lessons i learned

I think if I had to sum up 2020 in one word, it would be “suffering”. It has been a year of various types of suffering, whether it be emotional, psychological, financial, or physical. It has also been a year where I learned several important lessons.

The world we live in is a world that I never imagined in my wildest dreams. I used to watch apocalyptic shows with my husband and roll my eyes at the outlandish plot…. a deadly virus wipes out everyone- ha! Who knew that would somewhat resemble our reality? 

There is nothing I could write about that would make this pandemic any easier, so I won’t even try to do so. What I will discuss, however, is that this year has made me truly reflect on life in a way that I had never done before. It is in that spirit that I will discuss the lessons that I’ve taken away from this year: 

The Biggest Lesson I Learned in 2020 

don't take the ones you love for granted

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to appreciate the people I have in my life. We are all overwhelmed with responsibilities and struggling to make it through the day. As a result, it is perfectly understandable that we sometimes take the ones we love for granted. That is, until we don’t have them anymore…

My husband’s grandmother unexpectedly passed away due to COVID, and both of my in-laws still struggle with their health daily since contracting the virus 9 months ago. These terrible circumstances forced me to realize a hard truth- the people we have today may not be there tomorrow.  

It is easy to forget that what matters most are the people we carry in our hearts. So often we say, “If only I would have known _____, I would have done________ differently.” There are times when we mean to call but get distracted, where we could have said “I love you” one more time, but didn’t, where we could have reached out to check on a friend or loved one to see how they were feeling, but forgot. Life gets in the way; it happens to all of us.  

This year is different though. We now have a constant reminder that time is fleeting. We cannot turn on a computer or watch the news without seeing the latest death count. The clock is ticking, and now, more than ever, we need to seize the moment so we don’t look back and wish we had done things differently. 

Moving into 2021, I am going to try to remember to focus my attention on prioritizing the people in my life over my to-do list. I will leave the dishes in the sink a little longer, go a few days extra without doing the laundry, and even let my husband get away with not putting his dirty clothes in the hamper. 

At the end of the day, my clean house is not what matters. I still have responsibilities that I need to fulfill as a grown-up, but I want to spend as much of my time as I can on having no regrets. What matters most is my daughter’s infectious laugh, my husband’s embrace, and the people that I love.   

Putting Yourself First: Finding Worth and Validation Inside

validating myself

Although somewhat pandemic related, this lesson I learned is more related to my unique circumstances.  

I started this blog only five months ago. I had no idea what to expect when I first started putting my stories out there. The initial outburst of support was unexpected and meant the world to me. Knowing that my words were helping others warmed my heart and gave me a new purpose besides being a Stay-at-Home-Mom, homeschool teacher, and a wife (all roles which I treasure).  

Things moved more rapidly than I expected, and then came to a halt. Facebook deactivated my profile, which was a huge source of my traffic. My other sources of traffic weren’t consistent and the comments and feedback I was getting weren’t nearly as frequent as they were at the beginning.  

I started a new website hoping that creating better optimization would increase my traffic. It didn’t. Instead, I received a notification that someone unsubscribed. It was like a slap in the face. 

I felt defeated. People no longer cared. I was old news. My content must stink. I guess I’m not a good writer after all. I’m not helping anyone. I put my heart and soul into this, and it was for nothing. My blog is a failure. I’m a failure 

Despite the number of well-known publications that have featured my writing, all I could see were my failures. With each subsequent low traffic post, my self-esteem lowered with it. I had a few more people unsubscribe. This only confirmed the stories I was now telling myself, not only about my blog, but about what it reflected about me as a person. 

It is not easy to write personal, gut wrenching posts and not get the feedback you hope you’d receive. However, this situation taught me a very valuable lesson. 

I spent most of my life relying on others to feel good about myself.  On the flip side, if someone said or did something that I found hurtful, didn’t want to be my friend, or didn’t validate my feelings, I felt worthless. My feelings and my opinion of myself only had merit if others validated them. 

I thought I had improved my codependent ways, and I have made huge strides. However, this blog caused a huge relapse, and I realized that I was relying on this blog to feel valued. My blog was no longer just about helping people; it was about proving to myself that I was good enough as a person and a writer. 

I had two choices: The first was to stop writing the blog and throw in the towel. The other option was to keep writing from my heart and be proud of my hard work, content, and writing no matter what others said or did. I decided to go with option number 2. 

I learned that readers are fleeting, subscribers are fleeting, people’s opinions of me are fleeting. What should never be fleeting is what matters most- my belief in myself. I need to give myself the validation that I was seeking from others. 

No matter the viewers or feedback, my biggest fan always needs to be me. If others like what I’m writing, that is icing on the cake. I can’t convince others to read my words. What I can do is have faith in myself and stand by my words. Everything else is out of my hands. 

I think this is a lesson that we can all apply to our lives. We may not get the validation we seek from others, whether it be from our boss, our family, or our friends. That can cause us to feel that we aren’t good enough in those roles. Parenting is often a thankless job.  Our spouse may not verbalize appreciation for our hard work and effort; the list goes on and on. We can spiral down the rabbit hole of despair and insecurity, or we can remind ourselves that we will never feel good about ourselves if we outsource our feelings of self-worth.  

A painful lesson I learned from 2020 is that we cannot rely on other people to validate our roles and feelings.  It is our job to give that to ourselves.

The Importance Of Self-love and Self-care 

self care bingo

I do not know how to do something halfway. Anything I do, I do to the best of my ability, and I give it my all. Sometimes this can take on a life of its own, and it comes at a cost to myself. 

