mind and thoughts back to wanting to acknowledge the thing you are struggling against.  This involves making a conscious decision to end your own emotional suffering and facing your emotional pain only.  When we are making a choice of any kind it helps us to have a reason why we would want to make that choice.  Ask yourself if keeping those thoughts is going to help you feel better?  If the answer is no, then repeat steps 3 and 4 over and over.  The process of finding meaning is just that, a process.  It is very common and normal for someone to be able to acknowledge the facts in one moment, and then be less capable in another moment.  It does not mean you have done anything wrong, or that this process is not working, but is the nature of the process of finding meaning.  Hopefully the moments where you are fully acknowledging become more frequent and the moments where you feel more conflict are moving farther apart.  The goal is not to give up the struggle, only then will you give in to suffering.

Now that we have talked about the process of daily acknowledgment in our lives, we move to finding meaning.  Only after the intensity of emotions is somewhat abated can we take the step to finding meaning in the events.  Usually meaning happens when we look at the situations and events that happened to us and what we learned or gained or had the opportunity to practice as a result of these events.  Start asking yourself what events happened to make you who you are.  What did you take from them?  What can you take from the situations you are in now?  As an analogy, many people view themselves as rocks in the ocean.  All the waves are the events in their lives and work over time to smooth them out or to shape them into a variety of forms.  The same is true for our experiences.  Sometimes that shaping doesn't happen immediately but provides us with the opportunity to choose how to shape ourselves in a specific way.  Being mindful of your values and beliefs and how these have come to be can help you also draw meaning in your actions.  Maybe you consistently stand up when you see injustice.  So maybe the meaning in the situation with some co-workers getting overtime and others not that was mentioned above is that you are going to call attention to this and voice your feeling that it is unfair.  True, the situation may not change, but you have acted on your values and reaffirmed the meaning you have to call attention to injustice versus sitting and allowing it to happen.  This is also a step where some people write about their life and this helps them gain some perspective and recognize how their actions impact others and themselves.

[/Q27]

[Q28]

Anxiety is a common experience for everyone. At one time or another we have all been anxious, anticipating a negative event or afraid of a potential outcome.  Changes in our lives create anxiety.  Good changes or negative changes, they all create anxiety.  Change means we do not know what to expect and this creates some level of fear in ourselves.  Getting a new, higher paying job for example, might be an example of a good change but even this type of change creates some anxiety.  Imagine the “butterflies” you might have in your stomach the night before your first day on the job.  Consider all the questions that might be racing through your mind; “Will I be able to do this job?” “Will they like me?” “What if I make a mistake?”  In fact, sometimes these types of thoughts create physical symptoms and prevent quality sleep.

Here is another idea that might help reduce your anxiety.  Try learning to take a moment to change your breathing to a more relax manner.  For this exercise, breathe in only through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth.  First, take a slow deep breath in through your nose to the count of 4.  Try to fill your lungs.  Then pause to the count of 4.  Next blow all the air out of your mouth to the count of 4.  Then pause again for the count of 4.   Do this for about two minutes.  If you can, try to let go of any tension in your neck and shoulders every time you breathe out.  This type of breathing can be used whenever you notice that you are feeling anxious.  It is amazingly calming.

Grounding is another exercise that can help reduce your anxiety.  You can do grounding pretty much anywhere as you keep your eyes open.  Grounding helps you to “be in the moment” and centered again.  It helps you to move your thoughts away from the worry or anxiety that you have been thinking about and onto things that help to calm you.  Since anxiety is always related to your thinking and is never in the current moment, rather it is focused on the future or the past, bringing your thoughts to this moment will reduce you anxiety.  Rate your mood before you begin (example 0 to 10 with 10 means extreme anxiety).  Try playing a “category” game with yourself.  Think of types of dog breeds, musicians, states that begin with a certain letter, names of countries, foods that you like or anything you can think of.  Count backwards from 100 by sevens or name serial prime numbers.  Focus on your surroundings in great detail, like the colors of the walls, the number of pictures on the wall, the textures of the carpets or other fabrics in the room, the smells of the room, the temperature or other things in the vicinity.  Continue to use the mental exercises for a few minutes.  Now rate your mood again and see if your number has diminished.

