Tag Archives: mental health

How to Create a Cadence to Overcome the Transition Blues

2 Cornerstones to an Unbreakable Reintegration Foundation

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Nitzavim-Vayeilech – Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30

A few weeks ago I heard sailors in formation calling cadence for the first time in quite a while. They brought back memories of my days as a Boy Scout. World War II and Korean War veterans ran my troop. Among the military influences, when we hiked someone called cadence. They were corny…

“I had a good wife but she left.” “You're right!”

“Look what the horses have left.” “You're right!”

“Sound off…” “One, two…” Sound off…” “Three, four…” “Cadence count…” “One, two, three, four, one, two, THREE, FOUR!”

But to a scrawny kid struggling to carry a 50 lb. backpack they kept my spirits from flagging. Civilian life could use some cadence calls, especially when the transition blues hit.

How to Create a Cadence to Overcome the Transition Blues

The Timeless Formula

No matter how meticulous your plan, you’ll have bumps when reintegrating to civilian life. In my case, a week before the movers came to pack up my on-base house, the business venture I had worked on for six months fell through. We got to Los Angeles with lots of expenses and no job.

I could have used a cadence, even a corny one, to help me lift my feet. I felt anger toward the partner who deceived the rest of us. Worse than the lost money was the lost time. My internal dialog flooded with doubt.

I had to make some changes. Fast. I’ll bet you can relate.

Parshas Vayeilech holds the clue for what to do:

“For, the matter is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:14)

The Israelites stood on the cusp of the Promised Land. Moses reminded them they didn’t have to go to extraordinary lengths to figure out the right thing to do. Though daunted by having to change their mode of life, the Torah would still direct them. G-d would provide comfort and protect them. If their hearts remained true to the Almighty, they need not despair.

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Concerned they don't know the new requirements for success. Needing to change their way of life anyway. Being hopeful and apprehensive at the same time. Sounds familiar?

The Burden of Previous Transitions

If you ever struggled to transition, you carry that baggage now. Starting school. Changing schools mid-year or going from middle to high school. Trying to make a team. Crossing over from Webelos to Boy Scouts. Acclimating to your parents getting divorced. Long forgotten emotions from these events can resurface during times of uncertainty.

You may have made an irreversible mistake. You vowed to move on only to find yourself caught in an emotional loop. Realizing you're in a similar situation now, you doubt your ability to prevail.

If destiny haunts you, remember it’s in your mouth and your heart, to move forward and succeed. You’ll ease your way with a cadence to overcome emotional inertia. Create yours by:

1. Purpose. Reimagine who you are. As you transition to civilian life, you’re no longer solely a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, or Coastguardsman. These remain a part of your identity. But now you’ll add new facets to them. Write down a word picture of you reintegrated to civilian life.

2. Mission. Your values don't need to change. But the focus of your life and work does. Family-wise and professionally, create a plan for a lifelong journey. Does your religion give you direction? Consider what 10 to 30-year work goals will motivate you. Don't worry about their changing over the years. Encapsulate your current vision into a powerful sentence or two that describes your life’s trek.

Post these on your bathroom mirror and read them aloud every morning. Keep a copy on your phone so you can read it when the transition blues hit.

Each time you start over, you strive anew. Obliterate worries about the times in the past you said you'd change but didn't follow through. Recognize all that matters is what you say and do now. The required tasks are neither too extraordinary nor too complex for you to handle. These weren’t empty platitudes for the Israelites. Nor are they for you.

Fill in your knowledge gaps. Create a cadence to keep you marching when your energy flags. And always remember, G-d is there to comfort and protect you.

Do you have a mantra that gets you through a difficult situation?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Battle Lack of Preparation for Your Transition

2 Lessons You Can Apply to Leaving the Military

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ki Savo – Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

You decided to move on, retire, or got told to leave the military. The prospect of civilian life fills you with excitement. New horizons are there to conquer. No kicking back and enjoying life. Then reality sets in. Job-hunting turns out to be harder than the TAP folks said. You face dozens of problems without a sponsor. Finding a decent place to live. Getting your kids in new schools. The excitement turns to trepidation.

