Tagged Stress

Great ideas for putting the phone down and being present with your kids.

Ring the alarm: The Phone is on

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I’m calling it CPADD – cell phone attention deficit disorder and I’m guilty of it. Are you?

I like to think I am pretty good at being present. I’m a good listener. I can shut the world out and focus on a task. I play with my son. I do yoga. I read. Books and articles start to end. I do breathing exercises while sitting in heinous traffic jams.

So why can’t I put down the phone when I’m at home? Why do I need to bring it to the park? It has a camera right? For safety, ah ha. Why do I need to have my phone in my line of vision for 80% of my day?

Great ideas for putting the phone down and being present with your kids.

 

In my city, using a cell phone while driving is illegal. Distracted driving comes with a fine of $400, a potential court fee, a potential fine of $1000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket and three demerit points applied to your driver’s record (we have a total of 6 points). Our governing bodies have had to police hand held use in vehicles yet every day you can see people using their phones in their car. What is it about our nature to want to be everywhere all the time? Why do we feel the need to respond to emails/texts/call immediately? What is it about the present that is so daunting that we need to escape it?

Something that resonates with me from my travels in Northern Canada is the idea of sitting silence. To paraphrase a dear friend of mine, Paul Andrew, “learning to sit in silence and be with yourself is a great challenge, but offers great rewards.”

We all have tasks and needs that require our attention, of course. But since I’m not in a profession that demand that I be ‘on call’, why can’t I put away my phone when I’m parenting my son? Why can’t I be present in extended moments of time with the people I’m closest to?

Since I’m the only one who can change my CPADD as I’ve yet to hear of a law for distracted parenting, I’m putting myself on a challenge and calling out to others who want to join me in opening even just a small part of the day to be cell-phone free. There’s a basket that sits in our front hallway that acts as a catch all for keys, mail, lip balm, sunglasses. And it’s now officially been made my free zone. The place where I drop my phone when I get home that allows for two things: one, my phone has a place to be out of my sight and reach and two, I can be present with my family for the precious hours in the day we have together.

It’s a challenge, for sure. But just when the urge to reach out and see what is going on ‘out there’ creeps in, I tune in to a softer inner voice, that of Paul reminding me of the rewards to sitting silence. Of being present, of parenting as best I can, in play and in guiding, in the sound of wind or music or laughter and tears in the playground or at home that need nothing more then my acknowledgment and being. Hands free.

10 Small Things That Make My Day Brighter

10 Small Things That Make My Day Brighter

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Life has gotten so much busier since Jack started half-day school, 5 days a week. I truly thought life would breathe a little easier once the school year began. Although I laugh every day at my naiveté, we couldn’t be happier with the decision to send him to our small, heartfelt Montessori school. He runs right into class every day.  It makes me so proud to see him loving this new part of his life but I have to admit that I’ve felt a wave of emotions these last several weeks. My little boy is in school! Our long days together have come to an end. Sniff. Sniff. Etc. Etc.

Need a pick me up? Check out these ideas for appreciating the moment.

In times of big change and big emotions I like to take a step back, take a deep breath, and look around at all the little things that make my day brighter. The following is a list (with helpful links) of my ten favorite things of the moment.

