New Year…New You?

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Happy 2017!

I’m not a huge fan of New Years resolutions. But I do think that the start of the year can be a good time to reflect on where we’ve been – and where we’d like to go. We all know that losing weight and being more careful with money are top goals for many. But I think other, more introspective goals are more interesting, impactful and do-able.

Taking note of things like:

  • How you spend your time – and who you spend it with
  • The words you use when talking about yourself and others
  • The way you interact with technology and social media
  • The roles, obligations and jobs you have – and whether they are still a good fit

Considering these and other aspects of life takes a little time and energy – but I think it’s worth it!

I wrote an article over at Produce for Kids about how to make changes that last.  My favorite tip from the article?

Make personally-meaningful goals. We can’t all care about everything. It’s not realistic to expect ourselves to be: never-cheater eaters, marathon runners, ultra-savers, perfect parents, top-notch employees, garden club honorees, award-winning volunteers, Pinterest stars…you get the picture. Instead of trying to be everything everyone else tells you that you should be, focus on being what you want to be. Not only will your goals be more meaningful, you will be more likely to meet them.

Here’s the whole article:

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Managing Holiday Stress

We’re in the home stretch! The kids are out of school and the holidays are almost here. While this is an exciting, magical time for some; for others it can be quite stressful.  I recently had a chance to talk to my dear friend (who also happens to be a psychologist), Dr. Debbie Sorensen, about how to handle the busy-ness and  expense of the holidays.

Check it out:

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And I love the little cheat-sheet Dr. Sorensen made for the podcast episode:

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Interested in listening to more podcasts? Check it out here:

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Families, Politics and the Holidays

Did you make it through Thanksgiving? How are you feeling about Christmas? It’s fast approaching, and guess what?

Your family is still your family, and your politics are still your politics. 

I recently spoke to the fun folks over at BuzzFeed about how to deal with tough conversations with family over the holiday season.  As always, BuzzFeed’s take on the topic is funny – but also filled with really useful tips. Here’s a favorite:

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As the booze flows, so do the inappropriate and inflammatory comments and questions.  Resist the urge to engage in a drunken argument – nothing good ever comes from it.

Check out the entire article – and all 15 tips – here:

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Families and the Ties That Bind (Hint: None of them are political)

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There is a lot of tension in the country right now.  And we knew it was going to be this way, right? No matter the outcome of the election, there were always going to be many, many millions of folks who’d supported the losing side.  And after a full of year of debate, nastiness and name-calling in the political arena, more rancor post-November 8th was exactly what NONE of us needed.

And now here come the holidays.  A time that’s supposed to be shiny, bright and Pinterest-worthy – but is actually often stressful, disappointing and overwhelming.

I’ve been talking to quite a few folks in the media this week about tips for how to manage holiday gatherings with family members who are on different sides of the political debate.  A few things have come to my mind in these conversations, not the least of which is:

We don’t love our families (and our families don’t love us) because of our political views

The love shared between families is made up of many (in my mind, more interesting) reasons:

  • We share the same history – the history we can remember and the history that happened generations before we arrived
  • We have lots of shared memories – of things good, bad and in between
  • We root for the same football team, laugh at the same dumb movies, like the same weird food, etc
  • We have forgiven each other for mistakes and hurts big and small – and will continue to do so many more times in the years to come
  • We accept each other for what we really are: Not what we post on our Facebook page or send in our holiday cards
  • We sit with each other when we are sick, hold each other’s hands when we grieve and celebrate together when a milestone is reached

Feelings about the election and the coming administration are intense, but let’s all try to keep it in perspective.  Shared political beliefs rarely occur in families anyway, and this year is no different.  To expect agreement this holiday season will likely only result in frustration.  Instead try focusing on all the many things we do have in common and love about each other.  Pumpkin pie, anyone?

Fighting Hunger Around the Holidays

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Want to do something really easy to help fight hunger? All you have to do is “like” Produce for Kids on Facebook and Instagram and they will donate 1 meal to Feeding America.  Here’s more:

Join us this holiday season for our inaugural Holiday Meal Drive! Starting today and running through December 31, we’ll be donating one meal* to Feeding America® for every new Facebook and Instagram fan. With one click, you can help make a difference to the 42.2 million Americans, including 13.1 million children, who live in food-insecure households.

Check it out and Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

 

Making Changes During Lent

Ready to make some behavioral changes in your life? Lent might be a good time to give it a try!

Ready to make some behavioral changes in your life? Lent might be a good time to give it a try!

Lent started last week, so I’m a little behind the ball, but I wanted to write a quick post about it anyway.  For those who don’t know, Lent is a period in the Christian calendar between Ash Wednesday and Easter (40 days excluding Sundays, to be exact).   I’m not an expert in theology or religion, so I’m not going to talk about the religious significance of Lent.  But as a mental health expert, I am going to focus on the practice of “giving something up” for Lent.

Whether you are religious or not, Lent is the perfect time to take a look at our lives and make some adjustments.

