Overcoming the Holiday Blues

By Astrid Richardson 

Fall is almost over and with winter quickly approaching, I thought that it would be a good idea to talk about wellness for the coming season. So, winter is coming...bringing with it cooler weather and holiday celebrations. For some, it's an exciting time and for others, it can be a stressful time. Whether exciting or not, maintaining balance continues to be important. Let's talk about how to maintain your wellness during this transitional time.

If you're like me, winter brings thoughts of and plans for the holidays. There are many opportunities to give thanks and celebrate in this season. With holiday celebrations comes holiday food, like cookies, cakes, cocktails, etc. If you're trying to maintain a healthy diet, however, the holidays can be challenging. There are few strategies that can help you stay on track and still enjoy these holiday treats. Fist, have a plan before attending any holiday function. Whether it's Thanksgiving dinner or the office holiday party, try to have a strategy for how you'll navigate the buffet table. You can eat a healthy snack before leaving home so you aren't starving when you arrive. It also helps to use the small plates and go back for seconds, if necessary. Enjoy a cocktail or wine spritzer but try not to overindulge. If you only have one or two holiday events to attend, it may be easier to stick to your strategy than having three or more. The more parties you have, the more important it will be to have and stick to your plan. Concentrate on enjoying the atmosphere, company, and conversation so the food will be less enticing. And don't forget to continue your exercise routine as it will  help to offset extra calories and reduce stress.

Holiday stress can be extremely difficult to manage. There are so many things to do and a seemingly short amount of time to do them. If you're not an early planner, holiday shopping alone can feel overwhelming. If that's the case, take a deep breath and remember what the season means to you. To most people, the season is about showing gratitude and love for our family and friends. How you show your love is completely up to you. If finances are tight this year, as they are for many, try doing something different this year. Your budget may not be able to handle lots of gifts for loved ones so making simple and easy DIY gifts may be exactly what fits your needs. A handwritten note can touch someone's heart in ways that a gift card may not. Be creative.

Finally, don't forget to take time out for taking care of yourself. It's so easy to focus on everyone else's needs this season but you're important too. Take a hot bath or brisk walk, read a chapter of a good book, or visit with a friend. You'll find that the downtime will recharge your batteries and you'll be ready and able to tackle the holiday season.

For more information regarding the Winter Blues/Season Affective Disorder (SAD) please visit us online at www.goosecreekconsulting.com/sad.php or give us a call at 703-574-6271 ext. 1.

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How Those with ADHD Can Outsmart Holiday Depression

by Peggy Maslanka

Margaret, a woman with ADHD, always tried so very hard to achieve her ideal of the perfect holiday. She cooked, entertained, and bought presents according to this ideal, not only for her own husband and children, but for extended family and friends as well. But over the years, she noticed that instead of feeling happy and proud about the lovely Thanksgiving dinners she served and the magical Christmases she created, she felt depleted and depressed.

The holidays capture the imagination of women who have ADHD, because they speak to her creativity, her deeply held feelings about the significance of these special times, and her enjoyment in the excitement and stimulation that surrounds them. They can imagine themselves creating the most sumptuous Thanksgiving meal, the most beautiful holiday decorations, and the most thoughtful gifts for every loved one. And they eagerly anticipate sharing all this with extended family and old friends.

But often, this very ability to imagine perfection and to demand it of themselves conflicts with the increased challenges that the holidays bring, especially those around organization. Usually, the perfection cannot be achieved, and this can lead to the feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness that constitute depression. Even if it is achieved, the cost is so high, that depression is still the result.

One busy Thanksgiving time, Margaret's husband argued for buying prepared dishes that required only a few minutes of heating the microwave. Margaret balked. That was cheating! But then she began to think about all the recipes she wouldn't have to follow, all the ingredients she wouldn't have to search for in the overwhelming supermarket, all the evenings she wouldn't have to spend preparing a dozen different dishes, and all the stress she wouldn't feel trying to coordinate everything to be served at the same moment.         

