If you can make the world a little better, then you have accomplished a great deal.

Summer is in full swing and things at Ignite are going well.  The Young Women’s Empowerment Class completed last month and they liked it so much we are going to continue monthly check ins!  I’m hoping there will be more interest in this class to start a new one this fall.  Here are our final vision boards: 18556764_973500899419846_3954842052511610983_o

I’ve welcomed some new clients recently who are looking for support as they transition out of unhealthy relationships, as well as some couples who are trying to find healthier ways to communicate.  Stress can impact our relationships, how we communicate, as well as how we make progress towards our goals.  Self-care is a must as we manage day to day responsibilities as well as find ways to address the grief and loss in our lives.

One of my favorite subjects is gratitude.  Finding ways to pay attention to what we have rather than what is missing can really make a difference in our frame of mind.  Gratitude jars were a hit in my class as well as many of my clients are tracking gratitude in their journals.   Right now I have a couple more spots open for new clients; I hope that if you or someone you know could benefit from counseling or a life coach that you will contact me!  17635441_925114810925122_5231406512144647996_o

How Saying No is Saying Yes

I was meeting with a client this week talking about the struggle of saying no.  So many of us, wanting to be people pleasers worry about the repercussions of saying no.  I challenged my client to think about how saying no might actually be saying yes.  Here are some thoughts about how this might be the case:
  • It can free up time to allow for self-care.
  • It may allow us to spend more time doing other things that take priority or that have been hanging over our head.
  • It can allow us to be more present in our lives for the things we have already said yes to.
  • Maybe by you saying no this allows someone else an opportunity to say yes?
  • Perhaps saying no to one opportunity actually allows for time to commit to something else. 
Recently I’ve reminded myself to take pause before saying yes/no.  This allows me time to be thorough and thoughtful in my decision making. If you find yourself still struggling with how to proceed, you might consider what the three most important values/priorities in your life right now.  If this new opportunity does not somehow feed into one of those perhaps it is not the time to take this on.  If it does align with one of those values then maybe there is something else that you are involved in that you can let go of so that you can more easily say yes? 
It is so important to pay attention to what we are involved in from day to day so that we do not become stressed, overwhelmed, resentful, and unhappy in our lives.  Please feel free to share with me how saying no is saying yes in your life right now!Yes

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.

Working with Homeless Teens & Their Families in a Shelter Setting

*This post previously was published when I worked for The Prevention Researcher November 17, 2008. This journal on adolescent development is coming to a close this September.

I had the privilege of case managing homeless families for over four years at an agency called ShelterCare here in Eugene, Oregon. The program I worked at was called Brethren Housing, which provided temporary housing for four families and also single adults with mental illness.

Research reports that the primary cause of family homelessness is the cost of housing [http://www.endhomlessnes.org/files/1224_file_FamliesFMac.pdf]. There just isn’t enough low cost housing and the income families bring in is too low for the housing that is available. Five million American households spend more than 50% of their budgets on housing (the federal standard is 30%) or they live in severely substandard conditions. Families often came to us after living at another shelter, having lived with other family members or friends or having lived in their cars. Most families that came to Brethren Housing had not been homeless before, so much of our work revolved around connecting them to services like food stamps or health insurance. Often teens were expected to act like responsible adults, taking care of younger siblings, making meals and overseeing homework. They were likely to be behind in school due to absences and most did not tell their teachers or friends about their homeless situation. Teens were also often privy to all that their parents were going through, which could be a large burden.

One teen who I will call “Sara” was 15 years old. We had just found out her mom was using methamphetamines and would not accept drug treatment, so we had to evict the family. Sara came to meet with me to talk about her concerns with her younger brother having to live with her mom. She felt torn because she wanted to protect her brother but could not stand the friends her mom would go to live with. Her brother, a fifth grader, was too young to go to a shelter with her and so Sara was having to make the tough decision about whether to go in shelter without her brother, or to stay with her family so that she could watch over him.