Blogging is a great example of my extremist mentality. Writing a blog while homeschooling and caring for a child full-time is challenging, to put it mildly. There are only so many hours in a day. Putting out constant content and taking care of a child that needs constant monitoring took a toll on me. My husband also has been working overtime, so I’ve needed take care of my daughter by myself into the night. I was exhausted physically, but also emotionally and psychologically from the topics I write about. Half the night I would stay up rewriting my posts so I could devote the other hours to homeschooling and spending time with Brielle. I also didn’t want the blog to take away time from spending time with my husband after Brielle goes to sleep.

It wasn’t a shock when I became run down. I’ve had cold symptoms on and off for the last month that I kept ignoring. I finally had a telemedicine appointment and was told I have a bad sinus infection and had to take antibiotics. I was running around with a fever and feeling crappy, but still didn’t slow down.  

The first lesson I learned that I discussed in this post was recognizing what is most important in your life. To me, that is the people I love, and that includes myself. I write posts about self-care and self-love, but I haven’t been practicing what I preach. I’ve allowed my mental and physical well-being to fall by the wayside. 

Doing my best means recognizing when to stop. There is only so much I can give and I can do. No matter the circumstances, I must prioritize myself.  

I will continue to blog but will limit the amount of time I do so. Posts are now put out twice a week instead of three times a week. I will incorporate blogging into my daily routine so I’m not up at all hours of the night writing. My self-care rituals will resume, and I will remember that loving and caring for myself cannot be taken for granted. 

 

 

Life is a series of compromises. 2020 is a great indicator of learning when to hold them and when to fold them. Others’ opinions of me and the dirt on the floor- not so much of a priority. Cherishing the ones I love and valuing myself? That is a non-negotiable. I hold the lessons I learned this year close to my heart and will take them with me into the new year.

social media conundrum

I vaguely remember the days when there was no social media. It seems like it was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Truthfully, there was once a time when we weren’t all glued to our cell phones, tablets, iPhones, or computers.

the power of connection with social media

In some ways, social media is great. It is a means of reconnecting with people with whom you’ve lost touch. It is also a way of connecting with someone you wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise.

I have been able to speak with relatives I didn’t even know existed through Facebook. I’ve been able to see family pictures of people I knew 30+ years ago. No matter where you live, or how many times you’ve moved, social media allows you to remain in the lives of people. This is more crucial than ever due to the inability to connect in person because of the pandemic. 

Social media also offers opportunities to network and market yourself. LinkedIn and Twitter are great forums for connecting with people and expanding career horizons. Social media is instrumental for every blogger.  However, with every click on the internet, there is a downside. 

the downside of social media obsession

social media obsession

What was meant as a forum to reach out to the ones we love, now has become a means of comparison. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that others have their lives together because of what we see on people’s accounts.

Every click of a button shows smiling families, exotic trips, and expensive merchandise. It is impossible to turn away from the happiness and joy that explodes from the profiles of each person. Social media has become a forum for perfection that makes the rest of us feel empty and lacking.

People spend countless hours scrolling through social media to the point where it has become an obsession. Men, women, teenagers, even children have accounts. They spend their time looking at other people’s lives instead of living their own. As much as we try to love and guide our children, one look at social media makes us feel like we are lacking as parents.

We live in a world filled with fear, anxiety, and isolation due to the pandemic. Now, more than ever, it is easy to look at our lives and feel loneliness and despair. There has never been a more imperative time to find means of connection. Unfortunately, the internet often makes the walls between us even higher.

People who are already struggling with depression and financial concerns fall into the trap of social media. Many rely on it as an escape from reality, but once on it we forget that it is an illusion. Social media often becomes a painful reminder of what we are trying to escape from in the first place. We fall down the rabbit hole of further pain and self-loathing instead of recognizing that Instagram and Facebook are mere glimpses of reality.

the dangers that lurk on the internet

internet dangers

Another danger is catfishing. It has become such a phenomenon that there is a movie and TV series about it. People start relationships on social media, only to realize that they are not talking to the person whose picture is on the profile. Sadly, a person can simply create an account, put up a fake picture, and claim to be anyone in the world.

Stalking has taken on a new shape due to social media. The personal details we reveal make us easy targets, allowing others to fixate on us and invade every aspect of our life. Social media has also become a vehicle for harassment and postings meant to destroy people’s characters and reputations.

Even worse, social media has become another platform to engage in acts of bullying. There is nowhere to escape when people can attack you within the four walls of your room. Kids now feel a sense of power and protection from behind a computer screen. It has become far too easy to belittle, attack, tease, degrade, and destroy through the internet.

the blurred walls of safety for children

As parents, we do our best to protect our children from the outside world, but what do we do when the walls between the outside and inside start to blur? What happens when social media becomes the gateway to danger?

Just as internet bullying has become a harsh reality, a whole new world exists where predators are able to access our children while in the comfort of their homes. What appears to be a sweet 13-year-old girl talking to your daughter may be a 45-year-old man.  There is literally nowhere that is safe anymore.

I do not allow others to post pictures of my daughter on their social media accounts. There also aren’t any pictures of Brielle on my blog.  I try to keep my child safe, but social media makes it harder than ever to do so.

