tips and strategies to reduce anxiety naturally

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and stress. Below are numerous tips and strategies to help reduce anxiety naturally in both children and adults. These strategies are useful whether you experience occasional or frequent anxiety.

It is important to keep in mind that there is no substitution for seeking professional help to manage anxiety disorders. However, these strategies can be used in conjunction with therapy. To gain further knowledge about anxiety, previous articles address various emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety and different types of anxiety disorders.

10 Grounding Techniques For Calming Down Quickly

Grounding techniques are practices to help you focus on the present moment. This is helpful for anxiety and any type of distress. It is particularly useful in those that suffer from PTSD and Panic Disorder. There are a variety of grounding exercises that can be implemented by both children and adults:

Repetition of Phrases

Repeat something over and over when you are trying to anchor yourself.  An example is, “My name is _________. I live in _____________. The weather outside is ______________. The time is _____________. “ You or your child can make a list of such phrases in advance, and pick phrases to say aloud when feeling anxious. You can keep saying different phrases on the list or the same phrase until you feel less anxious.

Label items in categories

Choose a few categories that you can easily list, such as types of animals and favorite desserts. You can either mentally or verbally list as many items as possible from those categories.

Recite something

Pick a favorite poem, song, or lines from a book that you know. Either say it aloud or to yourself, while focusing on each word.

Recall details 

Take a photograph, drawing, or piece of art and stare at it for a few seconds. Then look away and say as many details about it as you can recall. This can include remembering where you were when the picture was taken, what you were wearing when the picture was drawn, or any other related details.

Numbers

Some examples include reciting the multiplication table, adding different numbers together, or counting by 3s. The types of math can vary based on age and ability. For example, a younger child can count until 5 several times.

Use the 5-4-3-2-1 Method 

This is one of my favorites as it incorporates all your senses, really helping you to stay grounded in the moment. Look around your surroundings and use your senses to list things around you, working backwards from 5. For example, you can notice 5 things you see, then 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can taste. Focus on your surroundings intensely so you can pick up on sensations you may not normally realize.

Put your hands in water

Put your hands in a bowl of cold water, allowing yourself to focus on the sensations of the water on different parts of your hand. Leave them in there while you concentrate on the various sensations. Then take them out and put them in a bowl of warm water. Focus on how the various temperatures feel differently on your hands. Continue to switch them back and forth.

Pick up different items around you 

Notice the texture, shape, weight, smell, colors, or any unique features about each item. How does it feel in your hand? Try to be as specific as possible when labeling their features.

Hold a piece of ice or put a cold pack on your head

Notice the sensations in your hand or face, again being as specific as possible.  Notice how the sensation changes as the it melts or becomes less cold. Putting anything cold on your head “triggers the vagus nerve that turns on all rest-connect nerves” (Kate-Cohen Posey, 2016).

Focus on your body

  1. Concentrate on how your body feels from your head all the way down to your toes. First, do this sitting, and then try it again standing. You can raise and lower your feet on the ground, wiggle your hands or your arms, and/or cross and uncross your legs. Notice how each body part feels when you make those changes. Also pay attention to feelings such as your hair on your back, your glasses on your nose, or the feeling of your clothing on your body. 
  2. Notice how your body feels when you stretch or move each part of your body, from your toes to your face. You can rotate, wiggle and/or flex your body, focusing on each part as you do so.

Additional grounding exercises besides those in this post may be found here.

Diet and Supplements Are Helpful Ways to Reduce Anxiety Naturally

diet helps to reduce anxiety

Watching what you eat and consuming certain supplements are beneficial for reducing anxiety:

  1. Limit your sugar intake. Research has shown that too much sugar can worsen anxious feelings and impact temperament (webmd.com, 2017)
  2. A diet that contains vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein may benefit those with anxiety. Chemicals in processed foods may cause mood changes in some people (healthline.com, 2020).
  3. Limit caffeine. Caffeine can cause jitteriness and nervousness in some people. Try reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake and see if it improves your anxiety symptoms. Remember that there is caffeine in chocolate, so be mindful of whether your child has caffeine in their diet as well.
  4. Eliminate alcohol and cigarettes. Alcohol can become abused if used as a coping mechanism for anxiety, so do not rely on alcohol to soothe your nerves. Similarly, smoking can worsen anxiety over time and “research also suggests that nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety” (healthline.com, 2020).
  5. Supplements can help with anxiety reduction (healthline.com, 2018).  Please consult your child’s doctor before giving any supplements to children.
  6. Probiotics have also shown benefits in reducing anxiety. Check with your child’s doctor before giving any probiotics to children.

