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August 26, 2019

Surviving Transition

Part 3 of a 3 Part Series


By Joyce A. Graham, LPC


We often become a bit convoluted when we are in the middle of a transition because change causes us to feel uncomfortable, out of control, and overwhelmed. 

Following are 7 tools for surviving a transition:


  1. Surround yourself with support.

During the transition, you will certainly need spiritual support such as the Word of God, Pastoral counseling, and prayer.  But not only will you benefit from spiritual support, but practical support as well. Make sure that you are connecting with others; especially with those who are going through or have gone through a similar experience. 


   2. Socialize and fellowship with others.

There will be a strong tendency to isolate yourself, but you need to surround yourself with people who you can trust and who can help you adapt to the new reality that the transition has created. 

   3. Maintain “Balance.”

Take care of yourself.  Don’t neglect your health or nutritional needs. Transition stresses the body.  The experience can disturb your normal sleeping and eating patterns, which can lead to a weakened immune system.  Make sure you eat, get an adequate amount of sleep, and if you are on medication, maintain your medical regimen. 

   4. Realize that you are not the only one who has been impacted. 

Even if the transition is a positive one like a promotion that may involve relocation, consider whomever else might be impacted like your spouse or your children.  Assist them in adjusting and adapting to the transition as well.

   5. Identify what transitions with you and what does not.

Be willing to release things, places, or people who have the potential to became a huge liability that may impede your transition.

   6. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck.

Transition is indeed a process, but it is not meant to be stagnant.  You should be constantly moving forward in the process.

   7. Be aware of where you are in the process. 

This helps you to identify what the next step is in the continuum. 

September 26, 2018

Surviving Transition

Part 2 of a 3 Part Series


By Joyce A. Graham, LPC



Sometimes one transition immediately leads to another.  When my daughter passed away, she left behind her 14 year old daughter.  Now, my husband and I had to face the challenge of transitioning from grandparents to parents.  All of a sudden, we found ourselves starting all over again with raising another child.  We went from our granddaughter occasionally visiting to her being in our care full time.


The very first thing that I noticed was the loss of independence.  We had to plan everything around our granddaughter’s school year.  We had to get up early and take our granddaughter to school.  We had to attend Parent Teacher Conferences, and if she was involved in an after school activity, we had to take her and pick her up.  If she wanted to go to the Mall, I had to go with her, even though walking the long corridors of the Mall was extremely painful for me at times. 


The additional financial expenses were also a factor.  There were clothes purchases, tuition, school supplies, dental bills, etc.  We didn’t have an extra bedroom for our granddaughter, so I had to give up my office and turn it into a bedroom.  We found ourselves in a fog of transition while also still very actively grieving the death of our daughter.  It seemed more than we could bear.


But if my husband and I were struggling with the aftermath of this tragedy, what about our poor granddaughter?  She had to adjust to not having her mother in her life and living with her grandparents full time.


I realized that it would take time for her to heal and to come to terms with not having regular contact with her mother.  But what I did not expect was her resentment towards me.  She was experiencing feelings of abandonment and thought that I was trying to take her mother’s place.  She began to withdraw from me and there were times when she would push me away altogether.  At other times, she would verbally lash out, directing her anger towards me.


While I understood that my granddaughter still loved and appreciated me, I also understood that her behavior actually meant that she felt safe enough to express her confusing emotions.  I knew I had to try to make the transition easier for her by providing her with an environment that was stable and predictable as much as possible. 


I communicated with her openly and honestly to help her cope with her new situation.   In time, my granddaughter came to terms with her mother’s death and continued the difficult and painful process of grieving.


Statistics tell us that in the past 30 years, in the U.S. alone, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren. We have been raising our granddaughter for several years now.  The sacrifice was huge but it was worth it to continue to be involved in her life.  But more importantly, I feel that in my granddaughter I still have a small part of my daughter.

September 19, 2018​

Integrative Restoration                                                    

By Patti Alvarez 500 RYT

Life can be hard. Mindfulness practices such as iRest can help. Integrative Restoration is a simple form of meditation that helps you tap into a place that is calm - even when life is not. It is easy to learn, easy to do, highly effective and can be done by anyone. It has been used to heal: serious trauma, stress, insomnia, depression, PTSD, chronic pain and chemical dependency.