As much as I appreciate the benefits of social media, there are tremendous risks that it poses to our mental health and safety.  I think we must be mindful of the great dangers that comes from simply putting a profile on social media.  Therefore, I believe that social media is both a friend and a foe.

new holiday traditions

The pandemic has changed the dynamic of the holidays and holiday traditions this year. There are many who are struggling financially and cannot afford gifts. There are those who are grieving over the loss of loved ones. Many are saddened by the lack of being around family and friends who are usually with them to celebrate. Whatever your set of circumstances, I want to share some traditions that I have incorporated during the last few years.

the power of giving and receiving 

I remember the first time Brielle was old enough to appreciate presents. We celebrate Chanukah, which means 8 days and nights of celebrating. In our case, we gave gifts to Brielle for each of those nights. The first few nights Brielle was visibly grateful for her new gifts. By the last few nights, she basically had her hand out expecting to receive something.  After the holiday ended, Brielle continued to ask for gifts. She thought the new holiday tradition was getting nightly presents. My husband and I were saddened that what she had taken away from the holiday was expecting gifts instead of appreciating the ones she was fortunate enough to get.

We decided giving large amounts of gifts was not the way to go. We wanted her to appreciate what she has and recognize that there are others who are not as fortunate.  It was important for us to instill in her that there was more to the holidays than getting materialistic things.

The following year, we implemented a holiday tradition of four days of giving and four days of receiving. That meant that of the 8 nights of Chanukah, she would get something for four of them.  The other four nights were about giving back and coming up with ways to show support for others. If you celebrate Christmas and do gift giving on Christmas Day, you can still have your kids give back as part of their holiday celebration.

places to give back

Some of the things Brielle has done over the years to give include: making cards and cookies for our local firehouse, volunteering at an animal shelter, donating toys and items to Goodwill, writing letters to people who work at hospitals to thank them, donating food at homeless shelters, and putting together packages of toiletry items for the homeless.

This year she was unable to volunteer anywhere because of COVID, but Brielle sent out letters and cards to various hospitals, assisted living and nursing homes, and to our fire department.  She also sent out a get well soon card to a teacher. She felt good knowing that she was bringing joy to others, and she valued the presents she received.

creating cherished holiday traditions

holiday traditions

Another holiday tradition we started incorporating was prioritizing making memories. I know that memories might have involved other people in past years, but memories can still be made. I notice that when I ask Brielle what she liked most or what stood out most to her, she will talk about the times we spend together.

Past memories included taking a road trip to NY while stopping at a hotel in Virginia to spend the night, going ice skating, and taking mini-vacations. Although we can’t have the same experiences this year, there are COVID friendly memories that can be created with your children.

An experience Brielle really enjoyed this Chanukah was watching “The Family Man” in matching pajamas while eating popcorn. Snuggling together in front of the TV was a great memory, and one that I think she will remember far more than any gift.

I also let her pick a dessert (she picked cookies) and we baked them together in our aprons. She made a mess, but she was so proud of herself when the cookies were ready. We also drank hot cocoa in front of the fire and sang Chanukah songs. Another thing Brielle loved was hours of playing dreidel (it is a spinning top). We play using pennies and depending on what side it lands on will determine if you give money, get all the money, get half the money, or everyone puts in money. We also played a TON of board games.

gifts can create memories also

gifts create memories too

The gifts we gave Brielle this year also involved creating memories. She received a jewelry box that she decorated herself using stickers and play dough. She designed in advance which color she would put on each side, which stickers she’d use, and what designs she’s use.  I made some of it with her, and we spend the whole time laughing and enjoying our time together. I also got her a rock painting kit, which had stickers on it that were kindness stickers. She painted them and put them on people’s mailboxes and by their yards. It was a very special activity.

Another memory that we create on the holidays is a scavenger hunt. I write short little clues (Dryer-I go here when I’m wet, I spin round and round, located in the laundry room is where I am found), and Brielle goes around the house collecting the clues. When she finishes she then gets a present. Brielle loves the scavenger hunts so much that the present is secondary.

I hope that when Brielle grows up, she will remember the holiday traditions and times we spent together.  Presents will come and go, but it is the time we spend with our children and the values that we instill in them that truly matters.

judge a person

“You can never truly judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in another man’s shoes.” 

THE ASSUMPTIONS WE MAKE AND THE PEOPLE WE JUDGE

We assume we know people’s lives by the mere glimpses they show us. We think we know someone based on the brief encounters we exchange on our way to work or when we bump into each other. The playdates where we talk about our kids. The smiling family photos on Instagram. The superficial exchanges we have over text. The times when we politely ask how someone is doing and they say that they are fine. That isn’t someone’s full life. We shouldn’t judge a person by what they choose to share about their life. It is what they allow you to see. 

Take me, for instance. Most people would describe me as peppy, outgoing, bubbly, happy, and exuberant. That is a part of my personality, but there is so much more to me that people don’t know (unless they read my blog, that is).  

In reality, I feel fearful most of the time, I’m quite shy, I have social anxiety, and I am afraid to tell people about my past. I care deeply about others, and I also feel deeply. I put my heart and soul into every post I write, and I grieve for the childhood I never had. Each time I write a post about my past, my vulnerability takes a huge toll on me.  I put my stories out there to try to break the stigma and shame associated with it, and it saddens me that some people I consider friends have not reached out to me about these private and traumatic details. 

I typically show people the side of me that is full of life and contentment; the parts of me that are filled with loneliness and anxiety I tuck away when I am around others. Although talkative and engaging in groups, I am usually exhausted emotionally after a social event. I’m a true introvert, although you’d probably never know it.  