Exercise to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

  1. Moving your body is a great way to relieve mental stress. When you get your heart rate up, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood. Find something you and/or your child enjoys doing such as running, walking, dancing, doing jumping jacks, swimming, playing sports, or riding a bike. Do this regularly as it is great for your physical health as well as your mental health.
  2. Meditation- a main goal of medication is to practice mindfulness, which is staying focused on the present. This is a grounding technique, and one which relieves stress and anxiety when practiced regularly. It is important to note that there is no “wrong” way to meditate. I like to repeat a phrase in my head to keep me anchored while I inhale and exhale. There are many YouTube videos that provide various options to help you or your child meditate.
  3. Yoga- restorative poses are yoga poses that activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps elicit a relaxation response. You can google “restorative yoga poses” to see a variety of options, but a favorite of mine is Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose.  To do this pose, you lay down on your back on a floor or bed and put your hips as close to the wall as possible. You then elevate your legs by putting them up against a solid object, such as a wall.  Your body forms an L-shape. Place a towel or blanket under your pelvis to elevate your hips for further benefits. You may also place a pillow under your head if you prefer. Focus on your breathing or listen to relaxing music. Stay in this position for 10-20 minutes depending on age, comfort, personal preference. This is something that children can easily do as well as adults.  

Journaling for Anxiety Relief and Stress

journaling for anxiety relief

Journaling is a great way to handle stress. It is an outlet which allows for insightfulness and introspection.

  1. Some people choose to keep a gratitude journal, where they write/draw what they are grateful for daily. This allows them to focus on the positive things/people/circumstances in their life that they can remember when feeling anxious.
  2. A journal may also be used to list positive affirmations daily (e.g., I feel anxious, but I am not anxious. Being anxious does not define me.). You can also list/draw things you like about yourself as reminders for when you feel anxious.
  3. Another/additional option is to put down on paper what you feel stressed about. This provides a healthy outlet of coping with anxiety. It can also help identify a pattern of thinking or way of thinking that isn’t helpful, allowing an opportunity to adjust your perspective.

Children should be encouraged to journal as well. They can either draw or write in their journal depending on which method is preferred/age.

There are some great journal options here, here, and here.

4 Important Anxiety Reminders

  1. There are MANY different strategies and ways to alleviate anxiety. There are so many, in fact, that my next post is devoted to an entire new list of tips and techniques to manage anxiety in both children and adults! 
  2. Remember that anxiety is experienced differently for everyone. What works for one person may not work for another. Also, what might work for you or your child in one instance may not be as effective another time. Experiment with various strategies so you have options.
  3. Remember that it takes practice and patience to figure out what techniques or products are the best for you!
  4. Lastly, if you find this article helpful, please share it with others. My hope is that these tips and strategies will be beneficial, and that this post can help spread awareness and support! 

 

causes of anxiety

Anxiety is a topic that needs more awareness and understanding. There are currently 40 million adults and 4.4 million children who have anxiety disorders (cdc.gov, 2020). I discuss the definition of anxiety and its various symptoms here.  This article will focus on the causes of anxiety and different anxiety disorders in children and adults.

WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?

causes of anxiety

It is important to understand that people experience anxiety at various times throughout their lives. However, anxiety becomes problematic when it interferes with a person’s ability to function.

Genetics

There is a genetic factor to anxiety. Just as a person may have a history of cancer in the family, it is possible to inherit anxiety as well.

