Please Place the Oxygen Mask on Yourself First

OxygenMask

You hear it every time you fly somewhere.  If the cabin loses pressure, place the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then assist those around you.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  If you pass out, how can you help anyone else?  Are you even a little surprised to be reminded that the same is true for parenthood?

We hear plenty about taking care of ourselves.  As a parent, that sounds great!  Let’s take time to relax and do something that fills the soul and refreshes us to take on the next unprompted meltdown! (I fondly recall the last meltdown I dealt with was because I put juice in the green cup and NOT the pink one. My bad.)  So here’s the big question:  How in the world do we take this mythical “Me Time” without guilt, or if we are seriously swamped and don’t have the help we need?  There are times when I have been sure that parental “Me Time” was as likely as finding a unicorn being ridden by a leprechaun handing out hundred dollar bills.  We hear a lot about how a hot bath helps, or taking time to read a book, or getting our nails done may help us feel refreshed and back to our happy selves again.  What if those just aren’t options for one reason or another, or they just don’t do the trick?  Don’t give up!  I’m here to offer a few more ideas…take them and tweak them if you need.

  • Meditation apps: I can hear it now.  “Isn’t that kind of weird and New Age-y?”  “I can’t shut off my brain long enough to meditate.”  “I can’t meditate over the voice inMeditation my head begging for ice cream.”  (Okay, that last one was me.  Don’t judge.)  So what do you do if you’re new to meditation?  There’s an app for that!  And there are lots of good ones that don’t cost you a dime.  One of my new favorites is called “Calm”.
    It guides you, so you can just work on focusing on the voice of the app helping you to calm your mind.  The beauty is that you can set it for the amount of time you have available, so it doesn’t require a 30 minute commitment.  Got 2 minutes?  Give it a shot!
  • Take your little one for a walk: But isn’t “Me Time” supposed to be time for yourself?  Sure!  But if you don’t have help close by, improvise!  If your precious pumpkin likes being outdoors, try going for a walk.  Fresh air will do you both some good!  Even just in the back yard if that’s your best option.  You could even make a scavenger hunt list and try to find leaves and other assorted nature things  (Feathers, smooth rocks, snail shell, dandelion, etc).  Getting out and being silly and having fun together can refresh you, too!
  • Get to know some other daycare parents and expand your mom network: AsMomNetwork you get to know other moms, you can make play dates, and even take turns babysitting for each other.  No one knows the struggle better than another mom!  If you are a Work-at-Home-Mom (WAHM), find meetup groups with other WAHMs and network with them.  There are a lot of groups out there if you start looking.  It may take a little time, but keep looking!

It’s hard to slow down and take time for ourselves.  Burnout happens FAST!  But in order for us to be the best for our kiddos, we need to stop for a moment and take time for ourselves.  Mom guilt is real, but we need to learn to let go of it.  Remind yourself daily that you are awesome!  Try out some of the ideas above.  Or Google something creative to try.  The key is to find SOMETHING that helps you refill yourself.  It doesn’t matter what you do, just make sure you are taking time for yourself.  You’ve earned it!

jennifer-circle Written by Jennifer Willis, MA, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D., LPC-S

PTSD: More Common Than You Might Think

PTSD Pic

When people hear PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) many immediately think of soldiers and veterans, but PTSD can affect ANYONE from child to adult! What is PTSD? It’s a disorder that develops in some people after they have experienced or witnessed a traumatic, scary, or dangerous event. These events could include but are not limited to abuse, assault, war, traffic accidents, finding a person who has committed suicide, animal attacks, and even listening to people tell you about their traumatic experiences.

Some of the signs and symptoms of PTSD include recurrent nightmares, flashbacks of the event, sleep disturbances, hyper-vigilance, intentional avoidance of feelings and thoughts or discussions about the event, difficulty concentrating, depression, and guilt. The symptoms must be persistent for at least one month before the PTSD diagnosis can be made. When it comes to children with PTSD there are slight differences in that many of their symptoms will show up in their play.

