El Paso: Hope Amid Chaos

Recently America experiences a weekend was filled with horror, death, fear, anxiety, panic, and dread as news spread of the El Paso shootings and the second shock of the shootings in Dayton.

Even as this tragic news was breaking, I was anticipating being called to respond to the tragedy in El Paso. Early Sunday evening, I was asked to head to El Paso early Monday morning as a Grief Counselor for a business that was directly impacted by this tragedy. I chose to focus on El Paso, because I was there.

In those two days, I talked with 21 people who were directly affected by this event. Some had lost friends and family members, others had experienced prior violence. All were nearly immobilized with fear, and others were angry.

This article is a direct result of the freshness of this week’s response as well as 150 plus responses to disruptive workplace events in my work as a Crisis Response Specialist.

With that in mind, I want to share some practical steps you can take to deal with some of the potential toxic emotional aftermaths of such a horrible and tragic event.

When any mass shooting or act of terror occurs, it is reasonable to feel anxious, scared, and uncertain about what the future could bring. With time and appropriate attention, these strong, sometimes immobilizing fears, thoughts, and feelings can begin to fade as life begins its return to a new normal.

Returning to a New Normal

You can accelerate the process by doing the following:

• Limit media exposure! On a practical level, the half-hour evening newscasts will give you enough information to stay current. There is little added value to hearing the 24-hour pundit input.

• Ignoring your feelings about the event will dynamically impair your recovery process.

• Talking about what and how you are feeling may be difficult, but it will help you and others heal.

• Being proactive about you and your family’s situation and well-being (rather than passively waiting for someone else to help you) will help decrease the feelings of powerlessness, anger, anxiety, and vulnerability. Focus on anything that allows you and your family to feel safe, calm, and secure.

Recovery Tips

• Re-establish the routines of your personal and family life.

• Connect with others in your neighborhood, workgroup, and place of worship. For those who exercise spiritual discipline, one of best practices to enhance your recovery is to regularly attend worship services and be a part of a small group.

• If you work a regular 9-5 job, there is a strong possibility that you have an Employee Assistance Benefit which provides free, short-term counseling for you and your family. Be sure to check with your HR department or the benefits link on your company’s website.

• Challenge any thoughts of helplessness.

• Minimize media exposure

• Make stress reduction a priority.
• Get out and exercise.

Tips for Helping Your Kids Cope

• Provide your kids with ongoing opportunities to talk about what they may be feeling.

• If you don’t know the answer to a question they might have, don’t be afraid to admit it.

• Restrict their exposure to media.

• Remember, children often personalize situations. They may worry about their safety or that of their family, even if the traumatic event occurred far away. Reassure them and help them understand the situation in context.

• Watch for the signs of stress: crying, insomnia, tummy aches, excessive fear, and worry.

Moving Forward

Humans are designed to be resilient. In several studies, resilience and post-traumatic growth and hope are three of the critical components of healing as well as personal and spiritual growth. By resilience, I mean the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment, or dysfunction that are often associated with critical incidents, acts of terror, mass disasters, and personal trauma.

While we are still reeling from the events of the first week of August, I can tell you based on my years of work in the field that we as individuals, families, and Americans will honor the dead, and care for those who are injured with both visible and invisible wounds. Also, we, as a nation of immigrants (my ancestry is Northern Western European, Wales, and England) will support each other and experience positive, post-traumatic growth.

One of the most important things we can do in the days and weeks ahead it to comfort, console and encourage each other.

This passage from the New Testament Book of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 have helped people for over 2000 years. Take a moment and read it for yourself.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

A Personal Note of Preparedness

These are dangerous times in our country. I thought long and hard about adding this portion, and I would never want to promote fear, I do want to be crystal clear about what I am about to say.

The best way to overcome fear is preparedness.

Many of you have been through Active Shooter Training at work. The Department of Homeland has a great link and a 90-minute training film that, in my opinion, is worth the time to view, whether you are a private citizen, and small business owner, or a part of an international organization.

You should know the drill by now. Flee if you can. If you cannot flee, Hide. If you cannot hide, Fight. I would add a fourth: know how to stop the bleeding. Incident after incident reveals that if a person does not immediately die from a gunshot wound, they will most likely bleed out.

Apart from these national tragedies, you and I still need to know basic First Aid, this video from FEMA is an exceptional training video on how to Stop The Bleed or hemorrhagic control.