Learned Anxiety

Children can pick up on the behaviors and feelings of other people. As a result, they may inherit those feelings. For example, if a parent is afraid of dogs and reacts anxiously whenever a dog is present, the child may start feeling anxiety around dogs as well. “Children can pick up anxious behaviors from being around anxious people” (nhs.uk).

Pressure

If a child feels constant pressure to perform a certain way in school or sports, they may develop anxiety. Similarly, if an adult feels constant pressure (e.g., at work or financial), this can trigger anxiety.

School related issues

Bullying and a lack of friends in school may result in anxiety.

Loss

This includes the death of a loved one (person or animal), as well as divorce

Unstable environment

Examples include constant fighting in the home, lack of consistency due to frequent moving, and/or frequently changing schools

Abuse/trauma

This includes neglect, abuse, and/or witnessing or involvement in a traumatic event.

Health

Having a serious illness or injury in an accident can cause anxiety.

Comorbid conditions

“If a child has ADHD and/or autism, they are more likely to have problems with anxiety” (nhs.uk). The misuse or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol may also cause or increase anxiety. Additionally, “people with other mental health disorders, such as depression, often also have an anxiety disorder” (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

Unknown

There are simply some people whose personality makes it more likely that they will develop an anxiety disorder. For instance, some people have a higher tolerance to stress. On the contrary, others are more prone to anxiety.

TYPES OF ANXIETY DISORDERS IN CHILDREN AND ADULTS

anxiety disorders in children and adults

There are various anxiety disorders in children and adults.  Additionally, each disorder has different characteristics. This information should give you a fuller understanding of anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

When someone talks about having chronic anxiety, this is what they are typically referring to. For instance, children and adults with GAD experience anxiety about a variety of things (e.g., performance in tasks, relationships with others, and daily life situations). As a result, it is anxiety “that is nearly constant and disproportionate to its causes” (additutdemag, 2018).

Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia

Intense fear about social situations is the hallmark of social anxiety. This includes avoiding social situations, worrying about an upcoming event, not participating in events, difficulty making friends, and avoiding or extreme discomfort when having conversations. It is important to note “some people might exhibit symptoms in only one type of situation, whereas others might experience multiple symptoms in various social situations” (additudemag.com, 2018).

Panic Disorder

Those with this disorder experience panic attacks and extreme terror that comes about unexpectedly. It is characterized by chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, feeling faint, and dizziness.  A child is diagnosed with panic disorder “if your child suffers at least two unexpected panic or anxiety attacks-which means they come on suddenly and for no reason- followed by at least one month of concern over having another attack, losing control, or ‘going crazy’” (adaa.org, 2015).

Separation Anxiety Disorder

It is part of typical development to feel anxiety when separating from a caregiver between the ages of 18 months-3 years. Additionally, children often feel anxious separating from a caregiver when getting dropped off at a new school or environment.  Separation anxiety disorder mostly presents in children between the ages of 7-9. It is characterized by intense and excessive anxiety about being away from home and/or being separated from a parent or caregiver. This can include anxiety that something is going to happen to their loved one while they are away.  

Selective Mutism

This anxiety disorder is associated with a consistent failure to speak in certain social situations. A person with this disorder will freeze around particular people or events, but will speak freely when not triggered.  “It usually starts in adulthood, and if left untreated, can persist into adulthood. A child or adult with selective mutism does not refuse or choose not to speak at certain times, they’re literally unable to speak” (nhs.uk, 2019).

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

An anxiety disorder that involves constant thoughts, actions, or impulses that are in intrusive.  As a result, there is a need to perform certain rituals or routines to ease their anxiety. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

An extreme fear or anxiety after a traumatic or life-threatening event. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, being hyperalert/hypervigilant, and avoiding situations that are similar/reminders of the event.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

Although this is not an anxiety disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it is closely related to PTSD.  C-PTSD is a result of prolonged or repeated trauma, and it includes the symptoms of PTSD.  As a person who has C-PTSD and chronic anxiety as a result, I feel it is important to include this. I will address C-PTSD and its complexities in a future article.

