Have a thankful week, Chaps!
Katie & Kristi
I finished watching Westlake's production of Back to Oz and it was all based on kindness! If you have time this weekend, I highly recommend it for the whole family. It was a great end to World Kindness Day and Week here at WHS!
Also, I saw this article come through on my facebook feed this week. Several of these books have been on my list to read but there are some new ones that I had not heard of. As we head into the gratitude season, kindness is always something we can strive to be every day, with every interaction. I think I may start with UnSelfie.
I always feel happier and kinder when I practice daily gratitude. It's quite simple. Before bed, we all go around and say something that we were grateful for that day. It really creates space for all of us to be present, reflect on our day, and find something positive. Even on what feels like the worst day, we can all find something. And the best part of this is that it really takes no time. There's tons of research about how a daily gratitude practice can also rewire your brain! So why not give it a try!?
Here's a quick mindfulness practice to do with your child or even just try it for yourself.
Stay Kind and Grateful, Chaps!
Katie and Kristi
I don't know about y'all but this semester is just flying right on by! Today is Halloween and by the time most people read this, it'll be November 1st and time to think about Thanksgiving!
While we hope the year has been a great one, we wanted to take a second and just slow down to highlight a couple resources we think have been excellent to help the remainder of this semester go by smoothly.
Our Speaker Series has had an amazing turnout! Thank YOU parents! We have all the presentations, handouts, and videos posted here. However, we easily have all presentations as PODCASTS! Get your listen on in the car or while you're working out!
We also had a wonderful turn out for the NAMI - Let's Talk: Starting the mental health conversation with your teen presentation this past Monday. We will have the video presentation and all handouts on the website next week!
Additionally, Austin Child Guidance Center has been offering some wonderful parent series this year as well. There's at least one let - managing tantrums and meltdowns - and even if your child is in high school, this is still important information to learn!
If you've found a great resource in the community - let us know!!
We hope that your family has a wonderful and safe Halloween! Know that it's intentional that we are choosing to "slow down" this week because we really want to focus on the here and now and gratitude as we move into November and Thanksgiving!
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
-Kristi and Katie
I thought this interview was so interesting. I love playing games so it's win for me!
"We all want to raise smart, successful kids, so it's tempting to play Mozart for our babies and run math drills for kindergartners. After all, we need to give them a head start while they're still little sponges, right?
"It doesn't quite work that way," says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University and co-author of Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children with Roberta Golinkoff. She's been studying childhood development for almost 40 years.
So how does it work? You need the "six C's" for kids to succeed -
"It turns out that you learn better when things are joyful than when they're not joyful. So I bet your kids would help you a whole lot more if you made a game from the darks and the whites in that laundry room. Maybe you just have to throw it from different lines: a three-point line, two-point line, maybe even have the three-quarter-point line and the one-quarter-point line, and then they do fractions, right?
Play is active, not passive. And it turns out the way we learn is active, not passive. When we're sitting there like a couch potato we aren't learning as much as when we're doing.
It should be meaningful as opposed to meaningless, so when we're memorizing flashcards stuff, that's not play.
Generally, play is socially interactive as opposed to solo.
And it's iterative. That means each time you revisit it, there's something new to discover about it. I think you can have true play where the kid is the director, not the adult. And adults out there, don't interfere by jumping in and deciding what's going on with your child's play. Help by setting the environment and going with their story and supporting it."
So turn off those electronics and pull out the games!
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
-Katie & Kristi
Fall in Texas means football and football means homecoming and homecoming means mums (which did you know are primarily a Texas thing?). Homecoming also means dresses, dinner reservations, party buses/limos, and parties (both pre-graming and the after party). We want to make sure that parents are educated in providing a fun but safe homecoming experience for their teenagers!
Did you know that when a teen admits to drinking, they aren't admitting to drinking the same way an adult drinks? Teens chronically are binge drinking. Binge drinking is much more dangerous than casual/social drinking. This article explains the dangers of binge drinking and how to talk to your child about their drinking habits!
What's a parent to do? SAMHSA recommends to "Talk. They Hear You.", with the following goals in mind:
Three Things To Remind Your Students About Alcohol:
Don't be a afraid to talk to your kids - they are listening and they DO want your support!
Often times an easy location to binge drink is on the party bus/limo ride over to dinner, the game, or the after party. Here are some tips on what to look out for if your child is celebrating with a party bus!
We also want to remind parents (and their teens) about services like Uber, Lyft, Fasten, Yellow Cab, and BeMyDD because there is no "good" reason to drink and drive OR be a passenger in a car when someone else has been drinking!
Homecoming CAN be an amazing, memorable, fun, and safe time. Make sure you are talking with your teen so that they can enjoy this homecoming and future events too!
Kristi Waidhofer and Katie Bryant
October 10th is World Mental Health Day! It's time we start talking about it like any other medical issue.
Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran have teamed up in a video to raise awareness for World Mental Health Day -- with a light-hearted jibe at their own plight as Britain's most famous redheads.
