A Growing Interest in Food and How Our Food Culture is Changing

People have always loved food. It’s tasty, it’s an enjoyable thing to share with friends and family, and of course, we simply need it to survive. However, in the past couple of decades, our love affair with food seems to have grown quite a bit. Gone are the days when meat and potatoes were considered a square meal, at least in many social circles. People are finally beginning to examine the effects diet has on health and well-being, and this change can’t happen quickly enough.

Some states are beginning to see a decline in obesity rates, but there is still plenty of work to do if we want a healthy, thriving society. People are also getting more interested in food in general. Not everyone is on a mission to get healthy. Some simply want to capitalize on a growing demand for chefs. Culinary schools are expanding to meet with rising enrollment numbers as people choose food-based careers or simply decide to educate themselves so they can prepare food at home.

1. A Healthier Lifestyle

Research from the Organic Trade Association found that Americans are buying more organic products than ever before. Concerns about health and the environment have led to more people choosing organic. The economy is all about supply and demand, so this rising call for more organic items has led to a number of new businesses, including Thrive Market, an online resource offering hundreds of organic and all-natural items at an affordable price.

Aside from the organic factor, there are other reasons Americans are becoming more interested in bettering their health through food. To put it simply, many people are growing sick and tired of being sick and tired. In recent years, alternative diets and lifestyles have begun rising in popularity, including veganism, paleo and gluten-free.

As buzz surrounding these diets grows, people find reasons to believe that they can empower themselves through an alternative lifestyle. In turn, this leads to more alternative products appearing on store shelves, which leads to a greater awareness and so on. Therefore, by making smart choices with the foods they buy, people are actually having a positive influence on society as a whole.

2. Food-based Media

Cooking shows have been around for decades, but in the past twenty years, they’ve really begun growing in popularity. From televised contests for home cooks to lavish competitions featuring some of America’s finest professional chefs, there’s no shortage of food-related entertainment to enjoy. Perhaps this factor has contributed to America’s growing foodie culture.

3. A Difficult Economy Means More People are Cooking at Home

As people struggle in a difficult economy, they are beginning to look for ways to save money. Therefore, cooking meals at home rather than eating out is becoming increasingly more popular. Research from Peapod and ORC International shows that 72 percent of Americans cook from home four or more nights each week, and more than a third made a resolution to cook more in 2017. It was also found that millennials were more than twice as likely to make this resolution than older folks. But, it’s no secret that millennials are struggling financially and eating out can be really expensive.

However, the world has changed since the baby boomers were young, and these changes are likely to stick around. Therefore, it can be assumed that cooking skills will be important for today’s young people as well as future generations to come.

If you’re developing an interest in food, you’re on the right track to a healthier life. Even if nutrition isn’t your main motivation, you’ll still have a deeper connection to what’s on your plate if you go through the process of cooking it yourself. That connection can make every meal a more mindful experience, which is precisely what the act of eating should be. You’ll also be able to track your caloric intake much easier if you’re aware of every ingredient, giving you a better chance of staying at a healthy weight.

The Divorce Divide in 2018

Photo Credit: Jeremy Wong Weddings

For many years, there has been a misconception that half of divorces end in marriage. Luckily, this generalization is flawed. According to new research and trend analyzations by experts, the drop in overall divorce rates is caused by a decline in the rate among college students who get married which is a shift in economic status among women and a new divide between those who receive college degrees.

Women Initiate Divorce More Than Men

According to research published by Michael Rosenfeld, an associate sociology professor at Stanford University, divorce rates are initiated by women 70% of the time. The San Diego divorce lawyers at Yelman & Associates believe this is directly correlated to the fact that more married women in heterosexual relationships report lower levels of relationship quality than married men. When it comes to non-marital break-ups, the research suggests that men are equally as likely to initiate a separation in the relationship.

Social scientists have argued that women initiate more divorces due to the fact they can be more vulnerable to relationship difficulties. However, Rosenfeld argues these “conclusions” by saying his findings support the feminist assertion that women can experience marriage as oppressive or uncomfortable, “Wives still take their husbands’ surnames, and are sometimes pressured to do so.

Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare. On the other hand, I think that non-marital heterosexual relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital heterosexual relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations, including women’s expectations for more gender equality.”

Education and the Divorce Divide

Dr. Steven P. Martin, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland explains there’s a growing gap between those who are married. He refers to this as the “divorce divide,” this analysis explores the idea that education plays a key role in demographic research, socioeconomic evaluation and also divorce rates in the United States. In his analysis he explains,”From the 1970s to the 1990s, rates of marital dissolution fell by almost half among 4-year college graduates, but remained relatively high and steady among women with less than a 4-year college degree.”

The divorce rate for women without undergraduate degrees has remained around 35% since 1980. For women with a college degree, the divorce rate has shrunk from 27% to 16% since the 1980’s. Martin explains many factors that can contribute to this including socioeconomic status, wage patterns, equality among women and a shift in educational attainment. For example, Martin argues women who are at the low end of the educational spectrum might have a harder time finding a husband.

On the contrary, the report suggests that women who have a strong career might “have strong career attachment and economic independence that weaken their marital commitment.” Dr. Martin explains another possible link for changing divorce rates could be factors such as a shift in personal values among younger generations, changes in society unrelated to economic inequality and a change from collective to individualistic interests.

Baby Boomers and Millennial Changes

According to the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S Census Bureau, in 2015, 10 out of 50 (up from 5) couples over 50 years old got divorced. Additionally, for those ages 65 and older the divorce rate roughly tripled since 1990 at 6 out of every 100 couples. As of 2015, Baby Boomers (those roughly between the ages of 51 to 69 make up the bulk of these ages that have a climbing divorce rate.

The numbers indicate that the shorter time a couple has been married, the higher the chance of a divorce is for adults 50 and older. By contrast, divorce rates for adults between 25 to 39 have fallen from 30 out of every 1,000 to only 24. This is because the median age at first marriage has increased by about 4 years for men and women since 1990.

According to an article in the New York Times, the divorce rate peaked in the 1970’s and has been declining for three decades. Money seems to be a big concern for millennials and tying the knot can also come along with a heavy burden of debt. According to The Knot’s 2015 wedding study, the average cost of a wedding in America is now $32,641. A new trend being explored by millennials is wedding loans.

What does this mean for you and your future spouse? If you listen to financial experts, they suggest prolonging an engagement before you say “I do.” Does this information make you feel more informed or more depressed about marriage?

