Cynthia R. Finnegan, LMSW, is a passionate Clinical Social Worker who has spent years helping the disadvantaged feel empowered and hopeful again. She welcomes questions and topic suggestions. Feel free to send them to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Peace, love, and hope aways!
|Posted on March 29, 2016 at 11:20 PM||comments (1)|
Never Too Old to Live Our Dreams
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney
As a clinician, I’ve heard countless stories over the years from individuals who were going through some of the toughest times in their lives. By the time they get to me, most feel extremely overwhelmed and completely hopeless. Face it, people don’t typically seek therapy if their lives are perfect. As a clinical social worker, I usually see people at their worse. When I first became a social worker, I used to become overwhelmed by the stories and would find myself pulling over on the side of the road to cry. Yet, I stuck it out and quickly learned to listen to the stories but hear the courage, perseverance, and strength. Since that time, each day has been a new adventure. I have met the most incredible people, I have seen and heard things that have changed my life. I could not imagine sitting at a desk crunching numbers all day or working in an emergency room with blood and gore all around me. I’m by no means knocking those professions, they’re great – they’re just not for me. I hate math and the thought of blood makes my stomach turn. I would make a horrible accountant and an even worse nurse or doctor. I’ve never balanced a check book, and I can recall every injury my son ever had due to the extreme panic and terror I felt at the time. Maybe in another entry, I’ll tell you about the time he ran to me with a fork sticking out of his eye, I literally almost died. . .
When I was young, I had no plans on becoming a social worker. I was a secretary for years, and took business classes at a community college with plans of entering the business world – not the human service field. Yet, life intervened. I changed. My dreams changed. After a decade of being out of school, a new dream was formed -- I dreamed of becoming a social worker and helping others overcome life's obstacles. It was at that time I enrolled back in college and dedicated my life to social work and serving others. I admit it was not easy. I was terrified. However, I walked through my fear and went for it.
I can’t tell you how many people come to me in their late 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s miserable in their career but too afraid to change fields or to go back to school to follow their dreams of what they really want to do for a living. The most common excuse I receive for people staying stuck is their age. They believe they are too old to jump out there and try something new. The fear of being the oldest in the classroom can be scary, I agree. Yet, it’s from walking through that fear that character and passion are nurtured and developed. My response to those who are stuck in fear has never changed over the years. It is not a text book answer nor is it something I learned from a social work training, it’s simply common sense. We are all going to age, why shouldn’t we be happy while doing so? If we have to work, why not work at something that brings us enjoyment?
While I was still finishing my degrees, I got pregnant with my son. I went to my social work mentor crying, convinced I had to drop out and give up on my dream of becoming a social worker. She looked at me with this perplexed look and simply asked, “Why?” I tried to make her understand that I was pregnant, there was no way I could finish schooling. Again, she simply responded with, “Why?” After a few minutes of this one sided conversation that consisted of me crying and hysterical while trying to convince her that my dreams were no longer possible, it finally hit me. WHY?! I did not have a valid answer. There was nothing that could stop me from reaching my dreams if my dreams were really what I wanted. From that point on, I moved forward with hope. I finished my BSW and MSW and have no regrets. It was not easy; those were probably some of the hardest years in my life. Yet I survived, my son survived, and I’m a better person for it.
I say all that to say, follow your dreams. Maintain hope. Believe that you can achieve, and you will! We are never stuck, despite how old we are, unless we choose to be stuck. I choose to be free. I choose to live my life in the manner that I want to live it. I choose to follow my dreams. I invite you to take this journey with me. . . freedom, peace, and success await you!
Peace, Love & Hope,
|Posted on February 25, 2016 at 2:05 PM||comments (0)|
Aging and Change -- Learn to Expect and Accept
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” • Wayne Dyer
What is Change? Change is to become different. Change is to make someone or something different. Change is to become something else. It’s one dependable trait is that it happens all the time – change is constant. We all have to deal with change on a daily basis. Nothing ever remains the same forever. Sometimes change can be hard, yet we still have to endure and keep moving forward.
How do we deal with change? We must learn to expect it and accept it. We must all face the fact that change will always come. This can bring us hope when things are going poorly in our lives, as well as help us to stay grounded when things are going well. Whatever situation we are in today; tomorrow will always bring change. Expect and accept the process of change.
We experience changes in our health. Our memory begins to change; we forget things more often. We become, “absentminded.” Our bones and our joints begin to wear and tear, we feel pains we never before experienced. Our eyesight and hearing beings to weaken. We begin to experience problems with digestion and metabolism. We being to experience dental issues – loss of teeth, gum disease, etc. Our skin changes, we develop wrinkles and spots. Our functional ability changes. We fall more often, experience more broken bones, less strength and flexibility. Overall, our entire body and mind changes as we age.
