Happy Thanksgiving and Tips for Surviving!

Happy Thanksgiving week!

Turkey and all the trimmings can be great fun, but this season comes with its share of stressors for many of us. Whether it’s dealing with family members we’d rather not, coping with memories of better times, or something else – Thanksgiving doesn’t always look like Pinterest tells us it should.

So here are just a few quick-and-dirty tips for making it through to Monday.

Keep up with your normal routine. As much as you can, try to keep up with your normal routine this week. Whether that means taking a walk each morning, saying a prayer each evening or watching Ellen every afternoon – keep it up! These are the routines and behaviors that keep your stress at bay all year long – don’t abandon them now!

Take a break from social media. Nothing can ruin the holiday more than comparing yours to everyone else’s on your Facebook feed. You might be having a perfectly good Thanksgiving, but there’s always going to be someone who seems to be having more fun, in a prettier home, with better behaved children in a more stylish outfit. Best to not even go there.

Go outside. This one might seem a little weird, but I am a firm believer in getting outside and DOING something – particularly when things inside are going south. Uncle Jim driving you crazy? Take a walk. Grandma Penelope drinking too much? Grab the cousins and throw a football. You get the idea. A little fresh air and activity is a effective, healthy stress management strategy – and its fun, too.

Helping Kids Manage School Stress

I recently wrote an article for the National PTA’s magazine, Our Children:

Pretty fun opportunity! The topic was how to manage stress in families with school age children. There are so many things to consider when dealing with kids: Academics, activities, social pressures, safety – not to mention all the stuff that we as parents try to manage: work, finances, relationships, etc.

Photo Credit: National PTA

Here’s a bit about stress and teens in particular:

In fact, a 2013 American Psychological Association poll revealed that 31% of teens surveyed feel their stress increased in the past year. Concerningly, 42% said they either are not doing enough to manage their stress or they are not sure if they are doing enough to manage it.

So what can we do to help? Here’s one tip:

Ask your kids what they think

It may seem silly, but sometimes I forget to ask my kids what’s important to them. Questions like: “How do you feel about your piano lessons these days?” and “Is the swim team still something you enjoy?” are crucial to helping your kids maintain good mental health.

As our children develop their own interests and passions, we should be mindful of keeping them in the loop when it comes to setting up schedules.

To read the entire article – with more info about stress, kids and strategies – check it out:

 

Do You Ever Freak Out At Your Kids? Then You Might Want to Read This:

Photo Credit: Fatherly

I recently had an opportunity to speak with the folks over at Fatherly. The subject? Losing our cool (meaning: raising our voice, being irritable, impatient) with our kids.  Here’s the thing: It happens to the best of us. Sometimes a lot. Here are some of my thoughts about stress, parenting and losing our temper with our kids:

“I think of it as an iceberg. The bulk of the stress is underneath the surface,” says Dr. Stephanie Smith, a clinical psychologist based in Erie, Colorado. “We’re not really paying attention, but it builds up throughout the day. It all piles up, but when we reach a certain level the tiniest little thing can tip us over the edge: we’re out of Cheerios or whatever. It’s silly little things that end up being the breaking point.”

The good news is, there can be some teachable moments when our kids see us feeling stressed out. Like this example:

“It’s ok to take a few deep breaths, or an hour, (after a breakdown), but make sure to come back to it,” says Smith. “In an age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate way say, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve had a really rough day, and I kind of lost it for a minute. I’ll do better moving forward to deal with those feelings before that kind of thing happens again.’”

To read the entire article, check it out on Fatherly.

Managing the Stress of a Job Search

Looking for a new job is rough. In fact, it’s been ranked as one of the top ten life stressors! Just a few days of looking for a new job can feel like months, and the anxiety about where to apply, how to craft your resume, and what to say in an interview can be all consuming.

I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers about how to manage the rigors of the job search. My favorite tip:

Keep up your normal routine. Most of us have some good stress management strategies already. Meditation, coffee with friends, jogging, chess — the activity itself doesn’t matter as much as its ability to help you manage your stress level. The problem is, many of us abandon these strategies as soon as the going gets tough! Instead of forgoing your favorite yoga class to peruse the latest job postings, keep the yoga on your schedule and work your job search around it. Your overall level of stress will be lower as a result.

Want to read the whole article? Check it out:

 

Is Your Stress Rubbing Off On Your Kids?

This is what I have looked like for the past few weeks. Except not that pretty.

Stress is a reality of life. A little of it can be good. A lot of it for long periods of time, not so much.

