Happy February! We are well into the new year, and resolutions may have faded, however it is never too late to ask this question. Ponder what you wish for in your life, and then evaluation how you are inviting whatever that is. It may be more Zen, or Peace, or Health, or new relationships, or improved relationships. It may be more a concrete goal such as completing a degree or opening a business. It may be as simple as being more present with your family in day to day life.
So, what is it you want to cultivate? Jot down a few thoughts, and expect the list to grow and change. When you determine what it is you want to cultivate, examine what is getting in your way. What obstacles are present that are preventing you from cultivating whatever it is you want more of in your life? What ever it is, there is no time like the present to ask yourself how you are cultivating it? Or how could you begin cultivating it? How are you opening the door, inviting mindfulness, peace, health, etc into your day to day existence? Are you over scheduling yourself to distraction? Are your beliefs about how you should be clouding your ability to set healthy boundaries or prioritize your own wellness?
You may identify a larger goal or desire. It is easy to get overwhelmed with large scale goals or intentions such as seeking independence by starting your own business, however spinning in overwhelm will not move you forward. Accomplishing even the largest of goals starts with the first step forward. Identify what are the very tiny, daily actions (or non actions) that are required to move towards your vision? Take the business idea for example. There are millions of baby steps to get started on. Just clearing time in your schedule to visualize your intention may be the first step. Make time to begin researching options. Identifying people to talk to, resources to tap into. But what ever the baby steps are, keep in mind that you are in the process of cultivating something new in your life, and cultivating is a process that often requires patience.
As an avid gardener, I find the word cultivate to be a perfect description for how we manage our adult lives. “To cultivate” implies an ongoing process, that may result in achieving a goal, but really is a way of life. You get to choose what you cultivate in your garden, and if you choose not to pay attention, something will grow, though it may not be what you had in mind. As in gardening, there is a continuum from carefully planned, meticulously manicured yards, to carefree, loosely tended cottage gardens all the way to the vacant lot run wild and overgrown, there is a continuum of how we manage and grow our lives.
So, what will you cultivate in your life this year?
Negotiation Generation, Take Back Your Parental Authority Without Punishment,
by Lynne Reeves Griffin
I still love this book after several years of referencing it!
This book addresses the ever-present parenting dilemma of maintaining authority while promoting your children’s independence and age appropriate development. From the back cover: “Once upon a time, parents were parents and children were children. Today, our fast paced lives and changes in popular culture have children claiming more independence then they can handle. Parents are losing their authority, negotiating with their children about everything from what to wear to school to when to go to bed at night. All this negotiating is exhausting, and it doesn’t teach children how to handle the intense pressure to grow up to quickly” This author presents practical skills to help you reclaim your position of authority and take a proactive approach to raising your children. She clarifies the importance of establishing clear boundaries. My favorite quote on challenging behaviors in your child- “If it is predictable it is preventable”
Juggling work and family? The stress of the holidays is fully upon us. With stress comes irritability, exhaustion, overwhelm, lower immunity and higher susceptibility to sickness. In addition, stress affects our mood and can tarnish the joy of the holidays, creating resentment. Here are some tips to make your holidays less stressful, thus keeping you and your family healthier and sane.
Start by adjusting your thinking patterns, your self talk, and your inner dialog. First, identify your “shoulds”, your self judgments, your self critic. These thoughts create guilt, pressure, stress and anxiety.Write them down. Are they realistic given your work load? Is there anything you can do about it? ( ie. I should have planned ahead better…) You cannot go back in time so stop beating yourself up.Something has to give. Don’t let it be you and your health. Look at your list. Rewrite some of the most blatantly ridiculous statements with self nurturing, accepting statements.Repeat and review these positive holiday mantras through out your day and through out this season. Give yourself credit for all that you have accomplished given the juggling act you perform every day, all yea
Who says the holidays have to be an extravagant event? You can say no to a lot of things to make the holidays simpler.
