5 Steps for Defining a More Resilient Life and Reducing Stress

Blades of grass growing out of cracks in a sidewalk - reducing stress and building resilience - Healing Arts Institute
Written by David Davenport – Contributing Author Healing Arts Institute

In an earlier blog, we talked about how stress can have a very real and negative impact on your physical health. One way to reduce long-term stress is to build your inner resilience – learning how to restructure your way of thinking to allow yourself to handle stress healthily. 

Remember that stress isn’t always a bad thing…

The goal is to reduce destructive stress (distress) while welcoming activities that help motivate and drive you (eustress). We want to use the good stress in our lives to remain motivated and to bounce back after experiencing a temporary setback – and that is a skill that ANYONE can learn with time and practice.

We have put together a few suggestions that can help you to see stress-related events in a new light so that you can begin to define a more resilient life. 

Building resilience is mostly about being honest with who you are and what you want out of your life.

1. Determine what your TRUE values are

This is probably the most important and most difficult step. Determine what truly matters to you in your life. For example, if you value personal freedom or time with your family, are you working a job that takes away 70 hours of your life per week? If so, why? What beliefs are you adhering to that are keeping you on a path that is making you unhappy? Be truthful with yourself about what is important to you in your life. Define what those things are and begin removing things from your life that go against those values.

2. Take small steps towards realizing your defined values

Reimagining the way you live is not easy and can be a source of distress in itself. Take baby steps towards your goal of living a more honest life that is in line with your values. That may mean taking a new job, starting your own business, or going back to school.

Sometimes it is helpful to talk to someone you trust to help you make these decisions.

Whatever you decide, take it slowly one small step at a time – give yourself some well-deserved credit for each step that gets you closer to your goal.

3. Embrace failure, don’t stress over it

What you try new things, you will likely come across challenges that you did not expect. Be kind to yourself if you do not succeed the first time… or the second… or the tenth time. Use each lesson as an opportunity to learn and try something new. Experiment and see what works, be brave, and do not allow fear to intimidate you into not doing anything at all. 

4. Be flexible

Reaching your goals will NEVER be defined by a linear path of success. It can be messy, and sometimes life-changing opportunities will be right in front of you if you allow yourself to be open to new possibilities.

Learn to be open to possibilities that you may not have planned for. Keep an open mind while traveling your new path.

Just make sure that any new opportunities are in line with your values, otherwise do not pursue them. No matter how enticing those opportunities may seem in the short term, it will not be worth pursuing them if they go against your core values.

5. Surround yourself with inspiring people

Find people who share your values and use them as a sounding board and support group when you are feeling doubtful or afraid about the direction you are headed. You will see that many people have accomplished exactly what you are trying to do, and they will help guide you towards success.

These people can be friends, mentors, coaches, or family members.

If you are looking for guidance and life coaching, Healing Arts Institute has many friendly and highly trained members of our staff who can assist you in your life’s journey.

Building resilience is mostly about being honest with who you are and what you want out of your life.

It is about defining your journey and learning who you are and what makes you feel fulfilled. It is not about what your parents, friends, or society tells you who you should be.


Citations:

Psychology Today. “6 Ways to Discover and Choose Your Core Values.” Psychology Today, 4 Nov. 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201811/6-ways-discover-and-choose-your-core-values.

Rohn, Jim. “Rohn: How to Bounce Back From Failure.” SUCCESS, 18 Sept. 2019, www.success.com/rohn-how-to-bounce-back-from-failure.

SIVASUBRAMANIAN. “Eustress Vs Distress-A Review.” International Journalof Research in Humanities & Soc. Sciences, vol. 4, no. 5, 2016, pp. 12–15. raijmr.com, www.raijmr.com/ijrhs/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/IJRHS_2016_vol04_issue_05_04.pdf.

Happy 4th of July!!!

The day of our Great Nation’s independence is here, and we should use this July 4th to strengthen the bonds that we have with each other, our families, and our communities. 