Cultivating Resilience in Children

Cultivating Resilience in Children

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of childhood resilience. In fact, this inquisitiveness led me to a career in child psychology and the non profit sector working with the world’s most disadvantaged children. I’ve made it my life’s work to understand how trauma affects children and help them to cope with it. The curiosity came out of an eagerness to understand my own profound resiliency after having a childhood of chaos.

Shortly after the death of my mother, when I was a six-month-old infant, I was diagnosed with ‘failure to thrive’. My body simply wouldn’t grow until I felt safe and loved. Understandably, my father couldn’t cope with looking after an infant at that time and I was given away to be raised by relatives in another country.

By the age of three, I was given back to my father. One doesn’t have to be a psychologist to imagine the kind of trauma the first three years of my life entailed. The rest of my childhood and adolescence was filled with more hardship and challenges. And yet even though I faced so much adversity, I managed to overcome it. I ‘made it’. As a young adult, I was always told things like: ‘You must have had a guardian angel looking after you’ or ‘You’re really lucky’.

This led me to want to understand why some children are more resilient than others. Is it luck? Is it genetics? Is it the quality of relationships in the child’s life? And is there something we can do to cultivate resiliency in children so that when faced with life’s challenges they are able to cope and manage these situations?

Of course my childhood is on the extreme side of the spectrum but the reality is that all children will face some challenges in life whether at school or home. As parents, we want to bubble wrap our children keeping them from risk and harm. However, children require learning how to try and fail. They need to understand that not all stress is bad. As Dr. Bruce Perry’s renowned research has proven, ‘resilient children are made, not born.’ Research has identified a common set of factors that predispose children to positive outcomes in the face of adversity. I recently spent two days in Vancouver, B.C. at the Heart-Mind 2016 Conference on Cultivating Resilience by the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education.

The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education is focused on children’s social and emotional development. They call it fostering Heart-Mind well-being. Providing children with the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions which has been proven to not only improve their well-being but also improves their academic performance.

During the two day conference, parents, caregivers, and educators were informed of the latest research on how to promote resilience in children. Here’s everything you need to know and some free (and really cool!) resources:

5 Ways to Cultivate Resilience in Children

1. Relationships: The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult such as a teacher. The quantity and quality of relationships in a child’s life is key.

2. Altruism: Children can be empowered by helping others. Engage your child in age-appropriate volunteer work which gives the child a sense of purpose and meaning. For ideas you can check out my previous post.

3. Self Efficacy: Teach your children that they have a sense of control in their life. Enable them to believe in their power to change their own life.

4. Self Regulation: Provide opportunities for your children to strengthen their adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities through tools such as mindfulness. Mindfulness creates structural and functional changes in the brain that support a healthy response to stress.

5. Culture and Language: Mobilise sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions in your children. In order to be resilient the child needs a strong sense of self and identity. The more solid and rooted the child, the more resilient they will be. Children need a sense of family, it can be biological or anyone else that makes the child feel loved the feeling is reciprocated. A sense of community is important for the child to feel that they belong.

https://socialworkhelper.tumblr.com/post/152675287454/free-resources-boost-resilience-and-sel-skills-in

Leading Change – What Are the Alternatives?

When it comes to leading change and creating social movements, particularly when it involves people on the margins of society, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming success means “widening” the mainstream to accept a new group of previously excluded citizens.

change2Reverence may be paid to new rituals and customs. Changes may be made to environments to make them more accessible or representative. Language may be scrutinised and modified to create a more welcoming lexicon. Laws may change to increase rights and entitlements.

In themselves, these acknowledgements are important and meaningful because they achieve their intent – to decrease exclusion and increase participation.

On a deeper level, however, these gestures can miss an important point: that the mainstream, the majority, gets to remain in its safe bubble of normality. Its only discomfort is to grin and bear the odd stranger or strange practice until they stop or become familiar.

Examples include using Maori words in the weather forecast only during Maori Language Week; building a ramp in a school but not talking about a competitive education culture that values individual success over teamwork; or legalising gay marriage without addressing heteronormative assumptions that prevent people discussing sexual and gender orientation in open, non-threatening ways.

What I would call “fringe leadership” is the commitment to doing things the other way around. It’s about bringing the mainstream to the marginalised minority with the intention of disrupting the dominant culture.

Imagine bringing mainstream students into a “special” education environment – what would that look like? Would special education meet mainstream learning needs? If not, what does that say about special education?

Imagine a commitment by the country to incrementally increase the use of Te Reo Maori language in public life? First integration with the weather forecast, then Government departments, schools, and other public places? How long would it take to have a bilingual population? How would bilingualism add to authentic biculturalism?

Imagine greeting any stranger you met by inquiring about their sexual preference without the threat of hostility? What would the first question about a new born baby be if it wasn’t, “Is it a girl or a boy?”

Fringe leadership challenges us to rethink inclusion and accessibility. It poses questions like:

  • “What are our true intentions behind including and encouraging more to participate?”
  • “What are people giving up?”
  • “What am I prepared to give up?”

Fundamentally, fringe leadership asks us to look around and ask, “What are the alternatives?”

After #Ferguson: Taking a Stand in Governance

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In the wake of #Ferguson, we can all agree that something needs to be done. I think we can all agree that we need to stand in a way we haven’t for many years. We need to take responsibility for what is going on in our communities. We need to do better and there are ideas as to how to do this.

According to a recent article in The Root, it argues that “Black America Needs Its Own President”, and I wholeheartedly disagree. For years, we had something akin to this in the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson but then we are still having the same conversations. We are still reactive and not largely proactive. We are still asking for the same things and making the same demands.

We don’t need our own president what we need is to take responsibilities for ourselves and form a coalition to directly address behaviour, policies and practices that are detrimental to the way we are viewed globally and treated locally. They need to be able to directly and assertively lobby for changes that obliterate racial disparities.

We need to develop a caucus that goes into our communities where there are issues and organize strategic action that doesn’t include violence or destroying our own communities. We are a people of immense and immeasureable talent and potential. We need representative voices that are not only saying something new but are about real action – strategic and targeted that would uplift and empower our communities.

Having one person we look to when things go wrong isn’t the answer. We are a diverse people living in diverse communities all over the country. If we had a caucus where individual leaders from Black communities could come together we can start having the conversations that lead to action plans. We need to address our economic needs and start to build community wealth so we are in a position to help each other instead of relying on others.

