Why Setting a Strong Female Role Model is Important for Your Daughter

Every Halloween, little girls all over the country choose costumes that reflect what they want to be when they grow up. And each year we see many girls choosing to dress as princesses and fairies, kitty cats and maybe the odd super hero. Rarely do we see young girls dressing as executives, scientists, or world leaders.

It can seem benign enough, but it does beg the question: are young girls still under the impression their choices in life are limited? And what can parents, particularly mothers, do to set a good example?

The Importance of Role Models

If you are a runner, you probably know that for most of human history no one was able to run the 4-minute mile. In 1940, someone actually got to 4:01, and for nine years that is where the record stayed, with not one runner in the entire world being able to break it.

It seemed to everyone that the human body, no matter how fit and trained, would never be able to break that record. But then on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, running the distance in 3:59.4.

And then a very interesting thing happened: barely a year after this feat, someone else ran a mile under 4 minutes, and then more runners did it, and then even more. Now it’s common practice for runners to run the mile in under 4 minutes.

Role models show others what is possible, and that’s powerful. Humans tend to not attempt things unless we believe it can be accomplished.

Our children learn from watching us. They learn how to think, act, and feel about themselves and the world around them. Here are some ways mothers can set a strong female role model for their daughters:

Body Image

It’s important for mothers to encourage their daughters to be healthy and strong, but not to obsess over beauty. It’s not enough to talk the talk, moms have got to take care of their bodies and health and accept themselves as they are.

Boundaries

Unless they are shown otherwise, young girls may grow up assuming they must constantly please others and never say no. Moms, it’s important to show your daughters that setting boundaries is healthy and necessary.

Confidence

Confidence comes from a mindset that failure and mistakes are merely chances to learn. It also comes from knowing strengths and abilities as well as limitations. In other words, confidence is a byproduct of knowing and accepting our true selves.

 

Are you having a hard time being the role model you’d like to be? Maybe you’re a stressed-out single parent who could use some coping strategies. If you’d like to speak with someone, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-gender-ourselves/201205/female-role-models-the-absent-conversation

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thinking-about-kids/201205/i-could-do-why-role-models-matter

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beauty-sick/201705/gift-mothers-daughters

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201402/9-ways-be-the-best-role-model-you-can-be

https://www.nomeatathlete.com/4-minute-mile-certainty/

5 Personal Techniques to Work Through Flashbacks

Flashbacks are our brain’s way of processing traumatic events that we’ve experienced. But what tends to happen is, our subconscious goes to our storage cabinet to access some important memories regarding the event, and everything sort of tumbles out of the cabinet all at once. This falling out or flashback experience can feel almost as traumatic as the initial event.

Flashbacks usually happen without warning. Most result from a “triggering” that occurs by an external experience. Triggers are typically sensory-based experiences that manifest via smells, sounds, tastes, textures that remind the person of the traumatic event. The smell of cologne can remind someone of their perpetrator. The sound of fireworks or a car backfiring can remind a soldier of gunfire.

Living with flashbacks is very difficult, but there are some ways you can work through these disturbing events:

1. Remember

Remind yourself that you are safe and having a flashback. Tell yourself as many times as necessary that these are only memories, the event is in the past, until you can feel yourself begin to calm.

2. Empower Yourself

Sometimes using your five senses can help you to be in the present moment. If one sense it causing the flashback – your sense of smell for example – use your other senses to place yourself in the actual current environment. The tactile experience of stamping your feet on the ground can remind yourself that you are free to get away from any situation that has become uncomfortable for you.

3. Breathe

As soon as we become fearful or panicked, our breathing becomes shallow and erratic. This only exacerbates the stress we feel in that moment because our body is literally panicking from a lack of oxygen. In these fearful moments, when we slow our breathing and take deeper and deeper breaths, we actually signal to our brain and body that everything is okay.

4. Honor the Experience

The initial trauma was awful, so it’s perfectly reasonable for you to want to move on “NOW!” However, you should understand that the body needs to go through this process and experience a full range of emotions. Honor the experience and yourself for having gotten through it.

5. Find Support

It’s important that you let loved ones know about your flashbacks so they can help you through the process. You may also want to seek the guidance of a professional mental health therapist who can offer coping strategies.