But how could Thanksgiving dinner be perfect without all her traditional, homemade dishes and desserts?

A creative, open-minded thinker, Margaret decided to write a description of what actually made Thanksgiving special for her. To her surprise, she couldn't remember enjoying any of the things in her description since she'd taken on the task of cook and hostess. She hadn't enjoyed the anticipation of people arriving – it just made her anxious because she wasn't ready for them yet; she hadn't enjoyed the delicious smells because she was too anxious about getting everything in and out of the oven at the right times; and she hadn't enjoyed the meal itself, or the beautiful feelings of love, appreciation, and togetherness, which were the whole point of the day, because by the time she sat down, she was so over-stressed and exhausted.

Maybe all her beliefs about what constituted the perfect Thanksgiving dinner actually made it less perfect.

So she took the plunge, and served the prepared foods. They weren't quite as delicious – but they were fine. And instead of feeling stressed beforehand and depressed afterwards, Margaret felt pleasure in the day, the company, and the meal. And the next day, because she actually had some energy, she wrote a description of what actually made Christmas special for her. The word "perfect" was nowhere to be found.

For more information regarding the Winter Blues/Season Affective Disorder (SAD)/Attention Defficet Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) please visit us online at www.goosecreekconsulting.com/sad.php or give us a call at 703-574-6271 ext. 1.

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Tis' The Season For Boundaries

By Jayson Blair

In the classic Christmas carol playlist, Let It Snow, one of my favorites, I find myself at times fixating, out of context, on the words “no place to go.” Whether I am listening to Dean Martin, Bing Crosby or Carly Simon sing it, my mind will often move from the cheerful ode to snow to the sense of imprisonment that can come during the time of year.

Trapped by the holiday schedule. Trapped by gift buying. Trapped by the expectations of others. Trapped by the limitations on finances. Moreover, trapped, at times, by family and friends you just not might not be a delight for hours on-end.

Many of us find that the weather and depression of the season are not the only thing out there that is frightful.

For many of us, for all of the upsides of the holiday cheer, the suffocation of the season is one of the most difficult parts of this time of year, and, often, it feels as if there is no way out.

As has been countlessly noted in other places, people with depression and seasonal effective disorder often feel out of sync with the rest of the world at this time of year. As the populous at large puts on their holiday cheer, those who struggle with moods this time of year often find themselves sinking further because the gap between how everyone else is doing and how they are feeling. One seasonally affected client of mine likes to describe the holidays as a time of “doing good, but not feeling good.” For those with depression and seasonal affective disorder, this feeling of being trapped by the expectations of the holiday season can be overwhelming.

But this notion of feeling trapped is not isolated to the seasonally affected. The expectations of the season are something that everyone else can struggle with.
The Oft Portrayed Image of the Season

After all, how many people are worrying right now about the number of pies that they have to bake for Thanksgiving? How many are worrying about the brother, mother, cousin, mother-in-law, father or sister that they do not like being around who they are going to have to spend gobs of time with over the holidays? How many people are wondering whether they are going to be able to come up with enough money to get their daughter that American Girl doll she wants?

The Reality for Many
Countless blogs with humorous tips ("develop a case of amenisa," "medicate yourself throught it," "become a vegan right before Thanksgiving) and countless memes litter the Internet to illustrate the point.

There is little doubt that there will be pained expressions at the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables over the coming weeks and in the lines to buy Xbox game consoles.

Over the years, I have found that people do best over the holidays when they set boundaries, some that might lead to upsetting or dashing expectations, including, at times, our own eagerness to please.
Sometimes that thing is a gift. Sometimes it is our time. Sometimes it is a little bit out of the emotional bank that we have that is tapped out and on a path to overdraft. I would be the first to encourage you to make the most of the holidays, but when making others happy is undoing our own happiness, it is probably a good time to reevaluate our approach to life and setting of boundaries.

