How to Prevent a President’s Week “Breakdown” ( A Social Worker’s Guide)

In the effort to take our mental health, seriously, it is best to be prepared for what we are dealing with, during a vacation week when school is out. School year’s September start to our current date, we have already had 7 holidays, plus 5 vacation days and 3 half days that school has been out, to be exact, in addition to the snow day and 44 weekend days (yes, I count those!).   We have been through this, so the thrill is over. What was once a curiosity of what a day might be like without rushing to school in the morning, without having to keep to a strict schedule, is no longer unknown. We have had our chance to live that way. Some of us might not choose that lack of structure, especially when we have been forced to scramble to create a home school setting, on snow days. This is the time of year, when President’s week hits us, parents, hard. School is out, yet again, after being cooped up throughout the cold-weathered winter.

We may need to remind ourselves that we start the vacation time trying to enjoy ourselves, and the extra time we have with our children. If you can, that is the best way to spend the week off from school. This can be a time to play games together, bake or cook, read, explain things in greater detail, now that you have the time. You can actually pay attention to what they are saying, and listen to their questions. If there is something you know you enjoy doing with your kids, this week is the time to do it! Like we say, there is no time like the present. President’s week is the best time to grab for your most exciting indoor tricks you’ve been saving. In many cases, this is only an option for so long. Everyone has a different threshold, and you must know yours, since the main goal is to minimize frustration for yourself, and prevent a President’s week breakdown.

As we get busier or overwhelmed with responsibilities, we tend to develop higher stress, and a lower tolerance for frustration. This can lead to less productivity, more difficult interactions with others, greater conflicts and even guilt or a decreased sense of self, as a result. Staying in tune with our emotional well being, which includes identifying emotional needs or frustration levels, can increase our chances of survival, and may even cause us to thrive. Instituting time for ourselves, can positively impact our experience for the week.

It can be important to keep in mind that small increments of time and attention provided to your children, can go a long way. Sometimes it can feel like a push-and-pull if you’re trying to accomplish something you need to get done, and a child needs your attention at the same time. Sometimes, if we give them focused attention, initially, and follow up with an explanation of what we are trying to accomplish after we tend to their needs, we can actually accomplish what we attempt.

Crafts

If you can afford it, and they ask for it, just buy it. Let them do something they enjoy, that they’re excited about. Yes, there are benefits to saying “no,” to requests and demands of children, but this longer-term-lesson of disappointment we would like to teach them, does not have to come at the expense of our emotional health during vaca week from school! Remember, that you would like to be able to use the bathroom at some point. Therefore, load up on the crafts, and let them open it, and craft away; coloring, beading, stickers, stamps, paints, dot-to-dot, string, rainbow loom.

Utilize those “other” people around:

Playdates can work. If someone invites them over, do not hesitate, or question whether or not it works for your schedule, whether or not, the kids get along with those playmates well. The playdate does not have to be your child’s best friend. Lots of different play experiences and interactions are an opportunity to learn as well. It is best just to make the plan, and arrange the playdate, always keeping in mind the goal for the week, which is to maintain emotional health and wellness as the caretaker.   Family members or family friends have blocks of time? Even if they say no, because they’re not sure they can fit it into their schedules, do not take no for an answer the first time. Reel in those grandparents, aunts, uncles, old best friends for the “quality time with your children.” Even if they do not see the positivity of their quality time from the planning stages, they’ll be happy they did it, after the fact.

TV, electronics?

Yes, of course. These are highly reliable crutches for parents. We are hoping for a “break”, not a breakdown. If your kids do not engage independently, TV time, ipad, and video games may be the only time you can take care of anything. At some point you may want to find time to clean up what they just played with, or prepare something for anyone to eat, maybe even for yourself. Let go of the guilt, and utilize the TV and electronics if it affords you some time to feel productive during the week.

Drop off activities

Now is not the time to listen to the whims of your children. Sometimes, they say, “I don’t think I like chess , soccer, or screen writing,” or “I like soccer, but I don’t feel like playing at that place that day.” How many new experiences would our kids have, if we allowed our kids to make all of their decisions? We have to remember that we know what is best for them (and for us- ha!), but seriously! Again, it is an opportunity for learning, at the very least, to learn about what they enjoy and do not enjoy. They may have an idea that they will not enjoy the activity or the event, but that could be simply a fear or a thought, not necessarily the reality. It can be our obligation as parents to present options, experiences, and guide them in directions they may question, if we feel they may benefit from them, or learn something. Each activity is an experience.

Stay in touch with your supporters. If there are friends or family members you enjoy speaking to, catching up with, or seeing, make plans to include them in your daily activities if it is possible. If this is not an option, you can at least try to stay in touch by phone. We may underestimate the positive impact that a conversation exchange with an important support in our lives, can provide, if we take those interactions for granted. Vacation week from school can be a stressful time for caretakers. If you can, make the time to reach out and stay connected with those providing support, adding joy or humor to your lives. Every laugh matters!

