Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blending Family Holiday Traditions

The United States is referred to as the “melting pot” nation where all immigrants and their traditions have blended over the centuries.  Traditions that your family looks forward to each holiday are originally from different cultures around the world.  The Christmas carols we sing are from England.  The tradition of decorating the tree is from Germany and St. Nicholas originated in Scandinavia.  The Netherlands expanded on the myth to have St. Nicolas or Santa Claus fill the stockings hanging over the fireplace.  The United States extended the story adding the sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
Be open to change
Determining how to celebrate the holidays for divorced or blended families can become difficult with schedule conflicts and trying to combine the traditions that were important to their nuclear family.  There are many solutions to the problem if everyone is willing to compromise and experience new traditions.  Communicate with non-custodial parents to make sure the children are present for the festivities that are important to them.  Try to be flexible and alternate the schedules when possible.  Discuss how change can be a positive event when blending your favorite traditions. 
Blending family traditions can be a challenging but rewarding experience.  When all the changes become overwhelming, try to focus on the reason for the Christmas season.  You are not competing with each other but explaining the importance of how your family customs are celebrated.  Traditions are about building special memories so that one day your family rituals will be passed on to future generations.  Acceptance and acknowledging what is really important to the special people in your life will create the holiday you will all want to remember.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Coping with Holiday Stress

The holiday season has begun and your already busy schedule just became more demanding.   Preparations of the family traditions that create the magic you want your family to experience take a lot of time.  When you are stressed to the maximum it is very difficult to stop and assess your mental well-being.  You just know that you are tired, angry and resentful of the demands you believe are expected of you.
Before you reach that burn out point Mayo Clinic has twelve steps to keep your holiday brighter.
1.      Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t force yourself to feel happy just because it is expected.

2.      Seek support. Don’t be a martyr.  Call your friends and family when needed.

3.      Be realistic.  Let go of old traditions and make new ones that are more compatible to your current lifestyle.

4.      Set differences and grievances aside until after the holidays.  Try to focus on the positive rather than the negative.

5.      Stick to a budget.  You can’t buy happiness.

6.      Plan ahead. Write those lists and cook some of the meals ahead of time.  If traveling you may want to mail your gifts before you leave to make sure they arrive on time.

7.      Learn to say no.  Everyone has their limits.  Know what yours are and set the boundary.

8.      Don’t abandon healthy habits.  Good self-care will keep you healthy and happy.

9.      Take a breather.  Make time to replenish yourself and your spirit.

10.  Rethink resolutions.  Try to make small goals that are attainable so that you can see your progress.

11.  Forget about perfection.  You are not a television program that displays a perfect ending to the story. 

12.  Seek professional help if you find yourself persistently sad and anxious.
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and remembered by all family members.  So try some of those ideas to help you manage your stress.  It will be the best present you ever gave yourself.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

An Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is usually a time when families will reflect on the blessings that they have in their life.  Despite the gloomy attitude on the economy and general dissatisfaction with the way things are going 96 % of voters feel thankful according to a recent 2011 Fox News poll. Research is also reporting that we could all live a healthier lifestyle if we would practice being grateful everyday. Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet and annual physical examinations. 

Daily thanks 

Practicing gratitude leaves people feeling joyful, strong and with more energy. If we can make a conscious effort to find something positive in every situation you can decrease your stress and face the obstacles in life with optimism. Living in the moment and being grateful for what you are experiencing now will give you a better quality of life. From boosting your mood to improving relationships research shows that being thankful is good for your health. 

Kent State University published a 2011 study in the Journal of Happiness authored by Steve Toepfer. The study revealed that if you take 15 minutes, three times over three weeks to write letters of gratitude to someone that your level of happiness and life satisfaction will improve with each letter written. Toepfer explained, “We are all walking around with an amazing resource, gratitude. It helps us express, enjoy, appreciate and be thankful and satisfied with a little effort. We all have it and we need to use it to improve our quality of life.” 

Model gratitude 

To encourage this positive thinking, write in your ‘grateful journal’ 5 to 10 things you are grateful for.  Try and acknowledge new experiences each day that brought you joy or peace.  Make a conscientious effort to be polite to everyone you encounter.  Even a simple “thank you” can make someone’s day brighter. Lend a hand to others and teach children how to give back to their community. Ask other family members to share what they are grateful for each day.   