I was recently interviewed for a story about how our stress affects our kids over at WebMD. The bad news is that our kids (and our partners and pets) definitely pick up on our stress. The good news is that there’s quite a bit we can do about it. Check it out:

Here’s a tip:

Here’s the whole article:

WebMD: How Does Your Stress Affect Your Kids?

Flying of Flying: There’s An App for That?

I was recently interviewed by the online publication, Mic. The writer let me know she had some questions about flying anxieties. I answered her questions, felt a little anxiety of my own (flying is NOT my fav), and then forgot about it. I recently read her completed article, and it kind of blew me away.

In the article, the writer describes using a new app aimed at helping folks manage their flying phobias and fears – in REAL time. As in, in the air. I was intrigued for several reasons:

  • I have some flying fears of my own
  • She used the app instead of the usual medications she needs to manage her anxieties
  • I think we are glimpsing the future of technology and health care

Here’s a bit about the app:

For the most part it seemed like the app was pretty cool, and actually helpful. Other than this:

Hmmm, that part didn’t sound so great. So, I had this to say:

So, not a perfect fix for flying fear, but a start anyway. Happy flying!

Standardized Tests – How to Help Kids Cope With the Pressure

Are standardized tests in the news in your community?  It seems to be what everyone is talking about around here.  Federal and state-mandated standardized tests are given to almost all students in grades K-12 in the spring, as far as I can understand.  I am not an expert in primary education, standardized testing or curriculum development so I can’t speak about the tests from that angle.  But, I am an expert in anxiety and parenting and have a few thoughts about how testing affects those sorts of things.

I have watched standardized testing season come and go (as a psychologist and mom) for over a decade now.  And here’s the thing: they cause A LOT of anxiety, worry and nervous feelings all the way around.  In parents, in students, in teachers in administrators – probably bus drivers and custodians too – everyone’s feeling the tension.  It’s almost impossible to escape.

Here are some ideas for managing the testing season in your home:

  • Keep your routine normal.  Kids thrive on routine.  Chances are their school days will look a little different during testing season (different class schedules, dismissal times, etc) so it becomes even more important that routines remain the same at home.  Try to keep normal bedtimes, mealtimes and activities going on as usual.
  • Resist the urge to talk about testing.  Your kids – whether in 1st or 11th grade – have likely been hearing about their standardized tests for weeks as teachers prepare them for what to expect.  When they get home they might need a break from all the hype.  A simple: “How did the test go today?” is likely all you need to ask about it.  Grilling our kids, ranting about the philosophical flaws of their school system or putting extra pressure on them to perform academically is rarely helpful.  Keep it light and give them a break.
  • Teach stress management skills.  Life is full of stressors.  Mastering a couple stress management strategies in childhood can be a wonderful thing.  If your child is a little stressed on test days, consider using the opportunity to teach him some basic stress management strategies: Take deep breaths; visual a soothing, restful place; Go on a bike ride or walk.

The vast majority of kids (and parents!) make it through testing season just fine and chances are you (and I!) will, too.  If you are concerned that your child’s worry seems more intense than normal, or it doesn’t resolve after the tests are over, you might consider meeting with a psychologist.  Read more about whether therapy is needed here.

*This post first published March 2015*

More Thoughts About Stress

Photo credit: Daily Burn

For all the information out there about stress management (and on this site alone!), you would think we would all be experts at it by now. But sadly all of us (yes, even psychologists) struggle to manage stress effectively at times. Or most of the time. Or everyday.

Anyway, I recently spoke to the folks over the Daily Burn about stress, how it affects our bodies and how to manage it effectively (and not so effectively).

Here are a couple of tips:

and

To read the entire article, including how small amounts of stress affect our bodies, check out the entire article:

Tax Time Stress

Only about a week and a half remains until Tax Day.  A time of universal stress.

Will I have to pay?

Do I have all the documents I need?

Will I get enough of a refund to pay off my debts?

Will I be able to get my return filed before the deadline?

These are some of the more immediate stressors around this time of year.  But tax season can also bring up larger financial worries that plague a huge percentage of Americans.

Do I have enough saved for retirement?

Am I spending too much each year?

Are my partner and I on the same page in terms of financial goals?

A few years ago I spoke with Live Science about how to manage some of the stressors of tax time – and financial stress in general. Here’s a bit of the article:

Here’s the full article:

Do You Have News Fatigue?

Are you overwhelmed with the news?

Do you dread the constant news alerts popping up on your phone?

Are you sick of hearing about, talking about and thinking about what’s going on in Washington, DC and beyond?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be suffering from new fatigue. I know I am!  I recently got a chance to talk about why news fatigue happens – and more importantly – what to do about it! This segment aired on ScrippsTV channels across the country yesterday – including on our very own Denver Channel 7.