If the complications of holidays leave you feeling irritable, consider doing things differently. This may cause you to examine your list of “shoulds” to discover why it is so hard for you to say no. Ask yourself, “Who am I doing this for? ” It can become very difficult to try to please everyone and still take care of yourself. Remember self-care is very important during stressful times, so it might mean you have to say no to certain people. It is not possible or realistic to make everyone happy, so no need for you to take that on!
Let Go of Perfection
So many of us want everything for the holidays to be perfect. We want to create memories for our children that last a lifetime. Memories are wonderful, but it’s your time and love that people will remember. Think back to your own fondest childhood holiday memories. Mine have very little to do with perfectly color coordinated decorations, or meals worthy of magazine covers. Very few will notice the perfect meal you prepared.
Talk with your kids, spouse, or partner, what is important to them about the holidays? What is their favorite holiday memory or activity? Start your own family traditions. Focus on what you are grateful for. What are you thankful for? What are your blessings?
Accept and embrace the moment in its imperfection.
Clarify for yourself what is necessary to attend to this month and what can wait? Identify key projects or tasks that must happen during the holiday season. Then create a list for after the first of the year for those tasks which are not time sensitive, critical or high priority. When you have moments of inspiration, or ideas, add them to the list
Delegate and ask for help
Put the super hero costume away. The holidays (or any time) are not the time to be super mom. Let go of the attitude that you have to do everything yourself. If you can’t get the help you need, then commit to only what you can without causing stress.
This holiday season, take time to protect your health by breathing, exercising, eating properly, getting plenty of rest, and eliminating the added stress of holidays.
On practicing gratitude:
I recently notices some sneaky “should” thinking that I had not even been aware of. I was filling out a life satisfaction survey online, and noticed hesitation when deciding what bubble to mark. I was feeling like I should mark very satisfied with work, relationships etc, because compared to a lot of others, my work life, my relationship, my family life, are stupendously amazing, and awesome. But upon further thought, I realize there is so much room for improvement, and while I am blessed, and extremely grateful for what I have, that does not mean I should not strive for deeper, healthier relationships, even better work life balance, more physical activity in our daily life. Why not mark “mostly satisfied” w/o guilt? Striving for even more awesomeness does not mean I am not grateful for what I do have. But there is a little old voice that says “you should be satisfied because you are privileged compared to what many others are coping with in life” I think this is incredibly freeing! To let go of comparing, and “shoulds”.
What little old messages are draining your energy, holding you back from awesome? ” I should be happy that….” “We should just be thankful…”
Try to hold the dialectic: we can be grateful, thankful, giving, while at the same time striving to improve, grow, expand. It does not have to be either/or, but both can co-exist.
Watch out for your “shoulds” this Thanksgiving Season!
It is Fall in the Pacific Northwest, and those who were able to stave off depression during the summer months, may be struggling as daylight hours decrease, temperatures drop, and winter weather commences. Depression can feel like a downward spiral, pulling you into a vortex of sadness, fatigue, and apathy. Whether you suffer from seasonal or chronic depression there is exciting information coming out all the time regarding the neuroscience of our moods.
Are you seeking to manage your depression with out medication? In this book, The Upward Spiral, neuroscientist Alex Korb demystifies the intricate brain processes that cause depression and offers a practical and effective approach to feeling and getting better. Based on the latest research in neuroscience, this book provides dozens of straightforward tips you can do every day to rewire your brain and create an upward spiral towards a happier, healthier life one step at at time.
This is a great resource to supplement all the other behavioral changes you may be making in order to treat depression holistically.
Hope you take a look at it!
So the other day, I had the very rare opportunity to read a book for more then five minutes. My husband was sick, and after running around all day with my daughter, I then took my son to baseball practice. I was not graceful about it, as I was feeling resentful at missing out on some time for myself at home. But wisely, I brought my current read, Overwhelm, by Brigid Shulte, (Which I highly recommend)
I got sucked in for the entire hour and half practice. While I am only a couple chapters in, it has really got my attention. In concurrence with this rare reading splurge, I have been frantically trying to squeeze in a webinar on stress and its effects on our bodies this week, before the deadline for me to apply for Continuing Education credits to maintain my counseling license, fully aligning with mothers described in the book.