There is no reason our community shouldn’t be as prosperous as others. It isn’t about amassing wealth as much as it about being able to help our own through crisis. So many have been doing it for so long, meanwhile we are still waiting for our 40 acres. I can’t stand people who continue to perpetuate a myth. We are the only people who rely on our oppressors for progress. Are we serious? This is why we have made progress but have not become leaders and drivers of changes in our communities.

I agree that there needs to be a Black presence to represent our interests but it does not need to come in the form of one person who is on the media stage. It would be more empowering to go into communities and help develop local leaders who can then come to the table to represent their communities.

The problems individual communities face are problems our community faces on the whole. There are those who still see our problems as the problem of “Black Americans”, having amassed their own wealth through hard work and dedication and I believe this is what is needed. But we also need to realise that the resources to achieve this are not readily available to everyone and there are communities that are systematically disenfranchised and would benefit from assistance and motivation from their peers in order to see and experience success. We need to help each other out of the trenches and onto the the path of prosperity.

There is no reason for us to rely on others to take us out of the shadows; we have everything we need within. It is about having the conversations (new one because quite frankly, there have been apologies for slavery, we need to stop expecting our oppressors to help us progress – i.e. move away from the fairy tale of our 40 acres and a mule, and we need to wholly understand the impact of racism ourselves) that will lead to strategic plans to impact the world around us so it will change in favor of us.

A coalition of communities leaders could do this. Yes they will come with their own agendas and understandably, so they come from varied communities. However, it doesn’t change the fact that there are some issues that are pervasive and need to be addressed. We can balance the two, addressing issues of the Black community as a whole while helping individual communities develop.

To be more specific I think the remit of a caucus or a coalition could be:

  • making “community call outs” on any prominent figures – local, nationally, or internationally – who are doing or saying things that are counterproductive to change, prosperity and progression.
  • manage image of the Black community in the media
  • manage community issues before they become national statistics and fodder for stereotyping
  • sending consultants to communities to help in times of crisis (public relations, organizing, creating strategic actions plans for change led by local leaders)
  • sending consultants to communities where leaders appeal to the caucus for assistance
  • training of local community on change management, building community resources, and training local “champions” to manage local political processes
  • aiding in ensuring there is equal political representation and policing in communities where Black people dominate the population (to start)
  • re establishing town hall meetings as a means of addressing local issues and manage them independently
  • building of funds to fund community interventions
  • financial drives: possibly local drives to address their own issues
  • national drives: appeals to organizations and representation for national crisis fund

We have all the talent and ability to unite and do better. Having a national voice is part of it but listening to local voices is the bulk of it. Let’s build on what we have to increase what we have.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Milwaukee Community Journal

Winning the Boss Lottery

US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez (Left) President of Center for American Progress Neera Tandan (Right)

A couple of months ago, I attended the first ever White House Summit on Working Families in Washington, DC. While many of the President’s opponents saw the Summit as a publicity stunt or a way to cater to the democratic base, the Summit focused on several themes such as paid family medical leave, workplace flexibility, paid sick leave, and much more. Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, spoke eloquently about her experience in “Winning the Boss Lottery”. Weeks later, her speech continues to resonate with me, but this time for more personal reasons.

The weekend I left for the Summit, my sister suffered a stroke which has left her paralyzed on the right side, and I am thankful for the ability to work predominately online which allows me the flexibility to be there for my family when needed. Fortunately, my brother-in-law works at Stuken, a wonderful company, which has never penalized their family for having life changing events throughout his years of employment. Again needing time off of work after dealing with an illness of his own, I asked him if he was concerned about losing his job, and he replied, “not at all”. While staying at the hospital with my sister, a delivery guy walked in with a big bouquet of flowers, and the card read, “Wishing you well from the Stuken Family”.

How many of you are confident that your job would not be in jeopardy if you suffered a life changing event such as a taking care of an elderly parent, chronically ill child, cancer diagnosis, a stroke, car accident, workplace accident or other serious illness? Would a life changing event derail your fast track to promotion, encourage your boss to identify ways to relieve you from your position, or will you have to choose between saving your job, unemployment, or not being there for your family?

Not everyone can work for a company like Stuken, but supervisors, bosses, and policy makers within a company have the ability to craft a workplace culture to support their employees whether they are experiencing a life changing event or not. Having a great boss shouldn’t carry the same odds as winning the Powerball, but when you hit the jackpot, you definitely know when you have landed yourself a great boss and a good company to work for.

I hit the boss lottery once, and I am going to share with you why I stayed with a company for 10 years despite outgrowing the position five years earlier.

A great boss and company….

1. Measures Progress and not Process

This is the first step where a lot of supervisors and bosses go wrong. Those who obsess about the steps you make to complete the job versus having the skills to develop measurable outcomes and ways to monitor progress tend to stifle creativity and ingenuity in their employees. A great leader surrounds him/herself with employees who excel in areas they are weak, and their ability to see the bigger picture in order to accomplish the mission and goals of the team is what makes them an excellent leader.

Bosses who fail at being good leaders are insecure in their own ability and will often perceive a great employee as a threat instead of an asset. As a result of having leeway in how I handled my investigations, I was able to identify a security flaw their current computer system was not programmed to look for which saved the company a fortune in future losses.

2. Understands Quid Pro Quo (This for That)

A great boss doesn’t treat their employees as a resource to siphon off in order to make themselves look good. They invest in your development as an employee. My boss use to say, “When you shine, I shine”, and this was the philosophy in which she ran her department which had zero turnover. A position did not open up until after my sixth year, but it was only because someone retired. During this time, I was given access to training and a security clearance higher than most supervisors above me. My base pay was meager, but my bonuses often exceeded my base pay. For every loss I prevented, prosecuted or recovered, the company paid me a percentage in a bonus because they understood the cost benefits analysis of having motivated investigators. Most importantly, it made me feel like a valued member of the team.

Another area bosses fail is when they utilize a quota system to measure an employee’s performance to determine whether the employee will keep their job or not. Quota performance metrics will drive employees to meet the minimums because their pay will be the same no matter the input, in addition, quota systems increase liability, risk-taking, and stress for the employee and the company.

Today, many employers treat employees as if they should be grateful to have a job which ultimately is terrible for their bottom line. If a company would reinvest into an employee discount, benefits, or bonus plan instead of increasing their acceptable losses, productivity would go up while losses would go down. Believe me, as evident in my former job investigating employees, employees will find a way to offset the bad behavior of their boss/employer.