Here’s the deal: Most of us think about how we want to live healthier, more frugally, more whatever around the 1st of the year.  We turn these vague notions about healthier living into New Year’s resolutions – even though we know they probably won’t stick.  Do you even remember yours?  New Year’s resolutions don’t typically work because:

  • They are often too vague and general – i.e., “eat healthier” or “save more”
  • There is no specific time frame – the entirety of 2016 is just too broad
  • They are made on the heels of what is often the most indulgent time of the year – “You mean I can’t eat dessert after breakfast, lunch and dinner?” or “I really have to go back to work?” – The drastic change is just too much

But Lent gives us the perfect situation in which to make changes to our lives:

  • The things we “give up” are typically really specific – i.e., soda pop, Facebook or frozen yogurt (yes, these are all things I have given up over the years)
  • The 40+ day time frame is perfect for successful behavior change: It’s not so long that it drags out, but it is long enough to form new habits and routines
  • It comes at a great time of year when there isn’t much else going on – not too many distractions

What are you giving up this year?

Saying “No” To Holiday Stress

Is Thanksgiving really less than a week away? If the thought sends a little bit of panic through your system like it does mine, you might find these tips useful.  My favorite? “Practice Saying No.”  As in:

No, I’m not going to try to out-do all the other moms when it comes to teacher gifts.

No, I appreciate the invitations, but I won’t be attending every holiday event.

No, I’m not going to participate in the rampant consumerism and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-ism that often plagues the holidays

Oh and another thing: This lady’s stress would be a whole lot less if she ditched the heels. Check it out:

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New Years Resolutions That Work

I always make New Years resolutions.  Some years they are pretty serious and challenging, other years they are more light-hearted and fun.  Either way, I think using the first couple weeks of January to take stock of where you are, where you’ve been and where you would like to go is a good use of time.

Like everyone else, my New Years resolutions often include things related to healthier living.  These might include resolutions involving nutrition, exercise, home management (financial matters, tidy-ness, etc).

But I also like to include resolutions involving my social well-being and relationships.  This might mean taking a look at how I spend my time and who I spend it with.  Am I spending my time as wisely as I spend my money?  Are there relationships that need to be re-kindled?  Others that need to be changed or ended?  Having a healthy, fulfilling social life (and that means very different things to different people) is a huge part of overall mental health, so it should be a part of our New Years resolutions too!

Sometimes I add a professional goal to my list of resolutions – some years it just feels important to make some changes, and some years things have been humming along just fine.  Either way, January is a great time to ask yourself: “Am I where I would like to be professionally?” or “Where would I like to be at the end of the year and what can I do to get there?”

Lastly, I like to add at least one (sometimes more) resolution involving my hobbies.  Some years it has been as simple as “find a new hobby” other years it has been more refined (like the year I resolved to learn to crochet).  This year I have resolved to write down all the books I read (I read 2-3 each week so it feels important to keep track!).  Regardless of what it is, avocations – or hobbies – are another important part of overall mental health so they need to be included too.  Plus these resolutions tend to be a lot more fun – and easier – than going vegan or working out everyday.

Regardless of your resolutions, remember to keep them reasonable and do-able for your best chance of success!

What are your resolutions this year?

 

 

Suicide and the Holidays

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I have spent way too much time in the last 5 days grieving people in my community who have taken their own lives.  It’s been horrible.

I don’t know if we (meaning my little town in Northern Colorado) are the norm or not, but we have been inundated with loss since the end of November.  We are all shaking our heads and wiping our eyes, and wondering the same things:

Why?

and

What could we have done differently?

Sadly, we won’t ever get answers to these questions (the cruel and heartless aftermath of suicide).  In fact, even the most expert of the experts on suicide struggle to know how best to prevent it.  So here’s my thought:

We have to talk about it

Often

With everyone

What I mean is: we need to talk with our kids about suicide and sadness and rash decisions from the moment they can understand such things (which is probably younger than we give them credit for).  We need to talk to our parents and grandparents and nieces and nephews.  We need to talk to our partners and spouses about coping with feelings of sadness and despair.  We need to make resources like this available and even prominent in our homes.

The holidays can be painful and lonely for so many of us.  But suicide never helps.

Reach out, talk and share.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1-800-273-TALK

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK

 

 

Halting Holiday Stress: Family Conflicts

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We all have them: family members we just don’t get along with.  Whether it’s because they’re simply annoying, overly obnoxious or outrageously opinionated – just because we’re related to someone doesn’t mean we get along.  Sadly the holidays often make these relationships worse.  Between spending more time than usual together (whose idea was it to make Thanksgiving and Christmas so close together, anyway??) and high expectations for picture-perfect holiday celebrations, this time of year can be a perfect storm of family turmoil.

So what can be done to ease the inevitable tensions that arise among even the most well-adjusted of families?

We are who we are.  Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean that our annoying family members are going to get any less annoying.  In fact, if they do any changing at all it will likely be to become even more irritating (all that booze, heavy food and stress just doesn’t improve things).  With that in mind, it can be best to keep expectations relatively low and realize that that we all have our quirks.

Quality vs. Quantity.  Sometimes we spend so much time together over the holidays, that we simply overdose on each other.  Instead of spending large amounts of time together, consider focusing on quality time together instead – focusing on fun, meaningful and memorable activities or conversations together.

Lose the Booze.  As mentioned above, alcohol often brings out the worst in our personalities.  It can lead us to say things we shouldn’t, get more irritated with others – and more quickly, and can increase the potential for family conflict when we’re spending more time than usual together.  While just thinking about the holidays and the accompanying family time can make some folks reach for the wine glass, keeping alcohol intake to a minimum may actually make the season go more smoothly.

Happy Holidays!