Improving Your Life

This year I vowed to improve my health on many levels. Last year I had a bit of a scare and had some tests run leading to acquire a diagnosis of Meniere’s Disease.  Thankfully it’s not as bad as my mind was leading me to fear.  It is something I can live with and make sure I’m taking care of my body so I don’t have to deal with it often.  I have been a little worried about food we eat for a while, and I can often get on a soapbox over nutrition while discussing it with people.  However, I continued on the same path.  Well, all that has changed this year.

January 5th I began a lifestyle change.  I read “It Starts with Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig.

Although I already knew what we consider food in this country is equal to pure junk for our bodies.  We might as well eat trash.  Most of what we consume is not natural.  I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of it.  I will just say, if this has ever been your worry read about it and make a change.

I began the Whole30 program on January 5th along with a crossfit program called HIIT that I do at home on my own.  You can read about it here.  I thought I was pretty fit prior to this, as I ran regularly.  However, there were still areas I wasn’t seeing change in.  And one thing I’ve struggled with for a while is feeling exhausted from the time I would get up until bedtime.  I’ve never been a good sleeper, especially after having kids.  I knew something had to be wrong because at 34, I still should feel pretty young.  Plus my bloodsugar has been all kinds of crazy this past year due to my hypoglycemia issues.

I’m on Day 21 right now!  I feel wonderful!  I’m committed to this change and I’m not stopping.  If you need a boost in your life and feel you have a poor relationship with food and your body, I encourage you to make a commitment to yourself.  God only gives us one physical body that has to last us our lifetime.  Shouldn’t we want only the best for it?

I will spend the next few weeks sharing my success with you as I count down to the last 9 days of my Whole30 and the beginning of my new life.  I hope to encourage you with my story of transformation!

Take Control Of Change

The holidays are wrapping up and that leads to thoughts of the New Year.  I’m not typically one to buy into the New Year’s resolutions but maybe you are, and that’s OK.  My opinion is that you can start fresh any day.  There’s no need to wait until the New Year to make a change in your life.  I have found in the past that when I have tried to make a “radical” New Year’s resolution, I often failed.  Changes have to start small and need to be intentional.  Before you go about making radical changes, here are some tips on how to set yourself up for SUCCESS.

1.  Make a list of the changes you know you need to make.

For me right now, I need to get back into my fitness routine.  I have fallen back on this due to a recent sickness I was suffering from the past month.  My go to routine is to run every other day, but right now my goal is just to do some sort of exercise every other day as running may not be doable every time for me.

I also need to clean up my diet.  I typically count calories, but I am now ordered to be on a low sodium diet due to recent health changes.  I plan to start eating clean and eating meals at home (meaning I will prepare for times I am out past lunch and bring food rather than grab fast food).

I also need to be intentional about being in God’s word daily, several times a day.  If I’m going to fight the good fight, I must be prepared mentally and spiritually.

While it’s good to have a list, don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to change all these things at one time.  Pick the biggest bang for your buck.  What is going to have the most impact.  Or you may want to start small if you are one who often sets goals and fall short  leaving you disappointed in  yourself and discouraged.  These goals of mine are things I have been doing for a long time, but I need to clean it back up a little and reset my mind and body.

2. Once you have picked a goal, set a date.

Decide when you can start this goal.  If you are working on your diet, and you have a few more holiday parties to attend, you may want to wait until those are over.  You don’t want to feel like a failure in the beginning.

3. Research how you want to make the change.

You need a good plan.  Do some research first.   Is this diet effective in the long term?  Is it short-term, and if so, what is my plan once I reach that goal?  How do I need to set up the routine for exercise?  Pinterest is a great place to find resources.  You can also follow blogs written in your area of interest.  Facebook often has groups for certain interests where you can find a community of encouragement.  Then there is Google when you just don’t know where to start.  Read books.

4. Pray about it.

God knows your needs, and he knows what we are capable of more than we do.  Give this area of concern to him.  Tell him your plans and let him guide you.

5.  Find an accountability partner.

Mine is my husband and a friend.  Find someone and tell them your goal, your plan, and your weaknesses.  Text, call, or sit down with them and talk about your struggles or successes.  If you can get someone on board to do this with you, EVEN BETTER!

OK, so what are you waiting for?  Let’s take control of our lives again by taking one step at a time!  My new start begins today.  I would love to hear your plans!

