Conquering Bad Habits

By Valorie Dassel, Courier & Press, May 26, 2015 –

Tomorrow is the day! No more lounging on the couch for me. I am going to start exercising. My schedule will be more relaxed in the summer with the kids being out of school.

Since I will be eating healthy tomorrow, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy one last fattening meal tonight. I don’t feel an ounce of guilt because, after all, I’ll be running and eating healthy from here on out. This one meal doesn’t matter.

That annoying buzz of the alarm clock comes way too early, however. Oops! I’ve hit the snooze too many times, and I won’t be able to get that run in this morning. I’ll make sure I run right after work.

My good friend asks me to lunch. I haven’t spent much time with her lately, so I’ll grab a burger with her and just eat a healthy supper. After a busy day, however, it looks like pizza tonight.

I finally have the kids asleep, but it’s just too late for a run. I’m going to do better tomorrow. Now where is that chocolate I’ve been craving?

Does this sound familiar? Bad habits are so routine for many of us that we don’t even realize we are engaging in them. The human mind can rationalize bad habits until they suit our purposes.

Our bad habits can range from unhealthy diets to procrastination and on up the scale to substance addiction. To break a habit a person needs to be actively aware of their thoughts and practice self-discipline. What’s in it for you? Ask yourself why you engage in the negative behavior you want to overcome.

Furthermore, we should think about how our actions affect others. Many people get stuck in this contemplative stage because there isn’t always an immediate negative consequence for many of our bad behaviors. Our culture has a “live for the moment” mentality that blurs the reality of the consequences.

Even when fully educated on the harmful effects of the habit, it is often not enough to make us stop. That “one brownie a day” can turn into the scale “incorrectly” showing five extra pounds before we even realize it.

For many, success is found in the following steps:

Make a conscious choice every day. Which is more important to you — the temporary fix you get from smoking or being able to walk up a flight of stairs without being winded at the top?

Replace the bad behavior with positive behavior. This takes discipline at first and then becomes more automatic. A running routine can be difficult at first but then becomes addicting for many. Don’t be afraid to change the replacement behavior, however, if it is just not working.

Change one habit at a time! You may end up with no change at all if you attempt an “Extreme Makeover.”

Visualize and imagine what life will be like for you when you take control back.

Write down your reasons for desiring change and your plan for change. Tell people about your goals.

Breaking bad habits is possible, however, there is work involved. These steps must be accompanied by active thought processing, perseverance and, for many, prayer or meditation.

Parenting in the Moment

by Amy Steele, Courier & Press, May 22, 2015 –

Parenting is our greatest gift, our greatest joy, and at times, our greatest source of stress. The list of things we want to instill and impart to our children is endless.

We want our children to have a strong moral compass, friends, education, skills, a bright future … on and on. These are not just one-time items we can check off our parenting “to do” list. These are the building blocks we want to continuously add to our children’s foundation.

On top of that, we must attend to the daily routines of after school activities and homework, not to mention our own lives filled with work, obligations, household duties and hobbies (when we can squeeze them in). As parents, we have so much on our minds. For many, living in the moment takes a lot of intentional effort.

Parenting in the moment means that we meet the child in the here and now, regardless of their mood or current situation. We enter the moment with love — with the only focus being the child — just the way he or she is right now.

This is not the time for us to explain, fix, change or adjust anything; we just experience it. We enjoy their smile without making a mental note to schedule an orthodontic evaluation. We listen — really listen — to what they are saying, not correcting their grammar, because what they are saying to us matters more than how they are saying it.

Take time to show and tell your child that you hear their frustrations, you want to learn about their interests and friends, and you enjoy their silliness. When they realize they have your undivided attention, they will gradually begin sharing the “big stuff” with you.

Each day with our children is a gift. Your child will never be this age again, and what we miss out on with our children today we will never get back. In addition, we never know when the “last time” will be that we will read them that favorite book, the one they’ll choose to read to themselves next time; the last time they let us tuck them into bed before they are “too big” to be tucked in anymore; or the last time you have their attention in the car on the way to practice before they start getting their own rides.

Our children deserve our fresh, intentional love and energy, not the leftovers of a busy day. When we give this focus and energy to our children, we can find ourselves and our children more patient, more spontaneous and more connected.