It is so typical of many many moms, (and not just American moms it turns out) to be frantically playing whack-a-mole, while telling ourselves that after just this last reason for overwhelm, things will settle down. Once baseball is over, once my son’s orthodontics are out, once my husband stops working overtime, once my daughter starts kindergarten…. And now my daughter is in kindergarten, baseball has come and gone, and come again, my son will have a retainer now instead of headgear and braces, my husband may be out of the state for a four month work detail, my office is under construction, the sewer clogged, flooding the basement, the rain also flooded the basement the following week due to gutters being off for construction, my dogs anxiety has increased, and I have a head cold. Oh and the school just called because my daughter threw up and needs to come home. Always more moles popping up to whack down.
I can not stop the moles, but I can change my reaction to them. So for mother’s day this year, give yourself credit for all you do, and accept that there will continue to be moles, sometimes more and sometimes less. We can live with the assumption that they will slow down or stop, and be eternally frustrated. Or we can change our expectations to assume they will continue to pop up at inopportune times, and we can prepare ourselves to handle them as gracefully as possible. Choose Grace!
Warmest Mother’s Day Wishes,
How are you doing with your connection with your child? Remember, research shows that we need at least five positive interactions to each negative interaction to maintain a healthy, happy connected relationship that can withstand the normal conflicts and upsets of daily life. Yesterday (Monday after Easter), my daughter was low energy and complaining of stomach pain. I had a cold, so already had scaled back any plans for the day, so decided to take it easy with my daughter. We had a delightful day of lounging, a few errands, and no pressure to be anywhere on any timeline. (Delightful minus the fact that neither of us were feeling well). While it is not always realistic for us to just cancel our whole day it was a lesson to me in listening (tuning in) to her needs. She is in kindergarten, and consistently expresses how much she misses me during the three days that she goes to after school care. Here are some tips you can implement immediately and in the moment, without planning your whole day around reconnecting.
1. Turn off your phone and music when your child gets in the car with you at the end of the day, and listen to her most and least favorite parts of the day.
2. When your children get into a fight, keep your sense of humor, listen to both kids without taking sides, empathize, and help them work out a win/win solution.
3. When he has a meltdown because you cut his sandwich wrong, don’t make a new sandwich, but remind yourself that tantrums signal distress, not defiance. Stay close and compassionate, validate his feelings so he feels safe enough to cry and get to the bottom of the emotional pile up. You’ll all have a much better day instead of entering a power struggle over the shape of a sandwich.
4. Commiserate and encourage as you help her study for her spelling test.
5. Laugh at his jokes.
6. No matter what your child says, empathize. Often the primary need is for them to express how they are feeling and feel heard. They are not really going to smash their brother’s lego ship to pieces or run away. You can help them to cope with intense feelings and find safe ways to deal with them by listening first. When you acknowledge how your child feels, you strengthen your connection.
7. Spend fifteen minutes of special time with each child, just following her lead and pouring your love into her. This habit alone can transform your relationship with your child. When she wants to use the couch cushions to build a fort, say yes. Let her be the director and tell you what to do.
How do you boost positive interactions in your daily parenting?
Are you struggling to connect with your children in the seemingly limited time you have with them each day? Maybe you are dealing with a limit testing 5 year old, or a sullen pre-tween. Research shows that we need at least five positive interactions to each negative interaction to maintain a healthy, happy connected relationship that can withstand the normal conflicts and upsets of daily life. So when we’re short on positive interactions, our kids resist our guidance and develop attitude, whether they’re two or twelve.
Life is busy, and you don’t need one more thing for your to-do list. Instead, why not create a few daily habits that replenish your relationship with your child? After thirty days, any action becomes a habit, so you don’t have to think about it. Here are 7 things you can start doing today to build a closer relationship with your child. Try a couple, find one or two that work, and establish a new mini habit!