3. Knows Workplace Flexibility Is A Necessity

My boss, as well as her boss, were both outcomes driven in how they assessed employee performance. As long as the job was done within ethical boundaries, they didn’t stress how we got it done. When it came to needing time off, scheduling, leaving earlier, or dealing with a family crisis, the ability to take care of our family was given equal importance to getting the job done. From the time I started until they both retired, we were given the ability to set our own schedules by letting them know what days and hours we would work.

Having bosses that were invested in me as an employee as well as the well-being of my family inspired loyalty and trust. The workplace culture they cultivated inspired employee performance to go through the roof in all departments. As a result, they received lots of awards and accolades. We received lots of catered dinners, company cookouts while we worked, and my department got taken out for steak dinners a lot because we minimized the loss portion from the Profit and Loss Statement. After they retired and the workplace culture changed, employee turnover, profit losses, and employee theft also increased.

What I learned…

Mentorship and workplace culture can have a profound effect on work output and productivity. As a result of the millennial generation, more and more companies are beginning to implement workplace strategies to retain and inspire their workforce with flexible work culture, wellness, and corporate responsibility programs. Maybe you don’t have the power to change your company’s entire culture but as a manager, what can you do to change the work culture of your department to help enhance productivity?

New Year’s Resolution: Achieve Work Life Balance to Prevent Stress

Jeremy Roberts on Work Life Balance
Jeremy Roberts on Work Life Balance

The Mental Health Foundation says when it comes to work-life balance they are “concerned that a sizable group of people are neglecting the factors in their lives that make them resilient to mental health problems”. In a survey conducted by the foundation, 40% of employees reported that they were neglecting other aspects of their life because of work. The survey also found that the more time you spend at work, the more time you spend thinking or worrying about it at home.

In another survey from HSE, it would seem that social workers, teachers, and those in public administration were the most stressed out due to work. Respondents said that ‘work pressure’, ‘lack of support at work’, and ‘bullying at work’ were the biggest causes of stress in their lives.

Both employers and employees have a responsibility to ensure that a positive work-life balance is achieved and maintained.

What Can Employers Do?

It is most definitely in the interest of the employer that their employees achieve a positive work-life balance. Employees who don’t achieve this often end up taking longer periods off due to sickness. Performance can also be affected, with the employee becoming tired, losing focus, and underachieving, despite being star players early on.

The first issue to be tackled is the attitude of the senior management. Earlier this year German Employment Ministry bosses were banned from emailing or calling their staff members outside of working hours to try and help avoid burnout. This is known as ‘minimum intervention’ and is something that needs to come right from the very top of the company. Occasionally we will all have to put a few extra hours in at work but this shouldn’t be a continual expectation. Employers can find themselves in hot water for promoting this kind of culture (whether said or unsaid) and so it is best to set out a work-life balance policy as early as possible.

The primary obligation of the employer is to ensure that an employee’s job is manageable within their contracted hours. Employers should also train their managers to spot the warning signs of a poor work-life balance in employees. These include a loss of focus, a change in personality/behaviour, an increase in absenteeism, and other general stress symptoms (crying, sensitivity, irritability etc.). The gathering of feedback from employees on a regular basis is also very important. This will only work where companies have set out a culture that allows for open and honest discussion.

Another option for employers is to offer their staff members certain benefits, such as child and health care schemes, which will help them to juggle their responsibilities and stay in full health.

What Can Employees Do?

As an employee, your first responsibility is to ensure that you are managing your time effectively. Basic organisation and time management skills can very often mean the difference between getting off on time and having to put in extra hours. There is a saying which tells us to ‘work smart, not hard’. However, if you are still struggling you must speak up about the difficulties you are having with your workload or the amount of pressure you are under. Your employer won’t be able to remedy the problem if they are unaware of it. If you find yourself consistently working long hours then keep a record of it. Note the day, task, and duration so that you have a log that you can show to your manager in any subsequent discussions.

Try and set boundaries with your employer when it comes to working outside of work hours. What are their expectations for answering emails or picking up phone calls? Do not be afraid to challenge these expectations so as to achieve a solution you are both happy with that pre-empts any blowups later down the line.

Also, try and set boundaries with yourself. Make a conscious effort to enjoy your leisure time. Work may feel quite consuming at times but very often a trip to the gym or a meal out with the family can do wonders for boosting your mood. Discipline yourself to go out for a walk at lunchtime. You may feel as though you don’t have time but you will probably find that the quality and speed of your work improves after you have stretched your legs for 20 minutes. You should also watch what you eat as certain foods can really affect our energy levels. Avoid energy drinks and caffeine tablets as they are a (very) short term solution that will only mask the problem.

There can also be activities outside of work that cause you to be busier than necessary. Take stock of all your commitments and activities and ensure that they are either enjoyable or productive. Sometimes we can get bogged down with things out of habit, even if they cease to be useful to us. A lot of us are also quite bad at saying no and so easily over commit ourselves.

If someone asks you to do something reply by asking them for a few minutes to think about it as opposed to jumping straight in with a yes. And remember, what works for one person does not always work for another. Each of us have different lives and balance can look different depending on our individual circumstances. Find out what works for you and stick to it.

Simple Ways To Improve Restricted Breathing Habits

How can you make a mistake when you breathe? After all, you’ve been able to survive this far! If you’ve observed your body, breath and posture when you are anxious before a meeting or around a stressful relationship you’ll often find a few characteristics. The shoulders may be raised up high and the breathing may be chest breathing with shallow breaths. Breathing can also be irregular when we are under stress. In yoga teachings they say that many people often take fifteen breaths in a minutes. With practice, one can slow it down to four or five breaths per minute. Breathing is natural and doesn’t seem like something we can improve, but having inner tension can result in shallow and jerky breathing patterns. In yoga and meditation, often breaths such as alternate nostril breathing, breath of fire and segmented breaths are used to help the body and mind relax.

BreathingTry to watch what your breathing pattern is when you have tension around work, school, family, money or other concerns. Don’t judge yourself, but just look at it. If you start criticizing yourself, you are adding in additional thoughts that can result in agitation. Just watch where you hold the tension. Is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders close to your ears? Do you feel that your breath is incomplete?

One way to check is to make a contrast. If you have a view from your house or are near a natural setting, see what the quality of your breathing is when you look at something beautiful. How does the rest of your body feel? One of my clients who is a teenager told me she never gets headaches when she sleeps at her grandmother’s house. We all have settings where we know our breathing is deeper and more relaxed. Music can also have that effect and that is easy to use in the house or when you can’t get to a natural setting.

