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January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month! Basic info and what you can do

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month by www.somethingtoconsiderblog.com

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month by http://www.somethingtoconsiderblog.com

With January being human trafficking awareness month, I thought I would start a new series spotlighting different causes.  I will outline some key points regarding what human trafficking is, as well as ideas on what you can do about it.  There are many additional resources listed below that are absolutely fantastic and I strongly urge you to check them out.  Principally, what is human trafficking in a nutshell?

The United Nations defines human trafficking as follows:

“‘Trafficking in persons’ shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;”

That is a lot of words.  What is boils down to is that human trafficking, or modern slavery as it is also called, is the exploitation of another using force, fraud, coercion, or deception.  Human trafficking can take on myriad forms, such as: sexual slavery or commercial sexual exploitation, bonded labor, forced labor, child soldiers, begging rings, organ trafficking, and forced marriage (this is different than arranged marriage).  It is not uncommon for multiple forms of slavery to occur in one place; for example, in a labor camp there may also be sexual exploitation transpiring.  A slave or trafficked victim also has many faces, and this crime can occur anywhere.

Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking: male, female, adult or child (though most are women and children).  And while it can and likely does happen everywhere, popular trafficking destinations are Italy, Turkey, Japan, and the United States.  Prevalent regions people are trafficked from include Eastern Europe, countries of the former Soviet Union, and Africa.  Solid statistics in relation to modern slavery can be difficult to come by.

Since it is humanly impossible to know the existence of every basement brothel or home with involuntary servitude, current statistics on human trafficking must be taken with a grain of salt.  Generally, modern slavery is estimated to be the third largest and fastest growing crime in the world, behind (and often tied in with) the sale of drugs and arms.  Human trafficking is roughly a $32 billion industry, earning more than Google, Starbucks, and Nike combined.  The U.S. State Department estimates of the number of slaves in the world today is 20.9 million.  It’s no wonder why it is believed to be so profitable and prevalent; while a drug can be sold once and then consumed, a person can be sold and abused many times over.  Though it can be nearly impossible to imagine this degree of human rights violation, we must understand the root causes of the problem before we can begin to look at a solution.

Modern slavery has numerous causes, such as but not limited to: poverty, beliefs about sex, the societal roles and value of women, men and children, disease, lack of education, broken families, greed, political and police corruption, supply and demand, and the bottom line is pure evil.  Faced with such enormous numbers and factors feeding into this monster, we can feel completely overwhelmed and despair that nothing can be done to stop it.  But in fact we who are free must do something, even if it is one small step toward change.  The following are some suggestions.

-You can pick one of the root causes of slavery and work to effect change.  For instance, if you are passionate about increasing the quality and availability of education, that will help prevent human trafficking.

-Tell someone about it.  Raising awareness mobilizes other people to get involved.  Not sure how to get the conversation started?  You can wear clothing with end slavery slogans (some can be found here or at many of the websites listed below) and even jewelry made by survivors (you can find some here).  This leads me to my next suggestion.

-Be a smart consumer.  Websites like http://www.chainstorereaction.com/ provide information on which companies have signed a pact to avoid using slave labor in the production of their merchandise.  They also have a form letter you can sign and send to companies who have yet to sign the pledge and urge them to make this a priority.  The Good Guide website also provides ratings for companies’ social responsibility (as well as their environmental and health policies) found at www.goodguide.com

-Have people over to your house to view movies and documentaries on the subject and discussion.  International Justice Mission has a phenomenal documentary called At the End of Slavery, as well as a list of other movies on their website which can be found here.  You can also host jewelry parties with products made by survivors (resources listed below).

-Support local and international abolitionist organizations with your time, money, and talents (many listed below).  If you are unable to find an organization in your area, start one!  Or encourage your church and city leaders to pioneer one.  If we make it known that it is important to us, it will become important to lawmakers and leaders.

-Learn the signs of trafficking and keep your eyes open.  A list of signs can be found at http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/recognizing-the-signs .  If you suspect trafficking is happening, report it to the (U.S.) National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888 or text BeFree (233733).

Whatever your expertise or calling, it can help.  You don’t have to storm a brothel to make a difference.  If you have a diseased tomato plant, you can cut off the tomatoes but they will continue to grow back.  It needs to be plucked up by the root.  Any step you take can cause a shift in the paradigm.  And if we can enact change in our sphere of influence, it will spread to those around us.

Thanks for reading.  Leave a comment below with any suggestions of causes you would like to see highlighted.

