Category Archives: Mental Health Musings

Live Where You Thrive (Lessons from a Pandemic)

by Kassandra Lamb

Live Where You Thrive ~ Happy Mother's Day!
We hope all mothers out there had a fabulous Mother’s Day! (photo by Karolina Bobek on Unsplash, so not my magnolias, but my magnolia tree is starting to bloom!)

A few weeks back, I wrote a post wondering how this pandemic, with all its short-term repercussions on families and finances, etc., might change our lives in more permanent ways.

And maybe, at least in certain areas, for the better.

I mentioned that one impact it had on me was to make me grateful for the things I had previously taken for granted (like toilet paper 😉 ).

Recently, I realized something else to be grateful for, that I can live where I thrive.

For the first five decades of my life, I lived in the state where I was born—a place that I kind of liked a good bit of the time, hated some of the time (winter) and never really loved any of the time. Then we moved to northern Florida, where I love it about half the time and definitely like it the rest of the time.

But we’ve been here almost sixteen years now, so I was beginning to take it for granted.

Live Where You Thrive ~ spring in Florida
The azaleas along one side of our fence. (photo copyright by my hubs)

And then we had a pandemic, and I’ve had to stay on my own property pretty much all day, every day for weeks on end. Fortunately, this was during my favorite time of the year down here—spring.

Yes, spring starts in March (sometimes late February), runs through April and usually at least a few weeks into May. It’s relatively dry and fabulously sunny that whole time, with temps most days in the 70s to low 80s, and mostly low humidity.

Spring in Florida has really made the pandemic lockdown tolerable for me. Indeed, it’s probably kept me from sinking into a depression (and also helped me to keep writing!!)

I realize that not everyone has been as lucky. Many have been cooped up in apartments—others in parts of the world where they were still experiencing winter or the chilly, damp beginnings of spring during March and April, or in the Southern Hemisphere, autumn. (And yes, I get it that some people like autumn or even winter; yay for you!)

The lesson learned is that it’s really important to live where you thrive.

Live Where You Thrive -- my editing chair
My editing chair. 🙂

I know that’s not always possible. We have to go where the work is sometimes, or where family is, or spend some time at school in a less than ideal climate for us.

But I think in making such decisions, all too often we Americans put climate and the local culture too low on our list of considerations. Yes, work and school and family are very important.

But being able to live where you can thrive should also be very important.

A couple of my friends and family members up north have asked me a few times if I would ever move back to Maryland. It’s my home state and I love it for that reason, but the answer is a resounding “No!”

Climate isn’t the only thing I’m talking about here.

The culture of a place is important too, and other things, like how densely populated it is.

Are you a country person, who loves a lot of space around you, or are you someone who thrives on the excitement of the city?

Or maybe somewhere in between?

I’ve always been a country girl. I loved the wide open spaces enough that I was happy to drive half an hour to get to anything, including a gas station or convenience store. My husband liked the fresh air and the fact that a nice piece of property, in Maryland, was much more affordable in the country than nearer to the city. But he didn’t particularly like the inconvenience of living in the boonies.

When we moved to Florida, he wanted to live in a more convenient location. I figured I owed him, since I’d had my way for decades. Well, we lucked out. We now live in a medium-small city, in an older neighborhood with decent sized lots and plenty of mature trees.

Live Where You Thrive ~ view from my back porch
The view from my editing chair on the back porch.

With a tall privacy fence in our backyard, I have my own little slice of country, while nothing in the entire city is farther away than a twenty-minute drive.

We have found a place to live where we both thrive!

How about you, do you live where you thrive? What about where you live now works well for you? Or is there something you would change if you could?

My sister misterio author, Kirsten Weiss, has also recently relocated to a place where she is thriving, Colorado. She misses the nice weather in California but loves the wide open spaces.

She and I have been thriving so well that we’ve both managed to get stories ready for publication during these stressful times. Here’s her next installment in her Tea and Tarot series, and mine in the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries.

Both are available for Preorder Now and will release on May 26th.

Hostage to Fortune, A Tea and Tarot Mystery #2

Hostage to Fortune book cover

Tea and Tarot room owner Abigail Beanblossom is used to running interference for her socially-awkward former boss, tech billionaire Razzzor. So when he invites her on a stakeout to investigate the sale of counterfeit wine from his latest venture – an upscale winery – she barrels on in. But the two stumble across the corpse of a wine merchant, and new wine in old bottles is now the least of their problems.