It is important to find the joy and laughter, in everyday. We can hope to create them and realize them with our children as well. That is how we may begin the week! We can begin everyday this way.

Try not to forget you, this week. If there is something you truly enjoy being able to do, whether it is going to the gym, hiking, biking, going to the nail salon, taking a walk, lying down, having a tea or coffee, cooking, reading a book, a magazine, writing, talking on the phone, or even shopping, try to make the time to include it. As caretakers, we often sacrifice too much of ourselves in the process of caring for others. If we do not get to do anything for ourselves, we are at a greater risk for frustration in our interactions with others and our daily life events. This can leave us disappointed and depleted. Good luck! And, post pictures!

*  Above mentioned activities and suggestions may vary according to children’s characteristics, conditions, and diagnoses, and may not be viable options as related to existing conditions or diagnoses.  Feel free to contact me by email with questions.

Speak Up

Someone reminded me, recently, that one thing she learned from me, was the importance of speaking up for herself.  If you observe something that you think is not correct or justified, whether it pertains to your own experience, something you witness or simply thought about, remember your voice, and speak up.  It might be a complaint you have about something, or a concern. If you thought it, speak up about it. It may be a question of the way things are done. If you ask yourself, ask others as well. We need to realize that our thoughts can push us to question things some times and even make things better for ourselves, and others.  Our thoughts and ideas can improve our relationships, and the systems that make up the structure of our society, if we choose to share them.

It also allows us to be heard for what our true beliefs are, and follow through with our belief system, by sharing our perceptions and opinions with others. Speaking up becomes the process for us to become our true selves.

What good can come from keeping concerns or ideas to yourself? Speaking up is an opportunity to bring your ideas and thoughts to the attention of others. There may be reasons things are not right. Furthermore, it reinforces the thoughts you have by giving you the chance to collaborate with others.

This is how significant changes can take place. Things and systems are always “one” way, until there is a different way.

There are deterrents to asserting ourselves, that exist. Perhaps, we fear we will draw too much attention to ourselves. Clearly, if we choose to keep things the way they are, and keep our concerns and thoughts to ourselves, we will not have to face those who disagree with us, or disapprove of our ideas. We would not have to engage in a potential conflict.

It can be decreased self -confidence or concerns about others’ opinions that can prevent us from being ourselves, and may prevent us from speaking our truthful thoughts. This is exactly why developing the strength and self confidence to speak up despite the dissent or opinions of others, is so important.

We may encounter others who disagree with our ideas. We may come into contact with those who disapprove of our choice to be outspoken. Let us remember that we do not choose to speak up to win their approval or form deeper friendships. The reason we speak up has to do with our thoughts and who we are, not others, or their thoughts. Remembering the reason can be significant- we recognize something that we feel needs to be addressed or changed, or we think we will feel relief from following through on what we notice. We have voices. We need to use them. This is part of our purpose. We need to remember our strength. If we do forget, believing in ourselves and support from those who believe in us, can lead us to greater strength and self-confidence, and further, to achieve our goals.

Jennifer Shrier LCSW

Here We Go Again! The Holidays Are Almost Here! Ways to Handle Together Time With Our Friends and Family, That We Are So Thankful For!

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The holidays bring families together. In many cases, it includes relatives, friends or significant others “of” family that are not choice-selected, for our favorite day’s and night’s outings. These are all people we are spending the holidays with, however, and it would be ideal to actually enjoy the time that we are celebrating the holiday with our families. Conflicts can arise when different personalities come together, and are more likely to arise when people are not accepting of varied personalities.

It is helpful to try not to take things personally. We may find that others say and do things that we would never find ourselves saying or doing. It may seem at times that someone’s negative behavior is directed toward us. It is best to try not to take the action or comments of others personally. Even if we find it very difficult to believe that the comments or actions are not aimed at us directly, it is always better to make mental notes, and process these interactions for some time, before reacting.

Another important notion, is to witness and experience even negative interactions during the holiday, before actually reacting to anyone. It is optimal to try not to let the comments of others upset us. They have more to do with what is going on for them, and nothing to do with who we are. We can remember to use our known coping skills we may have available at this time. In this process, staying calm when frustrated with others, can prevent personal frustration from becoming a conflict or an argument with someone else.

Taking alone time when it is needed, and getting some personal space during the holiday, can even be necessary. If we are feeling the stress or the stress of others, taking some time to get away from the cause of the frustration or the crowd of people we are socializing with, can help us refocus, calm ourselves, or energize to return to “enjoying ourselves and the company of our loved ones.”

