Author Archives: Whole Person

Quick Relaxation Tips for the Start of the Holidays

Relaxation Tips for the Beginning of the Holidays

As we begin the busy months of November and December we often find ourselves a bundle of irritable nerves, snapping at friends and family and wondering how we will ever get everything ready in time. There are 29 different holidays stemming from different holidays during this time. Wish folks a happy holiday and when you are feeling particularly stretched take a moment or two to relax and catch your breath with these helpful relaxation tips and suggestions.

Mini-relaxations from Harvard Health Publications

Healthbeat from Harvard Health Publications suggest these activities that take only seconds.

Mini-relaxations are stress busters you can reach for any time. These techniques can ease your fear at the dentist’s office, thwart stress before an important meeting, calm you when stuck in traffic, or help you keep your cool when faced with people or situations that irritate you. Whether you have one minute or three, these exercises work.

When you’ve got one minute

Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Breathe in. Pause for a count of three. Breathe out. Pause for a count of three. Continue to breathe deeply for one minute, pausing for a count of three after each inhalation and exhalation.

Or alternatively, while sitting comfortably, take a few slow deep breaths and quietly repeat to yourself “I am” as you breathe in and “at peace” as you breathe out. Repeat slowly two or three times. Then feel your entire body relax into the support of your chair.

When you’ve got two minutes

Count down slowly from 10 to 0. With each number, take one complete breath, inhaling and exhaling. For example, breathe in deeply, saying “10” to yourself. Breathe out slowly. On your next breath, say “nine”, and so on. If you feel lightheaded, count down more slowly to space your breaths further apart. When you reach zero, you should feel more relaxed. If not, go through the exercise again.

When you’ve got three minutes

While sitting, take a break from whatever you’re doing and check your body for tension. Relax your facial muscles and allow your jaw to open slightly. Let your shoulders drop. Let your arms fall to your sides. Allow your hands to loosen so there are spaces between your fingers. Uncross your legs or ankles. Feel your thighs sink into your chair, letting your legs fall comfortably apart. Feel your shins and calves become heavier and your feet grow roots into the floor. Now breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly.

Retrieved November 3, 2016 from

Relaxation Tips from WebMD

Here are some relaxation tips and suggestions from WebMD:

1. Meditate
2. Breathe Deeply
3. Be Present, Slow down.
4. Reach Out
5. Tune In to Your Body
6. Decompress
7. Laugh Out Loud
8. Crank Up the Tunes
9. Get Moving
10. Be Grateful

Click on the WebMD site below to read the details of how to make these suggestions work for you: Retrieved on November 3, 2016.

A relaxation script from Julie Lusk

Here is a great relaxation script from our own Julie Lusk (see her books here) and Judy Fulop entitled “Sun Meditation for Healing”. It only takes ten minutes. Do this after you have tried the relaxation suggestions above. If you are alone simply read it to yourself or out loud, whichever is more comfortable for you. Pause when instructed to do so. You or your participants will experience the healing power and energy of the sun as you imagine its warming and relaxing power.


Please close your eyes (obviously you can’t do this step if you are ready to yourself) and take some time to go within yourself to settle your body, mind, and heart. Feel free to use whatever method works best for you. For example, it may be focusing on your breath, meditating, stretching your body mindfully, or using a sound, word, image, or a phrase as a mantra to become centered…Take your time…allowing yourself to become more and more at ease with yourself.


Allow yourself to become as relaxed and comfortable as you can . . . let your body feel supported by the ground beneath you.

Slowly begin to see or feel yourself lying in a grassy meadow with the sun shining it’s golden rays gently upon you…Let yourself soak in these warm rays …taking in the healing power and life giving energy of the sunshine.

This magnificent ball of light has been a sustaining source of energy for millions of years and will be an energy source for millions of years to come…This ancient sun is the same sun which shined down upon the dinosaurs…upon the Egyptians while they built the pyramids…and it now shines upon the earth and all the other planets in our solar system and will continue to do so forever.

As the sun’s rays gently touch your skin, allow yourself to feel the warmth and energy flow slowly through your body…pulsing through your bones…sending healing light to your organs…flowing to your tissues…recharging every system…and now settling into your innermost being…your heart center.

Sense your heart center glowing with this radiant energy. If you wish, give it a color…Take a few moments to allow this warm and healing energy to reach your innermost being…physically…emotionally…mentally…and spiritually.

Pause for 30 seconds

As this healing energy grows and expands, allow yourself to see, feel, and sense this energy surrounding your being…growing and growing…Allow this energy to further fill this room…this building…out into the worlds…and finally throughout the universe…reaching and touching and blessing all.

Pause for 30 seconds

You may share this healing energy and power with anyone you’re aware of right now…Mentally ask them if they are willing to receive this healing energy…If they are…send this source of healing energy to them…giving them the time they need to take in this energy and make it theirs in their own heart center.

Pause for 30 seconds

Now take your attention back to your own heart center…Find a safe place within you to keep this healing and powerful energy…a place to keep it protected and within your reach…Give yourself permission to get in touch with this energy whenever you wish.

With the warmth of this energy in your being, begin stretching, wiggling, and moving…Slowly open your eyes, feeling alive, refreshed, keenly alert, and completely healthy.
Repeat the above instructions until everyone is alert.

A caveat about relaxation tools: relaxation is a muscle skill just like shooting a basket or playing the piano. Expect that it will take some practice to learn to efficiently relax your body. Eventually you should be able to think of the beginning of a script and your body will relax by itself. Practice, practice, practice.

Brighten the corner where you are

Feeling the dark days of winter creeping up?
Follow the advice from the old children’s’ hymn and
Brighten the corner where you are!

The days are getting shorter. The sun seems to be loosing its brightness. Football practice now ends at 6:30 instead of 7:30 and you can still hardly see the kids on the far side of the field. That quick trip to pull weeds after bringing the kids home from dance requires a yard light now. And zipping around on the scooter after supper needs headlights and watching out for deer crossing the road.

As I stumbled home last night to throw myself into my chair and watch Monday Night Football, tiredness crept up like a cat after a treat. Maybe not even tiredness…maybe just dullness. The inability to process my surroundings efficiently, and not really caring anyway. That kind of blahness.

Loving the beautiful colors of the fall, like the fall shade of very intense blue of Lake Superior only displays at this time of year to the splash of vibrant color on the hill above the city, doesn’t make up for that indisputable fact: it is getting dark earlier and the lack of light is makes me lethargic.

That special blue of Lake Superior in the fall.

That special blue of Lake Superior in the fall.

I hopped on the internet to see what I could find for sure tips on how to reenergize now the sun is gone so early. Here’s some of what I found when I searched for advice on how to keep bright and alert in the failing light of fall. Click on the links to go to the pages where the information was found.

  • Have your physician check your iron and vitamin levels. If needed discuss the best changes in your diet and/or supplements to correct any low levels. Then make sure you eat what she recommends and take what supplements he recommends. Follow-through is necessary for success!
  • Try getting up earlier. The daylight is there, is just at the other end of your day. Get up earlier, try working out before work. Workout facilities are often quiet at 6 a.m. and you will be energized for the entire day.
  • Music. Put on whatever you really like to revel in. I have a secret love for doing housework to Mama Mia. Doesn’t matter if it is Mozart or the Beetles, as long as you love it and it encourages you to move with vigor.
  • Light up your life. Don’t be wasteful, but don’t sit around in the dark, either. (See the information about SAD below.) Figure out where you’re going to be for the evening and let your light(s) shine.
  • Indulge yourself in some feel-good activities. If you enjoy candle or lantern light or just snuggling up to the fire, do so. If you like to surf the net, do so in an environment that makes you feel good just to be there. Find yourself a particularly enjoyable book (it doesn’t have to be great literature) and spend some time reading just for your enjoyment.

Information downloaded on October 4, 2016 from

Here are a few more:

  • Sing Oh What a Beautiful Morning in the shower…loudly. Use the shampoo bottle for amicrophone if it helps you get into it. Not only are the words happy, you will fill your lungs with good, fresh oxygen and fill your head with good thoughts. When you get to work, crank up the tunes. Something with a strong bass beat and an up-tempo. Don’t forget the headphones!
  • Caffeine, that old standby. Works, but use it judiciously. A cup of coffee yes, a pot, not so much. One important caveat though: this is a short-term solution to your problem. The effects of caffeine last for only two or three hours, and then you’re susceptible to what is known as a “crash,” which causes you lose all energy completely. Caffeine isn’t the healthiest choice on this list, but it works in a pinch.
  • Chewing gum. Chewing a piece of gum has been proved to help people stay awake and attentive in situations of boredom. This is due to the stimulation of facial muscles causing an increase in blood flow to the head. In addition, because chewing is not an involuntary muscle movement like breathing or blinking, it slightly stimulates the brain, even though you may not realize it, which helps you stay awake.
  • Lifestyle changes. If you’re looking for a healthier, more long-term method of maintaining attentiveness during life’s less exciting moments, a lifestyle change may be in order. Regular exercise has been found to provide the body with more disposable energy, meaning you’ll be able to stay awake without having to drink cup after cup of coffee and listen to “Flight of the Bumblebee” continually. Eating properly will also provide you with the energy your body needs to make it through a day without dozing off. Making sure that you get the right amount of sleep every night is also an important factor in being able to stay awake during the day. Too little or too much sleep causes lethargy and sluggishness in your daily life. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t the easiest solution to tiredness, but changing your lifestyle is definitely the healthiest and most effective choice that you can make.
  • Take a nap. A power nap is a great way to get some quick energy. However, restrict it to 20 minutes. Anything longer than that and you’ll wake up worse off than you were before the nap.

Downloaded on October 4, 2016 from

  • Two more:
    Turn up the lights. Bright lights stimulate your brain, especially if you are tired because of an overly “fun” night out.
  • If you are really tired, avoid multi-tasking. A study showed that folks who had 42 hours of sleep deprivation had a 38% loss of memory until they got a good night’s sleep. Then their usual memory returned.