Good thing amateur detectives Abigail and her partner, tarot reader Hyperion Night, have a nose for murder. Their investigation takes them from elegant wine cellars to chic tea parties on the California coast. But just as the investigation starts to get its legs, Abigail discovers there’s more than wine at the bottom of this crime…

Tearoom recipes in the back of the book.

Click HERE for Preorder links!

Lord of the Fleas, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery #9

Lord of the Fleas book cover

What could be more innocent than a country flea market?

When service dog trainer Marcia Banks takes up temporary residence with her best friend in Williston, Florida, her goals are simple: spoil her toddler godchildren and train her newest dog’s veteran owner, a vendor at a local flea market.

Ha, the universe has other plans. When the owner of the flea market is found dead and her client is a prime suspect, she discovers that nothing is as it seems—from the flea market owner himself, to the ornate dragonhead cane he gave to her client, to the beautiful but not very bright young woman whom her client has a crush on.

The only true innocent in the bunch seems to be her guileless client. But when he shares a confidence that puts her in a double bind with local law enforcement, she’s not sure she can even trust him.

Despite her promises to her new husband, the only way out of her no-win dilemma seems to be to find the real killer. The flea market, however, is hiding more secrets, and at least one of them could be deadly.

Click HERE for Preorder Links!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE. 

Random Moments That Change Our Lives (And a Contest!)

by Kassandra Lamb

Another author’s recent post, about how a random conversation changed her career dramatically, got me thinking of a few such random moments that have affected my life.

In a minute, I’ll tell you about my biggest random, life-changing moment, but first…

There is nothing more random than a pandemic.

What we are going through right now as a country and throughout the world is almost beyond comprehension. And it is likely to change our lives in certain ways, for better or worse, forever.

It would probably be worthwhile to give some thought to how each of us wants our lives to change, so that we can take control of that process as much as possible. More on this in a bit. Now back to my story.

The random moment that changed my life.

random moments that change our lives -- the glass ceilng
Even a lovely glass ceiling will still give you a headache 🙂

In my late twenties, I was trying to get ahead in the business world (we’re talking early 1980s) and banging my head rather regularly on the glass ceiling. I had a toddler, and I was very tired of working 40 hours a week, plus 10 hours of commute time, to make peanuts.

If I was going to be away from my son for that many hours, I wanted to be doing something more meaningful and more lucrative. But I had no idea what.

Around that time, my husband went to a hypnotherapist to quit smoking. He was worried about the secondhand smoke in the house. He was so successful that I went too. We both stopped smoking, which was the planned outcome.

But there was another unexpected outcome as well. I was fascinated by the hypnosis. I had a bachelors degree in psychology, and as I sat in the comfy chair in the hypnotherapist’s office and listened to his droning voice, a little part of my brain was thinking, “I could do this.”

So I enrolled in graduate school to get the required credentials, studied hypnosis on the side (there were no college classes on it; still aren’t at most schools), and investigated what I needed to do to set up a private practice as a hypnotherapist.

Two years later, I had a thriving practice. I wasn’t making great money but it was better than I had been making in the business world. And I had control over my schedule. I worked four 8 to 10-hour days, one of them Saturday, and was home two weekdays, which meant my son was only in daycare part-time.

And I was helping people. I’ve never looked back, other than to wonder occasionally how different things would be, if I hadn’t had that random experience that changed my life.

So back to current events…

random moments that change our lives -- learning not to take things for granted, like toilet paper

I haven’t totally sorted out what may change permanently in my life after this craziness is over. I’ve certainly come to appreciate certain things that I once took for granted…like my husband, and unlimited supplies of toilet paper.

(Not that those two are of equal importance. 😀 )

I’ve also been touched by the generosity of strangers to each other. And the bravery of those who are doing the “essential” tasks that keep our country running, from the medical personnel to the truck drivers to the guys who collect the garbage.

I think it behooves us to give some conscious thought to how we want to change ourselves and/or our lives in the future. What positive meaning can we find in this very negative event?

How do you hope this pandemic will change the country, the world and/or your life for the better? (Please, no politics!)

~~~

And we have a CONTEST going, to help with the boredom. Grand Prize is a Bag of Free Books! Click HERE to check it out.

~~~

 

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

Need a New Career or Side-Gig? Announcing the Freelance Writer Bootcamp!

Hi, all! Gilian Baker here.

When I asked myself how I could best serve the global community during this national emergency, teaching others a skill they could use to provide security for their families was at the top of the list. While talking with a friend and fellow entrepreneur, I came up with the idea to create a 30 Day Freelance Writer Bootcamp to help those who love to write and have lost jobs or need a side gig to help support their families.

