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Best of Our Blogs: February 24, 2012

My mom used to tell me that the most annoying kids at school were the ones who needed my love, acceptance and compassion most. At the time, I could hardly bare hearing about it. I mean who wants to be friends with, "the crier, "the bully," or "Miss bossy pants"?  But as I got older, things changed. I realized that while it was never my responsibility to befriend those I deemed unlikable, there was potential for my own self-growth if I could go beyond their external difficulties and look within.

Her words of advice has helped me to win over challenging employers/clients and loosen my grip on how I judge others and even myself. It's a reminder that we're all vulnerable and doing our best most of the time. And it's given me a clearer perspective of people's behavior. When loved ones are being controlling, for example, they might be feeling out of control.

Or if someone is being overly confident, cocky, or close-minded, they may be compensating for feeling weak, insecure or unsure. It's heartbreaking that those who are most difficult to deal with haven't learned how to get what they need. In desperation for love, attention, respect, they react in confusing ways, repelling the very people they are trying so hard to attract.

This week you may recognize a few of these individuals or you may even see yourself in our top posts. The point is not to forget who we are and our own needs in the presence of those who are grappling with their own. But in understanding why your family was not the happiest growing up for example, or what's been triggering your bad behavior lately, you may open the door to accepting others and yourself.
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Tips to Help Better Cope With Stress

This guest article from YourTango was written by Kate Evans.

Stress is a normal and expected part of our lives, but it's not a part we always know how to deal with. We learn how to handle stressful situations by watching our parents and peers as we grow up. If you didn't have positive coping modeled for you, it may make it harder to handle even everyday stressors.

Because it is a normal part of life, there are no skills to make stress never happen, but we can all benefit from having a plan to face it to help feel on top of the things that we can control. These skills will give you ideas as to how you can make small changes in your life that will help to make stress more manageable.

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Talent Isn’t Everything: Persistence Is

Whenever I see a cocky musical sensation laugh hysterically at the performance or audition of a desperate wanna-be pop singer on "American Idol" or any of its tacky knockoffs, I want to take the mic cord and wrap it around the celeb's body like 235 times because I know what it feels like to be that girl going after a dream that seems to get farther away with each piece of painful feedback.

"Success is 99 percent perspiration and one percent talent," my business-savvy father told me back when I was unloading Thin Mints as a Brownie Girl Scout. "The only thing that separates the winners from the losers is perseverance."

Dr. Seuss was rejected 43 times before his first story was published; a skinny 5'11" Michael Jordan was cut from his varsity basketball team; Colonel Sanders drove from restaurant to restaurant with his pressure cooker and famous recipe of 11 herbs and spices before he made history with KFC; and didn't some opinioned jerk tell Katie Couric in her early days that she didn't have a face for TV?

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Try These 6 Creativity Prompts and Pointers

Creativity often needs a little push.

It requires time and techniques to fully blossom. And it’s worth the effort because creativity can help you do everything from excelling at work to solving everyday problems to inventing great things.

Here are six prompts and pointers to perk up your creativity on the spot or bring you continuous inspiration.

1. Try new uses for old objects.

Discovering new functions for objects can serve as a great problem-solver. “In a pinch, I’ve ground regular sugar in my coffee mill to create fine sugar for a recipe,” said Nellie Jacobs, a bestselling author, award-winning artist and creativity consultant. “I’ve baked a cake in my barbeque when electricity turned off my oven and microwave just as the batter mix was ready.”

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3 Reasons You’re Still Single

This guest article from YourTango was written by Virginia Clark. 

This question haunts even the most confident women. You're not alone. It comes up when you've spent years in and out of failed relationships and you finally reach the point wanting to give up on love.

More from YourTango: Help! My Last Breakup Scarred Me for Life

If you ask this question in the form of a complaint, like "why me?" you won't get a satisfactory answer. But if you ask it with an open mind and in the spirit of wanting to know the truth, it can make the difference between finding the love of your life -- or being alone.

Here are three possible reasons why you might ask "Why am I still single?"

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Anxiety and Panic

3 Practices to Calm An Anxious Mind

Anxiety affects all of us in varying degrees. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a clinical disorder to feel its insidious or intrusive effects. Fortunately, there are many ways to ease anxiety healthfully.

Mindfulness is one effective practice that helps to relax the mind and body. According to Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., and Wendy Millstine, NC, in their book Daily Meditations for Calming Your Anxious Mind, mindfulness is:

... an awareness that is sensitive, open, kind, gentle and curious. Mindfulness is a basic human capacity. It arises from paying attention on purpose in a way that is nonjudging, friendly and does not try to add or subtract anything from whatever is happening.