Our day of independence is rooted in national unity, but in 2020 we find that our unity has become strained and we have become polarized and splintered. We want to continue having difficult conversations about racial inequality, opportunity, and restructuring systems to better serve our diverse citizenry, but to do so we have to be willing to treat those with whom we disagree with respect.

While we stand in solidarity with movements that strive for racial unity and equal opportunity, we also unequivocally expect that dissent and protests remain peaceful and civil. All Americans have been granted certain unalienable rights including “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” –  this includes all Americans, regardless of their worldview or opinions. Calm and civil discourse leads to real change, the alternative is a descent into societal chaos and distress.

So please, support your friends and neighbors who are fighting for justice and equality, but not those who attempt to do so through violence and intimidation.

Finally, please remember to celebrate the 4th of July responsibly by following common sense guidelines and those outlined by your local municipalities and businesses. We’ve done a great job working together to drastically reduce infection rates, but we still have a little way to go before it’s over.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend!

How Long-Term Stress Can Make You Sick

Stress can make you sick - Healing Arts Institute
Written by David Davenport – Contributing Author Healing Arts Institute

We are all living in interesting times – this past year has been one of constant change, unusual social upheaval, and the looming prospect of economic volatility. Add that to the highly polarized political climate, and we have the makings of a high stress environment.

While some people may find it easier to cope with stress than others, but it’s important to note that ANYONE can learn to better understand their reaction and control it.

Let’s talk a little about what stress really is, how it affects our bodies, and how to reduce it.

What is Stress?

Stress can generally be described in one of two ways – as distress or as eustress

Distress – This is bad stress. It weighs on us, makes us anxious, and threatens our physical health. Therefore, we want to reduce this kind of pressure as much as possible.

Eustress – This is good stress. This type can drive us and helps us to be more productive. It comes from striving to do our best and in being creative with problem solving. Learning to push ourselves just a little bit further each time we try something new is a great way to do this. Eustress can help us to become better people and we want to invite more of this kind of pressure into our lives.

Much of the stress that people are experiencing today is DISTRESS. A significant portion of this negative tension can be attributed to consuming minute-to-minute updates in the news cycle or social media feeds. 

Distress leads to a constant feeling of nervousness and fear over a future that you don’t have control over. 

Long-term distress can lead to the development of anxiety disorders.

How Stress Affects Your Body

It’s not just mental health concerns that you need to be aware of, it can have real and lasting effects on your body too. Without proper guidance, distress and anxiety can wreak havoc by activating your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) for prolonged periods. [3]

  • Your digestive system slows and becomes less active. This can result in loss of appetite and an unhealthy weight loss as your body becomes less efficient at absorbing essential nutrients.
  • Sleep problems and exhaustion begin to hinder your ability to work and can reduce the quality of your daily activities.
  • Muscle tension can lead to intense physical pain including back pain and severe headaches.
  • Increased amounts of the stress hormone cortisol can reduce your body’s ability to fight off infection which can lead to an increased susceptibility to illness.
  • It becomes harder to think clearly, learn, or follow your daily routine. Even simple cognitive tasks may seem challenging. Some people call this condition ‘brain fog’.

Controlling Stressful Situations

Learning to reduce and control stress can seem difficult at first, but with practice and patience, it can be done.

  • Understand your limits and communicate these limits to others. Too often we internalize stress to not be an inconvenience to others. Don’t do this. Know what your areas of comfort are and ask yourself if pushing these limits will be beneficial. If not, begin to avoid and remove interactions and situations that put you in a stressful state.
  • Adapt to unavoidable stress by reframing your circumstances.[2] Sometimes it’s not possible to remove unhealthy stressors right away. You may need time to reorganize your life to allow that to happen. While you are doing so, examine your situation from as many different angles as possible to reframe it in the most positive possible perspective. No matter how difficult things may seem, look at the bigger picture. Everything is temporary.