  1. I purchased this bento box from Zulily.com nearly two years ago in anticipation of making school lunches. Am I the only one who can’t pass on a good deal?  I thought it would be a great way to eliminate Ziploc bags and even more fun to get creative with food. Boy, was that an understatement.  I’ve had a total blast (most mornings) making food fun for little dude. Sliced cheddar in the shape of tiny teddy bears was a big hit.
    bentolove
  2. If you want to give yourself a kick in the pants, GET A FIT BIT. The holidays are coming up. Make sure to get your letter to Santa in the mail now.
  3. After Pops gets Jack to school in the morning, it’s an absolute treat when his sister graces me with an extra hour of slumber because that means I can have my favorite breakfast-of-the-moment in solitude. There is no better start to the day than with a bowl of blueberry oatmeal and a piping hot cup of coffee.
    heartcoffee
  4. On the days that I’m thrown in the driver seat full throttle I turn to my new friend The Complete Cookie. These little vegan, kosher nutritional gems are conveniently perforated into two servings. For a full cookie it’s 16 g protein and 6 g of fiber. They have many delicious flavors but at this moment peanut butter cookie is my favorite.
  5. Two books that I would highly recommend…
    books
    Mom’s One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book. This is one of those grab in a fire things for me. It is so wonderful to look back on my babies’ lives and see what they were doing each day and how they’ve changed. This is a wonderful gift you could give to new parents. There have been many days when Albert has picked up the pen and taken over too. I love that this book is chocked full of love and so much pride. What a treasure!
  6.  Small Victories (Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace) by Anne Lamott. She is such a breath of fresh air. I laugh, cry, and ponder when I read her books.
  7. Tortilla wraps have become a bit of an obsession for me. I’m especially fond of the big spinach ones by Mission that only set me back 210 calories. The following is a quick list of what I’ve put in wraps lately; Spring mix, spinach, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, smoked Gouda cheese spread, black beans, crab cake, tuna salad, Trader Joe’s roasted eggplant dip (2 tbsp 30 calories), hummus, peppers, cucumbers, pasta salad, cannellini beans, edamame, etc. The list goes on and on. The key to a healthy, happy wrap is portion control with a variety of fillings. So yummy and for someone who gets in a rut with meals, perfect.
  8.  When I saw these Saucony tennies (found here on Amazon) on the sale rack at Nordstrom ($25!!!) I knew they were coming home with me.  My Emmaline has a teeny tiny fondness for all things shoes. I blame it on her Nana and her turquoise sequined house shoes that E has been after since birth. My Mom informed me recently that those slippers have been bequeathed to my sweet daughter. For now, she will have to slum it in these wee things.
    shoes
  9. IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer & Hello Light Liquid Brightener. These early mornings aren’t doing my under eye area any favors. I picked this up at Ulta for half off during their recent 21 days of beauty. A Beauty Blender sponge works really great with this product.
  10. Radio Flyer Ultimate Wagon. This contraption was a well thought out purchase for us. Sadly we have not taken it to an amusement park or major outdoor excursion yet, but those times they are a coming. We have been enjoying this as a way to wind down our evening taking a nice stroll after dinner and before we settle in to the night time routine. It’s easy enough for big boy to pull when he feels inclined and handles like a dream. Cup holders and a pouch that fits a good sized picnic are also a plus.

I would love to hear about all the little happy things that bring joy to your lives, especially on those slumpy days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Shabbat Traditions

Friday Night Sand: Our Summer Shabbat Tradition

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Friday night traditions: pizza and movies; coveted approval to stay up past bedtime; going out – maybe even with a sitter watching the kids. We all have them. They help us unwind from the week, placing a marker that separates our work from the play that awaits us in the weekend.

Summer Shabbat Traditions

Our family holds Friday evenings, the beginning of Shabbat in Judaism, very close.  It’s our time to take stock of the crazy, hectic week and celebrate the beginning of a time of rest.  I usually make dinner a little more special than usual. We bring out ritual objects: candlesticks, fancy silver cups, and a special plate for the Challah. The kids get grape juice with dinner (a real treat); my husband and I get to slowly finish the bottle of wine we started. Special blessings and prayers are said.  We all linger over the dinner table…or around it, as the 2.5 year old starts to run in circles to amuse us and keep her energy up, and her 5.5 year old brother practices delivering his latest knock knock jokes.  Finally, we clear the table.  The kids take a bath & are put to bed.  My husband and I finally have a moment alone together. So begins our weekend, with a beloved celebration of Shabbat.

Dinner on the beach -- it's not fancy, but ambiance is superb.
Dinner on the beach — it’s not fancy, but ambiance is superb.

But in the summer, we all look forward to a variation on this theme. During the day on Friday, I take a few minutes in between meetings to round up some fruit, cheese, veggies, crackers, dips, and a little dessert.  Nothing elaborate; just enough to satisfy.  I pack it into a cooler, along with some juice boxes, a bottle of wine, and a bottle opener. I quickly load the car up with the bare necessities for a quick trip to the beach.  You see, in the summer we take advantage of the late summer evenings and warm air to welcome in Shabbat on the beach.

Leaving my home office as soon as possible, I pick up the kids early from their summer camp/day care programs. Another treat, especially for my oldest, who wants nothing more than to spend precious time with me.  Twenty minutes later, we arrive at our favorite beach. Usually reserved for locals, no one checks our car in the parking lot so late in the day.

The beach is intimate, protected by boulders that are the perfect size for climbing.  The sand is soft and warm, singing to us as our feet quickly pass through it.  The other people there are like us – looking for a quiet, uncrowded place to unwind and eat a bit of dinner.  We pull our small load of food, chairs, and towels to a spot that marks the edge of high tide. We won’t stay long enough for the ocean to reach us, but we’ll see the gentle waves draw nearer and nearer as the sun sets.