We experience change in work and career. Retirement or job loss can drastically affect our finances, resulting major downsizing or cutbacks in activities previously enjoyed. Retirement and job loss can also affect our physical health. If previous work was physical and now all of a sudden you retire to a lifestyle with no physical activity, your health can change drastically and quickly. Retirement and job loss can also be felt emotionally and mentally. Some experience a loss of identify or usefulness.
How about loving relationships? Those change as we age as well. Loss of a loved one can result in feelings of depression, loneliness, guilt, anger and helplessness. There is truly no way to prepare for the death of a loved one or spouse. Nothing can take the pain totally away, yet it is possible to cope with the grief and mourning. Seek support, know that you do not have to go through it alone.
Changes in the family are unavoidable as we age. Family systems are constantly changing. Our children grow up; they create families of their own. Family members move away, and family time becomes less important. In many families, power struggles can result with each family member convinced he or she knows what’s best.
Despite all this change occurring around us constantly, there is hope. We are adaptable! We can survive change! When we learn to accept that life is full of change and loss, we begin to expect it and we give up trying to control it or prevent it. We can learn to accept that certain losses and changes cannot be replaced or fixed, yet we can honor them for what they represented and meant to us.
Frederick Douglass stated, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” I agree 100%. Yes, change is hard. Sometimes it can seem unbearable. Yet, when we get through the turmoil we are stronger and better for it.
What can we do to survive change?
Step 1 – Stop Thinking! When we dwell on the painful changes in our lives, our mood and spirit follow our thinking. We remain stuck in misery.
Step 2 – Relax! Everyone needs at least one hour a day to relax and do nothing. Take a bath pray, nap, read a book, breathes, listen to music, crochet or knit, whatever helps you to relax do it for at least an hour a day.
Step 3 – Cry! Why do we insist on fighting the tears? Crying is so therapeutic and healing. Stop carrying around the sadness, let it out so you can move forward. Cry!
Step 4 – Connect with someone helpful! Connect with someone who can offer reassurance and compassion, or maybe just a hug. It could be a friend, a family member, a professional counselor, a pastor, etc. Anyone who can offer you reassurance and compassion.
Step 5 – Avoid the absolutes. Stop with the “I will NEVER get survive this,” or I will ALWAYS be this way,” etc. As I mentioned earlier, change is constant. There are no absolutes.
Step 6 – Be kind to yourself. We are our own worst critics. Identify at least five things you like about yourself and remind yourself daily of those traits. Only surround yourself with people are kind to you, avoid toxic people. You can’t change them and they are only bringing you down. Get plenty of rest, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and pray or meditate daily.
If you follow those six steps, you will survive the changes you are experiencing and, I believe, become a better person for it. We cannot avoid change, but we can embrace it and be grateful that we are alive another day to experience it. As always, I’m here if you need me.
Peace, Love and Hope,
|Posted on February 14, 2016 at 8:00 PM||comments (1)|
Winter in Michigan
It’s the middle of February in Michigan. Snow is on the ground, trees are without leaves, and the birds have not yet returned home. The children are not playing outside, nobody is barbequing, the parks are empty, and most of us are spending our free time hibernating and patiently waiting for brighter days. During these months, the number of people experiencing symptoms of depression increases drastically.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known and minimized as just the “Winter Blues,” is a type of depression that is linked to the change in seasons. For most people who struggle with SAD, it begins with the change to the fall season and continues throughout the winter months. They may experience a lack of energy, sadness, moodiness, feelings of hopelessness, sleep and appetite changes, etc.
SAD is real, and it does affect many people, yet it can be treated. Some people benefit from phototherapy (light therapy), psychotherapy, and/or medications. If you or someone you love seem to be on a downer that cannot be kicked, consider the possibility of SAD.
What can you do? Most people can help themselves improve their moods by increasing the amount of time spent outdoors. Is it cold? Well, yes. Of course it is -- it’s winter in Michigan! However, bundle up with a hat, scarf, warm coat, gloves or mittens and winter boots to venture outside for at least an hour daily.
In addition to walking outside, look around your office and home. Can you arrange your furniture or seating to let in more natural sunlight? Open all the curtains and let the sun shine through! Those light blocking curtains are great when watching a movie, but not so great during the day when you're struggle with SAD.
If the natural sun does not seem to help, professional help might be necessary. You can contact your primary care physician for an antidepressant or contact a therapist for psychotherapy, or you can do both.
On a positive note, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on February 2nd (Groundhog Day), so I am hopeful Spring is on the way! Hang in there and know that I’m here if you need me!
Peace, Love & Hope,