I was just reliving my younger years as I worked on the Teen Angst playlist for Spotify, as inspired by my novel “Don’t Try to Find Me.” Adolescence, for many, involves overwhelming emotion, in part because so many of the emotions feel new as well as intense. What’s the best way to understand and cope with all these emergent feelings? In some ways, that’s the key developmental task of adolescence.
But for some people, the struggle continues on into adulthood. They might hear themselves called “oversensitive”‘; they might often feel misunderstood or invalidated as a result. This can lead to a difficult spiral that actually intensifies emotions that already feel like too much to handle.
So where to start?
I know this might sound oxymoronic: If a crisis is sudden, how can we prepare?
There are ways to strengthen yourself and your relationships so that you (and they) will bear up better under the strain of a crisis. Here are some ideas on how to increase your resilience.
I realized after I wrote the title that it sounds like one of those Fox specials (“When Animals Attack!”). But I’m sticking with it because sometimes family time can feel just that scary.
Okay, maybe not that scary. But I know for myself that sometimes I feel a little anxious before embarking on a family excursion, especially one with more ambition (you drive farther, you pay higher admission prices, you up the ante because today is going to be SO MUCH FUN!)
And then it’s not. But maybe it can be salvaged. Here are some thoughts on how.
This feels like an especially relevant topic for me at the moment. I haven’t written this blog for over a week because I just plum forgot. Life got away from me. In trying to juggle so many roles (mother, therapist, writer, wife, blogger…), sometimes things just drop. I imagine some of you reading feel similarly.
So I offer the following tips with full recognition of just how hard it is to do them. You know the old saying: Those who can’t do, write mental health blogs.
But maybe they can help you perform your juggling act a bit better.
But awareness is where better starts. So here we go:
1) Doing too much for your toddler.
What I mean is, doing what they should be learning to do for themselves. An example would be picking up their toys for them as they flounce on to the next thing, instead of insisting that every time, they clean up first.
I’m guilty of this one sometimes. It just seems like too much work to make her do it, and she seems so happy and excited about the next thing. What’s the harm ,really?
2) The harm is the inconsistency. We’re teaching our kids all the time, even when we don’t realize it.
Behavior modification is a regular part of life. We’re teaching children how to treat us and others by what we pay attention to and what we ignore.
A basic rule of behavior modification is this: Behaviors that are intermittently reinforced are the most resistant to change. What that means is, if I tell my daughter to do something and I let her ignore me 20% of the time, then she might try to get away with it 100% of the time. She’s learning that it works sometimes, so why not try her luck? This could be one of those times.
That’s why it is important to have her put her toys away 100% of the time. It’s the rule; she has to follow it, even if I feel tired. Because I don’t want her to learn that when Mommy’s tired, she can just do whatever she wants.
And always remember, they’re smart cookies, these toddlers. Like I said, learning all the time, just not necessarily what we’re trying to teach.
3) Using redirection all the time, and avoiding a simple “no.”
It’s hard to say no to your toddler. For one thing, they often don’t take it well (tantrums and the like). For another, we like to see our kids happy, and “no” is not likely to produce that …
I’ve been spending a good percentage of my sessions with clients this past week talking about how they will deal with their families when they all get together for the holidays. While in theory the holidays are about good tidings and cheer, in practice for some people, they’re about stress and difficult personalities. I’ve got some suggestions for how to cope.
Yes, it can be the most wonderful time of the year. It can also be the most stressful. With stress can come irritability, and it can mean conflict with your partner just when you need his or her love and support the most.
I’ve got some ideas for how to pull out of this damaging cycle, so you can enjoy each other and the holidays.
It seems like life speeds up from November through January. And it’s easy to get caught up in the cyclone. But here are some suggestions for how to stay calm in the holiday storm.
1) Set realistic expectations for yourself.
If you have a new baby, for example, don’t plan to host Christmas dinner. Or if you do, make it a potluck.
Even if you don’t have a new baby or what you might think of as some other valid excuse but you want to scale back, give yourself permission. Generally, people are understanding of others. The trick is how to be understanding of yourself, and respect your own limitations.
2) If people want to be judgmental, screw ‘em.
This goes hand in hand with #1. Since most people understand that you’re sometimes going to do less, the ones who don’t are not your problem. Well, they are something of a problem, but it’s a manageable one. The way to manage it: Screw ‘em.
Sometimes we push ourselves too hard because we’re imagining what our harshest critics would say. Instead, think about what the majority of people would say, the ones who love and care about our well-being and sanity.
3) Organize, and prioritize.
If life is moving so fast that you feel like you just need to try to keep up and you don’t have time for organizing and prioritizing, rethink that. The time spent getting organized will be well worth it in the long run. It’ll save you unnecessary stress and trips.
4) Take advantage of the vast online retail world, with its ability to compare prices and the many free shipping deals.
You’re not being lazy; you’re being smart. And you’re being eco-conscious by not having to drive around.
5) Use coping skills.
Mindfulness and breathing exercises can be your best friends. Here’s a great quick guide: http://helpguide.org/mental/stress_relief_meditation_yoga_relaxation.htm
You don’t need to do it all. Rely on your partner. If your kids are old enough, ask them to pitch in. Other people like to feel valuable. And they probably like that you’re not getting as snippy because you’re not as stressed out and overwhelmed.
Sometimes people …
As a married mother, a therapist, and a novelist, I’d like to think my worst rejections are behind me. (Wouldn’t we all like to think that?) But small rejections abound every day.
We can feel rejected by our kids who, despite our best efforts, only want Daddy; we can feel rejected at work, where we’re not in with a certain clique, or where our contributions are not recognized; we can feel rejected by our spouses, who miss our cues or overlook our offerings; we can feel rejected by friends who get busy, or by people we wish would be our friends.
Most of us shake these off, most of the time. But how to handle the ones that prove unusually sticky?