She could do this for hours.
She could do this for hours.

The kids get their swimsuits on first, help me set up, then play with their sand toys.  While we wait for their dad to join us, we wade in the surf and climb on the boulders. As we do so, the weight of the week falls away.  Decisions made (or avoided) don’t seem terribly relevant. Meetings looming first thing on Monday haven’t made a dent in my consciousness. Parenting struggles fade away. The kids are happy – no, ecstatic – to be free. Free to play, to roam, to laugh & yell.  There is something about this way – this place – of ushering in our respite that is so very different from our usual Friday nights.

My husband arrives and what constitutes dinner is pulled out. Juice and wine are opened.  No ritual objects are placed or blessings said on these evenings.  Just our family’s ritual of enjoying such a wonderful spot on this earth with each other. It is blessing enough to be where we are, mindful of all we are thankful for.  The kids are too busy playing to eat much, but (for once) I don’t worry.  While we nibble, buckets of water are brought up from the ocean to make sand soup.  The kids see how far up they can climb on the boulders. Cell service is blissfully unavailable, reducing our phones to cameras. We stay as late as possible – later than we should, pushing the kids to a state that threatens the tranquility we’ve been enjoying. No one wants to leave.

Eventually we do leave, of course. Everything is packed up again. Sand is brushed from our feet with baby powder (pro tip for sand removal), if I happen to remember it.  We leave with windblown hair, a little sand in our teeth and between our toes, and baby powder sprinkled in my car.  We leave with reluctance, but also with a fresh attitude.  We leave ready to embrace the weekend.

Vulnerability II and Friendship

Vulnerability (Part II) & Friendship

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Woman Hiding Face with Mask

As I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be vulnerable, I’m realizing -for me- it keeps coming back to friendship and allowing myself (for better or worse) to be connected to other people. Oh – and it’s really hard!

One of the areas where I’ve been focusing on being strong, being an island (therefore closing others out) is with my health. About a year ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (although I was being followed for “lesions consistent with a demyelinizing disease” for a year and a half before that), and, at least in my mind, I was amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I had my moments where I broke down in private, but I was able to talk about it, laugh in the face of the disease, be objective, not have an existential crisis about it, take life a day at a time, while recognizing that the future might hold challenges, etc. Considering that the year had brought me: a layoff from a job that I took pride in, a milestone birthday, and the loss of my engagement ring, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of holding it together.

Having struggled with depression for decades, I was particularly impressed that I didn’t succumb to an episode in the face of all of this. I knew what depression was – it was breaking down, non-stop crying, with the belief that things would never get better. Again, I had my moments, but I was impressed with my relative non-breakdown-ness.

It was about the time I started allowing myself to connect with friends again, that I realized how not okay I was. As Beth Woolsey has written about Depression coming in disguise, I didn’t realize that I thought I was okay because I had just turned everything off and given up (except for bouts of extreme pissyness). I floundered with trying to start a business – one that I really cared about. I didn’t reach out to friends. I didn’t “suffer” from my disease because I just preemptively decided that I just couldn’t do things and participate in things because if it. No big deal, I just “can’t do that” (go on walks, go out, do things that require endurance, do yoga classes, etc.)

Being vulnerable gets real
No problem, right?

Oddly enough, breaking out of this “I’m fine” shell has been painful, like the pins and needles you feel after a limb has fallen asleep. My husband is doing a biking fundraiser to help raise money for MS research (you can learn more here!), so I’ve been putting my story out there. Even though I’m trying to be more open, I still falter for asking for help when *I* need it (see, the fundraising is for *him*, not me, so it’s easier than just telling people my story for my own sake). For example, I’ve been going out to more social events where people stand around a lot. When it gets physically painful for me, I just suck it up, look for a chair (and feel so embarrassed when I’m the only one sitting), or leave because I don’t want to be “that person” who needs a special accommodation.

Recently, though, I made a huge stride in that area. My friend (the same one who started my whole thought process about vulnerability) put out an invitation to a concert at a nightclub. I expressed interest without thinking about the venue, then tried to pull out once I realized that it there was no seating, it was just standing. Instead of accepting my withdrawal, she did some research on the venue and found out how to ask for seating. Within 2 phone calls, they had a plan to reserve a table for us in the mezzanine. (You know those cool “Reserved for” tables that they have in nightclubs?)

