Parents, it’s time to make your self-care a priority (yes, I am adding something to your to-do list, but you’re going to thank me for it soon enough!)
This is a wonderful article aimed at parents on the importance of taking time for self-care. Prioritizing self-care is something I often find myself talking about with my clients, particularly with parents of babies or young children (often its mothers of young little ones, because most my clients are women). Many of the mothers I see in the office challenge me by saying that they just don’t have time for self-care because they have too much going on. It’s because of these reports of feeling that they have “too much going on” that makes me emphasize the importance of taking time for self-care. As the popular saying goes: “you cannot pour from an empty cup”. Its well-known that self-care is important in maintaining good mental and physical health. Data from the Well-being Module from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) also revealed that parents reported parenting as their most meaningful activity but also as being the most exhausting (as reported in Wang 2013), suggesting that self-care in parents might be of even greater importance in maintaining good mental and physical health. In her article, Lindsey (2017) shares different strategies for scheduling time for self-care, including some she experimented with herself! I highly recommend parents (or any care provider for that matter) take a few minutes to check out the article for some helpful tips on making self-care a priority. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish! Self-care means giving the world the best of you, instead of what is left of you.
Sitting still like a frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) written by Eline Snel - This is a fabulous book accompanied by a CD that was recently recommended to me by another mother at my children’s school. The book includes a series of meditation/mindfulness exercises and is accompanied by a CD of audio recordings of the exercises and they are narrated by Myla Kabat-Zinn (Jon Kabat-Zinn’s wife!). Myla Kabat-Zinn has a very soothing voice which helps to foster feelings of calm and relaxation. I have had the pleasure of trying a couple of the recordings out with my own children and have found that not only do they appear (and report!) to enjoy them, I can see they are more relaxed once they have done the exercises (and I admit to feeling more relaxed and centered as well when I join in. Win-win!). Studies have demonstrated that mindfulness not only reduces feelings of stress, but also anxiety and depression in children (Raes et al., 2014). I found listening to these exercises to be a great way to connect with my little ones while helping them develop a valuable life skill (and all in under 10 minutes!). I highly recommend checking it out and giving it a try with your children. The audio recordings of the exercise are offered for free on the publisher’s website at www.shambhala.com/sittingstilllikeafrog. The last recording on the CD (“sleep tight”) is ideal for incorporating into a child’s bedtime routine. It’s also available online and if it helps get the kiddos to sleep more easily, that is worth a try (parents of young kiddos, isn’t getting the kids to sleep without a fuss something we are all after?). Enjoy!
In her Ted talk, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford, Julie Lythcott-Haims, discusses the risks of a style of parenting known as helicopter parenting. In her passionate (a little intense at times!), honest, witty and very convincing talk, she shares an important message about the disservice well intentioned parents are doing when micromanaging their children’s lives and imposing perfectionistic standards on their kids. She encourages parents to be less obsessed with our children’s success and to put more effort into helping them develop autonomy (give them chores!), genuinely connecting with them and expressing our unconditional love to them. Her suggestions are based on findings from The Harvard Grant Study (George E. Vaillant’s “Triumphs of Experience”), that demonstrated that professional success is linked to having done chores as a kid, and that genuine happiness comes from connections/relationships with others. Lythcott-Haims also has a book called “How to Raise an Adult” which I have yet to check out, but it’s on my reading list for 2017!
"The Dog Who Chased His Tail" by Greg March is a beautiful children’s story that introduces the concept of mindfulness. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with your child while reading and introducing the idea of how we can quiet our busy mind to improve our focus. We have been hearing more and more about mindfulness and its benefits in children, and studies have demonstrated its benefits, such as reduced symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression (Raes et al., 2014). A review of the literature (Burke, 2009) also provided support for the feasibility and openness to mindfulness interventions in children and adolescents, but maintains that more rigorous research is needed to demonstrate its efficacy.
