The Benefits of Caring for Ourselves

Several of my private practice clients have been talking about finding time to taking care of themselves.  While this generally seems like a basic task, it does seem to easily fall off our to do list.  Whether its getting a massage, taking a short walk, spending time with friends, considering healthier food choices, or buying pair of supportive shoes that help staying on one’s feet all day comfortable.  Did you know that research shows massage lessens stress, depression, anxiety, and reduce pain?  I’ve noticed for more than one person that finding a reasonable bed time and sticking to it has been a challenge and so we’ve brainstormed setting an alarm clock for bed time with hopes that waking up will become less of a struggle.   Getting enough sleep has been shown to improve memory, supports quality of life, curbs inflammation, enchances creativity, improves athletic abilities, improves grades at school or meeting deadlines at work, sharpens attention, supports healthier weight (those sleep deprived feel more hungry), lowers stress, makes you a better driver, and improves emotional stability.  

Taking time to take care of yourself can relieve stress and relax, it can improve our overall health both physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Another consideration is to think about who in your support network can support certain aspects of your self care.  Perhaps one of your friends loves to hike and could point out some new trails for you to try, or a colleague of yours enjoys a hobby that you’d love to try but you’ve hesitated because you are not sure where to start.  Getting time to yourself is also important to re-charge and to ground ourselvesso that you don’t lose sense of our priorities, purpose, and balance in our life.  With the holidays fast approaching I encourage you to think about ways to take some time to conside how you can integrate self-care in your routine.

Dealing with Stress & Anxiety at the Start of the School Year

The school season has started for many and the stress and anxiety about the school year starts early.  There are the pressures of school demands, expectations of the year to come, the demands of social connections, not to mention school sports, expenses, extracurricular activities, starting a new school, and the physical and emotional changes that are likely occurring for a student.

Some amount of stress is good, it can keep a person motivated, organized, and keep the brain functioning.  However too much stress can interfere with development because a person can become immobilized when they feel overwhelmed.

Tips on preventing stress include spending time with your school aged children, providing a stable home environment in terms of rules at home, eating habits, routines, avoid over scheduling, schedule family time, and trying to understand behavior communicating with your student.  Routines help alleviate stress as well as teach kids to learn to develop routines for themselves.  Family meetings can be helpful by providing a way to regroup and talk about what is going on, as well as what isn’t working too well and reviewing schedules and expectations together.

Signs of stress can include:

  • Fears and nightmares
  • Negativism and lying
  • Withdrawal, regressive behaviors, or excessive shyness

Quick tips on managing anxiety and stress

  • Take a time out; schedule quiet time
  • Eating well-balanced meals & decrease sugar
  • Avoid excessive caffeine intake, illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Get enough sleep
  • Accept you cannot control everything
  • Welcome humor
  • A positive attitude
  • Talk to your supports
  • Exercise
  • Respect personal space

I hope the school year has started smoothly for you, let me know if you would like me to meet with your student if they are struggling in school so we can get them back on track.

Familiness & Strengthening Family Resilience

*This blog post was first published on December 11th, 2010 in The Prevention Researcher blog, a journal on adolescent development that I worked for.  The journal’s last issue is being published 9/2013.

Over the past month, I have been reading and thinking about this concept called familiness.  “Familiness reminds us as individuals and as members of particular families to think always about possible alternate structures and sets of functions that constitute family for others” (Shriver, 2011, p. 274).  This concept has been helpful when looking at the challenges of the holidays.  Often there is a mixed bag of emotions as the holidays approach: who do we include in our holiday planning, how are members included or not included, which family members are no longer living, and how might we celebrate with our friends or others we consider family instead?  These are just a few questions that come to mind.

In researching this topic and how we define family, thinking about the holidays and coping with those positive and negative stresses, I found a great book by Froma Walsh, titled Strengthening Family Resilience, 2nd Edition (Walsh, 2006).  Using a systems view of resilience, as a foundation for a Family Resilience Approach, she defines three keys that are particularly important when looking at how families cope as a functional unit.  Family resilience can be defined as a family’s ability to cope and adapt as a functional unit over time.

Here are her Keys to Family Resilience:

1. Family Belief System

-Making meaning of adversity

-Positive outlook

-Transcendence & spirituality

2. Organizational Patterns

-Flexibility

-Connectedness

-Social & economic resources

3. Communication Processes

-Clarity

-Open emotional expression

-Collaborative problem solving

As you prepare for the close of the year and the year to come, and continue your work with youth and families, I hope you find this definition of familiness and these keys to family resilience helpful.