Witness and Judge

Picture yourself on trial.  Your the defendant.  Witnesses are being brought up and questioned before the court to testify.  Some of the testimony is in your favour… or perhaps not.  After hours of listening and consulting, the jury comes to a conclusion and pronounce their verdict.  Then the judge brings down the hammer.  What’s the outcome?  Are you deemed innocent or guilty?

This scenario is exactly what we go through every day, multiple times a day.  Our conscience puts our actions and decisions on trial all the time.  On the one hand, it bears witness to what we say and do, even when no one else is around.  On the other hand, it condones what is good and condemns what is bad, even when things happen secretly.

A healthy, guilt-free conscience grants profound internal peace and happiness, whereas a guilty, heavy conscience puts one in a state of conflict against himself, creates anxiety and stress, generates feelings of shame and fear.  The heavily burdened conscience does not leave you in peace.  It is a divine voice within you that persistently beckons you to a way of life worthy of your God-given dignity.

Living a moral life is therefore a crucial part of self-care, and one of the best anxiety management strategies.

Be a light to your world today!

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KISS – Keep It Simple, Silly!

Ever feel weighed down by the hustle and bustle of every day life?  I know I do.  You reach a point where you begin to look desperately for a way to squeeze in some down time or even a vacation, but you can’t seem to be able to justify fitting it in anywhere.  You’re worn out from driving around to run errands and chauffeur people around.  You and your significant other hardly spend time together that doesn’t involve talking about finances, children, or something that requires problem solving.  You want to pursue your life goals and realize that there’s not enough time in a day, or in a year for that matter.

My answer?  Kiss.  Yes, KISS… Keep It Simple, Silly!  We can run around pursuing all sorts of dreams, committing to all sorts of causes or sports.  In the end, how many of these are actually helping you attain your ultimate goal?  I’ve found simplicity to be an important part of self-care.  When it’s simple, it’s not very stressful.

Simplicity gives you a clear sense of direction, whereas complexity pulls you in many directions at once.  The key to happiness, in my mind, is not about having more or doing more, but in being the best version of yourself.  To do so, you need a clear sense of direction and purpose, which comes from simplicity.

Be a light to your world today!

Mental Health Care: Where are you going?

Throughout life, we come to many crossroads.  Each road leads us down an uncertain path.  Where these paths lead remains a mystery until we reach their destination.  Some paths are smooth, paved roads.  Others look appealing with many attractions along the road.  Some other paths are rugged, beat-up, and worn-out ruts.  Some are straight, some are winding.  Each path requires us to decide whether we will follow it or not.  In the end, we can easily get overwhelmed by the number of decisions we have to make, never really knowing for sure where our decisions will take us.

Sometimes we sit at the crossroads, analyzing the possibilities ad nauseum, hardly daring to choose in case we make the wrong choice.  Sometimes we follow a path recklessly because of all the promise, fun, or pleasures we think we’ll get out of it, only to realize down the road that it was a bad decision… then we feel lost.  Occasionally, we feel grateful, seeing the many blessings that came to us as a result of that decision.

So what does this have to do with mental health care?  Simple.  The purpose of mental health care is to have clear focus of where we are going and what we are doing.  The healthy mind doesn’t worry or fret about the small cares of life.  It is willing to let go of the small things for the sake of the ultimate goal.  It won’t go down paths that lead it astray from its goal, no matter how tempting or easy some paths may seem.

So how do you know which path is better?  Follow your conscience.  Our conscience is our God-given compass to make the right decisions in life.  Our conscience will point us in the direction of what is righteous.  Morality is essential to a healthy mind, and it overlaps both mental and spiritual care.

Nevertheless, despite our best efforts to do what is right, we often find ourselves in a mental fog due to exhaustion and poor self-care, which makes it difficult to make the right choices.  In a nutshell, here’s my two cents on proper mental health care: limit multi-tasking to a minimum, limit the flow of information your mind has to process, give yourselves short mental breaks during the day and especially a nice long one in the evening before bed where you completely disconnect from all your cares and worries.  It sounds simple, and it is, but it requires discipline to be able to maintain proper mental health care.

Be a light to your world today!

Social Care: Relationships Matter

In this next part on self-care, I’m shifting my focus on the importance of relationships as part of social care.

The bottom line of social care is that we have to build healthy relationships with others and with ourselves.  Healthy relationships are essential for our happiness.  I’d like to point out three main principles to having a healthy relationship: boundaries, communication, and care.

Boundaries determine when you say yes and when you say no to others.  Always saying no to others can demonstrate selfishness and a disregard for them.  Always saying yes to others can demonstrate self-neglect and a desperate desire to be appreciated and accepted.  Healthy relationships have a fluidity of giving and receiving that is enriching for both parties.