Some individuals will limit themselves by experiencing life with a sense of entitlement and being preoccupied with materialism.  Self-reflection of your life journey can stimulate awareness of how truly blessed you are and leave you with insight on how to appreciate those around you.  So in a time when there are so many people out of work and struggling to pay their bills discover the blessings in your life. Counting your blessings doesn’t just cheer you up it can improve your health, energy level and perspective on life.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Feeling Lonely in a Relationship

When you become a couple and you marry, whether formally or not… find you do everything together. You are no longer alone and certainly not lonely. Then after years together with career, babies, and household responsibilities you find that your partner is emotionally absent and you are the loneliest you’ve ever felt.
In the beginning……
In the passion of a new relationship there is a partial merging of two identities. If partners do not understand what makes each other feel loved then they might as well speak another language. It’s important for people to make the kind of loving gesture that is most likely to be valued by their partner. Communication of that love language is pertinent to having a successful relationship.
The five love languages are described in the book written by author Gary Chapman. They are physical touch, words, gifts, acts of service, and quality time. The five languages are ways to show love and each type of gesture will communicate differently to every individual. If your language is acts of service and you clean the house for your partner but they’re complaining you didn’t make time to go to the movie then……. you’re not speaking the same love language. Observe what actions are appreciated and then convey interest and affection in that way.
Commitment in a relationship provides a covenant for two people to love each other in good times and bad. When an individual displays an “all about me” attitude it can build toxicity into the relationship. It prohibits the couple from developing a strong bond together and a sense of “we” instead of “me” mentality.
The “all about me” person either has a need to control everything or must be the center of attention. In a nurturing collaborative relationship the power structure is equal and open for negotiation. A healthy relationship can’t survive one person constantly demanding the spotlight. Intimacy requires “we” not just “me”. You can’t be intimate with someone who is always pushing you off stage. When this happens you feel alone and resentful in the relationship.
“All about me” marriages never have the intimacy and joy of a healthy relationship. Letting go of control and relinquishing center stage may feel painful at first……but it opens the door to become a couple again. Replacing old behaviors with thinking of your partner and communicate with their love language can help to rebuild the relationship. To love and be loved by another person is perhaps the single most satisfying experience between two people……never to feel lonely again.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Finances and Relationships

It’s not uncommon for couples to encounter marital stress over their finances. Money related issues have the potential to drive many committed relationships to the edge of divorce. The most obvious concern is the conflict of not having enough money for the current financial responsibilities that must be met. In today’s culture most people equate their financial security to status and success. Many people will attach their self-worth to the number of possessions that they have.
Love of money
Researcher Jason Carroll a professor of family life at Brigham Young University reported in their new research that materialists have more dissatisfaction with their marriage than couples who don’t care about possessions. This held true among all socioeconomic levels. The least satisfying marriages were those where both spouses cared strongly about material goods. “We thought it would be the incongruent or unmatched pattern that would be most problematic, where one’s a saver and one’s a spender,” Carroll told Live Science. “Our study found that it’s the couple where both spouses have high levels of materialism that struggle the most.” Previous research has also confirmed that people who are materialistic are also more anxious, depressed and insecure than others who are not materialistic. Individuals who valued money more also had trouble at home since there was no balance between their work and personal life.
Balance the budget
One out of five couples have admitted to a strong love of money. Human being’s desire connection and material items can create distance in a relationship. Couples that have been married for 20 years or more have made time for each other and really care about their relationship. If you have concerns about your finances, talk to your partner about your future as a family. Then together set responsible financial steps to attain that vision together. Realize that this will be a long term commitment and not a goal that will be instantly gratified.
It will be important to listen to each other, compromise and put a plan into action. If you have any credit card debt or payday loans they should be a priority to pay off. The short and long term goals of savings, retirement, college funds, and vacation can all be obtained with collaborative planning. If you hit an impasse consult with a marriage counselor, coach or mediator. Your marriage is also an investment to your future.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Parental Stress With Children of ADHD

Parenting can be stressful at times for everyone. Parents of children with ADHD may experience greater stress because of the additional challenges they face. Children with ADHD are known to disregard parental requests, commands and rules. They fight with their siblings, disturb neighbors and have frequent negative encounters with school authority. These challenges can often make parents feel less competent. It can also increase marital discord. Research has indicated that parents of children with ADHD are almost twice as likely to divorce by the time their child is eight years old.
Parents of children with ADHD
Parents of children with ADHD face higher divorce rates, stress level and feel less competent as a parent. With state budget cuts that have decreased services for children needing additional school resources this has increased the stress levels for the child, parents and school staff. During the school year these stressors increase as parents are faced with the challenge of getting homework completed, turned in on time and maintaining their other responsibilities in the home on a daily basis.
A recent study published in the Journal of Family Psychology states parents of children with ADHD are especially sensitive to the behaviors of their child which takes a personal emotional toll on their own well-being. Candice Odgers a study researcher and psychologist at the University of California said, “If you think about what it’s like to parent a child with ADHD, it requires a constant vigilance, and a high level of energy. This is important because we know that stress and the burden of caregiving in general are associated with a whole host of problems, mental health and physical problems.”
Family environment
Up to 5% of children and adults in the United States have ADHD, a behavioral disorder marked by impulsiveness, hyperactivity and inattention. Children with untreated ADHD are a risk for injury, substance abuse, poor school performance and emotional or social problems. Parents that have to be in a hyper vigilant state to keep their children safe feel the stress affecting the family environment.
Our children need us. They depend on us to take care of them, teach them, support them and love them. No child with or without a diagnosis can succeed to their full potential if their parents are so drained they are unable to be there for them. By not taking care of yourself, your child could be at a higher risk for more problems. Create a lifestyle for yourself and your family that prioritizes self-care with exercise, appropriate nutrition, and 8 hours of sleep.  Always seek professional advice if your stress affects the quality of life you desire.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Positive Thinking

In today's world of economic stress it is easy to think of what is wrong in our life instead of what is going well. I ran across a list of daily reminders that can change your negative thinking pattern into a positive one.

