Friday, 15 November 2019

Is a ‘Fun Time Parent’ Taking All The Fun Out Of Your Parenting?

The line between having an enjoyable time with one parent versus “Disneyland parenting” is when fun tends to surpass reason, good judgment, and even in some ways the best interest of the kids.

Differences between parent’s homes are inevitable after divorce. Parents involved in custody arrangements often complain about the fact that parenting methods and home environments are vastly different from one another. Obviously differences in lifestyle and opinions about all aspects of life contribute to why couples divorce in the first place, so divorce just opens the door for each party to live life and parent as they see fit.

One common trend is that one home is more structured (scheduled routines, chores, specific expectations, and so on) while the other may be more loose (no or few rules and little structure).

Kids hate being told what to do, being made to do chores, and facing consequences. Who does like those things? The fact is that kids secretly (often unknowingly) thrive on routine and at least some structure. It’s healthy for them to learn cause and effect from their actions, responsibility, and how to care for themselves.

So, no surprise that parents who run a tighter ship get ticked off when everything they work so hard to instill in their children goes right out the window when they go to their other parent’s home, then they have to struggle to reintegrate into the structured environment when they return.

I’ll admit it, I have uttered the words “fun time dad (or mom, referring to my husband’s ex).” It’s like a big rock in my shoe that I can’t shake loose when I work so hard with my kids to do their homework, brush their hair, and help out ar
ound the house only to visit “playtime parent” and everything seems to go to hell!

This brings me to a favorite insult of many co-parents- often custodial parents or the ones who have more time with the kids: “Disneyland Dad (or mom- they exist too!).”

I hear the “Disneyland” label thrown around quite a bit to describe a parent who is about nothing but a good time for the duration of their time with the kids. This could refer to a major slip in manners, hygiene, and structure, or it may simply refer to the fact that when the kids are with that parent it’s nothing but waterparks, candy, and non-stop good times.

There’s nothing wrong with fun. Who doesn’t like vacations, tasty food, and entertaining activities? Sign me up!

The line between having an enjoyable time with one parent versus “Disneyland parenting” is when fun tends to surpass reason, good judgment, and even in some ways the best interest of the kids.

As previously stated, I have scoffed at my “fun time ex” on more than one occasion because it seemed incredible that every time he had the kids they could go out to eat, see every movie released, and come away riding a tidal wave of “daddy’s great euphoria”, meanwhile I had to be the mean parent by enforcing school requirements and sometimes sitting around for a boring weekend because I didn’t have money to do fun things because my ex was way overdue in paying me his share of the kid’s expenses (we have no child support orders, we are each ordered to pay half of everything)!

It’s easy to paint the town red and have a great time when not paying one’s fair share, and the fact that major gold stars are earned from the kids for being so fun and not cracking down on yucky stuff like taking a bath or going to bed at 8 is even more frustrating!

So, before we gather a mob to hunt down all the “fun time moms” and “playtime dads”, let’s examine why a parent engages in Disneyland parenting.

As said before, it is often, though not always the case, that the parent who does so may have less time with the children. So, if you have a minimum of time to connect, make an impact, and make your time really special, what are you going to do? Are you going to make the kids spend the weekend at “Camp Cinderella” and clean toilets, weed all the flower beds, and scrub the floors? Probably not! Now, if the kids lived with you the majority of the time, there’s no escaping the clutches of occasional boredom, responsibility, getting in trouble now and then, and many of the other really stinky things about life.

I guarantee you that if I only had my kids one weekend of the month or in tiny spurts throughout the school year and two weeks of the summer, I would want to make every moment of our time together feel like 100 moments, and I could want to fill every second with love, fun, excitement, and incredible memories! I would want them to smile every time they thought of me and look forward to seeing me next. I would want to give them the world in a weekend if that’s all I had!

As it is, I have my children 50% of the time, one week at-a-time, and I still try to pack in as many happy times as I can, knowing that I miss so much of their lives! No, I am not the “fun time mom.” I am often the meanie mom. My kids know that when they’re at my house they will be expected to make their bed, tidy up their room, complete chores, act with respect, use manners, and so on. But, they also know that after all the “have to’s” are completed, I do my best to provide them with fun.

