Thank you for joining us this November month of 2023 as we celebrated caregivers during National Family Caregivers Month and our Hope Grows 8th Annual Celebrating YOU! event, our 7th Annual Bob Evans Turkey Meal Deliveries, and Gladness, our Focus of the Month!

This month, we talked about the importance of “taking a break” and shared ways to do this in “just 10 minutes.” I was able to be a witness of a common theme of “gladness” in the air at our events, as everyone began to experience “rest” and “connection” with each other.

How suitable that the famous quote “there are only four kinds of people in the world: those that have been caregivers, those that are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers,” is being widely circulated this month.

If you follow any movement of advocacy for caregivers, you are familiar with Rosalyn Carter, God rest her soul. The former first lady, founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers died on November 19. She established the institute in 1987, to promote the health, strength, and resilience of America’s 53 million family caregivers. I think we can all be glad and express thanks and appreciation for her work.

“Being thankful is the quickest path to joy,” said Jefferson Bethke, a best-selling author of Take Back Your Family and Jesus, Religion and It’s Not What You Think. Thankfulness and joyfulness is at the root of gladness. The dictionary tells us that gladness is a type of happiness, an emotion one experiences when in a state of well-being.

So, why are we not in this state of well-being all of the time? Easy! Stress! It is a fluent part of our daily lives and impacts our emotions; it just isn’t possible to maintain a constant state of happiness. Is that okay? I think so. This is why healthy coping mechanisms are crucial and cultivating a balance in life is an important practice.

For those that know me, I am the grandmother to 8 beautiful human beings. Watching their growth from a perspective of a seasoned mother and a mental health therapist has truly become a constant state of behavioral observation. Of the 8 children, two of them are girls, and I am and have been a witness to my 6- and 13-year-old granddaughters, both in very different development and emotional states. Nonetheless, they both live with a constant ebb and flow between happiness (gladness) and a state of, what I call “childhood hysteria.” This frenzy is normal and what I see them doing is coping appropriately. Their parents have given them the tools to bounce back into a state of gladness (happiness, if you will) when stress or something doesn’t go, in their mind, correctly.

Gladness, or the feeling of happiness and joy, can have significant positive psychological effects on stress. When you experience gladness, it often counteracts the impact of stress in several ways. Reduction in stress hormones, improved resilience, and a positive mindset are just a few.

Healthy coping mechanisms are a form of mindfulness, exercise, social support, and problem-solving skills. I truly believe though, for my two granddaughters, part of the success is they just don’t stay in an unpleasant emotion for too long. As most children, they can bounce from the stressful unpleasant moment quickly, if given the right environment.

Stress is a natural part of life, and the key to managing it effectively is by finding a balance between the stress and gladness. Our Hope Grows Care Model includes ways to find that balance and, in that moment, I believe is a place of equilibrium where we find a more empowered, fulfilled, and resilient person, which then reinforces the reason to be in this state of well-being.

Our state of mind is so full of emotions, why wouldn’t we want to feel more than just gladness all of the time? After all, an unpleasant emotion often can lead to change. If I didn’t experience sadness, Hope Grows may not exist. The mission grew from sadness and grief; good things can happen when we experience unpleasant emotions. The important part is knowing how to cope: “take a break” daily and don’t linger in the unpleasant for too long.

So, go into the last month of the 2023 with the thought of cultivating gladness, as it can create a ripple effect of positivity. Some suggestions are to laugh and smile (even when it’s hard to), seek learning and growth, positive self-talk, acts of kindness, engage in activities you enjoy, and implement a gratitude practice. Practicing gratitude and almsgiving changes our brain chemistry. More on that later, but what a great month to give of yourself and let the world know how glad you are to express YOU through giving. The return is worth it…A Glad and Joyful Heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Written by Lisa Story, MSCP, LPC, CT
Hope Grows Founder & Clinical Director

Reflections from the Iris Respite House Healing Gardens September 2023

“The earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Laughter knows no bounds. Like the natural world, it serves to connect. Truth and innocence often carry it. It can serve to link us together when we least expect it, even in the scariest of moments, and the best ones are simply unforgettable. We need good laughs, like we need each other. It’s part of what connects us as humans. And, in today’s market of stress-relieving products, it can ease suffering without costing a cent.

The therapeutic effects of laughter on the mind and body are well documented. It’s a powerful healer. The next time you laugh so hard you pee your pants, think about this: a hearty laugh ripples through the motor cortex, which is involved in muscle control (including the bladder!), the frontal lobe (which helps one understand context), and the limbic system (which modulates positive emotions). It creates social bonds, builds resiliency, facilitates intimacy, increases immune cells and antibodies, relieves tension and stress, and can lower levels of anxiety and depression. As someone who has battled high levels of anxiety, I can vouch for how much genuine laughter can temper it. Even better: you can never overdose!

Like bouquets of flowers, good laughs always leave you wanting more. I discovered that the physiological benefits of laughter actually parallel the ones experienced by people who are enjoying a bouquet of flowers, even more so if they spend any amount of time arranging them. They both can trigger the release of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, the “feel better hormones,” as well as reduce levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.” They both serve to create social bonds, facilitate an appreciation for life, can lower anxiety, and help lift depression. Looks like Emerson had it right!