"There's no need to suffer in silence -- share how you're feeling, ask how someone is doing and listen for the answer. Be willing to ask for help when you need it and know that we are all in this together."
This shows how we treat mental illness so differently from a physical illness. We blogged about this a few years back.
I firmly believe that medication and therapy should be options to consider when looking at treating mental issues. But there are others changes we came make that can help us to feel and function better. I also hear a lot from parents that they don't know if it's "really that bad." Here is a great article about getting outside and how physical activity can help!
We hope you can join us at the event below!
Below is a great list to have on hand when you or anyone around you is feeling down -
Images can be so powerful since mental health issues we may be experiencing can often times be hard to explain -
Happy World Mental Health Day, Chaps! We are here for YOU!
-Katie & Kristi
New research looks into how mindfulness and compassion-focused therapy can help treat depression, anxiety and stress.
People who are feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed are often ruminating on other things. The very act of being able to slow down and give our attention only to the "here and now" and be kind to ourselves through this process as well - frees individuals from being stuck emotionally.
Curious to know if you're excelling in this area? Take a Quick Self Compassion Quiz to learn more!
If you find that you're in need of some self-compassion improvement - be kind to yourself and check out a couple more ideas here!
Stay Healthy (and compassionate), Chaps!
-Kristi and Katie
This article has be floating around facebook this week and it's too good not to share. This part really stood out to me -
‘It’s important to be kind. You can’t know all the times that you’ve hurt people in tiny, significant ways. It’s easy to be cruel without meaning to be. There’s nothing you can do about that. But you can choose to be kind. Be kind.’
I don't know why sometimes it is easier to be mean or just not very nice to people. Maybe because it makes us feel too vulnerable. Maybe it's completely unintentional and we have no idea how we come across to other people. Regardless, it's a good reminder that our actions or lack there of can make a huge impact in someone's life.
Check out all these scientific benefits to being Kind! This podcast was pretty interesting!
I'm glad the district has chosen to take on Kindness as the theme this year. Kindness comes in all shapes and sizes, it's something we call can do to try to make Eanes a healthier, happier, better place.
Stay Kind, Chaps!
-Katie & Kristi
At this point your student has probably had at least one test in all of their classes. We always like to remind students not to put too much stock into their performance on the first tests because part of it is learning your teacher's testing style, learning what sticks out to them as important, and understanding how much time you need to give yourself to prepare for each subject test. So while it can feel like the end of the world - it isn't. It's just feedback to be able to move forward and prepare for the next tests!
"Failure is data; it helps you figure out what you need to learn, and what strategies you could use to help you perform." (Excellent article worth reading!!)
Furthermore, when a student is stressed out about their academics (or any life stressor for that matter) they quite literally cannot learn or perform to their best ability.
As the trusted adults in their lives we can help guide them to perform better! For example, praising their effort versus commenting on "natural ability". A parent that attempts to motivate their kid by telling them they are "smart and can do it!" is a lovely sentiment but when things get hard, these compliments begin to get confusing because in the mind of the student, "If I'm so smart, why isn't this easier??" This is where we need to change our motivation tactic to praising their EFFORT. "You worked so hard!" "I saw how much time you put into that assignment!"
“'Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” said Dweck. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success.” So how can we recognize and reward effort — without letting our kids fall back into a fixed mindset? The key is sharing the right kind of praise a lot and with impact. It’s not enough to just say, “Good job.” We need to notice, name, and nourish.
These strategies work best with younger kids, who will speak frankly with their parents about what they’re thinking and feeling. Teenagers can be a little trickier. At this age, they’re gravitating away from parents and toward peers, and you may feel like there’s a widening gap between you and your kid. If this sounds like you, try reminding your child of past growth experiences when he gets frustrated.
“How can I help my child when he gets ‘stuck’? What do I do when he just gives up and shuts down?” When I get this question, I remind parents that when the brain is overwhelmed with stress, it goes into “fight or flight” mode. For many kids, particularly those with ADHD, “flight” generally means “freeze” — they shut down completely and their brains won’t learn. When too much stress happens, learning can’t take place, so it’s important for parents to recognize when children need to be comforted or left alone — not expected to continue with their work.
Be sure to read on in this article to learn more about supporting your student during the hard times!!
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
-Kristi Waidhofer and Katie Bryant
Did you know that for young Texans ages 15-34, suicide is the second leading cause of death? Or that for every completed suicide there are 25 suicide attempts??
Parents can play a key role in early detection of warning signs and behaviors indicating that a child may be considering suicide. Trouble focusing, increased withdrawal from family, friends and school, a lack of interest in favorite activities and risk-taking behaviors are a few signs that indicate suicide risk.
Research has found that about 90% of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness. A number of other things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:
This year we are challenging everyone to #BeThe1To ASK, BE THERE, KEEP THEM SAFE, HELP THEM CONNECT, FOLLOW UP.
ASK - Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce suicidal ideation.