A healthy relationship also has great communication, which can be summed up in two words: honesty and discretion.  Unspoken anger or resentment, maybe even simple assumptions, will surface sooner or later in ways that can be damaging to the relationship and hurtful toward others.  However important it is to be honest, it is just as important to be discreet because ill-timed and ill-expressed truths can be damaging to a relationship, sometimes irrevocably so.

Lastly, care.  True friends care for each other without condition.  Genuine care is what makes the difference between a relationship that’s manipulated for selfish purposes and one that’s nurtured for mutual growth.

If your struggles are in relationships (be it with family, friends, or a significant other), look at the dynamic of that relationship.  Do you have healthy boundaries that allow both of you to be yourselves?  Do you communicate well?  Do you care for and look out for each other?  In these three questions you may find some answers.  Not all situations can be resolved simply by asking these questions, but they may shed some light.

Be a light to your world today!

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Care for Your Body

There are four main facets of self-care: physical, mental, social, and spiritual.  Being incarnate spirits who live in relation to others and to their ultimate end, God, we must care for every single facet of self-care.  Neglecting even one of these will have repercussions on the rest in some way.

Today, we turn our attention to our body, that vehicle God chose for our spiritual soul to inhabit, without which our very existence would be incomplete.

Caring for our body means responding to each of its needs: eat, sleep, exercise, breathe, etc.  This facet of self-care is to the other facets what humility is to all other virtues.  It is the sine qua non of good health.  Neglect any of the body’s needs for a significant amount of time, and your body begins to deteriorate.  Circumstances may often require us to be patient and put our needs on the back burner for a while, but as long as we strive to meet them as regularly as possible we will naturally continue to thrive.

My professional recommendation to care for your body is to eat healthy, sleep 7 to 9 hours per night, exercise a few times per week and, of course, breathe.  Irregular breathing is sometimes a sign of anxiety or other mental health issue going on, and it puts a stress on our body.

So before you try to tackle any mental health issue or other, make sure you check in with yourself to see if you’re caring for your body as you should.  Symptoms of depression or anxiety can be caused by poor physical self-care.

Be a light to your world today!

The Art of Self-Care

This begins a series of blog posts on self-care.  My experience as a mental health counselor has taught me that people often don’t understand how best to take care of themselves.

Self-care is a multi-faceted discipline that’s not easy to master.  Unfortunately, some view this discipline as laziness or a sign of weakness.  Why?  For some, it shows limitations that they feel make them look weak.  For others, it’s “non-productive” time and therefore a waste of time.  Still others may feel that they are selfish if they think about themselves and so take a brake from worrying about others.  What’s behind those beliefs varies from person to person.  And these ones are just a few of many.

The truth is, self-care is essential to our lives.  Yes, we do have limitations, but that’s a condition of our human nature that can’t be ignored for long.  When it’s ignored too long, you pay for it: burn-outs, depression, anxiety… just to name a few.  There’s a fair number of mental health issues I deal with that are caused by poor self-care.

To say that self-care is a waste of time is like saying that workers who take the time to maintain their equipment are wasting their time.  The real waste of time is when they’re slowed down by poor equipment or when their equipment breaks.  Then they can do nothing until it is replaced or restored.  If we don’t take proper care of ourselves and become indisposed for a while, that’s where we’ll see the real waste of time.  Besides, it’s difficult to appreciate life and its blessings when we’re constantly on overdrive.  Enjoy life, don’t just plow through it.

Be a light to your world today!

Even Doctors Need Doctors

We all know the feeling of wanting to be present for others but having little energy or motivation to do what we want to do.  We want to help others carry their burdens but can hardly carry our own.  We try to beat our bodies and our minds into submission and push through, but it feels like running a marathon with a ball-and-chain on our ankles.  Ever wonder why?

There are multiple reasons that can get us to that point, but it all comes down to needing to look after ourselves.  Perhaps I focus so much on caring for others that I’m neglecting myself.  Perhaps I’m so busy that I’m not hearing my mind or my body telling me to slow down.  Perhaps I’m struggling with difficult circumstances that take most of my energy and I should, therefore, cut out the unnecessary stuff in my agenda, or at least put off what can wait.  Perhaps there is darkness from my past that’s asking to be dealt with.  Whatever the reason may be, it’s important for us to figure out where our energy is being spent when we’re feeling heavily burdened.  This can require talking to someone who’s removed from the situation who could give us a more objective point of view on the matter.

So when you’re feeling down, take a step back and think about it.  You have something to learn from it, and something to change.  If someone you know is living this, listen patiently and say what you see with all the honesty and kindness within you.

Be a light to your world today!