Reducing Unavoidable Stressors

  • Take a ‘mental vacation’.[1] Your brain has a very difficult time differentiating between an actual life-threatening situation and a perceived threat. Therefore it would make sense that your brain would also be able to benefit from a perceived vacation. Taking breaks throughout the day to practice self-care in the form of exercise, deep breathing, or meditation can work wonders.
  • Talk to a therapist, trusted family member, or clergy. Sometimes just talking to someone can help you to frame your stress in a way that makes it easier to live with. While the goal is to eventually remove yourself from the negative situation, management of it in the meantime can perform wonders for your health.

Self-care, a healthy perspective, and proper guidance from a mental health professional are essential to controlling stress and your response. Healing Arts Institute selects only the best therapists to help guide you in your life’s journey to be the best you can be.

Citations:
  1. “Controlling Stress.” UMN Extension, 2020, extension.umn.edu/stress-and-change/controlling-stress#easy-relaxation-techniques-464412.
  2. “Need Stress Relief? Try the 4 A’s.” Mayo Clinic, 14 Feb. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044476.
  3. “Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Management & Prevention.” Cleveland Clinic, 2021, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress.

We Are Agents of Change – Building a Better Society

Our society is currently experiencing civil unrest resulting from a perception of systemic discrimination and violence – and many people are afraid to discuss issues surrounding bias or prejudice for fear of themselves being perceived as discriminatory. 

Human beings are hardwired to recognize patterns and to put things into easily recognizable groups. This ability allows us to form complex ideas, categorize them, and retrieve them quickly when needed. However, there are times when this capability can lead to the unintentional development of beliefs that are actually harmful to ourselves and those around us – leading us towards forming biased opinions that are rooted in unsubstantiated feelings rather than facts.


Most of the time we’re just not aware of when we do this, but when we do the outcome may lead to developing unrealistic beliefs about a person or a group of people that we associate with that individual. Oftentimes these beliefs will also have negative emotions attached to them like anger or distrust, resulting in the avoidance or marginalization of people who belong to these groups.

There are some things that we can do to foster better understanding among people of diverse backgrounds and opinions according to psychologist Dr. Gwendolyn Keita:

  • Understand where we come from – we all have our own points of view that have been shaped by our individual experiences. All of us have these biases which shape our opinions of others.
  • Honestly acknowledge your feelings towards different opinions and groups – it’s alright if certain things make you uncomfortable. That’s natural after all. Learn to recognize what these are so that negative emotions won’t lead to biased and discriminatory conclusions.
  • Share our challenges and fears – this can be difficult, especially if we are around people that we perceive as being judgemental. Vocalizing our personal biases can help us move past them.
  • Exposure to new ideas and groups of people – research has shown that positive media exposure to examples of people or groups that they are unfamiliar with will lead to changing attitudes and more realistic perceptions. What’s even more effective is meeting and communicating directly.

Different groups of people can each bring something of value in making society better – we can use these various points of view to better understand one another and achieve a more harmonious social balance.

Healing Arts Institute Stands in solidarity with

BLACK LIVES MATTER

Learning to Develop a Successful Business Mindset

The prevailing wisdom among new business owners and people interested in going out on their own is that a successful business is built atop a strong foundation of planning. Business plans, marketing plans, communications plans – all of which is intended to provide a very important fundamental aspect of business development: strategy.

While strategy is important, it can only provide guidance to someone who has the right mindset to be able to focus, persist, and recover from setbacks.

Mental health applies to developing your successful business mindset every bit as much as it does your personal happiness and behaviors. Here are a few mindsets that entrepreneurs and small business owners can adopt to be their best selves.

Understand Yourself and What Drives You

Learn who you are and what motivates you. Knowing what your true passions and motivations are will help in determining how you conduct business, and which opportunities you choose to pursue. People who aren’t aware of this are more likely to go after any and all opportunities which might yield short-term gain to the detriment of long-term growth and success.

Make Clearly Defined Goals

Goal setting is another tool that will help you focus on your core business, and hopefully steer you away from immediate distractions that seem like enticing quick-gains. Goals should be something that is measurable – for example: Establish a fully functional online retail component to my business by the end of 3rd quarter. Set reasonable goals and hold yourself accountable to completing them. Any opportunity that takes you away from your goals is a distraction and should be avoided.