Freelance Bootcamp

While other industries are slowing down or have stopped completely, there’s never been a bigger need for digital content! Companies, both large and small, are struggling to move their marketing budget from offline to online. This means a HUGE opportunity for those who have the skills they need to produce quality content.

As Part of the 30 Day Freelance Bootcamp, You Will:

Understand the freelance writing market  

Know where to find legit writing jobs     

Acquire a toolbox of free resources

Improve your writing skills

Build a portfolio to show potential clients

Gain experience as a freelance writer

Create at least one profile on a top freelance website

 *And have the chance to become part of my writing team!*

I have no doubt that those who take the chance to start a freelance writing business now will never again have to worry about earning a living! 

I’m honored to offer you this opportunity to transform your life during these unprecedented times!  Click the link to learn more and apply: https://mailchi.mp/6f0a91fd329c/30-day-freelance-writer-bootcamp

Gilian Baker is a former English professor turned mystery author, freelance writer, and writing coach. She’s the author of the Digital Detective Mystery Series. Grab her first book, Blogging is Murder, for free on her website.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

7 Tips for Handling Stress During Uncertain Times

by Gilian Baker

Our fast-paced modern life can keep our nervous system running on full-tilt. So, what happens when a global crisis like the Coronavirus comes at us from nowhere, changing our daily lives into something we can’t recognize?

Photo by Josh Riemer on Unsplash

Our nervous system ramps up even more, threatening to burn out or implode. Fear, uncertainty, and panic can leave us constantly living in a fight-or-flight state.

Not only is this dangerous for our overall health, but it interferes with our ability to think rationally and make powerful decisions that we won’t regret later. When we are in the fight-or-flight response, we can’t access our creativity, intuition, or clarity.

This happens when the endocrine system and limbic nervous system, beginning in the hypothalamus, is activated. You may have heard this called “the lizard brain response” in popular media. This part of the brain isn’t bad. It keeps us safe and is essential during an emergency. However, it was much more important when we were part of a tribe that was trying to survive saber-tooth tiger attacks.

In the modern world, it activates when we attempt to do things that are outside our comfort zone, for example. When we are stressed and rushing. When we feel overwhelmed by responsibilities. We can become so accustomed to living in fight-or-flight mode we get addicted to it.

During this time of widespread panic, our lizard brain response is having a heyday. We can easily get trapped in the psycho-cybernetic loop that it’s hard to think clearly.

There is good news, though! It’s called the relaxation response.

Each of us has the capability to stop this negative or worry loop going on in our heads. Yes, it may be more challenging during scary times like this, but it is doable. Better yet, we don’t have to do it without tools. Science has shown us that there are ways to tap into the relaxation response, even when we so easily default to “catastrophizing.”

To give you some help with this, here’s a list of tools I use with my coaching clients to move them back into “rest-and-digest” mode when everything in their life seems to be going haywire.

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Music

Listening to uplifting music, whatever that means to you, can help you move out of fear and into a hopeful place. There’s no wrong music to choose. The important thing is that it makes you feel good when you hear it. You might want to create a playlist on a free app like Spotify that you can listen to throughout the day. You don’t have to listen only when you are already feeling worried. Use it as a way to maintain a positive outlook! Here’s one of my favorite Spotify lists you can try.

Meditation

You don’t need to have your own personal yogi, sit cross-legged, or burn smelly incense to get the many benefits from meditation. One of the easiest meditations is the best. Simply get comfortable, either sitting or lying down (if you don’t think you’ll fall asleep), close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Notice it going in and going out. Pay attention to that short gap in the middle when you are neither inhaling nor exhaling. When your mind starts thinking (it will, because that’s what brains do), gently bring your mind back to your breath without judgment.

You can also play relaxing music or use guided meditations too. These are especially helpful if your mind just won’t seem to settle. My favorite meditation app is Insight Timer. It offers thousands of free guided meditations and music tracks.

Breathe 

Some of the breathing techniques that are the most effective in stimulating the relaxation response are also very simple. Even when you find yourself in full panic mode, you can remember these simple instructions:

Technique #1

Inhale deeply in through the nose for four counts.

Hold the breath for eight counts.

Slowly exhale through pursed lips for eight counts.

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

It’s recommended you do a round of ten breaths and then gauge how you feel. If you are still upset, you can do another series of ten.

Technique #2

This technique comes from the Heart-Math Institute and is ideal for moving into a space of deep gratitude.

