Growing up, I often heard if you want something done well, find the busiest person in the room and ask them. More often than not, that incredible person is a single parent. Single parents are some of the strongest people on this earth and deserve recognition for their hard work and support for their challenges.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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!
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.
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.
“Decide what your priorities are and how much time you’ll spend on them. If you don’t, someone else will.” - Harvey Mackay
“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is what are you busy about?” - Henry David Thoreau
Resilience: the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth. The good news is that resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have.
I am concerned for the older population right now. Data has shown that older adults are more vulnerable in this pandemic due to their weaker immune systems and higher likelihood of having chronic conditions including heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease and many others. The CDC reports 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have been adults 65 years of age and older. This has prompted the encouragement of older adults to self-quarantine, or physical distance from others - family, friends, social circles - to protect their health.
The World Health Organization identifies stress as the global health epidemic of the 21st Century – and that was BEFORE the current pandemic! Everyone experiences stress and sometimes it can be perceived as positive by helping to motivate us to get things accomplished. However, if we accumulate stress and do not manage it effectively, it can become chronic and result in negative effects on our minds and bodies.
Things have not been easy for any of us during these past few months – or “unprecedented times.” We may feel like we’ve had many losses: loss of security, loss of contact with others, loss of freedom to come and go where we would like, maybe even loss of health and loved ones, among many more. Many of our blog posts over this time have focused on stress reduction, mindfulness, and finding balance in our lives. I would like to focus this week more on gratitude and looking at the positives that are also going on right now.
Surely, you’ve heard the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” When I think about all the lemons, we’ve been handed this year, it can be difficult to see how to make the lemonade – especially for children. If you have a child in your life, stop for a moment and consider all the challenges they have had to face since March. The transition to remote learning, lack of interaction with peers, and cancellation of activities, events, and celebrations have created prime ground for our kids – and ourselves – to develop our resilience.
When adults are stressed or anxious about our day to day lives and activities, we can find ways to cope through multiple outlets. Exercise, meditation, diet changes, sleep patterns, and venting to those around us are only a few examples of options to relieve stress. Children, on the other hand, need help to alleviate their stress and anxiety. According to Dr. Amy Przeworski of Case Western Reserve University, anywhere from 10% - 20% of school-aged children show symptoms of anxiety.
Between the chaos of work, balancing your family activities, and keeping up with household chores, when do you find the time for yourself? Do you check in with your mental well- being often? When do you find the time to relax?
I just love the Illinois Early Learning Project (IELP) website, which is a valuable source of evidence-based, reliable information on early childcare and education for parents, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois. It is funded by the Illinois State Board of Education and is housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the College of Education.
The effects of no separation between work, family, and no down time to decompress can vary from person to person. On top of that, having to work from home can be challenging and difficult to adjust to, especially if that’s not your norm. When this happens, it can create a stressful environment for you and those around you. It’s important to create boundaries for yourself to avoid letting that stress build up in you.
Here are some tips on how you can create a boundary between your work, family, and self-care to ease the transition of working at home!
Another great suggestion for practicing mindfulness for this Mindful May is coloring! Well-known psychiatrist Carl Jung first recognized the benefits of coloring back in the early 20th century. Recently we have seen a rise in the availability and popularity of coloring books for adults. Adult coloring books often have more intricate patterns and designs where drawing skills aren’t necessary. However, it doesn't matter what you are coloring - whether it is a children’s or adult’s coloring book – it can be beneficial.
It goes without saying that life as we know it has changed. The demands from working remotely, pressures from homeschooling, worries about finances, family, health, jobs, and security have caused us to experience an incredibly stressful period of time. Seemingly endless demands and concerns can put additional stress on our time and resources.
Extension educator Kristin Bogdonas says mindfulness is usually associated with meditation and stress relief, but it can also be a powerful tool when choosing what we eat, how we're eating, and how our choices affect our health. She suggests we take a closer look at how we can apply mindfulness to our everyday eating behaviors.
I have always been an outdoorsy nature person. When I was a kid, I spent most of my time outside – my parents had the hardest time getting me to come back inside at the end of the day. My love of nature continues, and I share my passion for it with anyone who will listen! I always drag my family to state parks, zoos, and botanical gardens. However, times have changed drastically, with the popularization of technology, along with urbanization, and people spend way less time outdoors and around nature.
Nearly 50 million adults in the United States face the reality of Americans managing a mental illness every day. During the month of May, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) joins a national movement to raise awareness about mental health. May is officially National Mental Health Month, and highlights mental health issues and provides a time for our nation to acknowledge mental illness.
In today’s world, especially now, no one is immune to feeling stressed. Eustress or positive stress can help motivate us to do well and get things accomplished. However, according to University of Illinois Extension educators, if stress accumulates and is not managed effectively or there is no outlet for it – stress can become chronic and have adverse effects on our minds and bodie
The teenage years revolve around friends, school, family, sports, and events. Cancellation and social distancing may have real effects on the emotional health of teens.