This is not the first year we are celebrating a holiday with others, whether it is with family, friends, or even a loved one’s family. It makes sense to take what we have learned from other holidays in our history or past experiences, so we do not repeat something we wish to avoid. It can be helpful to identify and become aware of what may be referred to as “triggers,” based on our past experiences. These can be events, situations, or people with which we have less tolerance and higher frustration. Is there something about one or more of your family members that has always bothered you, and he or she does not find fault with his or her actions, or he or she does not change in any way? Sometimes regular conflicts or (recycled arguments, I like to call them) appear between us, and the same family members every so often. It is nice to stay aware of these triggers before the holiday and during the holiday, to avoid that recycled conflict. If that day is actually on a holiday, it is probably better not to aspire to reveal this frustration during this time. These repetitive arguments with family members can take a snowball effect when we have other loved ones around us during the holiday as well.

Another purpose of increasing our self-awareness, in preparation for the holiday, is to identify things that we enjoy about the holiday itself, and the people with whom we will be spending it. We need to follow through on doing those things and maximizing our time with those people. It is helpful to remind ourselves throughout the holiday time of what those things are, so we can be sure to appreciate them, and the people we have identified as those that contribute to our enjoyment. These people we have in mind probably bring out the best in us, and appreciate our presence. If we can, it is a holiday made happier, to spend time around these people. We need to stick with those bringing out the comfort, fun, and laughter we need.

Have inlaws?  Let us not even play that game with them during the festivities. We should follow the holiday protocol, and revisit any significant relationship concerns separate, from the holiday, at another point in time.

Have children?  We may often hear comments or parenting suggestions from family and fellow holiday-goers about eating habits, and how to handle our children in different situations. Unfortunately, we may even hear criticisms at times, about our child/children or how we have been parenting them. Ignore it?  If we can, then we should. We need to decide what is right for us in our parenting, at that moment.  We have to remember we can stick to following through on that action, yet at the same time, try not to get frustrated by the different suggestions bombarding us. This is a time when we can remember the other ways we are handling this holiday, by remaining calm, and processing commentary from others, before reacting.  A suggestion or input from others may certainly be helpful, but also may not. That is for us, as the parents, to decide.  People will have opinions everyday, but it does not mean that we need to follow the direction guided by those opinions.  Have parents?  Parents often have opinions about us, as their children, so expecting to hear those opinions during the holiday can help us handle them better.

Know that you are not alone. We are all faced with higher stress, and concerns about conflicts within our relationships, and difficult interactions at times. Most people have experienced the same thing that you’re dealing with, at your event, whether they recognize it and choose to share it or not.

Most importantly, we must remember, at all costs, to avoid conflict!

Jennifer Shrier LCSW

We Don’t Have to Struggle If We Get Support

Whether you are a young adult attempting to complete secondary education, or simply uncertain about life’s next stage,

Whether you’re dealing with unemployment, or job dissatisfaction,

Whether you’re searching for greater satisfaction and understanding of a relationship with a significant other, family member, or friend,

Whether you’re an expectant parent, looking to process changes,

Whether you’re a new parent, dealing with newer responsibilities and lifestyle changes,

Whether you’re a parent with questions or concerns,

I can help you better understand what you’re going through and process feelings, changes, and optimize happiness and fulfillment in life.

Young Adults

A young adult in today’s society faces issues and challenges that did not exist, nor were acknowledged, by previous generations. Expectations are less clear about what a person’s next step should be after finishing school (whether it be high school, college, or graduate school). Young adulthood can be a time of many changes within family relationships, friendships, and furthermore, may include questions about goals, interests, and understanding roles within society and family. Counseling for young adults may help in the exploration of identity, and understanding their roles in relationships with others.

Job Dissatisfaction 

Periods of unemployment can feel disheartening and fearful. It can lead to lower confidence if not understood appropriately within the context of our society today. Additionally, job dissatisfaction can be highly frustrating. In most cases, our work is so much of what fills our lives everyday. Many people feel dissatisfied at one point or another, due to decreased pay, feeling undervalued, limited career growth, lack of interest, or being overworked and exhausted.

It can be less overwhelming to move toward new employment opportunities by exploring skills, training, needs, interests, ideas and goals with a trained professional.

Conflicts Within Relationships

Sometimes we are frustrated by feeling misunderstood in relationships, or even by lacking a connection with others. It can be helpful to understand our own feelings and expectations of these relationships, in order to achieve fulfillment and success with our loved ones.

Expectant Mothers and Fathers and Post Partum Mothers

Waiting to be a new parent can be an exiting time in one’s life. However, it can also cause one to feel uncertain or overwhelmed at times. Understanding your thoughts and feelings better, can help you get ready for anything you’d like to achieve.

If you are interested in exploring any thoughts or concerns, or simply looking for feedback, or an opportunity to share something, talking to someone can help.

Jennifer Shrier LCSW