How to Battle Lack of Preparation for Your Transition

A Whole Nation Disoriented by Change

If you're not careful, the blessing of civilian life will become a curse. Your confidence will change to uncertainty. How could things go SO wrong? How will you handle dashed dreams?

We’re not the first people to make a wrenching change. The story in Parshas Ki Savo will sound familiar:

“…so that you can enter the land that the Lord your G-d gave to you, a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 27:3)

Moses sets out the terms under which the people will live in the Land of Israel. The fundamental rules of life won't change. The Torah will still guide them. But in the wilderness, G-d led them from place to place. He prepared manna for them to eat. Their clothes didn't wear out and they didn't have to do laundry. They studied and celebrated the Sabbath and festivals. Some of them got into mischief.

In the Land, the Israelites will have to adapt to a different life. It may flow with milk and honey. But someone will have to feed and milk the cows. The honey won't gather itself. The Almighty will still guide them, though more hidden now. Each man will have to make numerous decisions.

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Civilian life should flow with milk and honey. But it doesn’t.

Combat Unpreparedness with Outlook

Remember in the military how you handled unexpected problems? You used your training to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Of course, therein lies the key. Your service branch drilled you to meet pretty near all contingencies. For the most difficult ones, someone senior to you had the answer. And, he took the responsibility.

Now you’re in civilian life. You may not have proper training. You haven’t drilled handling unforeseen problems. You're not sure who has the experience to give you sound advice. And all the responsibility rests on your shoulders.

The Israelites faced this situation. Moses gave them a choice: blessings or curses. The Torah lists twelve lines of blessings but an astonishing 54 of curses! You can learn two lessons from their experience:

1. Once you commit to negativity, you’re on an almost endless, downward spiral. The pain will be long and drawn out. You’ll think you’ve hit bottom, only to find there are deeper layers of garbage.

2. If you accept life’s problems as blessings, soon you’ll see some fruits of your effort. They won't come all at once. But living with gratitude for the struggles AND the good times means achieving greater comfort.

I’ve asked transitioning veterans to offer advice to service members about to leave the military. Some say, “STAY IN!” Sadly, they’ve chosen the first path. Instead, resolve to convert negative aspects of your transition into growth lessons. Make curses blessings. And put the excitement back into your transition to civilian life.

Where do you see or anticipate blessings in your transition?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Use Military Practices to Overcome Despair

Train to Handle Problems Before They Arise

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Emor – Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Practicing to Defeat G-d’s Plan?

Angles and dangles constitute one of the more bizarre exercises onboard a Navy ship. At first, they applied to a submarine’s seaworthiness, tested by diving and surfacing at 30-degree angles. A surface ship maneuvers through high-speed turns until the deck leans over close to the point of capsizing. All crewmembers not working the ship stay in their bunks to avoid injury.

How to Use Military Practices to Overcome Despair

On its face, putting a ship in such danger as training seems crazy. What if the quartermaster (the sailor who steers the ship) makes a mistake and capsizes it? But the crew needs to gain experience conning the ship. Better to get it under controlled circumstances than in the eye of a hurricane.

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Practicing allows the crew to face hazards with confidence. The more they feel in control, the better they’ll perform. So it may sound contradictory that the Talmud says sailors are pious. Most acknowledge the Almighty controls events.

Compassion: Nature or Nurtured?

As the seminal act of creating, having a child joins us to G-d. Producing a new life comes as close to a Divine act as anything we’ll ever do. But, birth is only the beginning. We see in Parsha Emor:

“…G-d’s festivals that you will appoint as holy assemblies…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:2)

This Sabbath’s parsha details the standards of purity for a Kohen who serves in the Temple. Then it gives the requirements of an animal for the sacrificial service. The various festivals are proclaimed. It discusses the pure olive oil for the menorah and loaves of bread, known as the showbread, for the table. The parsha ends with the story of a man who blasphemed.