Put a Light Pillow On Your Belly To Practice

Years ago, I took a yoga class and the instructor had a place a light pillow on our bellies while we were on our backs. This is a good way to practice diaphragmatic breathing. The belly will rise up, towards the sky with the inhale. That is how a baby breathes. This helps the lungs inflate with oxygen. It is called “paradoxical” breathing when the opposite pattern occurs. Many people inhale and the belly goes in, chest tightens and shoulders go up. Try to practice ten minutes a day with a pillow on your belly and watch feel it rise when you inhale.

Jody’s School Stress

Two years ago I had a 15 year old client who went to a private school and she felt inferior due to her family’s low income situation. She only had a “flip” phone and her clothing was not from well-known designer brands. Though on one level, she knew that status symbols were shallow, she also felt it hurt her social life.

I encouraged her to let others see her creative sides as she made excellent animations and was talented in drawing. She was too shy to do this, but did want to have more inner tranquility. I showed her this breathing (pranayama ) meditation and she found it was quite helpful when she fell into comparisons with others.

A Pranayama Meditation

This is a kundalini yoga meditation taught in a 1971 class by Yogi Bhajan.

In the first part, sit comfortably with hands in the lap and have the tip of the thumb touch the tip of the index finger with relaxed hands. It’s fine to sit in a chair or on the ground cross-legged. Breathe slowly, filling the belly, then ribs and finally upper chest. Hold the breath for ten seconds and then exhale for five seconds. If it is too long to hold it for ten seconds, then reduce the time so it’s comfortable. This can be done for a few minutes and then another minute can be added where the holding period of the breath is increased a few seconds longer. Feel the breath and bring the mind back to the inhalation and exhalation as thoughts arise.

In the second part, close your eyes and look mentally at the third eye point. Close off the right nostril using your thumb and take a nice, slow inhalation through the left nostril. Hold it for fifteen to twenty seconds. Then close off the left nostril and exhale through the right in four sniffs. Do this same pattern for three to four minutes (inhaling through the left side and exhaling in four sniffs through the right side.). After doing this, try to do two more minutes with the same pattern, except you’ll exhale with 8 sniffs rather than four sniffs. This has a calming effect on the mind and body. The thoughts may continue, but the mind has a different relation to them.

Malala Yousafzai and Women’s Rights in Islamic Countries

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Women in Muslim countries often do not have the same rights and privileges as women in the West such as the right of education or the right to employment. Author, activist, and survivor Malala Yousafzai is a perfect example of the challenges and barriers Muslim women face in Islamic countries. In her native country of Pakistan, women and young girls were denied the right to education. Malala Yousafzai begins to speak on every media platform available to her on the importance of education.

An outspoken critic of the Taliban’s tactics in her native Swat Valley from a young age, Malala was the subject of an attempted assassination at the hands of a Taliban gunman because she was unafraid to speak out.

Then, at just 14 years old, a Talib fighter boarded her bus, pointed a pistol at her head, and pulled the trigger. But she survived, made a full recovery in England, and has become and transformative figure in human rights.

Now, she is poised to become the youngest Nobel Peace laureate ever.  Read More

Modern women in the West have the same rights and privileges as men such as the right to jobs, pay, and education. They have the right to vote in elections and engage in politics. Western women can wear whatever they want, and their freedom of expression is not a criminal act.

Women can drive, cut their hair and join in sports events, and cheating on your spouse is not cause for a death sentence. All these things when spoken aloud (or, in this case written) may seem ridiculous, but they are just a small part of the rights they may not accessible to Muslim women.

In Muslim countries, these rights are taken away from women and doubled to men. It is legal to beat your wife if she doesn’t listen to you or argues with you. A few years ago, another article appeared in the news about a Norwegian woman who was studying in Dubai. While at home, four guys around her age got into her room and raped her. Later, she went to make a report to the police. Unfortunately, she was not able to bring an accusation against them in the absence of having no male witnesses. What’s shocking about this case, she was charged and faced six months in prison for having unlawful sex.

Religion’s main function is to unite people for good and not to separate them from ‘lower’ or ‘higher’ class of human beings. We’re all the same, no matter our skin color, appearance, or sex. Maybe most of us do not understand Islam, but the truth is social evils in today’s society such as oppression, domestic violence, and the abuse of women are not confined to any one race, religion, or region of the world.

Malala Yousafzai made an appearance on Jon Stewart to talk about women’s rights, education, and her book “I am Malala”. Most importantly, she continues to advocate for equality for Muslim women. View the video below:

4 Reasons Knitting May Help Keep You Sane

Can knitting help keep you sane? Homesteading seems to be a part of hipster culture nowadays. It’s not uncommon to see young folks interested in canning their own food, planting urban gardens, and knitting their own clothing. Knitting can be more than just a hip thing to do, however.  There’s actually some interesting research out there on the mental health benefits of knitting or crocheting.

Here are some of the ways knitting has been demonstrated to help with stress relief:

1. Alpha-waves.

Knitting tends to heighten the brain’s alpha-wave output. These are brain waves that are seen when a person is fully awake but in a relaxed, blissful, and addictive state.  They also can occur during yoga, meditation, and even after smoking a cigarette.  This explains why many knitters say it helps them to de-stress and why many keep returning to knitting for coping time and time again. BATH_GEN_RE_KnitAndNatter

2. It’s tactile.

There’s soft yarn, rough yarn, fuzzy yarn, thick yarn, thin yarn, you name it.  Just handling yarn can be relaxing for some people. Combine that with the repetitive motions and counting and you can see how knitting is really quite sensory. Finished products can range from silky smooth to bumpy and puffy. Imagine touching something you made yourself that feels really great!

3. Challenges, problem solving, and growth.

Once you’ve made a scarf, a hat seems like a good challenge.  Next thing you know, you are making sweaters and blankets- increasing your skills and taking small (or big) leaps in the difficulty of your projects, which can be very rewarding.  Knitting also gives you an opportunity to fix mistakes in your projects and you are forced to do so with patience and attention to detail. If you are changing a pattern, you will find yourself growing in your ability to use problem solving skills, basic math, and creativity.  Practicing challenges, problem solving, and fixing mistakes could improve how you cope with real-life/non-yarn dilemmas too.

4. Pride and spreading the knitted gospel.

If you have ever made a yarn project, you remember feeling proud of what you accomplished at one point or another. I still remember how pleased I was with myself when I made a simple square pot holder as one of my first projects over 4 years ago. A 2010 survey found that the average knitter has taught about 8.5 people how to knit as well, making knitting a social activity that folks get excited about sharing.  Gift giving is the primary reason for knitting for about 13% of people in the same survey, again sharing and accomplishment are highlighted.

