Archive for December, 2011

Is this the year when things will finally be different?

December 28th, 2011

Okay- you want to make some changes in the new year, and change is good indeed. Will this be the year that you make the changes stick? Will this year be the year it finally happens- you lose the weight, find your passion, quit the bad habit, have a peace filled family life, pay off the debt, connect with friends more often, be balanced at work and home, etc.

In my practice I’ve seen people make remarkable changes, often because they are in a place of pain and it hurts too much to keep doing the same thing. I’ve watched families that typically yell and use anger as a way to communicate shift to understanding and listening, I’ve seen sibling who act out to get their needs met learn how to ask for what they want, I’ve witnessed adults make leaps in expressing their feelings in an authentic self-honoring way.

There are may theories of change and motivation for change, yet beyond the theories I believe there is truly one simple way that people make and sustain change (see 1. below for the answer).

Most people come to therapy or decide “enough” and commit to making a change when things are really uncomfortable. I don’t believe that you need to be in pain to make changes, but I feel like we are such creatures of habit that we are pretty likely to continue to do the same thing over and over, longing for different results and finally we become so uncomfortable with the incongruities of what we desire, that we seek change. Here’s the interesting part, often when people come to therapy it is because they see someone else as the problem (i.e. my child acts out, my parents are frustrating me, my spouse is unreasonable). You may see the problem as being outside of you or a behavior that you do (drinking, overeating). So you focus on fixing what you believe is “wrong” thinking I’ll lose the weight then I’ll be happier, when my spouse changes I’ll feel better, when my parents stop nagging me I’ll be more content, when my children stop yelling then we’ll have more joy in our family. Yes, these are based upon external situations, and more than likely will not lead to sustained changes.

Here are 6 ways to create lasting positive changes in the new year:

1. Self love-
You must honor and respect yourself enough to make whatever changes you desire a priority. When you act from a place of self-love you put your needs first, you lovingly set boundaries with others, and you are kind and gentle with yourself even when you don’t make the changes you desire. When you act from a place of self-love you know that external changes will not make you more fulfilled, happier, sexier, peaceful. Rather, your self-love, appreciation, gratitude will help lead to change externally. You love others enough to know that what you desire may be different from what they desire, and that’s Okay.

2. Clear goal-
Make it a simple goal, one you can achieve. Perhaps break it down into a short-term goal (over the next 30 days) and a long term-goal (over the next 3 months).

3. Take action-

Be realistic and ramp up slowly. If your family yells as a way of getting their needs met, it’s pretty unrealistic to expect to not argue at all. Instead look to make small changes, such as, we will only argue 1 time a day, or next time I argue I will not say mean comments. Then increase the duration you’ll go with out fighting and the intensity- do these small steps over the next 30 days and you’ll see changes without feeling overwhelmed.

4. Learn new tools-

There is a belief in Choice Theory that our behaviors are meeting our basic needs and we will not make a change unless we substitute it with a new behavior that meets our needs. So you may want to find a new behavior that replaces the old behavior you are letting go of. If you are looking to make changes in your relationships then reading books, taking a class, or going to therapy will give you new tools to replace the old way of behaving. If you are making changes in your life-style find other ways to meet your needs (i.e. instead of retail therapy meet a friend for lunch).

5. Get support and accountability-
When you share with others your intentions you become accountable and this is often a way to sustain change over the next 30-days.  So tell others whom you can trust to be supportive of your goals, and then tell them what kind of support you’d like. It’s frustrating if your friend calls to give you a ‘loving kick-in-the-pants’ when all you really want is for them to ask you  how you’re doing. So ask for how you’d like to receive your support.

6. Be kind-
There will be good days and bad days. There will be times when you make small steps towards your goals, and times when you don’t. Remember the first rule- LOVE. If you are critical, unloving, and disrespectful of the times when you don’t follow through then really there is no point in trying to make changes, because what you really need to work on is your internal stuff, not external! So be kind, know that everyone who tries new things flubs up and it’s all part of the learning process. You are not here to do things perfectly. You are here to do your best, to be kind and loving with yourself, and to be compassionate to others.

Want to use the art to affirm the changes you are making? Create a self love and support collage. Use words and images that are reminders of your goals and of being kind and gentle with yourself along the journey.

During this time of year many people need more support. Immediately access parenting resources to help children and teens you can download right now and use to help your child! You can lean more here.


Got Holiday Bad Behaviors?

December 20th, 2011

Got holiday bad behaviors? Your child has been whining, demanding, having meltdowns and tantrums, acting out of control, and school is off and you’re wondering, now what? Don’t worry here are some tips that will help your child manage bad behaviors during the holidays and help you stay sane!

1. Cut back on the sugar- If your child has been stuffing cookies and candy canes into their mouth it’s time to limit the sugar. This simple tips will dramatically impact your child’s behavior and prevent sugar highs and crashes. Instead have on hand healthy snacks in a cooler to prevent the hunger meltdowns that happen when your child’s blood sugar is low.

2. Create a schedule- Without an understanding of what’s expected for them for the day and week they will likely feel unsettled and more easily act out. Let them know what will be happening and when, and post the holiday schedule to a white board or calender where everyone can see it.