Learn to Make Yourself Over

We’re not the same people we were when we were children. As we engage with new people and encounter new experiences, we grow and adapt – this analogy of growing up and how we change as individuals also applies to business. Successful business owners are often very different people compared to how they were when they first began. They have learned and adapted from mistakes and challenges – and like them, you should also learn to become comfortable with getting things wrong, adapting, and trying something new.

Take Personal Responsibility

Sometimes things don’t go our way which can lead to outcomes that are difficult to accept. We don’t have to like the circumstance that we find ourselves in, but we do have to accept it – and better yet, we should take responsibility for it. That doesn’t mean that we blame ourselves, it means that we empower ourselves to take the reins of whatever situation we find ourselves in and turn in into one that will work for us. Placing blame is a pointless exercise that might ‘feel good’ in the moment, but it is destructive and counter-productive. It doesn’t matter who is to blame for an outcome – take upon yourself the personal responsibility to make it better.

Gratitude

This can be a tough one. It’s easier to be grateful in good times, but when things get challenging it can feel downright impossible. Learning to maintain a strong sense of gratitude helps you to stay focused and persistent when confronted by difficult circumstances, and the loss of gratitude will eventually lead to feelings of despair and depression which then results in a self-induced cycle of failure. Instead of allowing yourself to be angry over situations that you may not have complete control over, learn to be grateful that you have these opportunities to learn from, grow, and become stronger for it.

How to Bounce Back from Any Emotional Setback

Emotional Setback: Woman smiling with eyes closed hugging a man
Written by David Davenport – Contributing Author Healing Arts Institute

Experiencing an emotional setback can change our lives in unexpected ways. There are times when we make a conscious effort to start fresh and make a better life – New Year’s resolutions come to mind right away. It’s almost ritualistic in how we approach these promises we make to ourselves. 

Sometimes we keep them, many times we don’t. These promises are safe to make because we have control over when we choose to ‘reset’ and whether we even follow through at all. If only life were always this predictable…

Death, divorce (and unforeseen global pandemics) can upend our lives in ways we never expected causing massive emotional devastation and financial turmoil. The impact seems so much greater because we did not choose for this to happen. We did not want this to happen.

Whether we choose or it is chosen for us, the outcome of these events can actually lead to extremely positive life changes. We just have to be willing to do one thing to make that happen…

We have to let go.

Getting back to the way things were may not be possible, practical, or even what’s best for us – and coming to terms with that may be the hardest part of the journey. Let me give you a few tips to help you re-frame your situation so that you can take control of your life path again.

Take back control of your life

You don’t have to like the situation that you find yourself in, but you do have to accept it. The world moves on whether you want it to or not, and the most empowering thing that you can do is take responsibility. It’s not your fault, but it is your life. You’re the only one who can change it.

As much as you may want to point a finger at someone or something, it won’t help get you to where you want to be. Taking ownership of your life circumstances puts you back in the driver’s seat. It helps you to build and maintain self-respect while you slowly put the pieces back together.

Define new realistic goals

If you continue down the same path you have always traveled, your result will always be the same. Change in difficult times can be painful but setting new goals can be exhilarating and life-altering. If you want a new life, there is no better time than now to start. Set realistic deadlines and take small steps towards making each one a reality.

Setting small and attainable short-term goals will give you a boost to your confidence and motivate you to do more. The more you can accomplish, the more in-control you will feel about the direction of your life. When starting over, always start small.

Be consistent with your new goals

It can be incredibly difficult to maintain consistency when trying to adopt new habits. It’s even harder when you’re struggling with the weight of an emotional anchor on your soul. But that’s why we start with small goals!

Work towards at least one of your new goals every day, even if you don’t want to do it. Slow progress is still progress, and before you know it you’ll be on your way!

Find support

Having people to help guide you is imperative during times of change. Friends, family, therapists, and coaches can all be amazing sources of strength and inspiration. With enough time, experience, and perspective you will see that it is possible to turn what was once a tragedy into a redefining moment to start the life you’ve always deserved.