Sit or lay comfortably and close your eyes. Put your attention on your heart and imagine breathing in and out of that area. Let your breath come naturally—there’s no need to force it to slow down. After practicing this for a few minutes, you’ll notice a deep sense of calm and gratitude come over you. While continuing to breathe from your heart, allow the blessings in your life to come up in your mind. Take a few moments to appreciate all you have to be grateful for.

Movement

You don’t need to be a long-distance jogger to experience a “runner’s high.” You also don’t need a bunch of expensive equipment. Take a brisk walk in the park, bounce on a personal-sized trampoline or exercise ball, give yoga, or tai chi a go. If you’ve always wanted to try yoga, for example, there are tons of free YouTube videos you can use as your guide. My personal favorite is Yoga with Adriene. If you are so inclined, pick out an app and track your progress. That’s just one more way to focus on the positive right now instead of dwelling on “what if’s.”

Nutrition

It might be tempting to sit and eat chips while binge-watching Netflix right now, but it’s the worst time to be doing that. Besides lowering our immune system, a diet high in processed foods and sugar doesn’t give our brains the fuel it needs to function at its peak.

It’s vital right now that each citizen is thinking clearly for the long-term. We all need to be making wise decisions and to do that, we need to be able to calm our fight-or-flight responses so our frontal cortex can run the show. We need to take positive action, not just for ourselves, but for the global community. Only offering our brains toxin-filled fuel won’t get us there. Focus on stocking up on more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and other tasty, highly nutritious foods and leave the Ding Dongs and Cheetos on the shelves. They have so many preservatives in them that they’ll be fine there for years.

This week’s veg from Imperfect Foods

We have our organic produce, and other items delivered to our door by Imperfect Foods. They are a company on a mission to stop food waste, which as a farmer’s daughter, I wholeheartedly applaud! It’s a fabulous feel-good way to get fresh, organic foods at a much better price while not having to put on real pants. 😊 You can get $10 off your first order by going here.

Nature
Now is the perfect time in many parts of the country to be outside. Get your garden ready for summer, mulch your flowerbeds, take a walk. Much of the last week has been gray and gloomy here in Ohio, but today, the sun is out. I enjoyed lunch on the porch while listening to the birds and enjoying the daffodils that are already in full bloom in my yard. I felt like a new woman when I came back inside. I personally believe we can absorb a great deal of life wisdom by looking at nature. The birds and squirrels don’t panic when a big storm is looming. Trees don’t worry that they will lose their leaves too soon in the fall. Animals live most of their lives in a state of rest and relaxation. They only take action when it’s absolutely necessary for survival. Oh, to be a robin!

Help Others

Right now, you may think there is little you can do to help others. But there are more opportunities than you might think. And helping someone who is in a worse situation than you is an excellent way to step out of thinking about your own ills and problems.

Some simple ideas include checking on your neighbors to make sure they are okay or picking up groceries for an elderly family member while you are out. Think about all the volunteers who are now stuck at home. Depending on where you live and your health, you may be able to help out places, like animal shelters, that rely on volunteers to meet the needs of your community. We recently heard that the National Guard might be activated in our area to fill boxes at local food banks. During a time of crisis, food banks will need all the help they can get. Think about ways you could help others to distract yourself while getting a hit of dopamine.

If you’d like to help but can’t think of a way, feel free to send me some of your hoarded toilet paper. 😊I still can’t find any anywhere!

What are some of the ways you keep worry and fear from overwhelming you?

Gilian Baker is a former English professor turned mystery author and writing coach. She uses personality theory and brain science to help writers overcome their creative blocks so they can write un-put-down-able books. If you are a writer who is struggling to get their book finished, go here to schedule a free Story Strategy Session.

Grab her first book, Blogging is Murder, for free on her website.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

What You’re Feeling May Very Well Be Grief

by Kassandra Lamb

A sign of the times — grocery store in 2020 (photo by Breawycker CC-BY-SA 4.0 International Wikimedia Commons)

My daughter-in-law posted the link to this article today. It really nails what a lot of us are feeling right now. We are grieving…for what has already changed, and for what may yet change in an uncertain future.

Please do read the whole article—it offers some helpful suggestions for coping—but I have to quote this part. It is so right on:

There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.

David Kessler , co-author of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss.

That’s what I’ve been preaching for years. Emotions need to be acknowledged and expressed so they can move OUT of your system.

Check out the rest of the article HERE.

An “off week” post by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

Stay Calm and Wash Your Hands

by Kassandra Lamb

We interrupt our regular blogging schedule… This is not what I had planned to write about this week, but it’s an important reminder to stay calm. Not only for our mental health, but for our physical health as well.