 

If you or a loved one is suffering from flashbacks and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch, I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/lib/coping-with-flashbacks/

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/after-trauma/2013/11/why-do-flashbacks-happen/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/healing-trauma-s-wounds/201506/understanding-and-working-flashbacks-part-one

Using Your Faith to Practice Mindful Gratitude

It’s a familiar memory for a lot of Americans: sitting around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, each person taking a moment to mention the things they’re grateful for. Unfortunately, being grateful seems to be something we’re reminded of only once a year on the holiday.

When it comes to practicing gratitude, many of us fall short. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, with the difficulties that life throws to us on a regular basis. We start to focus on our troubles, then wonder why we’re often so tired or unhappy.

Practicing mindful gratitude, and being thankful for things all year long, will improve your life in several ways: it will improve your physical health, your mental health and your relationships. If you’re a person of faith, you can use your faith to improve your gratitude in the following ways.

Improved Physical Health
Gratitude helps improve your physical health in numerous ways. According to a 2013 study published by the journal Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and were more likely to take care of their health. Improved self-care will have a positive impact on your willpower and mood, and help you sleep better.

Improved Mental Health
Regularly practicing gratitude can help you learn to appreciate yourself more. By being grateful for your blessings, you’ll look less enviously on the special trips and occasions of your friends in your social media feed. Avoiding negative thoughts will help bolster your self-esteem and keep your mood lifted. Gratitude can also help ease depression as you stay mindful of reasons to be happy and appreciate the positive things in your life.

Improved Relationships
Saying please and thank you shows good manners, but it also exhibits a positive attitude that can attract new people into your life. Showing appreciation will not only lead to new friendships, but will also help improve existing ones. As you practice gratitude on a regular basis, recognizing the positive in the people in your life and letting them know, you’ll create loving, long-lasting bonds.

Finding reasons to be and stay grateful can sometimes be challenging. Life can often test us in ways we feel we’re not quite prepared to handle. But leaning on your faith in times of trial can give you the edge you need to practice gratitude regularly. The benefits to mindful gratitude are so numerous, it’s well worth the time and effort to make practicing mindful gratitude a priority in your life.

 

If you’re looking for guidance and direction on how to practice mindful gratitude, give our office a call today. One of our specially trained staff will be more than happy to help.

Why Meditation Works Well with Faith

A decade ago, you would be hard-pressed to find many people who knew anything about meditation, let alone practiced it. But today, meditation has become wildly popular in the United States. Books, Youtube channels, and smartphone apps are dedicated to the study of it, and everyone from college students to senior citizens are reaping some pretty great benefits (I’ll get to those in a minute).

Of course, there are still some people who are unsure if meditation is right for them. Some are concerned meditation is a form of religion, and as such won’t “jive” with their current faith. But the practice of meditation is not inherently religious anymore than yoga or Tai Chi are.

Perhaps Deepak Chopra explains it best when he says, “Meditation is, first of all, part of every spiritual tradition…in the world. There are breathing meditations in every tradition. There are body-awareness meditations in every tradition. And there are variations of mantra meditation. It has nothing to do with belief or ideology or doctrine. It’s a simple mental technique to go to the source of thought.”

Meditation, or mindful meditation as some call it, is simply the practice of training your mind to be present in the moment. You don’t judge the moment or analyze the moment, you simply be present and aware in the moment.

While that concept seems like hogwash to some, modern science has shown through numerous studies that meditation has many real benefits. Here are some of the top ones:

Alleviate Symptoms of Stress

Most of us are living with some amount of stress. Chronic stress can lead to a host of health issues. But meditation has been shown to lessen the effects of stress. For instance, meditation has been shown to reduce the levels of cortisol. Prolonged and elevated levels of cortisol have been linked to the development of insulin resistance, hypertensions, and suppressed immunity.

Manage Chronic Pain

Mindful meditation, in conjunction with yoga, has been shown to decrease pain levels and increase a sense of well-being.

Fights Depression

According to a growing body of research, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may be very beneficial in reducing depressive symptoms and preventing a relapse.

A Better Night’s rest

A lack of sleep can make life feel miserable. And chronic insomnia can lead to a suppressed immune system and other health issues. Research has shown that a meditation practice can help improve the quality of sleep.

 

If you’ve been curious about meditation but were concerned it wouldn’t mix with your particular faith, I encourage you to give it a try. It just might change your life for the better!