BE THERE - Individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful by after speaking to someone who listens without judgment.
KEEP THEM SAFE - A number of studies have indicated that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline, and frequently suicide rates overall decline.
HELP THEM CONNECT - Studies indicate that helping someone at risk create a network of resources and individuals for support and safety can help them take positive action and reduce feelings of hopelessness.
FOLLOW UP - Studies have also shown that brief, low cost intervention and supportive, ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention, especially for individuals after they have been discharged from hospitals or care services.
Take it from your kids!!
To support our students we are asking all Westlake students to download A Friend Asks on to their iPads. A Friend Asks is a user-friendly app to learn more about the warning signs of suicide and mental health illness and how to access help! We recommend that parents download this app as well as it's extremely informative.
As always we want to make sure everyone has access to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number. Download this card to carry in your wallet or save the number into your phone!
Additional resources for HELPING THEM CONNECT to have saved in your phone!
Crisis Text Line - Text “HELLO” to 741-741
National Suicide Hotline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Trevor Lifeline
MCOT – Mobile Crisis Outreach Team
Finally, just a reminder that there is tons of support at school. Contact us at any time!
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
-Kristi Waidhofer and Katie Bryant
Now that school is in full swing, that means so are all the after-school activities. Our students have so many great opportunities but it is impossible to do it all. We also want to continue to stress the importance of PDF - playtime, downtime, family time. Sometimes we forget that adolescents still need all three of these!
This is a great article and reminders to not over-schedule yourself and your child! Getting enough sleep can feel like a non-stop battle for all of us. But the research continues to show how important it is. Here are some great suggestions:
• Establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Try not to deviate from this too much, even on weekends or days off.
• Establish a routine. Try to follow the same routine each night before bed. A good one for younger children is the 3 B’s — take a bath, brush teeth and read a book.
• Limit screen time before bed. TV and other electronics are stimulating to the brain. The “blue light” can suppress melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Turn off all devices 1 hour before bedtime. A good solution: Set up a family overnight charging area for smartphones and tablets in an area far from the bedroom.
• Don’t force yourself to sleep. If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something calming, then return to your bed when you feel tired. Some ideas are reading a book, writing in a journal, drawing, listening to music, or taking a warm bath.
• Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine at least four hours before bed. Consuming these substances can hinder your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
• Avoid napping. If your child likes to come home from school and crash, try to keep them from doing this if possible. If not, limit naps to 30 minutes or less.
• Only use your bed for sleeping. Using your bed for watching TV, using a smartphone or working will lead your body to associate your bed with these activities. If you reserve your bed solely for sleeping, your body will recognize this and hopefully fall asleep easier.
• Exercise and eat well. Being active during the day and eating healthy are both vital to better quality sleep. However, you should avoid eating big meals and strenuous exercise two hours before bed.
• Sleep in a comfortable environment. Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature, quiet and dark. Darkness promotes sleep and healthy levels of melatonin.
If you can try to implement as many of these suggestions as possible, you should notice big improvements in your sleep habits. If the whole family follows these guidelines, everyone will be more healthy, productive and agreeable!
Our Challenge Success page has a ton of information if you want more on sleep!
If you find that your student or family is already over-scheduled and not getting enough sleep, our time management tool is a great way to look at your week and make adjustments. There's no time like the present.
Stay Healthy & Rested, Chaps!
Katie & Kristi
ILLUSTRATION: MIKE GORMAN
Truly, welcome back Chaps! We do hope that you had an incredible summer filled with tons of memories made and enough down time to have you rested and ready to take on a brand new school year.
For ALL the goods on starting off on the right foot, be sure to read everything in this blog! It won't steer you wrong!
As a reminder, students are welcome to come see us any time by either dropping by the 250 suite between classes, asking their teachers' permission, or coming in before school starts. Parents are invited to make an appointment with us via email.
Parents - don't miss out on the Speaker Series. It's chalk full of great information to help you and your student(s) live the best and healthiest lives. If you can't make a presentation it will be available online via video or podcast within 24 hours.
And finally, here's a webinar all about setting up that back to school routine again and overcoming the obstacles that are sure to come!
It's going to be an excellent year and we can't wait to support you through it!
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
-Kristi and Katie
The finish line is in sight and we want to make sure our students are finishing out the school year healthy and strong! Revisit some of our favorite posts that discuss key components to achieving this goal!
Be proud of how far you have come, your student has come, your family as come during this time period. Gratitude and self-compassion is a huge tool that leads to a healthy and strong mind and body!
Sleep...Your Memory is Counting on It!
Final Exams - It Doesn't Have to be a Scary Time!
AP, STAAR, and Final Exams!
Anxiety Stands No Chance in May!
And because the last day of school will be here in the blink of the eye, we want to make sure everyone has a wonderful, fun, safe, memory filled summer! Check out some of our best tips on how to achieve that summer!