I admit that when I shop for Christmas and birthdays I do so with their happiness and satisfaction in mind. It warmed my heart when my daughter squealed with delight when she got a bike for Christmas- something that I bought for her to play and have fun with at my house! I want them to associate my house with fun, love, and plenty of good memories.
Does it make me a Disneyland mom if I construct my and my children’s lives so that they have fun and enjoy being at mom’s house? If it does, call me guilty! And, if this is what makes any parent a Disneyland parent, I can’t blame them one bit!

The key here is to strike a balance. Kids need fun, but they also need stability and parents who are parents, not buddies.

No one wants to spend their precious moments with their children grounding them, making them do boring chores, and certainly not looking forward to coming back. I miss my kids when they’re away with their dad, and I have them 50% of the time. I can only imagine how torn up I would be if I only saw them a few times per month-or year!

I won’t criticize another parent for simply wanting their visitation time with their kids to be as meaningful as possible, but there’s also a difference between being a mom or dad versus the entertainment director on a cruise ship. Surely we don’t get mad at “fun time” parents because they deliver fun…so ask yourself, is it because “normal” goes on vacation for a bit, or could it even be jealousy because they get by without the “mean” that comes with responsibility?


Listen Live as I get interviewed about Bird's Nest Co-parenting on 2FM - RTE Ireland

I'm excited (and a little nervous) to share that around 10am UK time today, 15th November, I am being interviewed LIVE on Radio 2FM - RTE: Ireland's biggest broadcaster, with Jennifer Zamparelli.

I'll be sharing my thoughts on Bird's Nest Co-parenting and how the effects of divorce can be managed for parents and kids alike so all can live a happy and fulfilled life.

I hope you'll listen along via the link below... Wish me luck!

Thursday, 14 November 2019

50 Self-Care Ideas For Stressed Out People Pleasers

“In case of the loss of cabin pressure, put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.”

If you fly on commercial planes, you've heard this statement from a flight attendant many times, instructing you to take care of your safety first so you have the ability to help someone else.

This is necessary for survival on a flight, but it's also an essential practice for daily life — take care of yourself first. It sounds nice, but in reality it's difficult to practice.

Like most of us, you probably hit the ground running when the alarm clock rings. Whether it's tending to kids, racing off to work, or going to school, your day starts early and is filled to the brim with tasks and obligations.

There's always something on your list of things to be done, a list that keeps expanding no matter how hard you try to get ahead of the curve.

Your digital devices keep you constantly plugged in and distracted, worrying that you are missing something important and dragging you into a vortex of information overload.

In Western culture in particular, we equate our self-worth to productivity and hard work. 
Many of us (women in particular) feel we are being selfish if we don't put the needs of others ahead of our own all the time.

We become addicted to people pleasing in order to feel validated.

But all of this productivity, multi-tasking, and people pleasing comes at a cost –your mental and physical health. Not only do you jeopardize your health, but also you miss out on the joys of fully experiencing life.

Can you give yourself permission to step back and reclaim some of your life? Are you willing to take better care of your own physical, mental, and emotional needs so you have the energy for the people you love, your work, and your life obligations?

If you need some inspiration, here are 50 self-care ideas to help you put yourself first for a change:

1. Let go of perfectionism.
It's hard to take care of yourself when you set your standards impossibly high. You will never be satisfied, and will feel you must work harder and harder to reach your perceived definition of perfect. You'll never reach that, so let it go. Allow yourself to be perfectly imperfect.

2. Reassess your priorities.
When you are so busy and distracted, everything seems like a priority. You're just spinning your wheels trying to get it all done. Just stop for an hour, and contemplate what is most important today, this week, this month, and in your life in general. Where are you spending time that isn't really contributing to these priorities?

3. Amend your diet.
What you eat makes such a difference in how you feel about yourself physically and mentally. What is one small change you can make in your diet to improve it? Trying dropping one bad item from your diet and replacing it with one good item (like a fruit or vegetable).

4. Make time for exercise.
You know that exercise is good for your mind, body, and spirit. There is so much research supporting this that it can't be denied. Don't make the excuse that you're too busy. Work the rest of your life around your exercise program.

5. Practice meditation.
Meditation is one of the best self-care habits you can practice. It reduces stress and anxiety, improves memory, decreases pain, and improves your sleep. You can learn the steps to a meditation practice here.

6. Take a daily walk.
Get out in nature, somewhere quiet and peaceful, and take a long walk. Listen to the sounds, watch the sky, smell the grass. Being in nature soothes your soul and helps you process your thoughts and feelings.