Downloaded on October 4, 2016 from

Do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

If some of these feelings seem to happen each year, have a real impact on your life, and improve during certain seasons, talk to your doctor, you may have seasonal affective disorder.

• I feel like sleeping all the time, or I’m having trouble getting a good night’s sleep
• I’m tired all the time, it makes it hard for me to carry out daily tasks
• My appetite has changed, particularly more cravings for sugary and starchy foods
• I’m gaining weight
• I feel sad, guilty and down on myself
• I feel hopeless
• I’m irritable
• I’m avoiding people or activities I used to enjoy
• I feel tense and stressed
• I’ve lost interest in sex and other physical contact

If these are your symptoms, contact your doctor to be screened for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Downloaded on October 4, 2016 from BC Mental Health and

Everyone needs a quickie – a quick meditation to reduce stress

No time for meditation?
We all need a few good breaths.

  • Most folks today lead hectic lives.
  • Most folks today could use some time for peaceful, quiet meditation.
  • Most folks today don’t have time to turn down the lights, put up their feet, turn on some peaceful music or a meditation CD and take 20 to 30 minutes out of their day to center themselves.
  • Most folks today need to recharge so they don’t over-stress and send cortisol racing through their bodies to wreak havoc on their health.

Here is a quick breathing exercise you can use to take control over your stress and recharge your batteries for the rest of the day. It even works as you sit in your car in your driveway for a few extra minutes before rejoining your family for the evening.

Why breathing? It’s easy, and you already know how to do it.

  • Sit comfortably in your chair, or, if you can, lie on the floor.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe in deeply through your nose to the count of five. (Choose whatever count works for you…don’t obsess about how much air you can pull into your body.)
  • Hold it for the same count you used drawing breath in.
  • Blow it out gently through your mouth, again using the same count you used to breathe it in.

As you do this several times, visualize your lungs filling with lovely fresh oxygen as you breathe in. Imagine the good, fresh breath exchanging with the old, tired air in your lungs. Finally, gently blow the used air out through your mouth, visualizing your lungs empty and ready for the next cleansing breath.

This works, even if you only have time to do it two or three times. Try it…it might turn out to be your favorite quickie coping skill.

Are you a fixer? Check out this article on the Macgyver Syndrome.

Stress Management Classics to Use Everyday

Time-Honored Classic Stress Management Techniques
Yes or No?

The Huffington Post ran an article by Kate Bratskeir, their Food and Health Editor, in April of 2013. She asked Dr. David Posen, and  Dr. Kathleen Hall, if the old stress management techniques still work in today’s more more highly charged environment. Are their some that might not work so well today?

According to Ms. Braatskeir’s article the following methods still have their place in the stress buster lexicon:

  • Squeezing a stress ball
  • Letting yourself have a good cry
  • Letting loose on the dance floor
  • Talking it out
  • Shouting It out
  • A good, old-fashioned time-out
  • Breaking something
  • Writing an angry letter that won’t be seen again
  • Taking a deep breath
  • The pendulum (collision balls) swing
  • Exercising

As you can see, many of these are similar to one another…talking, shouting, writing an angry letter for the shredder are right down the same alley. Letting loose on the dance floor, squeezing a stress ball, breaking something, and exercising take advantage of the release of endorphins that exercise produces. Crying, a time-out, watching the pendulum swing are less involved physically, but can engage you mentally. Few professionals would cross these activities off their list of effective coping tools.

In honor of these traditional methods here is a favorite coping exercise from Donald A. Tubesing, PhD’s series “Structured Exercises in Stress Management  Vol 3”.

Eight-Minute Stress Break
Participants learn a 15-step stretching routine that can be used any time of the day.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of exercise as a stress management technique.
To stretch all the major muscle groups.

Group Size
Unlimited, as long as there is sufficient space for everyone to move freely.

Time Frame
10 minutes

CD player and peppy music.

1)  The trainer briefly describes typical benefits of stretching and exercise as stress management techniques:

  • Stretching and vigorous exercise both help discharge accumulated physical tension from the various muscle groups.
  • The increased flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles usually stimulates an increased energy level.
  • Both types of physical activity provide a distraction from emotional or mental strain.
  • Stretching and exercise are effective preventive measures for dealing with stress by systematically letting go of tension before it accumulates to unhealthy proportions. These techniques also are effective in crisis situations to relieve the physical effects of stress.

2)  The trainer turns on the music and participants join in as he/she demonstrates the Eight-Minute Stress Break routine which can easily be incorporated into a busy schedule.


  • Choose only a few exercises to teach during this presentation (eg, all upper body stretches). Then sprinkle the other routines throughout the remainder of the session.
  • To model how this skill could be used in real life, teach the whole sequence at once and then sprinkle repeat performances as mini stretch breaks during unexpected or particularly stressful moments in the remainder of the learning experience.
  • If the course is several sessions long, go through the sequence once at every meeting in order to entrench the routine in participants’ minds.
  • After Step 2 hand out the list of 14 stretches. Ask people to identify their favorites and make a list of those they especially want to use in the future and the situations where they most need to!

Eight-Minute Stress Break Stretchers

The 360 Stretch

  • Begin with your body relaxed, arms and hands loose at your side. Pull your right shoulder up and with one smooth movement, bring the shoulder back and around, making a complete circle.
  • Repeat this same circular motion with the left shoulder.
  • Continue stretching one shoulder, then the other, 5 times each. The reverse the direction, using alternate shoulders, 5 times each. This should loosen up your neck, back, and shoulder – place where most people store tension.

Starfish Stretch

  • Begin with your arms stretched overhead, slightly bent, eyes turned upward.
  • In a single motion, open your hands, spread your fingers wide, and reach up as high as you can. Hold that position for a few seconds. Then close your fists and lower your arms, with elbows bent. Rest a few seconds and then repeat the starfish stretch/rest sequence 10 to 15 times.
  • For variety, stretch to the side.

Snow Angels

  • Allow your arms to hang loose at your sides. Begin to loosen your wrists by shaking your hands, allowing them to flop as freely as possible.
  • Continue to shake and flop as you slowly raise your arms to the side and up until your hands touch overhead. Then allow your arms to gradually drop, still shaking and loosening the wrists.

Tall Grass Stalk

  • Extend your arms out in front of you.
  • While concentrating on your shoulders, slowly sweep your hands and arms to the side and back, as if pushing tall grass out of the way.
  • You should feel a pull along your shoulders and arms.
  • Stretch your arms out again and “stalk” for 10 more steps.

Bunny Hop

  • Put your hands on your hips and hop twice on your right foot. Now hop twice on your left foot. Continue these double hops, alternating feet and adding a side kick or a cross kick on the second hop.
  • Continue hopping and kicking for 30 seconds, varying your tempo and kick height.


  • Start by getting centered, feet firmly planted, knees slightly bent.
  • Lift your right knee up towards your chest, slap it with your left hand and then lower your leg and stretch it to the side, toes pointing outward. Repeat the hoe-down lift 3 more times and then try the left leg for 4 counts.

Cloud Walk

  • This is a slow step, rolling from heel to toe, one foot at a time, gently stretching the legs and feet. Your whole body should be relaxed.
  • Pick up the tempo of the heel-toe roll until you reach a slow jog, raising your feet slightly off the floor at each step. Continue at this pace for 30 seconds.


  • Start with your legs slightly apart.
  • Dip your body into an easy knee-bend and then spring back to the upright position.
  • Continue to bend and spring back for 30 seconds, adding rhythmic arm swings as you increase your pace.

Arch Stretch

  • With knees slightly bent, join your hands comfortably behind your back.
  • Slowly arch your back, letting your hands and stiff arms pull your shoulders and head down toward the floor.
  • Hold for 5 counts and then relax, allowing your head to fall forward and your shoulders to curl toward the front.
  • Repeat 7 times.


  • With feet shoulder width apart and knees bent, put your hands on your hips.
  • Keep your back straight as you twist your shoulders and trunk to the right 3 times and then return to face forward.
  • Now twist to the opposite side for 3 counts and return to the center.
  • Continue to twist for 8 sets.

Body Bounce

  • With feet apart, arms at your sides, bend sideways at the waist, stretching your hand down to your leg as you straighten up.
  • Repeat the stretch and bounce to the other side. Do 5 body bounces on each side.
  • Now add your arms to the stretching movement. With your left arm, reach up and over as you bounce to the left 3 counts.
  • Do 5 sets on each side.

Sneak Peek

  • Stand straight with your neck, shoulders and back as relaxed as possible.
  • Tilt your head to the left. Now slowly roll your head so that your chin falls to your chest and then comes up as your head tilts to the right. Now look back over your right shoulder, hold the pose and then relax.
  • Repeat the stretch, this time starting with your head tilted to the right and ending with a sneak peek over your left shoulder.
  • Do four peeks on each side.

The Wave

  • Stand straight with your arms at your sides, palms facing out.
  • As you take a long deep breath, slowly (4 counts) raise your arms up over your head. Now, as you exhale slowly, bring your arms back down, palms facing downward (4 counts).
  • Repeat this languid wave 6 times.

Hang Loose

  • Time to shake out your body.
  • Flap your arms, twist your wrists, shrug your shoulders, jiggle  your legs, shake your feet, flex your knees.
  • Bounce your booty until your whole body feels tingly, loose and relaxed.
My dog at work

Locus of Control

Locus of Control – Who controls my life?

Exerpted from The Building Resiliency Workbook by
Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John J.Liptak, EdD

Locus of Control refers to your beliefs about what causes the good or bad things that happen in your life. It is the extent to which you believe that you can control the events that affect you in your personal and professional life.