DON’T JUDGE A PERSON BECAUSE THERE IS ALWAYS MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

happiness on the outside doesn't show pain on the inside

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I am not putting on a show when I’m around people. We show different sides to ourselves around different people. I am simply showing one side, and that is a genuine part of who I am. However, there is so much more that doesn’t get seen. There is often much more to someone than meets the eye if you get to really know them and don’t turn away. 

Never judge a person unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

I have gone through hell and back, but I learned at a very young age to keep my pain to myself based on others’ reactions.  Many have gone through their own suffering. They have experienced loss, divorce, miscarriages, bullying, loneliness, depression, and pain.  Most of us keep that part a secret, because society has taught us to “tough it out” and “stay strong”.  The people around us feel discomfort about those situations and don’t want to acknowledge them, so those that are struggling often don’t share the full extent of their pain. As a result, it is easy for those of us who are suffering to look around at others and feel inferior. We live in a world where everyone appears to have it all together. I call bullshit.  

I wrote a post about always being grateful, but not feeling grateful this Thanksgiving. Many understood the point I was trying to make and told me how much they appreciated it. It warmed my heart when I was told they felt less alone and more accepted because of my post.  Others commented that we should always be grateful. I was also told that I shouldn’t write about this topic on a public forum out of respect for those that enjoy the holidays and who do feel grateful. 

IT’S OK TO NOT FEEL JOYFUL DURING THE HOLIDAYS

My response to that last statement is that those who are miserable over the holidays should have a platform to be understood. The suicide rate is highest during the holidays because of feelings of isolation and depression.   I am by no means telling others who feel gratitude and enjoy the holidays that they shouldn’t feel that way. In fact, I hope people who are able to do so have a wonderful holiday season.  I sincerely hope my words will not dissuade someone from enjoying their holidays or feeling grateful. However, I pray my writing will help someone feel less alone and more understood.   

Let’s take it a step further. I agree we should be grateful.  However, in my opinion I don’t believe we should always FEEL grateful. For example, I didn’t feel grateful when I wasn’t allowed back into my house and slept in the mudroom the entire night.  Whereas we all have something to be grateful about, some of us have lived through horrors that many cannot begin to imagine. We have no right to tell others how to be or feel. 

Don’t judge a person unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. 

FEELINGS SHOULD NEVER BE JUDGED

your feelings are valid

Feelings are never right or wrong. They simply are what they are. Others may not agree with our feelings, but that does not make our feelings any less valid. Yet feelings are often met with resistance. We are told to suck it up, count our blessings, remember that it could be worse, and sent the underlying message to not speak our truths. Our truths may be different than others, but we are entitled to voice them. Our pain, our truths, our stories- they are all unique and all deserve to be respected and heard. 

We shouldn’t judge a person unless we’ve walked a mile in their shoes. 

We must stop assuming, and we must start spreading kindness and empathy.  I write this blog and use my platform for all those who have suffered and haven’t had the support of others.  Let us accept that we all have our own unique journey. Let us not perpetuate the shame and pain others feel during this time of year or at any time of year.  

GIVE A VOICE TO THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING

Let us start acknowledging the sorrows that exist around us, instead of trying to micromanage those feelings. We must stop ignoring and minimizing what/how others feel.

Those people that exude confidence, but feel lost, this post is for you. The children that put on a brave face at school, but go home and cry because they are being bullied, this post is for you. The people who try so hard, but feel so very lonely, this post is for you. For every person who has so much more going on than meets the eye, this post is for you. For every person that is struggling with the stigma of mental illness, this post is for you.  On behalf of those who are told to be strong no matter how much their heart is breaking, this post is for you. This post is for me too. 

This holiday season, and moving forward, I hope we will stop assuming and start reaching out more.  It is often the ones who seem the happiest that are suffering the most. People are more likely to show different sides to themselves if they feel safe doing so. Let’s be a safe person for others. 

Don’t judge a person unless you’ve walked in their shoes.

Don’t sum a person up by their smiles and laughter. Instead, talk about topics of sustenance. Reveal matters that others wouldn’t know by common banter, and give space for others to do the same.  If someone bravely shares something private and difficult to share, express kindness and empathy. Do not turn a blind eye to their pain or tell them what they should or shouldn’t say or feel.  

Life is hard enough. Choose kindness.  We don’t know what burdens people are carrying, but we can help them unload that baggage if we assume less and open our minds and heart more. 

 

how to teach emotional regulation

Let’s be honest. Controlling our emotions is no easy task. With the chaos surrounding us due to the pandemic, our sense of normalcy and stability have gone out the window. We find it hard to manage our feelings due to the upheaval of our lives, so how can we expect our children to have emotional regulation? 

ZONES OF EMOTIONAL REGULATION

This is where the Zones of Emotional Regulation comes in. I cannot take credit for this; it was invented by Leah M. Kuypers. There is a book and applications designed to help children label and manage their emotions. If you’d like more information about those resources, you can go to here

The purpose of this article is to share what I successfully implemented with my daughter. I hope that this gives you and your child support and structure, which we all need now more than ever. Although this is great for anyone, it is particularly helpful for kids with special needs, young children, and/or anxious children. I learned about Zones of Regulation when my daughter was getting Occupational Therapy for her sensory issues. 

FOUR EMOTIONAL REGULATION ZONES

emotional regulation

The Zones of Emotional Regulation are comprised of four zones, each demonstrating a different level of emotions. Click here to download the Zones of Regulation Visual and other handouts. There is a blue zone, green zone, yellow zone, and red zone. You can print out the handout as is, which display the colors, or you can print it without color and have your child color it in themselves.  

