Hello everyone! I am so happy to announce that I am now a regular contributor for 30SecondMom!
30 Second Mom is a fabulous website and smartphone mobile app that gives tips to moms in 30 seconds or less. All you have to do is visit the site, set up your login, select the topics and contributors you’d like to follow, and voila! Tips appear on your “stream,” tailored just for you! So, if you’re a mom-on-the-go, take a moment and visit www.30SecondMom.com. This just might be the “tip” you need to make your full life just a little smoother!
Check out a couple of my tips:
Summer Survival: Helping Your Kids Set Summer Goals (watch the 30 second YouTube video of this tip)
7 Strategies for Summer Sanity
Summer is upon us once again with its longer days and warmer weather. Yet for we parents of school-aged children, summer break can be anything but relaxing. I admit, my past few summer breaks have started with a mental breakdown on my part. But this year is different. I have looked back, taken notes, and learned from my mistakes; with only four days of school left, my summer sanity plan is firmly in place. So, allow me to share my 7 strategies for summer sanity in hopes it will bring a little sanity your way this summer too!
1) Evaluate & adjust expectations. This is a biggie. As I’ve written before, “All frustration comes from expectations” (Dr. John Lund); expecting your schedule to remain the same in the summer is simply not possible and your sanity will pay the price if you don’t make some changes. For example, I’ve learned that I need to cut back on my own “projects” during the summer. The less I expect to get done, the less interrupted and frustrated I feel. Instead, I now try to read, relax, and play a little more in the summer, reminding myself that, even though I’m not getting much of my “to do list” done, I am doing some very important things (like strengthening my relationships and resting up for the fall). Expecting a little less in the summer can bring a whole lot more peace of mind. (For tips on altering expectations, read this).
2) Set up summer rules. What are your policies for summer sleepovers, playdates, chauffeur services, and chores? Call a family meeting, discuss, and write them down; then, post them in plain sight. Having written “rules” takes the guess work out of summer days, providing structure and helping children (and parents) know what to expect. One of our rules involves “Summer Kitchen Hours”. These hours are posted next to the other rules, telling the kids when the kitchen is “open” and when it is not. This helps prevent constant grazing and entices my hungry teens out of bed a little earlier, but mostly it helps me feel like I’m not constantly cooking and cleaning. What policies might help your summer run a little more smoothly?
3) Don’t over- or under- schedule. While it certainly helps to have some scheduled activities each week, resist the temptation to sign up for too many. Let’s face it—we live in an overscheduled world, and overscheduling wears parents and kids out. Instead, let summer be a time to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the school year. Planning one activity a day is plenty; and it’s ok to have days with nothing planned at all. It’s actually good for kids to have “nothing to do” sometimes—it allows them to hear their own thoughts and invokes creativity; it also helps them appreciate all they get to do at other times. When my kids start in with “I’m bored,” I tell them, “Great! I’m happy you’re bored—it’s good for you! Go sit and be bored for a while!” This gets plenty of eye-rolling, of course, but usually does the trick. (If they continue complaining, I say, “Oh, good! I need someone to help me get this work done”–they sure run away quickly after that one!). So, be careful with your scheduling–keeping kids (and you) entertained but not drained is a fine line to walk!
4) Do activities that you enjoy. Hiking? Reading? Drawing? Gardening?—whatever you love, look for opportunities to share it with your children; it’s a great way to teach them about the things you love. I love travelling, and now that I no longer have babies in tow taking my kids on trips is something I adore. (The photo to the right, is from when I decided [the week before] to take the fam to Utah. Once there, I took all the kids to Sundance for the day, to hike, bike, ride the lifts, and play frisbee [while my husband played golf]!) I also love music, so writing songs and playing instruments together is another great activity for us. The point is to find what you love and do it—you’ll be so much more engaged in what you’re doing, and your kids will be so much the better for it!