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
Dear WHS Parents,
Back in the fall semester, PeaceBox: Mindfulness on the Move made its debut on campus after being donated to our campus as a part of the PeaceBox “Summer of Giving” program*. Over 400 students, staff, and community members visited the PeaceBox to learn quick mindfulness tools intended to reduce stress, improve focus, and enhance wellness.
Our students are currently tackling AP and STAAR testing and are gearing up to finish out strong during finals. In order to assist our students with this we have lined up a couple stress-reduction activities for “dead week”. The PeaceBox will be back on campus at the Chap Court on Tuesday, May 21st from 8am to 6pm. Additionally, Teen Teachers are working to bring emotional support dogs to campus next week as well.
WHS students, staff, and parents will have the option to participate in complimentary mindfulness exercises ranging from 5 to 20 minutes in length. Students will have access to the PeaceBox with teacher permission during the school day and their lunch periods. The PeaceBox will also be open to the community from 8am until the school bell rings at 8:50am and again from 4:15pm until 6pm.
If you do not want your child to visit the PeaceBox please email Student Support Counselor Kristi Waidhofer .
The partnership with PeaceBox began last year when Westlake High School PTO funded a 6-week Mindfulness@Schools training offered by PeaceBox. Sixteen WHS counselors and teachers participated and received certificates of completion. Eanes ISD has a district wide initiative to keep focus on our educational objectives of communication (respect, civility, and tolerance), SEL - Social Emotional Learning (respect for all, empathy resilience), and innovation (always striving for best practice). We believe this evolving partnership with PeaceBox will continue to advance us in each direction.
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, Stacy Thrash, owner of PeaceBox, presented at our Speaker Series in the fall and her presentation is here. More information about PeaceBox can be found at https://peacebox.com.
*PeaceBox Summer of Giving program:
Austin-area Businesses partner with PeaceBox to donate "PEACE DAYS" mindfulness education and practice to eligible schools. For every 2 days an employer hires PeaceBox to train their employees, one PEACE DAY will be donated to an eligible school.
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
It has been a FABULOUS year of Speaker Series presentations. If you missed one or just want to revisit a presentation, they are all available in the Good Reads section.
This week I had to dedicate the blog to this Speaker Series presentation because it was just so good! Even if you don't have seniors YET, it's never too early to begin learning to this advice!
Take a watch and enjoy!
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
May is an awesome month. It means summer is quite literally just around the corner. However, to get to summer we have to first take on APs and final exams. Keeping ourselves in a calm and compassionate state of mind is the best way to take everything on! This post is all about gratitude, kindness, forgiveness and compassion. These attitudes support a strong sense of well-being and will help you sail more smoothly through any turbulent seas you may encounter in daily life.
Research has shown that these positive attitudes can be cultivated, and that even if you don’t actually feel these feelings while doing these exercises, the intention to feel them is enough to bring some benefit. Phew! Give them a try!
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
This post is for those with a stressful job. It’s likely that your place of work has a culture of busy-ness. By this, I mean that your office is hectic, everyone has massive to-do lists, and people are extremely busy— your boss may even be too busy to give you feedback. More and more recently, the American workplace culture has been defined by an incessant call for productivity. The attitude is that if you’re busy, you’re important. You’re needed. A never-ending to-do list, working lunches, and email answering from your cell phone at midnight are characteristic traits. Everyone wants to feel valued and respected in their professions, but constantly allowing yourself to be swamped can get unhealthy very quickly. Brené Brown, an esteemed professor at the University of Houston, calls this culture “exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.”
People who consider themselves workaholics might recognize that their work-life balance is disproportionate, but come up short with solutions. Often, those people feel too stressed to adequately enjoy quality time with their friends or families. They may even feel guilty when they do non-work-related activities, feeling preoccupied with emails that are piling up or a project with an approaching due date that needs their attention.
Brené Brown was interviewed in this Washington Post article, and she explained this concept further:
“One of the things that I found [in her research] was the importance of rest and play, and the willingness to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth. A lot of people told me that when they put their work away and when they try to be still and be with family, sometimes they feel like they’re coming out of their skins. They’re thinking of everything they’re not doing, and they’re not used to that pace. So when we make the transition from crazy-busy to rest, we have to find out what comforts us, what really refuels us, and do that. We deserve to not just put work away and be in service of someone else. What’s really meaningful for us? What do we want to be doing? That happens not just in work culture, I see it even with teenagers who now have four and five hours of homework and go to bed at one in the morning. We don’t know who we are without productivity as a metric of our worth. We don’t know what we enjoy, and we lose track of how tired we are.”
To practice self-care and establish an appropriate work-life balance, setting boundaries might be necessary. Brené Brown said:
“We have to encourage people to set boundaries around their work and respect them when they hold them. And I think as leaders we have to model that. One thing that I tell people all the time is, I’m not going to answer a call from you after nine o’clock at night or before nine o’clock in the morning unless it’s an emergency. To me, a leader is someone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes. And so what I think is really important is sustainability. If it’s crunch time and from Tuesday morning through Wednesday night all bets are off, then there should be some real boundary holding Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. When people just don’t make themselves available, I think it’s healthy, and I think it’s smart.”