Given all the stressors that we confront these days, what is it about iRest that can help us live calmer, healthier, more meaningful lives? iRest is a go-to tool that is used to evoke the relaxation response. You don’t have to do anything to experience this meditation. It is typically practiced lying down. People receive many benefits of the practice, even if they fall asleep. In fact, many people practice with the intention to fall asleep at night. iRest follows a 10-step guided meditation protocol that provides a comprehensive path through the meditation process. You can think of the protocol as a filing system for your mind that guides you through an experience of your body, your breath, and any feelings, emotions, and beliefs that may be present. It then gently leads you into deeper states of awareness and stillness. Each step utilizes techniques that can evoke the relaxation response. The result is an increase in the body’s ability to stay resilient, or to bounce back quickly from challenging circumstances. Resiliency is like a muscle: The more we practice evoking the relaxation response, the stronger our resiliency muscle becomes.


To understand the relaxation response, lets review some basic biology. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is divided into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is responsible for activating the fight-or- flight response. This involves speeding up the heart and contracting blood vessels.  The PNS, by contrast, acts to slow your heart rate and evokes the response of rest and digestion. I-Rest evokes the relaxation response shifting the body from fight-or-flight  into rest and digest. Stress changes the shape and function of the brain. The Amygdala (involved in emotions like fear and anger) grows larger, the Hippocampus (crucial to memory formation) shrinks, and the Prefrontal Cortex (the driver of higher –level thinking) goes offline. Evoking the relaxation response causes the exact opposite to occur in the brain—meaning that we have more ability to stay emotionally balanced, focused, and conduct higher thought processes. 

Research has also shown that practicing just 20 minutes a day of an activity that evokes the relaxation response can turn off genes that promote diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness as well as slowing down the aging process.

Join us on Tuesdays at 6:30 PM for Restorative yoga followed by iRest. For more info call 314-359-0397.

September 12, 2018

by Ed Kozeny

You You You; I'm not in love with you

Not the person, the word!

The trouble with the word 'you' is that it is often used by one person who is getting into another person's business or another person’s life; like the boss getting into a minion's life.  You know, taking charge of another person or taking over their responsibilities.  Ooops, there I go, telling you that, "you know". 

Here are some other mistakes:

  • You take this medicine; the doctor said you have to.

  • You're doing it all wrong!

  • You’re spending too much time on the computer.

And then there are the implied ‘you’ statements:

  • Cut the grass. 

  • Turn the water off when you’re finished. 

  • Hurry!!    

Which of these transactions are you comfortable with?

Any of them?

If you are comfortable with the above transactions (or any of them); to that extent you are comfortable being controlled or controlling another person.  There are situations where that is appropriate;

  • I was hired to do a job. The boss told me what he wanted done and how he wanted me to do it.  I was OK with that (mostly).

  • Here's another example, a high intensity situation. "Get out of the house, it's on fire"
     (thankfully hypothetical,). 

But in a low intensity or personal situation the costs may be higher than we want to tolerate.  In an employer/employee situation, the relationship is understood to be hierarchal; the guy with the money makes the rules. We do not expect to be friends with the boss.  In an emergency situation, the relationship is understood to be temporary. There is no friendliness expected in an emergency situation.  Either situation is temporary without room for personal connection. 

But if we want personal connections, ones that last, there may be a better way to communicate.  If we start with self-referral language the communication opens the way for connection.  For instance, "I have a suggestion, would you like to hear it?"  OR  I'm in a hurry, can you do the job faster?  OR "I notice that it is taking a lot of time, is there anything I can do to speed things along?"

We all need personal connections in our lives.  Without those personal connections we aren't as happy as we could be.  And we needn't make changes instantly do this perfectly.  Gradual changes, improving over time, with practice is good enough.

September  5 2018

September 5, 2018

Surviving Transition                                                                                                     

Part 1 of a 3 Part Series


By Joyce A. Graham, LPC


Transition is inevitable.  Whether the transition was our decision and initiated by us or whether we had no choice in the matter and were dragged into it kicking and screaming.  We are living in an era where things are constantly shifting, changing, and transitioning on every level and on every front; in our nation, in our cities, in our communities and in our personal lives. 