Specific Phobia

An intense fear of a specific object, thing, or place. Examples include a fear of spiders, heights, or the dark.  A person with a specific phobia tends to avoid the source of their anxiety. “Unlike adults, they [children] do not usually recognize that their fear is irrational” (adaa.org).

When to Get Professional Help

when to get professional help

It is important to see a doctor if you or your child have anxiety that is interfering with any aspect of your life. Additionally, seek professional help if there are any other mental health or physical concerns. It is important to understand that anxiety can worsen without proper treatment.  Please do not assume that things will get better on their own. Being proactive is the best thing you can do for yourself or your child.

understanding anxiety in children and adults

We have all experienced the feeling of anxiousness. However, when does anxiety become a concern? The purpose of this article is to give a fuller understanding of anxiety in children and adults. It is important to clarify the symptoms of anxiety and recognize when anxiety is more than just a normal part of life.

Understanding anxiety versus worrying

Worrying and anxiety are often used interchangeably, but they are different. Worrying is usually more specific (e.g., worrying about getting a good grade on a test), and it often leads to problem solving (e.g., studying). Alternatively, anxiety is more of a general state of being (e.g., I feel anxious because my best isn’t good enough) that triggers a snowball effect.

A good way to decipher between anxiety and worrying is that, “when you worry, you’re typically thinking about an actual event that’s taking place or is going to take place. But when you’re dealing with anxiety, you tend to hyperfocus on events or ideas that your mind creates” (healthline.com, 2018).  Worrying varies in intensity and you feel a sense of control, whereas anxiety is much more difficult to control.

Another important distinction is where worrying and anxiety are felt. Worrying is something that happens only in your mind. Worrying are thoughts that may be negative or about something that can go wrong. Anxiety, on the other hand, “has a cognitive element (worry) and a physiological response (stress), which means that we experience anxiety in both our mind and our body” (NYTimes.com, 2020).

Understanding Anxiety in Children and Adults

anxiety in children

There is such a thing as anxiety that is healthy. It is a means of our brain and body responding to a perceived sense of danger. Therefore, it is a crucial part of our survival instinct. Anxiousness is something that is common and typical in development, especially as children deal with new experiences and situations. The unknown is frightening for many of us, adults as well as children.

However, there is cause for concern when anxiety is frequent and persistent. Anxiety is often hard to recognize in children because of its cognitive component. Often children have a hard time articulating their thoughts and feelings.  As a result, parents are only aware of the child’s physical and negative behaviors.  Additionally, anxiety may overlap with or present as symptoms of learning disabilities or  Attention Deficit Disorders  (anxiety.org).

There is stigma associated with anxiety.  Adults may resist admitting that anxiety is impacting their quality of life. As a result, they don’t seek professional help. This resistance is largely because of the lack of societal understanding about anxiety. Those with anxiety are often told to “suck it up” or “it isn’t a big deal.” This may cause someone who suffers with anxiety to feel intense shame and self-loathing, only exacerbating the problem.

There are a variety of symptoms that may be experienced by both adults and children with anxiety. When there is a greater understanding about anxiety, it allows for support, empathy, and proper treatment.

Physical/Psychosomatic Symptoms of Anxiety in Children and adults

Below is a list of physical signs of anxiety:

  • Headaches
  • Sleeplessness- this includes difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or frequent bad dreams
  • Stomach aches/cramps
  • Frequently using the bathroom (for bowel movements or urination)
  • Nausea
  • Lack/loss of appetite
  • A general sense of feeling unwell
  • Muscle tension or aches
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Racing heart/rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness/ jittery
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained sweating

This list of physical symptoms are things we have all experienced at some point. In other words, if your child complains of a tummy ache, that doesn’t mean your child has an anxiety disorder. That said, it is worth keeping in mind that there may be more going on than meets the eye if your child is complaining of stomach aches regularly or before/during particular situations.

As grownups, we tend to ignore physical symptoms and assume they will go away. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms frequently, it is probably something worth investigating. Our bodies are often sending us messages, if we are willing to listen to them.