 

SOURCES

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/coping-depression/2016/04/the-benefits-of-meditation-for-depression/

https://psychcentral.com/blog/10-surprising-health-benefits-of-mindfulness-meditation/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/meditation-deepak-chopra_n_2600707.html

https://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/meditation/is-meditation-a-religious-practice.aspx

How Focusing on Your Faith Can Help with Depression & Anxiety

It has long been believed that having faith is key to getting through some of life’s greatest challenges. A spiritual practice can often give people the strength and confidence to push through obstacles and make positive changes.

But can faith have a positive effect on depression and anxiety? According to new research, it can.

Your Brain on Spirituality

According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, meditation or any other form of regular spiritual practice (such as prayer or religious contemplation) has been linked to a thickening of the brain cortex. The study, which was the first to investigate whether there is any physical evidence in the brain linked to the protective effects of faith against depression, looked at 103 adults at either high or low risk of depression, based on family history.

At the end of the study, magnetic resonance was used to view participants’ brains, and the images clearly showed thicker cortices in those participants who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality than those who did not.

But even more significant was the fact that the thicker cortex was found in exactly the same regions of the brain that had shown thinning in people with a high risk for depression.

3 Ways Faith Can Help You Fight Depression and Anxiety

Every individual requires unique treatment methods to combat their symptoms of depression. While cognitive behavioral therapy and prescription medications work well for many people, many others may be helped by embracing a spiritual practice.

If you are suffering with depression, here are three reasons why you may want to focus more on your faith:

1. Faith Offers Hope

A belief in a loving power greater than ourselves can help us feel hopeful, even in our darkest hours. Faith turns wishful thinking into great expectations. And when we start to expect goodness in our lives, we naturally feel hopeful for our future.

2. Your Behaviors Evolve

Whether it’s through praying, meditating, or attending some sort of spiritual service or gathering, faith-filled people tend to experience positive changes in their attitudes and behaviors. Where once you may have had a knee-jerk emotional reaction to a situation, you might now be able to center yourself instead and face situations with calmness and clarity.

3. Your Perception Changes

Faith has a way of helping us see ourselves and our lives differently. Problems turn into opportunities, enemies into friends, and impossibilities into possibilities.

 

While it may take some time before you feel relief from your depression or anxiety, by embracing faith, you will be better able to cope with the symptoms.

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression or anxiety and would also like to explore treatment options, please reach out. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-the-questions/201603/4-powerful-ways-spirituality-can-ease-anxiety-and-depression

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/07/31/for-many-with-severe-mental-illness-spirituality-plays-role-in-well-being/137462.html

https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/01/19/how-spirituality-protects-the-brain-against-depression/64698.html

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1792140

4 Steps for Setting Academic Goals with Your Child

When children are taught how to set and achieve goals, they learn that decisions have consequences and that hard work earns rewards. As your child sets and works towards academic goals, their self-confidence will grow, and they’ll take pride in themselves and their achievements. They will learn how to focus, how to prioritize, and ultimately how to make better decisions.

Step 1: Explain

To take advantage of all that goal-setting has to offer, start working on this with your child as soon as they’re old enough – typically around age eight.

Explain to your child what goals are. Describe how people achieve goals as a result of a great deal of hard work. Help them understand the long-term importance of academic success, no matter what field they should choose to go to in the future.

Step 2: Brainstorm

Your child may or may not be aware of their own academic strengths and weaknesses. When setting goals, remember that it’s important to keep them specific, realistic, and attainable. Academic goals can include achieving certain grades in certain subjects, staying focused in class, or completing homework at a certain time.

Be sure to stay as quiet as possible while brainstorming, allowing your child to come up with their own ideas. If their goals are unrealistic, steer them toward something more achievable. If their goals are too big or long-term, help them break it down into a first step toward the long-term goal.

Step 3: Track

As author Harvey Mackay once said, “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.” Once your child has decided on a couple of goals, write them down and track their progress. You may wish to break each goal down into achievable, specific steps, each step with its own deadline. Set aside a block of time on a weekly or monthly basis to check-in on your child’s progress. Make the check-in is special to help your child stay motivated and focused. For example, you can take them to lunch at the park or a favorite restaurant. Discuss their progress, help them with any difficulties they may have and remind them why they set their goals.

Step 4: Celebrate

Celebrate when your child achieves a goal. It can be an outing, their favorite meal, or a small gift. Then, work with them on setting the next set of goals. Even if your child didn’t meet their goal, likely they learned some lessons and made some progress along the way.

Remind your child that failure is something every person experiences in life: we don’t always achieve the goals we set. Sometimes our biggest success comes by learning from mistakes and trying again. Encourage your child to never give up on dreams that are important to them.