Links for more information:

Organizations and Websites-

www.ijm.org

www.polarisproject.org

www.love146.org

www.faastinternational.org

www.notforsalecampaign.org

http://warinternational.org/

http://crossculturalconnections.org/

www.iteams.org

Books-

Not for Sale by David Batstone

The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam

Disposable People by Kevin Bales

Child Soldiers: From violence to protection by Michael Wessells

Good News About Injustice by Gary Haugen

Movies & Videos-

Call and Response trailer http://youtu.be/mS-0CHXfyIk

At the End of Slavery trailer http://youtu.be/RyqMsrr1OjE

International Justice Mission Movie Suggestions http://www.ijm.org/files/get-involved/student-ministries/Movie-List.pdf

Apparel, jewelry, & other products- can be found at most of the websites listed above.  The t-shirt I’m wearing from my corresponding youtube video is from www.notforsalecampaign.org but it is a few yrs old, I don’t see it on the website currently but they have many others. The bracelet I showed in the video is from http://crossculturalconnections.org/ but I also love http://warinternational.org/

Recognize the signs of human trafficking- http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/recognizing-the-signs U.S. National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline 1-888-3737-888 or text BeFree (233733) or report to your local authorities or International Customs Enforcement

References: https://na4.salesforce.com/sfc/p/300000006E4s/a/600000004Scf/A.Lg9ppZ70L7.h7qoirCR.dad967bDo6ewESpdX_07w=

www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=32521&Cr=&Cr1=

www.thea21campaign.org/files/a21/a21prayerguide2010.pdf

FAAST “Hands that Heal” curriculum

also many of the books and websites listed above

“The LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners;” Isaiah 61:1

My corresponding YouTube video:

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Decluttering My Vanity…and My Life

Decluttering My Vanity…and My Life

So I thought I would kick off the new year by getting rid of things I have lying around that are seldom used and gathering dust. Makeup, clothes, home decor, and toys were making their way into the “donate” pile. This quickly became an exercise in self reflection.

At first I felt the urge to justify keeping things, thinking, “Oh I’m sure I’ll use this soon.”  But as my stack began to grow, the buzz of having more space and simplifying my home began to kick in.  Before I knew it, I was happily tossing things in. I began to feel more energized, and it occurred to me just how long it had been since I felt that way.

I realized that not only did I need to declutter my house, I needed to declutter my life.  It wasn’t just about “things” zapping my energy.  Unhealthy habits, relationships, and priorities can throw everything off kilter. They steal our time, energy, and quality of life. And just like justifying the keeping of unnecessary things, we legitimize those habits by saying, “It’s not that big of a deal.” We defend unhealthy relationships with family, friends, and partners, thinking, “It will get better.” We excuse skewed priorities with, “I’ll get to it later.” But later never comes.  Not that way.

Later is now. This moment is what we have to work with.  Maybe “it” is that big of a deal.  And how can things get better without correction?  Ask yourself honestly what (or who) needs to go, needs to change. Even if the one who needs to change is you. Change is scary, but what scares you more? Changing…or staying the same?

What will you “declutter?” Leave a comment below.  Thanks for reading.

Overcoming the Plague of Anxiety: Finding your way back to a place of rest

Anxiety

Anxiety (Photo credit: Rima Xaros)

Of all the clients I have seen over the years, one of the most common problems people have come to counseling for anxiety.  According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue, affecting approximately 40 million adults each year.   To a certain degree, anxiety is a perfectly normal reaction to stress.  For example, if you have a big exam coming up at school or an important presentation at work, anxiety and nervousness are natural responses.  However, if an anxiety response causes substantial emotional impairment or distress, a person may be dealing with an anxiety disorder.  For more information on anxiety and how to help ease the symptoms, keep reading.

While anxiety has many forms (listed below), this article focuses on anxiety in the general sense.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes Generalized Anxiety Disorder as extreme and frequent worry that is difficult to control and causes impairment in functioning in at least one area of a person’s life (that is not caused by a medical issue or substance use).  Symptoms can include feeling edgy, cranky, and drained; having difficulty focusing, muscle tension, and trouble sleeping.  Remember that each individual is different so anxiety may not look exactly the same from person to person.  This can be exhausting to deal with for ourselves and our loved ones.  In addition to the mental and emotional response to anxiety and stress, our bodies also have a physiological response to stress and anxiety.

Naturally, our bodies respond to stress by trying to avoid or eliminate the stressor.  The hypothalamus kicks into gear.  The pupils dilate, the adrenal glands drive cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine throughout the body, the heart rate and blood pressure jump, our bodies burn stored fat for energy and constrict blood vessels in certain parts of the body.  This readies us to respond to and survive the threat by fighting, fleeing, or freezing (i.e. the fight-or-flight response).  While these automatic functions in the body are invaluable in protecting us from threats, anxiety can enable them by even a perceived threat.

If we get stuck in an anxious mindset, anything can become a perceived threat.  This can leave our body in survival mode around the clock, when it is only meant to turn on in an emergency.  Operating on this mode all the time can actually have toxic effects.  No wonder you are having difficulty concentrating and sleeping with all of this going on inside your body!  But how can a person get off the anxiety roundabout?  We have to engage our minds and bodies for the solution.

