It’s a story I hear about all of the time in my personal and professional life. “My last child is going to kindergarten, or first grade. Yay!! I’m going to have so much more time for other things!” And inevitably, a month later, I hear a very different story. “I don’t quite know who I am anymore. Or what I want to do with my time.” A lot of these women have been stay at home mothers, or work part time, while they have young children. Once the children are in school, their life changes quite drastically. They have more time to focus on themselves and their own interests. While this sounds like a time of liberation, a lot of women find it to be a time of high anxiety.
For years, society has taught women that their primary, and sometimes only, role is to be a mother. Whether you subscribe to this mentality or not, it is very present in our society. Therefore, a lot of women take that role on as their only sense of self. As a mother, sometimes I find myself getting lost in child rearing. I have to remind myself that while I love being a mother and it is important to me, I can still have interests and passions outside of that realm. This realization comes to light quickly when all of your children are attending school full time. So, to all of the mothers who are sending their youngest off to kindergarten/first grade, or to the mothers of young children that need to revisit who they are I challenge you to answer the following five questions.
What do I like to do for fun?
What do I do for self care that reenergizes me?
What relationships would I like to strengthen?
Do I want to go back to work, or work more?
Other than being a mom what do I want to be known for in my life?
These questions can help guide you to some career choices, as well as just things you can do for yourself when you have the time. If you are having a difficult time defining who you are, and who you want to become in the future come into therapy. Working with women to find their inner strength is something I love to do! Good luck as your kiddos head off to school. I’ll be at Wasatch Family Therapy with lots of congratulations and the tissues.
People have many reasons for why their life is so stressful. Why they can’t de-stress. Why they feel so out-of-control. Why they believe it will just never change.
While many reasons exist, my experience is that people have three key reasons why they can’t seem to de-stress their lives. Here are a few to think about.
1) My life is too complicated to change!
I’ve heard this reason or derivations of this excuse many times. Whether it’s multi-tasking a crazy schedule or simply feeling there is nothing I can change, this line of reasoning hamstrings us.
2) Life never gives me a darn break!
While this reason sounds similar to number 1, it’s actually quite different. Whether it’s a mom who is exhausted by their 3 kids or a dad trying to close that important deal to support their family, it’s exhausting. By the way, these roles can be switched and aren’t gender exclusive. The point is, we need to SEEK a break in our lives.
3) Stress keeps me young!
I’ve spoken with people who have told me that stress is “motivating” or that stress keeps me “involved in life.” And yes, even that it “keeps me young.” The latter has been spoken with a knowing chagrinned glance that it actually isn’t helping. Which actually begs the question of “how well is that working for you?” The reality is, it simply is NOT helping.
Ideas That Work!
Here are 50 wise and proven ways to de-stress your lives (Hint: The hard part is actually making the time, not in doing them!)
Read Garden Movies Hike Piano Affection Backpack New outfit Vacation Work (job) less Bucket list Friends Work out Increase Intimacy Get away Spirituality Sex Travel Education Walk Step back Make Love Change careers Re-connect Healthy Emotions Trail Run Date Flower Garden Exercise Religion Journal Volunteer Arts Ski Creativity Crafts Mountains Yoga Rock Climbing Symphony The Mighty 5 Bear Lake Sunset Opera Sunrise Thunder The Beach Work smarter Self-care Alone time Switch it up!
There are easily 50 more ideas to add to this list. However, that’s not the point, i.e., to add more stress. The critical point is that unless we make changes and do more for ourselves, we suffer. We’ll just experience more and more stress that just simply perpetuates itself. That. Makes. No. Sense!
What makes perfect sense is choosing several of the items from my list and just doing them. Hiking is amazing in the Wasatch. Watching a summer movie rocks. Journaling is helpful. Reading a book energizing!
And, I can (almost) guarantee that your stress level will drop. You will want to do more for yourself. Become fiercely loyal to it!!!
Michael Boman, LCSW has 20 years experience in helping people de-stress and reconnect. Reach out to him at 801.944.4555,
if you feel this blog has moved you to want to take back your life.
Soft music playing the background. A chilled bottle of Sparkling juice and a wine glass are set out ever so carefully. Grey sweatpants. Favorite t-shirt. It may sound like the makings of a great date, but it is the usual scene for my favorite form of self-care called Kitchen Therapy. Having grown up in the South, food was often at the center of family gatherings and hold many important memories. A few years ago, I discovered the power of cooking and baking while working with adults in a residential treatment program for substance abuse. As they followed a simple recipe for a cake, I observed noticeable changes in their moods and overall attitudes. I decided to try it in my own life, and I noticed the same impact.