Daily Dozen (author unknown)
  • Make up your mind to be happy.
  • Make the best of your circumstances.
  • Don't take yourself too seriously.
  • You can't please everybody.
  • Don't let your neighbor set your standards.
  • Do the things you enjoy doing, but stay out of debt.
  • Don't worry!
  • Avoid people who make you unhappy.
  • Have many interests.
  • Don't spend your life brooding over sorrows and mistakes.
  • Do what you can for those less fortunate than yourself.
  • Keep busy at something.
It seems like good advice......enjoy your day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Back to School

The concept of kindergarten derived in the 1830’s from a German teacher who believed the children needed a way to transition from home into the school environment. Kindergarten was established as a way to interact and socialize. Children today are socialized at daycare or in pre-school so kindergarten has been restructured to meet the demands of academic readiness in the cognitive and social areas of development.
Readiness to learn
School readiness means that the child has the ability to learn and cope in the school environment without experiencing undue stress. Children should be able to separate from their family and trust the adults in the school environment. They need to understand the concept of sharing and how to take turns when playing with other children. Children should also display some level of social skills in how to resolve problems and work cooperatively with their peers. They must be able to adapt to the structure of the school day and follow the instructions from their teacher.
A real assessment of readiness isn’t based on the chronological age alone. Many schools will do an assessment several weeks before school begins that involve cognitive, linguistic, motor skills and social skills. Children that enter kindergarten with limited baseline skills of reading and math are unlikely to catch up with their peers. Many will need support services that require remedial learning with the help of an aide or tutor.  Children that don’t test well will have a re-evaluation three to six months later to assess if a developmental specialist or neurologist should be consulted.
Other considerations
There are many different academic settings to consider when choosing a school for your children. There are public, private, religion based, and Montessori schools. Other determining factors are class size, use of aides in the classroom, and if kindergarten is a full or half-day program. Structural considerations would be the locations of the bathroom, playground and lunchroom where interaction with older students should be limited.
There are many different developmental levels and skills found in the classroom. Teachers are working to meet the diversity, developmental needs and abilities of all children. Children learn best by doing. It allows them to learn through exploration and observation. It can also help them to follow their interests while building cognitive and creative talents. As you determine the kindergarten readiness for your children also seek an environment where they can be engaged and interested in learning for their optimal growth and development.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness and/or grief that are experienced by parents when the children become of age to leave their childhood home. This can occur when children leave to attend college or get married. Women appear to have more difficulty with this transition than men but both have similar feeling of loss after the departure of their children.
Parent-child relationship
Empty Nest Syndrome is most common in the autumn when teenagers leave for college. It can also happen when a child gets married. Matrimony is a permanent launching stating parents are no longer needed as they were before. Research suggests that the quality of the parent-child relationship may have important consequences during this transition. The parents are now able to develop a friendship with the young adult which can reduce the conflict experienced in the developmental years. This new bond will also provide support for the parents when they face the health concerns of the elderly.
Parents should prepare for the empty nest while their children are still living at home. They can make specific plans for their extra time, money and space that will be available when the children are no longer dependent on you. Feelings of sadness are normal at this time. It you feel that you no longer have purpose, experience excessive crying or unable to perform your daily routine you should seek professional help.
A time of transition
A positive perspective at this time of your life is vital to the transition. Adjust your new role in your child’s life. The relationship now becomes more peer like as you give your child independence. You can schedule a weekly call-in time, email and text message things you’d like to share in-between visits.
Once you can look at this second half of your life as a new opportunity you will feel younger, be financially stronger, and have more time for friends, hobbies and your partner. Time and energy can now be spent in different areas of your life as you work together to turn the second half of your life into a time of discovery and joy.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sleep Debt