Think about where you would place yourself on a continuum such as the one above. Most of us place ourselves in the middle somewhere. If you placed yourself high on the continuum you believe your life is guided by your own personal decisions and efforts. If you are in the middle somewhere, you believe your life is guided by a combination of your own efforts and some external circumstances. If you placed yourself on the low end, you believe your life is guided by fate, luck, or other external circumstances.

Here are some questions to think about as you discover how your locus of control developed:

  • What did your mother/female caregiver believe about the factors that lead to success or failure?
  • What did your mother/female caregiver believe about luck leading to success or failure?
  • What did your father/male caregiver believe about the factors that lead to success or failure?
  • What did your father/male caregiver believe about luck leading to success or failure?
  • As a child growing up, how were you encouraged to take responsibility for your own destiny?
  • As a child growing up, how did your cultural, spiritual and/or religious beliefs affect your thoughts about your destiny?
  • Before you go on, journal about these questions and ponder how they influenced you as an adult.

Next, take a look at what you have contributed to the successes in your life. List your success and how you contributed to it.

060510-N-1328C-178 Fort Worth, Texas (May 10, 2006) - RCA recording artist and American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson gives thumbs up prior to her flight with the U.S. Navy's flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth, Texas, Joint Reserve Base. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Eric A. Clement (RELEASED)

Do the same with your disappointments. How did you contribute to your future in a negative way?

Review the negative situations and decide how you can have a more positive impact in your future decisions.

One way to have more control over what happens daily is to create a situation for yourself where good things can happen. You may need to change your patterns within your family, friendships and work. For example, I could change my bowling league so I can go to my children’s baseball games on Thursday nights. This will help because my spouse will feel supported and the children will be happy that I’m there for them.

Create a two column list of “Better Situations for Me” and “How this can help”.

Now…create an action plan!

Step 1 – My Life
Identify areas in your life where you feel dissatisfied or in a rut. Think about where you feel unfulfilled – relationships, work, family responsibilities, hopes and dreams, etc. Write down one of your unfulfilled areas. For example: further education.

Step 2 – Look at your attitude
Take a look at your attitude as it relates to the area you identified above in Step 1. It is through your attitude that you limit yourself and remain stuck? By confronting and changing your attitude, you can empower yourself to make positive changes in your life.

Think about the negative and limiting attitudes. What might be keeping you stuck? Here are some possibilities:

My family passed on these negative beliefs to me about my ability to influence my life. For example, “You don’t have the brains you were born with.”

What attitudes and beliefs do you have about yourself that limit your exerting control over your situation? Examples: I do not have enough life skills. I will never succeed. I am not a smart as other people. I do not communicate very well.

Now you try. List the personal limitations and beliefs you have about yourself.

You may have negative attitudes about other people in your life. For example: My peers think they are so smart or my partner doesn’t respect what I have to say, or my supervisor doesn’t think I deserve a promotion or (my kids all-time favorite) my parents are to blame.

Now you try. List the negative attitudes and beliefs you have about people in your life.
Remember, it is what YOU believe about yourself, NOT what other believe about you, that can influence you in either a positive or a negative way.

Step 3 – Changing Your Attitude
In Step 3 you have the opportunity to identify ways to change negative attitudes and move past the issues you have identified in Step 1. These attitudes and beliefs can be overcome with a few simple techniques:

Notice when negative thoughts pop into your head. Stop that negative self-talk, challenge it and substitute more positive self-talk.

Now that you have identified negative thoughts and attitudes in Step 2, think about whether the thoughts are accurate or not. What evidence is there for their accuracy?

List you negative thoughts and the evidence you have for their accuracy.

For example: Negative attitude – I’m not smart enough to go to college.
Evidence for these attitudes – Nothing, other than what my parents told me.

Create two columns on a sheet of paper. Repeat your negative attitudes from the previous page in the first column and then substitute positive thoughts for those negative thoughts. For example, the negative attitude might be I cannot get further at my place of work because I don’t have enough computer skills. A substitute positive thought might be I am smart enough to go to college. I will start with a community college where I can receive personalized assistance.

Step 4 – Goals for Change
Goals can help you regain control in your life. List several of your goals and hopes related to the area in which you feel stuck. For example: I want a job where I feel more challenged. I want to further my education. I want to learn more about technology. I want to feel smart.
List two goals related to the unfulfilled area you identified in Step 1.

Step 5 – Identify short-term steps – begin moving toward your goals.
These short-term steps are action-oriented activities to move you toward the general goals you identified in the last step. Create another two column table. Title one column Steps I will Take for One of My Goals and the other Deadlines for Completing Steps. List the short-term steps you will be taking to reach ONE of your goals and the deadlines you set for completing each step. For example: I will call my local community college and make an appointment with a counselor – deadline: tomorrow. And I will keep my appointment with the counselor, even if I am apprehensive! – deadline: next week. And if I like the school I will fill out an application. If not, I’ll look for another one – deadline the next day.

Step 6 – Take Action
It’s time to take action by taking control of your life. List the steps you have completed and the steps you are having trouble completing on two sheets of paper.

Why do you think you are having trouble completing some of the steps? Can you revise them to make them more doable? Write out your solution.

How has this process, or how will this process, help you to take greater control of the events in your life? Again, write out your answer.

Part of the trick, of course, is to constantly update your lists and goals. Don’t be afraid to make changes. Celebrate your successes. Rework those challenges that didn’t go as well and try again. Success is in your hands!

Building Resiliency cover

The article above was excerpted from The Building Resiliency Workbook by Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John J. Liptak, EdD. Included is a chapter on Locus of Control with worksheets to make the tasks above easier to accomplish for your participants. Questions: call 800-247-6789 and one of our experts will help.

To go or not to go, that is the question.

My relationship is not working.
With apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, what should I do next?

For years experts on the subject have placed the divorce rate in the U.S. at around 50%. Half of those being married will end up divorced. Yikes. Not the most hopeful statistic for those about to marry. Where does this number come from and is it accurate?

It turns out there are four ways to calculate the divorce rate here in the US.

1. Crude Divorce Rate. The age-adjusted crude divorce rate is currently thirteen divorces for every 1,000 people age fifteen and older.
2. Percent Ever Divorced. This is the percentage of ever-divorced adults in a population.
3. Refined Divorce Rate. This is the number of divorces per 1,000 married women.
4. Cohort Measure Rate. This is the “40-50 percent” number that most people cite. It is not a hard, objective number, but an educated projection. It is calculated by looking at a particular “cohort”—a large group of people marrying within a particular measure of time—relative to general life-tables. In short, it comes from looking at divorce trends of the last few decades (those of earlier cohorts) and applying these numbers to couples marrying today, the current cohort.

Two experts, the University of Denver’s Scott Stanley and Dr. Paul Amato of the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center believe that the current divorce rate is 40 to 45%. They also forecast that as baby-boomers (who have maintained the highest divorce rate ever) age out of the model that percentage will continue to go down dramatically.

Am I ready to become part of that static as my relationship seems to be unreparable? Is there anything that can help make that awful decision to divorce or not to divorce easier? No. Is there a way to clarify your position in your mind? Yes. Ask yourself the following questions. Ponder your answers deeply. Write them down. Put them away for a week and read them again. The questions will point you in the right direction.

Don’t be hesitant about seeking a professional who can help you determine what your answers are really telling you. Even if you must go by yourself, find an expert in marital counseling and wholeheartedly participate. This is a time to be brutally honest with yourself and those around you. It is also a time to prepare for the future. Being sure about the direction your marriage takes will help you take the next steps knowing you’ve made the right choice. Good Luck!

To Stay or to Go?

Excerpted from Family Breakup and Survival
by Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John J. Liptak, EdD

You got to know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em . . .”
~ Kenny Rogers

rog & peg edited
A happy couple

Ending a committed relationship is a difficult and emotional decision. As you think about staying or leaving, focus on the impact of your decision for yourself, your partner and your family. Instead of thinking only about breaking up as a yes or no, evaluate the quality of the relationship.

Here are aspects to consider about your present situation. Read the questions and write your answers down. Be clear, be honest, be fair. After you have completed the list, put it away for a few days. Take it out and reread what you wrote.  Have you changed your mind? Take the answers with you when you go to a family counselor and get help determining what they might mean. Let the answers help you decide your next step.

  1. Trust – How safe do you feel physically?
  2. Trust—How safe do you feel emotionally?
  3. Safety– How safe do you feel sexually?
  4. Love– Is your love romantic, platonic, intermittent, evaporating, or other?
  5. Cooperation– How do you help each other with day-to-day responsibilities?
  6. Respect– What level of respect does your partner have for you?
  7. Respect– What level of respect do you have for your partner?
  8. Physical intimacy– How are you and your partner “in sync” about intimacy and sex?
  9. Physical intimacy—How are you and your partner not “in sync” about intimacy and sex?
  10. Physical intimacy– How would you describe your sex life?
  11. Communication– Do you talk to each other about finances?
  12. Communication – Are you only sharing information or are you able to discuss feelings, worries, and excitement?
  13. Values – How much do you agree on ethical and moral issues? How does that influence your relationship?
  14. Religion and spirituality– Do you share a religious and/or spiritual belief system. If you do not, how that works in your relationship?
  15. Raising children– If you have children, describe how you have or have not been able to find common ground regarding discipline, guidance, medical decisions, educational plans and goals.
  16. Family of origin relationships – Do you believe you and/or your partner are more loyal to your own families–of-origin than to each other?
  17. In-law relationships – How have you or have you not worked out relationships that avoid high levels of conflict with each other’s families?
  18. In-Law relationships– Do you have close relationships with your in-laws? Is that likely to continue if your relationship breaks up? Why or why not?
  19. Finances– Are you both contributing to the family economy, either by working outside the home or inside? How does that work for you?
  20. Finances– How do you agree or disagree on methods of spending money?
  21. Finances– How do you agree or disagree on a budget for saving money?
  22. Arguing– Do you and your partner stick to the issue at hand when you argue?
  23. Arguing– Do you or your partner bring up wrong-doings of the past when arguing?
  24. Arguing– Does your fighting ever become physical?
  25. Arguing– When you are arguing with your partner, how safe does everyone in your family feel?
  26. Future– How do you believe your life (and that of your children, if applicable) would be better without this committed relationship?
  27. Future– How do you believe your life (and that of your children, if applicable) would be worse without this committed relationship?
Family Breakup and Survival cover

Orange Bag Denial or They called and I’m Not Ready.

