Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Energy Zapper #1: Giving Advice! 3 Tips for Staying Recharged!

Over the next several blogs, we are going to discuss Energy Zappers! What are they? They are habits or social behaviors which are a part of our everyday life, but unfortunately they do very little to enhance our sense of well-being. Why? They deplete us! I want you to know that in discussing these, I am not judging anyone! I've had to work hard on all of the Energy Zappers at one time or another, and some I continue to struggle with!  Let's get started with Energy Zapper #1: Giving Advice!
Energy Zapper!
For the most part, Giving Advice is a complete waste of your time and energy! Before you disagree, I want to share a little exercise with you. Many years ago, a professor facilitating a counseling workshop I attended led our class through an exercise to demonstrate the uselessness of Giving Advice. I want you to do this exercise as well. Here we go!

First, close your eyes for about 60 seconds and think about ALL the advice you have given over your lifetime. Do this now. Think carefully. Pull up ALL the situations, people, circumstances, problems, etc. where you gave advice. Keep going. Ruminate on ALL those precious pearls of wisdom you gave out. Now, open your eyes. Sit quietly and start calling up how much of ALL that advice was actually taken and put into place! Ouch!! Not much, right?! Pretty depressing!! Secondly, close you eyes again for 60 seconds.This time, think of ALL the advice you have been given over your lifetime!  Keep thinking. Recall those talks from more experienced or well-meaning individuals regarding your teenage years, your job and career choices, your relationship issues, etc. And when you are ready, open your eyes. Start honestly assessing how much of ALL that advice you took and implemented! Yikes!! Hardly any?! Well, maybe a little here and there?!

Think of ALL the Advice!

Here's the point. Most individuals do not want your advice! And, most of us don't take advice. Even in counseling or therapy, effective therapists do not give advice! Why, because they know their clients will not take it, and more importantly, it does not empower them in creating meaningful change or sustaining it! So, let's save ourselves time, energy, and frustration and practice 3 Tips for Staying Recharged! 

Tip One: Catch yourself in the act!
When you start to say phrases such as: What you need to do..... Why don't you...You should... If I were you I would....etc., catch yourself and STOP! Don't go any further! Save your energy! Move on to Tip Two!

Tip Two: Ask the person what he/she needs from you!
The very best way to respond when someone comes to you with a problem, concern, or any conflicted situation is to ask the person what he/she needs from you! For example, does the individual need you to listen, to problem solve, to weigh the pros and cons, to brainstorm ideas or possibilities, or to assist or intervene? I have found that most people just need someone to listen. The trick is for you to be a good listener! What does that mean? Move on to Tip Three! 

Listen and Reflect!
Tip Three: Be an active reflective listener!  
Remember, giving out unwanted or unsolicited advice is depleting! Being an active reflective listener requires concentration on your part, but it is energizing - it recharges your batteries! As you actively listen to another person, a real connection starts to develop. This feels empowering for both parties because you are engaging in a meaningful reciprocal exchange.

What do I mean by active reflective listening? As your friend, partner, spouse, etc. begins to speak, you are going to listen so closely and carefully that you will be able to reflect back (paraphrase) what the person said! Yes, you are going to move into counseling mode! Why? Because it works! After listening to the situation, start your active reflective response with phrases such as: What I am hearing you say is..... It sounds like you....  If I am hearing you right, you are feeling...Gosh, as I am listening, I am sensing that you are....  Focus on the emotions the individual is feeling along with his dilemma. As you reflect back, the other person begins to clarify his thinking about what he wants to do. You are helping to guide the individual in the process of decision making without trying to do it for him. One more minor tip - if you have heard something incorrectly or didn't quite get it, that's OK.  Keep listening. Keep reflecting. Also, keep Tip Two in mind as you are moving along in the process.There may be a need to problem solve, or to weigh pros and cons, and so on. Remain open to these other options but do not default into Giving Advice!

In closing, I don't want to over-look those rare occasions when someone comes to you, sincerely asks for your advice, thoughtfully considers it and even applies it! That's a great feeling when it happens! However, make certain the individual really wants your advice by checking in with him/her. Ask, "Is it my advice you are really looking for? Or is there some other way I can help?"

Remember, let's conserve our pearls of wisdom until they are sincerely called upon!
 Let's save our energy and our resources!
Let's remain fully recharged!
Remain Engaged and Recharged!

Next blog ~ Energy Zapper #2: Drama!