7. Prepare and eat a meal mindfully.
One of the unfortunate consequences of our busy lives is the slow disappearance of the family meal time. We've become dependent on meals on-the-go and fast food, rarely taking the time to savor what we eat, much less the food preparation. Make the choice to prepare and eat a meal mindfully, at least once a week.

8. Enjoy a quiet cup of tea.
Make yourself your favorite cup of tea and curl up in a comfy chair to enjoy it without any other distractions.

9. Get a monthly massage.
A massage is amazingly therapeutic both physically and emotionally. The massage therapist can work out all of the built-up tension in your body, which in turn allows you to release any stored emotional pain or anxiety.

10. Give yourself a digital detox.
Turn off all of your digital devices for an hour, a day, or even a week. The world won't end. But you'll regain some of your sanity.

11. Read a novel.
Read something just for the pure pleasure of reading. Or listen to an audiobook if that's your preferred way of consuming a great book.

12. Create a bath ritual.
Fill the tub with water and add bath salts. Dim the lights and light some candles. Put on soothing music. Grab a glass of wine or a cup of tea, and slip in the tub. Ahhhhh.

13. Purge toxic people.
Are there people in your life who are draining your energy and creating stress? Are you doing all of the work to maintain the relationship with little in return? Back off from people who drag you down and make you feel bad.

14. Create and enforce boundaries.
Don't allow the people around you, especially those you love, to take advantage of you or cross your personal boundaries. If you don't know what they are or how to set them, check out this post.

15. Define your values.
Your core values are the the guiding principles for your life. They are the guideposts that help you make decisions and live within your personal integrity. Once you define them, do your best to align your life with them.

16. Communicate your emotional needs.
Does your spouse or significant other meet your emotional needs? If not, it may be because you haven't fully communicated them. Let your partner know what you need to feel loved, respected, secure, and appreciated within your relationship.

17. Go to a movie by yourself.
Take yourself on a date to a movie theater, get a bag of buttery popcorn and a soda, and enjoy a great flick all by yourself.

18. Test drive a sports car.
Indulge a fantasy about owning that shiny red convertible, and go take your favorite sports car for a test spin. Turn up the radio, let down the top, and enjoy the ride.

19. Go to the beach or mountains.
Nothing soothes the soul like time at the ocean or in the mountains. Take a long weekend by yourself or with your favorite person and just relax. Leave your computer and work at home. Take along your favorite book, a bottle of wine, and some great food to cook.

20. Get rid of clutter.
Physical clutter in your home or work space can make you feel more stressed and overwhelmed. Pick one small area that is getting out of hand, and start purging and organizing. It will feel like a burden lifted once the space is clean.

21. Seek out your passion.
If you're working in a job you hate, you are spending the vast majority of you days in a negative environment. Figure out what your passion is and how to make it work for you and your life. Spend your days doing what you love.

22. Catch up on your doctor's appointments.
Are you skipping your annual physical or dental appointments? Are you up to date on recommended procedures? Don't neglect your physical health by putting off these important appointments. No, they aren't fun, but get them out of the way, and you'll feel relieved.

23. Sleep late.
When you've had a particularly rough week or a very late night, allow yourself to sleep in. Call in sick to school or work if you really need to catch up on some sleep.

24. Get a babysitter.
You love your kids, but being a parent is draining and demanding. You and your spouse need time for yourselves and each other. Hire a babysitter once a week so you can have a much-needed break.

25. Prepare the night before.
Think about how much stress you feel in the morning trying to get ready and out the door for work, school, or some other obligation. Make your morning routine less stressful by preparing the night before. Choose the clothes you want to wear. Get your breakfast lined up. Put everything you need to take with you in the car.

26. Get your car cleaned.
Are you riding around in a trash-mobile? Is your car filled with fast food containers, old papers, coffee cups, and part of your wardrobe? Clean out your car and get the interior and exterior cleaned.

27. Hire a housekeeper.
If your life is so busy that you have no time to clean your house, hire a housekeeper. This is an indulgence, but perhaps your time is worth more than the cost of the cleaner. Certainly your peace of mind is.

28. Go to a therapist or coach.
We all need help and support when going through a difficult time or trying to move our lives forward in a positive direction. Don't try to solve complicated life challenges on your own. Find a professional you can trust to help you.