Am I packed and ready to go? Why on Earth Not?
By COL James L. Greenstone, EdD, JD, DABECI.
Excerpted from Emotional First Aid.

If denial exists anywhere, it exists here. The seemingly unconscious process of refusing those implements of survival that might be needed during a disaster scenario because acceptance of that need also means acceptance of the likelihood of a disaster occurring, is the focus here. Disasters do and will occur and you need to be ready. As Sherif and Sherif stated in their seminal work, An Outline of Social Psychology, 1956, refusal of the implements of survival denies that reality. Acceptance confirms it. Perhaps acknowledgement of this process will impact the individual’s frame of reference or psychological structuring, and thereby affect observed behavior.

Working in an organized disaster recovery area

Working in an organized disaster recovery area

The Issue

Perhaps the reason that people refuse to prepare for the onset of a disaster relates to the psychological term: “Orange Bag Denial.” (Greenstone, 2009). Manmade and natural disasters will occur. One has only to look around themselves to confirm this reality.

Many will remember a few years ago when, in a prominent way, a product came on the market that promised to provide sufficient supplies to help an individual to survive the first 72 hours of a disaster, man-made or natural. These provisions were carefully provided in an orange canvas backpack that sold for about $30 – $35. The supplies provided would have probably cost more than the $35 price tag if one were to purchase them separately. In addition to the flashlight, batteries, water, food, tools, and the like, the size of the backpack allowed for personal gear such as extra clothing and other supplies. Altogether the pack was still light enough for even the slightest individual to carry the bag and to move around with ease.

The Search

Being a preparer, my personal “go bag” has been ready for the various circumstances in which one might find himself. Even so, this new orange bag was of some interest. As one might expect, it was quickly determined that they were readily available at most super stores in the area. What was found there was surprising and yet not completely unexpected.
An individual search of the store began. (This was probably because of an aversion to asking for directions.) Anyway, the bags were nowhere to be found even though advertised. Finally, several employees were approached for directions to the bags. They were found standing together obviously discussing profit and loss statements. They were not knowledgeable about the bags and could not recall seeing them on the store shelves. The manager was summoned. He knew about the bags. He explained that they had been removed from the shelves because they were not selling: an inkling that something was afoot. The manager explained that he was about to return the bags to the supplier but that they were still in the store stock room.
In the stock room, a bin was full of the orange emergency bags. The manager was asked if the bags were still available for sale. He said that they were and that he would sell them at an incredibly good price for as many of them as were desired. The price was so good, all were purchased. An immediate thought was that they could be given as Christmas or Chanukah gifts.

Who knew?

After the bags were purchased and loaded into the car, they were transported to be used as presents.

The Results

When it was mentioned to a very smart wife that the bags would be given as gifts, she warned against such action. Not fully understanding the issues, this author argued, disagreed and finally acquiesced. This proved to be the correct choice. The rest was amazing.
There were several family members and fellow preparers, to whom this writer was close personally, and to whom the bags might be given. Not so such as a holiday gift, but later because of concern about their readiness if something bad happened.

Most of the few close friends to whom the orange gifts were given were visibly and verbally shocked by this expression of kindness. To a person, their eyes bugged, they appeared stunned. They asked why such a gift would be given to them. Several were shocked and asked, “Do you know something that I don’t?”

Therein was born the concept of the Orange Bag Denial. Acceptance of the gift would also mean an acceptance of the possibility that a disaster might occur and that the contents of the orange bag might have to be utilized. The alternative, not to accept the bag, as a few did, in essence was avoidance and a denial of such a possibility. In other words, “If I do not take the bag designed for a disaster, maybe I will be spared the disaster. On the other hand, if I accept the bag, then also I have to accept the fact that a disaster may occur for which I may need these supplies.”

Some of the Related Numbers and Findings

There are at least four stages of preparedness denial. According to Eric Holdeman (2008), Director of Emergency Management for King County, Texas, the four stages are:

1. It won’t happen,
2. If it does happen, it won’t happen to me,
3. If it does happen to me, it won’t be that bad; and
4. If it happens and it is bad, there is nothing that I can do to stop it anyway.

In an August 2006 poll conducted by Time Magazine, it was reported that most American citizens were not prepared for a disaster and had their heads in the sand. Half surveyed said they had experienced a disaster. Only 16% of those said that they were adequately prepared for another disaster. Many justified their poor preparation by indicating that they did not need to prepare because that they did not live in areas of high risk for any kind of disaster (Ripley, 2006).

Facts seem to support the assertion that 91% of Americans live in places of significant risk to some type of disaster situation that could dramatically affect their life. This study was conducted by the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina (Ripley, 2006). There seems to be a fine line, according to this quoted article, between optimism and foolishness. In a country whose citizens, many times, distrust its leaders, the vast majority continue to think that in a disaster our government, local, state, and national, will quickly come to our aid as in non-disaster times. The response to Hurricane Katrina is the strongest current counter-testimony to this ill-conceived belief.

Read through the following pages from Emotional First Aid. Dr. Greenstone has compliled a comprehensive list of what you need when you are called. Click the page for printable versions.





Leigh Anne Jasheway telling jokes

But I Don’t Want to Embarrass Myself! Or I Won’t Play That Game

Pushing People Past
Their Comfort Zone to Play Games
Without Pushing Their Buttons

Excerpted from Are You Playing with Me?
By Leigh Ann Jasheway

In an earlier blog,  we talked about how reluctant some people can be in being playful. It may not be their nature. Or a light heart may be something that is frowned upon in their department or their profession. If someone asked me to sit quietly without cracking a smile for an hour, I’d feel very uncomfortable (actually, I’d probably find it impossible), so every time I ask someone to step outside their usual boundaries, I try to conjure up a picture of myself sitting in a chair silently. And then I try not to laugh at the idea.

When it comes to playful activities, there are four types of people. People who:

1. Are not done being a child and need no encouragement to be silly and childlike;
2. Can be coaxed into playfulness fairly easily if everyone else is doing it;
3. May have forgotten how to play and will need a lot of convincing; and
4. Never feel comfortable showing or even admitting they have a playful side. You may be able to get them to sit at the table, but they’ll probably stare at you or have an “emergency phone call” they have to take.

You can coax or cajole the first three types into participating, but with the resisters, all you can do is hope they eventually feel compelled to join in due to peer pressure. Here are my favorite ways to get audiences involved in activities that may be outside their usual comfort zone:

  • Make it clear that yours will not be a staid lecture. From the title, to the description, to the handouts, to the nametags, incorporate playfulness and fun so that no one will be shocked when they get there.
  • Create a playful environment by arranging the room for fun – the closer the better, semi-circles instead of straight lines, and tables so they can make eye contact with one another. Also set the mood with props and lighting. I like to use strings of light shaped like flamingos or chili peppers. Seeing fun lights automatically says “Hey, this could be different!”
  • Get a feeling about the group and how supportive or distant they are by arriving early for networking or a meal. Set the tone with your own playful attitude. Joke and laugh with them before the actual presentation. This reduces their inhibitions, puts them in a more jovial mood, and reinforces that your presentation will probably be non-traditional.
  • Write your own introduction and make it funny, highlighting some of the more playful aspects of your own personality. I use things like:

–She has an M.P.H., which either stand for Masters of Public Health or Mistress of Public                humor.
–When she’s not speaking or writing, she wrangles wiener dog at her ranch.
–In a previous lifetime, she’s sure she left the iron on.

Use fun music to start and end your session, or to mark breaks.

Near the beginning of your presentation, highlight the productivity, creativity, team building, health, emotional, stress managing, or other benefits of what you’ll be asking them to do. This will address the concern of the more reticent people of the “reason” they should be involved.

Build love and support into the group and activities; discourage meanness disguised as playfulness. I usually tell my groups what things are off-limits, such as making fun of people, using sarcasm instead of humor, saying anything they wouldn’t want their boss or mother to hear, etc. You may also want to use this funny Carmen Miranda Rights statement.

Carmen Miranda Rights: You have the right to remain silent. You will probably not have as much fun or learn as much, but it is your right to sit quietly and observe until such time as you are ready to be part of the merriment.

As long as you aren’t a bully and don’t hurt anyone else while playing, nothing you say (or do) can or will be used against you in your workplace.

You have the right to a play coach. That is why I’m here – to encourage and inspire you to get in touch with your less serious side so that you can take a breather from the problems of your day and your life.

You also have the right to wear fruit on your head. (See cartoon above.)

Deal with people’s fears and concerns. One way to do this is to have them name them right up front. Make a list on a flip-chart under the heading, “Why I’m scared to play” or “Reasons my funny bone is broken.” It helps when people hear that they aren’t the only ones concerned about something. And if they can laugh at their fears together, it creates the kind of bonding that helps throughout their experience.

  • Keep a variety of games and fun activities in your toolbox so that you can pick things that are most likely to work for the group you face.
  • Give lots of praise and applause. It is amazing what people will do if you encourage them simply with recognition.

Forming groups

Once you set the stage for playfulness and fun, you will find that many of the games in this book require you to break down a large audience into smaller, manageable groups. This can cause a lot of trainers and speakers problems – how do you get the people from the same departments to spread out and meet new people? It can feel a lot like dealing with junior high school cliques when you’re faced with an audience who is most comfortable staying with the people they know best.