In addition, these intentional focused times with you are motivating to kids. When they feel joined with you and are being heard, increased cooperation often follows; they know that cooperating is a way to continue the closeness they are feeling.

The next time you catch yourself playing a game on your phone, looking at Facebook or doing any of the other countless things that distract us, switch your focus to experiencing the moment with your child. The house will still need cleaning tomorrow, the dishes will still be there and the person calling can leave a message. Being present and in the moment is a gift for you and your child, one that has big lifelong benefits.

Stress Management is Important

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, Courier & Press, May 12, 2015 –

Webster’s dictionary defines stress as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.”

Stress affects all living beings, and parents seem to have more stress than they can handle at times.

Whether you are a working parent, stay-at-home parent, single or married, remaining calm and cool can help you get through the day.

Some parents may be able to refrain from multitasking — talking on the phone, checking email and texting — but others have more difficulty doing this. It is important to manage our stress and be present when we are spending time with family and friends.

Are you taking time out to relax, exercise and do things you enjoy? If so, are you “in the moment” and focusing on what you are doing?

The Child Development Institute has provided a helpful list of proven stress reducers. These may help your daily routine go more smoothly and decrease stress levels for the entire family.

Get up 15 minutes earlier to allow time for inevitable morning mishaps.

Prepare for the morning the evening before. Make lunches, pick out clothes, and have backpacks by the door.

Don’t rely on your memory. Write down appointments or enter them in your phone’s calendar so you receive alerts.

Practice preventive maintenance with your car, home, and appliances.

Be prepared to wait at appointments. A book or magazine can make a wait more pleasant.

Don’t procrastinate! Whatever you want to get done tomorrow, do today.

Plan ahead. Don’t let the gas tank get below one-quarter full. Keep a well-stocked emergency shelf of home staples. Don’t wait until you are down to your last postage stamp to buy more.

Allow 15 extra minutes to get to appointments in case of traffic delays or road construction.

Eliminate or restrict the amount of caffeine in your diet.

Always set up contingency plans “just in case.” For example, if shopping with your family, agree on a central place to meet in case you get separated.

Relax your standards. The world will not end if the grass doesn’t get mowed today, and not everything has to be done perfectly.

For every one thing that goes wrong there are probably many blessings we can count. Count them and be thankful.

If you don’t have the time or energy, allow yourself to say no to extra projects, social activities, and invitations.

Turn off your phone for an hour or more. Do something for yourself or spend time with family.

Get enough sleep! Turn off all social media at least an hour before bedtime.

Take deep, slow breaths. When stressed we tend to take short, shallow breaths. Check your breathing throughout the day and take time to relax your muscles.

Journal. Writing your thoughts and feelings down to review or even throw away can help you clarify and gain a new perspective.

Engage in physical activity. Try out a new class at the gym. Ask a friend to go along for accountability and friendship.

Eliminate destructive self-talk like “I am too fat,” “I am not smart,” etc.

Some days will be harder than others. Living one day at a time and taking time out for you will help decrease your family’s stress levels. Managing stress will help you be the best parent you can be.

Master Hardships; Be an Overcomer

By Steve Holzmeyer, Courier & Press, May 5, 2015 –

At the conclusion of this year’s NCAA championship game, most of the focus was on the winning Duke team and their jubilation, but we also saw the sad faces of the Wisconsin players as they suffered from “the agony of defeat.”

Life is like that. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. It is much easier to accept success, but there can also be great opportunity in how we react to the disappointments that we all face from time to time.

Young people are particularly vulnerable to the ups and downs of life. Those of us who are older usually have acquired a greater perspective on things like peer pressure, mistreatment, the loss of a loved one, or the failure to achieve a desired goal. However, for a teenage boy, the loss of a girlfriend can seem like a devastating event from which recovery is uncertain. This is particularly true for those with low self-esteem.

Growing up my feeling of self-worth was very low and was paired with a painfully shy personality. My coping mechanism was to withdraw into a shell with limited personal contact outside of my own family. The failures, disappointments and hurts I encountered led me to isolate myself even further. This was my survival tactic, and it delayed the full development of my personality for many years.

How should I have dealt with this, and how should other young people overcome disappointment?