Until then, I'd love to hear from you!   What are some of your 'energy zappers'? 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) - Day 3: Living A Lifestyle of Wellness

Over the past two blogs, PMS - Separating Fact From Fiction and PMS - Charting The Way To Wellness, we have learned what PMS or PMDD  (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) is and what it isn't, and we discovered the importance of charting along with other diagnostic criteria in determining an accurate diagnosis of PMDD. Today, we are going to address treatment. The good news is that effective treatment involves living a lifestyle of wellness, something that our culture has more readily embraced on many different levels! Let's get started!

Once other issues or disorders have been ruled out or addressed, living a lifestyle of wellness includes the following 6 guidelines or recommendations.

1. Your PMDD Chart is your friend! This is so important! Your charting not only is a diagnostic tool, but it is your communication tool!  After three months, you will see a pattern emerge that communicates to you when your good days are - and when you not-so-good days are. You MUST pay attention to this. Why? Because you cannot wait until the PMDD sneaks up on you and then stop drinking coffee, or start exercising! You must live out your lifestyle of wellness all month long, AND you must amp it up before your PMDD symptoms begin and continue throughout the duration of symptoms! In short, you must get a jump on PMDD before it gets a hold on you! So, keep charting even after your pattern is clear and  make notes on it as to what works well and what doesn't! The PMDD chart is your wellness companion - it is your friend! Embrace it - it will serve you well!

2. A healthy eating plan with a list of foods to avoid:
Healthful foods!
  • Foods high in salt: These foods can worsen fluid retention, thus causing bloating and breast tenderness.
  • Sugar: Sugar causes the blood sugar to fluctuate too much.  It depletes the body's B-complex vitamins and minerals.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol interferes with formation of glucose, prolonging low blood sugar and intensifying irritability, anxiety, headaches, and dizziness.  It also disrupts the liver's ability to metabolize hormones, causing higher than normal estrogen.
  • Chocolate: Chocolate increases craving for sugar and caffeine.  It also causes breast tenderness and increases the demand for B-complex vitamins.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine may cause fibrocystic breast disease and causes breast tenderness. Caffeine is a stimulant that fuels nervousness, irritability, and shakiness. 
In addition to these, highly processed foods, fatty foods, and nicotine should be avoided. A balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, and organic or gluten free products are healthy choices for PMDD patients and their loved ones!

3. Vitamin supplement: Through my research and personal journey, it has been my experience that vitamins and  minerals play an important role in the treatment of PMDD. However, it is vital to discuss vitamin supplementation with your doctor, especially given there may be co-occurring disorders or contraindications with other medications.  For many years, I took a vitamin designed specifically for PMDD with high dosages of A, B complex, B6, E, C, and D.  It also contained calcium, magnesium, and zinc.  Vitamin therapy was an integral part of my healing in addressing irritability, fatigue, mood swings, fluid retention, and food cravings. It may help you as well and there are many good products on the market. But again, consult with a professional.

4.  Stress Reduction: We all experience stress in our lives. It is a simple fact, but one in which the PMDD female must be especially concerned.  During the free PMDD period of our cycle, we probably deal with stress very much the way most people do. We are irritated, frustrated, or fatigued, but we manage to keep our emotions under control. Unfortunately, when we enter into our PMDD phase, we often respond irrationally or illogically to the same stresses that we were able to manage just days before. Therefore, not only do females with PMDD need to learn to manage the stress that they cannot avoid, but more  importantly, they must plan ahead to reduce the stress in their daily lives. As far as managing stress, incorporate those methods that work best for you. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and muscles exercises work well as do mental exercises such as meditating and praying. Implement these exercises on a daily basis so that you can integrate them easily into your being when you really need them!

Reduce stress and exercise!
5. Exercise: Exercising is one of the most important aspects of the PMDD lifestyle of wellness! I admit, it took me a while to appreciate this, but I strongly advocate a routine of exercise for all females (PMDD or not). When exercising, pent-up anger and anxiety are released and exercising just makes you feel good, both physically and emotionally! Pick something you enjoy - walking, jogging, bicycling, yoga, zumba, tennis, swimming - whatever! Get started today and on the days you most don't feel like exercising, those are the days you must exercise!

6. Rest: This may seem like a no-brainer, but many busy females - whether working at home or away from home - do not get enough good solid sleep!  Our lives are extremely demanding and full and we often put ourselves last! You must make this a priority. Without enough sleep, we are more anxious, irritable, and moody. And then when we enter into our PMDD cycle, fatigue increases and we become a time-bomb just waiting to go off! Please, be honest with yourself, and get the sleep you need!