5) Set up some summer help. To avoid breaking down you need some breaks, and summer camps, babysitters, family, or friends can be a big help. You might set up a childcare co-op and swap “free time” with a friend; you might enlist grandparents to take the kids for a while; or, you might ask your partner or spouse to take over for a night or day each week. Whatever your situation, look for opportunities to get some help and then take them! Your sanity will thank you for it, I guarantee.
6) Create daily quiet time. Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, a work-at-home parent, a work-at work parent (oh, let’s face it—we’re all working parents!), you need some time and space that is just for you. Being “on” all the time is a sure way to burn out. To prevent burn out, set up daily “quiet time”. In our home we have 1 hour of “quiet time” each afternoon. I help the little ones settle down with books, a movie, or coloring, put a sign on my door (“Mom’s Quiet Time—Please Do Not Enter”) and hit my bed for reading, a nap, and usually some dark chocolate. The older kids entertain themselves and they all know not to interrupt or else “mean mom” might make an appearance. It’s good for everyone to have a break from activities and from each other. What can you do to establish some quiet time each day?
7) Be flexible. All this being said, summer really is a test of flexibility. Just because you have a summer “plan” doesn’t mean it won’t change–it will. Just count on it. Remembering strategy #1, if you can expect things to change, you will handle those changes much more smoothly. Just roll with it—that’s what summer is all about. (For more on flexibility, read here).
So, here’s to the summer of sanity! My hope is that, by using these 7 strategies, your summer will not only be more a little more sane, but perhaps even a little (or a lot) more satisfying too!
What are your summer survival tips? What gets you frustrated? What have you found to make things easier? Help us all out by leaving a comment below!
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30 Second Mom Tips/Videos:
Your Postpartum Emotions:
The Baby Blues & You
Up to 80% of all new mothers will experience what is called “The Baby Blues.” If you are aware of this fact then lucky you because many families have no idea what is in store emotionally after the baby is finally here.
Postpartum Emotions for Moms & Dads
Too many families are never told that 4 out of 5 moms will feel sad, frustrated, tearful, anxious, and/or overwhelmed, what many women describe as “an emotional roller-coaster,” in the first days or weeks postpartum. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense that your emotions might be a little out of whack after pregnancy and childbirth, considering all your body and mind have been through. The abrupt changes in hormones, sleep deprivation, and the psychological adjustment to becoming a parent, not to mention the exhaustion of labor and delivery, can easily trigger fluctuations in emotions.[/two_third]
And those first few days are not just tough on moms either. A dad can also have the Baby Blues and is more likely to have symptoms if his partner has symptoms too. It’s sadly ironic that just when we parents desire to be at our very best, we are often physically and emotionally at a disadvantage.
The Good News
The good news is that The Baby Blues are temporary. Neither a “diagnosis” nor a “disorder,” The Baby Blues is a normal reaction to the stress surrounding childbirth, and symptoms should improve within two weeks or so. Knowing this helps normalize the craziness we feel those first few days and relieves the layers of stress we add when we start to fear we are not “normal.” Feeling emotionally abnormal at this time is, in its own way, normal. And telling ourselves we’re “normal” can be just the relief we need even if we are the only ones saying so.
What Can We Do?
So here are a few things couples can do to safely navigate the baby blues:
1) Education: Learning all you can about postpartum emotional adjustment can help normalize your symptoms and also tell you if or when it may be time to get some outside help.
2) Practical Support: Letting others help with housework, childcare, and other basic duties can give you the space you need to let yourself (and your emotions) settle in and heal. It can also give you a chance to catch up on that much-needed sleep that’s likely wreaking havoc on your emotional state!
3) Emotional Support: Having a trusted friend, partner, or family member you can talk to can make all the difference. It’s ok to feel what you’re feeling and having someone who is ok to let you feel it may be just what you need.
4) Partner Support: My best advice for couples is to be patient and kind with one another. Realize this time for what it is–a temporary adjustment period when a tiny baby has all the power and the helpless adults are simply trying to keep up!