Want a quick self-care break during a busy day? Studies have demonstrated that we can change how we feel simply by focusing on our breath (Brown & Gerbarg 2012; Philippot et al. 2002). Check out this short but effective visual/animated breathing exercise, it’s a great little tool to help slow down your breathing if you’re feeling stressed out or anxious and don’t have much time. Give it a try!
Check out this awesome podcast on the Goodlife project interviewing Dr. Shefali, author of the “Awakened Family”, “The Conscious Parent”, and “Out of Control”. In this enjoyable interview, Dr. Shefali shares with us a little about her past and her inspirational journey. She helps us understand the importance of being mindful of our children’s journey in allowing them to figure out who they are for themselves, and letting go of what we want and try to impose on them (often related to things we need to work on ourselves!). Conscious parenting she explains involves letting go of our own agenda for our children’s future and respecting their own desires and path. Enjoy this engaging and entertaining and inspiring podcast; and check out one of her books! They’re sure not to disappoint!
Check out this inspiring TedTalk by Andy Puddicombe, the creator of Headspace, the popular meditation app so many people are talking about and using (in fact, there are over 5 million Headspace users worldwide!). Puddicombe cites a study that demonstrated that humans tend to spend 47% of their day thinking about something other than what’s actually going on in the present moment and that this type of thinking contributes to feelings of unhappiness (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010). Puddicombe enlightens us to some of the benefits of taking just a mere 10 minutes a day to do "nothing" by engaging in the present moment.
Our local Montreal media has published a couple of stories recently to try and help increase awareness and reduce stigma associated with perinatal mood disorders (postpartum depression and/or anxiety, etc). Approximately 20% of women experiences clinical depression or anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum, and yet many don't get the help and support they need. Please spread the word about the wonderful work being done by MotherWit to provide a weekly support group (free of charge!) that meets regularly as well as a private closed Facebook group started by a Montreal mother (interviewed in the Montreal Gazette article below) allowing new mothers to support one and other (see Facebook group, Maternal Mental Wellness: by Moms for Moms.).
Please see the following articles for more information:
In this brief and entertaining TedTalk, Arianna Huffington talks about the importance of sleep. Huffington points out that in our society, people tend to brag about sleep deprivation, as if getting less sleep is something to be proud of?! In her witty talk (guaranteed to get a couple of giggles watching it!), she shares with us that, in fact, sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on one’s happiness, productivity and success. Research has also demonstrated that sleep deprivation can contribute to lower emotional intelligence (Killgore et al. 2008) and lower performance at work (Kessler et al. 2011). On that note, I think I’ll go catch some ZZZ’s!
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor
For a long time, it was a common belief that hard work alone led to success, and that, in turn, this success would result in happiness. Studies in the area of positive psychology have proved that, in fact, the opposite is true: happiness fuels performance and success. In this fascinating book, Achor outlines his seven principles on how we can apply what he refers to as the “Happiness Advantage” to develop a happier mindset, which ultimately has a positive impact on our performance and success. I enjoyed this book so much, particularly because it included so many practical and helpful strategies. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post where I will share some of his strategies with you!
In this engaging and entertaining TedTalk, Guy Winch points out that we teach our children to take care of their physical health but neglect to teach them about the importance of taking care of their mental health. I hadn’t heard of Guy Winch until recently and I was intrigued when I stumbled upon his Ted Talk, which I enjoyed immensely. He’s a very likeable speaker and his wittiness adds to one’s enjoyment of his talk. Winch points out that we are often quick to see the doctor when we have a flu or a cold, but yet when faced with more difficult psychological challenges we have a tendency to try and figure things out on our own rather than seek professional help. He argues that we should take care of our mental health with as much care and attention as we do our physical health and he gives interesting examples of how to practice what he refers to as “emotional first aid”. The importance of mental health being overlooked is nothing new; just a couple of years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO; see http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/) reported that mental disorders such as depression are the leading cause of disability worldwide. What are we waiting for? Let’s start taking better care of our mental health and teaching our children to do the same!