Emotional/Behavioral Symptoms of Anxiety in children and adults

emotional symptoms of anxiety

Below are emotional/behavioral signs of anxiety:

  • Anger and irritability– this may present in children as meltdown, tantrums, and disruptive behavior such as aggression. Adults who experience anxiety may exhibit outbursts, fits of anger, agitation, and hostility. Anger is often overlooked as a symptom of anxiety, but feeling overwhelmed with anxiety can trigger those symptoms.
  • Neediness– children may be clingy, not want to leave their parent or caregiver, or are unable to sleep without a loved one. In both adults and children, they may seek constant reassurance, approval, and validation.
  • Avoidance/Lack of Interaction– examples of this may be a child who refuses to go to school or try out for a team. Specific things or events may cause a grownup or child extreme duress and therefore are avoided. In social situations, the person may appear shy, not speak with others, or avoid social situations entirely.
  • Lack of confidence– examples include repeatedly asking for help or demanding that others do things for them, even when capable of doing it correctly. Feeling inferior and inadequate to others may be due to anxiety.
  • Hypervigilance– frequently asks “what if?”, focuses on the negative sides of things, or always perceives a threat of danger. This person can come across as pessimistic or a complainer.
  • Perfectionism– They have high expectations for themselves in every aspect of their lives, whether it is school, a job, sports, responsibilities. It is great when a person strives to do their best, but there is a line between trying your best and demanding perfection from oneself. 
  • Procrastination– avoidance of things that cause anxiety result in procrastination of those things
  • Distracted/difficulty concentrating- this can be misinterpreted as a focusing issue, but it is excessive worrying and fear that is causing the inability to focus.
  • Controlling– may tell others what to say or do as a type of ritual or have persistent impulses (e.g., repetition of a certain behavior)

When It Is Necessary to Seek Professional Help

If you or your child experience anxiety that is excessive and/or interferes with relationships, other aspects of life, or daily functioning, please speak with a doctor or mental health provider. If you or a loved one are experiencing frequent or several physical symptoms, it is also crucial to seek medical attention.  “Physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be easily confused with other medical conditions…” (National Alliance on Mental Illness, Dec. 2017).

Anxiety is manageable with proper help and support. Recognizing the symptoms is the first step. I hope this article brings you one step closer to understanding anxiety and the many ways it can rear its ugly head. Anxiety is something you shouldn’t have to suffer with silently.

secrets to a long and happy marriage

 

I shared with you the story of how I met my husband. When we exchanged vows, we expected our marriage to be a long and happy one. Like all true stories, happily ever after does not exist.  My husband and I have endured many bumps along the road, and there were times I honestly wasn’t sure if we were going to make it. 

It’s Okay to Admit That Marriage Is Really Hard

I think the best piece of advice I ever got was from my husband’s grandma (who passed away in March due to COVID).  When I asked her what the secret is to a long and happy marriage, she told me to remember that the first ten years of marriage are the hardest. I remember laughing in my head at the time.  I had heard that the first couple of years were rough, but ten? Really?! The joke was on me because she was right.

Learning to blend two very different people together is no easy task. In fact, the things I love most about Matt are also the things that drive me absolutely crazy (and vice versa). At the beginning, everything is new and exciting, and it is easy to overlook things. Once the honeymoon phase ends and life sifts in, it is a whole new ballgame. Juggling life’s responsibilities, raising a child, and encountering hardships can often tear people apart.

There are many things I wish I knew at the beginning of our marriage that could have saved us both a lot of anger, tears, and heartache. Here are some words of advice for a long and happy marriage:

8 Secrets To A Long and Happy Marriage

what does it mean to be happily married

1. Pick your battles, pick your battles, pick your battles. Have I mentioned you should pick your battles? I am a stubborn, strong woman, and my husband is even more stubborn than me. We see many things differently. If we bicker every time we disagree about something, well, we’d bicker constantly (which we did). I have learned (as has he) that it’s simply not worth sweating the small stuff. If he leaves his clothes next to the hamper instead of inside the hamper, reminding him each time is just going to annoy him. This will make him act snippy, which will cause me to get snippy.  I’d rather put his clothes in the hamper and play the “please do this” card when it is more important.