Is Bedtime more of a Battle Zone? Help for the Exhausted Parent

It’s 7:00 and you are rousing the children up to go to bed.  They are brushing their teeth in protest; taking their vitamins and getting water in protest, climbing into bed and attempting to wrestle in protest.  Although an hour ago, your child was whining and crying over tiny bumps and minor disappointments due to exhaustion, now they claim “I’m not tired”.

Do you leave the room already frustrated when lights are turned out?  Only to hear the common sound of little feet scooting down the hall to ask you for the 4th time, “will you tuck me in?”  Does your child get up minutes later asking for “just one more kiss?”  Do you find yourself biting your tongue because ‘if they get up ONE more time, they are REALLY going to regret it?!!!!’  But then of course, that one more time comes, and you once again go into the room, tuck them in, kiss them goodnight, and in a firm voice inform them “STAY in bed or you will: get a spanking/be in trouble/lose a privilege, etc, etc………  The list of threats can be exhaustive at times.

Do you ever sit and think ‘it would be nice to have a little quiet time before going to bed, if the kids would just GO TO SLEEP’.  I’m here to encourage you and myself because this is my house EVERY NIGHT.  This is an issue with consistency and limit setting.  I too feel guilt when I get frustrated and my 4 year old whispers in a sweet voice “mommy, I need another kiss?”  But when the morning after comes, I know this is a behavior not a cry for more love.  She gets kisses all day long.  This is a problem with me and my husband.  We have made it her problem just as we made it her brother’s problem when he was younger.  We struggle with what Dr. Canapari calls sleep association disorder and limit setting disorder.

Setting limits around bedtime and enforcing them doesn’t make you a mean parent who doesn’t want to love on your children.  It makes you a strong parent who knows the importance of your child and yourself getting the rest you need.  Children need 11-12 hours of sleep per night depending on age.  And I presonaly need at least 7 hours of sleep to be able to get up the next morning and function.  Intermittent sleep through the night makes us tired and drowsy the next day.  This is the case for children too, so if you have a child that falls asleep pretty easily but can’t stay asleep, this post is for you too.  There are times when my daughter falls asleep quickly and without the battle (although this is not common lately).  However, she wakes up several times per night calling out or crying for me.  I then wake up, and usually go get her and put her to bed with me.  Because of my need for sleep, I have created another problem for her.  She does not self soothe when she wakes.  She requests to lay with me, rub my arm, or rock in order to fall back asleep.  There are some nights when I am awakened because she is reaching for me trying to find my arm an hour later.

As babies, I didn’t mind the co-sleeping arrangement all that much as long as they would sleep and I got sleep.  However, with a preschooler and grade-school child, sleeping with my kids is less than fun and sweet.  I often wake up to a foot in my face or being kicked in the back.  The other night I was dreaming, and my daughter threw her arm across my face, and I jumped up because I dreamed someone slapped me.  To help encourage you, I am going to share how I am enforcing bedtime limits with my child.  I will be referencing Dr. Canari’s sleep training tools.  As well as “Sleep Sense” by Megan Faure & Ann Richardson. This is a book my children’s pediatrician recommended when my daughter was a baby, and I have returned to it several times during difficult sleep issues.  I would recommend it as a resource to keep on your bookshelf if you struggle to get enough sleep and are not a fan of the “cry it out” method.

As we set out on this journey, I would love to know what some of your bedtime struggles are.

3-2-1 Approach to Take Control of Your Anxiety

I woke up this morning feeling not so great.  My jaw and shoulders are tense.  I have a tingly sensation in my body.  I sit and think what is wrong with me?  Then I remember the bad dream I have and the people who are in it.  I’m experiencing anxiety at this moment.  I tell myself “I’m really anxious”.  So I work through ways to decrease my anxiety.

Yes!  I suffer from anxiety just like many other people do.  I’m hear to share with you ways to overcome your anxiety.  I teach adults and younger people many different techniques to manage their anxiety.

Here is my 3-2-1 Approach to Take Control of Anxiety (more…)

Why Counseling?

I have spent time counseling many different people in different socioeconomic statuses.  Individuals who have varying cultural beliefs and needs.  I have counseled individuals and families who are wholeheartedly involved in the process and see varying degrees of positive results, and I’ve worked with others who are on the opposite end of that spectrum.  Your attitude about the counseling process does affect your outcome.

So what is counseling?

