by Kellie Boyle
Many adults come to counseling telling me they are aware of the importance of exercise but fitting it into their hectic schedule of a full-time job, kids, kids’ practices and extracurricular events plus commute time is nearly impossible. Other adults can find the time; however, the thought of exercise sounds miserable and the absolute last thing they want to be doing. I’ve had a few tips for them, that I’d like to also share with you.
Don’t call it exercise. If you are telling yourself you have to make time to exercise or go to the gym, when you are someone who dreads the so-called ‘gym’ or the word ‘exercise’, this will be much harder for you. It’s like telling yourself you must eat your broccoli tonight. Call it whatever you want to call it: “Heart work” “stress relief” “power hour”, heck, you could call it “boys night” if you want. Many people cringe when they think about stepping inside of a gym or the thought of stepping on a treadmill. It’s simpler than you have imagined; you don’t have to do either to exercise. Exercise can be putting on some music in your basement and dancing while you pick up all of your kids’ toys, it can be a walk around the neighborhood with your husband after dinner, it can be throwing the Frisbee with your dog, hiking to a beautiful waterfall, or even running down the sidelines as you coach your daughter’s soccer game. Are you someone who once enjoyed contact sports? Go join a rec league basketball team or a fun kickball team. Bottom line, be creative. There are several ways you can get exercise without stepping foot inside a gym.
Work it in with chores or parenting. Ok, so your kids and spouse may think you are strange if they see you doing jumping jacks in the middle of the hallway, but if you’ve got 2 minutes, you’ve got 2 minutes. If you are picking your kid up out of the crib, do a squat before you reach in and then after with your kid in your arms. Make silly faces at them each time you do a push up as they are practicing tummy time. Play hide and go seek with your kids. And really hide and really bend and stretch to get into those close corners. Make excuses to walk up and down your stairs, whether it’s carrying one laundry load at a time, or checking in on your teenager who hasn’t come out of their room in 4 hours. Incorporating your kids into these activities can be a great way to introduce them to healthy living also. Pets are other good excuses for exercise.
No matter where you are, you can almost always think of a way to exercise. Beach? Take a walk on the beach before you reach for that 4th Corona or bring out the boogie board you haven’t used in years. Just lugging around sand and water from the shore to the sandcastle is exercise. Work trip? Take the stairs. Most hotels these days have gyms and pools. Can’t do an hour workout? Do 15 minutes at a higher intensity. Or your normal intensity. It’s better than nothing at all.
I’ve seen people who absolutely despised exercise earlier in life become much more involved in their health and fitness because they have been able to find something that they really enjoy. Dance classes, yoga, even bowling can be a form of exercise. You could even get that purple jumpsuit Jesus wears in “The Big Lebowski.” (Major bonus points from your 5-year old, not so much from your 12-year old).
To summarize, if you can find something you enjoy doing or you can find some sort of activity that gets your heart rate up, even if it is not your typical type of exercise, it will be less of a chore and challenge for you. Start small, don’t beat yourself up if you skip, and go for that gold.
What if you do a Google image search for sunrises and sunsets? After looking at hundreds of pictures what will you see? Can you actually tell the difference between a sunrise and sunset? Perhaps there is something about a sunset that makes it look different, or maybe it is something about you that you see a picture of the sun on the horizon and it seems like a sunset but maybe it is not.
We all see the world through our own lens according to how we think and feel, or what our attitude is. Maybe what we see is not what we think it is. Maybe we need to ask ourselves how our minds are shaping our perceptions.
We all need someone to challenge our assumptions sometimes, even though we may not realize it or want it. Sometimes a good friend or caring parent is there for us. Sometimes we hear from a co-worker or a neighbor.
There are times though, when we need more expert help in the process of looking within ourselves and uncovering the things that need attention. Healing within so that we can see more clearly the way ahead is hard work. It is also some of the most important and rewarding work there is. Do you need a guide on a healing journey?
Running as My Therapy
By Kellie Boyle
“Run like the Wind Blows”. A headline I chose, as a yearbook contributor, to use when writing an article for my track team back in high school. Back then, I was much less interested in long distance running and the idea of running for pleasure or to stay healthy did not quite make sense. Sprinting and high contact sports made much more logical sense to me. I would have never believed if you told me then years later, I would become to love long distance running and actually and willingly participate for relaxation.
I first noticed the benefit of exercise and running when I took my first job out of undergrad. I was working at a day treatment center for kids with emotional and behavioral disorders. I loved my job but as most people who have worked in the mental health field know, it can definitely take a toll on you emotionally and physically. I started running two miles on the treadmill. Before that, I was never challenged or asked to run more than that, but for some reason I thought let’s make it a goal to run 3 miles. Running gave me strength and power and a feeling of sensation I never expected to get. It was so readily available. All I needed was a pair of shoes and a hair tie. I quickly saw the results and was at the gym religiously for at least 3-4 days a week. It was part of my routine, and it worked better for me as therapy then sleeping in or sitting around the house watching TV.
Not long after moving to Charlotte, NC to attend grad school, I took advantage of the warmer weather and started running outside much more frequently. There was a beautiful trail that went around a lake that was close by to my apartment. I loved that trail because I knew it was 1.5 miles long exactly. It was then that I got a call from my best friend stating a friend of hers was planning to run the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville. Um, a road trip to Nashville? Of course I’m in! Okay, so what turned out to be me wanting to go to Nashville for the weekend ended up me becoming a marathon junkie. I started training immediately. I was finishing up my spring semester as race time approached. I stuck to a very strict schedule of wake up at 6:00am, go to internship all day until 2pm. Go to work, go to class, and rarely got home while it was still light out. Running was fit anywhere in between and mostly long runs were saved for the weekends. People would say to me “great for you, but I don’t have time for it”. Well, I have just as much time as they did, but I made the time because it was part of my routine to stay healthy and happy. Much like eating and sleeping (which everyone makes time for), we make these priorities because we all know we need these to survive. To me, running, or some form of exercise was just as important. It releases endorphins in our brains that make us happy, it releases the stress, anger and pressure of everything we have to get done and it allows us to push that negativity out of our body. It allows us to get fresh air, doze off into space, daydream, use mindfulness to notice the beauty of nature; the sights and sounds, the sunlight and cold breeze touching our face.
So, after a 7.5 hour drive to Nashville, I arrived the day before race day ready to pick up my packet and walk around Music City. Little did I know this half marathon happening tomorrow would change my life forever. On race day, I woke up and it was raining. I borrowed a friend’s hat to keep the water out of my face. (I can run in anything but I hate strongly dislike running in rain with water splashing my eyeballs). I started the race solo, but ended up running into a childhood friend who happened to be doing the race, around mile 2. We completed the rest of the race together, enjoying for each of us our first half marathon, seeing the sites of downtown Nash, experiencing bands of country and rock at every mile, while catching up along the way. The thrill of crossing the finish line was so unbelievable. My favorite part of the entire race is the last sprint down to the finish line. So many spectators lined up cheering, ringing cow bells, it’s like your 15 seconds of fame each time coming down that chute. I felt so good, and proud of myself. I also earned my right to hang out and relax, eat and drink whatever I wanted the rest of the day.
I love to travel, and so shortly after crossing that finish line I said to myself “I am going to make it a goal to run a half marathon in every state”. I said this in April 2008. I told this idea to many people when asking about my first experience in Nashville. I got the impression from most of them as they just nodded their head and thought “sure” not thinking it was likely I would actually achieve the goal. And I haven’t yet, but I’m sure on my way. Never let anyone make you believe you can’t do something. Because you can. The sky is the limit. Almost 9 years later, I have now completed 2 full marathons, and 30 half marathons. Thirty-one of those races have been in the states, and one was running the Authentic Marathon in Athens, Greece. Running destinations below (in no particular order):
Hilton Head, SC
New Orleans, LA
Las Vegas, NV
Kansas City, MO
New Brunswick, NJ
Severna Park, MD
If you’ve given running a shot, and it’s not your thing, that’s ok. Find something else that gives you that life, that feeling of peacefulness and hope. I’ve heard of others getting that same thrill out of arts and crafts, scrapbook making, yoga, bike riding, kayaking, hiking, soccer, knitting, and cooking. Find your niche. Believe me, once you find it you will know. And it will be a beautiful thing.
“I wouldn’t know what to talk about.”
This is sometimes the reason people don’t go to counseling. You’re not quite sure what to say to the stranger in the room in front of you. However, something inside of you says that you need to discuss your day with someone else outside of family, friends, or co-workers. It can be awkward at first.
You essentially get invited into a room where there will be a possibility of comfortable chairs or even a couch. You then have the opportunity to tell someone you have never met before, what’s going on. It’s not like a medical exam in which you would sit on a table with crinkly paper. There are no pills or any shots. The counselor may ask you questions, sometimes on initial paperwork or in person that can be detailed and quite personal. Write down what you feel comfortable writing down, and eventually discuss things that you may not at first feel comfortable discussing. Don’t expect that every single counselor knows every detail of your life. They don’t know about you until you share about yourself.