There are over 34 million people in the US that provide care for someone over the age of 50. Although there tends to be an average profile for caregivers, their population is greatly diverse representing both genders and all races, cultures and ages. However, the majority of caregivers give of themselves without expecting anything in return, and they rarely think of themselves first. Caregiving is a rewarding experience for most, but also has many challenges and burdens that cause great amounts of stress.
It is safe to assume that many adults today remember being told at one time or another by their disciplining parents, “You are grounded and are not to leave the house.” This typically meant separation from friends, playing outside, and taking part in planned activities. Even if it’s been a while since the age of being grounded, the social distancing plan underway may bring back feelings of “having one’s wings clipped.”
With families so busy with work, school, extra-curricular activities, sports, church, civic groups, clubs, etc., they can find it difficult to spend quality time with each other. Because families can be so busy, they need to intentionally plan their time together.
When I think about February, many celebrations come to mind. Whether it is birthdays, the Super Bowl, or Valentine’s Day, we have something to celebrate. Not only do I think about the heart when someone references Valentine’s Day, but February is Heart Healthy Month.
The other day I was visiting with a friend about the importance of feeling optimistic about the future. It is only fitting to think about the future and having a positive mindset as we move into 2020. Being optimistic doesn’t mean to forget about the struggles or issues that you might be experiencing. Still, it is about making sure your mindset is in order.
We talk a lot about stress during the holidays and try to find ways to reduce or make that stress more manageable. However, we usually talk about it in regards to us – the adults – and sometimes forget that holidays can be difficult for children as well.
With the anticipation of the holidays, there can also be that feeling of dread – how are you going to get everything done on an already busy schedule? For many people, the extensive preparations they engage in to pull off those picture-perfect holidays create so much stress, that they can’t even enjoy themselves. The “picture-perfect” part is where much of the stress originates from. Many of us want everything to be “just right” and try to pattern our holiday plans with visions of TV specials, Norman Rockwell prints, and Martha Stewart magazine pictorials in our heads.
We all know someone who is providing care for someone else. They may be caring for an older parent, a disabled adult child, or a spouse suffering from a traumatic injury or chronic illness. Even parents raising children are considered caregivers. Caregivers give of themselves without expecting anything in return, and they rarely think of themselves first.
Since most of the farmers in my area are deep into harvest season, I thought it might be a good time to touch on the topic of farm or agricultural stress. Those in the agricultural industry can face unique pressures, many of which are beyond their control. Some of these include:
I find that most of my decorations are for events and holidays in the months of October, November, and December. Every year during these months as I drag my decorations out, I inevitably see the same ones that I don’t use, and l leave them in the same box to go back into storage for another year. As I look at them, most have no sentimental value, so why should I keep them to gather dust and take up space when someone else could enjoy them?
It's happening more and more. You are driving along and the car you are meeting is slowly drifting into your lane only to be jerked back suddenly – and you see that the driver is busy looking down at their phone rather than the road. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving and can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash. I came across this article by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, and thought it important to share:
I have always been an outdoorsy nature person. When I was a kid, I spent most of my time outside – my parents had the hardest time getting me to come back inside at the end of the day. My love of nature continues, and I will share my passion for it with anyone who will listen! I am always dragging my family to state parks, zoos, and botanical gardens. But times are changing drastically, with the popularization of technology, along with urbanization, and people spend way less time outdoors and around nature.
It's close to the end of the school year for my household and we are already gearing up for all the summer activities. For most parents and children, there is a shift in routine. It becomes a challenge whether you are figuring out how to balance the hustle of taking your child to sports camps, band camps, additional educational classes, livestock shows, and/or games. There are benefits for the change in routine but, taking a break from school doesn't mean to forget about challenging your brain. Encouraging reading is a great way to keep your child on track with academics.
Mark Twain said "Never put off til tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow." As I've been helping my son during his senior year of High School, I have really become aware of what a procrastinator he is – just like me! Most everyone procrastinates sometime. There are different ways to people procrastinate. Some people will delay a task in order to gather more information for completion of the task. In this case, it is not really considered procrastination because you are actively working toward completion of the task.
We know that if we have a partner, that relationship is probably one of the most important ones. Then why is this relationship one of the most vulnerable ones to work-life stress? It is all too easy to take out frustrations on the person we love the most. How can we avoid this? Well, the answer is "It takes work" and an investment. Just like the title of this blog, we have to be intentional with having harmony in our life; it just doesn't happen. Keeping a relationship fresh and alive takes time, energy, and constant thought.
After being stuck inside from a bad winter, we often say things like, "I'm suffering from cabin fever", or after being inside all day we might say, "I need some fresh air." As usual, there is some truth to these familiar sayings that we have heard passed down from generation to generation. I hope that with it being summer, we do not find ourselves saying them.
Have you ever known someone who seemed to go through very difficult times and left you wondering "how can they handle so much?" Resiliency is the ability to recover from life's challenges and hardships without being overwhelmed and to bounce forward rather than back. Families and individuals face many expected and unexpected challenges throughout life. Learning to cope with those challenges can be difficult, but there are certain characteristics that resilient people possess.