Healing Arts Institute has an amazing staff of friendly and highly trained therapists to help guide you in the right direction.

Citations:

Galli, Anthony. “How to Be Outrageously Consistent | 7 Tips to Be Consistently Consistent.” Medium, 21 June 2018, medium.com/the-mission/how-to-be-outrageously-consistent-7-tips-to-be-consistently-consistent-a32fd1c0a250.

Weinberg, Melissa. “The Power of Setting Short-Term Goals.” This., 2020, this.deakin.edu.au/self-improvement/the-power-of-setting-short-term-goals.

“Do You Accept Responsibility for Your Actions?” Goodchoicesgoodlife.Org, 2014, www.goodchoicesgoodlife.org/choices-for-young-people/accepting-responsibility-.

When You’re Depressed: Learning How to Find Your Motivation

Sun setting over the horizon, road disappearing over the horizon
Written by David Davenport – Contributing Author Healing Arts Institute

As life begins to slowly return to normal after a prolonged health crisis and a crazy previous year, it’s more important than ever to understand how we can recognize signs of depression, loss of motivation, and learn how to rekindle our passion for life.

 Depression is a devious condition and can be hard to detect. Many people may be surprised to learn that sadness is not always the primary indicator of depression. Many people who suffer from depression may not feel sadness at all. Instead, many people report being burdened with overwhelming apathy, anger, and general feelings of negativity.

Symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, but will generally include:

  • Feelings of fatigue Difficulty concentrating (brain fog)
  • Trouble sleeping or oversleeping
  • Not wanting to do things that you used to be motivated to do
  • Irritability and anger
  • Feelings of low self-esteem or a feeling of being worthless
  • In extreme cases, thoughts of taking your own life

If you are not able to recognize the signs of depression you will not know that you need help.

Not seeking help makes the depression even worse – It’s a horrible feedback loop.

With depression, comes the loss of motivation. Losing your motivation prevents you from doing the things that give your life meaning.

Here are some tips to help you regain your motivation when you’re feeling depressed – pick one or two of these tips at a time and work on them slowly, and learn which ones are most effective for you.

Get back to following a schedule or routine

I know this is the LAST thing you might want to do right now.

Developing a routine can help reintroduce purpose to your life by focusing your mind on accomplishing small goals. Reaching goals can stimulate your brain’s chemical reward system, helping you to feel a little better.

Try to start with an easy schedule that you feel comfortable following. It is more important to strengthen the habit than it is to try returning to your former busy routine quickly. 

Start small and build back up a little bit at a time. You’ll be surprised how quickly you will get back into the swing of things.

Start a light exercise routine to offset loss of motivation

People who participate in some form of exercise are much less likely to experience feelings of depression than people who do not. Exercise relieves stress and can release endorphins which mitigate symptoms of depression.

Walking, yoga or light jogging can help you return to a better mental state if you are feeling depressed and help to rejuvenate your loss of motivation. 

You don’t have to hit the gym for several hours each day or train to run a marathon. Just doing a little bit of regular physical activity will work wonders for you over time.

Challenge your negative thinking – avoid negativity and negative people

As it turns out, misery does love company. Complaining about negative things and being around others who complain has an almost cathartic and addictive effect. Even though it might feel good to do so in the short term, the longer-term effects are detrimental to your mental health.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts, try to challenge what those thoughts are telling you.

When we’re depressed, it is very easy to perceive situations as being far worse than they are. Consider all the possible outcomes and try as hard as you can to avoid worst-case scenario thinking. This is called catastrophizing, or catastrophic thinking.

You can read about catastrophic thinking and how to avoid it in our blog article entitled ‘The Simple 3-Step Method to Stop Catastrophic Thinking’.

Seek Help from a Trained Therapist

It is difficult to see your way out of a bad situation while you are struggling to get out of it. That is why it’s so important to allow a trained mental health professional to guide you through. 