The blue zone represents low energy, which can occur for a myriad of reasons. Someone who is in the blue zone may feel sad, sick, tired, or bored. The green zone is similar to a green traffic light; the person is okay to go. When you are calm, happy, focused and relaxed you are in the green zone. Yellow zone indicates to proceed with caution, just as a yellow traffic light does. If you are frustrated, excited, anxious, or starting to lose control, you are in the yellow zone. Lastly, red zone means to stop. This is when feelings are extreme and/or out of control. Yelling, angry, scared, and other intense emotions occur in the red zone. 

HOW I INTRODUCED THE ZONES OF EMOTIONAL REGULATION TO MY DAUGHTER

I introduced the zones to my daughter by going over with her what each zone meant and what each associated feeling meant. It is also necessary to discuss and brainstorm with your child what strategies can be implemented when in the blue, yellow or red zone. Your child can write a list of what to do in those situations, draw pictures, or you can look up images and your child can cut them out and glue them onto a piece of paper.  

Strategies my daughter uses when in the yellow and red zone include hugs, talking with me, drawing pictures, singing songs, dancing, jumping up and down, squeezing stress balls, reading, listening to music, and doing belly breathing (filling belly up with air when inhale, and slowly letting air out of stomach when exhale). The tools your child needs to manage their emotions will vary based on the child, the emotions, and the circumstances. 

When I began this with Brielle, it took some time for her to get used to the idea of colored zones. Due to her sensory issues, impulsivity, and poor emotional regulation due to her ADHD, she acts first without thinking about the emotions behind her actions. I modeled my own zones, feelings, and tools to help her learn this new way of managing emotions. For example, if I felt angry, I told her that I was in the red zone because I was feeling angry, and I needed to listen to some music to calm down. 

REMIND YOUR CHILD TO BE AWARE OF THEIR EMOTIONS

emotional awareness

It is important to use “I” messages during your discussions. Examples include I feel” and “I need this tool” when speaking about the zones. 

I also asked my daughter what zone she was in if she didn’t bring it up herself. I encouraged her to be aware of her emotions and what she needed to regulate them so she could be in the green zone. With time and consistency, she got better at independently labeling what zone she was in, and then with repetition she was able to name the emotion that accompanied the zone.  

Initially, she was reminded to select tools to help her with this process. I created a “calming corner” in her room with things she pre-selected to help her feel better. Her calming corner included a bean bag chair, a weighted blanket, squeezing toys, and books. She was encouraged to go to the calming corner if she felt that would help, but there were times she wanted to do something else. I praised her for taking the initiative to select what tool would be best for her in the moment.  

USE THE ZONES OF REGULATION YOURSELF TO MODEL BEHAVIOR FOR YOUR CHILDREN

Remember that your children will model what they see. Try to keep your emotions in check, and label what zone you are in and what strategies you are using. It is unrealistic to think you can be calm and collected all the time, so be open about how you are feeling and what helps you to regulate your emotions. You are setting a great example for your kid and you are also taking the time to recognize and prioritize your feelings. It’s a win-win! 

Make several copies of the Zones of Emotional Regulation and the strategies you’ve discussed with your child. Put them throughout the house where they are easy to access. 

HELPING YOUR CHILD UNDERSTAND EMOTIONAL REGULATION

helping children understand emotional regulation

Another thing I implemented with my daughter along with emotional regulation is discussing whether she had a little problem, medium problem, or big problem. Brielle would react to any situation with the same ferocity. It was important for me to help her put things in perspective. A little problem is something that only impacts you and is easy to solve or can go away on its own. A medium problem involves some people and can be resolved in a matter of hours or a few days. A big problem is something that impacts many people and takes a long time to get resolved. 

Your child getting a paper cut is an example of a little problem. That said, don’t tell that to my daughter. She held up her middle finger in the backseat of the car the entire car ride because she had a paper cut on that finger. She refused to put her finger down. Yes, I got some stares from other people. A story for another time. 

A medium problem is getting locked out of your car and having to wait for AAA to come to your rescue. Annoying and frustrating (yellow zone!), but not a major problem in the scheme of things. 

A big problem is COVID-19. Sadly, I think that example explains itself. 

Remember to ask for your child’s zone when an opportunity arises. Another good idea is setting reminders in advance to discuss everyone’s zones at set intervals throughout the day.  

For example, if your child is in the red zone because he knocked over his blocks, acknowledge the zone if your child doesn’t do so on his own. Once your child has used his calming tools, ask if the problem was an example of a big, medium or little problem. I know that when my daughter is in the red zone, logic isn’t going to work with her. Once she has calmed down, she is more receptive to having a conversation about the significance of her problem.  

SUPPORT AND UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD’S FEELINGS

how you feel

Keep in mind that even though some of your child’s concerns and struggles are not a big deal to us, it often feels like a catastrophe to them. Try to support their feelings and understand them, while teaching and modeling a new way to think about situations. 

My daughter became so good at discussing zones and emotions that she now points out other people’s zones and emotions. There is nothing better than trying to explain an assignment to your child for the 4th time and having her say, “You look like you are in the red zone, Mommy. I think you’re going to explode. Do you need to use my calming corner?” How well the student has become the teacher. Sigh. 