[/Q28]

[Q29]

Anxiety is a common experience for everyone. At one time or another we have all been anxious, anticipating a negative event or afraid of a potential outcome.  Changes in our lives create anxiety.  Good changes or negative changes, they all create anxiety.  Change means we do not know what to expect and this creates some level of fear in ourselves.  Getting a new, higher paying job for example, might be an example of a good change but even this type of change creates some anxiety.  Imagine the “butterflies” you might have in your stomach the night before your first day on the job.  Consider all the questions that might be racing through your mind; “Will I be able to do this job?” “Will they like me?” “What if I make a mistake?”  In fact, sometimes these types of thoughts create physical symptoms and prevent quality sleep.

Here is another idea that might help reduce your anxiety.  Try learning to take a moment to change your breathing to a more relax manner.  For this exercise, breathe in only through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth.  First, take a slow deep breath in through your nose to the count of 4.  Try to fill your lungs.  Then pause to the count of 4.  Next blow all the air out of your mouth to the count of 4.  Then pause again for the count of 4.   Do this for about two minutes.  If you can, try to let go of any tension in your neck and shoulders every time you breathe out.  This type of breathing can be used whenever you notice that you are feeling anxious.  It is amazingly calming.

Grounding is another exercise that can help reduce your anxiety.  You can do grounding pretty much anywhere as you keep your eyes open.  Grounding helps you to “be in the moment” and centered again.  It helps you to move your thoughts away from the worry or anxiety that you have been thinking about and onto things that help to calm you.  Since anxiety is always related to your thinking and is never in the current moment, rather it is focused on the future or the past, bringing your thoughts to this moment will reduce you anxiety.  Rate your mood before you begin (example 0 to 10 with 10 means extreme anxiety).  Try playing a “category” game with yourself.  Think of types of dog breeds, musicians, states that begin with a certain letter, names of countries, foods that you like or anything you can think of.  Count backwards from 100 by sevens or name serial prime numbers.  Focus on your surroundings in great detail, like the colors of the walls, the number of pictures on the wall, the textures of the carpets or other fabrics in the room, the smells of the room, the temperature or other things in the vicinity.  Continue to use the mental exercises for a few minutes.  Now rate your mood again and see if your number has diminished.

[/Q29]

[Q30]

Finding meaning is at the heart of having a fulfilled life. At the most basic, being able to look at events which happen in our lives and being open to the possibility that these events, no matter how stressful, emotion filled and difficult, may lead you to a greater understanding of yourself.  At the core of finding meaning is the awareness that there is a constant struggle between the desire to acknowledge reality as it is and then to judge reality and react to the judgment versus the reality.  This is especially true when the reality may be painful and require change in some manner that we don’t want to make. It is very easy to acknowledge reality when things are going our way but much more difficult when we don’t like the moment we are in.  This skill attempts to help you in those moments when we don’t like.  This skill may take a long time to master but continued use of this skill can result in you having an excellent approach to change and difficulty all of your life.  We will focus on flexibility and resistance.

Each of the following steps should be practiced for about one week.  If you find that you succeed sooner than one week, move to the next step. If you struggle with a step, feel free to take longer to practice.

Before we can decide to find meaning in a situation, we must first know what we believe.  Make a list of what you consider priorities in life.  Priorities are defined as things that are important to you because you feel they are important.  This may be going to school, spending time with family, or being honest with others.  Now, you need to make a list of what are demands on you.  These are things that other people have you do because it is important to them.  Things like picking up dry cleaning for your significant other may be a demand because they want you to do this, attending a meeting because it is part of your job, or go somewhere because you have been asked but don’t really want to go there. Compare for yourself if you have more priorities than demands or more demands than priorities.  Are there some that are mutually both like taking care of your children because you both love them and want to but then at times they want more from you than you can give?  Are there others that you do because someone wants you to and you like to do it because you like the individual?  Spend some time thinking about whether you are balanced.  It is difficult to feel fulfilled in your life if you are burdened with too many priorities or too many demands.