Sleep debt or deficit is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. It is the difference between the amount of sleep you should get and the actual amount that you are sleeping. Current studies are reporting that 50 – 90% of Americans experience the consequences of sleep debt. Sleep is essential for good physical and mental health. It affects how you look, feel and perform at work or school. When we are sleep deprived the brain has to work harder to concentrate and retain information. It also becomes more difficult to problem solve and generate new ideas.  
Causes of sleep debt                                                          
Today’s high paced lifestyle creates the lack of time that we allow ourselves to sleep. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 2004 poll results found that the average adult sleeps 6.8 hours weekdays and 7.4 hours on the weekend. If you lose one hour of sleep per day by Friday you have a sleep debt of 5 hours.  Over one year a person can accrue two weeks of sleep debt if the time isn’t made up over the weekend.
David Neubauer MD sleep expert from Johns Hopkins University and spokesman for NSF says “You need to value sleep the same way you value eating right and getting regular exercise.” Lack of sleep creates a vicious cycle of eating inappropriately. The more tired we feel the more caffeine and sugar we consume. The caffeine and sugar intake can keep you awake at night. Over exposure to technology such as television, video games and computers are also identified as a contributor to sleep debt. Other individuals reported staying up late to finish a movie, texting and talking on the phone can kept them from going to bed on time.
Create good sleep rituals
David Neubauer MD from NSF reminds us that “It’s important to maintain a regular bedtime routine as much as possible.” It will train the mind and body to act in a certain way at a specific time. This will help your body to create the circadian rhythm your brain needs to release the melatonin at bedtime. Spend time “winding down” at least two hours before bedtime. The study suggests that you stop all work, phone calls and avoid eating before going to bed.  You shouldn’t consume caffeine, nicotine and alcohol during this time either as they will interrupt sleep patterns. It is best to exercise early during the day to energize your brain and body. This will also help you relieve your stress and to be more relaxed in the evening. Before bedtime take a bath, read a book or listen to some music. It is recommended that you sleep on a comfortable mattress in a cool, quiet, dark room to help develop healthy sleep habits. 
There are many factors that can contribute to sleep debt. The more chronic issues such as pain, illness, sleep apnea or insomnia are more serious long-term sleep problems that can have adverse effect on your health.  You should contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe a medication, suggest lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques or have your sleep evaluated at a sleep lab. Having a good day starts with having a good night’s sleep.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Choosing to Remain Single

Today more men and women are choosing to remain single in their late 20’s and 30’s. The number of single adults rose to 50% in 2010, compared to 33% in 1950 according to census data. This has been a cultural shift based on the financial freedom women experience now with success in the workplace, college education, and choosing to cohabitate. Kate Bolick writes, “Today marriage is an option, not a necessity the way it once was, and that’s revolutionary.”
Finding contentment
Everyone is different and has a different script for their life. Currently men and women have similar reasons as to why they never marry. They can financially support themselves while enjoying their independence and have time alone to enjoy their personal interests. Also individuals who have experienced hurtful relationships in the past are cautious to enter into another long-term commitment with today’s high divorce rate. 
There are many men and women with a sharp focus on career and personal growth. They will often prefer staying single rather than trying to balance the duties and obligations of marriage. Personal career growth can keep an individual from committing to a partner as some career choices can be too demanding and put a strain on relationships. Many professionals have no desire for children and believe that cohabitating will provide the intimacy they desire. An individual’s financial status can also play a part in the decision of continuing a relationship to the next level. If the partner has a poor credit score, no savings, past due car payments or even behind on the child support you could spend years working to paying off someone else’s debt.
It’s a choice
Being content with your own life, work, family, friends and other interests is the number one reason why people stay single. Society can no longer dictate what is acceptable for the individual’s best option or that they must get married to be happy. Falling in love doesn’t mean you must run to the jeweler.  Loving another person can just be the joy of the experience when it enters into your life. There are many forms of love and commitment in relationships. Decide today to just enjoy the journey of the relationship and be open to where ever it may take you. 


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Make Fun a Priority in Your Relationship

When a couple marries they envision a life together with their best friend.  Unfortunately there are many issues that can complicate the relationship such as sex, money, trust, and fidelity. An article published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy report that 45- 55% of women and 50-60% of men will become involved in extramarital sex at some time during their marriage. These individuals would intentionally engage in the affair with no intention of leaving their committed relationship.
Cultural differences with marriage and monogamy
There are many published reports that paint a grim picture for a healthy marriage in our society today. The Associated Press reports that 90% of Americans believe that adultery is wrong but 50% will engage in an affair anyway. Our culture is based on the Puritanical view that the violation to wedding vows is an unforgiveable offense. The European culture assumes there will be infidelities in a marriage and allow the option of a mistress or mister.  The United States has the highest divorce rate in the world while other European countries have almost half the number of divorces due to their relaxed attitude toward monogamy.
Prioritize your marriage
Studies have found that the happiest married couples have learned how to prioritize having fun together. Having a busy work schedule, attending classes or keeping up with activities that your children are involved in can make this a difficult task. Make a list of activities that you would like to do together. Step out of your comfort zone and try new experiences like dance lessons, plays, concerts, or a cooking class where you can share your thoughts and ideas. Just spending time together isn’t enough to strengthen the relationship. Behavioral scientists report “New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine which are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love.” Couples that participated in “exciting” date nights reported a greater increase in marital satisfaction.
Protect your date nights from becoming a time to resolve conflicts. Agree to discuss your concerns at an alternative time like in the morning over breakfast or after completing evening chores. Dr. John Gottman’s research has found that “For every one disagreement, misunderstanding or hurt feeling, they need five positive, affectionate caring or fun interactions to counterbalance it.” Conflict is inevitable in long-term relationships but it can erode the relationship if concerns are used to control the partner or not resolved in a constructive manner.  Find the balance needed to actively listen to the concern presented without attacking each other in the process to finding a compromise.  Seek counseling when you feel stuck or unable to find a solution to the problem. Sometimes discussing the concern with a neutral party can help to get your relationship back on track and enjoying each other again.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Fathers and Their Children