2. Know your spouse’s love language and know yours as well. What you feel are signs of love and affection may not even register on your spouse’s radar. This leaves you feeling unappreciated, and he feels that he’s not getting the type of affection he needs. Nobody wins. My love languages are acts of service (primary) and words of affirmation(secondary), and his love languages are physical touch (primary) and words of affirmation (secondary).

Most of our marriage I did the things for him that were my primary love language, but he couldn’t care less about those things. In turn, he would go over and hold my hand and hug me (which is his primary love language), and I didn’t feel appreciated at all. Now I know that giving him a massage or rubbing his arm makes him feel loved, and I try hard to voice my appreciation for all he does for our family. He in turn tries to show me now that he loves me by doing things such as mowing the backyard or doing the dishes.

3. Establish boundaries. Matt struggles with bringing things up when they happen. As a result, he’d bury his feelings until he’d finally explode and start yelling about all the things that upset him.  Our solution was to discuss our requests and requirements that we want from one another. It is up to each of us to hold ourselves accountable for honoring our own boundaries as well as the other person’s.

4. Don’t expect the other person to save/fix you or to change. This is a huge one for both of us. I grew up having a codependent relationship with my mother, which turned into a codependent relationship with Matt. I was unhappy and experienced a lot of trauma in my life, and I wanted my marriage to give me the feeling of wholeness and happiness that I was missing. That is A LOT of pressure to put on someone else.

Matt thought it was my job to take care of him. As a result, our dynamic became one more resembling of a mother and son than a husband and wife. I had to nag him to do things, and he resented me for it. He didn’t want to take responsibility for his choices, and I felt it was my job to convince him to do so.

I have come to learn that it is my job to save myself, and he has learned that he is responsible for his actions. I love and support him, but his choices are his alone. This gives him the space to be the man he is capable of being, and I spend my energy on working on myself instead of trying to convince him to work on himself.

5. There is no weakness in forgiveness.  We are imperfect and will make mistakes and hurt each other along the way. It is inevitable that we will say and do things that we will regret. Showing compassion to ourselves and to one another is necessary to have a happy marriage. There are some things that are unforgiveable, and that is where boundaries come in, but try not to hold grudges.

6. Try to have fun together. These are exceedingly difficult times. It is easy to get consumed with all the stress and hardships.  Take the time to enjoy one another’s company, and not just talk about kids or responsibilities.

7. Take a break.  This is an important tip in parenting and marriage. If you’re really upset, you are likely to react instead of responding or listening to what your partner is saying. Take time to cool off before you speak to your partner.  If things get incredibly tense during the conversation, put a pause in it. Give yourself and one another the space to calm down. It’s hard to walk away in the moment, but with effort and practice it is possible.

8. Respect one another’s feelings.  You don’t have to agree with your partner, but there is no right or wrong way to feel. If your partner is hurt or upset, it is never okay to dismiss or minimize his/her feelings because you don’t share the same sentiment.  It is important to acknowledge another person’s feelings while having your own.  Debating over who is right and how to feel usually leaves everyone a loser and unhappy.

Marriage is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

long and lasting marriage

The picture many of us had in our heads about what life and marriage would look like is usually not the case.  Instead of putting expectations on yourself and your partner, try to remember that marriage isn’t a sprint. Learning to navigate the murky water of marriage takes time, effort, and lots of trial and error.

Love isn’t always enough, but we have learned a lot about ourselves and each other along the way. I honor that journey because it is a great reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we are willing to travel together.

raising a self-sufficient child

Most parents say that they hope their children will be happy when they grow up. Although my daughter’s happiness is of utmost importance to me, I believe that there is a greater aspiration for our children; one that comes at a great cost to ourselves.  It is my belief that raising my child to be self-sufficient is the greatest act of unconditional love.

becoming a parent is the greatest identity change 

As parents, we are supporters, advocators, cheerleaders, and advisors. No matter how old our child may be, we worry about them, and we hope we are doing right by them. Every action, every tear, every heartache, every obstacle, and every ailment that our children experience we experience tenfold.