Tim Ferris and Jane McGonigal podcast: Getting More Done with Less Stress and the Health Benefits of Gaming
Wow! This was a fascinating podcast about the benefits of playing games on our well being in addition to our ability to be resilient. McGonigal talks about fascinating research on the benefits of using games and play. Research has demonstrated games to be helpful for overcoming head trauma, reducing the risk of developing PTSD after witnessing a trauma, reducing anxiety, helping to change a habit, etc. (Roepke, Jaffee, Riffle, McGonigal, Broome, & Bez, 2015). Looks like I have found a great excuse to play a little Tetris everyday! See this article describing the effects of "Superbetter" (McGonigal’s game) on depression, anxiety and general well being.
Parents, have you ever found yourself wondering if you are doing the right thing when it comes to your kids? In this recently published book, Jessica Lahey’s message echoes something we have heard more and more about in the media: Well-intentioned and loving parents who believe they are helping their kids are actually doing more damage than good when they hover. In her book she explains that in today’s society we have a tendency to be “overprotective” or “overparent” which, despite our good intentions, is actually doing our kids more harm than good. As a psychologist who works with children and their parents and as a parent of two young kids myself, Jessica Lahey’s message really hit home. This book does not disappoint!
You’ve probably noticed these “adult coloring books” around the bookstores and gift shops lately. They are becoming more and more popular. According to this Huffington Post article in July 2015 6 of the top 20 books being sold on amazon were adult coloring books! Read more about how coloring may actually have stress-reducing benefits. Get in touch with your inner child and try one out today!
Check out this link to try a free adult coloring page.
In this engaging and entertaining TedTalk; Shawn Achor shares some interesting findings on happiness and success. He explains that contrary to what many of us believe (success breeds happiness), in fact, it is happiness that breeds success! If you want to learn more and even pick up a few tips on how to bring more happiness into your life, check out his TED talk. I challenge you to get through it without a giggle, not only is Shawn Achor an engaging speaker, he has a great sense of humour that shines through in this talk. Enjoy!
Check out this short video on how Shawn Achor’s “Happy Secret to Better Work” TED Talk inspired a couple of University students to engage in a random act of kindness during exam period. Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to carry out your own random act of kindness? I have a couple of ideas to try myself after watching this! Let’s get our happy on!
Cited as being one of the most successful Ted talks of all time (over 20 million views!), this is a powerful and engaging talk on living a fuller life by allowing ourselves to be authentic and vulnerable. Truly inspiring!
This self-help app is based on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and can be helpful for managing stress and anxiety. A great tool that can be used on its own or in combination with therapy for extra support applying techniques in between sessions.
See the June 2015 issue of Mindful Magazine for full article.
A quick read by Christine Carter featured in Mindful Magazine with a great message: Don’t let busyness become a badge of honour. It is possible to be productive, yet do less and come out feeling great! Who wouldn’t want that?
One of the most frequently viewed Ted Talks! Amy Cuddy is a captivating speaker with an inspiring life story. In this Ted Talk, she shares her research findings on how our body language has an impact not only on how others perceive us, but also on our body chemistry, which in turn, has an impact on how we feel. Bring on the power poses!
This is basically a simple guided meditation, which allows you to choose a 5, 10, 15, or 20-minute meditation. You can choose to have your meditation accompanied by music or a choice of pleasant nature sounds. A great tool for those looking for an initiation to guided meditation.
This is a great tool to help motivate you to become more active. There are a number of different models available, but my personal pick is the Flex. Discreetly worn on your wrist like you would a bracelet, this little gadget tracks your steps and distance. It has a feature that allows you to track the quality of your sleep at night and can also be used as an alarm. There is an accompanying app available which allows you to sync your stats wirelessly and track your progress on your Smartphone and even support your friends with a Fitbit. A fun motivating tool!