Go Away Winter Blues

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW


“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” ~ Victor Hugo

I used to hate the winters here in Chicago. I still talk about them like I hate them because it makes for good comedy, me being from the Deep South where I did not even own a wool sweater!  I am cold here in the winter. All of the time.

“How cold are you, Cherilynn?” I  get so cold at night I have to wear winter hats. My ex sister- in- law once exclaimed, “Are you going to bed or are you going hunting?” when she saw me in all of my flannel gear. Exactly.

This cold-dark thing could kill a girl’s optimism, laughter and bounce. However, there is beauty and joy you CAN find in the winter. How? Here’s what worked for me…

  1. Fill up on vitamin D and get sunlight however you can. I often get dressed in winter warrior wear and go for walks down by the lake. This ensures I get at least 15-20 minutes of sunshine. If you are indeed a seasonal affective disorder person, get one of those lights and let me know if it works. I have heard it does.
  2. Catch up on your reading or listen to fun music. If you don’t already have a winter listening list, make one. Fill it with fun music that has felt good from years past. You will smile.
  3. Use the yuckiness outside to accomplish something inside you have been procrastinating. Clean a closet; organize the garage. Do not wait for motivation. Just do it. You will feel so good afterward.
  4. Notice the beauty. Just because you have been told that cold, dark days are bad doesn’t make them so. There is beauty in the soft flakes of the first rain/snow. The world gets so quiet when the snow is cushioning sound. The trees stand tall and strong with their dark trunks, without the fluff of leaves blocking them. There are a few bird “hold-outs” that occasionally can be seen. Aren’t their stories intriguing? My sons and I go on architecture walks in the winter, and we try to pick out interesting details on all the houses and stores that we ordinarily run past.
  5. Enjoy activities you normally enjoy in the summer. I love swinging in the park with my kids.

Have you ever read the story by Ray Bradbury called All Summer In A Day? It is a book about a little girl named Margot who only gets to see the sun for a few minutes in her lifetime. However, the bullies decide to lock her in a closet at school when the sun finally shines. She never gets to see it. Poor thing. Find that sun.

What works for you? What’s not working for you? In the meantime, here’s some helpful music from George Winston. Enjoy.

Take care,

cherilynnvelandSMAbout the author: Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, leads a new self-advocacy movement intended to help women reach out, speak up, and take action steps for what’s best for them. Please support this effort by liking the Facebook pageand/or subscribing for updates. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus.

For more information or to arrange a speaking engagement or small group, contact Cherilynn at cherilynnveland@gmail.com. Stop Giving It Away the book will be published Spring 2015. 

Hosting A Holiday Party With Your Partner? How I Survived The Pre-Party Stress

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

I had a Holiday Party this weekend and it was fun, but the pre-party prep is always stressful.  There are a million things
Holiday Partyto do and not enough time. Between basketball games and running through the holiday traffic, it is tense.

The Tension Is On

Usually, my husband and I fight a lot when we are putting on a party. We are both pressed to get things done. Therefore, somebody gets all crabby and freaks out. After 20 years, we are better in sync, but we have our moments.

Here are a few of the stress-inducing shenanigans from the pre-party prep:

  1. I asked my husband to replace the lightbulbs for the living room, and he got these glowy bulb things that made the living room look like a European discotheque. Not cool.
  2. My husband ate the cookies I had carefully bagged into separate containers for the cookie exchange I was headed to right before the party. (The head cookie countess counts them veeerryyy carefully to make sure we all pull our share, so showing up minus the eight-dozen I had promised was a definite no-no.) So, when I caught him  digging into one of the counted out and closed containers I had left by the door, I yelled, “Stop, right there, mister!”
  3. Then, right before the guests arrive he dragged a ladder through my living room to add more lights to the tree. Ahhhh!!!

Continue reading… »

I Hate My Job: The Power of Negative Self-Talk

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

negativityAre you hating your job right now? Perhaps you are doing or thinking in ways that are sure to make you feel less worthy, stress you out, and take away your ability to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Negative self-talk (NST) might be part of the problem. NST is quite productive in all the wrong ways. As described above, it can leave you feeling down in the dumps. It can also fuel the fires of resentment.