29. Delegate.
If you're trying to be Super Mom or Super Dad, in addition to being Employee of the Year and winning Yard of the Month, perhaps you're overextending yourself. Delegate some of your chores to your kids, your co-workers, or other people in your life.

30. Buy the shoes.
Do you love them? Are they wildly expensive? Do you have the money? You only live once. Buy them!!

31. Get a manicure and pedicure.
Bitten down fingernails and gnarly toes do not scream self-care. Take care of your personal grooming and enjoy a relaxing hour of nail services.

32. Take a nap.
If you are having a hard time concentrating or keeping your eyes open during the day, you are probably sleep-deprived. Close your door, turn off your phone, and take a ten to fifteen minute cap nat to perk you up.

33. Make peace with your flaws.
Most of us are highly self-critical about everything from our appearance to our likability. The good news is that you aren't alone with your self-criticism. Everyone is flawed — that's what makes us human. So make peace with your flaws, and focus your thoughts on the positive instead.

34. Help someone else.
Nothing makes you feel better about yourself than helping other people. This may seem like a counterproductive approach to taking care of yourself, but when you are focused on helping someone else, you aren't as focused on your own problems or worries.

35. Use essential oils and aromatherapy.
Using essential oils may reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, alleviate physical ailments, improve sleep, help digestion, and have many other benefits. The aromas of your favorite oils are soothing and calming, especially in your bath or on your pillow.

36. Listen to inspiring podcasts.
Take a break from scanning social media or binge-watching Netflix and listen to an uplifting, inspiring podcast. Check out The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes, The Minimalists Podcast, or Optimal Living Daily.

37. Cuddle.
Physical touch is healing and calming. We all need it, more than we might think we do. If you aren't getting enough cuddling from your partner, ask for more. Just sit on the couch and hold each other. It feels great.

38. Take a yoga class.
Yoga is a form of meditation in action. It increases your muscle tone, flexibility, and strength while calming your mind and giving you more clarity and focus.

39. Learn to say “no.”
This is a hard thing to do for people-pleasers, but you'll find the more you practice saying no, the easier it becomes. You'll feel more in control of your time and more confident about yourself.

40. Dial back your expectations of others.
One of life's biggest energy sucks is expecting the people around us to be something other than who they are. When you struggle to change someone or hold unrealistic expectations, you cause yourself suffering, and you diminish your relationship with this person.

41. Ask a friend for support.
Don't carry every emotional burden or challenge by yourself. Reach out to your friends and ask for a listening ear or support when you feel down or anxious. Allow your friends to be there for you.

42. Drink more water.
Water keeps your body temp in normal range, lubricates your joints, keeps your organs functioning, and helps you eliminate waste. Most people don't drink enough water throughout the day. Men need about 15.5 cups of fluid a day, and women need 11.5 cups. You can get fluids from food and other beverages, but try to make the majority of this intake pure water.

43. Cut back on alcohol.

Drinking alcohol not only impairs your judgment, but also it impacts your sleep, affects mental health, adds weight, dehydrates you, affects concentration, and can contribute to the risk of having a host of diseases. Cutting back is a great way to take care of your body and mind.

44. Take up a creative hobby.
We often avoid trying a creative hobby because we fear the results of our efforts will be crappy. Don't focus on the results. Focus on the joy of a creative endeavor. Creative hobbies reduce stress, protects your brain function, improves your mood, and can enhance your social life.

45. Get a pet.
Taking care of a pet does add to your responsibilities, but it can also have many emotional benefits that offset the work involved. A pet can decrease feelings of loneliness, offer soothing physical contact, and help keep us active.

46. Journal.
Journaling is an excellent way to process your emotions, clear your mind, and solve problems. Studies confirm that the emotional release from journaling lowers anxiety and stress, and improves physical health.

47. Cancel plans when you feel bad.
Do you feel obligated to follow through on plans with friends or family when you feel depressed or ill? Do you always try to push through because you don't want to disappoint others? Of course you want to be reliable, but when you feel off, put yourself first and be willing to cancel to take care of yourself.

48. Deal with your baggage.
Whatever emotional baggage you carry from the past will inevitably impact your current relationships and perceptions of life. Make the decision to heal your past so you can fully enjoy the present.