Beyond The Baby Blues
The Baby Blues can feel very permanent but they really should only last for a few days or maybe a couple of weeks. If your “blues” are hanging on longer than two weeks or if your symptoms seem to be getting worse you may be experiencing a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder. Seeking counsel from an expert in perinatal mental health can help determine what your emotions are really up to and give you the tools you need to overcome them. (For resource options, click here).
Hang In There!
Your emotions may feel out-of-whack but that’s just part of having a baby. Eventually your body and emotions will resume a more “normal” routine. In the meantime, hang in there. It really does get easier over time, and it really is ok to just give in a little bit and go along for the ride.
Questions about the “Baby Blues”? Leave a comment and let me know!
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Kick the Complaining Habit!
No body likes a whiner. Even my four year-old, Sydney, came home the other day from her babysitter and, after asking her how her day was, she said, “Pretty good, mom, ‘cept one thing was bad—Tyler* was whining all day!” (Tyler is her three-year old “boyfriend” she is always trying to kiss, to be like her older siblings, and yes, *his name has been changed to protect his innocence). As I said, no one likes a whiner.
I have to admit, I’ve been known to complain or even “whine” on occasion too. It seems that the more stressed and tired I am, the more verbal I become until I lose my filter and every little thought becomes public notice! I don’t even like being around myself when I act like this. So why is complaining such a draw for so many of us?
There are definitely those who complain simply out of personality style or habit. Circumstances like stress and fatigue can certainly influence our tendency to complain too. But I believe complaining usually starts with purer motives: Most of us simply want to be heard and understood. We want someone to know our frustrations, pain, or upset. We want to know we are not alone. No matter what lies beneath it, however, complaining is a habit worth kicking before it fills us with so much negative energy that we drive those we love away! And even more importantly, complaining is a habit we can kick.
So, what can we do? Some may think the advice, “Keep your thoughts to yourself,” is the way to go. But even though painting on a fake smile, keeping quiet, and always being “fine” may seem like a good idea, it’s bound to eventually lead to either an explosion, an implosion, or at least some really good meat for therapy later in life.
The trick is to be able to talk about how we feel without delving into the pool of indulgent complaints. Here are a few tips to help us strike this healthy balance:
1) Write down complaints. We complain because we have a pile of emotion inside that needs to come out, and writing is a great alternative to saying it out loud. There is something therapeutic about getting things out with a pen and paper (or computer keyboard). It can also help to see our complaints; it can validate those times when things really are crazy and help us let go of the times when they’re not as bad as we think, all without dumping on those we love.
2) Set a “complaining” appointment. It may sound a little bizarre, but setting an appointment for complaining can help too. A time limit will keep it focused. For instance, “I can’t complain at all until 3:30 pm, at which time I will tell all my complaints to my husband with a time limit of 10 minutes”. (It helps to tell the person we’re complaining to ahead of time that we are simply “venting” and don’t need anything more than a listening ear). Not only does this give us a guaranteed chance to air our complaints, it channels our complaints and stops us from needlessly dragging them on. And, most of the time, we’ll probably find that our “complaining appointment” is not even worth keeping.
3) Solve what can be solved, then let it go. The previous tips can help us sort out complaints and give us the voice we desire. But ultimately our complaints need to either be solved or let go. If there is something we can do to handle our complaints, then we do it. If not, then we vent it out and let it go. We will be so much happier and so will those around us.
Kick the Complaints!
So, try these tips and start kicking your complaining habit today! Or try the advice I recently heard from a speaker whose mother taught her that if she added a “Dear Heavenly Father” to the beginning of each complaint and an “Amen” to the end, it’s no longer a complaint, but rather, communication with God. What a concept! He is, after all, probably the only one who really wants to hear our complaints, and the only one (besides us) who can do anything about them.
What do you think about complainers? Are you one? What makes it such a hard habit to kick? Have you found any strategies that work for you? Leave us a comment and share your wisdom!