Getting down on yourself
“How did I miss this? I am so embarrassed!”
“I am terrible at this.”
“Why am I here?”
“I am a failure.”

Getting down on people around you
“Why does so and so get to do that and I don’t?”
“F that. I hate this place!”
“I can’t believe they expect me to do_____”
“Such assholes!”

Feeling resentful once in a while is understandable considering the high level of work and personal stress people handle every day. Mistakes will happen for everyone at some point. However, if you are reading into every situation as an opportunity to hate your company, your boss or your coworkers, you are generating strong negative energy, stress and maybe even hostility. Spreading misery to others is just as hurtful as holding it all in.

Through no fault of your own, you may feel like an island where you work. You may work in an unhealthy culture where leadership and teamwork are lacking. You still have one person on your team. That’s you.

Neutral, helpful messages to consider
If situations are challenging and stressful, and problems arise, start with neutral approaches such as:

“Let’s get this problem fixed before we discuss it any further, okay?”
“Wow. This is a definite issue that I will look into and get back to you on, once I have more information.”
“I can see that you are upset. Let’s figure out a solution.”
“Here’s a way to resolve this…”
“Here’s how this project went well. Here’s what I might do differently next time.”
“Thank you for your feedback. I will give it some thought.”

Neutral statements are usually helpful for you and for others. They project a steadying, problem-solving attitude.

Now, if you are doing nothing to stop yourself from feeling resentful and hostile, it will just cause more and more negativity in your life. Those feelings may even spill over into your personal life. Either get a new job, or change your thoughts about the job. In the meantime, try to catch yourself when you are thinking so negatively, and add a positive statement to lighten the load, or think of a neutralizing statement.

Coping with the challenges: How are you treating yourself? Others?

We get up and start each day with a set of coping tools—some good, some maybe not so good. Our coping tools are shaped by our life experiences, including how we grew up.

Once we’ve been pressed and pressured to our limits, we find we’ve exhausted our ability to cope. This is when situations begin falling apart by way of hostility, backstabbing, gossiping and the myriad other ways people act out when they’ve reached their personal breaking point. Just think about the unhappy (I don’t mean depressed) people you know, what they do, and the circumstances in which other people are hurt or negatively affected.

What can you do?

First, if work stress is weighing heavily on you, keeping you from sleeping at night or pushing relentless negativity, see if your company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP provides a professional you can talk to about what’s going on. You can also pursue help on your own through a licensed counselor.

Second, tune in to your support network, the people closest to you in whom you can trust to listen. Ask for help with the responsibilities you have outside of your work challenges.

Third, take care of yourself first and give up trying to control what’s going on at work, a lot of which is really out of your control.

cherilynnvelandSMAbout the author: Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, leads a new self-advocacy movement intended to help women reach out, speak up, and take action steps for what’s best for them. Please support this effort by liking the Facebook pageand/or subscribing for updates. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus.

For more information or to arrange a speaking engagement or small group, contact Cherilynn at cherilynnveland@gmail.com. Stop Giving It Away the book will be published Spring 2015. 

Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts Especially For You

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

I just read a newsletter with this great idea in it: Gift to yourself this holiday! This good advice comes from colleague, Arlene Englander, LCSW, at The Wellness Source.


Arlene writes:
Each holiday season we make a list of gifts to give to family and friends to show our love and appreciation for the role they play in our life. Invariably, we neglect to put our name on the list. We ignore the importance of loving one’s Self. The truth is, it’s necessary to love yourself first, in order to really love others.

Why do we disregard our virtues and overlook our intrinsic worth?
Typically, we are harsh and critical toward ourselves because as children we were taught to accept the disapproval directed at us by the important people in our lives. Holding on to that dismissive treatment when we become adults, perpetuates it. Fortunately, we can alter the pattern.

Instead of criticizing ourselves, we can commend ourselves for doing the best we can; we can wake up in the morning and feel we deserve to have a good day; we can recognize that we are deserving of love; we can do loving things for ourselves; we can love others and let others love us. It takes time. It’s a practice. And it can be done.