Structure, consistency, and supporting one another’s feelings is always necessary, but especially when living through a pandemic. With many kids using distant learning or homeschooling, these tools are a great way to teach emotional regulation, awareness, and support your child’s (and your own!) emotional and social well-being.  

don't compare yourselves to others

THE CYCLE OF COMPARISON

It is a common inclination to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes the comparison game gives us the push we need to strive harder, but often it makes us feel like we are lacking. If we see someone driving a better car, we want an upgrade. We feel shame about our smaller home if our friends have a bigger house.  If we see kids sitting in a restaurant calmly listening to their parents, we wonder why our kids don’t behave that way.

It is a never-ending-hamster wheel of wanting, envying, and seeking. The more we compare, the more we want, and the more we feel shame. It seems that no matter how hard we try, what we have is never enough to satiate us. There is always someone who has done it better, gotten more, and seems to have it all together. We fall short at every turn, and it isn’t a good feeling.

THE DANGER OF COMPARING OURSELVES TO OTHERS

danger of comparing ourselves to others

Insecurity is something I struggled with for most of my life. As an adult, it is a daily struggle. It is easy for me to feel like crap when I look around at the women who have 3,000 Facebook friends, put up endless photos of get-togethers with their girlfriend, and take exotic family trips. As a child I believed I wasn’t good enough, and that narrative repeats its vicious cycle when I fall into the trap of comparing myself to others.

I know that many of us struggle with feeling that no matter how hard we try, it just isn’t enough. We envy the seamlessness of other people’s lives, and wonder why we can’t have it all together. We feel like failures. I feel like a failure.

The truth is, we are all losers once we enter the comparison race. The bigger, better mentality sets each of us up for failure every time.

Firstly, there is always someone who is better at what you doing, who looks better in those pair of jeans, or whose hair never gets frizzy no matter what the weather. With the number of people on the planet, it doesn’t take that much looking around to find someone who will have what you want, will do it better than you, and will look better while doing it.

comparison is an optical illusion

Secondly, most of what we see in life is the ultimate optical illusion. The smiling faces on Instagram, those women who step out of the car looking like they are ready to pose for a magazine, the people who seem to float through life on a cloud of ease…. things are not always as they seem. What if that woman suffers from body issues? Is it possible that the person who seems to have it all together goes home and cries every night? Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, so what you are seeing is simply what others choose to let you see. Sometimes the grass looks greener on the other side because it isn’t real grass.

I am proof of that optical illusion. I know that people assumed I was a happy kid who got good grades and seemed to have my head on straight. They had no idea I was getting abused and cried myself to sleep most nights. Others didn’t know that I have a terrible memory and had to write down every detail on flash cards and spend endless days and nights studying to get my good grades. They didn’t know that behind that smile was a huge void of despair and anxiety.

Comparing ourselves to others is something we all struggle with, but if we think about it, it’s a waste of time and energy. At the end of the day, it will always make us feel badly about ourselves. What happens as a result? We feel inferior to others and try to figure out a way to feel like we’re good enough.

Ever wonder why there is so much mom shaming? Why kids bully other kids? Why people insult one another? Is it because we are all such terrible people? Sure, there are some rotten apples; however, a big root of the problem is that people lash out and make others feel badly about themselves in a desperate attempt to feel better about themselves. There is a reason why envy is one of the deadly sins. It is an epidemic, and it seems to only be getting worse.

HOW TO STOP COMPARING OURSELVES

What is the alternative? Stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, compare yourself…to yourself.
Unlike comparing ourselves to others, trying to be the best versions of ourselves is healthy and productive. Instead of being paralyzed with shame and envy about a contest we can never win, we can try to make our own grass greener.

comparing ourselves to ourselves

The only power we have in this world is over ourselves and our lives. Instead of focusing on others, we can wake up each day willing to learn and grow. Striving to be the best versions of ourselves doesn’t mean striving for perfection. It means understanding that we have faults and fears and insecurities and weaknesses, but we can give ourselves a gentle nudge to work on our own issues and find comfort and acceptance within ourselves.

From personal experience, I can assure you that this is no easy task. There are days I wake up and feel like with every turn I take, nothing goes right. My child isn’t listening, my husband and I can’t see eye to eye on things, and l feel like my life is spinning out of control.

It is a daily struggle to remember that I cannot control any of life’s moving pieces. I can only work on myself, and that means falling down, making mistakes, and picking myself up and trying again. I will always have to work on myself because I am a constant work-in-progress.

Comparing ourselves to others, albeit painful, requires no effort. We can simply point our finger at others and tread in waves of despair. To take a cold, hard look at ourselves, roll up our sleeves, and figure out what we can do to make ourselves feel better? That takes hard work, courage, awareness, and lots of perseverance.

WINNING THE BATTLE BY LOSING THE COMPARISON WAR

Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, and sometimes it is not. There is nothing any of us can do about that. I cannot change the hardships I faced, and I have to accept that there will always be things I lack. What we can do is have the strength to work on the parts of ourselves that we can change and try our best to give ourselves grace and compassion along the way.

Therefore, I am conceding the comparison war. There will always be someone who does something better than me and does it effortlessly. As hard as I try, there are some things that will always be hard for me. There will always be people who have things I can never obtain.

The good news is that each day gives me a new opportunity to be a better version of myself than I was the day before. I can try my best no matter what others have or what I lack. Although I may not be the grand prize winner, I can be the winner of my own contest just by entering. I am playing the cards I was dealt to the best of my ability, and that is good enough for me.

Daily Self-Care Worksheet Bundle (1)

 

Below is the link to my daily self-care worksheet bundle. Implement these worksheets in conjunction with The Importance of Self-Care For Health and Stress Management.  They will guide and support you along your self-care journey. Use them to incorporate self-care into a daily routine. Enjoy!