  • It all starts in the mind.  Ask yourself when the anxiety first started.  What was happening at that time?  What were you responding to?  Sometimes anxiety is (and other mental health issues are) a result of something we’ve been ignoring within ourselves that is trying to get out.  We can only stuff it down for so long before it manifests itself.  Identify how you respond to the trigger emotionally, physically, and mentally.  What are your thought responses to stress?  For example, if a teacher or an employer asks to speak to you privately after a presentation, are you assuming that what they have to say is negative?  Jot the answers to these questions down.  Take your time.  If you are having a difficult time answering some of these questions just relax and give yourself a break; you may have to revisit these questions repeatedly, and that is completely normal.  Now that you have identified the stressors and your initial responses, let’s get your body under control.
  • When you feel the anxiety start to creep in, the first thing to do is maintain a low heart rate.  Take slow, deep breaths.   Under stress our bodies want to huff and puff; these shallow intakes can encourage the stress response in your brain.  By maintaining your breath you can cut off the anxiety hormones at the pass.  Relax any muscles that may have tensed.  Try some progressive muscle relaxation; you may be surprised at how many of your muscle groups have been activated.  Participate in regular exercise.  When we sweat it releases many of the toxins in our bodies and leaves our brains and bodies in a much more restful state.  One of the most effective ways to relax the mind and body is through prayer and meditation.  Studies show how powerful these are, as people who identify themselves as religious are less likely to become anxious and depressed.  In one study, 20 out of 22 participants who practiced prayer or meditation to reduce moderate to severe anxiety showed marked improvement after three months.  When we pray and meditate, we use the most advanced part of our brains that is responsible for thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving.  These functions are dampened by anxiety from the activation of more primal instincts for survival.  Let’s not underestimate the power of our Lord.  He designed us this way for a purpose.
  • Now back to our thoughts.  Once the anxious thoughts have been identified, challenge and replace them along with any fearful self-talk; exchange them for empowered, positive ones.  Analyze how likely the feared event is to occur.  You see, our fears are like a plant.  They start with one seed, and then we water it by continuing to think and speak fearful thoughts which, many times, are unrealistic.  What can you do to control the outcome of the dreaded situation?  Remind yourself that you are not as helpless as you may feel.  Identify how you might respond to the feared outcome in order to return to a normal level of functioning.  And try to stay in the present moment.  Anxiety is usually brought on by thoughts of the dead past or the imaginary future.  Most of the time we are safe and should not have to feel worried.  This can be incredibly difficult at first, but patiently keep returning your focus to the here and now.  However, if there is a question of physical safety in your life, contact a helping professional to assist you in getting you to a safe place or situation as soon as possible.
  • Have a loved one or close friend to talk with about the anxiety.  Sometimes another person can give us a fresh perspective on how probable a feared event is.  They can also hold us accountable to our coping strategies.  If possible, this person should not have an anxiety problem as anxiety can be contagious; if we are in close proximity to an anxious person, our brain picks up on their elevated heart rate and will send a signal to the body that something is wrong.  This can stimulate an anxious response within us.  Also, exposing ourselves to anxiety-provoking material can do this: reading crime novels, watching disturbing movies or television, etc.

Again, we are all unique so some techniques may work better for you than others.  It can take time to overcome anxiety, so celebrate every small victory you have.  The good news is that anxiety is very treatable.  Continue to educate yourself on the causes, symptoms, and solutions of and to anxiety with many available books on the subject.  If your anxiety is serious, get in touch with a good counselor or licensed therapist.  Trained professionals have many additional resources and treatment exercises to help you reclaim control over your thoughts and feelings.  I am confident you will find freedom from the plague of anxiety and find your way back to a place of rest.

If you would like to see an article about other specific types of anxiety or anxiety in children/adolescents, or for questions, please leave a comment below.  Thanks for reading.

“If any of you are having trouble, pray.” James 5:13

“Cast all of your anxiety on God because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Anxiety types or disorders:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Panic attacks and Panic Disorder

Phobias (ex. Agoraphobia)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Acute Stress Disorder

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Resources: A great workbook to check out is The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne

References
American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth ed., Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Anxiety, Prayer, and Spirituality: Clinical evidence to the power of prayer and faith as an antidote to emotional diseases. (2007). In Holistic Online. Retrieved August 2, 2013, from http://www.holisticonline.com/Remedies/Anxiety/anx_prayer.htm

Facts and Statistics. (2010). In Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Howard, P. J. (2006). The Owner’s Manual for the Brain: Everyday application from mind-brain research (3rd ed.). Austin, TX: Bard Press.

Jongsma, A. E., & Peterson, L. (2006). The Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment Planner (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2012, June 30). Anxiety: Symptoms. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anxiety/DS01187/DSECTION=symptoms

Nevid, J. S., Rathus, S. A., & Greene, B. (2006). Abnormal Psychology in a Changing World (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Statistics: Any anxiety disorder among adults. (2013). In National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ANYANX_ADULT.shtml

My video on this topic: