The holidays paint a picture of joy and merriment. A time to celebrate faith, tradition, family, and friends. For many, the holiday season does incite merriment. There are a multitude of individuals that experience an increase in mental health symptoms, during the holidays.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America noted that 16.1 million Americans are affected by Major Depression Disorder; 6.8 million impacted by Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Often, when people have concerns with anxiety or depression; these mental health concerns frequently co-occur (AADA.org, 2017).
Quick Guide to the Holidays and Mental Health
Limit setting: YOU get to decide how much time to spend with family, friends, and all other types of holiday activities. Often, quantity of alcohol and/or poor eating habits increase how stress is received in our bodies. For example, drinking large quantities of caffeine can increase anxiety. It is okay to say NO!
Schedule: Adhere to a schedule. I hate to admit this but having a routine does help. Build time for YOU, in your daily routine. As a person that has struggled with the holiday blues, I can attest to that!
Professional Help: Seek out a mental health professional. There is nothing more fulfilling than being able to process life with a professionally-trained third party person.
Expectations: Get rid of expectations! All of them !(I am just kidding). Downsize your holiday expectations to a manageable amount.
Self-care: Take a bath. Read a book. Drink more water. Meditate. Exercise. Lay under your Christmas tree and enjoy every minute of it. Take care of you, this holiday season.
Disclaimer: This is collection of my personal experience and research. You, as the reader never have to agree with my thoughts or perspectives. As always, I challenge you to seek out further information about mental heath.
Fall is upon us. The Mid-West is the place to be, during Autumn. Leaves painted with hues of orange, yellow, and red. The constant, gentle hum from the percolating coffee fills the heart with joy. Pumpkins, crisp air, and apple themed desserts on every corner (a little embellishment, never hurt). Pinterest and Instagram lure me with their fall seducing pictures and themes. Like, every Autumn before, I plan and plot to enjoy all the merits of Fall. This particular season began with my annual trip to the local pumpkin patch.
The Pumpkin Ranch, in Winterset, Iowa, is an enjoyable visit for those seeking a genuine Autumn experience. There are many options for a Fall seeker in Central Iowa. The attraction for our family to The Pumpkin Ranch, in particular was its closeness to the Bridges of Madison County (yes, there is a movie). Side note: there are several winery options and one cidery in Winterset, Iowa.
My immediate family recently made the long, boring drive from Indiana to Iowa, for a visit. Their request was to visit a local pumpkin patch and corn maze. The Pumpkin Ranch fulfilled both requests. The corn maze (10 acres) was intense; there were a few moments of dredging through soft mud; however, with the expert navigation skills of my brother-in-law, we safely made it through. The Pumpkin Ranch offers a toddler-friendly playground, corn maze, obstacle course made out of bales, tunnel slides, pumpkin picking, food, and jump pillow. The Pumpkin Ranch will provide all Autumn lovers with a genuine Fall experience. For more ideas on ways/events to enrich your fall season, please visit: https://www.catchdesmoines.com/fall/
Autumn is time to slow down. A season to sip mulled cider, wear a beautiful scarf, and enjoy a short season of fellowship with friends and family. Try something new this season or revitalize an old Fall pastime (sitting by a fire, reading a book, in a cozy chair). As the temperatures begin to decline, take this cue to slow down and enjoy these fleeting moments called life.
Disclaimer: This is a personal blog about my own experience. Please note that I am not affiliated with The Pumpkin Ranch or Catch Des Moines.
Flowers are my love language. The beauty of flowers have captivated my (wannabe) free-spirited heart for years. On days when I need an aesthetic pick me up, I run to the local store to purchase flowers for the office or home. Longingly, I sift through Instagram photos of flower arrangements with envy. Today, I decided to create my own flower arrangement. I am no expert on flowers and/or arranging them. I watched two videos on flower arranging and then just went for it.
My interest in flower arranging lead me to a local antique shop (Found Things, in Des Moines, Iowa). There, I unearthed a pedestal bowl. I am going for the vintage-hipster look. Fun fact: I learned from the shop owner that this beautiful vessel was once used to hold lard. It is slightly tinted with a light brown hue around the basin.
In the Lord of the Rings movie, The Return of the King, Gandalf exclaimed, “Run Shadowfax, show us the meaning of haste.” Like Shadowfax, I made haste with those strips of tape; I used these cut strips to section off the bowl. There are numerous ways to create order when arranging flowers. Often those versed in flower arranging encourage the usage of foam. The foam must be saturated fully in water; for larger centerpieces, use more foam. I did not use foam in this creation.
With the tape placed on the top of my vessel, I laid all the flowers across the table. Then, I placed each flower according to my liking. After running out of flowers for my creation, I decided to get creative. I cut leaves off my house plants to fill in the gaps. I added eucalyptus for additional good smells. There is really no wrong or right. Heck, I do not even know the types of flowers, I used. With fall being upon us, I used sunflowers, a decorative (sweet little, baby) kale, and a variety other “fall-looking” flowers.