So what is transition and how is it defined?   Transition is defined as changing from one condition or state to another.  There are two major components of transition.  They are:


(1)  Adjusting  — becoming comfortable or familiar with the new condition.

(2)  Adapting  — learning to function in the new environment created by the new condition.


I have recently reflected on some of my personal, transitional experiences.  The one thing that I have learned about life is that transition is inescapable; whether you are transitioning through a protracted illness, through phases of a failed relationship, or through the aftermath of the death of a loved one.


I once believed that after my daughter’s death, there was nothing else that life could do to me that would matter.  Losing my daughter was totally and completely life-altering.


I remember watching a movie in which the main character had suffered the loss of her mother, and ultimately, the loss of her business.  As she was reflecting on those losses, she said,

“People are always telling you that change is a good thing.  But all theyʼre really saying is that something you didnʼt want to happen at all has happened.  Some people will think that transition is a contradictory tribute to life; the way life keeps changing on you, the way you can never count on it.  All I know is that I am heartbroken.  I feel as if a part of me has died, and no one can ever make it right again.” 


I can definitely relate and identify with certain elements of that statement.  However, unlike the character in the movie, I could never be quite that cynical about life, because I have learned that transition is temporary.  We should not attach any permanence to the transition because we eventually integrate the changes brought on by the transition into our present. 


We must remember that we are not victims of our transition…we are simply products of it. 

July 25, 2018

by A Walters Walk Client

I feel so grateful and fortunate to be receiving massage therapy at Walter's Walk. It has changed my life.

The first time I walked into the massage room my stomach was queasy, hands cold, and face flushed. I began a journey that's still unfolding and difficult to even write about without it bringing tears to my eyes. It's taken time and courage to move forward.

Through that door I brought a life-long struggle with disordered eating, obesity, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression- the results of a traumatic childhood. I hated my body and I had been mostly deprived of touch except for the negative touch of painful medical procedures. I felt disconnected to my physical self and that was my normal state.

To start with, I had to learn to be on the receiving end after having been in the role of caretaker for everyone else for so long.  The idea that I'm just as worthy slowly sunk in. I realized this was a safe space through my massage therapist's doggedly persistent, gentle, nonjudgemental, and respectful manner. I was encouraged to speak up about how my body and mind were reacting to the massage. At any given point I should stop and let my massage therapist know what I wanted, what felt good. I had to learn this and none of it has come easy and I'm still working on it.

But, some great things have happened:

* Instead of constantly battling the urge to comfort myself with food I let the massage do that. The emotional overeating has diminished. My poem "The Best Dessert Ever" talks about this.
* My feelings of shame and detachment have eased somewhat. I am walking more, caring for my health and appearance.
* My weight loss plateau that lasted a year and a half ended and I have been shedding excess weight again.

* My rounded shoulders which gave me a "drawn in" look are becoming less so and I'm standing taller.
* That has helped my chronic back pain along with better joint motion and relaxed muscles due to massage. 
* I have less need for support stockings because of better leg circulation.
* Depression has been interrupted at times by my looking forward to the next massage.  Just this anticipation alone has been a powerful antidepressant.  Also, recalling the sensations and great feelings of caring touch and connection sometimes takes me back there.
* Anxiety, panic attacks, and obsessive thoughts have long tormented me.  I've discovered that deep pressure is calming.  I purchased a weighted blanket online for extra help at home. In recent months leading up to a major life decision my panic attacks returned.  Comforting me were my massages, weighted blanket, and deep breathing techniques.

I've become a strong advocate for massage therapy at Walter's Walk. Inspired by my experiences and wanting to give something back I created a "Massage Collage" (which hangs in the lobby). In the center you will see a door to another world where I found relaxation, caring touch, better health, and more peace.

May 2, 2018

The Big Power of a (Small) Fundraising Concert - by Steve Givens

About a month ago, while I was packing up my car with sound equipment at the conclusion of a small benefit concert for Walter’s Walk, a counseling and mental health non-profit in North St. Louis County, I had this conversation with myself:


Self: You just put in about five hours on this event today, as did a number of other people. You booked the acts and helped publicize the event. You and the organization called on friends to perform and work for free. At the end of the night, about 40 people showed up and really enjoyed the show, and you raised about $1,000. That’s a “good night” for this series, which you have been helping run for the past six years. But it’s a drop in the bucket of what this organization (and so many like it) needs. So was it worth it?