Why is it important to stay calm? Because stress reduces the effectiveness of our immune systems. So stressing about getting sick can increase the chances of getting sick.

We humans have a variety of mental defense mechanisms that our psyches employ to cope with stressful and scary stuff. Some of these defenses are helpful and some, not so much.

The Unhelpful Ones: Denial, Minimizing

Pretending the coronavirus is not a big deal, not in your area yet, etc. (it probably is; just no reported cases yet) is denial and minimizing. Buying into the idea that it’s no worse than seasonal flu is denial and minimizing. The facts say otherwise.

The World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. The goal of that declaration was not to have everyone either panic or go into denial. It was to get us to take measures to stop the spread of the disease before it gets out of hand in this country and others.

The Potentially Helpful Defenses: Rationalization, Repression, Sublimation

First, do the things you’re hearing that you should do in order to prevent and/or prepare for the worst-case scenario. Wash your hands. Be aware of what you touch and try NOT to touch your face. Wash your hands.

Stay calm and wash your hands.
Meme created on imgflip.com

Stockpile, within reason, food and medicines, etc. in case you end up quarantined. (Just got home from the grocery store myself.) Then wash your hands.

Practice social distancing by leaving space around you and subbing a wave or a slight bow for a handshake or hug. Wash your hands. Avoid crowds or going out in public if you can. Wash your hands.

Then, once you have done all that, tell yourself that you and those in your household will most likely be okay. You’re doing everything you can do. It will be fine. (Rationalization.)

Is this lying to yourself? Maybe. Maybe not. You don’t know if the disease will hit close to home, but you might as well assume that it isn’t going to—AFTER you have taken the needed precautions to lower your risk.

There’s no psychological benefit to assuming that you or your loved ones will get sick. That’s pessimism and it’s also unhealthy. More on this in a minute.

Then Push the Thoughts Aside

Don’t let your mind dwell on the disease any more than is necessary to maintain the precautions you have taken. To stay calm, actively push those thoughts away when they come up (Repression) and distract yourself with other things. Read an engaging book, finally do some of those projects around the house that you’ve been putting off (look out bathroom, I’ve got my paintbrush and I’m coming in), do something creative, etc.

This latter idea is called Sublimation—actually channeling the emotional energy into something else. A whole lot of my author friends are currently writing stories about pandemics. Most of those stories will never get published, but the writing process keeps those authors sane (or as sane as authors ever are 😉 ).

(Read more on defense mechanisms here.)

The Proven Benefits of Optimism

Why should we bother to try to fool ourselves into believing all will be okay? First of all, for many of us, it will be okay. We’ll go through a scary time of worrying about our own health and that of our loved ones, but either no one in that group will get the disease or they will have a mild case of it.

And if and when the disease does strike a harder blow, well that’s soon enough to worry about it. As my grandmother used to say, “Don’t borrow trouble.”

Remaining optimistic has been proven again and again in scientific studies to have all kinds of health benefits. Optimism reduces stress, improves immune system functioning, makes people feel happier and helps them live longer. Being pessimistic, has the exact opposite effect. (For more on the benefits of optimism, here’s a good article.)

The first American study evaluated 839 people in the early 1960s, performing a psychological test for optimism–pessimism as well as a complete medical evaluation. When the people were rechecked 30 years later, optimism was linked to longevity; for every 10-point increase in pessimism on the optimism–pessimism test, the mortality rate rose 19%.

~ Harvard Health Publishing, Optimism and your Health, 2008.

But Isn’t This Just Another Form of Denial?

Yes, it is. I call it healthy denial. And all of us exercise this defense mechanism every day. Otherwise, we would never get out of bed, much less leave our houses.

Stay calm and run like hell! A tornado's coming.

Every day, we assume that we will not be mugged that day, we will not be run over by a truck, we will not be swept up by a tornado, etc. Even though those things will happen to some people somewhere.

Without healthy denial, we couldn’t function. We’d be paralyzed.

And that’s what I’m trying to fight here—the paralyzing effects of fear. Because we all need to do what we can, including remaining optimistic, in order to slow and eventually stop this pandemic.

And slowing it is extremely important. Because by slowing it, we keep it from overwhelming our healthcare system. This article has an excellent chart that shows this better than I could explain it (Note the dotted line that is labelled “healthcare system capacity.”)

Easier Said Than Done for Some

Some of us have been blessed with a naturally optimistic personality. Others have not. Those folks are going to have to work harder at this whole stay-calm thing.

Just as we try to become more aware of the surfaces we touch (or don’t touch, in the case of our faces), we need to become more aware of our thoughts. We need to catch ourselves if we are obsessing on the situation too much. We need to redirect our thoughts.

