* Is Your Mind Full? Try Mindfulness

By Callie Sanders, LSW – December 12, 2017 –

With the demands of 21st century life – work, parenting, endless emails, texts, social media, etc. – people wear overstimulation like a badge of honor.

There seems to be a kind of confusion in our culture where people feel the need to be anxious and always “on the go” to be effective.  I’m just as guilty.

With that being said, we find ourselves in a mindfulness revolution.  It’s prominent everywhere.   From hospitals to corporations, 33% of Americans said they had used alternative health practices, including meditation (National Institutes of Health).

Mindfulness practice embraces the beauty of monotasking.  The way I describe mindfulness to the students I work with is simply “paying attention on purpose.”

By incorporating mindfulness practice at my schools this year, the students that are willing to give it a try leave my office feeling less stressed.  Most ask to repeat the practice during additional visits.  Let’s face it, kids are stressed out too.

There aren’t any prizes handed out for being the greatest at mindfulness. It is about connecting to our experiences in a different way and giving ourselves a chance to pay attention in the present without adding more stuff to our plate.

If you’ve used phrases like, “My mind just works too fast” or “I’ve tried it and failed,” or my favorite, “I don’t have time for that,” you’re exactly the kind of person that needs mindfulness most.  Mindfulness is a lifelong journey, not an all-or-nothing mentality, and it’s free.

According to a study conducted in 2013 by the University of Southern California, most Americans spend 13-plus hours a day consumed by media.  No wonder everyone is stressed out.

I was skeptical when the term mindfulness was first introduced to me.  But when I decided to give it a chance, I was surprised how simple it was and what I felt.

Practicing mindfulness can happen anywhere.  I like to practice in my vegetable garden or out in my yard.  When I take a second to sniff a fresh tomato after I pull it off the vine or listen to the birds singing in the background, I feel better.

For just that one second I was present; I noticed nature.  What a powerful feeling!  I encourage you to try this with your family at home.  After you take a second for yourself and enjoy nature, be grateful.

Lastly, I want to leave you with some tips for your workday, especially in the afternoon when the “two o’clock yawns” kick in.

When you can take a break, don’t go straight to your phone for at least one of the breaks.  A 2014 study found that being able to see a cellphone hinders the ability to focus on tough tasks.

If you can, go for a short walk and try not to ruminate on work.  I realize this can be difficult, but don’t be afraid to give it a try.  Ignoring your phone is a great way to practice mindfulness during the walk.

Also, do someone a favor.  Not only does this help you connect to others, it aids in recovering from stress.

Most importantly, start small.  Remember, no rewards are given for being the best at mindfulness.  I encourage you to put your phone down during dinner this evening and engage in conversation.  You will feel better being present.

* 9 Tips to Celebrate the Holidays With Less Stress

By Alice Munson, MSW, Courier & Press, Nov. 28, 2017 –

It seems that before the new school supplies have been broken in and the Halloween costumes are put away for the next season, Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us.  The demands of the holidays can sometimes override the inherent joy of the season, allowing stress to take over.

Here are some tips to help reduce stress and make the upcoming holidays more enjoyable:

  • Put first things first. says of Dr. Redford Williams, director of Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University, “The holidays are supposed to be about kindness and generosity, and people most often neglect extending these courtesies to those who need them most – themselves.”
  • Remember the airlines’ admonition, “In the event of loss of cabin pressure, adults should put on their oxygen masks first, then put one on a child.”  As parents, this may sound counter-intuitive, but let’s face it, if you’re not breathing you can’t help anyone else.  Healthy self-care allows us to handle those bumps in the road that are inevitable for us all.
  • Set a realistic budget.  The cost of food and gifts seems to have grown faster than Jack’s proverbial beanstalk. Decide how much you can spend and stick to it.
  • Refrain from trying to buy the happiness of others, especially children.  Those same children may try to convince you otherwise, but is that the message you want to instill in them?
  • You may also want to consider a donation to the charity of your choice, your church, or a school.  Large families may opt for a gift exchange.  Just decide what works best for your family. Overspending during the holidays could result in a post-holiday financial crisis – not a stress-free way to start the New Year.
  • Accept help.  This is not a time to “out-Martha” Martha Stewart. Remember, Martha has lots of help!  The pursuit of perfection can put a damper on anyone’s holiday.  If Aunt Jane wants to contribute her famous horseradish-chocolate chip Jell-O mold to Thanksgiving dinner, accept graciously.  It may not be what you had planned, but it will make her feel appreciated and valued. Isn’t that what we would all like?  All family members can help with shopping and cleaning according to their age and abilities.
  • Just say no.  Avoid over-committing your time when you know you are over-scheduled.  Not speaking up can cause you to feel resentful, overwhelmed, and out of sorts.  You may think, “They should know how busy I am!”  No one can discern our wishes or read our minds.  And no one can participate in every project, no matter how worthy.  Just choose what you can reasonably accomplish.
  • Give yourself a time-out.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “Finding something that reduces stress by clearing your mind and slowing your breathing helps restore your inner calm.”  Fifteen minutes without the distractions of family, friends, and electronic devices may be enough to refresh and allow you to handle the next task at hand.
  • Remain open to the joy of the season.  The first snowfall, the innocence of a kindergarten Christmas pageant, the gathering of family and friends around the Thanksgiving table, or the sweet sounds of a church choir….all of these and more are available to enjoy if we allow it.  In the words of those accidental philosophers, the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.”  Peace and joy are gifts of the season, freely given.