49. Work on your personal growth.
Be proactive in exploring your own inner world and learning new ways to evolve and grow as a person. The more self-aware you become, the happier and more content you will be.

50. Meet new people.
An excellent way to grow and expand yourself is by meeting new people who may be different from your typical crowd. Seek out people are growth oriented, positive, and adventurous, and you'll discover a well-spring of new interest and opportunities for yourself.

There are a myriad of ways to practice self-care and show compassion and love to yourself. Any action or endeavor that feels soothing, relaxing, enriching, and joyful will fit the bill. What does self-care mean for you? What have you done to put yourself first so you can be more available for others and energized for your work and other obligations?


Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Column: Shared Parenting is what's best for children

Jason McLean, an attorney with Gjesdahl Law in Fargo, penned a letter in Sunday's Forum regarding HB 1392, the shared parenting bill.

The bill reflects social science evidence, which finds that children's best interests are served when each fit, able and willing parent is involved at least 35 percent of the time with the children. The scientists who publish these outcomes stake their professional reputations on factual interpretation of research data.
The bill states the divorce/child custody process will begin with a presumption of 35-50 percent time with each parent, reflective of the best child outcome research. It's important to understand a presumption does not mean shared parenting is a requirement. The bill attends to situations in which this isn't in the children's best interests, as is written in current law.
McLean takes exception to the word presumption in the bill. Presumption, as defined in Webster's New World College Dictionary: "Law the inference that a fact exists, based on the proved existence of other facts." Seems like using scientific evidence, the children's benefits of spending at least 35 percent of the time with each parent, is a pretty good reference for "other facts."
Having recently witnessed the current divorce process, it is nearly perfectly designed to generate and encourage conflict between divorcing parents, and inflict emotional and financial harm to the parents. In this divorce case, once the process accomplished what it was designed to do, and attorneys and the parental investigator were finished, the two parents now co-parent very well, respectfully and courteously, with the children's best interests above all else. They do so despite the process, not because of it.
This bill changes the divorce focus to the children. In most cases, both parents are fit, able and willing. Divorcing couples will be directed away from battle, and encouraged to understand that each parent should be involved with the children. Attorneys, parental investigators and courts will be guided in the same direction. The incentive to initiate the divorce process with fault-finding and finger-pointing will be redirected to focusing on cooperative parenting. The emotional and financial costs of most divorces will be reduced.
Just as did McLean, I, too, would like to leave readers with two sets of numbers: 15-0 and 71-21. The House Judiciary Committee, having heard the for and against arguments for the bill, including McLean's against argument, recommended "Do Pass" 15-0. The full House of Representatives voted 71-21 to pass the bill. The members of these bodies understood this bill is for the children and the parents. Please lend support and inform your senator you understand that children fare best when both parents are involved.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Men’s Mental Health Suffers After Divorce

A new case study suggests that the toll of divorce may be particularly hard on men.
The study contradicts the notion that men are somehow bulletproof and much less susceptible to psychological trauma than women.
Researchers now report that divorced men have higher rates of mortality, substance abuse, depression, and lack of social support.
The new case study is found in the Journal of Men’s Health.
Authors Daniel Felix, W. David Robinson, and Kimberly Jarzynka contend there is an urgent need to recognize and treat men’s divorce-related health problems.
Divorce has been associated with a variety of psychological and behavioral disorders. Previous studies have shown that unmarried men live significantly fewer years than married men and tend to have more health problems.
For the specific case of the divorced 45-year-old man described in the case study and review, the authors recommend how to evaluate his complaints and plan a course of treatment based on current clinical guidelines.
“Popular perception, and many cultures as well as the media present men as tough, resilient, and less vulnerable to psychological trauma than women. However, this article serves as a warning signal not to follow such unfounded perceptions,” said Ridwan Shabsigh, M.D.
Said Shabsigh, “The fact is that men get affected substantially by psychological trauma and negative life events such as divorce, bankruptcy, war, and bereavement.
“Research is urgently needed to investigate the prevalence and impact of such effects and to develop diagnosis and treatment guidelines for practitioners.”

Monday, 11 November 2019

Speaking Truth To Kids About Divorce (Hint: Marriage Is No Fairy Tale)

Dealing with a divorce is rough enough, and it may be tempting to keep your kids out of it. In fact, research over the last five years has found that over 75 percent of parents going through a divorce spend less than ten minutes, total, talking to their children about the change.