Get the sleep you need!

There are two more recommendations for living a lifestyle of wellness that may not apply to all females. You and your physician should discuss these components to determine whether or not you are a candidate for them.

7. Medication: Because I suffered severely from PMDD, on the advice of  my doctor, I chose to take natural progesterone therapy. One of the most commonly held theories about the origin of PMDD is that a female suffers from PMDD because her body does not produce sufficient levels of progesterone during the premenstrual phase of her cycle. The purpose of the progesterone is to raise the body's progesterone level during that time.  It is important to note that natural progesterone is not a cure for PMDD. However, when it is administered properly, along with the other aspects of the PMDD living a lifestyle of wellness, my severe symptoms were nearly eliminated or sharply reduced. Over the years, I've talked with many females who have chosen other forms of treatment such as anti-depressants, birth control pills, and other medications developed specifically for PMDD. Other women have experienced tremendous relief through natural herbs and homeopathic remedies.  Because there may be co-occurring disorders or other issues, please consult with a qualified professional. At the same time, although we have come a long way in the treatment of PMDD, you know your body and what it is saying to you. Honor that and how you wish to approach this aspect of treatment.

8. Counseling: Counseling, therapy, or attending support groups is another area that may not affect all females with PMDD. This is very individual and somewhat personal aspect of the PMDD wellness program. A female must be willing to assess her level of PMDD  honestly and determine whether it has altered how she perceives herself. For females who have suffered chronically from PMDD, it is very common for it to lower their self-worth and esteem. It is also important to note that there may be underlying issues that the PMDD is masking and/or that the PMDD is exacerbating. Seeking out a therapist who can explore those tender issues and bring inner healing are vital to a more comprehensive recovery from PMDD.  Sufferers must also be open to whether the PMDD has affected, changed, or even harmed other family members or loved ones and her relationship with them. Sometimes there is much hurt that has been inflicted upon those closest to us, and we and they need the time, the opportunity, and the direction that a professional counselor can provide to address those hurts and to begin the healing process.

In closing, I'd like to share that after embracing wellness in my life from PMDD, one of my most rewarding experiences in helping other women was leading support groups for women suffering from PMDD. Facilitating a series of 8 weeks sessions for over three years, I was constantly in awe and amazement of the groups' camaraderie, their mutual support and understanding, and their desire for wellness all month long!

 Healing often shows up when you know you are not alone!
Believe...and continue living a lifestyle of wellness ~

For more on my personal journey..

The PMS Puzzle by Holli Kenley
* Please note that because this was published in 1993, some of the
medical findings and treatments have changed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) - Day 2: Charting The Way To Wellness!

In last week's blog, PMS: Day 1: Separating Fact From Fiction! , we took a look at what PMS or PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) is and what it isn't!  Please take a read if you have not already. The most important fact we learned about PMDD is that it is a legitimate medical disorder! And although it has a physiological basis for causation, symptoms manifest both physically and psychologically! Today, we are going to take a look at how PMDD is  accurately diagnosed and assessed. Along with a comprehensive blood panel and a complete medical/psychological history, most experts can confirm or rule-out PMDD by requiring their patients or clients to chart their symptoms for a minimum of three months. Why is this important? Let me explain.

Females suffering from PMDD do not experience their symptoms all month long. Symptoms typically are present for most of the time during the last week of the luteal phase (the time between ovulation and the onset of menses) and begin to remit within a few days ofter the onset of the follicular phase (the time when menses begin).  Let's take a look at an example of a diagnostic chart:

PMDD Diagnostic Chart
Here's how it works.  On a chart like this one, or using one of your making, list your symptoms along the left hand side. Don't forget to write down both physical and psychological symptoms! If you are like I was, I needed more than six lines! Then, begin charting with the first day of your menses, filling in the circles as to the degree of severity. As soon as you are not feeling any symptoms, stop filling in those respective circles. Also, put an M  in the box below the day for each day of your menses. As the month moves along and you begin feeling any symptoms, start to fill in those corresponding circles!  Keep filling in the chart as you experience symptoms until your menses begin again.  When they begin, move down to the next monthly cycle and continue your charting!                                                                              
Chart Daily!!
To make this process as easy and objective as you can, I recommend two things. First, keep your chart in a convenient place. I taped mined to the inside of my medicine cabinet where it was easily accessible. Secondly, fill this out at the end of each day. I filled mine out in the evening when I was washing my face and getting ready for bed. I felt that I could reflect upon the day as a whole more objectively and without beating myself up, especially if it had not been a good day! With today's technology, maybe it would work well to fill it out on a spread sheet in the evening before you turn off your devices! Do whatever works for you!