3. Limit transitions– Transitioning from store to store or house to house can be stressful for children. They often lack the verbal capacity to tell you, “Hey mom, I’m really tired right now and I don’t want to go to another store” ,and if they did tell you that would you listen and respect their request? Know that children will act out if they are tired or overwhelmed, so limit your “to-do” list if your child is showing signs that they are tired and stressed out.

4. Get active- Power down the technology and head out for a walk or swing on the swing set. Build a snowman, go to the park, take a walk. These help your child expel their energy in positive ways, otherwise that pent up energy will be directed at their siblings and lots of yelling for mom!

5.  Create calm down activities- Find activities that will help your child to self-soothe and relax. Take out the art supplies and make gifts for other family members, bake some cookies for an elderly neighbor, listen to  soothing music. Help your child to regulate their mood and behaviors by teaching them ways to relax and self-soothe.

6. Take care of your needs- Ask your partner, a friend, or neighbor to watch the kids or take them out to see the lights. Use that time to renourish, take a bath, drink some tea, watch the fire, or read a book. You’ll find that when you are calm and centered it will be much easier to deal with the holiday bad behaviors when they occur.

During this time of year many people need more support. Immediately access parenting resources to help children and teens you can download right now and use to help your child! You can lean more here .


Stress-free holiday: Don’t be fooled by these holiday myths

December 13th, 2011

Stress-free holiday, is it possible?

There are myths about the holiday that have been ingrained in our belief systems that stem from family narratives, media portrayals, and influences from those around us. Sadly, you will feel overwhelmed, stressed out, not good enough, and flat out frazzled if you buy into these beliefs. So for your own personal well-being, and the emotional health of those around you, I uncover the top four holiday myths.

1. It needs to be perfect-
I was watching TV and Christmas Vacation, the movie, came on. I hadn’t seen it since the 80’s, so I watched and laughed out loud at all the silliness in the movie. What I found interesting is that “Clark”, the dad, was so focused on having a perfect Christmas, with the “perfect” lighting display, that he lost sight of his imperfect family. Do you do that? Get all caught up in the shoulds, how things should look, how the kids should behave, how the holiday should go. When you create high expectation and try to control the outcome you are truly setting yourself up for being disappointed.

2. You must go to everything you are invited to-
There are so many events and parties this time of year, it is impossible to keep up with it all- nor should you!  It is healthy to set boundaries and say NO, and by doing this you can model it for your children. Here’s something simple you can do: Pick one or two events/party, per person, during the holidays. So, outside of school performances, you can ask your child what 1 thing they want to go to, and schedule it. For yourself and your spouse pick 1-2 that are important. If you are fearful of disappointing someone or hurting their feelings, let them know that you and you family have created a new tradition, and you are honoring that.

3. You should be with family, no matter what-
Let’s all be real here, there are family members who are not healthy to be around. They make choices and say things you don’t agree with. These toxic people are hard to deal with when you are in a good healthy emotional space. However, during the holidays most people are not in a good healthy state, instead they are running on empty, trying to get it all done. Of course when you are depleted it’s harder to act rational, not be reactive, and keep your sanity. If you are going to choose to be around unhealthy family members set boundaries. You can decide to meet them out for lunch, so you can be there and leave if they start to act in a way that’s offensive. You can limit your exposure by visiting them, so you are in control of how long you stay, or you can use this as an opportunity to let them know because of ______, you feel ________, and you are asking them to _____________.

4. You have too high expectations of other people’s behaviors-
Similar to perfectionism, having high expectations for other people’s behavior during this time of the year is unrealistic. Adults are stressed and children are over stimulated and excited, so expecting others to act a certain way or for things to go a certain way will cause you unnecessary worry and stress. This time of year expect more melt-downs and acting out from those around you if you are focusing on doing so much and trying to have everything be “just right”.

During this time of year many people need more support, schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking here.


How to keep your sanity during the holidays

December 5th, 2011
holiday family

photo by David Castillo Dominici

It’s the holidays and the stress of the year is upon you. All that crazy frenetic, “doing”, busy, energy, of rushing around not only impacts you, but your children too. Yup! So if you want to stay sane, you need to physically slow down. I know that may not be so easy with all the things you’ve got going on. So if you can’t stop the rush of the “going”, you can slow down physiologically. Simply put, we can slow down our body responses and here’s a simple way to do it. Take a minute, while you’re in the airport, before you walk into the mall, or a stressful family event. Before you act you can slow down your heart rate and breathing, which will make you feel more calm (and less reactive when problems arise).

So take a minute and imagine tensing up all the parts of your body, starting from the top of head, all the way down to your feet. Tense and tighten everything and hold for the count of ten, then exhale and release. Do this three times in a row and you’ll be feeling more relaxed for sure. Best part is you can do this with your kids too.

If you are traveling with the kids pack up some fun small activities, such as travel games, coloring books, Mad Libs, small package of model magic, and comic books. Kids need down time too so they can self-regulate. A final tip to keep your sanity- say “no thank you”. It’s simple, yet oh so effective.

Having problems at home and need more support? These parenting resources will help your children and teen.