The role of the father has become a difficult one in today’s family system.  A 2010 census reports an estimated 24.7 million children in the United States live absent from their biological father. The statistics become more alarming when 40% of these children haven’t seen their father in a year and another 26% of absent fathers live in another state. With the celebration of Father’s Day this month it may be a good time to identify the barriers that keep you from participating in your children’s life.
Single Fathers
Today one in every three homes is headed by a woman and one in every six by a man. Once the divorce is finalized research reports that it may take up to three years for a family to adjust to their new life style. This can encompass visitation, finances, employment, daycare, and relocating. Becoming a single-parent is challenging and at times overwhelming. First determine what type of support you need and then begin to establish a network. Next you should review your financial budget to reduce monthly expenses that affect your disposable income. Then determine if you qualify for state or federal assistance for food, healthcare, daycare, counseling, job training or housing. There are Federal grants available for single-parents to retrain or complete their education that will create financial stability as a long-term goal.
It will be important to create structure and routine for the children as everyone adjusts to the divorce. The single parent should delegate chores to each child that is age appropriate and that can be completed in fifteen to thirty minutes. This can be as simple as emptying the trash, loading the dishwasher, running the sweeper, taking care of the pets or doing a load of laundry. With everyone working together you will be able to reduce your stress and teach the children the responsibilities of taking care of their home.
Involved Fathers
Fathers have a unique and crucial role in child development. This nurturing bond will determine school success, healthy self-esteem, mental health and a stronger avoidance to drugs. Data reported by the Family Strengthening Policy Center in December 2005, states that children with involved fathers experience less poverty, perform better in school while completing their education. They will also display fewer behavioral problems and above average cognitive and psychosocial development.
A father should be a positive role model that can provide financial security for their children. He facilitates their moral development and assists in learning important life skills. Loving a child is more than just saying, “I love you.” It’s demonstrated in daily activities throughout their children’s lifetime. Whatever time you have to spend with your children try and become involved in their lives. You should learn the names of their best friends and the activities that they participate in. Try to take part in community activities and plan family outings to facilitate emotional bonding. You can also volunteer at their school and attend their parent/teacher conferences. During your visitation establish a routine that your children will look forward to and know that you will be spending time with them. Father’s continue to play a critical role in the development of their children whether they are living in the household or as a single-parent. Investing your time in the relationship with your children will pay dividends for many years to come.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Brain Health

As the longevity of our life span continues to increase, maintaining our cognitive health has become more important for the quality of life we want to enjoy.  Research has found that our brain continues to build cells at any age. Learning new skills such as a language, knitting, dancing or even how to change the oil of your car can help protect the brain from developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. Physical activity is also important to maintain a healthy brain as 25% of the blood from each heart beat is utilized by the brain.
The brain
Dr. Paul Nussbaum clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in aging across the lifespan and brain health states, “Our identity, our hopes, our emotions, everything we love comes from this amazing organ that weighs between two and four pounds, the greatest miracle ever designed.” Dr. Nussbaum has developed several games that challenge the cognition and determine what areas of the brain may need more stimulation to maintain cognitive health.
Research from Current Biology reports that the working memory training that they have established with mice seems to have increased their intelligence. They trained mice on a task that exercised working memory and attention. The mice displayed improvement on general cognitive function when compared to mice with no training. This experiment has proven that the brain is highly adaptable and can be improved with training. They are hoping that further research will give them more insight on how to help the Alzheimer’s patient.
Brain Care
The brain needs to be stimulated with socialization, learning, appropriate nutrition, physical and sexual activity. The brain should be fed a steady diet of foods with Omega-3 fatty acids and high in anti-oxidants such as blueberries and spinach. This nutrition will keep the brain processing at a rapid speed. High levels of stress can be harmful to the brain. Practicing meditation, Yoga, and visualization are all excellent ways to learn how to manage stress levels. Reducing stress and stress hormones in your system is critical to the care of your brain.
Oliver Sacks MD professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center believes music can be very healing for the brain. In his book Musicophilia he explores the mystery of the human mind and interaction with music.  “Music can animate people with Parkinson’s disease who couldn’t otherwise move, give words to stroke patients who can’t otherwise speak and calm and organize people who memories are ravaged by Alzheimer’s,” states Dr. Sacks. Music has been found to work when medication is ineffective because it engages so many parts of the brain. Keeping your brain healthy can be part of your daily lifestyle as you work to balance the needs of mind, body and spirit.