It’s great to be devoted to your job (or, if you're a student, to school), and it’s even better to consistently make efforts to do your best. We all need our jobs: we have bills to pay and mouths to feed! But if you’ve been feeling like your job has infected the rest of your life, do yourself (and your loved ones) a favor by taking a step back and setting some healthy boundaries.
Since setting boundaries is much easier said than done, here are some good reads with solid tips on how to do this:
--Kirsten Dalquist, MSSW Intern
This is a timely article as we begin to prepare for APs and finals.
We can guide students to avoid ineffective studying habits in favor of ones that will increase their learning outcomes.
Below is a summary of the 5 HIGH-INTENSITY STUDY HABITS - Researchers have found that the following techniques increase sustainable learning and retention when incorporated in students’ daily study habits. These techniques are difficult and require effort, and they slow down learning. Initially the learning gains seem to be smaller than with some ineffective practices. However, these techniques lead to long-term mastery.
2. Spaced practice
4. Interleaving practice
5. Paraphrasing and reflecting
Only 7 weeks left!
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
Confidence is coveted but sometimes hard to achieve. Social media has made it very easy for us to compare ourselves to others, which is a surefire way to lose confidence in ourselves. We might see a picture of someone who we perceive to be more attractive than us. Or we might see someone posting about positive feedback that they received at work, which might make us doubt our own abilities if we are less prone to receiving positive feedback. Such comparison facilitates a lack of confidence in ourselves and our abilities.
Confidence makes us happier, feel more positive, and attracts other people to us. I believe that, for the most part, we all want to be confident. But the truth is that a great number of us are self-critical and have low self-esteem. Some people may think it would be impossible to ever be confident in themselves. Maybe an all-encompassing, permanent confidence in every aspect of yourself is impossible-- we all need to critically appraise ourselves every once in a while-- but raising your confidence levels is both possible and within your control. If you want to be a more confident, self-assured person, here are some tips that may help you reach your goal.
Tips for increasing confidence:
Because confidence is sometimes misconstrued as arrogance, I just want to point out that it is possible to be confident:
--Kirsten Dalquist, MSSW Intern
For many teenagers, food has become an enemy. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that approximately ten out of one hundred young women suffer from an eating disorder. Disordered eating is a problem for young men as well. The American Psychiatric Association defines eating disorders as “illnesses in which people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. People with eating disorders typically become preoccupied with food and their body weight.” Our blog post a few years back has facts and resources about disordered eating. Check it out if you, your teenager, or someone you know is affected.
Sufferers of binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa often feel out of control during an episode. They might consume very large quantities of food without enjoying it or tasting it, but feel unable to stop.
Even those who do not suffer from binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa may experience this phenomenon occasionally. Life is busy, and oftentimes, people consume food absentmindedly-- in front of the television; while checking emails; or out of boredom. It seems that, more and more these days, no one has time to sit down and enjoy a meal. When was the last time you savored the food you were eating?
Mindful eating is the practice of devoting one’s entire attention to the experience of eating, noticing the tastes, textures, smells, colors, and look of the food, as well as tuning into how one’s body feels while consuming it. Is the food nourishing? What does it feel like to feel half-full? All the way full? Psychology Today describes that in mindful eating, “we also pay attention to the mind. While avoiding judgement or criticism, we watch when the mind gets distracted, pulling away from full attention to what we are eating or drinking. We watch the impulses that arise after we've taken a few sips or bites: to grab a book, to turn on the TV, to call someone on our cell phone, or to do web search on some interesting subject. We notice the impulse and return to just eating.”
The following exercise in mindful eating may be helpful for eating disorder sufferers and distracted eaters alike. This exercise is taken from “The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress” by John Teasdale, Mark Williams, and Zindel Segal. I highly recommend this workbook to anyone interested in learning the benefits of mindfulness-- this isn’t the first time I’ve written a blog post about something I found in the book, and it won’t be the last!
Mindfully Eating a Raisin:
You will need a few raisins for this experiment in mindfulness. Settle yourself comfortably in a place where there is a good light and you will not be disturbed. Then guide yourself slowly through the practice. Take your time, allowing long pauses between instructions, giving at least 10 minutes to the whole meditation.
What was your experience like? Maybe it felt a bit silly. Even so, you probably had an entirely different experience than you usually have while eating. Bringing mindfulness to the everyday, mundane activity of food consumption helps us check in with ourselves-- how are we feeling? How much, or how little, food do we need in this moment? When we are mindful, we are in control. We can see our thoughts and feelings more clearly, and act upon them accordingly. According to Teasdale, Williams, and Segal, when we are not mindful, “the mind has its own agenda. On automatic pilot, old habits of mind set the agenda and can take us places we might not choose to go.”