Many of the teens I worked with had a difficult time in public high school. Not only having to deal with fitting in, usually teens did not have the money to participate in after school sports, and more often than not they were behind in school in several subjects. For elementary aged students there were often after school homework clubs, but by high school their options were slim and relying on their parents for tutoring was usually not an option. These teens often had low self –esteem, suffered from depression, and usually didn’t have belief in being able to attain their dreams as far as their own careers or schooling.

Brethren Housing has worked hard and how has new housing called Afiya.

Brethren Housing has worked hard and now has new housing called Afiya.

Asking for help was also something that seemed difficult for them to do. I would meet with them each week, giving them a weekly contract that might include finding one fun activity to do, completing a homework assignment, and attending a community meeting (something we had once a month for all the residents at the shelter). Often it took awhile to get to know each teen, but it seemed once they saw I was interested in what was going on with their families and how they were doing at school they then would start providing input in to what they wanted the weekly meeting to look like. What I found was that these youth often would bring in homework they needed help with. And while doing this they would also seek advice about a problem with a classmate or how to meet up with a friend by using public transportation while their parent was at work. One thing I could then do with each parent is talk about how to allow their teens to have time to just be kids.

“Julia”, a 16 year old, came to me wanting to look for a job so that she would have money for clothes, other basic necessities and to have money to go to the movies with her friends. Julia was always meticulously dressed and took a lot of pride in her appearance, but she knew the clothing she liked cost money and was not something her mom could focus on saving for when they were trying to save money for housing. One of the first things we did during her meetings was type up her resume together. Then we were able to get online to search for job postings and we did skills building regarding interviews and following up with potential employers. I could sense even after creating her resume with her that she had some increased confidence and excitement when thinking about the possibilities of her future.

Self -care was an important theme to incorporate for all the families, because in times of crisis it was often something they did not do. What things could each family member do to take care of themselves? For some it was journaling, taking a walk, calling a friend, taking a bus ride to go visit someone, taking a bath, reading or listening to music. A teen I’ll call “Sam” knew how to play guitar– talents like this often get pushed aside when families have to bounce from place to place, putting their prized possessions in storage. Playing guitar and listening to music were both self-care goals Sam had for himself. By the end of their stay, Sam and his father were comfortable sharing their artistic talents in their meetings with me. It was fun having family meetings where the whole family would end up talking about “their weekly contracts with Jasmine”. While their contracts were allowing them to stay at the shelter it became something that made them feel important knowing that someone held them accountable and noticed when they finished their list of to dos.

The thing that really struck me working with teens was how open and honest they could be, something their parents often had to work very hard at. Often times I was amazed by how self reflective these teens could be in the midst of all the chaos that had gone on in their lives. I felt honored to be able to be a witness to this and to watch as these teens learned to take the time to communicate their thoughts and feelings with their parents in a more open manner. These families struggled with the pulls of work, chores, and raising kids. Additionally, many of these homeless families also struggled with issues of mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence and the stigma of homelessness, which would only amplify the issues they were facing. The challenge was to find a way to break down those larger goals into smaller steps and to support the whole family along the way.

Checking In

Ignite has been busy as the Apocalyptica Chromatics Card Deck Kickstarter succeeded so March has been a month full of filling orders for over 600 people and many trips to the post office!

I’ve also been wrapping up my last semester at graduate school, with less than a month of classes left I’m back to the crossroads – looking deeply at what my goals, passions, and what’s next?  This week I’ve had the opportunity to engage some coaching skills – helping a friend of mine meet her physical health goals.  She’s great at setting goals, but needed someone to hold her accountable.

Being the school geeks we are, I thought- why not create a special class just for her?  This means I built a tiny simplified curriculum, gave her due dates to check in with me where she has to write up her progress and then I provide her with feedback.

What I’ve realized doing this is that sometimes we can get so stuck.  For one, while the ultimate goal is to help her lose weight, what also needs to happen is for her to re-engage with her mind and spirit too (Deepak Chopra & Oprah right now are talking about this with a free meditation course they are providing).  Something I’m in the process of doing right now too; I get back to this place thinking – again?  How did I get stuck in these patterns again?  Back to writing in my journal, taking photos, calling my wider support system, working out, and eating healthier.