After a period of three months, one of several patterns will start to emerge if PMDD is present.
  • Symptoms may occur from just one day and up to ten days prior to menstruation and continue until the onset of menstruation.
  • Symptoms may occur at ovulation, resolve in a day or two, and then reappear later on in the premenstrual phase.
  • Symptoms may occur at ovulation, and continue on until the onset of menstruation.
  • Symptoms may occur at ovulation, continue on steadily through the menstrual period, and resolving toward the end of the menstrual period. 
As you can see, a female may experience PMDD just a few days a month, or sadly almost three weeks a month! Most experts agree that in order to make a clear distinction between PMDD and other mood disorders, there must be a window of time within a month where a female is symptom free. However, just as there is great fluctuation in the duration of symptoms, there can also be a wide range in the degrees of severity. The important point is that if indeed a female is suffering from PMDD - whether it is mild, moderate, or severe - there is help available!

Before a confirmed diagnosis can be made, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) requires these three criteria be met:
  • The disturbance markedly interferes with work or school or with usual social activities and relationships with others.
  • The disturbance is not merely an exacerbation of the symptoms of another disorder, such as Major Depressive Disorder, Panic Disorder, etc., although it may be superimposed on any of these disorders.
  • Diagnostic criteria (physical and psychological symptoms as designated in the DSM) must be confirmed by prospective daily ratings during at least two consecutive symptomatic cycles.
Over the years counseling and working with women who suffered from PMDD, I was often asked, "Holli, does my PMDD make my other problems or issues worse, or do my other issues or problems make my PMDD worse?"  In my opinion, the answer is BOTH! So, the point is this:

Knowledge Empowers Us!

Through charting our symptoms, we can get a solid handle on what we are feeling and when! And with that knowledge, we can begin implementing a strategic program for healing from PMDD. As our healing takes hold, other disorders or issues may resolve naturally and/or they will present themselves in more distinct understandable contexts wherein specific interventions can be administered accordingly. 

Let's get started today ~
 Charting The Way To Wellness! 

Next time ~ Feeling Well All Month Long! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

PMS (Premenstural Syndrome) - Day 1: Separating Fact From Fiction!

I was wondering what to write about this week and couldn't decide on a topic. I asked my husband for some suggestions and without hesitation, he responded "PMS"!  Actually, he has encouraged me to write about Premenstrual Syndrome for quite a while. Although it has been many, many years since I struggled with PMS, I don't think my husband has forgotten how much he suffered through it with me! All kidding aside, I'm going to take a  few weeks and blog about it. I believe there are many females who struggle with this disorder and who are silent about it because of the lingering shame, embarrassment, and confusion which accompany its symptoms and manifestations. Let's get started by Separating Fact From Fiction!
What Is It?
First of all, PMS is real! Please don't panic when I share this with you, but in the early 1990's PMS was included in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder - PMDD, and in the 2000 DSM IV (R) (under the section for further study). In the 2013 DSM V, it has been moved to the main body. Over the years, there has been on-going heated debate about its inclusion in the DSM's and its ensuing personal as well as professional ramifications for females. As a woman, I was (and am) deeply concerned about the interpretations and implications of PMDD being included in a manual of mental disorders, and yet, because PMDD has been misunderstood and misdiagnosed for centuries, I was (and am) relieved to see it legitimized as a disorder.

When I was first diagnosed with PMS in the late 1980's, my flaw in character was largely used in the context of cruel jokes or viewed as an excuse for behaving badly, or both!

Even after I began educating myself about PMS, writing about it, and speaking on it, I was told by many professionals in various fields that I was demon possessed, suffered from other mental disorders, or filled with sin, and I was confronted with countless  ludicrous diagnoses or unfounded beliefs!  

Thus, for PMDD to be recognized as a medical disorder meant that committed caring professionals might begin the necessary work to eradicate the stigma, secrecy, and shame associated with it. And most importantly, as a deeper more accurate understanding of PMDD was developed, so would there be improved assessment and treatment. 

Secondly, PMDD has a physiological basis for causation with symptoms manifesting both
physiologically and psychologically!
Although studies do vary, for most females there is an imbalance of progesterone in relation to the amount of estrogen present in the body premenstrually. Research also suggests that along with reproductive hormone imbalance, two of the brain's neurotransmitters - endorphins and serotonin - play an important role. It is the physical symptoms that females feel more open to talk about - the headaches, backaches, bloating, fatigue, breast tenderness, and increased hunger. The psychological symptoms are the ones that women tend to avoid admitting. They include feelings of depression, tension, anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness, abusiveness, crying, confusion, frustration, mood swings, uncontrollable rage, guilt, and thoughts of suicide.

When I was suffering severely with PMS, I thought I was going crazy!  Why? Because although I had both the physical and psychological symptoms for two or more weeks a month, during the rest of the month I felt great! It was like I was two people!  I didn't understand what was going on with me! However, I did experience horrible shame and guilt over the things I had said and done, especially toward my loved ones.

 And although I would promise myself and them that my blow-ups and deep depression would not surface again, the next month would roll around and the roller-coaster would start up again!
  PMDD is cyclical in nature

Next time, we will look at what that means and how it is critical in assessing PMDD, as well as ruling out other disorders or illnesses. For now, whether you struggle with PMDD slightly or severely, know that you are not alone!  And....

if your PMDD has been controlling you, it's time to take charge over it!

Take Charge of Your Health!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Couple Trouble? Day 4 - Help for Seniors!! Gen Xers, Millennials, and iGeners, take note!

As I have gotten older, I have noticed "Seniors Behaving Badly"!! They can also experience Couple Trouble!! Gen Xers, Millennials, and iGeners , take note!

A few summers ago, I spent several months in the Palm  Springs area of Southern California. Although I had worked in the desert for many years, I had not lived there for a very long time. Because it is largely a retirement community, there is a substantial senior population, even during the summer months. As the weeks passed, I was often taken back by the disrespectful and often mean behavior between senior partners.  Whether it was in a grocery store, or in line at a movie theater, or at a restaurant, I was frequently shocked and saddened at the level of arguing between them or of one partner barking at the other over nothing, and at the complete lack of patience, respect, or kindness exhibited from one spouse towards the other. It is not that I was naive to this sort of behavior; however, it seemed to jump out at me wherever I went! And, I guess because my husband and I are entering into our senior years, I was alarmed at its prevalence.  

One evening while in line at the movie theater, I observed up close an elderly woman yelling at her husband as he was attempting to buy their tickets.  The gentleman could not hear the ticket seller through the glass window, and thus, was having trouble deciphering the cost. As she continued to berate him, I stepped forward to help. The elderly man was so appreciative, and yet, I could sense his embarrassment. Determined never to fall into this bad behavior, the next day I wrote up my list of Retirement Rules and presented them to my husband.

Retirement Rules for Seniors and their Partners !

1.  Talk to each other kindly and treat each other respectfully at all times! Too often, we see and hear seniors criticizing one another, barking or snapping at each other, or complaining about the most ridiculous aspects of one another! Remember, no one is perfect!

    Your sweetheart needs your patience and understanding!

2.  Do not argue over minutia - ever!! How many times have you heard elderly couples argue and bicker over one little error in the telling of a story or event?  How often have you listened to senior couples constantly correct one another over the most insignificant things? Remember, in the big scheme of life, it does not matter!

Your best friend has earned your compassion and calmness!

3.  Continue to make personal hygiene a priority! Have you ever noticed how seniors sometimes have an unpleasant body odor? Have you ever noticed how their wardrobe shrinks to a few soiled outfits? Remember, sponge baths don't count, and neither do lazy excuses (i.e. "I haven't done anything today"). Even though it may take a bit more time and/or a little more effort, it is important to shower or bathe daily! And, whatever the size of your wardrobe, be sure to keep your clothes fresh and clean.  

The love of your life deserves your very best - from your first kiss to your last goodnight!

4.  Take excellent care of your physical, emotional, and psychological well-being so you can take really good care of your partner. How often have you witnessed a senior take on an attitude of entitlement while the partner struggles to take on the role of caretaker? And although, there are circumstances where one partner is called upon to take the lead or carry more responsibility, remember, you got in the boat together - you both need to keep rowing!

Show your lifelong mate that you still mean "in sickness and in health".
By taking care of yourself, you are taking care of both of you. 

As we get older, we must continue to treat our life partners with the dignity and respect that they

deserve ... and that we deserve in return. 

Cherish each moment and each day, but most importantly, cherish each other.  

By the way, my husband loves the rules!!
 I can no longer correct him!!

Featured Post

Protecting Our Youth Against Campus Sexual Assault: 3 Key Strategies

Today's blog is for mature audiences: ages 18 and over. Today's conversation is not an easy one to have, but it is critical.  Wha...