Thursday, January 30, 2014

No Children, No Carbohydrates, Not Retired

    Many people call this the empty nest syndrome and it can hit a person at many different stages in life.  In some ways, it may be more difficult for the individual who had their children later in life.  This is very common among professional women.  You may have spent your twenties and early thirties developing your career and then you decided to have children.  Now you are in your fifties and your last child is leaving for college and you have to decide what to do with the rest of your life.  Unlike your younger counterpart, you do not have twenty to thirty working years ahead of you, but maybe only ten or fifteen.  Have you stayed in your career all along and do you want to ramp it up or slow it down?  Did you stop working and now feel you need a sense of productivity and meaning in your life and if so, how and where to start?  There really are no right or wrong answers.  Everyone has to find the answer that works best for them.  Whatever direction you go, realize that life is not over.  Your children still need you, just in a different way.  You need to play with ideas of what you might want to do.  The career you had before children may no longer seem attractive to you or you may need to be retrained and just not feel that is what you want to do. Do you want a career or a fun job?  If you really want a career, begin to do your research and weigh all your options.  I have met people who have gone to graduate school after children have left and I have met people who left careers and taken on part time, low stress jobs that they loved. 
I have also met people that enjoyed volunteering and people who embraced an early retirement.  Just don’t sit home and wallow.  Think about the things you did not have time to do while raising children.  Get healthy, eat better, find exercise you actually like, and take a class or pursue a hobby.  Your post children life can go in so many different directions.  If you don’t like the one you are in, pursue another one.  Life is not over.  You are at the beginning of   a new chapter.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Coping with Procrastination 

     “I’ll do it later.” How often have we heard this or said it ourselves when we just really didn't want to do something. Why do people procrastinate and what can we do about it? People procrastinate for many reasons.  If something seems too hard or overwhelming, we have a tendency to put it off.  Maybe you don’t have enough information or guidance and are not sure where to start.  Maybe what you have to do is outside of your comfort zone and you feel insecure and concerned you will do the task incorrectly.  Maybe you would just rather be doing something else and maybe you just don’t like the task at hand.  Whatever your reason, think about what you have to do, whether or not you need help, guidance or training, the stress you will eliminate if it is not hanging over your head, the feelings of accomplishment that accompany completion of a task, and how you will create balance  in your life by rewarding yourself with something that you do enjoy.  Many patients have looked for guidance on how to get themselves to complete paper work such as bills and taxes (for those of you who love paperwork and numbers, we will come up with other examples).  If your project seems complicated and you are not that organized, enlist someone to help you organize so it is not so overwhelming.  If you just don’t know where to start and you are not sure what to do, obtain some training that will allow you to feel more comfortable.  
Break the project or task down into smaller chunks that do not seem so huge and overwhelming.  Making a schedule to keep a project flowing is often very helpful.  If you don’t like the task, reward yourself with something you really enjoy after completing the task (this is what I do with housework).  Give yourself praise for completing something that you were either afraid to do or just didn't want to do.  You know when you are making excuses.  It is so important that you be honest with yourself and not lie to yourself.  It would be healthier to acknowledge to yourself that you don’t want to do something and you are going to do it anyway so it might as well be now.  If you do it now you can have fun later but if you have fun now, it won’t be as much fun because you know what is waiting for you.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Married  and Unexpected Pregnancy 

    I was recently asked how to cope with an unexpected pregnancy when you have your life situated and you have the number of children you want.  People can have many different reactions to this ranging from excited, depressed, anxious, and scared to a combination of all of the above.  If you are keeping this baby, than the main goal is acceptance.  First, take care of your health as denial will not help you.  Second, think about all the positives to having another child.  Another person to love and nurture and to love and nurture you in return.  Remember how you keep falling in love with your children when they tell you that they love you, draw a picture for you, make a mother’s day gift for you, overcome a challenge and succeed.  Yes, they are loud, noisy, and at times defiant and difficult.  But they are funny, loyal, and you get to re-experience the world through fresh new eyes.  For most people, there is never really a perfect time to get pregnant.  And yet, each pregnancy is at the perfect time if we allow it to be.  It is often the last “oops” baby that can bring us the most joy.  We are usually experienced and seasoned by the time we have our last child, which frees us up emotionally to enjoy them in a much more relaxed way.  We are not as focused on what every step is supposed to be about because we have already been there and we generally know what to expect.  If finances are one of your biggest concerns and you already gave away all your baby furniture and items, reach out to family and friends for help.  Most of our family and friends are happy to help prepare for a new baby.  If you are worried about the change in life style, the neat thing about a baby is that you really can bring them almost anywhere.  If you need a baby sitter and can’t really afford it, maybe you and another mother can co-opt some babysitting time.   If you have children who are not happy or receptive about the idea of a new baby in the house, let them know that this is the family’s baby and they will be great at teaching the new little one all kinds of things.  They get to be the big brother or sister, which will have certain privileges associated with it (such as being able to do something first).  If the new baby has to share a room, have that sibling help decorate and set up the baby’s area, and even help pick out some blankets and baby toys.  The more involved they are, the more acceptance you are likely to see.  I was asked how to accomplish this type of acceptance if you are already mentally and physically exhausted by caring for the children you already have. This is a good time to look what is currently not working and consider some changes.  If you have no idea how to start re-structuring your life, maybe consult with a professional for some guidance. 