We hear children suffering from abuse, adults witnessing or being a victim in a violent crime, war, and other major events that can cause PTSD but there are other groups that can also suffer because of the type of job they have.  Many of our first responders, PTSD first_respondersfirefighters, police, and EMS personnel see so much trauma on a daily basis it’s not surprising that they can suffer from PTSD. Another part of first responders are the 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers. They sit in a room and take call after call dealing with everything from providing a phone number to talking to a person who is having the absolute worst day of their life. These calls add up over time and there is rarely, if ever, any closure as to what happened or if the person ended up being okay or not. The dispatchers are on the radio and can send help to other ng_9-1-1_call_brand_storyofficers, but when an event such as an officer getting shot or hurt occurs, they cannot physically go and help, they can only listen to the screams for help and deal with the flood of radio traffic that comes in immediately thereafter. These people have ongoing rises in adrenaline with no way to release it. They can’t get up in the middle of a call or radio event until that event is finished and then they are expected to keep working and move on to the next call or dispatch the next officer. The continual fluctuations of adrenaline with no time or place to really release any of it builds up and if left undealt with can turn to PTSD. Other groups could be CPS workers, animal control officers, and crime scene clean-up crews. There are so many other groups that through their work are at risk for developing PTSD that I couldn’t possibly mention them all here.

The word trauma can mean so many things to so many people and each person experiences a traumatic event differently. This is why only some people end up with PTSD.  One of the hardest things a person with PTSD has to do is to realize that they have a problem, as many people cannot accept hearing it from a friend, loved one, or a stranger until they reach such a point that they admit something is wrong. This is the most important first step to the recovery process.

What can you do to help prevent PTSD? Find an outlet, something that you enjoy that help1865328581s you relieve stress such as running, journaling, or playing an instrument. Talk about the things that are bothering you with someone you trust. Eat healthy and exercise. If you or someone you know develops ongoing symptoms and these things are not helping please seek professional help!

Anne Circle

 

– Written by Anne Wiggs, MA, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D., LPC-S

Six Habits of Effective Therapy Clients

Healthy Habits Blog Cover Sheet

I recently watched a video presentation by Andrew Price, on the seven habits of highly effective artists. I like learning about people’s creative processes and this video did not disappoint. The speaker set out to learn a new artistic style and made a bet with his cousin that he could get a 1000 people to like his drawings in the span of six months. During this process he learned several things about himself and the likely steps it takes to learn something new.

The therapy process is a lot like learning a new skill. In fact, in therapy we often ask clients to learn several new skills to cope with unpleasant emotions. As I watched the video, my brain couldn’t help but draw the parallels. So here is my adapted list of habits of highly effective therapy clients

     1. DAILY WORK

As obvious as it may seem, daily work when applying new skills is very important. Many times clients are asked to keep a thought log or practice a specific skill, such as deep Dailey Work Picbreathing. A client may wait until the night before to try to remember situations to add to their thought log or practice deep breathing once
to be able to say that they practiced the skill. But how much more effective would it be to daily practice breathing or record thoughts
in your thought log when they occur each day. Time spent practicing
a new skill is critical to transitioning from learning something to it becoming a part of who you are. Working everyday on changing behavior or acquiring new skills serves to bring us closer to a better version of ourselves.

     2. VOLUME OVER PERFECTION

I can’t tell you how many times clients have told me that they attempted a coping skill once and because it did not go perfectly or like they expected they abandon any further attempts at using it. We are imperfect and rarely are we adept at new things the first time we try them. Therapy skills are no different. It takes repeated practice and failed attempts to be able to benefit from its usefulness. Usually, the more we practice therapy skills the better we get at using them and the more we benefit from them.

     3. CONSCIOUS LEARNING (INTENTIONAL PRACTICE)

In the above mentioned video about the artist, he stated that he realized after looking back at his sketchbook that his drawings were not improving over several weeks of Lap Top Picpractice. He decided to take an online course on figure drawing. He acknowledged in his video that the course was dry and boring BUT exceptionally helpful. He realized that he had not been using crucial principals in figure drawing so no matter how much daily practice he had it was likely not going to improve his sketches. It wasn’t until he applied intentionally the concepts he learning in a very conscious way that his artwork improved. I believe this applies in therapeutic intervention as well. You may complete a therapy worksheet well enough, but are you thoughtfully applying the concepts to your own life?