When our children turn five we send them to school. We adjust from controlling their development to sharing that responsibility. Now teachers, principals, and their fellow students have a hand in whom they become. Yet we keep authority to direct their lives.

The Almighty created human beings to have as partners in fulfilling creation. Making us responsible for determining when festivals begin did more than putting us in charge of the calendar. He gave us partial control over time.

Two days before Passover is a regular day. The day before has a medium level of sanctity. Passover itself is a sacred time. When we set the calendar we help fill the world with holiness. G-d wants us to bring the spirituality of heaven to earth. Like teachers helping us fulfill our aspirations for our children. When we develop holiness, we fulfill the Almighty’s aspirations for the world.

Executing this vital task takes practice. Sailors train to conquer hurricanes – physical challenges in this world. Greater competence moves them closer to the Creator. The same applies to the mental and spiritual challenges we face.

The Almighty sends emotional tempests so we can practice overcoming them. Recognize that as you gain greater skill in the physical ∞ mental ∞ spiritual realms, you also move closer to G-d. Use this as motivation to keep pursuing your goal.

How do you train for emotional and spiritual resilience?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Are You Building a Reserve of Mental Strength?

How to Link Your Mind and Spirit

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Tazria-Metzora – Leviticus 12:1-15:33

General George Patton trained his men in many principles of resilience. Among them, he drilled,

“Never let the body tell the mind what to do… The body is not tired if the mind is not tired.”

Are You Building a Reserve of Mental Strength

The Source of Mental Toughness

Patton led soldiers through the scorching heat of the North African desert. He commanded them to victory through the freezing cold winter of 1944 in the Ardennes. The grit his men exhibited amazed even the likes of General Eisenhower.

At the same time, he learned the mind needed to govern more than physical stamina. Once, as a new second lieutenant, he damned one of his men for moving too slowly. Later that day he concluded he’d been wrong to curse him. So he got all his men together and apologized to the soldier.

He never conquered his rash tongue. Because of this and other shortcomings, Patton continually strove to toughen his spirit. He recognized the unquestionable link between spiritual strength and mental durability.

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He used the Bible to develop his spirit. Because of his dyslexia, as a child, he memorized many verses. Legend has it he once corrected Cardinal Francis Spellman’s quotation of Scripture. Patton voiced profanity to motivate his soldiers. But they knew he considered himself accountable to G-d on a daily basis.

How Mind and Spirit Support Each Other

As such, Patton didn’t have to worry about a tzaraas as described in Parshas Tazria:

“If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a s’eis, or a sapachas, or a baheres, and it will become a tzaraas affliction on the skin of his flesh….” (Vayikra/Leviticus 13:2)

This Sabbath’s parsha is a double reading. The first, Tzaria tells about a woman becoming tahor (spiritually purified) after giving birth. Next, it explains how to verify when a person has a tzaraas, baheres or s’eis affliction on his body. Then it covers a tzaraas affliction on a garment.

Parshas Metzora discusses how a metzora, someone with tzaraas, and a house with tzaraas become tahor. It also details how a zav, zavah and niddah become tahor.

A metzora suffered physical pain due to a variety of misbehaviors. Most common, he gossiped or maligned a friend. Contracting tzaraas came after repeated refusals to acknowledge his sin and make amends. It may feel weak to apologize when you don’t mean to hurt someone. But each time you don’t you weaken your spirit.

At the same time, you crowd your mind with an unpleasant, unresolved interaction. Refusing to hold yourself accountable causes a build-up of bad feelings. Your mind won’t let go of these events. You become captive to unpleasant memories.

As well, you have no recourse when someone does the same thing to you. How can you insist on an apology when you refuse to make amends for the same wrongdoing?