How can knitting be used in therapy?

Therapists can encourage clients who knit to use knitting as a coping skill during times of stress. “Knit to Quit” and similar programs teach clients to use knitting as an alternative to substance abuse, particularly cigarette smoking.

Therapists can ask clients to bring in a piece of work and talk about why they like it, what it means to them, etc.

Therapists can help clients with feelings identification and mood tracking by having them knit using a color or yarn type that relates to how they felt emotionally for that day. I’ve seen this done with projects like blankets where clients can add a row per day using different colors.

Therapists can allow clients to bring in projects that would help them focus during sessions-either a completed project they can touch or play with to calm them down or an easy project they can knit while talking.

Do you knit for stress relief? Have you ever used knitting as a therapeutic intervention?

Ecological Systems Theory and Practice: Analytic Hierarchy

Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) is mathematical thinking about decision analysis based on linear algebra. It is useful when the elements included in the decision are subjective, such as is all human decisions. AHP holds that individual perception, relevant facts, and interrelationships among inputs and agents must be considered in order to predict outcomes. AHP allows for the non-logical, seemingly unpredictable nature of human interaction. The process includes three steps similar to operational modeling in form and function. Step one identifies the decision objectives, criteria, constraints, and alternatives into a hierarchy. Step two evaluates comparisons of options two-by-two at each level of the hierarchy. Step three synthesizes the results of the comparisons utilizing a solution algorithm. Saaty (1988) suggests that “the algorithm result gives the relative importance of alternative courses of action” (Saaty, 1988, p110).

Let us use AHP in a decision about ice cream. Step one: We determine that Polly, our client wants to eat some ice cream. Her favorite flavor is chocolate. She is driving. So, she needs two have a delivery method that only requires one hand. She does not want to wait to eat the ice cream. Step two: We outline the options, and determine predictions.
AHP In Step three, we begin to recognize a pattern of conditionals on which Polly’s choices are based. We construct an algorithm—a set of steps based on her preferences, the options available, and the situation in which she finds herself. We use this algorithm to determine the potential for alternatives. For example, if her options of a place to stop only included burger diners. Our algorithm suggests that Polly would choose the diner that has a drive-thru and sells chocolate ice cream in a cone.

Of course, other client choices involve seemingly more complex decisions. But, recognize that complexity rests with the client preferences, options perceived, and the situation. The analytic hierarchy process helps to manage this complexity.

I have advanced a new model, Perception of Self in Environment-Reality (POSE-R) to encapsulate the theoretical constructs of ecological systems and the presuppositions of AHP. This chapter discusses your ability to influence human systems outcomes through analysis of complexity. Each level in our system (individual, institution, and environment) has questions that assist your analysis. Even before you get to the mathematics and the specific solution algorithm, you are able to outline the ecological construct of human decision making—choice!

It should be noted here that the full AHP that attends the POSE-R model includes WILL as a prerequisite to CHOICE. The full AHP includes will, choice, consciousness, self-efficacy, institution, and movement. I will not discuss the full AHP because that discussion moves beyond the constructs of ecological systems theory and practice (EST&P) toward an integral theoretical construct, AQAL Cube, which allows us to discuss quantum consciousness and non-local, non-linear realities (Neale, 2013). Basically, utilizing the AQAL Cube and integral theory, we are not bound by the 4 dimensions that can be represented in a flat graphic. Integral theory allows us to conceptualize multiple chessboards, interrelated, operating all at the same time.

After reading this section, you will be able to:

  1. Construct an assessment that extends from the precipitating event to provide predictive information in preparation for intervention.
  2. Conduct an ecological assessment including environmental, institutional, and individual elements in a description of Perception of Self in Environment – Reality (POSER).
  3. Articulate the questions and inferential value of context, control, and choice.

Precipitating Events and Presenting Problems
As we have discussed in our review of ecological systems theory and practice, our basic hierarchy includes the individual, the institution, and the environment in an interrelated fashion. We have explored mapping and lexicon meant to conceptualize an understanding of the basic complexity of human systems. Our goal all along was to utilize the model of ecological systems theory and practice to predict outcomes. If we are able to PREDICT outcomes based on systems and inputs, we can conceivably intervene in those systems and INFLUENCE outcomes.

This is the justification for efficacy in social work assessment. Prior events shape the client’s perception of the current event. I propose that your assessment of the current event, the presenting problem, is not just as assessment of the problem, but an attempt to map both the influence of prior events AND the impact of current events. This assessment of BOTH can be termed the client’s Perception of Self in Environment – Reality (POSE-R).

Based in the construct of ecological systems theory and practice as we have discussed it, your task is to answer three general questions. These questions indicate other questions that expand our assessment into POSE-R context, control and choice, which directly connect to environmental practice sociocybernetics, institutional control systems, and individual agents.

General Questions in Ecological Assessment
• What are the social contracts supported by the economic, political, technological, and social environment?
• What are the interactive effects of the intersection of person, environment, and institutional exposure?
• What is the assessed profile and goal of the individual?

A Matter of Context: Environment Questions
Environmental practice Sociocybernetics provide a context for the review of the presenting problem. This analysis sets the stage for your engagement in social change. With this framework, you can suggest interaction schedules or lifestyle changes, financial services and literacy, innovations and technological tools, and social policies that alleviate the problem, support coping, and promote sustainable adaptation.

• What were the exposure, experiences, circumstances, and expectations prior to the choice?
• What were the financial circumstances and expectations central to the choice?
• What technologies enhanced or hindered capabilities?
• What policies are pertinent to the execution of the choice?

A Matter of Control: Institution Questions
Institutional control systems are a practical way of defining and reviewing institutions. Institutions are not buildings. They are constructs that suggest normative behavior. With this definition, consider that the major institutions in civil life are Marriage, Family, Education, Business, Faith & Volunteerism, and Health Care.

With this framework, you are able to model the structural influences on individual choice and group dynamic. This is especially useful when you need to cognitively restructure understanding or re-educate clients. Instead of conceptualizing the need for education as central to the intervention, this framework suggests that you recognize the influence of institutions (the control systems) as central to the intervention.
• What are the individual needs and expected behaviors as the client enters the control system?
• What routines and values are communicated through the control system?
• What are the controls implemented during execution of the control system?
• What is the expected outcome of the control system?
• How is feedback used after exit from the control system?