Favorite places to acquire flowers in Des Moines, Iowa:
Trader Joe’s offers a variety of affordable flowers
My yard and/or house plants
In conclusion, there is a lesson learned from this flower arranging endeavor. This moment of enlightenment taught me to focus on treating myself (and surroundings) with gentle carefulness. I must focus on the beauty around me; harness it and arrange it in a way that uplifts and captivates. It was never just about arranging flowers. These smalls moments are about creating a life that upholds beauty, creativity, and an never-ending desire to share joy with others. Inspiration starts from within.
Disclaimer: This is based on my experience. I am receiving no financial compensation or benefits from the listed stores, in this post. You should read up on flowering arranging. Apply what information you’ve learned when arranging flowers. The beauty is in the individualistic application to your works of art.
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow” -Anita Desai
Ya’ll, this Midwestern girl just returned from a quick weekend trip to Nashville, Tennessee, with a newly discovered southern drawl, in tow. Nashville is the known as the Music City; home to country music, delicious Southern foods, and rich experiences beckon all that enter its city limits. Partner this with a bountiful lists of decadent option for food and fun, plus the allure of being in the Path of Totality during the 2017 Solar Eclipse…you are definitely in Nashville, ya’ll.
The family and I, drove 10+ hours from Des Moines, Iowa to Nashville, Tennessee, with the only rousing stop being in Pella, Iowa, at Jaarsma Bakery to pick up two dozen Dutch letters; aka… heaven wrap in dough and almond paste. Road trips with kids require snacks, ipads, and more snacks. The landscape slowly started to shift from farm lands to rolling hills, with Nashville, on the horizon.
Family happily greeted us, as we arrived at my cousin’s home. Things in life are sweeter when family come together to make merry over food and a Solar Eclipse. Together we ventured to 3 different Nashville dining establishments.
Fat Bottom Brewery is a Nashville native owned brewery, with a variety of locally brewed ales to quench the thirst of all types of consumers. The location is aesthetically pleasing to the eye; with lights strung outside hanging over an area to play Cornhole (Bags, dummy boards, doghouse, Baggo, Bag toss, etc). My husband, a seasoned beer drinker, was pleased with his choice of their Lychee Weisse. There is a full bar for options outside of microbrews. Overall, a cozy, hipster place to hang with family and friends.
My cousin and her husband conveniently live close to McDougals Chicken Fingers and Wings, in Nashville, Tennessee. Ya’ll, chickens fingers with your choice of dipping sauces. I am just not sure that life could be any better. The kids ordered wings and a grilled cheese sandwich and I heard no complaints. Plus, each meal ends with a small cup of ice cream.
YA’LL, the restaurant, Monell’s. YA’LL, there is nothing to say except, go. Go, now! You will have to wait to get a table. You will most likely have to share a family style table, with strangers. You will be asked to put away your cell phone. You will eat outstanding Southern food. And just when you think the food will stop coming; the Monell staff will place several more options on the table. After eating at Monell’s, you will need to immediately go home, put on stretchy pants and take a nap. Go for the brunch, lunch, or dinner. Check their website, for their hours.
Let’s talk about the Path of Totality! The Solar Eclipse of 2017 exceeded all expectations. The temperature dramatically dropped and the boisterous song of the cicadas could be heard during these two minutes of totality. A supernatural moment to reflect on the universe’s ability to continue without the control of mankind. Sure, we can market these events and sell merchandise, all while singing Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart…you get the picture. There are moments that are outside of our control. These brief periods that award us a moment to be enchanted by the power of nature and for many it is a reminder of a higher power. Can we get a solar eclipse more often, please?
Overall, the weekend trip was fun, fast paced, and full of fantastic experiences. Writing about my travels is providing me an opportunity to process my journey. Traveling is much more than relaxing or hitting up the gift shop, of some major attraction. My short visit to Nashville, reminded me that my journey is a collection of moments that have chiseled my inner being, into the person, I am. Moments with good food, beautiful landscapes, and community make up a life of marvel. These seemingly short lived moments have become the foundation in which I stand upon.
“The journey of a thousands miles begins with a single step. -Lao Tzu
My family has this inside joke that we say about grouchy people. It goes like this, “we haven’t seen (fill in the person’s name) in a good mood since 1972.” However, upon much reflection, I have realized that my bad mood started around the day of my birth.
The idea of living a cheerful, positive approach is appealing. Unfortunately, this was not the disposition I received when my personality was being formed. Thank you, Creator; thank you parents (I am working on my ability to accept personal responsibility, for my grouchy self, at a later date). My mood has steadily improved over the years, especially with the introduction of coffee, in the daily routine and leaving those pesky teenage years in the dust.