     4. REST

Rest is such a forgotten skill. In our society today we go in 100 different directions at once. Go to work, pick up groceries, take the kids to sports practice, make dinner, return texts and phone calls, oh and Rest Picpractice the coping skill my therapist asked me to use. We all need rest. Especially when we are frustrated with trying to change. Rest allows for self-reflection and the possibility of increasing insight into what may work better for us. Rest gives us time to recharge our batteries and find the motivation to resume the difficult work of change.

     5. GET FEEDBACK 

Seeking out feedback when we are learning something is scary but invaluable. Someone who has mastered the skills likely has a unique perspective and will be able to discern Advice Picthe areas that may need alteration. Feedback from your therapist is a given, but feedback from significant others may also be valuable. We may not be aware of personality traits or behaviors that are problematic. And when people who know us well begin to notice the changes we are making, it is great validation for our own progress and efforts.

     6. IF IT’S HARD, IT’S WORTH DOING

Rock PicSo many times clients comment on how hard changing is or how difficult applying a specific skill may be for them. Work is defined as an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result. Change is hard work but when you reach a goal that increases our experience of pleasant emotions, it is a win-win situation. We feel better, have a sense of mastery and likely increased confidence in ourselves. Our efforts to feel better and relate more effectively with others is well worth the hard work that it takes to get there.

jennie-circle

 

 

Written by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D, LPC-S.

Link to video that inspired this blog:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vM39qhXle4g

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: It’s Not Just For Grown Ups

Blog Pic (3)

When my daughter was around 3 my husband took her on a daddy/daughter date to the park.  They almost always went to the park for these special dates and would return with huge Bailey's Blog Picsmiles and lots of silly stories.  However, on this particular occasion my husband told me that he witnessed an exchange between a mother and her child that was “just heartbreaking”.  For him to tell me this I knew it must have struck a particular chord with him.  He told me that the child was learning to swing on her own and appeared to be
practicing as hard as she could.  Her mother all the while was sitting on a park bench staring intently at her phone.  The child repeatedly requested that her mother watch her as she was finding success in her hard work.  The child’s request was never fulfilled as the mother continued to look intently at her phone without looking up.  What struck my husband was the message that was communicated to the child.  The girl’s mother could have very likely done a million wonderful things for her child before that day, but right then, in that moment that child felt unheard, alone, ignored, and most importantly disrespected.

How many times have you asked your child to “hurry up”, or answered them while looking at your phone or the television, or told them to be quiet when you were on the phone?  As a parent you are probably not being honest with yourself if you did not answer yes to at least one of these questions. I would also challenge you to consider if you do any of those things to a friend or even a stranger.  My guess is probably not.  But, why not?  For some reason we as adults do not always treat our children with the same respect that we would show a complete stranger.  Just because they are tiny does not mean that they are not deserving of big things from us as their protectors and teachers.

I believe the first step in improving this is to recognize that you ,dear parent, are a human being and probably stressed, and burning the candle at both ends.  You would greatly benefit from taking care of yourself to better help you take care of your precious ones.  This includes all of the obvious go to activities: exercise, spending time with friends, consistent sleep routines, and even the occasional bubble bath. I am writing this blog as a fellow parent and cheerleader for my peers in hopes that we will begin to consider our own emotional needs as well as learn to show our children the respect they so deserve.

The following are five ways to show your child respect:Bailey Blog Pic (5)