Before we can find meaning in an event, we must first identify the event or issue that you are struggling to acknowledge.  List situations that you are struggling with.  Specifically attempt to list them in the most general, neutral, fact based language you can.  For example, facing changes in your job that are unfair and other people aren't expected to do the same hours or held to the same expectations may need to be changed to listing the specific job duties, the hours you work are not the same as other people’s hours or your job duties are not the same as other people’s duties.  The idea is to identify and define by being aware of the judgments and emotional content attached to the situation and attempt to separate this.

Now that you have an idea of the things or events that you are struggling to acknowledge, the next step is to commit to acknowledging it versus pushing it away.  There are a variety of ways to do this.   Sometimes people develop a prayer or mantra or saying that they use to remind themselves that they are trying to commit to reducing their conflict.  Some people will write this on a note card or sticky notes and post it somewhere that they even keep it visibly in their mind.  Some sayings people have used are:  “Everything is as it should be,” “This too shall pass,” or “May I have the strength to survive”.  Whatever you choose needs to be in words that have value to you and you can repeat it whenever the event or situation that is cause emotional conflict is in your mind.  Some people even will have breathing exercises coupled with their saying so they breath in and say half of their saying, breathing out saying the other half whether it is out loud or in your mind.  Sometimes more than once is useful.

The next step is to notice when your mind fights against it.  We know our thoughts will be pulled into thinking thoughts that validate our emotions as a coping strategy.  When we are struggling to find meaning, we need to both acknowledge those emotions but not fuel the emotions.  One way is to think or talk about the event or situation and be aware of any thoughts about “this is unfair/not right/shouldn’t be” and re-frame those thoughts to just the facts.   For example, you may notice that at your job you feel some co-workers are allowed to have overtime but you are not.  A lot people would thing this is “unfair” and become angry.  So to take that thought of “unfairness” and break it into the facts such as “this person does have expertise in this area that others don’t, they did ask for this overtime before other people, and there have been times where I or other people have gotten overtime” are ways to try and see what the facts are.  Another way is to be mindful of your body posture.  Usually when we are struggling against acknowledgement we tense up.  Whether it is in your shoulders, hands, arms, stomach, or legs.  Try and take a stance of willingness—hands at your sides with your fists unclenched, relaxing your shoulders and letting them naturally drop, and holding your head up to make eye contact with others as you talk about this situation.  Be aware of other things you notice when you feel that you begin to fight against acknowledgment.

Once you notice the things that you do when you are fighting against acknowledgement, you need to turn your mind and thoughts back to wanting to acknowledge the thing you are struggling against.  This involves making a conscious decision to end your own emotional suffering and facing your emotional pain only.  When we are making a choice of any kind it helps us to have a reason why we would want to make that choice.  Ask yourself if keeping those thoughts is going to help you feel better?  If the answer is no, then repeat steps 3 and 4 over and over.  The process of finding meaning is just that, a process.  It is very common and normal for someone to be able to acknowledge the facts in one moment, and then be less capable in another moment.  It does not mean you have done anything wrong, or that this process is not working, but is the nature of the process of finding meaning.  Hopefully the moments where you are fully acknowledging become more frequent and the moments where you feel more conflict are moving farther apart.  The goal is not to give up the struggle, only then will you give in to suffering.