1. Counseling is a process of give and take.  You give of your deepest worries, regrets, beliefs, struggles, fears, problems….  When you give of these things seeking relief, what you get back is support and understanding, empathy, compassion.  Counselors aren’t there to do the work for you though.  We aren’t there to give you advice and tell you how to handle each issue that you are dealing with.  Counselors are there to support you through the process of finding your way of resolving the conflicts you face in a healthy manner.  I find the majority of people know the answer, they are just too afraid or lack the skills to change their circumstances or patterns.  Yes, even children and teenagers often know how to resolve things in their own way, they just need someone to back them up.  When you approach counseling in this way, you get a sense of peace and understanding of your inner self.

2.  Sometimes it just helps to have someone on the outside looking in.  When you’ve tried over and over again to solve a situation with no success, it’s helpful to speak with someone who can be objective.  Someone who does not know you or your family/friends personally.  When we talk to family members or good friends about our problems, they have a personal agenda already…that’s YOU or themselves.  They are there to protect you or themselves.  A counselor doesn’t gain from your problems in any way other than seeing you successfully find solutions.  We aren’t there to judge your actions, degrade your decisions, or jump on the bandwagon of tearing down someone who has wronged you.  We are there to listen….just listen…and allow you to process what is happening in your life and focus on solutions to change what you are unhappy about.  I once had a teen who said to me matter of factly “Everyone needs counseling!”  She was not worried about others knowing she saw a counselor.  As a matter of fact, I think she was proud of herself for her work and dedication to change.

Why Should You Seek Counseling?

1. The stress in your life is beginning to affect your ability to make good decisions.  It’s affecting your family…there is tension in the home around you.  Everyone is walking on eggshells per say.  Your family is acting out due to your stress…children are more clingy/aggressive, parents are arguing over the child’s behavior, one parent is siding with the child while the other is struggling to connect, there is high conflict in the home.  Your work ethic is disintegrating due to burnout, fatigue, lack of motivation because you have so many other stressors pushing you down, or maybe your home life is disintegrating because the only relief you find is at work.

2. You or your child is engaging in self destructive behavior through the use of drugs/alcohol, sexual behavior, aggression, or self-harm.

3. No one seems to understand what you are going through, and you feel alone and lost.  You worry that your life will always be this way.  You find little meaning or direction in your life.

4. Your child/teen’s behavior has suddenly changed.  Grades are dropping, they are no longer interested in sports or activities they used to love.  They can’t maintain their attention in school.  Maybe they are acting out behaviorally at school.  They have few to no friends.

5.  You are experiencing suicidal thoughts.  If this is the case, please contact your local crisis line.   Seek help immediately.  There are several hotlines that you can call and just talk to someone.

1-800-273-TALK (8255), 

National Hopeline Network

1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433

Suicide Prevention Services Depression Hotline

630-482-9696
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week
http://www.spsamerica.org

There are many reasons to seek counseling.  It’s never too late to seek help, and it’s never too early.  I would encourage you to take the step if it’s something you’ve been contemplating.  Don’t wait until life spirals out of your control and you lose relationships that are most valuable to you.  If you feel your child may need counseling, seek someone when you begin contemplating this.  Often times parents worry their teen or child will not talk to a counselor because they don’t talk to them, but if you find the right counselor they will open up about what is going on in their life.  I find teens are often relieved to finally have someone to listen to them and not lecture them about their poor choices.  They are often the quickest to talk in my experience.

You will never regret seeking help, but you may regret never asking for help.

My Words of Advice on Difficult Conversations with Your Teen

I’ve been doing LOTS of work with teens these past 2 years in my practice.  Prior to that I worked with teens, but this time around is different.  I get to see them for who they are.  I get their trust and their innermost fears, desires, and regrets.  I am blessed to be doing what I love and helping these young people.

My problem is, I am seeing that as a society, we are failing these young people.  We have created a world (with our high tech gadgets, impersonal social society, distant relationships with God if you even believe in God, sex crazed media, and poor values) that is difficult to maneuver for immature minds and fiercely hormonal bodies.  We have very high expectations for them with little back up to support them.

I have parents come to me crying and worrying their girls are going to become pregnant or engage in sex.  The sad thing is that I see kids who are so mixed up in their beliefs because of what they see in the world. How can we ensure what we are teaching them about sex is what they understand when that is all they see around them?  Have you seen some of the television shows geared towards this age group?  Seriously, have you?  If you aren’t watching what your teens are watching, I advise you to check it out.  And yes, these shows are on Channels like Nickelodeon.  Networks devoted toward children and teens are airing shows that, if you have Christian values in your home, you better be monitoring that TV.

