Energy

I spent a bit of mindful energy this morning looking around at the beauty of the gardens here at the Iris Respite House & Healing Gardens. Some rain storms have left us with fuel for growth; the flowers everywhere are bursting with fullness and color. It is as if the flowers got a shot of caffeine overnight; there is a liveliness, a get up and go, an energy.

Energy is an interesting word. We can have all sorts of it and moments of none, so it seems. The word itself projects an oomph to it and when you pay attention to its use, it is everywhere. Statements abound: youthful energy, stagnant energy, quantitative energy, comparative energy, and departments of energy, to name a few. I hear people say, “I have no energy,” “I need an energy drink,” “I have positive energy,” or “He/She has negative energy.” Famous people and scholars tell us that energy of the mind is the essence of life, there is energy in motion, energy flows where attention goes, and energy is contagious: either you affect people or you infect people.

Warren Buffett was quoted saying that “Without passion, you don’t have energy. Without energy, you have nothing.” I suppose that is true, because it takes passion on some days to get out of bed, to brush your teeth, and to eat breakfast. Does passion need to exist to move forward with activities of daily living? I don’t think so – some of those are habitual things we do. However, if we have lost passion in life or are burned out, I know firsthand, it is hard to keep moving forward.

So many questions surface. Most of us have to engage in some type of caffeinated drink to fuel ourselves in the morning. But what about those that exert too much energy all the time? Can it deplete the desire to stay motivated? Can passion move quickly away and cause someone to become stagnant. Can pain and suffering discourage a person to the point of NO energy?

If you look at the opposite meaning of the word, that meaning depends on how you are using it. The English language is complicated, and if you are referring to the energy as a generated power, simplified, the opposite is a lack of. From a person’s spirit and vigor, the opposite could be apathy, depression, and/or spiritual distress. I think of caregivers when I think of the person’s spirit in relation to energy. Caregivers put forth so much energy all of the time in providing care to their loved one, but yet, they keep moving, they keep pushing through, sometimes to the point of complete burnout.

So, what is the antidote? Just like a power grid, a car, or the flowers in the garden, restoration is needed. Dealing with life overload and the stress of long work hours without breaks can indeed lead to burnout and a decline in spiritual, mental, and physical health. Finding ways to manage stress and maintain sanity is crucial. Energy, caregiving, and healing are interconnected concepts that revolve around the well-being of individuals. In the context of well-being, energy can refer to both physical vitality and the more abstract notion of life force or spiritual energy.

The notion of Spiritual Energy is what I think Warren Buffett is referring to in his quote above. Passion, purpose, and meaning are often described as what is needed to have spiritual energy. It is the “chi,” “prana,” or “life force” that keeps the flow of energy through and around the body, impacting overall wellness.

If your life force energy is depleted, or you are just exhausted and need to restore, several strategies can help you escape from the relentless cycle and regain balance. Healing encompasses the processes through which a person recovers from illness, injury, or emotional distress. It can be approached from various angles:

Medical Healing: Involves conventional medical treatments and therapies to address physical health issues.

Emotional Healing: Focuses on recovering from emotional trauma, stress, and mental health challenges.

Spiritual Healing: Utilizes practices such as meditation, prayer, energy work (like Reiki), and other holistic methods to restore a sense of balance and well-being.

Because energy, caregiving, and healing are interconnected concepts, implementing a balanced approach is important. Regularly evaluate your work-life balance and adjust your strategies as needed to maintain your well-being. Remember, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care and seek help when needed to sustain long-term health and happiness. Join us through our Simple Suggestions and sign up for our Think Caregiver emails today! Email intake@hopegrows.org to get on the list.

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

Protect Your Peace

I was in the store the other day when all of a sudden, the sounds became prominent over everything else. Like a movie, I became absorbed into the scene where my sense of hearing was amplified. Carts were squeaking, people were talking, something fell to the ground and made a glass breaking sound, cell phones were ringing, and a child was crying. The child was not just crying, he or she was wailing. The more I listened, the more I couldn’t help but feel that this child was trying to tell someone something. It became clear that this child’s peace was interrupted. While this child needed to shout his or her concerns to the mountain top, this little one’s communication was by way of crying.

Just thinking about this month’s focus, “Protecting Your Peace,” my memory began scanning MY life. Thinking about the concept is both easy and difficult based on the mixed messages we receive constantly. What does it mean to “protect your peace?” I’m not sure; I think it is different for everyone. But what I do know, the child in the store was not peaceful.

Conceivably, protecting your peace begins with looking at what is negatively affecting your soul. With the example of the child in the store, it became apparent that this child was too young to know how to protect his/her peace; the duty depended solely on the shoulders of the parent.

When I got married at a young age of 19, my life took me to Arizona. While living there, my spouse worked on his education, while I became a mom. The one thing we did not expect before he graduated was bringing not just one child into the world during this time, but two. When I found out I was expecting, I was scared but full of joy. While we had no idea how we were going to afford a child, we chose to sacrifice our wants to make it happen. I made the cautious effort make sure this child and our family became my priority.

Was I setting a boundary to protect my peace? Absolutely. I deliberately chose to establish clear boundaries in my personal and professional life. I prioritized and made the conscious effort and dedication in making sure our child had the proper food, sleep, play and love; all things necessary for her developmental age. I guess, while I was defending my peace, I was modeling the behavior of a peaceful life and protecting her peace at the same time. I took the deliberate action to create a calm and balanced life.

I fast forward to today. Watching my children raise their children, the contrast of the two eras is stark. I think my job was much easier. I was able to help develop and protect my children’s moral development without the constant impact of technology. I think the damaging effects of technology and media has reached its tentacles into every waking moment of our lives; affecting our morals and values, which ultimately hurts our peace of mind.

Let me take a minute here to talk a bit about moral development. Learning about it while studying psychology was fascinating. Basically, the theory of moral development outlines how individuals evolve in their moral reasoning and ethical behavior throughout their lives. Kohlberg’s theory is articulated through “a progression of stages, starting from an emphasis on obedience to avoid punishment, advancing towards an understanding of social order, and culminating in the recognition of universal ethical principles and the value of human rights.” Basically, children get to a place of becoming a moral upstanding citizen morally because it is the correct and right thing to do, not because they fear punishment or get a reward for following the rules and laws.

I believe that a sound moral compass and peace work hand in hand. However, due to the constant damaging effects of media (both types, news and social), our values become provoked. While media provides valuable information, entertainment, and social connectivity, excessive or inappropriate media consumption can lead to damaging effects. The negative impacts are real and research is beginning to show the negative effects on adults, and especially children.

Adults can experience increased stress and anxiety, sleep disturbances, reduced attention span,
mental health issues, decreased productivity, distorted reality perceptions, and impacts on relationships. Children can experience impaired cognitive development, behavioral issues, poor academic performance, physical health problems, sleep disturbances, emotional impacts, shortened attention span and commercialization and materialism issues.

Holy crap, people – talk about a global pandemic! Turn off the technology and go outside into nature! It is our responsibility and obligation to model behavior for our youth, protect their peace, and emulate a good moral compass. We have an ethical responsibility while our children’s brains are developing to consider a balanced approach that includes:

  • Open Communication: Foster an environment where children feel comfortable discussing their online experiences.
  • Model Behavior: Demonstrate healthy social media habits for children to emulate. Consider no social media until adulthood.
  • Supervised Only Access: Allow supervised and limited access to social media, gradually increasing independence as children mature.
  • Educational Programs: Advocate for schools to include digital literacy and online safety in their curricula.

I digressed a bit here, but I truly believe that social media’s addictive nature and the potential benefits of restricting discussions for children under a certain age are important issues to consider. It is our responsibility to protect our young minds.

Peace of mind requires intentional actions and habits. Consider prioritizing mental and physical well-being, setting healthy boundaries, and engaging in activities that promote relaxation and joy. The result is a more balanced and fulfilling life. Taking these steps not only protects your peace, it sets a great road map for our young children. Just think about the positive impact this will have on your relationships with others as well, something our world desperately needs.

So, turn off technology, go outside, and explore the world in front of you. The inner peace you protect will contribute to your overall happiness and satisfaction.

Finding Meaning in Life

I am an early riser. Most mornings, I awake before the sun and I sit and sip my coffee or tea and listen to the sounds of nature. Right now, the morning is filled with bird song and the exchange of different melodies. I learned that 90% of wildlife, including some of the Audubon population, mate for life; however, the majority of songbirds’ only mate for a season.

With this month’s focus, I ponder the meaning of life. It appears that the wildlife’s search for meaning only includes food, water, shelter, and safety; the daily efforts of survival. At least it looks that way from my window (except when you catch a baby fox that wondered into the trap destined for the destructive groundhog; a game of catch and release).

I digress for a moment and then joyful singing becomes the focus again. I always thought joyful music came from the birds until one day, when I heard different sounds – in particular, a robin. I was surprised at the change in the melody and then noticed a disruption of the nest and the loss of their eggs and young. Researching the possibilities of grief among wildlife, I learned that birds have legitimate cries of sadness.

Human loss and the sounds of sadness are profound as well. Grief, the normal and natural reaction to loss – any loss – is different for everyone. While mourning is the process that one goes through in adapting to the loss, bereavement is the period that defines the loss to which the person is trying to adapt.

Grief is experienced emotionally, cognitively, physically, spiritually, socially, economically, and behaviorally. While these experiences are not inclusive, it can affect every part of us. The deepest of these is spiritual. At least, that has been my experience, along with most of those I have provided support for. The loss of purpose and meaning in life can rock us to the very core of our existence.

At Hope Grows, we talk a lot about loss, and not just loss from death. Loss is painful. The first night of the graduate grief class I teach involves naming and listing everything that represents a loss. As students engage, the loss of a job, a relationship, a car, a passing grade, the ability to walk, and freedom, to name a few, begin to fill the chalkboard. Soon, an exchange regarding the loss from the death of someone is shared. Discussion evolves to the ability to pivot in difficult situations.

Last month, we shared an article about pivoting and if we focus on what matters most and align our actions with our values, a more meaningful and fulfilling life is the result. Does this really apply though, when struggling through loss? And then, what happens when someone loses their way? Finding and having meaning in life is imperative to good overall well-being, so we are told. It is also at the core of spiritual health.

I, for one, believe that society is in a period of mourning, one of chronic pain that sees no end. The news portrays a society that appears to be challenged from a loss of self, purpose, and identity; spirituality seems to be missing. As mental health needs rise, the cries of sadness seem to go unheard. Mental health needs are at record highs. Young teenagers are flocking to the ER hospitals for depression and anxiety, people are afraid for their safety, the older population struggle with moving from the home they loved, family caregivers are stressed with increased demands, and thirty somethings are struggling to find their way in the job market.

The chronic pain goes on and on, but then, just like in nature, the sounds of sadness can change. How do we help society change the sound of its cries? When one’s soul goes off-center, the antidote is compassion and kindness. Human spiritually evokes existential questions about suffering and meaning, and any validation can help nourish a tired and weary soul, providing a sense of comfort and connection.

I have been in chronic pain (loss) most of my life, physically and spiritually. I have a degenerative spine, arthritis and stenosis, Chronic Fatigue, Lyme’s disease, and several other chronic viruses that go in and out of remission. I’m not sure how long I have had these viruses, since most of adult life doctors always pushed the symptoms aside by calling them “acute” and that it was “all in my head.” It wasn’t until I found a wonderful Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine who became the compassionate and kind soul, validating my symptoms and applying the correct testing to locate the problems.

My apologies, I digress again, but my point is that I had empathy, understanding, and encouragement of practical support. I was then able to explore the deepness of the pain and implement self-care practices that worked. Keep in mind, whatever the loss, it requires a holistic approach that addresses the symptoms, the emotions, and the spiritual needs.

One way to support someone in pain, whether it be individual loss or the societal loss that I was referring, is community. We need to come together and spread kindness. Just like the child blowing the seeds of the spent dandelion into the wind, new growth can happen.

Other ways to help someone in chronic pain, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual:

  • Empathy and understanding
  • Encouraging self-care practices
  • Providing practical support
  • Encouraging connection and support
  • Promoting spiritual exploration.

Check out our simple suggestions in this week’s “Think Caregiver” email for further tips on this topic.

In summary, helping someone with chronic pain involves addressing their physical symptoms, emotional well-being, and spiritual needs with empathy, compassion, and practical support. By attending to the person’s holistic needs, you can contribute to their healing journey and support their overall well-being, including – and most importantly – the health of their soul. Keep in mind, a dose of nature can be helpful too!

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

Reluctancy

Leonard Cohen, from his song, Anthem, once said: “there is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” I find this to be fascinating. As we all know, our first reaction to a significant loss is a crack, if you will, in our life, and we choose, from the pain, to be reluctant to let any light shine in.

At least it was for me. I remember when I first heard the words, “Dad has pancreatic cancer,” no light was getting through, and for a long while his dying process was handled with busy-ness and avoidance of the reality. While in the mode of visiting him and caring for him, adrenaline kept me going. I thought if I kept myself busy, attending to the family, working, visiting my dad, and taking care of all of the paperwork for him, I could avoid the inevitable: his death.

Boy, was I wrong. If you know me, watched any of the Hope Grows historical videos, or read any of my blog articles, I didn’t just mourn my dad when he died…I mourned my mom who died 20 years prior as well. You see, I was reluctant to believe she died when I was 22 years old and, more importantly, thought that if I didn’t think about her death and got on with my life, I would be just fine.