Now that we have talked about the process of daily acknowledgment in our lives, we move to finding meaning.  Only after the intensity of emotions is somewhat abated can we take the step to finding meaning in the events.  Usually meaning happens when we look at the situations and events that happened to us and what we learned or gained or had the opportunity to practice as a result of these events.  Start asking yourself what events happened to make you who you are.  What did you take from them?  What can you take from the situations you are in now?  As an analogy, many people view themselves as rocks in the ocean.  All the waves are the events in their lives and work over time to smooth them out or to shape them into a variety of forms.  The same is true for our experiences.  Sometimes that shaping doesn't happen immediately but provides us with the opportunity to choose how to shape ourselves in a specific way.  Being mindful of your values and beliefs and how these have come to be can help you also draw meaning in your actions.  Maybe you consistently stand up when you see injustice.  So maybe the meaning in the situation with some co-workers getting overtime and others not that was mentioned above is that you are going to call attention to this and voice your feeling that it is unfair.  True, the situation may not change, but you have acted on your values and reaffirmed the meaning you have to call attention to injustice versus sitting and allowing it to happen.  This is also a step where some people write about their life and this helps them gain some perspective and recognize how their actions impact others and themselves.

[/Q30]

[Q31]

Sometimes we experience change in our lives which make it more difficult to handle daily stress.  Feeling more tired and moody than usual can indicate that stress is taking its toll.  Being more tearful, not caring about your appearance, and/or not having the energy or motivation level you used to have can signal a problem in managing your stress.  Other signs of feeling overwhelmed by life’s stressors can be losing interest in things you used to enjoy, such as playing golf on the weekends with friends, going to a movie, or working on that project you haven’t finished.  Carrying around anger and being more irritable than usual are also signs that things may not be going well.  Depression looks different for each person who struggles with this mood change.  Getting help to manage our depression can be a difficult but greatly beneficial choice toward our overall wellness.

When things happened which we do not like or did not want, a typical reaction is to become angry.  Anger itself is not a problem, if it is not too intense and does not last too long.  Angry behaviors, on the other hand, are not healthy ways to cope with stress. Withdrawing and becoming sullen are also not healthy ways to cope with anger.  If we took an imaginary gauge that was numbered form 1 to 10, we could imagine that anything level of anger 1 to 5 is in the constructive range.  In this range, it is possible to make changes in the situation which created the anger in a positive and constructive manner.  At this level of angry we are able to problem solve and find a solution to the issue, talk to those involved in a respectful way, ask for things to change and let others know how we feel.  In the 5 to 10 range of anger on our gauge, destructive behaviors are often found. These types of angry behaviors include yelling, slamming doors, trying to get even, emotionally abusing someone or violence.  There is nothing healthy or positive that comes from angry behaviors in this range.  Relationships are damaged, jobs are lost and even legal issues can result from this level of anger.

Keeping your anger level in the constructive range is beneficial to you and to others in your life. It can keep you from making choices which cause more pain or hurt.  Learning to reduce your anger level is key to keeping it from escalating to a dangerous level. Monitoring your level of anger is a good place to start.  Try to remember to give your anger level a number.  When your level begins to rise, it is important to do something about it right away. The generation of positive emotions can be one way to keep your anger level low.  If you want to change your mood, you have to change your thoughts.

From a Cognitive-Behavioral perspective the generation of emotions, or feelings, if you will, have a direct correlation with our thoughts and our thinking (cognitions). How we think or what we think will always have an impact on our feelings.  Thus, our perceptions of what we are observing or experiencing is what we are thinking.  There is a possibility that our perception could be wrong or skewed.

Example: We look outside and see a beautiful sunny day with birds flying by and kids playing in the park.  The thought we create from that view out our window usually results in positive emotions as we think of our younger innocent days or recalling our kids at that age.

For others, they may look at that same sunny day and birds flying and watching the kids and have a different perception.  If the person says, “I hate birds.  They just dirty my car.”  Or, if the person thinks, “I would rather chew broken glass than listen to a bunch of kids screaming and having fun,” then their feelings will likely be negative and dissatisfied with what they are viewing.

If you want to change your emotions you may have to change the thoughts behind it.