TO PRINT PDF for daily self-care worksheet bundle CLICK HERE

 

Daily Self-Care Worksheet Bundle (2)

 

 

Daily Self-Care Worksheet Bundle (3)

save this printable TO YOUR FAVORITE PINTEREST BOARD by hovering over the top of each picture and clicking “pin it”!

Self-Care

the importance of self-care

I touched upon the importance of self-care in my post about surviving motherhood. Self-care is the new buzz word nowadays. With the stress of the pandemic, taking time for our health and stress management is more essential than ever.

What is self-care? Self-care means different things to different people, but essentially it is doing things that support your well-being. Some things might make you happy in the moment (such as eating a box of chocolates of ordering some expensive shoes online); self-care makes you feel good in the long haul.

As I mentioned in my post about self-love, many of us (myself included) feel guilty when we do things for ourselves. However, I have learned that self-care is anything but selfish. It is impossible to pour from an empty cup. If time is not designated for caring for yourself and your well-being, you aren’t in a position to be the best version of yourself. You will feel emotionally and physically drained, overwhelmed, and stressed. A few minutes a day of time dedicated to yourself does wonders for your well-being.

There are many different types of self-care out there and deciding what you need to take care of yourself is different for everyone. The most important thing I can stress is that whatever form of self-care you choose (and it can vary daily), you must stick with it. Incorporate it into your daily routine to ensure that you allocate time for your health and stress management.

TIPS AND STRATEGIES

10 self care tips

Here are some examples of self-care:

1- Exercise– although I hate doing it in the moment, I always feel better about myself afterwards. I designate 4-5 days a week for about 15 minutes each time to do Pilates from the comfort of my own home. My daughter sometimes does it with me, as I feel it is important to teach her how essential it is to take care of your health. I often do this with my husband as well to motivate and encourage one another. You can run, do yoga, go to a gym, or do any type of physical activity. Caring for your physical health translates into improving your mental health as well.

2- Sleep– I vaguely remember what it felt like to get a good night’s sleep before I became a mom. Seriously though, sleep is essential for your physical and mental health. Try to implement a time that is realistic for you to go to sleep nightly, and make sure you follow through. There’s nothing like waking up from a restful sleep. I have several suggestions for improving your quality of sleep and your child’s here.

3- Journaling– I started incorporating 10 minutes a day to writing. Getting my thoughts and feelings onto paper is very therapeutic, and it is a great form of self-care. It also helps me to dig into some of the emotions I’m feeling and figure out the thoughts/story I am telling myself regarding those feelings. Sometimes it takes writing things down to see the false beliefs I am telling myself.

4- Breathing– There are many types of breathing exercises that are meant to calm the mind and the body. Here are a few:

  • 4-7-8: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds.
  • Deep belly breathing: Inhale while filling your stomach with air and then let the air leave your stomach while you exhale. You can do this while doing the 4-7-8.
  • Tensing and releasing your body from head to her toes:  Inhale while tensing/squeezing the body part, hold it for 8 seconds, and then exhale while relaxing/releasing the body part. I start with my feet, working my way upward to my calves, thighs, pelvis, stomach, chest/neck area, arms and hands, and face. At the end I tense everything at the same time, hold, and release. This is a favorite of mine for stress management, and one which I do daily.
  • Taking an inhale and then exhaling for as long as she can while vibrating your lips to make a “wwww” or “ommm” sound.  According to Neurosculpting Instititue, “The researchers found that the vibrations from ‘OM’ chanting stimulate the vagus nerve, which then sends out neurotransmitters and electrical signals that reduce activity to key areas of the brain like the amygdala, associated with our flight/fight/freeze response. In addition, the increased oxygenation of the blood from the vibration facilitates feelings of relaxation and release in the muscles and structure of the body.”

5- Meditation– there are several YouTube videos on how to meditate, but there is no right or wrong way. I meditate by repeating a phrase in my head while closing my eyes and concentrating on my breathing.

6- Reading– If you read my woman behind the blog article, you know that I am an avid reader. Curling up on the couch with a great book is priceless. Some people choose to read self-help books as a form of self-care, but any type of reading is helpful.

7- Coloring– Some people find coloring to be very soothing as it shuts off the noise in your mind as you focus on coloring. Coloring isn’t only for children. There are a number of adult coloring books that you can buy.

being bullied and the lessons i learned

my middle school discomfort

Middle school is not a time of my life that you could pay me to revisit. I think most adults would agree that those years are tough. Your bodies are changing, your hormones are wild, and you are starting to have a grown-up body while still having a child mind.  The potential for being bullied is extremely high.

Junior high school was particularly hard for me for a myriad of reasons. I was unhappy with who I was as a person, I didn’t have anyone I could turn to for support and comfort, and I felt no sense of safety. I felt hopeless, unloved, and felt very much alone. Although I was a bright girl and got accepted into a school for gifted kids based on my IQ and writing ability, I had absolutely no self-confidence.

my friend, the bully

say not to bullying

In truth, there were many kids in that school who were sweet and probably looking for a friend too. I had classmates whom I could (and should) have chosen to surround myself with. Instead, I gravitated towards a girl who did not treat me the way one treats a friend. She appeared confident, but in hindsight I think she lacked confidence as well. Just as moms will shame other moms to feel better about themselves, she verbally bullied me to feel better about herself.