Wrong! All I did was delay my grief. It came back with a vengeance and bit me in the butt rather hard when my dad died. I mourned both of them, as if they died together. It wasn’t until I let the light shine in, did I then evaluate and learn what I had to offer from my pain.

At that time, I was reluctant; unwilling and resistant to see and learn what was ahead of my pain. Luckily for me, my dad spoke to me through a dream. I was NOT reluctant to believe in a divine intervention through that particular night’s dream. My dad loved being outside, in nature, doing something adventurous, so it was apropos that the dream was of nature. The night of his visit – dream, divine intervention, whatever you what to believe or call it – he took me for a walk in a beautiful garden. The sun rays, the light from it, if you will, was the focus, shining down on me with his smiling face in it.

After waking, I allowed my higher self to begin to see that there was something beyond the dark. I got to a place where I eventually provided a “gift of grief,” as Therese Tappouni shares in her book, The Gifts of Grief, Finding Light in the Darkness of Loss. You see, I had to address the past, the pain and loss, to heal from it. As a grief counselor and educator, I’ve always said, there is no way to heal from grief other than to go through it. And that became the journey of my grief: going through it and not being reluctant from the lesson it was teaching me. From there, my higher self allowed for the gift: the creation of Hope Grows.

So, where does the reluctancy of grieving stem from? Various ways in which we grieve, with the main one stemming from the emotional pain and heartache that comes from loss. Grieving can be emotionally draining, not to mention it can affect us cognitively, physically, spiritually, socially, financially, and behaviorally. Other than the avoidance of the emotional pain and heartache, reluctance can come
from:

  • Time and Energy Constraints: Other obligations, such as work or family requires a significant investment of time and energy.
  • Financial Concerns: Closing out an estate is expensive and time consuming; putting death affairs in order is daunting.
  • Lack of Support: Mourning the loss from death leads to feelings of isolation and burnout. Even with adequate support from family, friends, or community resources, grievers may feel reluctant to reach out.
  • Impact on Personal Life: Balancing all duties with personal needs and aspirations can be challenging. Grievers may feel reluctant and/or think they have to sacrifice their own goals, hobbies, or social life to process loss.
  • Health Concerns: Mourning a loss can take a toll on one’s physical and mental health. Reluctance may arise from concerns about the impact on one’s own wellbeing.

Addressing reluctancy with grief often requires a multifaceted approach that involves recognizing and addressing the underlying causes, seeking support from others, and implementing strategies to manage stress and maintain a healthy balance between all of life’s responsibilities, including personal well-being. This can include seeking respite care, joining support groups, setting boundaries, and practicing self-care techniques. With all of that, Hope Grows is here to support you through your loss and to help with any reluctancy you may be experiencing.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our essential oil and flower for the month of March. Oregano essential oil is powerful. According to Spiritual Scents, “The calming properties of oregano oil can relax the mind, balance the emotions, and banish mental fatigue.” Wealthful Mind tells us that the oil is “an herb of joy, safety and lightness of spirit.”

Now let’s take our flower of the month, the sweet pea. Sweet peas are popular ornamental plants grown in gardens and used in floral arrangements for their beauty and fragrance. Symbolically, sweet peas are associated with happiness, pleasure, gratitude, friendship, and delicate beauty – the opposite of what we feel when we are grieving. Pleasant feelings are helpful for any reluctancy.

If you find yourself in a dark place and need to see the light, consider the above blog, talk to someone about the use of oregano oil, and seek out growing some sweet peas this spring. Jess, our Hope Grows, horticulturist, could talk with you about the growing properties of sweet peas and I can chat with you about oregano essential oils.

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

Disclaimer: This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.

Journey

The holiday season helps us reminisce and reflect. Traditionally, it is about migrating and moving into a new year; about evaluating and setting resolutions for change. Thoughts and questions under consideration may include acceptance of something, processing an emotion, adjusting to a change, or finding a connection. Embarking on life’s journeys, whether in the past, present, or the future, can indeed be intimidating and frightening. Navigating the task takes courage.

If you are grieving a loss during this time of year, please know that you are not alone and the words within this blog may be helpful. No one knows what the future holds for anyone, and it does entail a bit of faith and hope to steer the uncertainty of it all. Loss is a natural part of life, and embracing the ambiguity allows you to grow and adapt to unforeseen circumstances. As an example, I could not have predicted the uncertainty of losing my mom at age 22, but yet, I had to find a way to navigate the journey of the loss, not just from her, but from my father, which I grieved both years later.