Here is another example: A little boy wants desperately to learn to play the piano.  His piano instructor is getting impatient with him.  His sister tells him to knock off all the noise.  Mom complains that these lessons are taking too much out of the family budget.  Thus, the perception the little boy learns quickly is that no one is supportive of him learning the piano.  It is not surprising the little boy gives up and chooses not to try anymore.

On the other hand, the piano instructor is seeing possibility for growth.  Sister is hoping he can accompany her on the piano while she plays for her clarinet recital.  Mom is pleased her little boy is showing an interest in something other than television.  The perception the little boy gets is that he is supported.  He has a chance to excel his skill and talent.  And mom is right there behind him applauding his first completed sonata.  Thus, this boy has a chance.  His cognitions are positive which makes him feel good about what he is doing.

When you find yourself feeling angry or anxious, ask yourself what the thoughts are behind the feelings.  Sometimes reevaluating our thoughts is all it takes to change our feelings.

[/Q31]

[Q32]

Finding meaning is at the heart of having a fulfilled life. At the most basic, being able to look at events which happen in our lives and being open to the possibility that these events, no matter how stressful, emotion filled and difficult, may lead you to a greater understanding of yourself.  At the core of finding meaning is the awareness that there is a constant struggle between the desire to acknowledge reality as it is and then to judge reality and react to the judgment versus the reality.  This is especially true when the reality may be painful and require change in some manner that we don’t want to make. It is very easy to acknowledge reality when things are going our way but much more difficult when we don’t like the moment we are in.  This skill attempts to help you in those moments when we don’t like.  This skill may take a long time to master but continued use of this skill can result in you having an excellent approach to change and difficulty all of your life.  We will focus on flexibility and resistance.

Each of the following steps should be practiced for about one week.  If you find that you succeed sooner than one week, move to the next step. If you struggle with a step, feel free to take longer to practice.

Before we can decide to find meaning in a situation, we must first know what we believe.  Make a list of what you consider priorities in life.  Priorities are defined as things that are important to you because you feel they are important.  This may be going to school, spending time with family, or being honest with others.  Now, you need to make a list of what are demands on you.  These are things that other people have you do because it is important to them.  Things like picking up dry cleaning for your significant other may be a demand because they want you to do this, attending a meeting because it is part of your job, or go somewhere because you have been asked but don’t really want to go there. Compare for yourself if you have more priorities than demands or more demands than priorities.  Are there some that are mutually both like taking care of your children because you both love them and want to but then at times they want more from you than you can give?  Are there others that you do because someone wants you to and you like to do it because you like the individual?  Spend some time thinking about whether you are balanced.  It is difficult to feel fulfilled in your life if you are burdened with too many priorities or too many demands.

Before we can find meaning in an event, we must first identify the event or issue that you are struggling to acknowledge.  List situations that you are struggling with.  Specifically attempt to list them in the most general, neutral, fact based language you can.  For example, facing changes in your job that are unfair and other people aren't expected to do the same hours or held to the same expectations may need to be changed to listing the specific job duties, the hours you work are not the same as other people’s hours or your job duties are not the same as other people’s duties.  The idea is to identify and define by being aware of the judgments and emotional content attached to the situation and attempt to separate this.

Now that you have an idea of the things or events that you are struggling to acknowledge, the next step is to commit to acknowledging it versus pushing it away.  There are a variety of ways to do this.   Sometimes people develop a prayer or mantra or saying that they use to remind themselves that they are trying to commit to reducing their conflict.  Some people will write this on a note card or sticky notes and post it somewhere that they even keep it visibly in their mind.  Some sayings people have used are:  “Everything is as it should be,” “This too shall pass,” or “May I have the strength to survive.”  Whatever you choose needs to be in words that have value to you and you can repeat it whenever the event or situation that is cause emotional conflict is in your mind.  Some people even will have breathing exercises coupled with their saying so they breath in and say half of their saying, breathing out saying the other half whether it is out loud or in your mind. Sometimes more than once is useful.