The statistic is shocking, really, considering how clear it is made to us as adults that good communication is vital to all types of relationships. Perhaps adults forget that that little law of life involves children as well, and how much children value being part of decision making, and even being welcomed into the adult world.

Here is how to talk about divorce with your kids:

1. Breaking up isn’t a crime

The end of a legal relationship, or a cohabiting one, isn’t a crime that needs to be covered up, sugar coated or kept from children like a dirty secret.

Interestingly, children are often more aware that divorces can be necessary than their parents. A UK poll found that 82 percent of older kids aged 14 to 22 preferred that their parents part if they are unhappy, than that they stay together just for the sake of their kids.
Your starting point here, then, is your own clarity about what you are going through. Life is full of interesting stages and processes that start and end. We start and finish school, college or a job, and in the same way, separation isn’t necessarily a failure. And if you feel yours is, I’m sure it’s at least more complicated than that. It’s also worth understanding that even failure is a vital part of life, and not something to be ashamed of.

In fact, as an alternative education teacher, I encourage the children I work with to “fail” because it means they are trying, over and over, and learning lessons from that, rather than being scared of trying things in the first place.

2. Children need examples of healthy relationships, not fairy tales

My parents fell out of love when I was five years old, but they didn’t get divorced until 12 years later. All that made for an unhappy home and a childhood filled with verbal violence and stress. I would have much preferred a few honest and tough conversations.

Children start to imitate adults from the age of around four — they want to cook like us, pretend to have friends over to tea, fix things with hammers and play “family.” So adults need to be good examples to them, and that means modeling good relationships, not acting out movie-perfect, unrealistic romances.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, with all different combinations of parents — including single ones, ones in relationships with someone other than the biological mother or father and same-sex parents. None of this matters. What matters for a child is a positive home environment, where respect and honesty is honored. And by the way, honesty means a place where parents aren’t pretending to have feelings for each other that they don’t have. 
Would you want your children to do that in their own friendships or romances?

Kids need to be taught that relationships evolve and change, that communication, respect and honesty are paramount. Teach them that and you’ll be paving the way for their own healthy relationships in the future. Teach them not to stay in an unhappy relationship just to make others happy.

3. Divorce isn’t an announcement, it’s a conversation

Even though your relationship with your partner is uniquely your business, your children are directly involved in that relationship also. You’ll make the decision to divorce, but understand that the details are going to involve your children. Therefore, the divorce can’t just be announced. It needs to be a dialogue, where the children are listened to, and their feelings and ideas are taken into account.

A ten-minute conversation isn’t enough! Answer your children’s doubt. Express yourself. If you feel sad, say that — don’t hide it. If you are unsure about how something will play out in the future, admit to not having all the answers. Be real: it’s okay to not know things, and it’s useful modeling to be able to express your feelings, rather than acting cold and distant.

4. It’s not about blame

However, even though you want to be honest with your children, if you’re holding feelings of resentment and blame towards the other partner, that’s something best kept to yourself. Unless there has been abuse, your children need to be free to keep loving both of you without feeling that to do so is betraying one of you.

So, at this point, you need to make sure the following things are very clear:

The kids are not the reason for the separation. They, too, are not to blame.

You will keep being a family, it will just work differently.

All the feelings the children have in response are okay and shouldn’t be squashed. It is okay for them to feel confused, angry, sad, worried or curious.

When you chat with your kids, aim to do it in a quiet place, with your partner if possible, and at a time when there aren’t pressing things to do. That way, nothing will get in the way if the conversation needs to go on for a while.

Also, if you have older and younger kids, tell them all at once. It isn’t useful to divide the kids, telling the older children first as though they can “handle” the news better, and must then explain it to the younger kids, or keep secrets.

5. After the conversation: helping children deal with change and loss

Children at different ages, and more generally speaking, cope with big changes in different ways. Some kids feel insecure, go quiet, become mischievous, clingy, uncooperative or distant. But they can also be amazingly resilient — bouncing back quickly.

However your child reacts, their change in behavior shows that they need to keep talking, so give them opportunities to do that. Show them love, and at the same time, keep many of their routines consistent.


Friday, 8 November 2019

How to Handle Extreme Stress

Learn the best ways to cope with trauma.
There's a silver lining to our day-to-day stress. It's so familiar to us—the irritation of traffic and adrenaline of deadlines—that we, hopefully, have learned how to cope. Ideally, we've got a healthy outlet, a favorite walk or a trusted friend to relieve the accumulation of life's little pressures.