Arlene’s list of the attributes of self-love
Follow your heart.
Teach with praise rather than criticism.
Do not presume you are responsible for someone else’s life.
Have a higher purpose to give your life meaning.
Live in the present.

The takeaway
We give the world our light when we incorporate these attributes into our daily life.

Arlene’s words of wisdom are helpful during the holidays and always. Stick with me.

Giveaway Girls and self-love
Caring for yourself is important and challenging, especially in a world where women are encouraged to care for others first. We put ourselves on the back burner over and over again. Eventually, we feel resentful and angry, not only with the world, but with the people in our world.

Can you relate to any of the following?
1. Instead of following your heart, you live through others: your children, your spouse, your boyfriend or partner. You live according to someone else’s terms or even their demands. Sometimes it feels like someone or something else is running your life.

2. You judge yourself—how you look, how much money you make, something you said, for the way someone treated you. You see yourself as less than, rather than enough.

3. You’re a fixer, or you work tirelessly to cover, compensate and take care of other people’s situations, problems and feelings.

4. You’ve had major challenges in life and it’s hard to see the good that can come of any of it.

5. You live in the past. Rumination is a way of life. Rumination is similar to worry except rumination focuses on bad feelings and experiences from the past, rather than thinking about solutions, living for today and tomorrow. Or, you just can’t seem to move forward with your life from where you are today.

Any and all of these take the love out of life. Fortunately, we can alter the pattern. I know this because I have seen just about everything that can happen to people through my years as a social worker in the inner city and in the rural South and through my many years of private practice. I also know the holidays can be especially difficult.

Take a small step today to show yourself love. What will it be?

Take care,

cherilynnvelandSMAbout the author: Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, leads a new self-advocacy movement intended to help women reach out, speak up, and take action steps for what’s best for them. Please support this effort by liking the Facebook page and/or subscribing for updates. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus.

For more information or to arrange a speaking engagement or small group, contact Cherilynn at cherilynnveland@gmail.com. Stop Giving It Away the book will be published Spring 2015. 

Pic by comp fight.

Take Your Therapist With You These Holidays: 6 Tools To Help You Enjoy This Time

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Santa Girls

Here are some comments I have already heard from other people about the upcoming holidays:

  • “Bah humbug!”
  • “I can’t stand that song, ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year.’ Really?! Who is he kidding?”
  • “I kinda see the holidays as a heavyweight boxing match. Once you get through round 1, you better gear up for round 2.”
  • “I start really pumping myself up for the holidays and then around December 15th I just feel disgusted with it all. How is this about the real meaning of Christmas anyway?”

I know the holidays can be challenging. For this reason, I want you to take some therapist advice with you as you run around managing the occasion.

Continue reading… »

Women & Addiction: Why Amanda Chose Jail Over Treatment

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW
Drew Barrymore has been very open about her battle with addictions.

Drew Barrymore has been very open about her battle with addictions.

My friend, Amanda, is currently in jail for three DUIs, all received in the last few months. In one incident, the police described her trying to run down a cop with her car. She has no recall of this. Thank God no one was hurt. She is only 24 years old, a 6-foot blonde, gorgeous and smart young woman with a college degree.

Sadly, alcoholism and/or drug addiction doesn’t care about your intellectual abilities, your IQ, your socioeconomic status, or even if you are physically beautiful.

At the last court hearing, Amanda had a choice: She could stay in jail or go to court-ordered drug and alcohol treatment. She chose to stay in jail. Everybody in her family was shocked. Amanda’s choice shows the depth and power of addiction. Here are some interesting points about women and addiction:

Continue reading… »

Are You Being Emotionally Manipulated In Your Relationships? 8 Risk Factors

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

What is Emotional Manipulation (EM)?

Free yourself from EM!

Free yourself from EM!

Big question, the short answer is: You are being emotionally manipulated anytime someone else is able to get you to doubt yourself; move away from your boundaries; and not take care of yourself, by their words, actions, or inactions. EMs hurt your self-esteem. They seek to serve themselves at your expense.

Giveaway Girls are very susceptible to emotional manipulation.