The next step is to notice when your mind fights against it.  We know our thoughts will be pulled into thinking thoughts that validate our emotions as a coping strategy.  When we are struggling to find meaning, we need to both acknowledge those emotions but not fuel the emotions.  One way is to think or talk about the event or situation and be aware of any thoughts about “this is unfair/not right/shouldn’t be” and re-frame those thoughts to just the facts.   For example, you may notice that at your job you feel some co-workers are allowed to have overtime but you are not.  A lot people would thing this is “unfair” and become angry.  So to take that thought of “unfairness” and break it into the facts such as “this person does have expertise in this area that others don’t, they did ask for this overtime before other people, and there have been times where I or other people have gotten overtime” are ways to try and see what the facts are.  Another way is to be mindful of your body posture.  Usually when we are struggling against acknowledgement we tense up.  Whether it is in your shoulders, hands, arms, stomach, or legs.  Try and take a stance of willingness—hands at your sides with your fists unclenched, relaxing your shoulders and letting them naturally drop, and holding your head up to make eye contact with others as you talk about this situation.  Be aware of other things you notice when you feel that you begin to fight against acknowledgment.

Once you notice the things that you do when you are fighting against acknowledgement, you need to turn your mind and thoughts back to wanting to acknowledge the thing you are struggling against.  This involves making a conscious decision to end your own emotional suffering and facing your emotional pain only.  When we are making a choice of any kind it helps us to have a reason why we would want to make that choice.  Ask yourself if keeping those thoughts is going to help you feel better?  If the answer is no, then repeat steps 3 and 4 over and over.  The process of finding meaning is just that, a process.  It is very common and normal for someone to be able to acknowledge the facts in one moment, and then be less capable in another moment.  It does not mean you have done anything wrong, or that this process is not working, but is the nature of the process of finding meaning.  Hopefully the moments where you are fully acknowledging become more frequent and the moments where you feel more conflict are moving farther apart.  The goal is not to give up the struggle, only then will you give in to suffering.

Now that we have talked about the process of daily acknowledgment in our lives, we move to finding meaning.  Only after the intensity of emotions is somewhat abated can we take the step to finding meaning in the events.  Usually meaning happens when we look at the situations and events that happened to us and what we learned or gained or had the opportunity to practice as a result of these events.  Start asking yourself what events happened to make you who you are.  What did you take from them?  What can you take from the situations you are in now?  As an analogy, many people view themselves as rocks in the ocean.  All the waves are the events in their lives and work over time to smooth them out or to shape them into a variety of forms.  The same is true for our experiences.  Sometimes that shaping doesn't happen immediately but provides us with the opportunity to choose how to shape ourselves in a specific way.  Being mindful of your values and beliefs and how these have come to be can help you also draw meaning in your actions.  Maybe you consistently stand up when you see injustice.  So maybe the meaning in the situation with some co-workers getting overtime and others not that was mentioned above is that you are going to call attention to this and voice your feeling that it is unfair.  True, the situation may not change, but you have acted on your values and reaffirmed the meaning you have to call attention to injustice versus sitting and allowing it to happen.  This is also a step where some people write about their life and this helps them gain some perspective and recognize how their actions impact others and themselves.

[/Q32]

[Q33]

Anxiety is a common experience for everyone. At one time or another we have all been anxious, anticipating a negative event or afraid of a potential outcome.  Changes in our lives create anxiety.  Good changes or negative changes, they all create anxiety.  Change means we do not know what to expect and this creates some level of fear in ourselves.  Getting a new, higher paying job for example, might be an example of a good change but even this type of change creates some anxiety.  Imagine the “butterflies” you might have in your stomach the night before your first day on the job.  Consider all the questions that might be racing through your mind; “Will I be able to do this job?” “Will they like me?” “What if I make a mistake?”  In fact, sometimes these types of thoughts create physical symptoms and prevent quality sleep.