There are many easy and fun ways to form new groups. You can break them into teams by:

  • Color of shoes or socks.
  • Natural hair color.
  • Which of the following cartoons they like the most: Garfield, Charlie Brown, B.C., The Simpsons, South Park, Opus, none of the above.
  • Listing five barnyard animals (cow, sheep, chicken, pig, farm cat). Have them choose one, make that kind of noise, close their eyes and wander about until they find the rest of their herd or flock.
  • Using a quickie questionnaire with questions you can use throughout the day to break into different groups:
    —What’s your favorite color?
    —Paper or plastic?
    —How many children were in your family?
    —What’s your major hobby?
    —If you were a tree, what kind would you be?
    —Name your favorite ice cream.
    —What kind of dog did you grow up with? Or was it a cat?
    —Which type of music do you prefer?
    —Favorite cereal as a child?
  • Having them play Rock/Paper/Scissors and putting all the rocks, all the papers, all the scissors together in groups.
  • Players reach out and touch someone. Everyone closes their eyes and walks around until you say stop. Then they reach out hands (eyes still closed) until they find the right number of hands for the group.
  • Using toys. Have as many different types of toys as you want groups and have each person choose one. Their toy represents their group.
  • There is no end to the methods you can use to divide people up into smaller groups, although I don’t recommend sawing them in half. Just make it fun and quick and everything will flow from there.

Are you playing with me

Enjoy this blog? Try the book.

Leigh Anne Jasheway

Author Leigh Anne Jasheway

Don't Get Mad Get Funny

Another great book by Leigh Anne Jasheway

Normal vs. Intense Anxiety

“Normal” Anxiety vs. Intense Anxiety Disturbances
Exerpt from Managing Intense “Anxiety Workbook
By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John J. Liptak, EdD

Anxiety is an inevitable part of everyday life for most people. Some anxiety is actually an appropriate emotional response to a variety of situations that people encounter. Sometimes, however, it goes beyond to become intense anxiety. How do we distinguish between “normal” everyday anxiety, and more intense anxiety disturbances?

Anxiety manifests itself in the everyday life of most people in many different ways.

Some of the most common types of everyday, “normal” anxiety:

  • Situational Anxiety – Feelings of apprehension and dread related to a specific situation such as starting a new job, moving to a new community, or learning about a new illness.
  • Anticipatory Anxiety – Feelings of apprehension and dread when one confronts something that has been frightening in the past, or that has resulted in a negative experience such as speaking in front of a large group of people.
  • Anxiety Disturbances – These can be distinguished from the everyday, “normal” anxiety because they are more intense (panic attacks), last longer (often months or years instead of going away after an anxiety-producing situation), and interfere with a person’s ability to function effectively in daily life (i.e., inability to function in a job).

Different types of disturbances related to thinking and behavior are conveyed and expressed in different forms:

  • Panic Disorder: People have feelings of extreme terror that strike suddenly and often without any warning. People with panic disorder often experience sweating, chest pain, and/or heart palpitations. They feel as if they are out of control during one of their attacks of fear, and they attempt to avoid places where panic attacks have occurred in the past.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: People have feelings of overwhelming worry and experience extreme self-consciousness in everyday social situations. These worries include the fear that others will judge them harshly, they will do something that may be embarrassing, and the fear of being ridiculed by other people. People with this disorder often are very anxious being around people and have a difficult time talking to others. They will stay away from places where there are other people and have a hard time making and keeping friends.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: People exhibit excessive, extreme, and/or unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is nothing (or very little) to be worried and/or tense about. People with this disorder may be worried about just getting through the day and doing everyday tasks. They often have trouble falling and staying asleep, inability to relax, and trouble concentrating.
  • Specific Phobias: People experience intense, unwarranted fears about an object or a situation. The fear involved in a phobia is usually inappropriate for the object or the situation and may cause people to avoid specific everyday situations in order to avoid the object or the situation. Some common phobias include snakes, speaking in public, clowns, fear of situations where escape from bad things is perceived as difficult. This represents an intense fear resulting from real or imagined exposure to a wide range of situations.
  • Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder: People experience anxiety caused by substance utilization or withdrawal.
  • Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition: People have anxiety attacks that can be directly attributed to an existing medical condition (often diagnosed with cancer), and it often parallels the course of the illness.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: People have recurring repetitive thoughts that will not dissipate (obsessions) and/or engage in ritual behaviors to dispel anxiety (compulsions).

When to Worry?

Symptoms related to intense anxiety can be very complex and difficult to cope with. The good news is that people can develop the skills needed to manage the symptoms and progress forward to begin enjoying life more. Undergoing the stress that accompanies many of the mental health issues can be a very frightening way to live. People who experience intense anxiety and stress over time are at risk of developing a serious mental or physical illness and need to seek a medical professional.

Suicide Warning!

People who experience intense anxiety may feel suicidal, have suicidal thoughts, and make plans for committing suicide. Sometimes they think that the only way to escape the physical, psychological, and emotional pain is to attempt suicide. Remember to take any talk about suicide or suicidal acts very seriously.

Signs of Suicidal Thoughts

Calling or visiting people to say goodbye Increasing use of harmful substances
Engaging in reckless actions Talking about killing or harming oneself
Expressing feeling of being trapped with no way out Purchasing a weapon
Expressing severe hopelessness about the future Putting legal affairs in order
Giving away possessions Withdrawing from family, friends, and activities of interest in the past

Serious Mental Illness

If participants have a serious mental illness, they need to do much more than complete the assessments, activities and exercises contained in a workbook. They need to be taken seriously and facilitators can take an active role in their finding help immediately. All disturbances related to intense anxiety need to be thoroughly evaluated by a medical professional, and then treated with an appropriate combination of medication, and group and/or individual therapy.

Is laughter the best medicine?

Does laughter enhance a wellness lifestyle?

It is sometimes difficult to quantify why laughter is good for us and how it impacts our wellness plan. Laughing is, after all, part of so many things that are important to us. Here are five reasons laughter is good for us, according to the Laughter University.

  • Physiological benefits: laughter is a therapeutic ally in healing and a valuable form of preventive and complementary medicine. It provides important natural defenses against illness.
  • Mental benefits: laughter diffuses bad stress, enhances problem-solving skills, and creates a new perspective.
  • Emotional benefits: laughter elevates moods, counteracts depression symptoms.
  • Social benefits: laughter fosters better communication, and improves cooperation and empathy between people. It is a significant lubricant of human communication and relationships.

Dr. Michael Miller of the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the University of Maryland Medical Center says:

Laughter is a complex human behavior, with inherent characteristics involving and reflecting participation of almost every functional element of the human organism. Laughter is ubiquitous in the human world population. No human group has been identified as being devoid of laughter. The most significant study finding was that “people with heart disease responded less humorously to everyday life situations.” They generally laughed less, even in positive situations, and they displayed more anger and hostility.

The ability to laugh – either naturally or as learned behavior – may have important implications in societies such as the U.S. where heart disease remains the number one killer. We know that exercising, not smoking, and eating foods low in saturated fat will reduce the risk of heart disease. Perhaps regular, hearty laughter should be added to the list.

Retrieved from on June 23, 2006 from

Julie Lusk practicing Yoga
Julie Lusk, author and yoga expert, smiles as she does yoga


Leigh Anne and Friends
No doubt Leigh Anne Jasheway, one of our authors, loves her dogs.

Japanese scientist and geneticist Kazuo Murakami stated: “A laughing therapy has no side-effect, meaning it is an epoch-making treatment for clinical medicine. One day it won’t be a joke to see patients receive a prescription for a comedy video at a pharmacy for medical treatment.”

Retrieved on June 23, 1016 from


Izzy Gesell
Izzy Gesell, author of Playing Along.

Laughter falls into five categories.

1. Spontaneous laughter
2. Stimulated laughter
3. Induced laughter
4. Pathological laughter
5. Voluntary simulated laughter

Click here to read more.
Retrieved from on June 22, 2016.

Humor is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.

Retrieved on June 22, 2016 from

To answer our question is laughter the best medicine?  It seems that yes, it will help cure all kinds of ailments. Not that we recommend giving up medical treatment for a trip to Second City, but add a good scoop of laughter to your day and you will be a more effective person. Will it increase your sense of well-being? You bet. Try it, even if you have to force it a bit. I promise you will feel better. As with everything worthwhile, practice makes perfect.

“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.”             ~ Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.

Grandma’s Marathon

This weekend saw the 40th running of Grandma’s Marathon.

In a city used to 70 being really, really hot, the weather was almost too warm this weekend for the 40th running of Grandma’s marathon.

The Duluth News Tribune reported on conditions:

Grandma’s uses the American College of Sports Medicine’s color-coded flag system. Both Saturday’s half-marathon at 6:15 a.m. and the full at 7:45 started with green flags, or low-risk. Those gave way to yellow (moderate), then red (high) and, starting at 11:30, black (extremely high). They are determined by the WetBulb Globe Temperature, which takes into account a combination of factors, including humidity, ambient temperature and radiant temperature, according to Ben Nelson, Grandma’s medical director.

Consequently, Nelson and the medical tent saw an increase in heat-related illness. They treated 369 people Saturday, up from a six-year low of 184 in 2015.

Photo by Clint Austin (Clint Austin /

Photo by Clint Austin from the Duluth News Tribune

With all the tragedy and bad news it is difficult sometimes to find reasons to smile and laugh, an important part of living a wellness lifestyle. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “Laughter matters. It brings you back down to earth in heated moments, strengthens social bonds and calms your nervous system. Research suggests that laughter may even strengthen your immune system.” The reasons to cultivate happy thoughts are myriad. Here are some smile starters.

Here are some amazing statistics about Grandma’s Marathon 2016:

7,751 runners started the full marathon, 7,521 runners finished.
7,920 runners started the Gary Bjorklund half marathon, 7,919 runners finished.
Around 5,000+ volunteers kept the runner hydrated, healthy, and fed.
Around 60 to 70,000 people were connected to the Marathon this weekend. Duluth has a population the rest of the year of around 86,000.

