I am taking the Gratitude Campaign’s Challenge and posting pics of 3 things I am grateful for. Here’s #3:
Sorry to be a downer, but I find the holiday season to be the most stressful and unpleasant time of the year. Each year at this time, I find myself daydreaming of far away beaches, mountains, deserts, plains – anywhere that would provide an escape from the stressors of the holidays at home.
Many folks have very good reason to find the holiday season difficult: the death of a loved one, the break-up of a marriage, the loss of a job. These painful events can make the holidays excruciating for people, and I don’t want to discount the real-ness of their pain. But their are also other – albeit less tragic – aspects of the holidays that can make them a struggle for people as well.
Our families don’t change. Very few of us have “perfect” families. Awkward blended families, alcoholic uncles, inappropriate in-laws – we all have at least one family member that drives us crazy – or worse. But for some reason, many of us expect that our families will be magically transformed after Halloween and become the happy, smiling, super-functional families we see on cookie tins and Christmas cards. Well, hope all you want folks but the family you started the year with is the same one you’re stuck with now – maybe even worse.
There’s only one Martha Stewart. Ms. Stewart started a wave of domestic arts that seems to be reaching a fever pitch with the growing use of Pinterest, Etsy and similar sites. I have to admit, I do love crafts and all things Martha, but the pressure to look perfect while serving the perfect meal in the perfect house while your perfect children are doing a perfect craft is overwhelming, and quite frankly impossible to achieve. There’s is only one Martha Stewart people – and you are not her.
A lot of traditions are dumb. <—– OK, that wasn’t a very mature sentence, but it’s true. Roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving because it’s “tradition?” Ick. I can be just as thankful (and a whole lot more gastronomically satisfied) with a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs. So why do I stress out about making a bird every year? Beats me. Sure, there are a few, very meaningful traditions in my family which I love – but what I would really love is to ditch the dumb ones that drag me down and make the holidays drudgery.
They’re so darn long. Why, oh why do we need to start celebrating one holiday after another with no break whatsoever starting on October 15th? Seriously, two and a half months of anything will get old. And the holidays are no different. The retail chains and box stores may be a lost cause when it comes to shortening the holiday season, but at least I can resist celebrating Christmas until at least December. Better yet, December 24th.
Click here for more tips for managing holiday stress.
Click here for more about why the holidays are tough.
Click here for more about surviving the holidays with flair.
Today I am welcoming Dr. Deborah Serani as a guest blogger! I recently reviewed Dr. Serani’s newest book, Depression and Your Child, which provides valuable information to parents, caregivers, teachers – really anyone who knows and loves kids – about depression in kids; including how to spot it and how to help. I am thrilled to have her guest post for me today, Welcome Dr. Serani!
Read on for 7 Things Depressed Kids (and Their Parents) Need to Know:
1. Understand the texture of feelings: Many children in this era of super technology aren’t skilled at reading facial cues, understanding eye contact and complex emotions. Studies show that children with depression struggle further, however, having difficulty differentiating the differences between different kinds of emotions. Sad is different than lonely. Lonely is different disappointed. Often, depressed children need help understanding the textures of emotions. When they become confident identifying their feelings, they can set into motion the best plan of action to improve their mood.
2. How to spot negative thinking: I like to teach children about the quality of their thoughts by using a thumbs up and thumbs down technique. Is what you’re thinking a good thought….one that would get a thumbs up from other people? “I studied for my test. But if I get a bad grade, it’s okay because I know I tried my best.” Or is it a hurtful or negative? One that really is untrue and realistic. “It doesn’t matter if I studied. I’m stupid and I’ll fail the test anyway.” Teaching children to catch the negative talk helps them approach every issue in life from a place of positivity.
3. How to use positive self-care: Learning to live with depression requires a child to be clever and ever-ready to use soothing ways to address sad moods. I find reminding children to use their 5 senses – sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell – really helps. Things like cozying up to a stuffed animal, hugging loved ones, snacking on healthy, flavorful foods, taking in the fresh air, listening to upbeat music and making time to see colors, nature and sunshine. All of these raise dopamine and serotonin levels improving mood, and teach children how to self-soothe.
4. Why exercise is important: The fatigue that comes with depression leaves kids tired and irritable. Physical complaints like aches and pains also knock them out for the count. When we take the time to teach children about the importance of physical exercise, it will become part of a lifelong skill-set. Be it playing tag with friends or catch with the dog, swimming or riding a bike, kick-boxing or yoga, or a simple walk, the shift in neurochemistry boosts mood.
5. When too much of something isn’t good. It’s vital for kids to learn how too much of anything can upset the apple cart. For example, the fatigue of depression can leave children tired, with many prone to sleeping all day. Instead, children should learn that a nap is better than a full-on sleepfest. Some depressed children eat in excess, while others lose their appetite altogether. Both of these extremes are unhealthy. Too much crying, too much avoidance or too much irritability raises the stress hormone cortisol, which heightens anxiety and alertness. When we teach children to monitor their experiences with healthy limits, we give them the ability to balance and self-manage their well-being. Daily stickers for young ones and journaling for the older set can teach children how to better monitor symptoms and moods.
6. Know the difference between a bad day and a sad mood: When depressed kids learn how to measure the moment, they learn that a sad mood doesn’t have to ruin a day. However, if they can’t shake off the sad mood – and the rest of the day feels like an epic fail, it’s great for kids to know that a bad day doesn’t equal a bad life. Tomorrow is a new day. One to be measured for its own value.