Stay calm and stop those negative thoughts,
Photo by Will Porada on Unsplash

One very simple but very helpful technique that therapists teach clients with OCD is called thought-stopping. When you notice your thoughts going down an obsessive track, you literally say, “Stop!” either out loud or inside your head.

A variation for visually oriented people is to imagine a big red stop sign in your mind’s eye.

Then you intentionally redirect your thoughts to something else that is engaging.

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

Keep your entertainment lighthearted during this crisis. Someone said to me just last night that they started to watch a show about the Nazis in Germany and had to turn it off. It was too much on top of worrying about the coronavirus. Good for her!

Even if you feel yourself drawn to heavier, more negative topics (understandable), don’t go there right now. Positive, uplifting, and even silly books and TV shows are preferable, to help maintain our optimism and healthy denial.

And keep those hysterical memes coming on social media. Promote laughter as much as you can.

Let’s all do our part not just to stop the spread of germs but to increase the spread of positive energy during this difficult time.

What helps you the most to stay calm at times like these?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

The Importance of Backstory (Or How the Brain Connects the Present to the Past)

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m over at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University today, talking about characters’ backstories, the human brain and implications for writers.

Here’s a teaser…

First, a brief excerpt from my own backstory—I recently let go of someone whom I have loved dearly my entire life. I did so because he was acting in a way that was far too reminiscent of my dysfunctional family.

I spent many hours and beaucoup dollars in my youth on therapy, and it was successful. For a very long time now, I’ve hardly given a thought to all that craziness I grew up with. So when this person, after experiencing a highly emotional event, suddenly began acting like his crazy father (the brother of my crazy father), I had to make a tough choice.

I contemplated letting it slide for the sake of family peace, but I repeatedly found my stomach, chest and throat tightening up in a very uncomfortable way. It took me awhile to sort out that this was the same uncomfortable feeling I’d had all too often as a child—a combination of confusion, fear and hurt.

Why am I telling you this sad story? Because it provides some excellent examples of the connections that I’m about to explain—between our minds, our bodies, and our emotions—and between the past and present.

How Our Brains Connect Us to the Past

Some people still scoff, to this day, at the idea that our past affects our present and future reactions. But there is actually a scientific explanation for how this works.

There is a part of the brain called the hippocampus. It is a component of the limbic system, located between the cerebral cortex (the thinking part of our brain) and the brain stem (the part that controls automatic functions, like breathing).

The Importance of Backstory: How the Brain Connects Past to Present

The limbic system, comprised of several structures and organs, is the emotional center of the human brain. One of the hippocampus’s most important functions, as part of this system, is processing memories.

And right next door is the amygdala, the part of the brain that feels anger and fear, and produces our instinctive knee-jerk reactions to those feelings.

The hippocampus not only processes memories—without it, we would have no long-term memory—but it also remembers the emotions (and the physical sensations associated with those emotions) of past events. Read More

Implications for Writers—The Importance of Backstory

First of all, we need to give our characters backstories that match their current neuroses. Any time a character overreacts (or under-reacts) to a situation in the present, there has to be something in their past that explains it.

Then, how do we show the reader that very important backstory…

Read More…

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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An “Off” Week Goodie: Why Hugs Are Good For You

by Kassandra Lamb

I saw this article yesterday and wanted to share it.

Hugs are good for you
Photo by C.Valdez on Unsplash

I don’t know about the whole Chakra thing, but it is true about the cortisol levels going down and hugs encouraging the release of oxytocin.

The latter hormone makes us feel good, and also facilitates more social interaction.

In other words, the more we hug, the more we like being around people, and thus the more likely we are to get hugs.

I’m not sure about Virginia Satir’s numbers, though. I suspect a few hugs a day will suffice for well-being, and I’m pretty sure hugging cats and dogs and other cuddly pets counts (snakes and lizards, maybe not).

Also, a word of caution. Not everyone is comfortable with hugs, so never hug anyone unless you’re sure they’re okay with it (you can always ask, though).

Virtual hugs from us to you!! (Not as satisfying, but the best we can do. 🙂 )

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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Why Is the Divorce Rate So Low? (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

No, that is not a typo in the title—I am asking why the divorce rate is so low. As I contemplate the approach of the 44th Valentine’s Day I will spend with my husband, I thought this was a fitting time to again offer up this post I originally wrote in 2012.

I am absolutely amazed that anybody makes it for 44 years, or longer even, without divorcing. Or committing homicide.