These stats for the half marathon are amazing. All but 1 runner was able to finish the race – all 13.1 or so miles. Other races included The Whipper Snapper, and The William K. Irvin 5K.

Here are some photos, courtesy of Grandma’s Marathon’s 2016 website and Facebook page to help that smile along. Thanks, Kate, for permission to share them with our readers.

Are you training?

Are you training?

Weekly "Ready, Get Set" emails.

Weekly “Ready, Get Set” emails.

Grandma's whipper snapper

Running hard.

Kids love to run

Kids love to run

And they're off

And they’re off


Grandma's 2016 1

40th Anniversary Finishers’ Medal

Runner's in downtown Duluth...almost at the finish.

Runner’s in downtown Duluth…almost at the finish.

Coming in to the finish line

Coming in to the finish line

Finally...the finish line. First Place Women's 2016

Finally…the finish line. First Place Women’s 2016



 Grandma's 2016 happy finisher

Remember the importance of laughter and of exercise. I’d like to say that I’ve run the full or the half marathon, the 5K, the Whippersnapers, or even the Fun Run, but I haven’t. I have, however, lustily cheered family members as they did. I’ll stick with walking the dogs and do lots of laughing.

Rally following shooting

Don’t Just Show Up

Disaster Response:  Don’t Just Show Up!
Taken from Emotional First Aid: A field guide to crisis intervention and psychological survivalby

Stand in the door. Lean forward. But don’t jump in if you are not called. A glance at the personal reports and newspaper accounts of what happens when a disaster or major crisis situation occurs should tell this story to almost anyone. If an emergency happens in the street in front of your house, that may be different. If the disaster happens some distance away, wait to be called before responding. Get ready to go, but don’t do it. Let those in charge know that you are available, but don’t just show up. The problems get worse from there. A disaster is an occurrence of almost any size when the needs of the situation and its victims are greater than the resources available to respond to those needs. Unexpected, unrequested, and unaccounted for responders may add to the enormity of the already occurring disaster.

If you are serious about emergency and disaster response, join a team that does these things and trains its members to do it well. Federal teams are always looking for qualified professionals in many different fields. State and local teams are preparing also and could probably use the help. Some pay and some do not. Medical Reserve Corps have become quite active across this nation as are the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.

As was said earlier, the rule of thumb for most teams and organizations that respond to crisis and disaster situations is that if you are not called, don’t just show up. Do the training. Assemble your response gear. Be ready, willing, able and well-prepared to go when called. Let your team know of your availability and how quickly you can be on the move to the designated location or staging area. Don’t just show up.

The reasons for this cautionary tone will seem obvious to most, but not all reading it. Almost everyone wants to help when they hear that an emergency has occurred. This desire to help is good on the one hand and can be counterproductive on the other hand. Getting on a plane or in a car with your friends and colleagues and “going to help for a few days” may cause great confusion at the site or staging area and prevent trained and coordinated teams from reaching their destination in a timely fashion. Clogging the airways or the highways serves no one and could endanger those who are waiting for the help to arrive. Do-gooders have no place at a disaster scene. Trained and coordinated emergency personnel do. If you must go regardless of the consequences, at least coordinate with those who are in charge of the response and be sure that they can use your services. Take with you, in addition to your professional supplies, enough food, water, shelter, waste disposal gear, sleeping gear, and other survival supplies so that your arrival will not put added burden on those who already have limited means. Expect nothing from your host if you arrive when you are not called, requested, or needed. Assume that they have nothing to spare and that you will probably be operating on your own. If the conditions are not as stark as you expect, so much the better for you.

Disaster, emergency, and crisis response, regardless of the situation, needs to be carefully coordinated and regulated to achieve the best and most helpful results. The size of the event is not as important as the coordination of those services and service providers that are needed. The emergency, and the often occurring chaos surrounding it, make this approach mandatory. Even the best laid plans survive only the initial contact with the emergency. Adjustments have to be made and resources utilized appropriately and sometimes differently. What is done, undone or redone must be within the context of the established and prepared structure utilized by those who have trained and prepared to respond.

If you are not called, don’t just go. If you are prepared to go and are called, get there in the time allotted. If you are a member of a team, follow your team guidelines. If you are not a member of a team and would like to be, check out the following and investigate others:

1. Federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, United States Department of Health and Human Services.
2. American Red Cross
3. Salvation Army
4. Baptist Men’s Association
7. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security
8. National Guard
9. State Defense Forces
10. Green Cross
11. Urban Search and Rescue Teams
12. United States Air Force Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol
13. Local community teams
14. Police department auxiliaries and reserves.
15. Fire department auxiliaries
16. Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT)
17. Mental Health Teams
18. Incident Command System, Incident Management Teams
19. Special Needs Shelters
20. Medical Shelters
21. Chaplain Services (if trained for disaster response)
22. Disaster relief within many denominations

Getting involved in a formal way requires a commitment of some kind. Doing so will allow for a better response. It will also allow for a more satisfying experience for you. Certainly it will prevent many of the problems that occur when well-wishers and do-gooders show up. To really be helpful, you need to be part of the solution rather than part of the already burgeoning problem. Don’t just show up.Emotional First Aid cover

Dr. Greenstone’s book Emotional First Aid from which the article above was taken, is a great place to start training yourself to be of optimal use in the field following a disaster. Although it is often difficult for us to leave the relatively safe environs of our offices, we recognize the need for psychological first aid. Utilize one of the organizations above to get trained, offer your services, and when accepted, GO.

Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.

As I listened to the tributes to Muhammad Ali over the last two weekends (until the horrendous tragedy in Orlando drummed out everything else) I was surprised at the sense of loss I felt. I’m not a boxing fan. I’m almost 70 years old and am usually quite critical of celebrity. I admire those who are intelligent and well-educated. Why was I feeling such deep grief for a boxer? I am part of the generation that saw the assassination of King, JFK, and Bobby. How was it that Ali’s death was touching my soul?
This is some of what I learned:
Ali said, “Rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, oceans all have different names, but they all contain water. So do religions have different names, and they all contain truth, expressed in different forms and times. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew. When you believe in God, you should believe that all people are part of one family.”
“I am America,” he once declared. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”  Click here to read more.
How could one person do and be all that Ali did and was? In part, because he was resilient. William C. Rodden from the New York Times said it well, “What I gleaned from Ali’s life, as I’ve lived mine, is that the goal is not to go through life undefeated. The quest is to exercise resilience and come back stronger.”
Resiliency is defined as the ability to manage life’s challenges, stresses, changes, and pressures effectively. It is the ability to cope and adapt successfully to adversity.  It is being able to bounce back to a balanced state after facing a major disruption in life or career. (Leutenberg & Liptak, 2011)
Here’ s what we can do right now…
  • Find new, more positive friends.
  • Prepare for the future.
  • Laugh and find humor in my day.
  • Do not label myself or allow myself to be labeled.
  • Remind myself frequently of my positive attributes.
  • Stay in the present without dwelling in the past.
  • Overcome negative messages.
  • Invest in myself.
  • Take more responsibility for my own actions.
  • Learn from my experiences.
  • Be sure that the negative influences of the past do not contribute to my future.
  • Refrain from making excuses or blaming.
  • Be certain that I am, or that I become, the person I want to be.

Aging Well

Aging well with a healthy lifestyle

From Aging Beyond Belief by Don Ardell

Don Ardell racing

Don Ardell

Everybody knows this at one level, but many unconscious desires, hopes, and particularly frustrations occur when the reality is not accepted at the deepest, unconscious level. Getting old is not as good as being young in many ways, aging is part of life. Accept unavoidable facts as cheerfully as possible.

Two systems of concern are bones and muscles. In time, bones become less dense and lose mass and minerals. This, of course, weakens the bones and makes them vulnerable to fracture. Muscles also lose mass and strength, in part due to less water in the tendons and ligaments, leading to added stiffness. The cardiovascular system is affected because the size of the heart increases a little, as does blood pressure. More important, your maximal heart and heart recovery rates diminish. An ambitious fitness routine delays all this substantially.

Unlike your bones and muscles, the decline of other body parts or systems with advancing age are less responsive to vigorous wellness lifestyle practices. That is to say, these systems are going to deteriorate whether you stand on your head, run marathons, eat a perfect diet (whatever that is) and do absolutely everything as well as it can be done. These systems include the following.

  • Hearing – the cells of your inner ears are damaged by normal wear and tear of sounds over time. The auditory canal walls become thinner, eardrums thicken and it becomes more difficult to hear higher frequencies.
  • Brainpower – the number of brain cells (neurons) diminish with age, though the number of connections between cells increase in some areas of the brain.
  • Kidneys – the size of your kidneys and bladder capacity are reduced. The kidneys become less efficient at removing wastes from the blood.
  • Reproduction – men produce fewer sperm and suffer loss of testosterone; women produce less estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, for starters.
  • Eyesight – There are losses in ability to produce tears, the retina gets thinner and the lens yellows. Almost everyone over forty learns the meaning of the word “presbyopia,” a visual condition in which loss of elasticity of the lens of the eye causes defective accommodation and inability to focus sharply for near vision.
  • Skin – you really do become “thin skinned,” or at least your skin thins even if you don’t become quick to take offense. Also, your sweat and oil (sebaceous) glands are less active and skin moisture decreases.
  • Nails – Grow half as fast as they used to. Who cares? I suppose some women do, but of all the inevitable changes, this is one I won’t mind in the slightest.

Of course you never know, there may be extraordinary advances in the years to come. All you have to do is live long enough in order to benefit. However, be careful – some advances might never come to pass, in which case you could find yourself hanging around, waiting forever.

Many advances are on the horizon it seems. Scientists just might develop impressive new memory-boosting strategies and life extension techniques. How? The possibilities are limitless. Maybe the key will be found in estrogen or testosterone. Maybe proteins of some kind or stem cells or gene therapies will be used to solve neurological problems associated with aging that will preserve cognitive function, prevent or cure Alzheimer’s, asthma, infectious diseases – and aging itself. Maybe, but probably not in time to work for you. The best strategy is to adopt a wellness lifestyle.