 

Does your child need help achieving academic success? One of our trained professionals can help them accomplish their goals. Give our office a call at your earliest convenience to set up an appointment.

How to Help Your Child Balance School and Extracurricular Activities

There was a time when young kids went to school, came home and did a little homework, then went outside to play with their friends. Their schedules were open and easy for them to handle.

Nowadays, more and more young kids are involved in so many activities they don’t seem to have time to play in the backyard. On top of school, many kids are involved in two or three team sports, music lessons, and church activities. These kids often struggle to keep up with their school & extracurricular activity load and find themselves anxious and having trouble sleeping.

Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, believes that enrolling children in too many activities is a nationwide problem. “Overscheduling our children is not only a widespread phenomenon, it’s how we parent today,” he says.

“Parents feel remiss that they’re not being good parents if their kids aren’t in all kinds of activities. Children are under pressure to achieve, to be competitive.”

Kids Want to Please Their Parents

While we may think we are doing our kids a service by signing them up for activities we think they’ll enjoy and will build character and confidence, we must understand that they may not want or be able to handle so much.

Some of us may look back on our own childhoods with regret and dismay and vow that our kids will have more. These good intentions often turn into childhood nightmares for our kids. We mean well, but it’s just too much for them to handle.

Here are some things parents can do to help their children balance their schoolwork and extracurricular activities:

Lighten Up

Parents need to lighten up and remember that childhood is supposed to be fun! There will be plenty of time to be serious when they are adults. Try to put less pressure on your child to achieve something grand, and spend more time making happy memories together.

Understand the Benefits of Self-Direction

Independent work and play times are highly beneficial to the developing mind and ego. Alone time also helps children process their experiences and de-stress.

Talk to Your Child

You won’t know if your child is struggling to keep up with his or her activities unless you talk openly with them about it. If some activities need to be removed from the schedule, work with your child to figure out which one(s) to keep and which to let go.

 

Extracurricular activities like music, arts, and sports can definitely play an important role in your child’s development. Just make sure your child does not become overwhelmed by too many activities.

If you’re looking for an expert to help your child manage their stress and avoid becoming overwhelmed, please reach out to me today.

 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200301/the-overbooked-child

https://www.everydayhealth.com/kids-health/balancing-school-with-extracurricular-activities.aspx

https://childmind.org/article/finding-the-balance-with-after-school-activities/

5 Daily Self-Care Exercises for Survivors of Abuse

Unfortunately, being a survivor of trauma or abuse is exceedingly common. According to the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually. And according to the Center for Disease Control’s 2017 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly 1 in 4 adult women and approximately 1 in 7 adult men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

While it is challenging to be a survivor of abuse, the journey to a place of peace and acceptance can be an empowering one. No matter if the abuse you endured was recent or long ago, a daily self-care regimen will help you cope with what still affects you today.

1. Quality Sleep

Ensuring you have adequate sleep on a nightly basis is an essential component of maintaining optimum physical, mental, and emotional health. Fundamentally, your body needs regular rest to operate properly. A good night’s sleep will uplift your mood and energy, improve your memory and help keep stress levels at a minimum.

2. Meditate

Setting aside just five to ten minutes a day for some quiet reflection can help boost your immune system, manage stress, help you focus, and boost your mood, to name just a few of the many health benefits. Find an easy or beginner meditation to follow with a Google search, smartphone app, or the free meditation exercises available on YouTube.

3. Exercise

Finding some forms of enjoyable exercise will help you feel more energized. Exercise is also a great physical outlet to release pent-up emotions you likely have as a result of your abuse or trauma. Try taking up walking, jogging, yoga or anything you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to do anything wholly unpleasant or push yourself too hard; exercise is an act of self-care, not a punishment.

4. Positive Affirmations

It’s all too common for abuse survivors to feel shame about it and blame themselves; for that reason, it’s important to program yourself with positive thoughts and beliefs. You can tell yourself, for example: “I am valuable,” “I am worthy,” “I am capable,” “I am strong,” “I am intelligent.” Pinpoint negative self-talk and counter those thoughts with positive affirmations.

5. Support

Engage your support system by calling a friend or family member, joining a support group and/or finding a therapist. If your support system is lacking, use a smartphone app or the Meetup website to find a local, like-minded group and make some new friends. Sharing your struggles with people who understand and care about your well-being is an important aspect of your healing journey.