While it can be argued that many factors impact one’s mood. According to Merriam -Webster’s Dictionary, mood is defined as, ” a conscious state of mind or predominant emotion.” Basically, my predominant emotion is despondency with a dash of melancholy, mixed with an unending flair for the dramatics. Or just plain grouchy, if you prefer the quick and dirty description of my emotional state.
I do not strive for an state of irritation and most days, I am in a decent mood. Irritability has long been a foundational component of my ability to move forward. I like to call a coping skill. Not your typical run of the mill, traditional coping skill or one that is even encouraged, however, one that has awarded me the ability to sustain difficult days at work, difficult situations, etc… Even as I read & words written, I am thinking, that is some bull shit. Irritation and anger not only have stunted my relationships; it has impeded my ability to take responsibility for my actions, words, and thoughts. Ironically, my level of irritation coincides with my anxiety, as well. Irritation and anxiety are a partner made in the deep throws of emotion, some call it passion; I call it a heavy burden.
Today, I left work. Again, I felt tired, anxious, and pissed off. Now, to be honest, I have consistently complained about every job I have had. I drove home in silence, with thoughts of despair running freely in my mind. I made dinner. The kids ate. The cat and dog were fed. I tried to shake this dark, tumultuous mood brewing. I wanted to pack my personal affects and drive away. Instead, I snuggled my dog and made a cup of tea. Slowly the noise within settled. I sat on my porch, ate a lemon muffin and listened to music.
The point is, I had a choice. One moment to take ownership of my time on this earth. I wish, I could tell you I just finished hiking the Appalachian Trail or created the new Google. There was no great battle of success. There was one simple moment that I purposely sought out an alternative to the story (or, mood). The essence is in these little victories.
Life lessons will always challenge those that seek refinement of the inner self. I am by no means an expert on this subject. The unfeigned me is unsure of how to fix the inner struggle with self. I am by no means an expert on fixing oneself. However. I leave you with 5 suggestions from my own experience with this thing called life.
Do something you enjoy. Today, I made delicious lemon muffins and tea
Read the book: The Little Book of Hygee, Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking.
Stop letting others decide your mood. Only you can control how you react and/or feel.
Find a small way to live out one of your dreams.
Go create that inviting space that gives you the ability to relax and enjoy life.
“With coffee, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?” -Oscar Wildish
Home is a state of being; usually involving a road trip, with coffee in hand. Nevertheless, there are times when our heart just needs to hit the pavement and go. My Indiana roots have been calling to that still place within my spirit. With the milieu, of my community changing, the ache for Indiana returned to my heart. My short road trip consisted of 490 miles from my current location in Iowa, to my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Majority of my family members continue to reside in Indiana. Every time, I arrive in Fort Wayne, I am greeted by parade of relatives. By family, I mean cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, and at times, even their pets show up. When I moved away from my clan; I felt a lot of sadness. While, I enjoyed being in Iowa, with my husband; I still missed the closeness of the family. There is an overwhelming joy that fills my soul, when I see these people. The kids fight to sit next to me, at the table. There are countless invitations for dinner, parties, coffee, etc.
Joy radiates from my spirit, during these times; however, humility reiterates its presence by reminding me that I could never repay these people for their endless kindness and love. Reflecting on my life experiences usually fill my long drives back to Iowa. During this particular return trip, I began to ponder the impact my affectionate family had on me. A theme that emerged was my family’s ability to laugh and love each other throughout all of life’s hardships. These moments carry me through the darkest of days.
To summarize my short little road trip back home; the band, Third Eye Blind, has a lyric from their song, Deep Inside of You: “I’d walk with my own people if I could find them.” I found my people. My people are my family and I am thankful to have found them.
Memorial Day is rapidly approaching. As many formulate barbeque lists and parties, in preparation; I emplore all to pause to contemplate the impact of this particular day. An intentional day set aside to remember many that have sacrificed (still are) for a nation. A nation designed to implement ideas of freedom and assimilate many diverse thoughts, creeds, backgrounds, and/or ethnicities.
While Memorial Day was set aside to honor the fallen throughout our nation’s wars and conflicts (emerged as Decoration Day, following the Civil War); there are those within our communities that continue to struggle with the impact of losing friends, family members, fellow servicemen/women, and the loss of normalcy that often accompany many of our service people after returning from said conflicts/wars.
This Memorial Day, I am honoring not only the fallen but the those that still experience the loss from these grievous moments of history. Specifically, I think of friends and family members that courageously served their commitment to serve the United States of America. This Memorial Day should be a day of reflection for those called to place country before themselves.
Personally, I think of my cousins selfless desire to serve country, during the early years of Operation Enduring Freedom. I think of my close friend that served during the Vietnam Conflict and the many others that I have known throughout my life. While these beloved individuals returned home; I ask that we remember those who did not return and those that still struggle.
If you are a veteran (or friend or family member) experiencing a crisis; please call 1-800-273-8255. Do not fight this battle alone.