The experience can be overwhelming at first, but soon you will begin to see how comforting it is to work with someone who knows what you are going through. Start slowly and work a little bit every day towards finding yourself again.

Citations:

Harteneck, Patricia. “7 Ways to Deal With Negative Thoughts.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 29 Sept. 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/women-s-mental-health-matters/201509/7-ways-deal-negative-thoughts.

Martinsen, E.W. Benefits of Exercise for the Treatment of Depression. Sports Med 9, 380–389 (1990). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-199009060-00006

Life After Lock-down


This prolonged Coronavirus shutdown is slowly beginning to subside. Businesses are re-opening and soon we will all have to decide how we reintegrate with our families, our friends, and society as a whole.


We may feel more nervous than we used to, no longer willing to open up or socialize in the ways that we were once accustomed. For some, prolonged stay-at-home orders or fear of contracting illness may prevent a return to healthy social behaviors. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were afraid to ask for help out of fear of ridicule or not wanting to appear vulnerable.


Everything has now changed – and it is now more apparent than ever that we cannot exist in pockets of social isolation. As we re-integrate, keep in mind that people will begin to open up at their own pace. Some will be eager to get back to life as quickly as possible, while others will be much more cautious. 


As you, your family, and friends decide how to move forward, be compassionate towards others who will feel comfortable integrating at a different pace than you. It will be some time before we are all back to normal. It’s alright if some are more eager than others, or if some want to take more time to process their thoughts and concerns before reintegrating.


Always try to maintain an open and honest dialog instead of criticizing or convincing someone else to your point of view – whatever your viewpoint is on the Coronavirus shutdown, we will have to live with each other long after it’s over. The ways in which we decide how to handle this portion of the crisis will have effects that far outlast that of the virus itself.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty adjusting to the stress and isolation caused by this shutdown, please visit our website or give us a call – we have licensed therapists who can help you today.

How Do I Know If I Should Try Therapy?

Making the decision to attend sessions with a therapist can seem daunting. Many people believe that they can handle their own difficult emotions, and don’t want to look for help. This way of thinking can lead to embarrassment and avoiding taking the positive steps needed to make your life better.

  1. Feelings of being overwhelmed – Sometimes there are just too many things going on at once… you feel like you need space to breath, but just don’t know how…
  2. Feeling tired – Feeling tired all the time is a sign that your body is struggling, oftentimes due to emotional stress and mental strain. 
  3. Feelings of apathy – Maybe you no longer enjoy doing the things you used to love to do. Even if you want to go back to enjoying certain activities, you just may not want to do anything at all…
  4. Feelings of social withdrawal – While it’s normal for people to want to spend time alone, we are by nature social creatures. Spending too much time away from others can lead to feelings of sadness and depression.
  5. Feelings of hopelessness – When you begin thinking that you have no future, it can lead to other negative thoughts which make it even harder to function in your daily life.

If any of this feels familiar to you, imagine how much better life will be once you allow someone to help – WE CAN!

How COVID-19 Impacts Our Beneficiaries

In times like these it’s easy to get caught up in the sensationalized day-by-day news cycle. 

We should all take a moment to remember one important fact: things will improve the world will go on.

We will bounce back from COVID-19 and its impact on our lives, and when we do we will all be stronger than we were before.  

Healing Arts has not forgotten our mission that we promised to fulfill – to eliminate the stigma attached to receiving mental health services, specifically among culturally marginalized communities. To promote growth and development of children, families, adults and the community by way of leadership, psycho-education and evidenced based therapies. We hope you haven’t forgotten why you chose to stand by us in the first place. 

We can each do our part as individuals to keep our community healthy. As we practice social distancing and do our part to stop the spread of this virus, we hope you’ll also remember how our children and their families need you. 

Your donation will be a tremendous help in keeping our mission alive. We won’t stop working towards building strong children and strong families.

But to do that we need your help. Please forward this email as you see fit to friends who support our mission.  
On behalf of the families we serve, thank you! 

Dr. Thelma Tennie 

President and CEO 

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”.

Frederick Douglass