We can greatly affect the quality of our lives. Life quality is very much subject to lifestyle actions, even if the ratio between birth and death will always to one to one. Clearly being old isn’t what it used to be. A wellness lifestyle will allow you to remain younger in important ways as long as possible. Live well and enjoy each day!

Donald Ardell is the author of Aging Beyond Belief: 69 tips for REAL wellness. R = Reason, E = Exuberance, A = And, L=Libery.  Aging Beyond Belief

Julie Lusk practicing Yoga

Are Relaxation Techniques Part of Yoga?

Can something as mysterious as Yoga include guided relaxation and imagery?

Excerpted from Yoga Meditations by Julie Lusk

Julie Lusk practicing Yoga

Julie Lusk stumped.

Mayo Clinic’s “Housecall” has discussed the benefits of Yoga. Reading their article reminded me of Julie Lusk, one of our authors who writes about relaxation techniques and yoga.  She is a Yoga Master and teacher in the Cincinnati area. Julie can be found at Wholesome Resources when she isn’t traveling, speaking, and teaching. In an excerpt from her book Yoga Meditations she writes about using Shavasana, a yoga pose, to enhance relaxation and meditation.

Guided Relaxation: Still Yoga.

Yoga is the settling of the mind into stillness.
Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by mental activity.
The five types of mental activity are understanding, misunderstanding, imagination, sleep, and memory.
They may or may not cause suffering.

Yoga Sutra 1.2, 1.4-6

Stillness. What a treasure in a world that moves at lightning fast speed. Thankfully, there is an ongoing place in each of us that is an unending reservoir of inner strength and stillness. The purpose of yoga and practices like it is to uncover this powerful core and to use it as a solid platform from which to encounter the world and experience life.

Settling mental activity by actively becoming relaxed and centered is an easy starting point for discovering inner peace; it is also the foundation for most mind-body practices. It actively increases our capacity to calm the mind, soothe the emotions, and open the heart.

Yoga pose

Shavasana – Photo used with permission of Julie Lusk

Shavasana (sha-VAH-sah-nah) – the proper supine position for relaxation and guided imagery. The optimal position for guided relaxation and imagery is called Shavasana (sponge or corpse pose) in yoga. Shavasana is done lying down on a firm, flat surface, such as a carpeted floor or mat. A sofa or bed can be used; however, you risk falling asleep if it is too comfortable.

Here are the specifics:

Lie down on a carpeted floor or mat. Feel free to cover yourself with a blanket for warmth.
Start with a nice big stretch. Next, take in a deep breath and sigh it out through an open mouth.
Close your eyes or keep them barely open. An eye pillow or folded washcloth placed over the eyes helps the brain and body relax further.

Place your legs straight out with your heels twelve to twenty-four inches apart. Find a good distance for your feet so that your hips and back can relax. If your back is uncomfortable, bend your knees and lean them against each other with your feet placed on the floor below them. Start by placing your feet wider than your hips, and notice if it feels comfortable and stable. If not, adjust the placement of your feet and knees. An alternative is to place a sturdy pillow or bolster under your knees. Take the time you need to find the optimal position for your comfort.

Lift your hips up slightly and place them back down so they fall supported and your weight is evenly distributed.

Draw your shoulders downward by gently lowering them toward your ears. Snuggle and tuck them in so they rest comfortably beneath you.

Stretch your arms out and away from your sides in a position of ease. Place your palms face up and notice how this feels to you. If you prefer, turn your palms down or place them on your body.

It is important to preserve the natural arch at the back of your neck. To do so, rest the back of your head on the floor and make sure that neither your forehead nor chin is higher than the other. You may use a small pillow under your head, or roll up a small towel and place it under your neck.

Let your awareness roam around your body to become aware of any area that may be uncomfortable and take the time needed to adjust your clothing and your posture so you are totally at ease.

Yoga outside


Now you, or your clients, are in the perfect position to enjoy meditation or guided imagery. Find a CD with images you and your clients will find soothing, beginning with shorter scripts (5 to 8 minutes) and then graduate to longer ones when you have mastered relaxing for 5 minutes or so. You will find it gets easier each time the routine is practiced.

Remember that your clients are learning what might be a brand new way of using their muscles. Just as it takes time to learn to be a great shot on the basketball court or to be able to play perfect arpeggios on the piano, it takes time and practice to become expert at relaxation and yoga techniques. Everybody take a deep breath and begin to explore a new way to relax.

About Julie.

Julie Lusk author and yoga master

Author and Yoga Master Julie Lusk

Go here for a selection of relaxation and guided imagery CD’s.

Children and Stress

Children and Stress: The Effects of Stress on Children

Excerpted from Children and Stress: A handbook for parents, teachers, and therapists 
By Marty Loy, PhD

A child’s age, personality, and coping skills affect how he or she will deal with stress and react to it. The type of stress, its duration, and its intensity will determine how taxing it is. Support from family and friends and, in some instances, teachers and professional counselors can—if available in sufficient amount and quality—enhance skills and help the child gain perspective. Some research suggests that stress in children has a synergistic rather than a cumulative effect, multiplying the negative effects of stress by as much as four times with each added stressor present in a child’s life.

Children and Stress: Short-term effects

One of the first indicators of stress in children is changes in behavior. Such changes may include anger, backtalk, fighting, hitting, bullying, teasing, and increased hostility toward siblings, family, or peers. Parents and teachers may notice communication problems, decreased concentration, compulsiveness, depression or general sadness, withdrawal, friendship problems, or resistance toward school attendance.

Stress can show immediate effects through a wide range of emotions. Some children become easily tearful, whiny, anxious, demanding, distrustful, fearful, and nervous. Some have mood swings or express feelings of being lonely or unloved. Physical symptoms may include complaints of upset stomach, headache, or sore throat. Episodes of vomiting, loss of appetite, or a frequent need to urinate may be observed. A variety of unusual physical behaviors such as fidgeting, stuttering, tremors, or shaking legs may arise from stress. Colds and other viral illnesses can be a sign of a stress weakened immune system.

When under stress, some older children revert to behaviors characteristic of younger children, such as baby talk, thumb-sucking, nose-picking, or wetting clothing. Stressed children may bite their nails or bite, twirl, pull or suck their hair. Parents should also be aware of changes in sleep behaviors such as insomnia, extended sleep periods, fear of the dark, bad dreams, or bed wetting; or changes in eating patterns such as increased or decreased consumption of food or an increased interest in junk food.

Overt signs of stress are also common and are sometimes described as “calls for help.” Examples include self-induced sickness or threats of suicide. Those affected with the good little girl syndrome do everything they are asked; on the opposite extreme, rebels may break all the rules or take part in high-risk behaviors, such as the use of drugs or alcohol, shoplifting, or skipping school.

Specific reactions are highly individual to the child. One might get a stomachache and cry, while another might become irritable and angry. Stress symptoms in some children happen immediately after the stressful event, while in others reactions may not show up for several days. Some children communicate their thoughts and feelings readily, while others have difficulty naming their feelings. They may use general terms or vague statements, such as “I’m worried,” or “I have butterflies in my stomach.” Some—typically younger children—may show anger only briefly while others—usually older—demonstrate longer-lasting effects, holding on to their feelings of anger, disillusionment, distrust, and low self-esteem for weeks, months, or even years.

Children and Stress: Long-term Effects

Recent research on childhood stress has contributed to a growing understanding of the long-term physical and emotional consequences of mismanaged stress. Stress can impair a child’s self-image, self-confidence, self-esteem, academic performance, and social skills. Stress also plays a role in a child’s tolerance and self-control. Childhood stress can increase long-term social anxiety and insecurity; it can contribute to substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and suicide.

Unidentified and untreated stress in children contributes to physical problems ranging from lowered immune function and migraine headaches to obesity, type II diabetes, respiratory-tract illness, asthma, and several psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, and developmental delays both physical and emotional.
Some evidence suggests that many long-term consequences persist well into adulthood. They may manifest themselves in a range of adult emotional and physical problems such as insecurity, low self-confidence, social anxieties, poor self-esteem, substance abuse, and depression. Stress may influence everything from physical health and memory to social competence, marital success, and academic and socioeconomic attainment.

Children can appear outwardly resilient to the immediate effects of stress but, if the timing of the stress is during a critical period of personality development, they can carry the long-term effects with them for the rest of their lives. Many studies link trauma and chronic stress with poor physical and mental health over the long-term.

Marty Loy

Author Marty Loy

Marty Loy PhD: Dr. Loy is professor of Health Promotion and is the Dean of Professional Studies at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. He teaches and publishes in the areas of stress management, learning, and childhood grief and loss. Marty won the University Excellence in Teaching Award in 2001. He currently serves as the President for the Board of Directors of the National Wellness Institute.

Marty and his wife, Becky Loy, founded Camp Hope, a camp for grieving children in 1986. Becky is the president and camp director. Camp Hope has served as a model for similar camps nationally. The Loys were one of three national recipients of the 2007 Champions of Children Award sponsored by Johnson & Johnson in recognition of their work with grieving children. Learn more about Camp Hope at

Marty, originally from Spring Green, earned his doctorate in education administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a master’s in education counseling from UW-Oshkosh, and a bachelor’s from UW-Madison.

Help Clients Find Mental Health Care

How can mental health care professionals help folks in need of care find it?
How do you help them find you?

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month (May 2016) it might be useful to look at how professionals let those in search of mental health care know they are available. Here are some tips that sound effective. Do you use any of these techniques? Do you they work for your practice? If they don’t, what do you think will work?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment box at the bottom of the page. I’ll gather the comments together and post them.