 

Are you a survivor of trauma or abuse? A licensed mental health professional can help you so you don’t have to go through this alone. Give our office a call today so we can set up a time to talk.

 

SOURCES

http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/nca-digital-media-kit/national-statistics-on-child-abuse/

What is Trauma and What Causes it?

Most of us won’t get through life without our own fair share of stress and heartache. But some people experience not just stress, sadness or grief, but actual trauma. This can be from events like being involved in a bad car accident, rape, a natural disaster, or war.

The result of experiencing such events is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition where the mind is unable to process the event as it processes ordinary life events. The result is a brain that misfires information, causing the person to live much of their life distressed, as if the event were still happening to them.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are many symptoms associated with PTSD, but the most common ones are:

• Nightmares
• Flashbacks
• Psychological and physiological distress at reminders
• Avoidance of internal and external reminders
• Dissociative amnesia
• Negative beliefs about oneself and the world
• Distorted blaming of oneself
• Negative persistent emotional states
• Loss of interests
• Detachment from loved ones
• Hyper vigilance
• Exaggerated startle response
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty sleeping
• Irritability or outbursts of anger
• Self-destructive or reckless behavior

Causes of PTSD

Researchers are not altogether clear on why some people experience PTSD and others don’t. What makes one soldier come home from war with PTSD and another one not develop the disorder?

The best we can guess is that development of PTSD is likely from a combination of complex factors such as neurological, stress, life experiences, personality, and genetics. It is also worth mentioning that pre-traumatic psychological factors (low self-esteem, for example) may increase the risk factor for developing PTSD.

How Can Trauma be Treated?

The most common form of treatment for PTSD is something called cognitive behavioral therapy. This kind of therapy involves meeting with a specially-trained therapist over a number of sessions to learn strategies and techniques that will reduce and/or eliminate symptoms of PTSD such as recurring thoughts, emotional numbness, sleep issues, and concentration problems. Beyond finding a trained therapist, it’s important to find one you and your family feel comfortable with, so make sure to interview a few candidates to see who might help you on your journey to wellness.

If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to see how I may be able to help.

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/disorders/ptsd/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-causes/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/trauma

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stress-relief/201707/what-is-ptsd-exactly

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/trauma-focused-cognitive-behavior-therapy

Contemplative Spaces: The Connection Between Prayer and Mindfulness

In the frenetic, fast-paced world we live in, mindfulness has become increasingly important. When we talk about being mindful, we’re talking about the ability to be fully in the present moment, aware of our surroundings; where we are, whom we’re with, and what we’re doing. Mindfulness keeps us grounded, keeping us from overreacting or becoming overwhelmed.

By its nature, prayer helps us become and stay more mindful. By connecting in quiet reflection to something deeply spiritual and meaningful, we’re able to see our life and experiences from a broader perspective.

Increases Focus
Studies have shown that prayer, a type of meditation, helps to increase your focus. Prayer makes you better equipped to quiet your mind and avoid becoming lost in thought. With increased focus, you’re able to control mind wandering and stay in the moment.

Controls Impulses
According to a 2009 study on religion, self-regulation, and self-control by the University of Miami’s Department of Psychology, being a religious follower can promote self-control and self-monitoring.

Additionally, when studying the effects of meditation on the brain, brain-imaging studies have shown that meditation increases frontal cortex activity. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for, among other things, emotional expression, problem solving, and judgement.

More Gratitude
Gratitude is a feeling of gratefulness for gifts and blessings. By practicing gratitude, we’re sharpening our attention towards the good in our lives. We see and appreciate everything around us that’s positive.

Prayer helps you maximize gratitude by helping you reform your thoughts, much in the way that mindfulness does. We can surmise that regular prayer for religious followers may help them feel more clear-minded and able to concentrate on what’s positive.

Gratitude is also a feeling that we choose; we can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be ungrateful. By utilizing prayer to concentrate on blessings or mindfulness to concentrate on the good in our lives, we help keep our mind distracted from negative thoughts. Both techniques help you appreciate the moment in which you’re living.

When your life is busy with work and family, it can feel impossible to make time for either mindfulness meditation or prayer. But even five minutes a day will make a difference over time, as your steady practice of quiet contemplation will help you learn to redirect your thoughts and focus your attention.

 

If you’re looking for guidance and direction on how to become more mindful through prayer, give our office a call today. One of our specially trained staff will be more than happy to help.