Sunday, May 04, 2014

Understanding Mental Fatigue

The fast paced lifestyle of adults today is leaving many individuals feeling mentally exhausted. Mental fatigue is predominately found in careers that require a lot of cognitive stamina. It can be a result of working excessive hours, being constantly worried and under extreme duress. You may begin to notice that you have no motivation to complete daily tasks, have difficulty concentrating for any length of time or become concerned with your short-term memory. There could be an increase in making simple mistakes or an inability to finish tasks. Learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental fatigue can help you determine what steps you should take to repair your body.
Preventive Self-care
Every individual should take a close look at their daily lifestyle to determine what areas need improvement. Make an appointment with your physician for a physical to assess for possible iron deficiency, anemia, thyroid function or an infection that could be causing fatigue symptoms. Then decide if you are consuming the servings suggested from each food group for appropriate nutrition. Caffeine and sugar should be avoided while increasing the intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Medical experts suggest taking a multivitamin supplement and drinking at least 64 ounces of water to replenish your brain and body.
Adults require seven to eight hours of sleep every night. If you are experiencing insomnia it can escalate the symptoms of mental fatigue. Create a routine each night that prepares you for bed. Turn off lights and any media that will keep your brain stimulated. Your brain will then release the melatonin that regulates the sleep and wake cycles.
A study published in the March 2009 Journal of Applied Physiology reports, “Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans.” Physicians recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. Exercise will increase your stamina and the oxygen level in your bloodstream. The brain utilizes 30% of the oxygen in your body, so increasing oxygen in the body will improve cognition.
Taking the steps to maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit should be a part of your daily lifestyle. If you believe that you do not have the time to take care of yourself now, then you will need to make the time later if you become ill. Your best option is to start today and make the right choices for you

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Adult ADD Alternative Treatment

Many adults are discovering that the symptoms they have struggled with as a child and continue to cope with has a name, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Historically the diagnosis of ADD has focused predominately on children, but only 40% of children will outgrow ADD symptoms. Adults often conclude that they have ADD when their children are diagnosed and recognize that they have similar symptoms. Individuals who suspect they have ADD should see a clinician who can perform a personal interview, take a medical history, diagnose and discuss options for treatment.  
There is no known cause for ADD but heredity, genetics, and chemical imbalance are probable originating factors. Adults with ADD will have difficulty following directions, remembering information, concentrating, organizing tasks or completing tasks on time. These concerns can cause problems in their personal relationships, professional careers, academics and social interactions. Symptoms of ADD can range from mild to severe. Different medications have been shown to help adults diagnosed with ADD very quickly, but there are alternative choices to consider.
The consideration of some dietary changes and eating a more nutritious regime can work as an alternative treatment. There are common things that are usually overlooked in a diet but should be assessed such as food allergies, yeast overgrowth, antibiotic over use and improper diet. These concerns can be discussed with your primary care physician.
Research is finding nutritional deficiencies of fatty acids and amino acids can affect a person’s attention span. Fatty acids are essential for the healthy nervous system as they also influence brain development and the neuronal connections between the different areas of the brain. The American diet supplies the Omega 6 family of fatty acids found in corn, sunflower, canola and safflower oil, margarine, vegetable oil and shortening. Most diets lack the Omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon, mackerel and sardines. Taking a food supplement or vitamin can help with this deficiency.
Exercise and Behavioral Changes
Regular and vigorous exercise can be very helpful to the adult diagnosed with ADD. Exercise that is maintained daily can quiet the mind and release energy in a positive way. The immediate release of dopamine and norepinephrine will help to delay impulsive behaviors and allow the individual time to evaluate choices or consequences. Exercise will also elevate the mood and decrease muscle tension.
Skills training for the ADD adult can be very beneficial. The adult would learn how to organize their day by making a list of all tasks to be completed daily. This should be prioritized from the most important to the least important task. If the tasks are complex they should be broken down into steps that are listed and crossed off when completed. Carrying a notepad would also allow the ADD adult to write down thoughts that seem to come and go quickly or reminders of any schedule changes that occurs. Setting alarms on a phone or watch can also be a great reminder to help individuals arrive on time to appointments or meetings.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Relational Aggression at School

Today the social appropriate term for a “bully” is relational aggression.  This is a major concern for most of our children in school.  The movies today that focus on child development will have scenes where a group of students will be aggressive toward an individual by playing spiteful tricks and saying or writing cruel things behind their back.  These behaviors are intended to be cruel and humiliate the targeted individual. 

Proactive and reactive aggression 

There are two types of relational aggression, proactive and reactive.  Proactive is focused toward the victim with the purpose to exclude, ignore, gossip, taunt, tease, and intimidate.  Reactive aggression is the victim’s response to the provocation.  Most people assume that boys are more aggressive than girls because boys will generally act out their aggression physically by hitting, shoving or kicking.  While girls usually utilize more subtler or passive aggression by gossiping, group exclusion, cyber bullying and rumor spreading. Both types of aggression are equally harmful and can cause long-term issues for their victim. Victims can suffer self-esteem damage and are usually lonely, anxious children.  Unfortunately, the aggressor usually suffers from the same concerns and will try to control their environment with aggression. 