A Matter of Choice: Individual Questions
The individual agent conception offers a view of the client as both unique and active. Your task is to compose a profile of the individual agent that accounts for the complexities inherent in behavior, cognition, and meaning. Behavior is the result of choices. Cognition is the knowledge brought to bear in the decision making process. Meaning included the interactive effects of environment, institution, and individual uniqueness to produce the individual REALITY.

You are practiced in offering services and increasing options. Consider that some clients were NEVER in a position REALISTICALLY to perceive the services and options as viable for their situation. Efficacious practice means that you include this awareness in your treatment planning. Competence demands that you have a theoretical framework that offers some certainty in assessing and intervening in these situations.

With this individual agent framework, you are able to model the choice architecture of the individual agent. You can predict what options the client will see as possible. You can intervene intentionally to expand meaning and expand what is REALISTIC to the client. The foundational constructs for individual agent profile are Biology, Psychology, Sociology, Spirituality, and Meaning producing the following questions:

• Is the choice age appropriate and not the result of disease?
• Is the choice informed from multiple and competing sources?
• Is the choice free from undue influence except that it maintains the culture of the in-group?
• Is the choice based on factors that are not readily observed or are unique only to the client?
• What is the impact of OUR interaction on cognition, meaning, and potential behaviors?

Conclusion: The Root of the Problem
And here it is. My grand contribution to the knowledge base concerning ecological systems theory and practice: THE ROOT OF ALL HUMAN STRUGGLE IS CHOICE. This individual choice is confounded in institutional system structures. We seemingly lose the ability to identify the origin, to re-educate, and to introduce new options because, in institutions, the individual identity gives way to the collective identity. Once the norms and values become widespread influencing the creation of new infrastructure, problematic, unsustainable behaviors become the context from which all behaviors are judged. This is how unsustainable choices become reasonable to many. It is how culture becomes reprobate.

The solution begins at the root. Yet, the solution must address each level in the hierarchy: context, control and choice. Though the individual identity seems lost in the institution, it still maintains the predictive nature of its identity. It still responds predictably to transactions, environment, and culture based on individual choice. Social workers are uniquely trained to assess and intervene at each of these levels. The choice rests with you. The control system of social work education must integrate this knowledge. Social workers must be agents of sustainability and culture change.

Reading this series was a good start. My hope is that you see the both the immediate use of EST&P as well as the limitations of the model. Linear, system-bounded representations of human behavior are useful because they provide a construct for our beginning questions. They can even provide a foundation for simple predictions. Yet, in order to explore more complex predictions, we must employ a more robust, multidimensional model as our foundation. The mathematics of the model are useful in calculating probability, but you will be much more interested in the behaviors they present as most probable. Trained practitioners make these calculations intuitively. I offer this advancement for those who want to understand and more intentionally implement their intuition.

Bibliographic Notes
Neal, L. (June 2013). The AQAL cube for dummies. Intergral Leadership Review. [Retrieved from http://integralleadershipreview.com/9013-the-aqal-cube-for-dummies/ August 14, 2013].

Saaty, T.L. (1988). What is the analytic hierarchy process? Mathematical Models for Decision Support, 48. Springer. 109-121.

10 Ways Therapists Go Wrong

It’s not uncommon for a client to enter my office with previous experiences in therapy elsewhere. When meeting a new client, I always make sure that I ask: “Tell me what you liked or did not like about therapy before. What worked? What didn’t work?”

I don’t want to offend a client in the same way another therapist may have and I really don’t want to waste time trying interventions that just don’t fit.

Here are some of the ways therapists have gone wrong, according to clients I have asked:

1. “They made me talk about _____ when I really needed to work on ______. ” 

Missing the mark.  Sometimes it is hard to not push our own agenda as therapists, especially when our knowledge and experience is telling us what clients really need to work on. Having buy-in from the client is crucial.  I think we explain why it may be important to discuss a certain topic, then clients are more receptive. Another common complaint here is digging up the past when unnecessary.

2. “They were late all the time.”

I have trouble understanding this one. Barring crisis situations, therapists need to respect and model time boundaries. I think 15 minutes is reasonable, but I’ve heard stories of clients consistently waiting over an hour. Frequent cancellations are another common complaint.

3. “I left their office feeling worse than when I came in.”

I think this could relate to unnecessarily digging up the past, but it also has to do with hope.  Of course there will be sessions where problems aren’t solved in 50 minutes, but homework and talking about future improvement is important. Effective therapy can bring up uncomfortable feelings, but hopefully with informed consent and some discussion, clients can learn to accept temporary discomfort as part of getting better.

4. “They wanted to pray during sessions.”

I hear pretty frequently about situations where the therapist tries to bring religion into therapy unsuccessfully. Many clients find religious practices to be a helpful adjunct to their treatment. However, we need to take care to be culturally competent and respectful of others’ religious beliefs. Remember that freedom of religion also means freedom to have no religion for many people.

5. “They relapsed.” or “They invited me to use with them”.

Self-care is so important for therapists, especially when they are in recovery from substance abuse or mental illness themselves. It can be really damaging to a client’s confidence that they will get better if even their expert therapist has failed. It is okay for therapists to have problems, but we are also responsible for demonstrating how to cope with these issues.  If you are having an acute substance abuse or mental health problem you need to get help, even if that means leaving your job until you are well enough to return.

6. “They fell asleep”

This one is hard for me to believe, but I’ve heard it several times. We all have clients who are depressed, flat, monotone or dull, but there is no excuse for falling asleep during a session. If you are so exhausted that you risk falling asleep during a session, then you need to get a strong coffee or cancel appointments for the day and rest up!

7. “It was too expensive.”

This is one that most therapists can’t avoid.  Truth is that overall, therapy is a luxury for most people. Offering sliding scale or case management to get appropriate healthcare resources can help.

8. “They didn’t seem accepting of _____.”

Just fill in the blank with anything remotely controversial. I’ve heard of clients who felt their therapist didn’t respect their sexual orientation, mixed race relationships, spiritual beliefs, culture, politics, you name it.  I think most therapists view themselves as being open minded, but everyone has their own bias and it can really show to sensitive clients. Refer to another provider if you need to.

9. “It seemed like they wanted to talk about their own problems.”

Sounds like a pretty classic self-care issue. It can be really helpful to disclose to clients your own experience, but this needs to be done very carefully and ideally after consult with a supervisor or colleague. If a client gets the feeling that you need them to listen to your problems, they probably will end up feeling like you can’t handle their issues. Not to mention feeling neglected themselves.

10.” They abandoned me.”

