In this moment

Being in the moment is no easy task. It almost seems that we are programmed to think ahead, formulate our plan for what is next, or automatically anticipate future actions. Our world moves so quickly and we attend to so many different stimuli (such as phones, fitness trackers, tablets, computers….) that is can feel seemingly impossible to NOT multi-task. Are we better for this?

Most of my clients would say no. Doing more with less isn’t the answer. But being in the moment is just so hard. I think back to January and the enormous Blizzard that paralyzed the Washington, DC area. Despite knowing the storm was coming, we still were unprepared. The first few days were novel–so much snow, spending family time together, and having the excuse to indulge. However, as time progressed and the plows did not come, what was once novel became a sense of being trapped. Where we might have enjoyed some of the moments we had, we now felt that we only had to escape them. Our focus was now on the future–when would we leave our houses? When would school resume? What about work demands?

Modern life makes being in the moment even more challenging. It seems that to begin with a small step (just like every journey does) and setting reasonable goals. The idea of achieving “perfect mindfulness” (if there even is such a thing) looks impossible, but the idea of having a daily MOMENT of mindfulness seems attainable.  What might mindfulness look like? Like many things, it is what it needs to be to the person experiencing it.

Merry and Bright?

Holidays are filled with “should’s” and “supposed to’s”.  ‘We should get together with family.’ or ‘We should be happy this time of year.’  For many, the holidays are anything but a happy time and are mired in stress. There is an idea that gatherings and meals need to be “perfect”.  Holiday cards perpetuate this notion and Martha Stewert certainly hasn’t done anything to dissuade us from trying to obtain this ideal.

The change in our schedules as well as our diets can also be stressful as well as seemingly endless holiday parties that we are expected to attend. While there is certainly joy to be found in the season, it might also make sense that stress is pervasive which puts a damper on some of the positive emotions. How can you cope with holiday stress? Here are some quick ideas:

  1. 1.Prioritize–your dinner might not be Pinterest worthy, but is that what is important to you?  Complete the large tasks before settling in on the details that might be less noticeable or important.

  2. 2.Down time–make time to be by yourself. Take a bath, indulge in going out, go on a walk…no matter what you do, know it is ok to go at it alone.

  3. 3.Try to under plan-this time of year is notorious for over-extending yourself. Pick one or two things a day to commit to rather than trying to cram things in for every moment.

  4. 4.Check in–find a friend that you can check in with to keep one another less stressed. Plan a time to talk.

  5. 5.Everything comes to an end–remember, holidays are only temporary. Regardless of your experience, keep in mind that ‘This too, shall pass.’

Back to School

For parents, this is a magical time of year. It is when the kids return to school. This means that there is a normal that can quickly be settled into once again or perhaps it might mean establishing a new normal. Not all kids will think of September (or as often is the case, the end of August) with the same feelings of relief.

Some kids worry about school as it might represent an unknown.  Maybe it is hard to navigate the social hierarchy that is established or the academic demands. Since school is a child’s “work place,” it is no surprise that they develop feelings of competence and self-worth based upon whatever feedback they are given (either by peers, teachers, administrators, or parents). Often, we see kids that are convinced that they are “bad” and start to act that way since they have internalized the expectation. As adults, we get frustrated with kids and these are moments when we tend to say things without thinking. In order to  foster an accurate sense of self for our kids, it is important to separate behaviors that we dislike from characteristics.

An example might be that you don’t like how your 7-year-old jumps up and down when he’s talking. Rather than say, “You are annoying me when you jump and talk” you might try something like, “I’m finding it hard to listen to what you are saying when you are also jumping.”  You’ve now identified the behavior that is annoying rather than labeling your child that way.

Another thing to keep in mind as the school year begins is to set your child up for success.  This might mean touring a new school, going over the schedule, talking in depth about what is coming up for them, or having them close their eyes as you both talk through what the day might look like.

What is your back to school strategy?

Checking in on Change

Change takes time. Change is a process. Change is hard.  All three of these statements are true, and yet they don’t exactly make us want to rush out and commit to making a change. Most human beings prefer stability to change. We crave safety and security, as well as objects, people, and places that are known to us.

January is inherently a time when people try to commit to change. The New Year seems as good as a place as any to make proclamations about how things are going to be different. What resolutions might you have made this year? How are you doing at sticking with them?

Typically, by February or March, the well-intentioned resolutionaries start to fade away (this is a thankful fact to most gym-enthusiasts who can now reclaim their equipment without having to wait). Mostly, this tends to happen because people like the idea of change, but haven’t thought through their plan of action. Both of these components are central to making changes that last.

Here are six tips for making changes.

Step 1: identify what you want to change

Step 2: break it down into smaller goals

Step 3: set up supports that you can check in with and help with accountability

Step 4: incorporate the changes in your schedule (write it down!)

Step 5: begin

Step 6: if you don’t succeed, try again

Let it Snow?

As adults, we romanticize snow. We look back with fondness on snow days, sledding, hot chocolate, and an unexpected day off. We might remember turning our pajamas inside out in the hopes that the School Closure Gods will take pity on us and declare a snow day.

Once we become parents, we see that snow days can be far more complex than how we remember them from our mind’s eye. Snow days now mean logistics: will work close? If not, who can take care of the kids? Is it safe to drive? How will the kids be entertained? How will I meet my deadlines? Underscoring all of this is the wish to get a day off and to make it special for your kids.

Depending on snow amounts and conditions, what might start as a fun day off, might turn into days of cabin fever. If you live near others, seek out impromptu play dates, or at least the occasion to have a change of scenery (for both you and your kids).  Simplify all that you can–dinner doesn’t have to be gourmet, the schedule can be more relaxed, and hopefully homework from the day before has already been completed. Take some time to play–build snow people, have a snowball fight, go sledding, or just try to walk in the snow. All of the above are great sources of exercise, which can help with cabin fever, and any annoyances that might have built up from being in an enclosed space with your kids for too long.  Know that everyone gets frustrated–not having a routine and being cooped up can make anyone feel like they are losing their marbles. Take a deep breath or go into another room (even a bathroom) if you feel like you are about to lose it.

Then, when it’s time to go to bed, know that it’s OK to pray that school will resume tomorrow.

Turkey and Holiday Blues- a mini-blog

Holidays are tough. Whether it is the logistics of pulling it off (either attending or preparing) or  even the thought of coping with so many family members in one room, most of us are affected by this time of year. Here is a quick survival cheat sheet in making it through the season with more joy and less humbug.

*Acknowledge the parts that are hard openly (either to yourself or someone you trust)

*Devise a plan that is attainable

*Enlist people that can support you in your goals
*Conceptualize your limits

*Set boundaries (sometimes, this needs to be done early and often)

*Keep in mind that the holiday (or visit) WILL end.

Welcome to Our Blog

November is inherently a time to take stock, to express gratitude, and to prepare to make changes once the new year begins. Taking stock is something that most of us find to be challenging. It means that we have to admit to ourselves (and perhaps others) that we don’t always do things “right” or that our actions and choices might have had negative consequences. It is far too overwhelming to try to reinvent yourself in one sitting.

One idea is to recognize the good about you and the things that make you thankful. You can either sit down and create a list, or you can do it a little more piecemeal, such as recording one aspect of gratitude daily.  I see people (including myself) who have created a way to hold themselves accountable for this intention by posting daily on Facebook or other social media what they are grateful for.

What are the things you are happiest about?  What brings you joy?