But what about the really hard stuff—the realization of fears we rarely dare to voice, if at all? When the scan comes back with bad news, or a loved one suffers a devastating accident; then what? How does one cope with the kind of trauma that levels life in an instant?

According to experts in extreme stress, some strategies work much better than others. A key objective for anyone in stress is managing his or her "fight-or-flight" response—the evolutionary instinct that readies our bodies for danger with the energy and focus to battle a predator or run away. Unlike animals, whose response to danger subsides once the threat does, humans have the capacity to recall the trauma and fear for the future, says Steven Southwick, co-author of "Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges" and professor of psychiatry, post-traumatic stress disorder and resilience at the Yale Medical School and the Yale Child Study Center. "We can keep ourselves stressed 24/7, and unfortunately stress can cause all sorts of problems," including, for example, injuring the very part of the brain that turns off the stress response, Southwick says.

According to David Spiegel, associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine and director of its Center on Stress and Health, people in extreme stress should keep these key points in mind:

1. Make a prioritized checklist of what needs to be addressed and tackle each item sequentially;

2. Don't be afraid to ask people for help;

3. Know your limits, and guard them;

4. Rest—take breaks, get lots of sleep, and "practice self-soothing";

5. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine.

In addition, the following strategies can provide comfort and relief:

1. Express your feelings. "Don't fight your emotions. Think of them as your friend, not your enemy," says Spiegel. There's a misconception among some that containing one's emotions contains the problem or that they "need to be strong" for their families by putting up a stoic front, Spiegel says. That not only doesn't work—it backfires. People end up "wasting energy fighting themselves," he says. Plus, releasing emotions brings people together, which is precisely what's needed in times of trauma.

2. Find social support. "People who are socially isolated have a two-fold elevation in all-cause mortality," Spiegel says, calling social isolation as much of a risk to one's health as smoking or high cholesterol. "And yet, when people get sick or in trouble, they often lose social support rather than gain it," he says. Spiegel, who runs support groups for women diagnosed with breast cancer, says such groups provide an opportunity to share experiences and advice. Everywhere else in life, that woman may feel like an outsider, the one with a "death sentence." But in the support group, "you belong."

Due to his research, Southwick has become so convinced of the power of social support that he now works with his patients to draw a diagram of their social networks, examining each individual involved to ensure that they are trusted and reliable. "Strength comes from social networks," he says. "We're all social beings.

3. Find a way to relax. Whether it's prayer, meditation or deep relaxation techniques, these acts offer a powerful antidote to stress. "You really can't be tense and relaxed at the same time. They're opposites," says Carol Goldberg, psychologist and host and producer of the New York-area TV show "Dr. Carol Goldberg and Company." She suggests, for example, visualizing a calming scene, repeating a soothing mantra or deep breathing from the diaphragm to boost oxygen supply and help rid yourself of carbon dioxide. "It's something that you always have within you. You don't have to get any equipment ... You can just close your eyes, and take some deep breaths."

4. Face your fears. "Most of us have a very difficult time doing that because it's unpleasant," Southwick says. However, "if you want to be resilient, sooner or later, you're going to have to face those things, or some of those things." In fact, "avoidance is at the heart of all anxiety disorders," he says. When veterans address post-traumatic stress disorder with a therapist, they expose themselves to theirs to try to make peace with them.

The trick is to reframe fear and face it before it devolves into a state of panic, which shuts down the part of the brain responsible for rational thinking. To conquer fear, you have to learn about it and understand it. And then, "when you do approach the fear, try to do it with someone who you really trust."

5. Find a role model. "We tend to learn through imitation," Southwick says. Look to others who successfully negotiate challenges, ask them about their coping skills, and try them out yourself. For example, if that person calls a friend during times of stress, you might consider that tactic.

For his part, Southwick has found role models in the research for his book. A young woman with spina bifida who won a gold medal for swimming in the Paralympics is one of them. She not only excelled in college, graduating with honors, but she swam an average of 26 miles a week. These days, when Southwick goes swimming, he often thinks of her as he's wrapping up his mile of laps, and says to himself: "What, are you kidding? Twenty-six miles a week ... I keep going."