Here is another idea that might help reduce your anxiety.  Try learning to take a moment to change your breathing to a more relax manner.  For this exercise, breathe in only through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth.  First, take a slow deep breath in through your nose to the count of 4.  Try to fill your lungs.  Then pause to the count of 4.  Next blow all the air out of your mouth to the count of 4.  Then pause again for the count of 4.   Do this for about two minutes.  If you can, try to let go of any tension in your neck and shoulders every time you breathe out.  This type of breathing can be used whenever you notice that you are feeling anxious.  It is amazingly calming.

Grounding is another exercise that can help reduce your anxiety.  You can do grounding pretty much anywhere as you keep your eyes open.  Grounding helps you to “be in the moment” and centered again.  It helps you to move your thoughts away from the worry or anxiety that you have been thinking about and onto things that help to calm you.  Since anxiety is always related to your thinking and is never in the current moment, rather it is focused on the future or the past, bringing your thoughts to this moment will reduce you anxiety.  Rate your mood before you begin (example 0 to 10 with 10 means extreme anxiety).  Try playing a “category” game with yourself.  Think of types of dog breeds, musicians, states that begin with a certain letter, names of countries, foods that you like or anything you can think of.  Count backwards from 100 by sevens or name serial prime numbers.  Focus on your surroundings in great detail, like the colors of the walls, the number of pictures on the wall, the textures of the carpets or other fabrics in the room, the smells of the room, the temperature or other things in the vicinity.  Continue to use the mental exercises for a few minutes.  Now rate your mood again and see if your number has diminished.

[/Q33]

[Q34]

When things happened which we do not like or did not want, a typical reaction is to become angry.  Anger itself is not a problem, if it is not too intense and does not last too long.  Angry behaviors, on the other hand, are not healthy ways to cope with stress. Withdrawing and becoming sullen are also not healthy ways to cope with anger.  If we took an imaginary gauge that was numbered form 1 to 10, we could imagine that anything level of anger 1 to 5 is in the constructive range.  In this range, it is possible to make changes in the situation which created the anger in a positive and constructive manner.  At this level of angry we are able to problem solve and find a solution to the issue, talk to those involved in a respectful way, ask for things to change and let others know how we feel.  In the 5 to 10 range of anger on our gauge, destructive behaviors are often found. These types of angry behaviors include yelling, slamming doors, trying to get even, emotionally abusing someone or violence.  There is nothing healthy or positive that comes from angry behaviors in this range.  Relationships are damaged, jobs are lost and even legal issues can result from this level of anger.

Keeping your anger level in the constructive range is beneficial to you and to others in your life. It can keep you from making choices which cause more pain or hurt.  Learning to reduce your anger level is key to keeping it from escalating to a dangerous level. Monitoring your level of anger is a good place to start.  Try to remember to give your anger level a number.  When your level begins to rise, it is important to do something about it right away.  The generation of positive emotions can be one way to keep your anger level low.  If you want to change your mood, you have to change your thoughts.

From a Cognitive-Behavioral perspective the generation of emotions, or feelings, if you will, have a direct correlation with our thoughts and our thinking (cognitions). How we think or what we think will always have an impact on our feelings.  Thus, our perceptions of what we are observing or experiencing is what we are thinking.  There is a possibility that our perception could be wrong or skewed.

Example: We look outside and see a beautiful sunny day with birds flying by and kids playing in the park.  The thought we create from that view out our window usually results in positive emotions as we think of our younger innocent days or recalling our kids at that age.

For others, they may look at that same sunny day and birds flying and watching the kids and have a different perception.  If the person says, “I hate birds.  They just dirty my car.”  Or, if the person thinks, “I would rather chew broken glass than listen to a bunch of kids screaming and having fun,” then their feelings will likely be negative and dissatisfied with what they are viewing.

If you want to change your emotions you may have to change the thoughts behind it.