7. How to let others know you need help. When children are depressed, they often don’t know how to reach out for support. Their fatigue and irritability dulls problem solving skills. Others might not feel they deserve help or would rather isolate themselves from family or friends. Depressed children need to know that everyone needs help now and then – and that no one can …or should… handle everything alone. I like to teach children to communicate their needs verbally and non-verbally. With words, through crying, by touch – it’s okay to show you others that you’re having a tough time.
Dr. Deborah Serani is one of my favorite psychologists. Not only does she maintain a fun, hip social media presence, she also writes an informative and popular blog. Oh, and that’s in addition to working as a clinical psychologist and professor. Earlier this year I reviewed her book, Living with Depression – which I absolutely loved. Here’s a bit of that review:
There have been other psychologists who have written about their own struggles with mental illness, but I found Dr. Serani’s candid admissions and forthcoming attitude about her mental health history to be not only refreshing but intriguing. I found myself wishing she had written more about herself and her family (full disclosure: While Dr. Serani and I have never met in “real” life, we have had several conversations via social media in the last few years). And while it’s been done before, integrating personal and professional knowledge about depression made the whole book a quick and informative read.
Check out the whole review here.
Because of my feelings about her first book, I was thrilled to learn that she was working on a new book. I was even more thrilled when a brand new copy of Depression and Your Child arrived in my mailbox!
As with her first book, Dr. Serani includes personal experiences in this book, recounting her own childhood memories of struggling with depression. It was equally fascinating and heartbreaking to read about her lack of energy and interest in the world as a result of her low mood. More importantly, it helped me understand how depression feels as a small kid in a big world – and how it varies from depression in adults.
But this isn’t just an autobiography – at its heart it is a handbook for parents (and really anyone who loves, works with or is around kids). Teachers, health care providers, grandparents and babysitters will all find this book useful as it explains, in readable language, why depression occurs, and how it can feel once it has set in (hint: it isn’t just about sadness and crying). The book also outlines (in a non-judgmental way) options for treatment, including psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes (food, exercise, etc). And Dr. Serani goes even further to describe not just the treatments available but also how and why they work.
None of us want to consider that there are children among us who struggle with feelings of hopelessness, sadness or a desire to end their lives. Unfortunately some do. And Dr. Serani’s book will serve as a manual for those helping kids through these most difficult times.
For lots of school age kids, the holiday season means school parties, pageants and plays. These can be a lot of fun, of course, but they can also mean an abundance of sweets and high fat foods.
Sure, we all love to have a treat now and then, but a recent LiveWell Colorado survey found that Colorado moms estimated their young kids can eat up to 2-3 sugary snacks per week (cupcakes, cookies, cereal treats) in the classroom.
That’s more than a “treat” – that’s a regular part of the diet!
Most of us enjoy an indulgence once in a while. In fact cupcakes and other desserts and snacks can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation. Making sure that moderation (and not domination!) is in place, however, can be tricky, particularly when it comes to treats outside of the home.
So what is a family to do? How can we help our kids stick to a healthy eating routine while having fun at the same time? How can you be “that parent” who monitors nutrition at school but who isn’t at the same time annoying, embarrassing or pushy?
Do you have picky eaters in your family?
Could you use some creative, yummy ways to get more fruits and veggies in your diet?
Then join us tonight on Twitter!
About Produce for Kids®
Produce for Kids® is a philanthropically based organization that brings the produce industry together to educate consumers about healthy eating with fresh produce and raises funds for local children’s non-profit organizations. Since its creation in 2002 by Shuman Produce Inc., Produce for Kids has raised more than $4.6 million to benefit kids. To learn more about Produce for Kids and healthy eating, visit www.produceforkids.com, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Sam Lomeli of TipsOfTheScale. TipsoftheScale is a podcast celebrating weight loss success stories from around the world and discussing the challenges faced on individual’s weight loss journeys. In his podcasts, Sam Lomeli also interviews health experts who share their favorite tips, discuss common weight loss myths, and share their knowledge and expertise to help listeners make healthier choices.
Thanks so much to Sam and TipsofTheScale for hosting me – and for your great questions.
To listen to the interview – in which I talk about the importance of getting support from family and friends, what you’re already doing to make lasting change and share my thoughts about weight-loss surgery – click on the graphic below.
Like most people, I can get caught up in the business and busy-ness of day to day life. Paying the bills, getting to soccer practice on time, making sure homework assignments are turned in, keeping the house stocked with food – just getting from one day to the next can be overwhelming. Life moves so quickly that it can be difficult to slow down and appreciate the small things in life. Yet we know that being able to appreciate the small, positive things can help improve our mental health.
How does it work? Well, it’s easy for most of us to focus on things that are going wrong, shortcomings in ourselves and others or things we have yet to accomplish. The problem is that when we focus of those sorts of things it doesn’t do much for our mood or sense of pleasure in life. When we focus on positive, joyful things however, we can get a much-needed break from the stressors of life – even if it’s just for a moment.
Some of my simple pleasures include:
The beauty of nature:
School spirit on display:
A delicious treat:
A cool photograph:
The funny things my kids say.
I recently discovered Campbell’s Wisest Kid in the Whole World tool. It’s a clever widget that allows you to record the sweet and funny things your kids say and then share them throughout social media.
Check it out here:
Campbell’s widget can help us slow down and actually record all those cute, silly things our kids say.
While browsing the Campbell’s site, I also noticed all of their kid-friendly, simple recipes. Why do kids love cream of chicken soup? I have no idea. But what I do know is that any recipe with it included is a hit in my house.
Check out this Chicken Taco Casserole. Yum:
What funny things do your kids say or eat? Be sure to record them for everyone to read at Campbell’s Wisest Kid in the Whole Wide World!