  1. Make eye contact. Put down your phone and look away from the television. Get down on their level.  This will help them feel heard and spoken to not spoken at.
  2. Slow down. Give your child a reasonable amount of time to get ready to leave or clean up after themselves. Rushing them may make them feel as though their time is not important.  They are on your schedule not their own.  Children often take longer to process information and their physical abilities do not often match up with rushed actions.
  3. Provide choices. Children live their lives according to our schedules, school schedules, sports, music, etc. This can be very frustrating for them and make them feel out of control. We all seek control in our lives and this begins at a very young age.  Allow your child to choose juice or milk, grilled cheese or pb&J, peas or carrots, this pair of shoes or that.  As your child gets older the possibility for choices expands as you can include them in on more decisions that impact them.
  4. Quality time. Schedule a special play time or game night with your child. Allow him or her to choose what you will play and the rules that will apply.  This will not only be fun for them, but will let them be in charge for a moment.  If possible make it a consistent date and put it on the calendar.  Everyone will know when to look forward to the next one.
  5. Let them own their own body. Allow them to decide if they want to “hug Uncle So & So”. You may even offer an alternative ie: “Would you like to Bailey's Blog (4)say hello or give a high five?”.  If the child is old enough, let him or her choose to brush their hair out of their eyes.  Many of these behaviors that we do every day as parents can unintentionally communicate to the child that they do not get to choose what happens to their own bodies.  Even allowing them to choose their clothes (again only if age appropriate) can help the child feel a sense of control and communicate their individuality.

Just remember, they are learning everyday how to become adults.  They watch us and inevitably emulate us.  So, let us all begin to teach them by our example and offer them the respect that we want them to have and seek out from others when they themselves are adults.

Bailey Circle– Written by Bailey McAdams, M.ED., LPC

 

World’s Okayest Mom

blog-2

If you follow Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site, you are treated to a feast of motherhood perfection.  Photos of blissful babies sleeping while mom smiles happily down at her angel.  (Mom’s makeup and hair are flawless, by the way!)  Or maybe you’ve seen the blogs about the beautiful, perfectly healthy lunches packed for the children heading off to school who look as if they just stepped out of a Gap commercial.  (Little Sally just LOVES her tofu and kale wrap made with all organic ingredients!  She eats every bite and never complains!)  So hold on…why doesn’t this look like MY life??

Let’s stop and think about what most of our lives really look like.

I have a 21 month old daughter.  She usually wakes up with a random booger on her face, hair that rivals Albert Einstein’s ‘do, and doesn’t particularly want to wear whatever I picked out.  (This means I have to take time to convince her that the shirt with the kitties on it is AWESOME!)  So once she is dressed and her face clean, we rush downstairs to get her shoes on, maybe get her teeth brushed, and out the door so that I can get her to daycare before the breakfast cutoff.  Is any of this sounding Pinterest-worthy yet?  The reality is that most of us would really like to be Pinterest moms and have the perfect pictures of the perpetually smiling babies.  It’s just not realistic.  Parenting is messy and funny and challenging and exhausting!  Ever wonder how many pictures they took to get that one perfect shot?  More than one, I’ll bet.  So what if we stop comparing ourselves to what we see elsewhere and start honoring ourselves for what we are doing really well?

Stop and think about the moments when you’ve been particularly proud of your parenting skills.  You know, like that time you soothed your crying baby, or the time when your child came home and actually talked to you about doing pretty well on a spelling test?  These moments matter!  When my daughter came home from the hospital, I worried that I wasn’t feeding her right (I struggled with breastfeeding), so I took her to the pediatrician and cried because I thought I wasn’t producing enough milk so I gave her formula.  (I thought giving her formula was going to mess things up.)  He jennifers-bloglooked and me and said “Let me understand this:  your baby was hungry, so you fed her?  Sounds like you’re doing
everything right to me!”  All of a sudden, I was empowered!  I was a mom and I knew what was best for my child.  And so do you!!  It’s time to shut off the social media and stop letting those images dictate how you feel about your own parenting skills!  Enjoy the messy pictures of you and your little ones!
No makeup?  No problem!  Feeling like you aren’t doing the mom/dad thing right?  I bet you are.  Sit down and think of even the smallest thing you did for your little one.  Are they wearing clean (or mostly clean) clothes today?  Are they fed?  Those are good signs you’re doing something right.  Take a moment to celebrate the little victories. These little tiny humans running around your home?  They think you’re the best thing ever!  If you didn’t take your shower today, they don’t care.  You didn’t get to the gym?  Yeah, they don’t care about that either.  They care that you hug them, kiss them, and tell them you love them.  If you do those things, you are doing it right.  And that’s worth more than an Instagram photo.

Jennifer Circle– By Jennifer Willis, MA, LPC-Intern