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Thought Management: Part I
The Link Between Thoughts, Feelings, Body, and Behavior
One of the best tools I’ve learned as a psychologist, mom, and human being is how to understand and change my thoughts. It’s estimated that humans have an average of 60,000 thoughts per day! Were you aware you were thinking so much? Probably not, for a vast majority of these thoughts are what are called “Automatic Thoughts”—they come automatically, without any conscious effort on our part, and most of the time we don’t even hear them. The problem is that our thoughts are linked to our bodily reactions, emotions, and behaviors. Even thoughts we don’t intend or want can set off a cycle of sensations, emotions and behavioral reactions, leaving us feeling out of control. But learning to see the connection between thoughts, feelings, bodily responses, and behaviors empowers us.
The Thought Cycle
Allow me to explain how this works. Life gives us situations. For example, I am walking through the forest when I see a bear. An automatic thought arises, “Ah! There’s a bear!” This thought creates a physiological response: my blood pressure rises, pulse increases, heart rate speeds up, and adrenaline pumps through my body. Almost simultaneously there is an emotion, or several emotions. Facing the bear I feel anxiety, panic, and fear; I then engage in a behavior. In this case, I run away from the bear. (Now, I have learned recently that the best thing to do when encountering a bear is actually not to run away, but for the sake of this example, we will ignore that little fact). Let’s say I run away to safety. What is my next thought? Perhaps, “Wow! I am safe! Way to go, me! Whew!” And my body’s response is for my parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, my heart rate slows, pulse lowers, and breathing resumes a more natural pattern. I have some emotions—joy, relief, satisfaction! And my next behavior? I go out for an ice-cream cone to celebrate my success!
But let’s say I’ve been raised to believe I am good-for-nothing—I am a wimp, I overreact, I always run away from my problems. In this case, after I find myself safely out of the bear’s reach, my thoughts might sound like, “You are such a wimp! Why did you run? It was just a small bear. You probably could have taken it! Why are you always such a coward?” My body’s response would be to keep the cortisol and adrenaline flowing, my stomach would become upset from tension, and my breathing would remain fast and shallow. My emotions might include frustration, anger, disappointment, and self-loathing. And my behavior? I would go and eat an entire carton of ice-cream as form of self-punishment.
This is Aaron Beck’s cognitive-behavioral theory in a nutshell. We can see that not only are thoughts, feelings, the body, and behaviors connected; they are influenced by the thoughts, feelings, reactions and behaviors of our past. And once we can see this cycle, we have a choice: to either ignore what we see, or to listen and intervene when we hear something that doesn’t quite make sense.
My own classic example comes from when I was in graduate school. Here I was, two kids, my husband in dental school, attending a full-time doctoral program, working part-time as a fitness instructor, and obviously surviving on very little sleep. One day I came home to a surprisingly empty house. My husband, OJ, had picked up the boys on his way home and taken them to the park, and I had 2 blessed hours alone. I immediately started cleaning, trying to remedy the bomb of Superman capes, lion’s tails made of belts, Scooby-Doo bowls and silly straws, that covered what once had been our living room and kitchen. It wasn’t until I dug into the pile of dirty clothes to start several loads of laundry that I noticed my body was tense, my frustration mounting higher than the pile before me, and I heard a sing-song voice within say, “I can’t handle this! I’m going to freak out!”
“Wait a minute,” I said to myself, “I heard that! What exactly can’t I handle?” It was the first time I had heard my automatic thoughts and stopped to question them. I was just doing laundry, so why was I so frustrated? After a few moments of listening I heard my answer, “I’m exhausted. I have a quiet home. I want to take a nap, and instead I have to clean and do laundry.” Well, did I have to do the laundry right then? No. It was a choice I had made. So, I decided to unmake that choice and instead choose to take a nap. Sure, the house was still a mess when my family came home, but the difference was that I was no longer a mess.
Can you see the power that listening to and altering your thoughts can have on your life? Through practice we can train ourselves to pay attention to the important thoughts and gleam valuable nuggets of truth—about how we feel, what we need, and ultimately, who we are. Then, we can let the rest go.
