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    While conflict is bound to happen in all family structures, blended families encounter many unique challenges. Knowing what to expect can help address issues before they spiral out of control.

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    Winter is upon us and those longer hours of darkness coupled with the colder temperatures can make many people experience those “winter blues.” Add the complications of COVID like continued distancing from others and the mental fatigue experienced by the longevity of the pandemic, and I’m afraid we are going to see more people experiencing those blues this season.

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    Natural disasters, such as the recent tornadoes, wildfires, and floods along with other traumatic events like mass shootings and even the pandemic can be devastating for everyone. For children, just watching the news and listening to parents talk can make life’s events seem like they are out of control. This would be magnified for children who experienced direct loss and may need help understanding what happened to their world. Most children look to adults for guidance and understanding on how to react and deal with life’s events.

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    As a new year is upon us, sometimes we say that we hope the new year is better than the last.  As the saying goes, are you looking at your glass half-full or half-empty?  Our outlook may be grim, or it could be positive. If your tendency is to find the less optimistic view, then you might want to explore ways to add a little happiness or attain some strategies to find an optimistic future.

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    Every year the adults in my family have a Christmas gift exchange. Around October we draw names with wish lists to prepare for the exchange. A couple of years ago my brother wanted to change it up a little, and suggested we give experiences rather than actual items. We had so much fun that year! Painting and pottery classes, massages and spa treatments, target shooting, bowling and even horseback riding sessions were just a few of the fun experiences that were gifted. We agreed that doing things was much more fun that accumulating more stuff – and was much more meaningful.

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    The holiday season is fast approaching and given the loss, turmoil, and uncertainty that we have recently experienced, I thought it would be helpful to revisit this post from a few years ago.

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    In a previous article I emphasized how ongoing stress can cause negative physical and mental effects on the body and how practicing self-care or stress management techniques can reduce or maybe prevent those negative effects from happening. Many strategies were suggested, but how do we make the time to do them? There are many ways to stay on track and help you stay accountable.

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    “It’s your turn to take the kids to practice after school today,” she says to her husband.

    “I can’t take the kids to practice today, I have a late meeting,” he says.

    “That’s the second late meeting this week!” she shouts.

    “Why are you raising your voice?” he asks as he points towards her.

    “Why are you pointing at me?  You know it makes me crazy when you point at me!” she shouts.

    “Crazy, you think my pointing is what makes you crazy? Ha!” he shouts in a smug tone.

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    Anxiety can be described as persistent and excessive fears about everyday situations. There can be many signs of anxiety. Some of the most common anxiety symptoms can include having trouble sleeping, feeling nervous or irritable, increased heart rate, and difficulty concentrating. If anyone is experiencing any of these symptoms, there are multiple treatment options for reducing anxiety.

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    “If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.”

    This was an anonymous quote that I recently reshared on Facebook since it truly resonated with me. I had been experiencing months of heavy stress and was not making the time for self-care – and was starting to physically feel the negative effects.

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    As children return to schools and classrooms this fall after a year of a variety of learning environments, many parents and caregivers may find themselves concerned about bullying. Recent research indicated, not surprisingly, that rates of school bullying dropped during the pandemic – likely as a result of many students participating in remote learning environments.

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    As the new school year approaches, it’s completely normal for both parents and children experience a rush of emotions. Sadness that the carefree days of summer are ending. Anticipation of seeing friends and learning new things. Curiosity at what new opportunities the new year will bring. Excitement of new schedules, new routines, new friends. And perhaps, joy…. that the kids are finally out of the house!

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    Summertime for kids usually means fewer routines, later nights, and sleeping in more than during the school year. However, there are signs everywhere to show us that school is just around the corner. It is evident by the store ads, the school supplies that are spilling out into the middle aisles of our local stores, and by seeing August on our calendars. With the school year beginning soon, you'll want to make sure both you and your kids are starting to get back into your school time routines.

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    I originally wrote this article a few years ago, but always feel it is worthwhile to share it again periodically as a refresher. People are highly passionate in their beliefs and on behalf of groups they are a part of, and in our current culture, differing beliefs or create quite the stir. Difficult topics can make it a challenge to get our point across the way we intend to - whether we are talking with professionals, supervisors, family members or friends.

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    On Friday, July 23, 2021, the Olympic Games begin in Tokyo, Japan. There are 11,091 athletes estimated or expected to compete. My image of an athlete is an individual who is passionate, dedicated, determined, goal orientated, healthy, confident, motivated, and much more. Being prepared for the Olympics doesn’t happen overnight. These athletes had to have such a positive and strong mindset to be motivated to train during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are not Olympic athletes, but may struggle with being motivated at times.

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    As we are now officially in the summer season, it can be very easy to overschedule our children and ourselves. This is especially true this year as COVID restrictions begin to lift and more events are becoming available again. Enjoyable but exhausting family vacations, summer sports leagues, day and overnight camps, 4-H fairs, library and park recreation programs, and the list goes on and on.  It is very possible to overcommit family members to the point where they do not get to relax, recharge and really enjoy spending time with each other before another busy school year begins.

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    When I hear someone sing beautifully or see beautiful art, I am mesmerized as these are not gifts that I feel I possess.  Though, I still sing in my car and my home. No matter how I sound, it brings me much joy.  However, painting wasn’t something that I engaged in for fear of disaster.  Anyone else have that same fear?  During this past year, I stopped playing sports due to the pandemic and decided to try my hand at <gasp> painting as a new stress outlet. There have been the good, the bad, and the ugly – yet, I have thoroughly enjoyed them all.

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    Since we are still acknowledging Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to share a little bit about mindful movement. Mindfulness is defined as an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness can happen in many ways including types of breathing, visualization, using our senses, practicing gratitude and even through movement! Mindful movement is an effective way to reduce stress and its physical consequences.

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    Something we have all listened to since we were children is, “Eat your fruits and vegetables.” Even though we always heard this from parents or guardians, they rarely gave a reason behind it other than “They’re good for you.” Let’s look at some of the aspects of healthy foods, why they are classified as such, and what foods contain these benefits.