The Divorce Rate is Lower Than You Think

Why is the divorce rate so low

My mother and I going into the church before my wedding. I had no idea what I was getting into.

The common myth is that the divorce rate is 50%. This is just plain not true, but like most myths, it gets repeated so often, with absolute certainty on the part of the person saying it, that we all believe it.

This frequently quoted statistic is based on comparing the number of marriage certificates issued in any given year with the number of divorces filed in that year. That number indeed hovers around 50%, because the number of people getting married has been going down at the same rate as the number of people getting divorced.

The Real Divorce Rate

Counting the number of people who are STILL married in any given year and comparing that to the number of divorces is a more complicated and costly process, so it isn’t done very often. (This data, by the way, is collected by the Center for Disease Control. So I want to know which is the disease, marriage or divorce? I’m assuming the latter. But I digress.)

Comparing those getting divorced to those still married paints a very different picture. The divorce rate in the U.S. actually peaked in 1979 at 23%  (yes, that is twenty-three percent; it has never been 50%). These days it hovers around 20%. Much better odds than 50-50!  (If you don’t want to take my word for it, here is a good article on the subject at PsychCentral.)

So why am I saying the divorce rate is surprisingly low, if it’s actually a lot lower than everybody thinks it is?  Because it just isn’t all that easy to stay married for decade after decade.

Stresses on Marriage

First we’ve got that whole men-and-women-don’t-really-understand-each-other thing going on. (See my gender differences posts for more on that topic.)

Then, throw the stress of parenthood into the marriage mix. Are we clueless about what we are getting into there, or what? But then again, if we weren’t clueless, the species would have died out by now. If we knew in advance how hard parenting is, nobody would do it!

Why is the divorce rate so low

Me giving my mother heart failure, before the age of seatbelts and air conditioning.

And we’ve got the whole aging process, and the fact that people change over time, as they experience new and different things. We don’t always change at the same rate or in the same direction as our partner does. So it takes a lot of work to stay on the same wavelength.

And we should keep in mind that marriage was invented back when the average lifespan was twenty-five years! As recently as the early 1900’s, one partner or the other was bound to die after a couple decades–from childbirth, disease or a cattle stampede.

And I can’t help but suspect that, before the days of modern forensics, a certain number of household accidents were early versions of a Reno quickie divorce.

So how have hubby and I made it this long?

Choosing Well

First, you’ve got the making-the-right-choice-to-begin-with factor. We lucked out there, or perhaps it was divine intervention, because I had definitely dated my share of losers before he came along.

The most important part of making that right choice is marrying someone who shares your values. You don’t have to have all the same interests or even come from the same background or ethnic group. But you do need to care about the same things in life. And fortunately we do.

The Most Important Factor in Surviving Marriage

Communication. You gotta talk to each other, every day, about the little stuff and the big stuff, and about how you feel about things. It’s real easy to get out of the habit of doing this, or to decide that a certain subject is just too painful, or will start a fight, so you don’t go there.

Study after study has found that the single most important factor in marital satisfaction is that both spouses consider their partner to be their best friend.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to my best friend! I hope we have many more, but I’m not taking anything for granted, because marriage is hard work.

Why is the divorce rate so low

When you stop laughing at hubby’s funny-looking tuxedo, please share your thoughts on the important factors in keeping a relationship strong.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

An Introvert and an Extrovert Walk into a Bar…

by Gilian Baker

If an introvert and an extrovert walked into a bar, how could you tell them apart?

introvert or an extrovert

Easy! The introvert would quietly order a drink, wince at the noise level while she waited for the bartender, and then move to a remote table where she could watch the surrounding activity.

An extrovert would walk in and high-five the people she knew. She’d stop several times on her way to the bar to chat with acquaintances. Once she had her drink, she’d sit down in the middle of a table full of friendly faces and shoot the breeze.

But I’ll let you in on a secret…

Our introverted or extroverted personalities impact our lives in many aspects, not just how we socialize. For example, how we “do” creativity is an often-overlooked aspect of how our personalities affect us.

What does it mean to be an Introvert or an Extrovert?

It all started when Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist in the 1920s, observed a variety of “functions” in the way people access their cognitive processes. These processes include how we gather information, make decisions, and relate to ourselves and others. He coined the words “introvert” and “extrovert” to explain how we focus our attention and energy and how we relate to the world around us.

Jung’s terms are often misunderstood. Many people believe introverts hate being around people, probably because they are shy. Not true! Likewise, some believe extroverts are loud attention seekers, the life of every party. Not always!

introvert and an extrovert

However, Jung identified that introverts and extroverts are indeed very different from one another.