I struggled at the beginning to grasp the enormity of the non-stop, around-the-clock demands of taking care of my daughter. I was exhausted, I had severe physical complications from labor, and despite all the books and classes I took, I was mentally unprepared for motherhood. Despite all of this, I was somehow expected to adjust to the responsibility and commitment of raising a living creature. It was a hard pill to swallow that my life would never, ever be the same now that I was a mother.

My identity changed when I became a parent. I was no longer just Randi. Now, I was someone’s mom. I learned to love in a way that was greater than I ever imagined possible. I also learned the heartbreak and worry that comes along with that kind of love. Every night I will go to sleep praying and second-guessing the choices I make about my daughter. My decisions impact her life, and the weight of that pressure is sometimes overwhelming.  

The importance of raising a self-sufficient child 

self-sufficient child

This is where life’s greatest dichotomy comes into play. Our children are our priority. It is our job to love them unconditionally, to guide them through life’s struggles, and to instill in them values, morals and virtues. Parenting requires selflessness, patience, and devotion. We are needed and depended on in order for our kids to learn and grow. With that said, the true measure of successful parenting is to raise our children to be self-sufficient. It is only then that they can leave the nest and live life as self-sufficient, capable adults.

It is without a doubt the most selfless and agonizing act of all. Our children are the center of our lives, but the time will come when we will no longer be the center of their lives. My daughter, who still looks for me every time she hurts herself, who calls out my name if she has a bad dream, who confides in me about her hopes and her fears, will one day have a family of her own. I know that as much as my daughter needs me now, it is necessary to teach her to be her own supporter, cheerleader, tear wiper, and friend. We must love our children enough to teach them to be independent and self-reliant. It is the greatest act of unconditional love to teach them to depend on themselves rather than us.

teaching our children to handle the challenges of life is an act of unconditional love

act of unconditional love

Sure, even when our children are grown, we will always worry about them.  We will always love them unconditionally. No matter their age, we will still care and worry. They are adults, but they will always be our children. They will still love and need us, but our roles will no longer be the same.

Happiness is something we want for our children. However, I think happiness comes with believing and loving yourself. Therefore, I counter that sentiment with another goal, a far greater necessity for our children. I think the biggest accomplishment of any parent is that their child is self-sufficient and able to handle life’s challenges. Like many things in life, what is best is also what is the most difficult and painful. It is a goal that speaks to the true testament of any parent. Our act of unconditional love is letting go.

As my daughter navigates through life, I will be there alongside her. She will know that I am always there with open arms and an open heart. However, truly loving her means teaching her to love and depend on herself. Therefore, I will keep instilling in her the importance of picking herself up, dusting herself off, and putting one foot in front of the other.

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” – Denis Waitley

Self-Love Workbook

Not to toot my own horn, but this self-love workbook is AMAZING!

It contains journal prompts, positive affirmations, tools for setting boundaries, emotional check-ins, and everything you need to practice self love daily. 

It works best if used in conjunction with Why is Self-Love Important for Your Mental and Emotional Wellness? and How Do You Learn to Love Yourself?

One of the lessons I learned this year was a reminder to never take self-love and self-care for granted. Whether you are new to practicing self love or are a confidence guru, we all can use support on our self-love journey.

I am using this workbook along with my self-care printables, and it is incredibly helpful! I know it will be helpful for you too!

To pin, click on the upper left hand corner of each image.

To download a full pdf version of the self-love workbook, CLICK HERE.  

 

my self love worksheet bundle

 

 

self love - being my own friend

 

 

self love - positive affirmation checklist

 

 

setting boundaries

 

 

emotional daily checkin

 

 

self love/self care

 

Don’t forget to share the workbook with others!  As always, email me with any questions, feedback, or just to say hi!

XOXO,

Randi

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.