Parental intervention 

Parents can help by monitoring their children as they play when they are learning how to make friends, share and take turns.  If there is an argument while the children play together, explain the other child’s perspective on issues as they occur. Help them look for a compromise or move on to play something completely different. This can help children develop empathy for others, trust, cooperation, and respect.  Guiding your child through the process of conflict resolution also teaches them healthy social skills that guide them through the turbulent adolescent years.  When your child is faced with relational aggression listen to their story and be supportive. You should always contact school administration when necessary and seek professional counseling as needed.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Getting a Good Night's Sleep

As we all experience the daily stress of life with family, work and personal relationships there are many individuals struggling to sleep uninterrupted through the night. When suffering with anxiety and depression or under extreme duress our mind will start processing our concerns while we are trying to fall asleep or wake us up after sleeping for a couple of hours.  It is very difficult to perform daily tasks effectively or problem solve concerns if we are fatigued and irritable. 

Natural ways to enhance sleep 

Prevention magazine reports simple steps that everyone can follow so that they can “sleep like a baby.”

  • Make breakfast your heaviest meal.
  • Cut out the caffeine after 2 PM.
  • Go outside when it is sunny to reset your awake-sleep cycle.
  • Drink your eight, 8 oz. glasses of water each day.
  • Exercise every day, preferably in the morning.
  • Take a 15 minute nap when needed.
  • Go to bed when you are sleepy.
  • Move the television out of the bedroom.
  • Create a sleep schedule and stick to it.
  • Try herbal teas instead of sleeping pills.
Sleep disorders 

If you have difficulty falling asleep and have for several months you could be sleep deprived.  You may need an assessment to determine if you have a sleep disorder that should be treated such as sleep apnea, insomnia or restless leg syndrome. Inadequate sleep can affect your hormone levels, mood stability and weight concerns. Practice good self-care daily and seek professional help when needed to have the quality of life that you deserve.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Music Soothes the Soul

Music has evolved over the centuries to become an important part of our culture.    Archaeologists have found a variety of musical artifacts that were used for entertainment and in important ceremonies or rituals in all parts of the world. Today music continues to be a form of expression for the artist and the listener.  Music contributes to weddings, graduations and funerals along with the daily enjoyment of listening to the radio, favorite CD or iPod tune selections.

Health benefits 

Researchers have been consistent to report the benefits of music and how it can affect our mood.  Music can reduce stress and bring peace to the mind and body.  If you are having trouble sleeping you might want to play a lullaby before bed.  A lullaby has been found to  lower your heart rate and slow down your respiration for a night of uninterrupted sleep.  Playing lullabies as you prepare yourself and your children for bed will benefit everyone. 

If you are working out at the gym or on your own, music can stimulate your energy level and help your endurance for a longer workout.  Studies report that including music to your workout promotes verbal fluency and lung performance. 

Affects mood 

Listening to music of your choice will lower your stress hormone cortisol and increase your endorphins that support your immune system.  Your personal taste in music can either lift your mood or bring you down.  Music can improve your optimism or bring you joy and peace.  It’s a wonderful tool to give our mind, body and soul a break from the hectic pace of each day.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Understanding Male Depression

Men in our country have the cultural expectation of being in control or the “tough guy” when facing a crisis.  Expressing their emotions or feelings is considered more of a feminine trait.  Therefore men can be reluctant to express their concerns as they can see it as a threat to their masculinity.

Symptoms of male depression

The National Institute of Mental health reports that 6 million men and 12 million women are affected by depression each year.  While it may seem that males are less affected by depression they may be just undiagnosed due to repressing their symptoms.  Symptoms of male depression can include violent or abusive behavior, over involvement in work or sports, inappropriate rage and risky behaviors.  Men also have a tendency to mask their symptoms with alcohol or substance abuse.  Depression has been known to affect the male sexual desire and performance.  They also report physical symptoms of headaches, digestive problems and chronic pain. 

Ask for help

Untreated depression can lead to personal, family and financial difficulties.  Men will resist mental health treatment due to concerns with the stigma that it could damage their career or lose the respect of their family and friends.  If you know a male that is struggling with depression encourage him to seek treatment with a physician or mental health professional.  He may need support from medication management and to learn healthy coping skills in counseling to elevate his mood. There are many effective treatments for depression today so don’t think that you have to “tough” it out on your own. Choose today to get help and have a better quality of life.    


Stress, Anxiety and You

Our lifestyles today are packed with personal and professional deadlines. We can find ourselves overwhelmed with the “To Do” lists and racing against the clock to get the last project completed. Ruminating over these deadlines or obsessing about what needs to be completed can often lead to anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Schedule time for yourself

Taking care of yourself is essential to taking care of your family. If you are that Type A personality that is prone to obsessing you might want to try the following interventions to stop the ruminating.