Of course, it’s hard to do at first; like any new skill it takes practice to hear, challenge, and change unhealthy thoughts. So it’s best to start small. I suggest if this is new to you that you start by simply trying to hear what you tell yourself in stressful, overwhelming, or even supremely joyful times. Begin to notice the impact your thoughts are having on your life.
Set Yourself Free
It takes time to master your thinking, but believe me, it is well worth the effort. I still use these valuable skills every single day, and I’m teaching them to my children now too. I hope you will join me for part II of my “Thoughts” series, where we will learn to use a Thought Record, and begin to challenge the thoughts that you will, by then, be so much better at hearing. Stick with us as we learn the powerful skill of managing our thinking and discovering the truth of how we feel, behave, and the truth of who we are. After all, you know what they say: “The truth shall set you free.” It will. I assure you. It will.
~This post is based on an excerpt from Dr. Hibbert’s forthcoming book, This is How We Grow
Questions? Comments? I’d love your “thoughts” (pun intended!), so leave a comment below!
Thought Management, Part 2: Coming Soon!
Emotional Tool Box Basics
If you’re going to build or grow anything you’ll need tools. If it’s a house you’ll need a hammer and nails. If it’s a garden you’ll need a spade and seeds. And if you want to build or grow yourself, your relationships, or your family you’ll need a solid emotional tool box.
Any good tool box starts with the basics. Basic “coping tools” should likewise form the foundation of your emotional tool box. We all know that life can take a physical, emotional, and spiritual toll. It’s hard to build much of anything if you’re having a hard time just coping with what life brings. It’s therefore essential that you gather the physical, emotional, and spiritual tools you need to replenish your energy and increase your capacity to cope.
Physical tools are the most basic layer of your emotional tool box. They seem simple but are powerful, for they sustain the body and provide the energy needed to get you through. Years ago I read that whenever you’re in a bad mood it’s because you don’t have enough energy to match what you’re being asked to do. Think about it. Too little energy significantly affects mood. It is therefore critical that we keep our energy up using these basic physical tools:
- Sleep. We need sleep for energy, plain and simple. Sleep disturbance is one of the most common symptoms of distress, so if you’re not sleeping well or getting “enough” sleep each week, it’s time to get back to basics and make sleep a priority.
- Nutrition. If you’re malnourished you simply won’t be very effective. Learning to think of nutrition as the “gas” you put into your system can help. Would you put garbage into your car and expect it to run well? Hopefully not, so why would you do the same to your body? Nutrition should focus on what to eat as well as what not to eat. Eat for health and vibrance, putting into your body those foods that increase energy, clarity, even youth.
- Exercise. If number one and number two aren’t in place exercise will be more difficult, but exercise is very important. It’s not only another way to increase energy; regular exercise has countless health benefits, helps you sleep better at night, and usually motivates better nutrition. It’s also one of the best ways to clear your head, de-stress, and problem-solve. Whatever you love to do can count if you do it hard and long enough—gardening, walking, skating, cycling, hiking, snowboarding, even housecleaning (who loves that, right? I have a friend who does!). The point is to get your body moving. Your mind and spirit will thank you!
If the physical tools aren’t in place, it’s much harder to utilize the emotional tools. When energy is low and fatigue sets in, it’s simply harder to cope with emotions. But once you get the basics of physical tools, emotional tools are very effective, allowing your emotions to arise and be expressed in healthy ways. Basic emotional coping tools include:
- Feel emotions. Our natural tendency is too run from painful emotions. But when we run we never actually deal with the situation at hand. Making ourselves sit down, take a deep breath, and feel the emotions we fear can teach us that our emotions are less powerful than we tend to believe.
- Express emotions (TEARS). TEARS stands for Talking, Exercise or physical activity, Artistic expression, Recording and writing about emotions, and Sobbing, crying and just letting it out. I created this effective method to help us know what we can do with our grief, pain, and other tough emotions. Choose one and you’ll see how effective it can be to do something productive with the emotions that are begging to come out.