This fall, as you enjoy the earth’s autumnal laughter of flowers, see if you can spot some autumn crocuses. They have a chalice shaped flower, like that of the spring blooming crocus, but autumn crocus flowers are a bit larger. My favorite part of this plant is the unique quality of blooming long after the foliage has died back, like resurrection lilies. That’s how autumn crocuses got the common name “naked ladies,” since it’s only the flower that comes up in the fall. To anyone who didn’t know the plant, with such a long stretch of time in between foliage dye back and the “naked” flowers, it could be one of the earth’s more unexpected autumn laughs.

Genuine laughter, like great music, can’t be forced. It has to move through you from the inside out. That’s why, when it’s real, it’s such a gift. And it almost always has a great story behind it. I leave you with this: I’ve been writing this month’s blog from a cabin in the woods where my extended family has gathered for the week to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday. After a day of hiking, I had the door shut, my laptop open, and was researching the health benefits of laughter when my cousin came in the room. After chatting calmly with me for a few moments, her facial expression changed drastically when she felt what she was sure was a tick bite her on her rearend. Mind you, she was completely covered from the mid-neck down. I don’t know how any insect would have even gotten beyond her outer layer of clothing. Nevertheless, without wasting a moment, she dropped her pants in a panic right in front of me and had to make sure there were no ticks attached to her in any way. Turns out it had been a piece of plastic that had gotten lodged in her underwear! We both laughed so hard it hurt. When I finally caught my breath, before my oxytocin levels had come down, I marveled at the moment. Innocence and truth had us riding the waves of laughter once again. And my anxiety? Nowhere in sight.

Written by Jessica Giannotta, Hope Grows Horticulturist


The focus for the month of August is Temptation. The focus was chosen due to the apple trees bearing fruit at this time of year, with harvest soon to follow. Autumn season is fast approaching at the Iris Respite House & Healing Gardens, as the squirrels begin to gnaw at the hickory nuts in the tree next to the Hope Grows administrative offices on the property.

What do apples have to do with temptation? Well, for starters, the Victorian era of representation tells us that the apple tree symbolizes temptation. From some religious accounts and beliefs, temptation is heavily rooted in the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve, whereby the devil enticed Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.

According to the story of the golden apples in the Garden of Hesperides, the unnamed fruit became the apple. From then on, it became a symbol for knowledge, immortality, temptation, and the fall of man and sin.

Is it not, though, that temptation refers to the desire or inclination to do something that is often seen as wrong, forbidden, or detrimental? It’s a psychological and emotional state where individuals are drawn to actions that might provide immediate pleasure or gratification but can have negative consequences in the long run. Temptation can be linked to various aspects of human behavior, such as personal ethics, self-control, and decision-making.

How does this interconnect with caregiving? We all know that individuals providing care to others contributes to the breakdown of our overall health. There is proven research with this, and the many caregivers for whom Hope Grows provides support share with us that they are struggling with overall wellness. The role of a caregiver is emotionally, physically, and mentally demanding, which, in turn, can lead some to various forms of temptation that can impact their overall health.

The suggestions below have been introduced as things to be mindful about. I am hoping you will consider these as encouragement to pay attention and not ignore, as taking heed can avoid temptations.

Stress and Coping: Caregiving can be stressful due to the constant responsibilities, long hours, and the emotional toll of witnessing a loved one’s or patient’s suffering. In times of high stress, caregivers might be tempted to engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating, smoking, or excessive alcohol consumption, which can negatively affect their health.

Self-Care Neglect: Caregivers often prioritize the needs of those they care for, neglecting their own well-being in the process. This temptation to put others first and neglect self-care can lead to burnout, fatigue, and declining physical health.

Lack of Time: Caregivers may struggle to find time for their own needs and activities. This lack of time might lead to temptation for unhealthy habits, like skipping meals, not getting enough exercise, or not getting enough sleep, all of which can adversely impact their health.

Emotional Strain: Witnessing the suffering or gradual decline of a loved one can be emotionally challenging. Caregivers might be tempted to suppress their emotions or avoid seeking support, leading to mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

Financial Stress: Caregiving can also lead to financial strain, especially if it affects the caregiver’s ability to work or requires additional expenses for medical care. Financial pressures can lead to temptation for risky financial decisions or unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Social Isolation: Caregivers may become socially isolated as their caregiving duties consume most of their time and energy. This isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and further temptations for unhealthy behaviors as they lack support and social interactions.

Guilt: Caregivers may feel guilty about taking time for themselves or seeking help from others. This guilt can create temptation to avoid self-care and focus solely on the care receiver, which can have detrimental effects on their health.

It is essential for caregivers to recognize the challenges they face and prioritize their own well-being. Seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can help alleviate some of the emotional burden. Establishing a routine that includes time for self-care, exercise, and relaxation is crucial for maintaining good health. Additionally, seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy, can be beneficial in managing stress and emotions.

Overall, being aware of the temptations and challenges, and taking proactive steps to address them, is vital for maintaining caregiver health. Consider Hope Grows for your caregiver support. Call us at 412-369-HOPE (4673) extension 101, email, or fill out the Caregiver Sign-Up Form here on our website.