When you hear about delayed grief, believe it; it is true. I had the ability to compartmentalize the loss until years later. I thought I was navigating the journey of the loss of my mom by ignoring what happened. I returned to my home in Arizona and went about living my life. I said to myself, “Toughen up and move on.” It worked…until my father died 20 years later. The loss resurfaced and the journey was painful.

The journey of nature is like the journey of loss – the cycle of life and death. It is as intricate and fascinating as a tapestry. It weaves its beauty over time, if you allow it. After acceptance and the processing of the pain, the adjustment of the loss, for me, became a rhythmic dance of seasonal changes. From the blooming of the flowers in the spring to the shedding of the leaves in autumn, the cycles of grief contributed to the creation of a dynamic beauty, similar to the natural world. The secret of my journey? I kept moving and evolving. As painful as it was, I let the water flow.

With my grief, like nature, I was in a constant state of adaptation and evolution. Over time, the pain developed characteristics and behaviors that helped me to survive and thrive in my environment. The ongoing process shaped who I became; all while I was finding an enduring connection with my parents, I embarked on a new life.

Were there disruptions along the way and apparent chaos? Absolutely. Just as there are natural disruptions in nature, we have to embrace the changing climate, and, in some cases, depend on the role that the instabilities play in our healing. We begin to learn of the interconnection of our journey and how important the intricate webs of relationships are and the parts they play in maintaining the balance of the diverse landscape it begins to create.

Death is a natural part of our journey, just as it is in nature. It is an integral part that enriches the soul and supports new life. One of William Worden’s phases of grief is “to find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life.” Conserving and preserving the connection, as hard as that is, can help to deepen our understanding of the loss and inspire a sense of awe and responsibility for the diversity that is ahead of us.

Our focus for the month of December is Journey, and the plant/flower is the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life has been used across cultures and religions to symbolize various aspects of existence, growth, and interconnectedness. When viewed as a representation of one’s personal journey, the Tree of Life can carry profound meaning in the journey of loss. Consider the symbolism below to help with the acceptance, adjustment, the process of pain, and the enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on your new identity. I was no longer a daughter, but the journey taught me that it is okay.

  • The roots of a tree symbolize your foundation, roots, and origin. Reflecting on your past, heritage, and experiences provides a strong base for growth.
  • The trunk of the tree represents your strength and resilience. Just as a tree withstands the forces of nature, you too can endure challenges and setbacks, growing stronger in the process.
  • The branches represent the different paths and choices in your life. Each decision you make leads to a new branch, shaping your journey in unique ways.
  • The leaves symbolize personal growth and transformation. Just as leaves change with the seasons, you undergo continuous growth and adaptation to the changing circumstances in your life.
  • The fruits of the tree symbolize your achievements and contributions. These could be the positive outcomes and impacts resulting from your efforts and actions.
  • The branches, leaves, and roots illustrate the interconnectedness of your life. Relationships, experiences, and choices are intertwined, creating a holistic and meaningful journey.
  • The cycle of seasons in a tree’s life mirrors the different phases you go through—spring for new beginnings, summer for growth, fall for reflection, and winter for rest and rejuvenation.
  • Trees adapt to changing conditions, bending with the wind. Similarly, your ability to adapt and be flexible in the face of change contributes to your personal growth.
  • Like a tree needs care and nourishment, your journey requires self-care and reflection. Taking the time to nurture your mind, body, and spirit ensures a healthier and more fulfilling life.
  • The shade of a tree represents your capacity to provide support and shelter for others. Your journey involves not only personal growth but also contributing positively to the well-being of those around you.
  • Trees experience cycles of renewal through the shedding of old leaves and the growth of new ones. Similarly, your journey involves continuous learning and renewal, letting go of what no longer serves you and embracing new opportunities.
  • The unity of roots, trunk, branches, and leaves signifies the connection between your mind and heart. Integrating your thoughts and emotions leads to a more balanced and harmonious journey.

By visualizing your grief as a Tree of Life, you can gain a deeper understanding of your experiences, challenges, and growth. It serves as a powerful symbol to connect with the natural processes of life and find meaning in the journey.

No one wants to face loss, but death is an integral part of our journey. When this occurs, the plan for our journey may need to be adjusted – stay flexible and open to new possibilities. And remember, bravery doesn’t mean the absence of fear; it means facing your fears and moving forward despite them. Each step you take, no matter how small, is a victory in itself.

At Hope Grows, we support those grieving a loss. If you are struggling, reach out to connect. Call us at 412.369.4673 or email intake@hopegrows.org. Consider joining one of our classes in “The Joyful Grief & Loss Series.” Our first gathering, “Grief & The Box,” will be Saturday, January 20 – click here to learn more and to register.

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

Gladness

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