Setting these boundaries – with people, over your presence, your comfort, their behavior, their expectations and other matters – are a great way to make sure you get the most out of the holiday season. Having spent a Christmas dinner or two in a T.G. Fridays or a bar in New York because there was no emotionally safe place to go,  has been efficiently more healthy than going through the motions at a hostile holiday dinner. Letting people know that you are tapped out – either emotionally, physically or financially – is a way to prevent others from being disappointed and from you developing resentments.

The path to happiness is sometimes paved with tears, many of them falling because we cannot give everyone everything that they want or need, and, at other times, no matter what we do, we just will not be able to make some people happy. Sometimes in life we just need to embrace our own limits and I tend to believe that this is an acute necessity this time of the year.

Identifying, embracing and staying true to what you need is the best gift you could give yourself for the holiday season.

For more information regarding the Winter Blues/Season Affective Disorder (SAD) please visit us online at www.goosecreekconsulting.com/sad.php or give us a call at 703-574-6271 ext. 1.
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Executive Functioning versus Creativity

Everyone accepts and respects the notion of the tortured artist until they have to rely on one. I observe this not only in my coaching practice, but in other areas of my life as well.  

I see how supervisors, clients, colleagues, fellow volunteers, teachers and parents try to be patient, until eventually, they throw up their hands in frustration. 

It has been said that success is driven by the 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration formula.  But for creative people with executive function issues, the 1% motivates the 99%, and inspiration can't be ordered up like a hamburger in a diner. What looks like procrastination, is often really waiting for the 1% inspiration to strike so the creative person can joyfully give the 99% perspiration in response. The basic problem is, often the 1% inspiration does not strike. The contributing problem is that highly creative types are perfectionists and, therefore, they experience enormous difficulties settling for what they can produce without being inspired. 

Paralyzed by their pursuit and need for inspiration, anxiety often sets in, turning the world-be creator into a statue as the clock ticks.

To be sure, not everyone who struggles with executive functioning is creative, but most highly creative types struggle, to some degree, with executive functioning. 

Working within time constraints, meeting deadlines, confronting and communicating delays, completing the tedious tasks that surround the creative aspects of a project are common problems that derail some of the most talented creative types, sabotaging their success and garnering them with reputations for being unreliable. 

Fortunately, there are effective techniques for circumventing this series of events. 

The first is learning to manipulate time in a way that serves the creative brain, as well as the strictures of the workaday world. Because the creative brain requires time for things to penetrate, for inspiration to strike, creators must allow time for this in scheduling their projects. When an assignment comes in, the creator must ponder it thoroughly, put it aside, and then continue work on a prior project. This gives the unconscious a chance to solve the creative problem and, when the person returns to it, the inspiration for the solution is much more likely to announce itself. 

The second technique is to transpose self-hatred into true humility. Creators who struggle with executive functioning criticize themselves when they can't produce, which only contributes to the problem. Why should one's unconscious help someone who is so mean to it? Creators can admit, however, that they aren't always brilliant, that like the rest of us, they are ordinary human beings who sometimes produce only ordinary work. Accepting this is very difficult for people who have known inspiration and high achievement, but life is very much a long lesson in humility, a lesson which creators must learn right along with everyone else.

Lastly, creators must resist the urge to work long into the night as deadlines approach. A poorly rested brain is not an inspired brain, or even a functional one. Regular sleep and exercise, healthy food, and an eight-hour work day may not be associated with the romantic ideals of creative achievement, but they should be. Studies support their effectiveness. 

The tortured artist may be a cultural icon, but actual people don't like to be tortured, no matter how creative they may be. Creative people can be both reliable and happy. It just takes a strategic approach to time, a little humility, and good old-fashioned self-care.

For more information regarding Executive Functioning please visit us online at http://goosecreekconsulting.com/executive-function-coaching.php or give us a call at 703-574-6271 ext. 1.