Here is another example: A little boy wants desperately to learn to play the piano.  His piano instructor is getting impatient with him.  His sister tells him to knock off all the noise.  Mom complains that these lessons are taking too much out of the family budget.  Thus, the perception the little boy learns quickly is that no one is supportive of him learning the piano.  It is not surprising the little boy gives up and chooses not to try anymore.

On the other hand, the piano instructor is seeing possibility for growth.  Sister is hoping he can accompany her on the piano while she plays for her clarinet recital.  Mom is pleased her little boy is showing an interest in something other than television.  The perception the little boy gets is that he is supported.  He has a chance to excel his skill and talent.  And mom is right there behind him applauding his first completed sonata.  Thus, this boy has a chance.  His cognitions are positive which makes him feel good about what he is doing.

When you find yourself feeling angry or anxious, ask yourself what the thoughts are behind the feelings.  Sometimes reevaluating our thoughts is all it takes to change our feelings.

[/Q34]

[Q35]

Sometimes we experience change in our lives which make it more difficult to handle daily stress.  Feeling more tired and moody than usual can indicate that stress is taking its toll.  Being more tearful, not caring about your appearance, and/or not having the energy or motivation level you used to have can signal a problem in managing your stress.  Other signs of feeling overwhelmed by life’s stressors can be losing interest in things you used to enjoy, such as playing golf on the weekends with friends, going to a movie, or working on that project you haven’t finished.  Carrying around anger and being more irritable than usual are also signs that things may not be going well.  Depression looks different for each person who struggles with this mood change.  Getting help to manage our depression can be a difficult but greatly beneficial choice toward our overall wellness.

[/Q35]

[Q36]

Anxiety is a common experience for everyone. At one time or another we have all been anxious, anticipating a negative event or afraid of a potential outcome.  Changes in our lives create anxiety.  Good changes or negative changes, they all create anxiety.  Change means we do not know what to expect and this creates some level of fear in ourselves.  Getting a new, higher paying job for example, might be an example of a good change but even this type of change creates some anxiety.  Imagine the “butterflies” you might have in your stomach the night before your first day on the job.  Consider all the questions that might be racing through your mind; “Will I be able to do this job?” “Will they like me?” “What if I make a mistake?”  In fact, sometimes these types of thoughts create physical symptoms and prevent quality sleep.

Here is another idea that might help reduce your anxiety.  Try learning to take a moment to change your breathing to a more relax manner.  For this exercise, breathe in only through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth.  First, take a slow deep breath in through your nose to the count of 4.  Try to fill your lungs.  Then pause to the count of 4.  Next blow all the air out of your mouth to the count of 4.  Then pause again for the count of 4.   Do this for about two minutes.  If you can, try to let go of any tension in your neck and shoulders every time you breathe out.  This type of breathing can be used whenever you notice that you are feeling anxious.  It is amazingly calming.

Grounding is another exercise that can help reduce your anxiety.  You can do grounding pretty much anywhere as you keep your eyes open.  Grounding helps you to “be in the moment” and centered again.  It helps you to move your thoughts away from the worry or anxiety that you have been thinking about and onto things that help to calm you.  Since anxiety is always related to your thinking and is never in the current moment, rather it is focused on the future or the past, bringing your thoughts to this moment will reduce you anxiety.  Rate your mood before you begin (example 0 to 10 with 10 means extreme anxiety).  Try playing a “category” game with yourself.  Think of types of dog breeds, musicians, states that begin with a certain letter, names of countries, foods that you like or anything you can think of.  Count backwards from 100 by sevens or name serial prime numbers.  Focus on your surroundings in great detail, like the colors of the walls, the number of pictures on the wall, the textures of the carpets or other fabrics in the room, the smells of the room, the temperature or other things in the vicinity.  Continue to use the mental exercises for a few minutes.  Now rate your mood again and see if your number has diminished.

[/Q36]

[Q80]

Everyday I'm testing.

[/Q80}