She was friends with another girl as well, and the two of them would laugh together while she poked fun at me. One day I was told she didn’t like my bow and it was babyish. Another time I was ridiculed that I reminded her of Minnie Mouse because of my high voice. You name it, she teased at me about it. Whether it was the way I wore my eyeshadow (honestly, I still don’t think I wear it properly) or the clothes I wore, she never ceased an opportunity to tease me. 

In a nutshell, I was bullied by a girl who claimed she was my friend. Now this was in the 90s, when bullying was in a completely different form. This was long before the world of cyber bullying, where kids could taunt you behind the protection of a computer screen. No, this was the old-fashioned way; up close, personal, and fully standing by the words she chose to throw my way. 

being bullied by myself

don't be a bully it starts with me

Victims of verbal bullying are usually told to not give the bully any power. The advice given is to tell a teacher or ignore them because bullies are typically cowards. I was in a different situation. I had two bullies: this girl and myself.

My “friend” might have said hurtful things, but I did nothing to stop it. This is not a situation where I was powerless. She also was not hurting me physically. She used the power of her words to inflict pain upon me, and I chose to say and do nothing. I never once told her that I wouldn’t associate with her if she made those kinds of comments. When she laughed at me, I never walked away. In fact, I never even told her that her words bothered me. Instead, I often laughed it off. She might have been the one throwing the dagger, but I was the one stabbing it into my own heart.

why i didn’t walk away from being bullied

Looking back, I didn’t say anything for many reasons. For one, I had a complete lack of confidence in myself. My self-esteem was so low that I felt I deserved it. I didn’t believe that I should have someone in my life who valued my feelings and treated me well. I was already being abused for years by this point, and in some messed up way, being treated badly was my normal. It was all I knew, and all I believed I should know. It’s why I picked her in the first place. She reinforced my belief that I was not worthy or enough. In my mind, there must have been something wrong with me to be abused by my mother. Therefore, why shouldn’t this girl treat me badly as well?

Another reason I stuck around was because I convinced myself on some level that she was my friend. As I’ve mentioned before, what is even harder than being abused is admitting to yourself that you are being abused. The same applied here. I wanted to believe that this girl really was my friend, and that her actions were somehow justified.

Lastly, I was terrified of standing up to her and having nobody. I would rather associate with someone who was teasing me than be by myself.  Nothing was worse than feeling that. It didn’t occur to me that the moment I accepted that kind of treatment from her, I was alone.

I remember the last day of junior high school. I asked a few people to sign my yearbook, and she was one of them.  She actually wrote me a nice message that she hoped we’d always be friends. I then wandered around the hallways; I had nobody else to talk to and nobody asked me to sign their yearbooks. My confidence was non-existent, and I felt completely and utterly alone. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believed I didn’t deserve to have anyone, and that is exactly what I got. I spent three years at a school, and I left without a single true friend.

Insecurity Can be Felt at any Age and No Relationship Should Tolerate Bullying

insecurities are felt at any age

I don’t want you to think badly of this girl. In fact, we are friends on Facebook, and she occasionally likes my posts. I hold no ill will towards her whatsoever, not because I’m in denial, but because I think she was lost too.  I think she was a child who had her own struggles and made poor choices. Should she have teased me? No. However, if I didn’t speak up and show respect for myself, then how can I expect her to respect me?

There is a bigger lesson to this story then the teasing of a young, incredibly insecure girl. Those who lack confidence can be people of all ages.   We will all at some point inevitably have an encounter with someone who will say things at our expense. These people can be co-workers, romantic partners, friends, and even family. The same insecurities that prevented me from speaking up as a child prevents others from doing the same, regardless of age or relationship.

Some things cannot be prevented. I am not speaking of those situations where victims are truly powerless. There are some tragedies in life that confidence and assertiveness will not deter.

How We Stop Bullying Ourselves

When someone mistreats you, teases you, or says something that makes you feel badly about yourself, you have a choice. You can choose to allow those words to hammer away at your self-respect bit by bit, or you can choose yourself.

I don’t know what would have happened if I would have spoken up and said that her teasing was hurtful. I don’t know what she would have said, but I know I would have felt empowered. It took me many years to get to a place where I could defend myself. Today I have so much compassion for that little girl. I know that I simply didn’t have it within me to set those boundaries and believe that I deserved better. I cry for that little girl quite often because I know now how worthy she was and how unfair life was to her. In turn, I also know how cruel she was to herself.

I share this story not to elicit sympathy. I spill these sad words onto the page in hopes that someone who reads this will recognize that love and kindness are the most precious gifts you can give someone. They can save someone else, and they can save yourself. Give your children one more hug and remind them that you love them. Remember to be kind to yourself. Reach out to a friend and let them know you care. Boost confidence instead of tearing it down.

We cannot change how people treat one another, and there is much cruelty in this world.  However, if we can love wholeheartedly and remind those we love that they are worthy and deserve better, perhaps they will start to believe that for themselves. 

Our obligation to Speak Up

We also need to be cognizant that if we are being mistreated, it does not matter who the person is on the other side. We have an obligation to speak up. If we cannot do so for ourselves, we must do so for our children. Otherwise, we are sending the message to our children that they can treat others that way, and in turn, others can treat them that way. For the sakes of our children, it must stop with us.

My daughter was taught from a young age that teasing others and allowing others to tease you is never okay. She knows bullying comes in many forms, and that they all are painful.  I try to instill in her that she should treat herself and others with respect

I pray that she feels the love and safety that I didn’t feel as a child. If the day ever comes where she is bullied or disrespected, I hope she will have the courage and confidence to do what I wasn’t able to do.