What is a Giveaway Girl? I have a website called www.stopgivingitaway.com where I refer to caring, considerate, smart, wonderful, beautiful women as possible Giveaway Girls. Check it out to see if it fits you at all.

Psychologist James Fogarty, a specialist on emotional manipulators, writes that the following qualities make women more vulnerable to emotional manipulators:

Continue reading… »

Is Your Family Having Caregiver Conflict?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW
photo 3

A cute house like many you see in Faribault, MN.

My Grandma Wanda is 95. A German farm woman, she raised five children, 20 grandchildren and 40+ great-grandchildren.

Grandma Wanda’s five adult kids are trying to make decisions about her care for this final stage of life.

Wanda’s daughters are trying to decide where Wanda should go live because the nursing home she was placed in last month failed to adequately take care of her. The nursing home gave her the wrong medications; she fell six times in two weeks, and she was misdiagnosed with dementia because she was on too many opiates.

My family’s caretaking dilemma is shared by so many in this country. I have heard that our family experience isn’t unusual. You think that when you place someone in a nursing home, they will get nursed. However, in many nursing homes there is just too little staff-to-patient ratio. The nurses are booking it and doing the best they can. However, they just can’t do what they are not set up to be able to do. People fall through the cracks, understandably.

The nursing home setup works well for some, but it didn’t work for my grandmother. She needs help getting around, needs help eating, and needs encouragement to do safe exercise. For us, nursing home care was a bust.

Now Wanda’s adult children are figuring out where she should go. She needs to live with someone. Two sisters have stepped up to take her, one down South and one up in Minnesota. Tension is in the air about who knows best and what should be done. There have been some arguments and uncomfortable confrontations about ridiculous things—like who called who and when. This tension is understandable.

Usually, when family members are fighting about stupid things repeatedly, there are deeper issues going on. What this underlying tension is really about is fear, love, sibling roles, tensions about who did what in the past, and who knows what is best, etc.  These fears and hurts are burbling to the surface. Many families experience old stuff when there is a family crisis or when expectations for caregiving are getting ironed out.

Downtown Faribault, Minnesota

Downtown Faribault, Minnesota

Marvin’s Room

It all reminded me of the movie Marvin’s Room, a movie about the challenges of taking care of aging parents, one that I recommend if you haven’t already seen it. Diane Keaton stars in this movie as the mousy 50-year-old sister who becomes a spinster while taking care of her aging parents in their retirement home in Florida.

Her sister, played by Meryl Streep, comes to visit with her teenage kids. You can tell she is annoyed and disgusted with the whole thing. As a single mom who has just finished beauty school, her kids growing up and out, she thinks she’s finally reached a time when her life can be about her. Her character is NOT excited about taking over the caretaking duties in any way shape or form. However, her sister is dying of cancer and somebody needs to step up. Meryl is six seconds from busting out of all the responsibility and duty throughout the movie. You can tell  she thinks her sister “giving her life away” to care for her elderly parents as they disintegrate into death is a mistake.

Family Caregiving Across the U.S.A.

One second you have a life almost free from the duties of caregiving. Then you turn the corner and the aging parent life stage is upon you. Here are some facts from the Family Caregiving Alliance:

  • Estimates of the percentage of family or informal caregivers who are women range from 59% to 75%.6, 7
  • The average caregiver is age 46, female, married and working outside the home earning an annual income of $35,000.8
  • Although men also provide assistance, female caregivers may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than male caregivers.9

Interestingly, during the movie, the character played by Diane tells her sister that she has been so privileged and blessed to do her caregiving. In a heartfelt moment that I PROMISE will put you in tears, she tells her sister that it has has been an incredible honor to show love for her family in this way. Her sister mistakes this as her saying she is grateful to be loved by others. “No, ” she says. She explains that she has been so grateful and privileged to love them. She is happy with her life choice and not embittered or regretful in the slightest. She has loved others deeply, and for her, this is a life richly lived—enough.