Eating mindfully does not necessarily mean that you have to eat more slowly. It simply means that you pay attention to what you’re eating, how you’re feeling, and what you’re thinking. This probably isn’t possible for every meal we eat, but implementing mindfulness into our mealtime routines occasionally can help us feel more in tune with our bodies and more in control over our actions.
Stay healthy, Chaps!
--Kirsten Dalquist, MSSW Intern
Thank goodness, spring break is finally here! While we hope that it is an entirely restful break for you, we wanted to leave you with a few tips to make sure you got the best "bang for your buck!"
Mindfulnes.org shares,"There’s a reason why the saying exists: I need a vacation from my vacation. Research suggests that the benefits of time off can wane within a week of returning to work. A 2010 study of 1,500 vacationers and non-vacationers suggested that those who went on vacation were not actually happier when they returned than their non-vacationing counterparts.
The key difference between the two cohorts, the researchers found, was in the planning: vacationers who injected more relaxing experiences into their vacation time reported higher levels of post-trip happiness. Additionally, researchers saw vacationer pre-trip happiness as an “indication of vacationers looking forward to their holiday.”
So it might not just be the holiday that counts — it’s how you plan the vacation. Consider incorporating these three mindfulness tips to maximize your next vacation (or weekend).
1) Create unstructured time
Usually on a vacation — or if it’s a “staycation” — we have a long list of things we want to do, and things we want to see. Practice dropping the “To Do” list at times and just notice your surroundings. See how this not only enhances your vacation but also sometimes brings the vacation home.
2) Take time to meditate
Bring your meditation practice on your vacation. Researchers at a Harvard medical school did a study where they compared people who went away on a six-day vacation versus people who went away on a meditation retreat. What they found was both groups had positive impacts on stress reduction and their immune functioning and the group that went on the retreat — who took time for more self reflection and meditation and yoga — saw a longer impact. So what’s the takeaway here. If you’re going to go on a vacation see if you can integrate meditation to really double up on that impact.
3) Linger on the good
Vacations are temporary. See if you can hold difficult moments lightly. In other words, practice being graceful during the difficult moments and practice savoring and being grateful for the wonderful moments that are there and seeing if you do notice good moments, allowing yourself to linger in them for a little bit longer."
Stay Mindful and RELAX, Chaps!
Happy International Women’s Day (March 8), Chaps! We hope you get the chance to check out Westlake Theatre’s production of The Women of Lockerbie this Friday at 7pm!
This blog post is for all the ladies. In the spirit of celebrating women, let’s take a moment to point out that even though our culture often uses its standards of physical beauty to measure the success or importance of women, women are so much more than how they physically appear to others. Instead of measuring your worth by how you look, which is largely out of your control, we suggest that you make an effort to be proud of yourself today for the things you do have control over, including:
Furthermore, sometimes, we “learn that having certain traits, being a member of a particular group, and being who we are, are not good enough or are not desirable. Sometimes, we even learn to hate our traits, our groups, [or] ourselves.” You may see this internalized oppression in some of your female friends, who, for example, may believe that they are not cut out to be as successful as their male colleagues. Or, you may hear a woman prefacing her contributions to discussions with “This may be a stupid question, but--” or “I could be wrong, but--.” Such admissions of self-doubt are not always, but can be, manifestations of hundreds of years of oppression against women that taught that women are not as intelligent as men.
Another facet of internalized oppression is biased views or beliefs toward others in your category. Bustle has a good example of this: “When we consider ourselves a rare exception to our gender for being easygoing or strong or more focused on inner qualities than appearance, we insult all women and therefore ourselves. As long as we view ourselves or a select few women as the exception, we will not change the rule.”
Obviously, internalized oppression is damaging to women’s mental health. Believing negative messages about women can cause depression, anxiety, self-doubt, and even self-hatred. Eating disorders, self-harm, and even suicide could result. To prevent these awful potentials, here is a list of simple tasks we could all engage in:
To clarify the purposes of this blog post: We were all born into this society and this culture, and the way things are are the fault of no one living today. Hopefully no one has felt “blamed” while reading this post. There are many wonderful men alive today who gladly fight against oppression of women, and we are irrevocably thankful for you.
Note: internalized oppression applies not only to women, but to all historically oppressed and marginalized groups, including the LGBTQ community, racial minorities, religious minorities, etc. Read more about it here and here.
If you are a woman, please take some time to appreciate, love, and care for yourself today. If you are not a woman, make sure to give the women in your life the support, encouragement, and appreciation that they deserve!
Hungry for more female empowerment? Check out these resources:
Stay healthy, Chaps!
--Kirsten Dalquist, MSSW Intern
This week's blog post comes to you from Mindful.org.
"Over the past few weeks of our Self-Care Series, we’ve defined self-care, examined the reasons why it’s so hard to consistently engage in self-care practices, and made a case for why self-care does not need to be an individual pursuit. We’ve agreed to begin looking at self-care as a long-term pursuit, one in which taking care of our inner and outer selves are equal parts of the equation. We’ve also learned how to develop coping strategies that can help us and others in our community weather the struggles of self-care with grace and steadiness.