- Stop and alter your thinking. This is one of the best tools I’ve ever learned–how to hear my thoughts, challenge them, and choose to keep them or let them go. This method allows you to see the thoughts that are driving your emotions and gives you the power to change not only the way you think but also the way that you feel. (I’m sure I will be blogging about this in more detail soon. It’s one of my favorites!)
- Create the thoughts and emotions you desire. Beyond just dealing with thoughts and emotions that come your way, you can create the thoughts and emotions you desire. It takes focus and intention, but shifting your focusing from what you don’t want (unhealthy emotions) to what you do want (the sky’s the limit!) can make all the difference in creating the life that you desire.
It’s hard to feel spiritually connected when your body and mind are not well; on the other hand, it’s hard for your body and mind to be well if you are not spiritually connected. Being spiritually in tune may look different for each individual, but the common principle is the same: when we are spiritually in tune we receive greater peace, guidance, and love that can lead us through troubled times and remind us we are never alone. Seeking spiritual connection is an active pursuit that may include the following basics:
- Sacred Space: Finding space in this world of distraction is challenging, but not impossible. Where do you feel most at peace? Where can you ponder your life’s lessons? Where can you synthesize all you’ve learned and see the bigger picture? Seek your space each and every day.
- Prayer: Even scientific research shows that prayer works. Prayer connects you to those you care about, turns your thoughts to those in need, and reminds you to be grateful for all you have already been given. Even moreso, prayer allows you to submit to that Power greater than yourself, bringing a sense of peace and calm that every one of us needs.
- Meditation: Practicing meditation can be life-changing. Learning to still your body and mind, to breathe in the goodness and light around you, preparing yourself to receive divine partnership and counsel, can take you right out of your world of troubles and remind you of who you really are. In this busy life we must make the time to tune in to the things that matter most. Meditation is a way to help us do just that.
- Reading sacred texts: For many, reading scriptures and other sacred texts provides the framework for healing and hope. God’s voice can be heard in these divine books, providing answers, whispering of who we are and what we’re here to do, and reminding us that we are never alone.
Like any tool box, there are countless sizes and numbers of tools to be had. These are simply “the basics”. But also like any tool box, the tools are not helpful if they are not used. So pick up a tool today and get to work building your ideal emotional health. Who knows what kind of masterpiece lies in wait for you!
What tools do you use for emotional health? Which ones might you like more information on? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Introduction to Women’s Emotions:
What All Women (and the Men Who Love Them) Need to Know and Were Never Taught
Women’s emotions have been the butt of jokes for ages. From PMS to Pregnancy to Menopause, we women have gotten a bad rap for our hormone-related changes in moods. But let’s face it—there is some truth to all those jokes. Yes, it’s not easy being an emotional woman. It’s also not always easy being one of the men who love us!
Being a woman with changing emotions, I have spent my career studying these changes, trying to understand them, and teach them to others (especially my husband). And one thing I’ve come to see is that we women were never taught the basic principles of how our emotions work, and the men in our lives were taught even less! I’ve spent the past few years educating groups of women of all ages, from teens to beyond menopause, and the one thing I hear over and over is, “Why didn’t anyone teach me this?!” I’ve also taught groups of fathers, partners and husbands who want to understand the women in their lives. And their response? “Wow. There’s a reason for the emotions! I never knew!”
Now, I realize not all women have swiftly changing emotions, but for the millions of us who do I have some basic principles that can make a huge impact on your life and relationships. I am therefore introducing my new blog series: Women’s Emotions. Each week we will explore a different aspect of women’s emotions—how our emotions are created, the role of hormones in emotions, the role of the brain, what activities impact our emotions, and what we can do to improve emotional health. We will also look at emotional health at all ages and stages of the female life and I will give specific tips for men to help them understand women’s emotions too!
I hope you’re as excited as I am to take this journey into the heretofore unknown world of women’s emotions. You will see: the female brain and body are an incredible team built for connection and filled with wisdom for all ages. Here’s to women’s emotions!Read More