From Conflict to Peace: A Beautiful Moment of Connection

Despite all the tension present throughout my visit, the tension dissipated for a while. All three daughters sat with Grandma Wanda. They laughed together when she made wisecracks about the nursing home care she had received. My grandmother proved that without being overmedicated, she was still as spry and quick witted as she was before the trauma.

Wanda wanted to sing. She sang old hymns. Her voice cracked, but she sang them fiercely loud with depth and joy. Her daughters joined her, and they laughed and smiled.

I smiled too, remembering standing next to my grandmother as a little girl in the small German church pews, singing those hymns. I would look around to see  if anyone heard her way off-pitch singing.  I was young and a little embarrassed by her crazed staccato that rose so highly above everyone else’s.

As a little girl, I was too young to appreciate the loveliness of Grandma’s fierce singing commitment to her Higher Power. She was normally a feminine and fashion-focused grandma who never walked outside the lines of social decorum. When she sang those hymns, though, she sang them loudly with a crackly voice, and she wasn’t self-conscious at all.

The sisters and Grandma sang hymns together. Then they talked patiently about taking Grandma to live somewhere different. No one completely agreed, and no one completely disagreed. There was a peaceful connection in the room.

The peace of that sweet moment may not last. The arguments may start up again. Resentments could get hurled. However, I love what Diane’s character said in the movie about it all just being an honor to love each other, no matter what comes. Underneath it all, the love and connection is there, and we can try and be grateful for the ability to be present in our imperfect loving of others.


From conflict to peace: Despite the disagreements, tension and conflict, love and connectedness will bring people together. We can be grateful for the honor of loving one another, especially in times of need, when things are hard.


Do you have a caregiver conflict story you can share to help others?

Take care,

Lastly, could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support! And don’t forget Google Plus. 



Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at www.stopgivingitaway.com


Do You Blame Yourself First When Things Go Wrong? Are You On Your Own Team?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

A girlfriend of mine just finished putting on a magnificent affair for 1000+ people to honor our servicemen on Veteran’s Day. She spent hours and hours, 220px-The_Birds_original_postervoluntarily, to help in this huge event. As well as everything went, there were still a few glitches, one of which led to some pretty icky interaction with a demanding, ungracious guest.

My friend, a wonderful, smart, capable, and confident woman named Melody, apologized for the inconvenience and quickly solved the problem (of course). Melody handled the guest well, but what she did to herself wasn’t so good.

“I blamed myself first. Then, I reviewed my emails, sorted through all of my notes, and realized it wasn’t even my fault.”

While Melody handled the guest well, she blamed herself first for the mistake. What followed (the negative self-talk) made the situation worse. How did I miss this? I am so embarrassed! I am terrible at this. Why am I here? I must be stupid. With so much going on, she gracefully rode out the guest’s rant but proceeded to punish herself (here’s the really important part) without sorting out the details that went with that problem.

Taking responsibility versus accepting blame

Taking responsibility for a situation and accepting blame are two totally different decisions we can make when the going gets tough. The words we use to the outside and to ourselves can make a huge difference in the experience of it all. “It’s like I wasn’t even on my own team,” Melody said.

Have you ever blamed yourself first — felt guilt, shame or punished yourself — before knowing the facts or having the whole story? 

Continue reading… »

Are You Pissed Off Right Now? What Is “The Upside To Anger?”

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

The Upside To Anger

The Upside To Anger is a fabulous movie starring the wonderful Joan Allen. Joan plays a miserable, annoyed, spiteful housewife who220px-UpsideofAnger has become an alcoholic and is over the top with anger at her husband, who she thinks disappeared with a young Swedish secretary. Joan’s character hurls herself into drinking and fuming about him while her four daughters deal with her bitterness and their lives, as well as struggle with their father’s abandonment.

Kevin Costner is also in the movie. He is hilarious and likable as a middle-aged ex-sports star who is anxious to bed the bitter abandoned wife. They are so funny in their midlife crankiness. The movie is beautiful in how it captures relationships and trials as well as family connections. In addition, the end is a huge surprise which helps you realize how often our anger is all about what we tell ourself in our heads. You have to see this movie!

So the title got me thinking … What are the upsides to anger?

What do you think?

Continue reading… »


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