The unsung common thread running through each topic we’ve covered over the past 6 weeks is that everyone needs their own Self-Care Plan, otherwise known as a Coping Strategy.
Three Reasons You Need a Self-Care Plan
A Self-Care Plan is an intervention tool that keeps you from being completely sucked into the vortex, saving you when you find yourself standing on the precipice gazing into the dark abyss. It’s a fail-safe, reated by you, and filled with your favorite self-care activities, important reminders, and ways to activate your self-care community.
1) Customizing a Self-Care Plan is a preventative measure. By designing a roadmap that is unique to you, in moments when you’re NOT in crisis, you’re directing your best self to reflect on what you may need (and have access to) in your worst moments. The reality is that only YOU know how intense your stress levels can get and what resources are available to you. Write that sh*t down.
2) Having a plan takes the guesswork out of what to do and where to turn in moments of crisis. From a mindfulness point of view, it helps you respond instead of react to the situation at hand. When you have a plan in place, you’ll feel more in control of your circumstances and life won’t feel quite as chaotic. (It also makes it easier to ask for help from those you share your plan with.
3) A Self-Care Plan helps you stay the course. You’ll find it far easier to stick to your personal care strategy and avoid falling into the trap of making excuses. Having a plan helps you establish a routine, ensuring that you and your self-care partners don’t wind up in isolation, but rather check in with each other, hold each other accountable, and share the responsibility to support one another.
How to Create A Self-Care Plan
Your Self-Care Plan is a road map that you can carry in your back pocket. It’s there to help you walk your talk as well as help you find your way back to equilibrium by providing a clearly defined route back home if you find yourself on off-track.
Creating and following a plan helps you balance your mental, physical, and emotional needs while reminding you of the important people in your support system and the self-care goals you wish to accomplish.
How do you begin creating a Self-Care Plan?
1) First, create an activity list organized around different parts of your life: I’ve found that the easiest way to start is by breaking up this daunting task into several categories, for example:
Some examples we’ve discussed over the past weeks include spending time with friends, eating healthy, being active, mindfulness meditation, and finding the confidence to create healthy boundaries (here’s a template). Have fun, be creative, and most impprtatnly, be real with yourself about what works for you and what doesn’t.
2) Second, note any barriers that may be in your way and how to shift them. As you write down each activity, ask yourself what barriers might get in the way of you being able to accomplish it. Then, try to strategize ways that you might be able to shift these barriers (FYI, this works even better when you do so with a friend, partnerm or community!). If you find that you can’t shift the barriers, feel free to adjust the activities. Your Self-Care Plan is NOT written in stone! It’s meant to be a living, breathing guide that adapts as your life circumstances and demands change.
3) Third, share your plan with your closest friends. Don’t forget to rely on your network of self-care buddies, your community of care. Share a copy of your Self-Care Plan with them and ask them to hold you accountable. Encourage them to create their own Plan and share it with you so you can do the same for them.
Example Self Care Plan
Category: Emotional Life
1) Develop friendships that are supportive
2) Write down three good things that you do each day
3) Do something that brings you joy (Go to the movies, sit in a café, hit the beach, or set off a hike)
4) Regularly meet with your social group/community of care
1. Your friendships are not equal in “give and take.” Shift it: define expectations with your closest friends. Don’t assume your friends know what you need from them.
2. You’re in the habit of negative self-talk. Shift it: every time you catch yourself saying something negative to yourself say the exact opposite to yourself.
3. Don’t have a babysitter or the ability to get away for the evening. Shift it: Activate your self-care community
4) My friends or self-care network don’t have time to meet. Shift it: Set up a meet-up in advance and regularly. Create a monthly calendar.
Make it Visual
I always suggest that, if possible, you make your Self-Care Plan visual. Think of it as your very own personal self-care infographic:
1) Start by jotting down a list of keywords or phrases from the activities list you created—choose whichever words resonate with you the most.
2) Then, grab a white piece of paper or a posterboard and transform these into graphic elements. Go ahead and use different colors, drawings, photos, whatever works for you to create visual cues that resonate with you and your plan.
Once you complete your masterpiece, put it somewhere you’re sure to see it every day because doing so will help you think about and (re)commit to your strategies. A byproduct of keeping it visible is that others will see it, too, and this will encourage them to ask about it, reflect on it, support your efforts, and, just maybe, even get them thinking about creating their own self-care vision. (By the way, I love to see these, so if you create one, please share it in our self-care group!)