Kitchen therapy does not have to be fancy, and it can range from simple cookies to well decorated cakes. Many people are aware of the concept of emotional eating, but emotional baking may be a healthier way to process difficult feelings, especially when coupled with the service of giving baked goods to those who may also be struggling. There is something satisfying about seeing a cake come together and having the smell fill the house. For me, baking cakes remind me of all of the strong women in my life whose influence have shaped the man that I’ve become. Baking a red velvet cake, for example, connects me to my paternal great-grandmother, whose recipe has been down through three generations. My godmother’s Italian Cream Cake reminds of me summer afternoons sitting in her kitchen hoping to be able to lick the mixing bowl when she was done preparing the batter. My mother’s chocolate cake is the way that I connect to home when I am homesick.
One of the benefits of Kitchen Therapy is that it provides us with an opportunity to be productive and creative and step away from the craziness of our lives. So, I’ve decided to share one of my favorite recipes just in time for Spring—Key Lime Cupcakes! Enjoy!
Key Lime Cupcakes
One 3-ounce package lime flavored gelatin
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup key lime juice (from about 25 small key limes or 4 large regular limes)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick butter), room temperature
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
One 1-pound box confectioners’ sugar
For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the gelatin, granulated sugar, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to mix well. Add the oil, orange juice, lemon juice, vanilla, and eggs. Mix until well combined. Fill the liners ¾ full and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes then sit on cooling racks to cool. The mix will yield about 36 cupcakes.
For the glaze: While the cupcakes are still hot, mix the lime juice and confectioners’ sugar together well. Pierce the cupcakes with a toothpick to allow the glaze to soak in better and pour it over the cupcakes while still in the pan. Allow cupcakes to cool completely as you prepare the icing.
For the icing: Cream the butter and cream cheese. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until mixture is smooth and easy to spread. For the teal color, use a combination of neon green and blue at the ratio of 50 drops of green to 4 drops of blue. Fill piping bag with icing and pipe on each cupcake. Top with golden gum ball.
Do you watch or listen to Ted Talks? I do, and I love them. There’s something satisfying about listening for ten to twenty minutes while I clean my house. I recently listened to one that is fantastic and really taught me a lot.
Dr. Guy Winch is a psychologist who writes and speaks about the discrepancy between physical first aid and emotional first aid. His thesis is that we are very quick to take care of our physical health, but we often put off taking care of our emotional health. This discrepancy becomes difficult because we often experience more emotional problems than physical ones. One of the most consistent conversations I have with people in my practice is about the importance of taking care of ourselves emotionally. For some reason, we don’t see it as weakness when we break our leg and need a doctor. However, when we are struggling emotionally, we may find it difficult to see a therapist. We brush our teeth daily to maintain dental hygiene, but what do we do to maintain our emotional health?
I invite you to listen to this talk and take some notes on how to administer some emotional first aid to you, your spouse, and children.
The second Ted Talk I love is by Brene Brown. Watching this talk is a common homework assignment I give people I work with. Vulnerability is such an important, and difficult thing. As you watch this talk, I hope you think about ways you can be more comfortable being vulnerable with yourself, and especially your spouse.
Mindfulness is all the rage right now. There are a million pins teaching you how to be mindful, and just about as many books or articles. The problem is trying to find the time to be mindful! I’m trying to balance three children, my husband, work, dance class, homework, preschool, nap time, volunteering, self-care, my own hobbies, and the list goes on. I could write a whole blog post about everything that I have to do, and I’m sure your list is just as long (if not longer). The last thing on our list is to take some time to ground ourselves so we can continue to move forward with the many responsibilities we have. Here is a small but effective grounding, or mindfulness exercise to try. So put a show on for your kids or lock yourself in the bathroom and give this a try.
Take three calming breaths and look around while identifying:
5 things that you see
4 things that you feel
3 things that you hear
2 things that you smell
1 thing that you taste
Find a good time in the day and set an alarm on your phone to do this exercise. You will be surprised at how five minutes of reconnecting with yourself can help you throughout the day.
In a society where we are all required to do more, sleep less, perform better, get richer, and find room for others, it’s hard to find the “me” in much of anything. So much of daily living is performing where our minds are constantly racing to the next thing. Sleep is interrupted by alarm clocks and delayed by late nights. No matter what the reason, whether it’s family, work, or school, it seems there is never enough time in the day.
Reports of declining mental health is increasing in depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and addiction. The big question is: How to cope? Is it really possible to find time for you? To build a way to relax, think, and rejuvenate without any artificial replacements?
I say, absolutely! The way to finding “me” is through ME-ditation.
Meditation means different things to different people. Renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan defines mediation as the ability to open the mind and acknowledge thoughts and senses, without showing judgment or analyzing, while embracing the unknown, through daily practice.
