Doing Life Together

bowling-596766_1920Every year around this time, I am asked by media to talk about how difficult it is to be with family. Getting together over a holiday with family members who don’t get along most of the year can be stressful. But perhaps, rather than pulling out the stops to finally confront those family members who upset you, the focus should be on building positive memories. After all, this is the only family you will ever have, so why not try to infuse the  holidays with some fun. I realize, family problems don’t go away during the holidays, but we can choose to do things to build positive memories

In talking with problematic families, they tell me they have no traditions regarding how to have fun or how to create great memories. Usually, this requires some thought before you arrive at someone’s house. You have to intentionally build traditions. And millennials tell me that they would like more traditions in their families.

For example, no one except the older generation in our family goes bowling. But we built a fun tradition over the years by going bowling after the big family dinner. Young to old could participate. And because so many of us are truly terrible bowlers, it was even more fun–no pressure, just throw the ball at a bunch of pins and laugh a lot at each other.

Some families go outside for walks or play a friendly flag football game. Others create a scavenger hunt for kids and grow ups. For the fitness minded, a Turkey Trot race can involve family members. Board games can be fun with several groups playing cards or a game like Scrabble.

If you feel less ambitious, watch old family videos or browse through photo albums, This will focus you on good times and memories.

And finally, if your family struggles to have a good time together, organize a volunteer activity. Go to a shelter and serve meals, deliver food to shut ins, visit a nursing home, or have international students to your home for the meal. Giving to others will move the focus off the family issues and onto others.

The point here is to begin to build positive memories and turn the feeling of dread around. By intentional creating activities for the family, people can interact in positive ways so that next year, there is something to look forwarded to–a time of getting together, creating traditions and memories.

letters-229725_1920Most of us know the importance of forgiveness, but how well do we do when it comes to forgiving ourselves? As important as forgiving others is, it is also true that self-forgiveness needs to be a part of forgiveness. So why do we struggle so much in this area?

From a spiritual perspective, once we repent, God holds no records of right and wrong. This is often a difficult concept to embrace. Because of guilt and harm we may have done to others, it is hard to believe that the slate could be wiped clean. But let’s consider the stories of Paul and King David from the Bible.

Both men sinned in ways that were extremely hurtful to others and caused harm and even death. Paul murdered Christians in the name of religion and yet wrote much of the New Testament. King David committed both adultery and murder and yet was described as a man after God’s own heart. Both of these men refused to allow their pasts to define their futures. If they had, feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy or even guilt would have preempted them from doing all God had for them to do.

Have you ever thought about that? Not forgiving yourself can keep you from doing the things God has called you to do. Instead, we can be grateful for forgiveness, live in forgiveness and have God’s view–it’s done, gone and even forgotten. Then, we can move forward with the things he has for us to accomplish.

Nothing stops God from forgiving you. Your sin can be horrific, but if there is true repentance, God still forgives. So receive His forgiveness and move forward in your life. Don’t allow accusing thoughts to populate your mind. Don’t rehearse your failures and mistakes and keep them front and center in some skewed view of humility. Instead, receive forgiveness and move on. If not, you can’t live in joy and freedom as you will always be focused on the wrong doing. Then, as Jesus admonished, go and sin no more.

disappointed-2167435_1920Jack has suffered with depression for years. He is one of 5 million people who have what is called treatment-resistant depression. He has tried numerous antidepressant drugs that would work for awhile and then seem to stop working. Recently, he joined a clinical trial using a drug that most people know as a psychedelic one-ketamine. Ketamine has been used by anesthesiologist to put people under before surgery, but it is widely known as “Special K,” an hallucinogen used by club goers to trip. It is an easy drug to abuse.

Now, the drug is being studied to bring possible hope to those suffering from stubborn depression. And because ketamine is legally prescribed for anesthesia, it has been used off label as a possible new treatment. Currently the trials are small and few, but the early results seem promising.

The drug is not yet FDA approved for depression but it appears that the response from those with treatment-resistant depression is hopeful. Patients report that it seems to help with suicidal thoughts and has rapid results.

How ketamine exactly works to fight resistant depression is not exactly known, but it seems to work rapidly in the brain. Because it has not been largely studied as a depression treatment, we don’t know the consequences and potential side effect of using this repeatedly for depression. With anesthesia, one doses given. As a depression treatment, doses are repeated because the effects are temporary. And the drug is costly($400-$800 a treatment) and rarely covered by insurance.

Also, because it is a drug of abuse, people can become dependents on it. Furthermore, it has been correlated with bladder toxicity and cognitive problems in the recreational drug crowd.

A task force of the American Psychiatric Association has said that ketamine is not ready for a roll out to the public. It needs more study despite the fact that private clinics have popped up all over the country and are providing this treatment. A big concern is that this treatment may not be a long term solution and may stimulate opioid receptors in the brain. This could then bring on the problem of potential addiction like we currently see with opioids.

That said, researchers are working on how the drug works, how to dose it and use it as an antidepressant so as to not provide the euphoric effect. So stay tuned on this one. As clinical trials continue, we may see a new treatment for hard to treat depression. More research will be telling.

money-2700212_1920The root cause of anxiety is sometimes easier to spot than others.

Sharon was about to go into her promotions meeting at work, but began to feel her heart race, her palms sweat and her hands shake. She was having trouble breathing and felt sick to her stomach. She just wanted to leave her supervisor’s waiting area and find a place to calm down. So she told the executive administrator that she didn’t feel well and needed to reschedule the meeting. Sharon was having a panic attack.

Anxiety is the most common psychiatric disorder and often unrecognized and untreated. But in Sharon’s case, the panic she felt was about more than her worries regarding promotion. Sharon’s root cause of anxiety was her fear of rejection. Anxiety was prompted by her thoughts and beliefs. But anxiety can rise up in a person’s life from all kinds of problems and may not be related to only related to negative thoughts or beliefs.

We are body, mind and spirit. All three impact each other. Physical problems can mimic anxiety and anxiety can be caused by physical problems. Here are a few other root causes of anxiety that you may not think about:

Cardiac: Anxiety can be a byproduct of cardiovascular disease. It’s symptoms can be similar to Sharon’s, e.g., panic.  Cardiac symptoms may present like anxiety. Examples are angina, arrhythmias, cardiac tamponade, congested heart failure, myocardial infarction and more.

Endocrine conditions: Anxiety can be a symptom associated with endocrine conditions such as Cushing disease, diabetes, parathyroid and thyroid disease, pancreatic tumors and more due to the impact of disease on the body.

Gastrointestinal problems: The more anxiety you have, the more at risk you are for GI problems. Irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer disease and other are more associated with those who have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Posttraumtic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Parkinson disease: It is not uncommon to see social anxiety and panic attacks with those diagnosed with  Parkinson disease and other neurological diseases.

Inflammation: Anxiety can cause changes in the inflammatory response. Thus, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other inflammatory conditions can present with anxiety.

Camouflage:  Anxiety can sometimes mimic a medical illness when symptoms like tachycardia, palpitations, sweating, flushing, dry mouth, dizziness, tremor, muscle tension, headaches, and fatigue occur.

So if you are struggling with anxiety,  consider how your body, mind and spirit play into symptoms in order to address the root causes of anxiety. Addressing the root cause of anxiety makes a difference in the success of treatment.