Though imperfect, Patton stands as a model for building mental resilience:

  1. Uncompromising introspection helped him confront his shortcomings.
  2. He took steps to resolve them.
  3. This freed him to pursue his quest for greatness on the battlefield.

By making periodic accountings of your behavior, you can identify when you fall short. Next, you can take steps to resolve the issue. Having done so, you can move forward freed from regret or guilt. Your mind now has room to focus on tasks designed to reach your goals rather than on recycling unpleasant dealings.

Gossiping may seem harmless. But how did you feel last time you found someone had told a falsehood about you? We know we shouldn’t tell tales. But stopping is hard. Using Patton’s three-step process will help you conquer your shortfalls. In doing so you’ll liberate your mind and spirit. Unburdened, they provide you with the mental and spiritual strength necessary to reach your goals.

What stops you from taking steps to resolve mistakes you’ve made?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Unlock Hope When You Need It Most

The Value Focus Will Add to Your Job-Hunt

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Mishpatim - Exodus 21:1-24:18

Let’s face it, life can be discouraging. Sometimes you lose heart. Your job-hunt has lasted too long. Or your marriage has deteriorated so that you feel disconnected from your spouse. Whatever plagues you, anger and disappointment scatter your thinking. If only you could unlock hope when you need it. Then you could proceed with confidence. Right? Parshas Mishpatim has the answer:

“…and he heals he will heal.” (Shemos/Exodus 21:19).

How to Unlock Hope When You Need It Most

In this Sabbath's parsha, G-d gives 53 mitzvahs to guide the conduct of the Israelites. Twenty-three are positive things they can do to get closer to G-d. Thirty are negative things that will damage their relationship with Him. The mitzvahs cover a broad range of institutions, crimes, activities, and celebrations. Toward the end of Mishpatim, G-d promises to lead the Children of Israel into the Land of Israel and conquer their enemies.

Find a Partner in Your Struggles

Bob and Jim get into a fight. Bob hits Jim with a stone or his fist. He hurts him doesn’t kill him. Bob pays Jim for lost wages and medical expenses. All this is normal. Then the Torah says someone will heal Jim and repeats he will heal him. We already know Jim didn’t die. So of course he got better.

Still, the Torah says twice that he’ll be healed. The repetition appears to have no purpose.

The first “He heals” might be interpreted as “G-d heals.” Perhaps you must rely ONLY on the Almighty if you are sick or injured. But if the first “he heals” refers to G-d, the second one must allude to someone else. The Talmud says the doctor is the second “he heals.” So healing comes from a partnership between G-d and a doctor.

The verse also teaches doctors heal, but they don’t control whether a patient recovers. The pairing of G-d and a human healer means no matter how great the physician, the Almighty makes the final decision. As partners, the doctor uses his knowledge, skill, and experience toward a goal. G-d decides the results.

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The Almighty has the same partnership with you.

Unlock Hope on Demand

Good doctors know even with the best treatment, some patients die. They don’t control the outcome. Despite this reality, they go to extraordinary lengths to ensure their patients live. At the same time, most doctors compartmentalize disappointment. They shield themselves from the unpredictable aspects of their work. So they can always unlock hope.

You can follow this model. Rather than judging your success based on the outcome, focus on the process. Go to extraordinary lengths in carrying out each step of your job-hunt. Use your knowledge, skills, and experience toward a goal. Leave the result to the Almighty.

Think about how successful the partnership between G-d and doctors has been. Average life span increased 60% from 1900 to 2000. Physicians got better and better at giving medical care. The Almighty granted them greater success.

Rather than getting discouraged, focus on what you can control. You decide what to do, why, and how hard to work at it. Refine your course of action. Learn about the only 5 steps you need to take to get a high-paying job. Direct all your energy toward improving each step you take. Always look for better ways to use your time and skills. When you get in the habit of finding another new way to pursue your goal, you’ll unlock hope whenever you need it.

Question – What job-hunting step can you improve on now?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

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