1. Snuggle with each child for five minutes when they first wake up.
2. Take an extra minute to sit down with your kids at breakfast, asking what each one is looking forward to today.
3. Instead of yelling at him to keep him moving through the morning routine, empower him with a chart with photos or pictures of him doing each task, and let him be “in charge” of himself while you just smile and point to the chart, asking what he needs to do next. My daughter loves the Richard Scary books that show the animal characters going through their morning routine.
4. Write a love note or picture to slip into her lunch box.
5. Skip together as you walk to the school bus, or sing happy songs in the car.
6. As you hug her goodbye, tell her you can’t wait to see her this afternoon and hear all about her day. Remember to say “Have fun!” instead of “Be good!”
7. During the day, find five minutes here and there to simply close your eyes and get centered. Breath, stretch. Try to get organized before you leave the office, so you can really leave your work behind and turn off your phone. In the evening, you’ll be better prepared for your second shift, and better able to be present with your family.
Time-consuming? Sure. You can’t do everything every day with each child. But most of these practices don’t add much time to your day; they just make what you are already doing go more smoothly.
And when you cultivate habits like these, kids cooperate more, fight less, and WANT to follow your guidance. You strengthen and sweeten your relationship, every single day. So when you do get to the teen years, your child will be more open to your influence and might even ask your advice.
Look for more tips on connecting with your child here soon!
If you want to hear more about what I do, here is a recent audio link to my radio interview. First time I have done something like this, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Still working on the “umms”, but this is a great summary of my work with moms!
This week our family village was reminded of the tenuous line between life and not life.
One of my closest friends, who has same age kids as mine, experienced a medical crisis, that escalated quickly and unexpectedly to life threatening levels. Thankfully, she is on the mend, but after 10 days in the hospital, she is home on complete bed rest for a month at least. Doctors orders: do not lift anything heavier then a water glass. She is the mom who does everything, takes other peoples kids in a pinch, remembers snacks, has extra car seats, manages the family schedule, transportation, social agenda, entertainment, sports, school, cooking, laundry, doctor and medical needs, plus she works outside the home. It will be very challenging for her to remain in her recliner, directing rather then doing!
Our village has rallied to fill in all the gaps left by a mom temporarily relegated to the sidelines- getting kids to and from school, childcare while father works, meals, cleaning, errands etc. A google calender, a meal train, frequent check ins, and flurries of texting are all being employed to keep her from over exerting herself!
Since our kids are like siblings, and we are closely aligned in many ways, it feels extremely close to home for me. It highlights how very vital our role as mothers is to the family functioning. It is one thing to go away for a ladies weekend, or a few days for a work trip, and our partners and friends step up, but to be out of commission for a month or two or more is eye opening. Just think how it would be in your home, if you were unable to lift a finger for an extended period of time. Granted, both my husband, and hers are very involved dads, who work outside the home, help with household chores, coach sports, and participate wholeheartedly in family life, but even with that kind of partner it is staggering to realize the role you play.
Two things have come to mind for me out of this experience (which is still unfolding). The first, is how much moms such as you, me, her, do every day, every hour. I am reassessing how much more my now school age children could do, if I begin delegating, empowering them by letting go of doing it myself. I know how much all mothers do for their families, often to their own detriment. I see clients, friends and myself fall prey to the belief that we can keep putting our own needs on the back burner. So take care of yourselves ladies!!!!
The other is, how necessary it is to have a village around you if you do not have a large close extended family to lean on during times like these. I find myself in the village category, along with several like minded families in our local community. My family has leaned heavily on our village over the past two years, and I feel so blessed, to see it in action during tough times, as well as during times of celebration. Look around you, who is, or could be part of your village? Cultivate a village for your well being, as well as the well being of your whole family!
We are all lucky this time around, in that our friend’s health will resolve, and she will be back in action by summer if not sooner, but I hope to hold the insights this experience brought to me, and encourage you, my clients, my friends and fellow mamas to accept help, take care of yourself, and cultivate a village because you will need it someday!