1. Put on the music and dance, watch a comedy, call a friend, or clean the kitchen. Do a task that takes about 10 minutes. That is the minimum of time needed to break the cycle of thoughts.
2. Allow yourself 5 minutes to ponder the list you have to tackle and then move on with your plan of action.
3. Meditate for a minute by taking that cleansing breath, closing your eyes and just focus on your breathing.
4. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen in this situation. Accept that and then move forward to cope.
5. Use your support system to let you know when you are out of control.
6. Accept that you are human and will make mistakes. Sometimes we are kinder to strangers than we are to ourselves.

Daily self-care 

Practicing these ideas to reduce your daily stress and anxiety can be very helpful in remaining emotionally balanced. Create a lifestyle for yourself and your family that prioritizes self-care with exercise, appropriate nutrition, and 8 hours of sleep. Always seek professional advice if your stress affects the quality of life you desire.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Are You Ready for Marriage?

How does a person know if they are ready to make that life commitment of marriage? Individuals are marrying at a later age hoping to avoid becoming a statistic of divorce which is hovering at 50 %. There are fewer couples today who can model their success on what makes a relationship successful.

Pre-marital counseling

Counseling is not just for people trying to cope with the problems in their life. It can be an intervention to prevent having discord in your relationship. Pre-marital counseling is one way to determine if you are prepared for one of the biggest decisions of your life. It can help you understand your partner’s perspective on a variety of topics. You can discuss the priorities in your life and where your relationship falls in that spectrum. This can confirm your sense of yourselves as a couple and if marriage is the right step for you. As a couple you need to discuss important topics such as religion, children, finances, habits, hobbies, and family issues among many other concerns.

Learn the skills of communication

Every marriage presents itself with difficulties and obstacles. Open communication will be what helps you through them. If you have difficulty talking through the issues in your lives, it would benefit you to learn how to discuss them while you’re engaged.

There are many options when seeking premarital counseling in every community. Your church pastor, marriage building workshops or any licensed marriage and family therapist can help you with this process. Invest the time in your relationship now as you begin to build your life together.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Impulsive Spending

Millions of Americans today overspend to give themselves a momentary emotional lift or escape from the stress they experience in their day to day life. If you have engaged in an impulsive purchase, you have also experienced that moment of happiness later turn into remorse and guilt.

"Activity Addiction"

Financial troubles are known to trigger or exacerbate mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. The impulsivity of purchases often occurs with individuals who have suffered a traumatic loss and are searching for a way to fill the emptiness that they feel. Scientists identify this impulsive behavior as an “activity addiction” like gambling, eating or sexual disorders. These activities can affect the brain chemistry the same way that alcohol and drugs do to give you a brief “high” that alleviates the stress when overspending. This continued self-destructive behavior can result in a large credit card debt, unpaid bills and marital distress.

"Need or Want"

When you decide to make a purchase stop and ask yourself if this purchase is a “need or want”. If the purchase is a need then determine how the purchase will effect your budget or current lifestyle. After you have answered these questions, then research the product so that you will receive the ultimate quality for your dollar. This process will help you from making the decision impulsively and without regret.

When reviewing your finances you may determine a need for professional assistance to discuss your options. Consumer Credit Counseling has helped many individuals and families regain control of their finances. There is also Debtors Anonymous that has support group meetings or there are mental health professionals that specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help identify and change the self-destructive behavior patterns that have been identified. Seek the help that you need so that you can have the quality of life that you deserve.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A New Year Brings New Opportunities

A New Year brings a time of reflection and also a vision of hope. When you review your past successes and errors it can help you determine how to move forward and create the life you envision for yourself. The possibilities are endless as long as you believe in yourself and are motivated to make the necessary changes needed.

Create the Possibilities

Studies are reporting that it takes 30 days of consistency to change behavioral patterns. This is a difficult, time consuming process for some individuals. Novelist Arnold Bennett states “Any change, even change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” So if you find change difficult to handle, you are not alone. Change is the only constant that we have in life so it is better to learn how to use it to your advantage.

First30Days is an organization that has outlined several principles to overcome the obstacles of change. First, change your point of view. A positive outlook can motivate you to view the situation from different perspectives. Recognize that you are stronger than you think and that something good will usually evolve from those challenges associated with change. Accept the process of change, as resistance is usually wasted energy. Remember, that negative thoughts will hinder your progress and you are the only one that can control what you think and feel.

New Year.....New Opportunities

Life is a gift that we may cherish or waste. If you are unhappy with your present situation take the steps to change it. You only have control of yourself. Do not wait for your spouse, boss, children or family to change. It will never happen unless they decide to make the changes themselves. What you need to realize is that your happiness lies within yourself, not upon others. Create the life you want and the joy will follow.