 It is possible you are working too hard and not enjoying enough of your life.  If your current children are a handful, maybe reach out for some guidance on how to tighten your family system and parenting so your children behave in a more cooperative way.  For example, are you being consistent with your children or have they learned that you don’t really mean what you say (or threaten).  By the way, never threaten anything you are not willing to follow through on. If your fears are more personal, such as changes in your body, you need to address that with your Doctor and yourself.  Ask your Dr. for a healthy food plan and exercise plan during the months of your pregnancy.  If you take care of yourself, the body you became pregnant with should be the body you end up with post pregnancy (with a few months of special attention).  If your hesitation involves marital issues, you and your spouse need to communicate and resolve the issues prior to the new baby and you can certainly streamline this process with professional intervention.  Most importantly, every baby deserves to be wanted and loved, especially your baby. Remember, this baby may someday be the person in your life who gives you the greatest joy.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Acting Out Teenagers  

            There are so many different variables that go in to a teenager’s behavior.  Their personality, mental health, family history, and personal experiences.  Today we are referring to a teen that does not have a mental illness, but has not had a conventional family.  Typically I am asked by single moms how to help their teen regulate their impulsive behavior.  Some teens are able to do great at school but make very poor decisions in their personal life, and other teens seem to sabotage school as well as their personal lives.  Let’s look at the teenager who is impressed with themselves and their advanced age of 15 through 18.  Have you met the teenager who wants to be treated as an adult, but wants none of the responsibilities of an adult? If yes, than this blog is for you.  Did you buy your teen a car or do they have access to a car?  A car is a privilege that most teens do not have.  If your teen cannot drive responsibly, than they are not yet mature enough for a car and you need to take it away for at least 6 months.  If they are drinking and/or smoking marijuana in the car, then take it away permanently.  They may hurt themselves or someone else.  If they feel they can stay out as late as they want, not call home or answer your calls, or come and go as they please, than maybe you need to give them exactly what they are asking for.  In other words, if they want the privileges of being an adult, hand over the responsibilities.  Do not pay for anything extra.  

As an adult, you are being very generous to allow them to live with you rent free and board free.  The rest is up to them.  They will need to pay for and arrange their own transportation, do their own laundry and cook their own meals, clean their own room, and pay for their own extras (such as a cell phone).  If that seems too extreme or hands off for you, than you can take the opposite approach and the more they act out, the more controlling you become.  For example, pick them up from school, do not let them ride with friends, do not let them out on a school night, let them out on a weekend only after you have talked to the other parents and you have arranged a time to pick them up.  If they blow you off (as they probably will), try my original approach.  Sit down with them and let them know that since they are not letting you parent them, you will not parent them, but because you love them, they can live at home and have free food.  Everything else is on their dime and their time.  Teach them how to do laundry, show them how to get a bus schedule or show them where you have stored their bicycle.  Do not give them a phone (they will find a phone to borrow if they really want or need one), money, or a car.  Let’s see if they would like to go back to being a teen without adult responsibilities, as long as they follow the teen rules you have set up.  Also, when (not if) they threaten to move out, let them know that you love them and they are welcome to live with you and your rules, but if they want to live on their own, you understand.  Then sit down and help them make a budget and explain why you will not be co-signing any contracts for them).  Let them see how much it costs to live independently and then they can decide if they want to move out.  I often explain to teens that following the rules is like paying rent, only it costs them time and respect versus money.  As you do all this, do it with love and not anger.  

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Emotional  Cancer

There is such a diversity of people in the world to interact with, admire, and get to know.  How do you choose and how do you get chosen to be in a relationship?  Each person has to get something out of the relationship.  Hopefully, each person is getting something positive out of the relationship.  People often come in to therapy in an attempt to figure out a relationship that is not going well or not feeling very good.  Sometimes the relationship involves a long history and the person feels they have to stay in that relationship and sometimes the relationship is fairly new, but already causing conflict of some type.  As we have discussed in previous blogs, people’s reactions are about themselves, even when in response to us or directed toward us.  No relationship is perfect, even if the relationship is perfect for us. This means there will be rough patches here and there, but hopefully they will be handled with mutual respect.  I think there are two main ingredients for a successful relationship.  The first is acceptance.  Acceptance of self and acceptance of others.  We are not perfect and while it seems obvious to accept this, it is not always so easy.  Without this acceptance, it is hard to acknowledge making a mistake, which makes it hard to apologize.  Without acceptance of others, we can be seen as critical and unappreciative.  Other people just may not do things the way we do, and we have to accept that and be ok with that.   I have seen more couples fight over how to load a dishwasher than I can count.  It is not about the dishwasher, but the need to control and be in control and be right.  If one person is right, the other person has to be wrong, and the relationship is no longer in balance.  However, if we accept that we just do things differently, we can both feel appreciated and empowered.  The second main ingredient is intent.  This is a very simple but powerful concept.  If someone’s intent toward us is good, and they mean us no harm, we can forgive a faulty delivery system in their communication just as if our intent is good, we want them to accept and forgive us our faulty delivery system.  When someone has a negative intent toward us, it means they have an intent to harm us in some way.  There are too many reasons and agendas to discuss in this setting.  To simplify, when someone, on a consistent and regular basis, criticizes you to put you down, manipulates you with guilt, and does not treat you with respect, kindness, and integrity, they are behaving in a malignant way toward you.  I call this emotional cancer.  As with any type of cancer, you need to cut it out of your life and put your energy into the people that really want to cherish their relationship with you.  Why spend time with people who want to hurt you and demean you in any way?  Life is too short to spend it being emotionally attacked.  It is much more fun and satisfying to be emotionally loved and cherished.

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