This is a by-product of our mental health system that has left too many therapists with the experience of showing up to work only to find a note on a locked door saying the company has closed. It is unfortunate that this happens because it can be so damaging for clients.  My first two jobs as a therapist ended abruptly and despite my attempts, I was forced to say goodbye to my clients with very short or no notice. I felt so guilty and awful that I wasn’t able to even make referrals for some clients to get set up with a different therapist elsewhere.

Ideally terminating the therapeutic relationship should involve wrapping up unresolved therapy issues, transferring to a new therapist, referral for community resources and a session to reflect back on the experience and say goodbye.  It is so rare in life that we get appropriate goodbyes in our relationships, so what a great experience to have if you can provide it.

I think what is most important is that we ask clients about their experiences and approach therapy as a collaborative process.  Checking in with clients periodically throughout treatment provides an opportunity for feedback.  If we are unaware of where we are going wrong, we can’t fix it.  What have your experiences been with helping clients who have dealt with some of these wrongdoings?

ID’s for All: A New Greensboro North Carolina Initiative

Amanda Huber MSW, Staff Writer

Faith Action International House has been building bridges in Greensboro, North Carolina for over 15 years ago by diversity and faith leaders. Faith Action employs immigrants and works for the immigrant population through interfaith and intercultural means. Immigrants from all over the world have made Greensboro their home and over 100 languages can be found in the Greensboro community. This is a result of Greensboro’s long history of refugee resettlement. Why is this important?

Greensboro is cultivating a community of immigrants through a collaboration of efforts by Faith Action International House, The Greensboro Police Department, and other religious groups in the community.  A non-citizen ID is being created to assist undocumented people who require identification to receive a  photo identification card. It is important to note that this ID is only valid within Greensboro, and it does not provide the same protections as a driver’s license. However,  it is apart of the process to cultivate relationships with immigrant populations.

The ID with Faith Action works in the following way. It is valid with the Greensboro Police Department and it allows people with the ID to not feel afraid of being taken into custody because of their lack of a photo ID, and it allows the police to feel confident that the person is who they say they are. The ID will not protect against ticketing, but it will protect against being held in police custody which may result in a call to Immigration and Custom Enforcement. The city police department is on board, and Faith Action hopes to get other institutions on board with this new initiative.

Why Else Would Anyone Want an ID?

photo credit: Victor L Antunez via photopin cc
photo credit: Victor L Antunez via photopin cc

American culture is focused on verifying who a person is. Being a part of the mainstream American culture requires identification. Picking up prescription drugs for the first time requires an ID, going to the library and getting a library card requires an ID, and hospitals prefer an ID to be on file.  Employers want to know who you are, although now this issue has been dealt with by utilizing the E-Verify program. Banks have their own rules about cashing checks which require some sort of identification.

When Can I get an ID?

Obtaining this ID is simple. It costs $10, and all you do is sit through an orientation where the details are explained. On ID day you bring your paperwork, a bill verifying your address, and a picture from a passport, school ID, work permit, or anything that confirms your face matches your name.

The next massive Faith Action ID day is in August.

Visit Faith Action’s Homepage for more information about the next mass orientation and ID day or go to their facebook page for updates.

 

Tackling Substance Abuse: Cory Monteith’s Untimely Death

Cory Monteith, better known as Finn Hudson on the hit TV show Glee, was found dead in his Vancouver Hotel on Saturday. At age 19, Monteith had already developed a severe substance abuse issues, and his abuse was not limited to any one drug.

Monteith has went into treatment  several times to get himself back on track, but he struggled with relapse which is part of the recovery process for all addicts. Cory admitted himself into treatment again in March of this year, and he had just completed this last attempt at treatment when he was found dead and alone in his hotel room. He was 31 years old at the time of his death.

I remember in Cory first appearance on Glee he sang “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey which made him an instant star. In a culture where many seek solace in the numbing effects of substances to heal their wounds, a man like Cory Monteith or his character Finn Hudson would refer to the healing power of song to talk about difficult topics.

In honor of Cory and in true Glee fashion:

“I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid

photo credit: shieldkitten via photopin cc
To take a stand, to take a stand

Everybody, everybody

Come take my hand, come take my hand

We’ll walk this route together through the storm

Whatever weather, cold or warm

Just lettin’ you know that you’re not alone

Holla if you feel like you’ve been down the same road” – Eminem’s Not Afriad

Reflecting on these lyrics it is uplifting and scary to face the madness and weather the storm, Eminem suffered with an addiction to pain killers and later with treatment he relapsed on Methadone pills ( Treatment Solutions) 

“Angel of darkness is upon you

Stuck a needle in your arm

photo credit: daveblume via photopin cc

So take another toke, have a blow for your nose

One more drink fool, will drown you

Ooooh that smell

Can’t you smell that smell

Ooooh that smell

The smell of death surrounds you”- Lynard Skynard’s That Smell

The famous Charlie Sheen dialogue comes to mind. These people have real stressors and they may also have a brain that is hardwired for addiction. It is often hard to think of celebrities as people and to remember that even people who make millions of dollars and are outwardly successful are capable of struggling with substance abuse in much the same way as the average person.

“And they scream

The worst things in life come free to us

Cause we’re just under the upper hand

And go mad for a couple grams

And she don’t want to go outside tonight

And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland

Or sells love to another man”- Ed Sherran’s A-Team

These songs shed light on some serious issues within the context of American culture. People would not have such passionate thoughts about these drugs and associated difficulties that accompany drug use if it were not for the counter culture that exists and has existed in the United States since prohibition.  Drug use has also been sensationalized and used in various circles, notably in the Hollywood scene. How many photos/ articles exist of Amanda Bynes or Lindsay Lohan using drugs/alcohol to cope with, or using to fit into specific scenes?

“But goddam, he loved that feeling

Purple rain coated in the throat, just so healing

Medicine alleviate the sickness

Liquid affix and it comes with a cost

Wake up, cold sweat, scratching, itching

Trying to escape the skin that barely fit him” -Macklemore’s Otherside

It is difficult to find support for substance abuse, because many hit rock bottom and have exhausted all of their resources they can before they search out anyone who can help. Celebrities have more spending money and access to “fun”, the line in the sand concerning abuse is harder to manage, and the pressure to have “fun” is more present due to the availability of money.

In an interview Cory Monteith had with People in 2011, Montieth was quoted:

“I don’t want kids to think it’s okay to drop out of school and get high, and they’ll be famous actors, too … But for those people who might give up: Get real about what you want and go after it.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WxPyUzWSPA

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