Me: Yep. Let’s do it again. Or, in the immortal words of baseball great Ernie Banks, “let’s play two!” 

Whether you’re an executive director, board member, volunteer, or events planner of a non-profit, I understand you may not agree with me on this. You have to make wise decisions about allocating your time, staff and available resources toward fundraising events for your organization, and you may think that this kind of event just doesn’t give you the bang for the buck. You know your organization and its needs far better than I do, so you’re probably right. But allow me to give you a few reasons why I think these kinds of events are impactful, especially for small and relatively young organizations. 

  1. They build community. For me, this is the most essential reason. Concerts and similar arts-related events are designed by their very nature to bring people together in the same room, focus them on the same thing (the music at the front of the room) and give them the opportunity to meet new friends, interact with staff and performers, and consider their own impact on the community. For this to work, you need to have a team of welcoming volunteers who understand and appreciate this aspect of the event. Make sure that those who sell tickets at the front door are some of your very best ambassadors, and make sure no one leaves the concert at the end of night a stranger. Learn their names and invite them back. Get their email addresses, of course. Building a nice 20 to 30-minute intermission into the show helps a lot, as does food and drink.  

  2. They build your donor base. Generally, we charge only $10 admission for our concerts, which usually feature local songwriters and musicians who perform for free or cheap because they know and want to support the work we’re doing. That’s not a lot of money, but that’s not all we’re after. These events have helped us find larger donors, board members and volunteers, not to mention clients for the services we provide. At that night’s concert, the executive director read a letter from a client who often comes to concerts. He came to Walter’s Walk because he could pay what he could afford and was never made to feel any less of himself because of that. He’s gotten better because of the services he received, and with his letter he enclosed $100 cash, a huge amount of money for him, which he had been saving up for over a year. Is that a lot of money? You know it is. Because it will likely encourage someone else to give much more, because they are able to give much more. It will encourage me and my musician friends to keep doing this. It will encourage new board members and volunteers to join the work. That’s the power of $100 gift and a good story. 

  3. They introduce people to what you do. People come for the music, but we make sure they know who we are and what we do. The executive director always speaks for a few minutes before the intermission and gives a brief history, tells the audience about upcoming events, classes and opportunities, and maybe shares a story like the one above. No one is hit over the head or pressured for donations (although they’re encouraged, of course, to buy a raffle ticket or put a little extra in the donation basket). People come (at least for the first time) to hear music, but they leave with a little more information and the knowledge that this organization is here for them or someone they know.

  4. They are fun. Please make sure this is true. To quote Maya Angelou, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This doesn’t mean all “happy clappy” songs, of course. Many people feel more alive when they listen to live music, so we give them songs that resonate with their own lives in one way or another. But we make them laugh, too, and sometimes give them a chance to sing along. We allow them to leave feeling better about the world than when they came in. We all need that right now.

  5. They are proof that doing something (even small) is much better than doing nothing at all. In truth, we all need to remember that, not just those who lead or volunteer at non-profits. If we want to make the world just a little bit better than we found it, we ought to be getting up out of bed each day and looking around for something to do. The most paralyzing thought we can have is that our effort is too small to matter. When that happens, we do nothing at all. 


In her book, “What I Found in a Thousand Towns: A Traveling Musician’s Guide to Rebuilding America’s Communities — One Coffee Shop, Dog Run, & Open-Mike Night at a Time,” (Basic Books), songwriter and activist Dar Williams reminds us that citizenship is not a spectator sport:  

“When we let our curiosity and interests, and a little trust, lead us outside our doors and onto the village green, we will flourish as citizens and so will our towns. We don’t just feel good today or tomorrow when we become involved; we accumulate a sense of meaning.”


Steve Givens is associate vice chancellor and chief of staff in the Office of the Chancellor at Washington University in St. Louis. As a volunteer, he serves as a trustee of the Aquinas Institute of Theology and the Bridges Foundation, in addition to serving as artistic director of the Songwriter’s Showcase at Walter’s Walk

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