Honoring Our Veterans

An estimated 20 veterans die by suicide each day, according to Janet Kemp and Robert M. Bossarte, two mental health researchers. The suicide rate among veterans is more than double that of the general population. Veterans face pervasive economic, social and physical hardships and have a greater likelihood than those in the general population to end up homeless. Some estimates suggest that approximately 12 percent of veterans end up without housing at some point after returning from combat. Common challenges for veterans include a lack of understanding in what they have experienced, difficulties reconnecting with family and friends, struggling to find a supportive community, and difficulties applying and interviewing for civilian jobs.

After a tumultuous political season filled with vitriol and negative energy, it was nice to see many Americans take a moment on social media and on the streets to show their appreciation for veterans who have served this country in the Armed Forces.  Since Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to all American veterans; November 11 has been our chance to honor American veterans. This is a group that, after two recent wars and seemingly underlying flash conflicts, is at great risk when they return to civilian life in a country that has often changed under their feet as much as they have changed by being in the service. 

Without a heightened focus on veterans on the other days of the year, we will continue to see those who have served in the Navy, the Army, the Marine Corps and the Air Force struggle with suicide, homelessness and transition at remarkably high rates.

Colleges and Universities have made strong efforts to better assist veterans with transitioning into the workforce and academic life in recent years. The Department of Defense has expanded the
DOD Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to help veterans and their spouses find the tools and training that will help them transition into civilian life
. Non-profits, like MVLE Inc. in Northern Virginia, have specific programs designed to help individuals find jobs in government. Therapists in groups like Give an Hour are offering pro bono therapy and other healing arts services to members.

Several years ago we noticed that even though Goose Creek Coaching is located in the Washington, D.C. area, which has a large number of veterans and transitioning members of the military, we had a low number of clients with those backgrounds. As we did research, it became obvious that the lack of awareness of the availability of career, mental health, wellness and life transition services were an enormous barrier for veterans and transitioning members of the military. Research showed us that even those who became aware of the availability of these services had a difficult time affording the costs. Others were skeptical, after being the targets of so many scams, that any support would come without a price.

These efforts and concerns are what helped inspire our practice to create our Veterans inTransition Program, which is designed to offer transitioning members of themilitary and veterans several hours each of career, life or mental healthcoaching at no cost in order to help them find their footing. The effort is partnerships between our consumer coaching and federal practices, and it leverages our experience with dealing with the same types of challenges that veterans face each day.

We are one year into the effort and I am happy to say that we have been able to make an impact in the lives of individuals who have reached out to us. We look forward to continuing this program for a long time and helping as many veterans as we can as we do our part to make sure that we pay attention to veterans on the other 364 days of the year.

For more information regarding our Veterans in Transition (VIN) Program please give us a call at 703-574-6271 ext. 1.

Mental Health and Wellness Conference | Fairfax County Public Schools

Join us for a day of self-exploration, learning, and personal growth this Saturday, October 29th, 2016 at the Mental Health and Wellness Conference!

We will have a booth set up to provide information about our services for the community.

Mental Health and Wellness Conference

Fairfax High School 8 am - 1:30 pm

The FCPS Mental Health and Wellness Conference will be held on Saturday, October 29, 2016, from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Fairfax High School. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Dena Simmons, Director of Education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and the featured speaker will be Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, Fairfax County Director of Health. Additional information on our keynote speaker and our featured speaker is available on our Conference Information page.
A wide variety of resource tables will be available to participants, as will be more than 50 breakout session options, including a special screening of the new documentary, Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope (http://kpjrfilms.co/resilience/). This documentary, directed by James Redford and premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, explores how adverse childhood experiences (ACE) can alter brain development and be predictive of future health issues. The documentary also features the work of pediatricians, therapists, educators, and community leaders engaged in a national movement to educate others on the importance of preventing childhood trauma and treating toxic stress as ways to improve the health of future generations. View additional conference information

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