Generating Gratitude This Holiday Season

Generating Gratitude This Holiday Season

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” – Cynthia Ozick When a person is asked what they’d do different if given a second chance and their response is I wouldn’t change a thing, this totally baffles me! Maybe it’s just me but there were several things I wish I handled differently. The most helpful shift has been to put judgment aside and look for the good intention behind seemingly negative behavior (especially of my husband and children). Looking for good (instead of focusing on negative) has made life so much more fulfilling. Robert Emmons,  Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at UC Davis is renowned for his research on gratitude. He says “gratitude is a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.” He offers the following tips to cultivate gratitude: Keep a gratitude journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness. Reflect on Three Questions. “What have I received from __?”, “What...

7 Tips to Help Children Manage Stress

Some children mange the pressures of school quite nicely while others find that too many commitments, conflict in their families and problems with peers can be overwhelming. The key to helping kids manage stress is to teach them to problem-solve, plan and know when to say yes and no to activities and commitments. It isn’t to “make everything smooth and comfortable.” Below are 7 tips to help your children manage stress successfully. 1. Stop over-scheduling. One of the biggest stressors for kids is being over-scheduled. Yet children are expected to do well in school, excel at extracurricular activities, come home, finish homework, and go to bed just to do it all over again the next day. Where’s the downtime? Kids need downtime to rejuvenate. Their brains and bodies need to rest. And they might not realize this by themselves. So knowing when your child is over-scheduled is important. 2. Make time for play. Allow children to play with no end goal in mind. Young children do this naturally. Combine play with physical activity, which is critical for well-being. Some ideas include: riding your bikes, throwing around the baseball, wrestling and hiking. 3. Make sleep a priority. Sleep is vital for everything from minimizing stress to boosting mood to improving school performance. If your child isn’t getting enough sleep it may be an indicator that they’re over-scheduled. If possible, keep TV and other electronics out of your child’s bedroom. 4. Teach your children to listen to their bodies. Try this: Sit in the car with your child, and press the gas and brake, and listen to the engine revving. Explain...
Helping Children Cope with Stress

Helping Children Cope with Stress

As the new school year is upon us, so does a wave of emotions for your children: excitement, homework, and sometimes stress. Stress is a normal physical response to events that disrupts the emotional balance in the body. Most of the stress comes from the demands of the environment (school, family, social) that are greater than one’s current level of coping. Everyone is affected by stress and each reacts to it in their own way. There are both “good stress” and “bad stress.” Good stress is that optimal amount of stress that energizes and motivates us to do our best work. It encourages us to develop effective coping strategies to deal with our challenges. This ultimately contributes to one’s resilience. Bad stress occurs when we feel overwhelmed and unable to move forward. Parents may be unaware of the stress their children experience. The National Association of School Psychologists reports that the following are common causes of stress for school-aged children: School: When their classroom lacks structure, have unclear or unreasonable expectations, or have an unrealistic fear of failure. Home: Lack of family routines, over-scheduling, prolonged or serious illness, poor nutrition, change in the family situation, financial problems, family strife or abuse, or unclear or unreasonable expectations. Peer-related: Having to deal with bullying, fitting in with the crowd, or moving to a new community. The following strategies from “Helping Kids Cope With Stress” Kids Health may be helpful: Notice out loud. Tell your child when you notice that something’s bothering him or her. If you can, name the feeling you think your child is experiencing. (“It seems like you’re still...

Don’t Overlook the Little Things

I received this story in an email and found it so moving; I wanted to share it on my blog. It was originally titled The Seven Wonders of the World. And the story goes like this: A group of students were asked to list what they thought were the present “Seven Wonders of the World.” Thought there were some disagreements, the following received the most votes: Egypt’s Great Pyramids Taj Majal Grand Canyon Panama Canal Empire State Building St. Peter’s Basilica China’s Great Wall While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student had not finished her paper yet. So, she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list. The girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.” The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.” The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the “Seven Wonders of the World” are: To See To Hear To Touch To Taste To Feel To Laugh To Love The room was so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop. The things we overlook that we feel are simple and ordinary, that we take for granted, are truly wondrous! Let this serve as a gentle reminder that the most precious things in life cannot be built by hand or bought by man. Take time now to hug the ones you love and be grateful for all you have and enjoy this moment right...

Coping Through the Holidays

With the holidays quickly approaching, how are you preparing yourself with all the demands and expectations that go with family gatherings, gifts and holiday cheer? No doubt, you want things to go well and to make the holidays as enjoyable and memorable as possible for those you love. But — what about you and your feelings? Research has shown that a significant number of people associate the holidays with a time of anxiety, loss, regret and loneliness. Holiday blues are a common occurrence brought on by stress, fatigue, unrealized expectations, financial restraints, social obligations, over-commercialization and previous unpleasant experiences. All of us have experienced these feelings in some form or another and have laughed at the seasonal movies that satire the awkward family moments and the gifts that are certain to be “re-gifted”. So – how do you cope? You can relieve holiday stresses by planning and preparing now and by following the HOLIDAY acronym that I have shared with my clients to help them throughout the holiday season. H Handle holiday plans with care. Be realistic with your expectations. Plan your menus, gift giving ideas and participation in festivities. Set realistic goals for your ever changing family’s needs. Include them in the decision making. Some rituals are good to hold on to while letting go of those that have lost its significance. O Outreach. The holidays are a great time to volunteer with your family and reach out to those in need. This can create a more meaningful experience. Include those who may not have family around or widows and newly single – who may not have any...

Creating Your Family Holiday Legacy

When you think about your childhood holiday memories, what comes up for you? Did you wake up to the smell of turkey roasting in the oven Thanksgiving morning? Did your family travel during the holidays? What traditions did your family do that fill you with joy? With the holidays right around the corner it’s an excellent time for you to prepare for and decide what memories you want to create this holiday season. Family rituals help to define your cultural traditions and the values you espouse and to create a strong sense of belonging for one another. They also become the memories that children talk about long after they leave home. What were your fondest memories in preparing the Thanksgiving meal? Did each member have a specific responsibility? Were toddlers given age appropriate tasks? Or were children asked to play and stay out of the way? Children thrive when they feel included in holiday preparations. It gives them a sense of feeling needed, valued and that they belong. They get the message that as a member of your family, they matter. On the opposite end of the spectrum, do your holiday memories elicit distress or sadness? Do you have family members who aren’t speaking with each other? Is there a thoughtless/clueless relative who others prefer not to have around? What do you do with the relative who drinks too much? How should one handle these diversions when the holidays are supposed to be festive? Plan now what you want your family holiday legacy to be. How do you want your children to remember the holidays? Do you have to...