In their book, Brantley and Millstine offer a variety of valuable meditations or practices that are based on mindfulness. They suggest practicing these meditations daily no matter how you’re feeling. You can start by devoting several minutes a day and working your way to 20 or 30 minutes.

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Gimme My Damn Psychological Data

One of the hats I wear is as a founding board member and treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine, a nonprofit organization devoted to forwarding the agenda and rights of e-patients. E-patients are engaged, equipped and enabled to be an active partner in their own health care -- including mental health care.

One of the memes the Society has been helping to forward recently is the "Gimme my damn data" movement -- patients who want access to their (sometimes raw) medical data. For instance, Hugo Campos wants access to his defibrillator data. A simpler, more common example of this is ensuring you get a copy of the lab results for any blood work done on you.

Along those lines, I'd like to suggest another area where patients are entitled to their own data -- psychological testing. All too often, patients who undergo psychological testing are not offered a copy of their raw and/or scored data voluntarily. In fact, psychologists often put up barriers to stop patients from receiving such data.

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Having Trouble Getting Yourself To Write?

The most challenging aspect of being a writer? Writing. When I find myself struggling to be productive or creative, I remind myself of these nine tips.

1. Write every day. Staying inside a project keeps me engaged, keeps my mind working, and keeps ideas flowing. Also, I find, perhaps surprisingly, it’s easier to do something every day than to do it some days. (This may be related to the abstainer/moderator split.) "You're just grinding out material," a friend protested. "But that's when I have my best ideas," I answered.

2. Even fifteen minutes is long enough to write. For years I told myself, “If I don’t have three or four hours clear, there’s no point in starting.” Now I realize that if I'm deep in a project (see #1), even a short bit of time is long enough to get something done.

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On Gratitude: The Virtual Gratitude Visit

Gratitude is an important part of increasing your well-being and happiness in your life. Psychological research has demonstrated -- time and time again -- the positive mood effects increasing gratitude in your life has.

But sometimes you need to visit the past in order to move forward in your future.

This video from Psych Central's Daniel J. Tomasulo, Ph.D. discusses how to do a "virtual gratitude visit," a simple exercise anyone can learn to do that may help in healing past hurts and increase your well-being when you can't do an ordinary gratitude visit.
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Best of Our Blogs: February 21, 2012

It's not always apparent why we do the things we do. Sometimes our decisions are out of habit, out of fear or pure comfort. We take the same road home after work, for example, or eat at the same restaurant every week. There are these innocuous decisions we make and then there ones that are much more damaging.

We may snap at a loved one over something trivial or stay with the same partner, doctor or friend for years even though we know that doing so is not good for us.

While deciding to do the same workout or eat the same cereal will hardly hurt us, being aware of why we make other decisions that do is integral to our physical and mental health.

This week our bloggers are shaking things up by calling attention to issues we may otherwise accept without question. Whether it's being conscious of our options for mental health treatment, how we treat our children, why we feel self-conscious crying in front of others, or spreading truth not stigma, these posts address important issues of awareness. It may be perfectly fine if we choose to laugh off a joke on mental illness or take antidepressants, but the key is knowing why you're doing it.

If you are clear about your own beliefs and intentions and guard yourself with accurate information, you'll be better able to make the right decision for you.
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My Psychotherapy Journey: From Duty to Timidity to Progress

I started psychotherapy for the wrong reasons.

A few people had suggested throughout the past couple years that I do it, and I thought I’d go to one session to say I’d done it and be done with it. Well, I went to that one session and told the counselor I needed help with stress. She talked to me about stress, but in ending the session, rather than asking “Do you want to come back?” asked “When do you want to come back?”

I have difficulty saying no to anyone, so I agreed to a time. The next session went nearly identical to the first, but during the third session she redirected the goal of our sessions toward me talking more. She had me take some tests (MMPI-2 and MCMI) and I wrote out a list of my goals for her.

She never directly told me, but eventually I picked up that she thinks I have social anxiety disorder. She started having me write down situations in which I felt anxious and what I was thinking and feeling at those times, but I didn’t really understand the point of it. I started realizing just how much anxiety had controlled my life, but I didn’t feel like doing this was helping me.

What this work did do, however, was make me really want to be able to do the things I was so terrified of doing.

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‘I Walked Away Really Confused,’ Says CBS’s Lesley Stahl on Antidepressants, Placebos

Are placebos -- sugar pills -- just as effective as antidepressant medications in the treatment of mild and moderate depression? That's what a 60 Minutes piece last night tried to find out.

In discussing her reaction to discovering that the placebo effect may be more powerful than we previously knew in antidepressant research, CBS's 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl says, "I walked away really confused."

After viewing her piece, I walked away with the same reaction.

What's an ordinary person supposed to gain from watching this segment, boiling down decades' worth of antidepressant research and thousands of studies into less than 20 minutes? I'm not sure.

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