The first step is to accept that we all fail at times. There will be disappointments. We are going to be treated poorly by others occasionally. There are also going to be tragedies in our lives. This is the reality of life.

But there is much to be learned from failure and loss. Learn to look within yourself and analyze what has happened. What went wrong? What could have been done differently to change or improve the results?

The next step is to create a plan that responds to your difficulty or need in a positive way. Late in my teenage years I developed the habit of getting angry when I failed or felt I had been treated unfairly. However, it was a productive and controlled anger that forced me out of my shell for the purpose of proving people wrong or changing others’ opinions about me. We must sometimes speak up and assert ourselves.

Another way to respond to disappointment is by finding places where you will be accepted and valued. For me, it was becoming involved in the community outreach work of my church. For others it might be volunteering at a nonprofit like Youth First, where you will be welcomed with open arms and lifted up as a valuable part of the mission. Involvement in a meaningful cause will build self-esteem.

Your reaction to failure or hardship is much more important than your reaction to success. You can give up — or you can let disappointment motivate you and spur you on to higher achievement. It was that incredible overcomer Helen Keller who said, “A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.” Be an overcomer!

Steve Holzmeyer is controller and office manager for Youth First, Inc., a local nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.

 

We Can Work Together to Prevent Child Abuse

By Davi Stein-Kiley, Courier & Press, April 28, 2015 –

Ronny was 14 years old when he and his mother appeared at my door. His mother described an incident that had occurred while Ronny was in the dressing room of a gym. An older man had exposed himself to Ronny.

Ronny was “freaked out” and didn’t know what to do. Only after the same man had exposed himself on four or five more occasions did Ronny finally talk to his mom.

Brittany came to counseling as a 24-year old woman. She was trying to understand why certain sounds and smells created dire panic attacks for her. Brittany had been neglected as a small child (left in her crib, unfed and later left outside the home). Scared and isolated, she had to contend with distress and the distrust of others for many years.

April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month. Abuse and neglect take on many forms. It seems intuitive that child abuse is a “bad thing,” but just how bad are we talking?

According to Prevent Child Abuse Indiana (PCAIN), during 2012 there were 177,382 reports of child abuse and neglect statewide with 20,008 substantiations. (Substantiation means that an investigation took place and the allegation was determined to be true.) Of the substantiated cases, 74 percent were related to neglect, 16 percent from sexual abuse and the remaining 10 percent from physical abuse.

In 2012 the Department of Child Services’ Annual Child Fatality Report reviewed 34 child fatalities that were substantiated for abuse or neglect. Of the deaths reported, 44 percent were due to abuse and 56 percent were due to neglect. Sixty percent of these children were age one or younger. Unfortunately, this trend indicates that young children are at the highest risk of abuse and neglect.

Bessel Van der Kolk’s influential research is steering the conversation that surrounds traumatic life events and how they impact victims. His book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” discusses research efforts toward understanding how the brain is rewired to respond when there is repeated developmental trauma.

Brain changes create long-term consequences rendering fight, flight or freeze responses to sensory cues that are often hidden or unpredictable. The brain over-responds, sensing danger in too many places, triggering overreactions and emotional dysregulation. These responses are often hard to understand and may be viewed as dramatic and/or attention seeking.

According to the Children’s Bureau, each year nearly three million U.S. children experience some form of abuse or maltreatment. This maltreatment is largely perpetrated by a family member or adult caregiver in the child’s life. The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted that psychological maltreatment is the “most challenging and prevalent form” of child abuse and neglect.

Psychological maltreatment involves both emotional abuse and emotional neglect and is the chronic pattern of ignoring a child’s basic emotional needs. When needs go unmet, neglect conveys to the child that he/she is worthless, unloved or unwanted.

We can do better on behalf of our youth and our future. Prevent Child Abuse has a slogan: “No one can do everything. But everyone can do something. And together, we can do anything. Together, we can prevent child abuse!”

Are you concerned about a child you know? For more information, go to pcain.org. Contact the Child Protective Services (CPS) 24-hour hotline at 1-800-800-5556 to report suspected cases of abuse or neglect.

Davi Stein-Kiley is director of social work for Youth First, Inc., a regional nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening youth and families. Learn more by visiting youthfirstinc.org or calling 812-421-8336.