Of course, I was feeling grateful for my friends’ push and great attitude about not being down on the floor close to the stage (for which I felt guilty), when she said, “I’m so glad we have this table!” I was too busy feeling guilty to realize that the accommodation that the club made might actually be a benefit! The concert was amazing, we walked around downtown Cambridge in perfect Spring weather, and a barrier was dismantled for me. Concerts at night clubs are now something that is within my range of possible. Only now, I realize that sharing my vulnerability is what led to this breakthrough.

I still have no answer for how to positively reframe the look of disappointment on my son’s face when I try to explain to him that I’m too tired to play with him or take him to the park or why the Mother’s Day trip to the Children’s Museum made me cry because I was so tired that I was nauseated but felt too guilty not to go, but I am working on beating myself up less about it.

And look at me go! I can say it. My Mother’s Day was not “fine.” It was physically exhausting and emotionally painful. I love my son and husband, and they showered me with love, cards, and homemade gifts, but I still struggled. But you know the thing that made the biggest difference? Being kind to myself. Don’t get me wrong, being kind to myself is right up there with going to the dentist for me, but even I have to acknowledge that I experience the most amazing change in attitude when I talk to myself and treat myself as I would a friend (aka nicely), rather than my usual mode of dealing with myself (not so much).

So, my work at vulnerability is definitely being made easier by friends who are near me and help; however, long distance friendships can require some different strategies/ skills. Luckily, I also have amazing friends who live in different parts of the country. We’ve developed some pretty cool habits that make it so much easier to share when things aren’t going well and feel more clued-in about day-to-day details of each other’s lives. (More about that next time). Have you had any experiences where you’ve experienced amazing support from your friends?

Woman in Mask Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Tips to Conquer Homework with a 2E Kid

5 Tips to Conquer Homework with a 2E Kid

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Project Hell. This weekend our family sunk into the abyss otherwise known as 5th grade final projects, a.k.a. Project Hell.

The projects are just the kind of homework I’d want for my kids – they are open ended and allow for creativity. Patrick is currently producing a book on the flora and fauna of the Amazon and developing a board game about stopping deforestation. Davis has been conducting an experiment on the effects of video games on heart rate and also working on a presentation about tribal life in the Amazon.

Like I said, these are cool projects. Cool does not mean easy, however. Managing projects like these requires advanced planning, time management & organizational skills, verbal/written sequencing skills, good research skills, decent computer skills (like Word, Excel and PowerPoint), and more. These are exactly the executive functioning skills that lag in kids with ADHD.

5 Tips to Conquer Homework with a 2E KidSo for my 2E kid, the one with gifted verbal abilities, ADHD and generalized anxiety – this weekend has been project hell.

Fortunately, we’ve made it through with minimal arguments, stress and meltdowns. All kids are different, but between helping my own 2E child and working with many, many 2E kids at the tutoring company I own, here are the tips that I’ve gleaned for taming the homework beast for 2E kids.

Identify your 2E child’s passions

We all prefer to do things that we like, things we find interesting and rewarding. It is no different for our kids. In fact, for 2E kids, you’ve probably found that there is a HUGE difference in attention and perseverance when the topic is one of their passions.

Davis is a huge sports statistics and history fan – as in fanatic. He can hold his own with the most avid fans and his color commentary during sports games is chocked full of relevant facts and related stories.

He develops his own pre-season rankings for college and pro football, college and pro basketball and pro baseball. He has hosted his own sports TV show, writing the scripts and serving as the on-air talent.

Why is this important? It shows me that he has the organizational and research skills to complete his work. It shows me that he can sustain attention and sequence his ideas. It shows me a path forward when the project isn’t as thrilling as sports.

Pinpoint issues making homework difficult

So if you’ve seen your 2E kid’s considerable skills at work on a project of passion, but you don’t see those same skills displayed when doing homework, how do you make the connection? It helps to understand the obstacles. Here are four common stumbling blocks for 2E kids:

Physical Organizational Difficulties

Does your child know what has been assigned, when it is due and what is expected of them? If not, there is no way they can successfully complete their homework. There are lots of options here – use a day planner designed for school kids (like these or these). Skip the pen and paper (especially if handwriting and fine motor skills are a source of trouble). Use an iPod or smart phone to snap a picture of the assignment. Use the phone’s calendar program or a homework-planning app like The Homework App or My Homework.