If you are authorized to carry a concealed weapon legally, are you proficient in your use of arms? Are you prepared to engage the shooter if that is your final option? If you choose to carry these are some of the serious things you need to consider.

A few days after these mass shootings, an off duty firefighter who was authorized to conceal and carry a weapon stopped an armed individual outside a Walmart in Missouri.

The day of the shooting in El Paso, a young soldier, who is authorized to conceal and carry a weapon, drew his pistol and helped rescue several children when he heard gunfire; unfortunately, he lamented that while he asked people to help him evacuate the children, only one other man helped out. In my opinion, he is one of many heroes that day in El Paso—men and women who ran toward trouble rather than away from it. God bless our First Responders.

There will be lots of lessons learned from these recent tragic events.
While many will attempt to use these events as political currency, why don’t you and I, regardless of politics, socio-economic background, ancestral heritage pull together and do what we can to make this country and this world a better place to live.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, I’d like to take a quick trip down memory lane to some truths and principles that we need to remind ourselves of.

As a former Boy Scout, the oath and creed I learned as a boy is in my mind me today. For those of you who grew up in the Scouts, remember it with me.

Scout Oath

On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law

The Scout Law has 12 points. Each is a goal for every Scout. A Scout tries to live up to the law every day. It is not always easy to do, but a Scout always tries.

A Scout is:

TRUSTWORTHY. Tell the truth and keep promises. People can depend on you.

LOYAL. Show that you care about your family, friends, Scout leaders, school, and country.

HELPFUL. Volunteer to help others without expecting a reward.

FRIENDLY. Be a friend to everyone, even people who are very different from you.

COURTEOUS. Be polite to everyone and always use good manners.

KIND. Treat others as you want to be treated. Never harm or kill any living thing without good reason.

OBEDIENT. Follow the rules of your family, school, and pack. Obey the laws of your community and country.

CHEERFUL. Look for the bright side of life. Cheerfully do tasks that come your way. Try to help others be happy.

THRIFTY. Work to pay your way. Try not to be wasteful. Use the time, food, supplies, and natural resources wisely.

BRAVE. Face difficult situations even when you feel afraid. Do what you think is right despite what others might be doing or saying.

CLEAN. Keep your body and mind fit. Help keep your home and community clean.

REVERENT. Be reverent toward God. Be faithful in your religious duties. Respect the beliefs of others.

Maybe we should thinks about what it would be like if we took some of these principles and integrated or reintegrate them into our live.

What if we spend less time in the blush’s screen and more time looking into each other’s eyes as we talk and live out lives.

Ancient Wisdom on day-to-day living:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:15 NLT

Ancient Wisdom on dealing with fear.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified

Live in Grace and Peace
John

Blessings,
John

9 Traits of Resilient People

“Plus estem voius.”

Latin for, There is more in you than you know.

Ever wondered what you could do to increase your odds of winning the race of life, overcoming personal trauma, or pushing through obstacles that could be holding you back?

I believe the key is tapping into the strength that lies within you. That key is resilience.

One definition of resilience is the ability to withstand, adapt to, or rebound from, extreme challenges or adversity.

I have spent a good part of my life working with clients who have had to deal with some of the most horrific traumas one can imagine. Additionally, I have worked as a Crisis Response Specialist, working with school shootings, workplace violence, and natural disasters on an international level.

One of the insights that I have learned from all of this work is that most people have an incredible ability to not only bounce back but to move forward. In the counseling world, we talk about post-traumatic growth.

Many in the media highlight the issue of PTSD, as well they should, we need more awareness of the invisible wounds of war, school violence, and other traumatic events. In addition, we need more funding, research, as well as programs to help people who are dealing with PTSD. The good news, according to the National Center PTSD, only 7%-13% of those impacted by life-changing traumatic events ever develop full-blown diagnosable PTSD.

While it would be easy to do a series of articles on this topic, I want to focus on some of the themes that help people grow through traumatic events. Things that help people prevent PTSD. While no one will experience all of these, here is a list of traits that routinely show up.

  1. Resilient people practice optimism – some people are “born optimists,” others are “trained optimists.” The key is to stay positive and hopeful while confronting the reality of a given situation. They do not deny the awfulness of the event, but they learn to look beyond it to a better day.

In the most recent case, the students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, though deeply impacted by the trauma of the shootings are pushing forward. As horrific as this event was, they students are mobilizing to have a kinetic impact on school safety, mental health, and gun control.