Another question I often get from parents is how their child can say they are “bisexual”.  I’m seeing this become a trend with young people.  They are confused about their feelings for their best friends.  Friends that are the same sex.  Yes, they still like the opposite sex, but now they think they like the same sex too.  I find myself pondering on this dilemma often because it’s becoming more and more prevalent.  Most of the young people I see this in are struggling to find love from anyone.  They’ve been hurt by people who should love them the most, and they seek affection anywhere they can find it.  And again, I’m seeing that this world is gearing people towards acceptance of this type of culture.  Where in the past, it was an abomination to be “gay” and no one talked about it, and now that’s all you hear about.  People are on television portraying same sex relationships on almost every show, female artists are singing about how they “kissed and girl” and liked it.  And here we are wondering why our teens are becoming so confused about their sexuality.  So my second piece of advice is: keep monitoring that TV but you also need to monitor their music.  Music is a necessity, I believe, for most teens.  It is how they relate to themselves and the world around them.  However, if they are listening to music that sounds good to them but the lyrics are conflicting with what you teach them, that is an equation for disaster.

Finally, let’s talk about how you as the parent/guardian can support them.  Young people often hide things from their parents for fear of getting into trouble.  We tell them to talk to us about what’s going on in their lives or to talk to us (parents) when they are confused about things they want or are being pressured to do.  However, when they come to us with this information as we have encouraged them to do, we then begin lecturing them and badgering them to tell us everything.  Sometimes consequences are administered to prevent them from continuing to do something deemed inappropriate or to prevent them from engaging in something they are thinking about.  So in their minds, they are being punished for doing exactly what we want them to do, which is to come to us with their problems.  I believe some parents wonder why their children come to me with honesty but won’t tell them anything.  It’s because they know I am not going to judge them and I’m not going to lecture them.  That isn’t to say I haven’t responded in this way before, but if I do, you can believe they are going to shut down.  So my advice to you is to give them guidance, but also you need to LISTEN to them.  Listen to their fears, their conflict, their ideas about the issue.  Many teens know the right thing to do, but they need to talk it out with someone to ensure they know what the right thing is.  At times, they aren’t planning to do what you think they are, some of them are very wise, but they need to talk about it.  You can react negatively to this, and a teen who was not planning to act on their thoughts will as an act of defiance because you didn’t trust them.  I’ve seen this happen.  Listen to them!  Ask them questions about what they think on the issue.  Listen to their thoughts.

My last piece of advice is to talk about issues.  Talk to your teens.  Don’t dodge topics on sex, alcohol/drugs, or other difficult conversations.  If you do, you are losing a chance to ensure they are making sound decisions.  And start early…These issues are not beginning at ages 15 and 16 anymore.  They are beginning in the preteens.  Ages that, in my time, you never talked about it.  They are being pressured before puberty hits sometimes.  Once again, this just shows how much we are failing our young people when their once young ages were only worried about Barbie dolls and transformers, and now they are already hit with information about sex and drugs.

This post is not meant to discourage you but to wake you up to these issues.  Be the parent!  Take control of the direction your children are driving towards.  Don’t say to yourself: “it’s her phone and she has it locked”; “I don’t know the password to her FB page and he has me blocked”; “they stay in their rooms with the door closed”.  No excuses, take control before someone else does and you lose them to the things you want to prevent.

We have to fight for our children so they can live strong adult lives.  We have to advocate for their needs.  Let’s do this together.

Welcome To My New Space

Hello and welcome to my professional blog spot.  Blogging is a hobby I developed a couple years ago, and I thought it would be helpful to offer a more professional blogging experience to readers who may need insight into counseling services or resources to help with issues they may be experiencing.  I would like to provide helpful tips on dealing with parenting struggles, children’s needs, managing stress, and increasing cohesiveness in your family.  

I have been a counselor since 2003.  I began my career working with families in their homes who had children at risk of entering state’s custody due to high risk behaviors.  I have experience in Crisis Management and have worked as a Supervisor and Consultant for counseling over several counties in the state of TN through a mental health agency.  I have a strong passion for children and teens and focus on this population.  However, it is my belief that families/parents have to be involved in this process as well.  

Please feel free to leave comments or contact me through this blog.