Sticking to Your Self-Care Plan
Just like an athlete who trains for a competitive event, Self-Care Plans require that you practice the activities regularly. Be realistic with yourself by remembering that it takes time for a new practice to become a routine. There will be moments when you falter and that’s okay. We’re all human. Don’t punish yourself, but instead refocus and recommit to your plan. This way, if you find yourself on the edge of that void, staring it down, you’ll be prepared. How do you get yourself back on track when you falter? The answer to that question will be different for everyone, and will depend on what’s in your self-care plan. Here’s what works for me:
When I realize I’m beyond the edge in a black hole this is LITERALLY what I do: I have an old fashioned egg timer (you can use your phone timer, too) and I set a timer and allow myself 30 minutes (whatever time works for you) to feel really sorry for myself and mad at myself and beat myself up if I need to. Sometimes I even write it all down. It’s ugly. Usually, by 15 minutes in I’ve exhausted myself. And then I MAKE myself do something that makes me happy even if I’m not in the mood. Last week it was playing Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” in the kitchen super loud and dancing. Sometimes it’s pulling my husband in to swing dance to the Stray Cats with me.
When you just allow yourself to be in the vortex and really lean into it you are usually ready to finally extract yourself. And by having a plan in place for those moments when all seems lost, you can more easily find your way back to center.
As Louis Pasteur once observed, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”"
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
Life is busy! It seems that we are always running around from one responsibility to the next, hardly getting a chance to catch our breaths. The number one reason why people do not practice mindfulness is because they feel that they don’t have time. In the craziness of the modern world, that is an understandable reason! Yet, there are some meditations that are specifically formulated to be brief and easy, so that you may reap the benefits of mindfulness in the midst of your busy day. What follows is a three-minute breathing meditation, developed by John Teasdale, Mark Williams, and Zindel Segal in “The Mindful Way Workbook”. If you would like an audio version of this meditation, you can find it here: https://www.cmhc.utexas.edu/mindbodylabpage/mbl_audio5.html
Teasdale, Williams, and Segal suggest planning out a specific time during your day to practice the breathing space, such as when you first rise from bed, your lunch break, or during some quiet time after dinner. Planning out a time makes it less likely for you to feel as if you do not have time to create this breathing space.
Three-Minute Breathing Space
Preparation: Begin by deliberately adopting an erect and dignified posture, whether you are sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then take about 1 minute to guide yourself through each of the following steps.
Step 1: Becoming Aware: Bringing your awareness to your inner experience, ask: What is my experience right now?
Step 2: Gathering: Now redirect your attention to focus on the physical sensations of the breath breathing itself. Move in close to the sense of the breath in the abdomen… feeling the sensations of the abdominal wall expanding as the breath comes in… and falling back as the breath goes out. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out, using the breathing to anchor yourself in the present. If your mind wanders away at any time, gently escort it back to the breath.
Step 3: Expanding: Now expand the field of your awareness around your breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression. If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, or resistance, take your awareness there by breathing into them on the inbreath. Then breathe out from those sensations, softening and opening with the outbreath. As best you can, bring this expanded awareness to the next moments of your day.
The breathing space is the best way to step out of automatic pilot and reconnect with the
present moment. This breathing space is meant to bring you out of your buzzing head and into your body so that you can feel the relaxation that comes with following your breath. It can be utilized at any time throughout the day, and is a great calming tool!
Take a deep breath, and stay healthy, Chaps!
--Kirsten Dalquist, MSSW Intern
Happy Valentine's Day! We hope today celebrates healthy relationships. How do we know if they are healthy? As a parent it is hard to know how involved you should be – Is it better to lay down the rules? Or mind your own business?
Talking about romance with teenagers can be embarrassing for everyone
involved. However, teenagers look to adults for guidance and we can have more of an impact than we realize.
The Child Mind Institute provides some helpful relationship DOs and DON’Ts
parents can share with their kids.
Do look for someone you feel comfortable with. ‘Comfortable’ has different
definitions for everyone, but it can mean:
-You can be yourself with this person
-You can have different opinions on something, and know that it’s okay.
-You trust each other when you’re not together
-You aren’t pressured to do things you don’t want to do.
Don’t forget your friends. Some people get so wrapped up in their
relationships that they drop all their friends. While this isolation may be
unintentional, it’s important to have a social life outside your boyfriend or
Do be your own person. It’s normal to share interests with your significant
other. However, it is important to keep developing an identity outside of that
person. Keep thinking about what you like and what you need.
Don’t hide from problems. A problem in your relationship doesn’t automatically mean it’s doomed, but they will get bigger if you hide from them. It’s better to
admit when something is wrong, talk about it together, and try to fix it together.
Do know the difference between good and bad conflict. Conflict is not
always a bad thing and can bring a couple closer together if handled
Do know the signs of an abusive relationship. According to Love is Respect, here are some warning signs of dating abuse:
-Checking your cell phone or email without permission
-Constantly putting you down
-Extremely jealousy or insecurity
-Isolating you from your family or friends
-Making false accusations
-Physically hurting you in any way
-Telling you what to do
-Pressuring or forcing you to have sex
The above relationship DOs and DON’Ts are a great place for parents to start
when talking with their teenagers about romantic relationships. It’s important to
listen and communicate with your teen and try to avoid looking squeamish! And do your best to lead by example and model these values in your own
Stay Healthy, Chaps!
-Kristi Waidhofer and Elizabeth Sterling (previous MSSW Intern)