Optimism does not mean some weird type of Pollyanna, “everything is going to be ok.” Instead, it says that as a result of the trauma, these young people will be highly motivated in their recovery, the recovery of their friends, as well as being highly energized to make changes in our country.

  1. Many people who experience post-traumatic growth enhance their resilience by finding a resiliency role model – someone who has done it. If you recall in the first few days after the shooting, survivors of other traumatic events descended to Florida to provide first-hand support to these children and teachers. When this type of sharing occurs between the most recent victims and those recovering from other events a kind of magic happens that enhances the recovery of all. A friend of mine put it this way, “Pain shared, is Pain Divided. Joy shared is Joy Multiplied.”
  2. The next thing that many people who are developing their resilience muscle do is develop a moral compass and firm beliefs.

Faith, in my opinion, is the most important part of this. It means that you are learning to trust that God has a plan for your life and will look after you. You have a growing belief that a power bigger than you will guide you through the storms of life. You are learning to see the Lord as an active participant in your life.

  1. Individuals who are developing resilience practice generosity and kindness – and unselfish concern for others, being kind-hearted, philanthropic.
  2. Another trait of resilient people is they develop acceptance and cognitive flexibility, meaning the ability to learn and adapt their knowledge and thinking to new situations. They remember the lessons learned.
  3. Resilient people are learning to face their fears and learn to control negative emotions.
  4. Folks working on resilience are built an ever-expanding tool chest of active coping skills to manage stress.
  5. People who are resilient establish and maintain supportive social networks.
  6. Resilient people are learning to laugh deep and often. Whether it be some “Old School Comedy” like the Three Stooges or more modern comedians like Steve Harvey or George Lopez, Aziz Ansari, Julia Louis Dreyfus, or Kate McKinnon be sure to find something or someone that can help you keep life on the light side.

Call to action:

If you are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, please obtain the support and help you need. The Post Traumatic Alliance is a great place to start.

If you are wanting to learn more about Post Traumatic Growth check out these resources.

What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Post Traumatic Growth by Stephen Joseph.

Upside: The New Science of Post Traumatic Growth by Jim Rendon

 

(c) 2018 John Thurman

Recapture Your Vision: Quit Isolating


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(c)2012 Istockphotos
Stop Isolating
By John Thurman

Reggie had struggled with his severe, recurrent depression and his ten-year battle with alcohol abuse. He consistently complained about how lonely he was but minimized how much he was drinking by himself. He tried church support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, going to the gym with friends, but each program seemed to fail miserably. Alcohol kept him from overcoming the isolation. Reggie eventually dealt with his addiction and then he began to recover from the depression.

Isolation is the double-edged sword of depression as it is both a cause and outcome. Isolation complicates depression in some people.Individuals begin drinking, gambling online, using pornography, or beginning other addictions to treat their depression.

So how do you move out of isolation?

For people with significant depression, the mere thought of getting out of the house can seem daunting. Here is an action plan that you can begin using today.

1. Connect Intentionally

Get up and get dressed. Go outside; take a walk. Let the sun kiss your cheeks. As you walk, observe people, children, and pets.

Nod your head and say, “Hi,” on purpose. The point is not to start a conversation but to make a brief moment of connection. Stepping out of your house or apartment and intentionally speaking are two fundamental ways of changing your perception. You will see that you are not a zombie-like presence in the world.  Try this action plan daily.

2. Connect Online

Reaching out via email or some limited posting can be helpful in re-establishing contact with others. Be careful to safeguard your personal information and keep your expectations real. Start small.

3. Join a class, join a small group, or go to church.

In your community there are numerous organizations that center around a common goal. Perhaps you enjoy photography, sports, games, exercise, biking, writing, reading, poetry, animals, or genealogyThe connection with others will help relieve the pain of isolation.

4. Plan to Meet with One or More Persons.

As you connect with others, take a risk and invite one person to meet you at a local coffee shop or restaurant. When you arrive, smile, make eye contact, shake hands, and ask the person questions about his or her life. As you learn about and connect with others person, your feelings of isolation will go away.

Isolation is not your friend, but you can get trapped into being alone. Instead, embrace your responsibility to take action and push through isolation. #getagripondepression

From: Get a Grip on Depression by John Thurman pp 108-109. 