  • Have a well-developed website including a page to help people find what they need. Click here for a good example.
  • Have a presence on social media sites such as Facebook, twitter, and others.
  • Be part of local online listings.
  • Join local professional organizations so that your name and specialty will be easily found by those searching for help.
  • Train your phone answering staff to ask the right questions and empower them with as many answers as possible. Be sure they know where to forward the call if it isn’t your area of expertise.
  • Give back to your community in any way you can so that folks get to know about you, what you do, and what your passions are.
  • Interact with local shelters to reach out to those using their facilities.
  • Learn how to respond to disasters and work away from your office. When disasters strike, make sure those in charge know you are ready to respond and will provide emotional first aid, but don’t go unless you are asked.
  • Offer to write a column or occasional article for the local paper and magazine.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what you have found the best ways to reach those searching for good mental health care.

Getting the Most from a Conference

Turn Conference Chaos into
Conference Command

Duluth conference

Attendees at WPA’s booth.

Monday and Tuesday of this week two of us attended the Minnesota Association for Children and Mental Health Conference held here in Duluth, Minnesota where our offices are located. The weather was nasty, but not atypical for Northern Minnesota in April. Lake Superior waves were up over 10 feet. It was pouring down rain. The temperature was only in the upper 30’s. Spring in the Northland, and no place for folks to go when they were not in a session.

Our booth was right inside the door of the Exhibit Hall. Lots of folks stopped, took advantage of the conference special and chatted about what they couldn’t find but needed for their practice. Our prime spot was also prime for people-watching. Every age group from not yet out of college to those ready-to-retire were there. Some were clearly having a good conference. They walked by with different groups of folks, chatted enthusiastically about a session, networked with the vendors, and looked relaxed and alert. Some looked confused and exhausted…and it wasn’t just the newbies that looked that way.

Here are some tips that I’ve learned over time to give you command over the conference experience.

  • Study the conference materials and see if there isn’t somewhere you can participate as a volunteer, panel member, or presenter. One of the most useful things you will do is to meet influential people in your field. It is easier to do so if you stand out in some positive way.
    Be sure you bring comfy shoes. Just walking from your hotel room to the Keynote venue can be quite a hike. You will take better advantage of the vendors if your feet don’t hurt too much to wander around the exhibit hall.
  • If you attend a session and find it is not what you thought, give it 15 minutes. Still unhappy? Quietly leave and find another that looks more interesting or use the time to check out vendors. Chat with those whose materials you like. Tell them what you are looking for and can’t find. Use the extra time to network with other attendees who skipped their session.
  • When you exchange business cards with someone be sure to write a note to yourself to remember who the person is and why you were interested in him or her on the back. Make contact with them as soon as you can upon returning to your office. If I don’t write myself a note, I find the reason I kept their card has disappeared into the miasma of conferences past.
  • Many experienced conference goers check out local restaurants before leaving home. They make a reservation for eight to ten people before leaving their home town. Once at the conference they invite interesting folks they meet to join them for a meal or coffee and conversation. Be prepared to start the ball rolling by introducing yourself and telling a bit about what you do and why you came to this particular conference. Then pass the ball to the next person. Draw people out. It’s your dinner…make it work for you.
  • Make new friends. Don’t spend all your time with the folks from your office. You don’t know what great ideas are lurking in someone’s mind that will solve a problem whose solution has eluded you. Go to any social events scheduled by the conference. Don’t be afraid to approach a presenter that interests you and introduce yourself. They will, for the most part, but happy to talk with you about their work and pleased you want to meet with them.

Stick with these easy tips and you will be one of the happy conference goers that will go home having learned important things and made new contacts that can develop into lifelong colleagues.

Duluth conference

WPA’s Booth at the opening of the conference

Icebreakers – How to Use Them Effectively

Ten Principles for Choosing the Right Icebreakers

USCG Alder

Not this kind of icebreaker! The USCG Alder, breaking ice. Duluth, Minnesota.

We all know that icebreakers are important. (OK, I do know that we all aren’t thinking of boats like the USCG Alder clearing ice for shipping.) Certainly we’ve worked with or socialized with a group of disparate folks who can’t seem to talk to one another, let alone work as a team, have a good time, or be open to therapeutic discussions. It is a given, right? Open your fill in the blank with an effective, on point icebreaker. Finding how to select the right one, however, doesn’t seem to be as easy as one would think.

These ten principles will help you make that choice.

All groups need icebreakers. The world if full of shy people who need focus and a very specific way to talk frankly about themselves. Icebreakers provide a vehicle for sharing select personal information, freeing people from constraining anxiety, and guiding participants into authentic, purposeful, often touching conversations.

Icebreakers are not just for getting acquainted. They are especially useful for groups of strangers; but even well-acquainted groups can use icebreakers to ease into a course or group discussion, provide focus for group activities, and establish the proper climate for learning. From first meetings to final farewells, icebreakers pave the way for people to be real.

Icebreakers make the group, and its members, attractive to participants. Not everyone will like everyone else in a group, but the more people are attracted to other participants, and discover common interests, goals, and values, the more eager they will be to participate. Icebreakers induce people to share in spontaneous ways that stimulate lively interaction and draw people to one another.

Icebreakers affirm the rights of participants. Everyone who joins a group has human rights: to be recognized as individual, to have input into some group decisions, to have an equal opportunity to participate in the group, to establish goals and work towards them, to have others respect personal privacy, and to have the group be a safe, secure place in which no one is belittled or degraded. Icebreakers direct participants into activities and behaviors that uphold and affirm these rights in words and actions.

Icebreakers should be relevant to all participants. Everything you do should be relevant to the culture of the group, and its members. Icebreakers, as well as other group activities, should be presented in the context of participants’ life experience and be relevant in language, values, and style.

Trust is the most important variable to consider when using icebreakers. Icebreakers help establish trust and contribute to its strength throughout the life of the group. The bottom line is, “Can I be honest here and say what I really think and feel?” If the answer is no, the group is constrained from lively, spontaneous communication and deferred in its purpose. Icebreakers remind people over and over that open, heart-searching communication is like a wind blowing the group spirit in the right direction.

Icebreakers are vehicles for shaping open group systems. The best environment for learning is an open system, one that accepts and welcomes diverse people, invites honest communication, expresses warmth and affection freely, challenges individuals to grow, shares warmth and affection freely, challenges individuals to grow, shares power with all its members, provides support for people who need it, respects personal boundaries, and honors the limits of the group itself.

Icebreakers provide a way of quickly introducing these values to the group in action and words. Since the rules of the system are often decided in the first few minutes of interaction (without ever talking about them, just by watching each other and the group leader for clues about how to behave,) it’s all the more important that icebreakers be used early on to lay the foundation for an open system.

Equal, active participation is an implicit goal of all icebreakers. Successful groups are the responsibility of all participants. The more you inform people about their choices, the more they can take responsibility for group learning. Knowing what the leader has planned, why a particular activity was chosen, and what their roles and responsibilities will be, helps group members make clear decisions about how they want to participate.

Most groups need a balance of activities. Too much of any one thing creates a lop-sided group; overly friendly, chatty groups may never get down to business, while “all work and no play” groups may suffer from boredom. Most groups function best with a mixture of activities, some light-hearted, others serious.

Experiential, holistic learning is ideal. Learning involves the whole person: mind, body, spirit, relationships and emotions. When group activities incorporate all these aspects of learning and accommodate the different learning styles of individuals, the chances are great that group members will have a complete experience, one they can integrate with previous experience and apply to everyday life, resulting in a genuine change of attitudes, perceptions, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

These ten principles have been taken from Icebreakers a la Carte by Sandy Christian, MSW and Nancy Loving Tubesing, EdD. Ice breakers a la Carte cover

How Old Am I? I am the Age I Want to Be.

Be Happy at the Age You Are
By Leigh Anne Jasheway

Leigh Anne Jasheway

Leigh Anne Jasheway

I used to subscribe to a magazine for women of a certain age (no, it wasn’t Seventeen) but I got so tired of the monthly advice on how to prevent looking old by adopting fashion and beauty trends of younger women that I stopped reading it. This reminds me of that old cliché from childhood, “If all the other kids are jumping off the roof, would you do it too?” Only in this case, the magazine insisted that I do it in 4″ stiletto strappy sandals and false eyelashes. And that I post my status to both Facebook and LinkedIn on the way down.

The best way to keep aging from getting you down is to stop thinking about how old you are and get on with your life. If you let a number stop you from doing something, wearing something, or thinking something, you’re letting math win. And that’s worse than letting the Packers win. (Ed. From a die-hard Vikings fan.)

Leigh Anne and Friends

Leigh Anne and Friends

On Monday, I gave a presentation to the Lions Club. I showed up wearing an above-the-knees black & white polka dot skirt and an orange v-neck blouse. I know Lions — they’re mostly men in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and I wanted to make sure the oldest stayed awake. (Side note: I once did a presentation at a nursing home and afterward a woman came up to me and gushed, “My husband didn’t fall asleep once!” High praise indeed.) I was the younger woman and I got a free neck massage and dozens of great laughs out of the morning.

On Wednesday, I went to a comedy show in which several of my friends were performing, including Virginia Jones from Portland. I wore jeans and a casual, yet somewhat sexy shirt. I sat with the comedians, who ranged in age from 22 to 30-something. I was the older woman and I got lots of laughs and lots of great conversation out of the evening.

If I’d said to myself, “I’m only 50, I don’t have anything in common with 80-year old men,” I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself so much with the Lions. If I’d said, “I’m over 50, I shouldn’t be out at 11:30 at night on a Wednesday hanging with people half my age,” I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself so much at the comedy club.

I have a quote on my office wall that says, “Some people pursue happiness, others create it.” If you want to create a happy life, forget your age. Act your strappy sandal size instead.

Leigh Anne Jasheway

Leigh Ann can be found at the Accidental Comic.

She has written Don’t Get Mad Get Funny available from Whole Person AssociatesDontGetMadGetFunny