If you’re coming into counseling to talk about not feeling great about your job, well then that’s what you talk about. Chat about not feeling great about your job and all the bits and pieces that go into that. Don’t feel like you need to discuss what was going on in your life when you were a five-year-old if you’re 45 years old and you’re simply not liking your job. However, know that if there are issues in addition to your job a qualified counselor can help you to talk through those things. A good counselor will not judge you for not wanting to talk. A good, confident, clinically trained counselor will not judge you for any of your most intimate secrets.
Counselors are people that clients can come to talk about the hard or embarrassing stuff in life. Counselors are the people trained to not shy away from topics such as the mechanics of a sexual encounter, the pain of losing someone to suicide, or the thoughts that go on in your head that you might not feel like you want to be having. There is a very broad range of wellness and illness and with it comes the ideas and activities that each of us has in our daily life. A counselor can help you sift through them. Not every session is deep and dark and tricky. Some might be for some people, while other may never have these types of discussions. People come talk to us about their jobs, their parenting, their relationships, their next awesome business idea, or about the people that are bullying them and they just don’t know what to do. People talk to us about the life choices that they are making with drugs or alcohol and they want to find out more about healthful choices they can make for their bodies that may not be as damaging.
There is no right way or wrong way to talk to a counselor. Simply be the respectful person that you are and remember that the counselor is human too. Counselors themselves have been through many life experiences and hundreds of classes that can help guide you to make the decisions that are best for you. So, when you feel like you don’t know what to talk about with a counselor simply say that. Tell the counselor you have never sat with someone like this before and that you’re not sure what to do next. This is probably not a first session ever for the counselor, in which case they can guide you to help discover what it truly is that you’re there to talk about. Try it out. You never know what you might learn.
– by Anthea Isaacs Marymount University Forensic Psychology Intern
Within smaller communities it is harder to receive information on mental health resources. That is why in Loudoun County, VA, the first annual Hopefest: Health and Wellness Fair 2016 was held. The fair included various mental health organizations within the are so the community could learn more about them. A few centers that took part included Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS), Loudoun Citizens for Social Justice, Windward Optimal Health, and Boulder Crests Retreat for Military & Veteran Wellness. These organizations and 37 others set up exhibits with information and fun activities for children. There were also panels, which consisted of mental health professionals, law enforcement, and political influences that provided information on why there is an increased need for mental health awareness.
Guest lecturers discussed drug use within the community, eating disorders, and helping veterans after they returned home. The suicide awareness and prevention panel which included Suzie Bartel, Dr. Sherry Molock, and Susan McCormick was of most interest to me. Suzie Bartel is the president of the Ryan Bartel foundation created in honor of her 17 year old son that committed suicide two years ago. Dr. Molock is the director of clinical training in the department of psychology at George Washington University and works with churches to increase the awareness of suicide among teens. A short video that displayed several teens who shared how suicidal thoughts can affect an individual was shown. Being supportive and listening to people may be way to help prevent a suicide attempt.
Ms. Bartel explained that she started the organization to prevent other parents from going through what she went through. She explains there may be signs, especially with teens, that adults must pay attention and not dismiss as a phase. Dr. Molock explained the importance of the church in being more accepting and less condemning of those with suicidal thoughts. She explained how she works with churches to incorporate more open talks among teens about how they may be feeling.
The group spoke candidly about how parents and others adults could speak to those they believe are considering suicide. They explained that many who want to talk to those they believe are suicidal, think asking them if they are suicidal will put the thought in their head. It would not. Many do not ask their friends or love ones if they are suicidal because they are afraid they will make them think they are. Asking an individual if they are suicidal can be helpful to the individual. It can give them an outlet to express their feelings and not feel alone. It can be easy it is to hide from family and friends when you don’t feel good. I have seen how damaging the shock can be to family and loved ones when the choice of suicide has become final.
Teens can take breakups with friends or relationships very hard. Listening to them and being aware of changes in behavior can be helpful in noticing when something is wrong. Like teens, adults can display a change in behavior when depressed or contemplating suicide. A common behavior that can be noticed is the giving away of sentimental objects and being withdrawn. An individual may find a sense of peace when they have decided to commit suicide, which can be confusing for loved ones. The acceptance of the act seems to create a sense of calm for the individual. Those who were once irritable can all of a sudden be easygoing once they have decided to commit suicide.
I have seen how depression and the lack of communication can lead to losing someone unexpectedly. Some conversations can be very hard and sad, but showing a little support can be the difference between someone believing they shouldn’t live or they should receive help. Losing someone very close to you can be very hard to move on from. Many do not know how to ask for help and support. Being aware and there for that individual even if they may not want it could make the difference. I enjoyed how honest and up front the panelists were about a topic that many are uncomfortable to talk about. They created an awareness in me that no one should be ignored or left to go through something alone because you never know how hard it is for them.