Recapture Your Vision: Push Back Depression & Negative Thinking

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(c) 2014 John Thurman – Sagebrush Hood Ornament
Recapture Your Vision by Pushing Back Depression and Negative Thinking

Have any idea what this photo is? It is actually a hood ornament with clouds and sky in the background. Your perspective can mess with your head from time to time. 

I love being an entrepreneur, it can be a bit chaotic at times, but one of the things that keep me going is vision. Whether you have a job, are self-employed, in school or involved in a vocational quest you need a vision. An idea of what you want to end up with when you have done the work.

I was reviewing some notes from reading I have done over the years and came across a great definition of vision. Hopefully, it will help you. You see, where there is no vision, no dream, no hope, there is little life. When you are depressed, the vision can become muddled.

Here is a definition: Vision is a precise, clearly defined goal with a detailed plan and timetable for achieving that result.

Just to be clear, you can have a vision for your business, your body, your relationships, your health, pretty much anything. One of the problems is that most people have wishes, but no vision-based plans.

When you lose that vision, the joy of living becomes replaced with the mere act of surviving or just getting by. You move from joy to subsistence to depression and ultimately to despair. Personally, I do not know anyone who aspires to despair.

The good news, gaining a clear picture, a vision of what you want and what you are willing to do to get it can be a tremendous energizer. Particularly if it honors the Lord and serves man.

So, if you are having “Vision Issues,” here are some things you can do to push back the negative thinking and depressive feelings,

One of the things that happens when we experience set back is a tendency to suffer from the  “paralysis of analysis,” which can be a vision stealer. 

Step Back from the Problem

When Thomas Edison felt stumped by a problem, he removed himself from the work area, lay down, and took a little nap. Years before the research on power napping was available, he understood the importance to stepping back from a problem to get a better perspective. Taking a break from the problem can lead to a fresh perspective.

There are ways to put this principle into practice.

1. Stop. Quit putting needless energy into solving a problem that isn’t getting solved. Dr. John Gottman, relationship expert, says that we need to focus on what is fixable, not on past failures.

2. Do something completely different. Choose to swim, go for a walk, take a break, call a friend, pray, read the Bible. It should be a repetitive activity that gets your undivided attention and absorbs, redirects, and gives you energy. Ten to twenty minutes is usually enough time to reset.

3. Observe what happens about the issue when you return your thoughts to it.

Here is a question for you. Are you caught up in the “paralysis of analysis” or are you Stepping Back from the Problem to clear your head? I would love to hear from you. #getagripondepression #AskJohnthurman

John

Avoid 6 Stinking Thinking Traps

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(c) 2014 John Thurman
6 Thinking Styles to Avoid

by John Thurman

Have you ever noticed how quickly your mind can get distracted? Things seem to be just fine and then out of nowhere you begin to have these intrusive, negative thoughts? Thankfully, it is a problem nearly every human being experiences from time to time.

Today, I am going to give you a quick overview of the Top Six “Stinking Thinking” patterns that I address in my book, Get a Grip on Depression. I will also give you some key questions to ask as well as practical things to do to lower the impact of these negative thinking patterns.

Here they are:

        Jumping to conclusions: Being confident about the situation despite having little or no evidence. Action Plan:Slow down: Do I have any evidence to show I have been wronged or am I jumping the gun?

        Mind Reading: Assuming you know what the other person is thinking, or expecting him or her to fully understand what you are thinking. Action Plan: Speak Up: Did I express myself fully, so the other person didn’t need to try to read my mind? Or did I ask for information from the other person rather than attempting to read his or her mind?

        Me, Me, Me: Believing you are the sole cause of every problem. Action Plan:Look outward: How did others or circumstances contribute to my current situation?

        Them, Them, Them: Believing other people or circumstances are the cause of every problem you encounter. Action Plan: Look inward: How did I control or fuel my situation?

        Always, Always, Always: The belief that adverse events are unchangeable and that you have little or no control over them. Action Plan: Grab control: What can I change? What can I influence?

        Everything, Everything, Everything: Thinking you can judge a person or your own worth, motivation, or ability on the basis of a single situation. Action Plan: Look at behavior: What specific behavior explains my situation?

 2 Corinthians 10:5 …we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NLT)

For a more in-depth look at these patterns as well as some scriptural stories that illustrate them check out pages 77-93 in Get a Grip on Depression. Also available at Amazon and Kindle.