Introverts:

  • Recharge their energy by being alone and turning inward. Being with others for too long is draining.
  • Do their best thinking alone in a distraction-free area where they can engage with their inner lives.
  • Tend to pause before they act or speak to think through how they want to respond.

Extroverts:

  • Recharge their energy by being with other people. Being alone too much is draining.
  • Do their best thinking when discussing their ideas with others.
  • Tend to jump into action without much planning.

If you aren’t sure which you are, I recommend this free personality test.

Regardless of our type, embracing it makes our lives more enjoyable and way easier. After all, why fight your natural tendencies when you could go with the flow?

The Introvert and Extrovert Brain

The emergence of neuroscience has validated Jung’s earlier findings. An introvert and an extrovert’s brain works differently!

Without getting too technical, the difference between the two is their preference for pleasure neurotransmitters.

Acetylcholine makes us feel good when we turn inward to reflect and ruminate for extended periods. When acetylcholine is released, it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system—the “rest and digest” system.

introvert and an extrovert

When dopamine floods the brain, we turn outwardly. We become more talkative and attentive to our environment. We feel confident in exploring unknown experiences and are more willing to take risks. Dopamine activates the sympathetic nervous system or the “flight or fight” response.

Introverts favor the calming pleasure neurotransmitter acetylcholine, while extroverts prefer a dopamine buzz.

Both introverts and extroverts have and use acetylcholine and dopamine, just as they use both components of their nervous system. They just each have a preference of which one they use, and they make use of it more often.

Personality and Writing

As a writer, I use my understanding of my introverted nature to my advantage. I guard my writing time, making sure it happens when I can shut the door of my office and not be disturbed. I also prefer to write in large chunks of time because I can deeply engage with my inner life as I dream up characters, plots, and worlds without stopping and starting.

There are other ways that being an introvert or an extrovert affects the writing process as well.

Introverts as Plotters:

introvert and an extrovert
Edgar Allan Poe, Introvert
  • Need to anticipate the direction of their writing before putting words on paper (Plotting)
  • Write all or parts of their work in their heads before they write it down.
  • Often pause while writing to clear their minds from distracting thoughts, rework what they’ve just written or anticipate where they are going next.
  • Reluctant to seek feedback, and when they get it, need time alone to mull it over before taking action on it.

Extroverts as Pantsers:

introvert and an extrovert
Mark Twain, Extrovert
  • Develop their best ideas while writing (“pantsing”).
  • Do their best thinking out loud or while discussing their work with others.
  • Invite others to “interrupt” them to improve their work in progress.
  • Gain enthusiasm and energy while writing the first draft in noisy, busy places.

What I’ve found as a writing coach is that writers who embrace their personality type write more effortlessly and with more joy than those who don’t. I use the personality type of each of my clients to teach them how to overcome their creative struggles.

An Introvert or an Extrovert Creativity Style

Obviously, writers aren’t the only creative people on earth. You’ll also notice that you tend to choose how you “do” creativity based on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Here are a few examples to consider:

Knitting and Other Needlecrafts

Introverts—enjoy this creative pursuit alone. They might take online courses or use YouTube videos to learn new skills.

Extroverts—join a Stitch and *itch group where they can learn from and talk to others while they work.

Painting

Introverts—work in their own studio or alone in nature where they can get caught up in their own world of creativity.

Extroverts—take a class and maybe join a group of people who are painting murals on the sides of buildings.

Playing Music

Introverts—learn new techniques by taking online courses or going to YouTube. They play for their own enjoyment or possibly for a small group of intimate friends.

Extroverts—take lessons, or, better yet, a class with other students to learn new skills. They might join a band and spend their evenings and weekends playing for any crowd who will listen.

As you can see, we can all enjoy the same activities—we just do them in different ways. It’s not important if you are a plotter or pantser. Or if you sit alone or with a group at your local bar. There isn’t a “best type.”

What matters is that you know which you are and then use that information to guide your decisions about how you use your creativity. Your brain has probably been trying to tell you for years to “give in” to your natural tendency. I’m giving you permission to listen!

Are you more an introvert or an extrovert? Which of the ways of expressing creativity above do you relate to most?

Gilian Baker is a former English professor turned mystery author and writing coach. She uses personality theory and brain science to help intuitive writers embrace their unique writing process so they can overcome their creative blocks and write books readers crave. If you are an introverted writer who is struggling to get their book finished, go here to schedule a free Story Strategy Session. Together, we’ll dig into how you can crush your creative blocks!

Grab her first book, Blogging is Murder, for free on her website.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.