The benefits of meditation far outweigh any screen time on a smart phone. These include reduced depression, lowered anxiety, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, improved relaxation and sleep, and the ability to find spiritual connection. Meditation is also used in addiction recovery. Perhaps the biggest evidence of the benefits of meditation is that it improves emotional intelligence!
John Cabot Zin outlines the ABC’s:
A-Awareness: Becoming more aware of the mind and body. Thinking and doing.
B- Breathe: Allowing yourself to be with your experience. Create your story without reacting or responding. This can create compassion for yourself and others.
C- Compassion: By creating a pause between the experience and our reaction, we can make wiser choices.
Research is beginning to show that mindfulness and meditation increase our emotional intelligence and the way we monitor the emotions in others and ourselves.
Here Are Some Tips For Your Meditation Practice:
*Acknowledge you need “me” time.
*Find a quiet space
*Sit or Lay down
*Put your hand by your side
*Clear your mind
*Close your eyes, or try a sleepy gaze
*Breathe in through your nose for 5 counts
*Pause or hold for 5 counts
*Exhale through your mouth for 5 counts.
If thoughts come into your mind during your exercise, sweep them from your mind. Be aware of your body and sensations. Focus on your breath. Feel the air in your nose or mouth as you inhale and exhale. Acknowledge what you hear or smell. Feel your body relaxing. And breathe. Start with 5-10 minutes daily. The key to prolonged benefits, is to practice, practice, practice. If you fall asleep during your exercise, that’s good! You need it!
If you enjoy this simple meditation, seek out our trained therapists to deepen meditation skills and other powerful approaches to mindfulness.
To most, compassion is a commendable quality. But for some reason, this quality is limited to “others” in our culture, not often for “oneself.” Lets explore 3 possible false assumptions that may prevent us from applying compassion to oneself.
1-Self Compassion means weakness.
Susan didn’t express any painful feelings while going through her divorce. She believed she had to be “strong for the kids” and power on no matter what. This meant putting herself last and ignoring any emotional or physical needs. When Susan fell apart 3 months after the divorce was final, she wondered why she was able to be “strong” in the beginning, but then suddenly became “weak and unable to handle even the smallest tasks”. What Susan didn’t realize is that instead of being a “weakness”,
researchers are now discovering that self-compassion is one of the most powerful influences of coping and resilience, that we have available to us. How one relates to themselves when the going gets tough- as an enemy or ally-is often what determines ones ability to cope successfully.
2- Self compassion is narcissistic.
High self esteem requires standing out in a crowd-or being “above average” in the American culture. The problem of course is that it is impossible for us to be outstanding, all of the time. When we compare ourselves to those “better” than us, we will always feel like failures. An example of
this is teen bullying. One teen told me “picking on wimpy nerds boosts my self esteem and makes me feel cool”. After many sessions he finally discovered he needed to focus on himself, and ways to feel more secure, rather than his demeaning behavior towards others. Narcissism usually results in exercising power over others; self compassion is the opposite-empowering oneself so there is no need to compare or put others down.
3- Self compassion is selfish.
Some confuse self care with selfishness and assume caring of oneself automatically means neglecting everyone else. As a therapist, I am always amazed when I meet people who consider themselves to be good, generous, altruistic souls, who are perfectly awful to themselves. Caring for oneself is actually the opposite: it’s one of the most important things you can do to have healthier relationships, and it does not mean you neglect loved ones! In reality, beating yourself up can be a paradoxical
form of self centeredness. When we can be kind and nurturing to ourselves, however, many of our emotional needs are met, leaving us in a better position to focus on others. Therefore, having self compassion equals the ability to have more to give others, not less to give others.
These 3 myths often stand in the way of caring for ourselves. More information and even classes on ways to improve self care can be found at www.mindfulnessprograms.com or web search (name of State) i.e.. “Utah msar”.
Help for busy, overwhelmed women. Executive director, Julie Hanks answers your questions and offers strategies to help you carve out time for yourself.
1) Include YOU in your circle of care
Self-neglect isn’t a good long-term strategy for self-care. If you are committed to taking care of others for the long haul, then you need to include YOU as one of the people that you nurture and support.
2) Build it in
Set a recurring appointment with yourself and build in the support that you need to make it happen. Get a commitment from your husband for a certain time every week. Hire a teenage neighbor to come every Thursday afternoon for a few hours.
3) Get others on board
Let others have the opportunity to share the care giving responsibilities. If you tend to fall into the role of “caregiver” be sure to invite your family members to participate. If they are unwilling, ask extended family, your church or community group to pitch in.
4) Get creative
If you don’t have resources to hire a babysitter, you may have to get creative. Barter with a neighbor. Swap childcare for making dinner one night a week.