If keeping up with assignments (turning them in on time and having materials to study for exams) causes trouble, then develop a new paper management system. I prefer ones that use a single binder, with pocketed divider tabs for each subject. Homework to complete can go in the back pocket of the divider tab and homework to turn in can go in the front pocket of the divider tab. Check out the SOAR Study Skills system.

Mental Organizational Issues

Sometimes the organizational issues are not about the physical things, but more about appropriately grouping like content together to develop a coherent story or plan. Davis has a phenomenal memory, as evidenced by his stellar sports knowledge. Ask him a question about something he has learned in school and he can talk about it in detail. Ask him to put pen to paper and his mind goes blank. He’s having recall organizational issues.

He needs help developing memory cues and chunking material into appropriate groupings to aid his recall when fine motor skills are involved.

Attention Issues

Addressing attention issues is easier in the abstract. Minimize distractions and maximize focus. Easy right? Not so much in common practice. There are lots of tricks to try and hopefully one or two work for your child.

5 Tips to Conquer HomeworkTeach positive self-talk. One of the most insidious enemies of attention is negative self-talk. 2E kids have lots of practice at telling themselves just how bad they are at school stuff. That running, negative commentary about how they can’t do their homework or they never get it right or they can’t show how much they really know is incredibly distracting. Teach your kids how to encourage themselves. Model appropriate praise. Help you kids practice combatting the negative thoughts that occupy their minds.

Set the stage for success. Make sure your child has an organized workspace. Gather everything they’ll need in one place: a good writing surface, pens and pencils, and a calculator or computer. Get rid of the phone – turn it off and/or remove it from the work area. Make use of the Do Not Disturb setting. If working on the computer, close extra browser windows – especially those with notifications that can be distracting, like Instagram, Twitter and FaceBook. Finally, use music to your advantage. Grab the headphones and create a playlist of soothing music. Over time, using the same music will help put your child in the right mood for studying.

Use a timer. Work for 30 minutes and then take a 15-minute break. Over time, the length of the working session can expand up to an hour.

Content Mastery

If your child really doesn’t understand what he is learning in class, get him help – and fast! Don’t let a momentary difficulty with math result in your child feeling beaten down and her ultimately thinking she is bad at math.

There are lots of resources for help with content mastery. Talk with your child’s teacher. Take advantage of before or after school support from the teacher. Hire a tutor. Check out Hippocampus or Khan Academy. Have your child form a study group with his friends. Choose the modality that best fits your child’s temperament and strengths. 2E kids may need to use multiple learning modalities to really get the topic.

Motivation Troubles

Does your child not understand assignments or expectations? Is your child simply wiped out after school? Does your son really just need some downtime before getting started? Is your daughter distracted by other activities that are more exciting?

Capitalize on your 2E child’s strengths

You know your child. What makes them tick, why they feel pride and how they shine. You know what they look forward to each day and how they feel and express love. Use this information.

Look at your 2E child’s academic strengths. What kind of learner are they? Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc…? Does your son excel at problem solving and logical thinking? Does your daughter love making connections between abstract concepts? Does your son have a phenomenal memory?

Understanding what your child’s relative strengths and weaknesses makes it easier to develop a path forward.

Develop & implement a joint plan

Make a Plan

Develop a plan with your child. Use your child’s strengths to mitigate the weaknesses you’ve identified together. Set a schedule and stick to it. Include milestones.  Overtime, these milestones can be less discreet.

Include Consequences and Rewards

Make them meaningful, but scaled appropriately for the task. An extra 30 minutes of media for completely homework that doesn’t include any grumping and grousing during the evening. Maybe it’s a longer term reward – a trip to the movies or a special dinner if your child manages a longer term project with minimal parental prodding.

Build in Choices

Letting your child exercise some control over the schedule will reduce the grumpiness that can accompany homework.

Revisit Your Agreement

Be willing to adjust your agreement if it isn’t working. Especially in the early stages of trying this approach, you’ll want to be flexible to see what works and what doesn’t.

Let your child fail

I’m serious – let your child fail. (Sometimes.) Stop rescuing them from their own missteps.

The consequences of screwing up these 5th grade projects are magnitudes smaller than having my boys whiff it on their college capstone project. Early failures when the stakes are relatively low create opportunities for self-reflection, change and triumph.  The discomfort and worry that accompanies failure are helpful in developing coping skills and frustration tolerance. 

I’m not suggesting that you set your kids adrift without any parental guidance, but the biggest gift we can give our kids is the chance to learn for themselves and that includes learning from their own mistakes.


2e Hoagies GraphicThis post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education.

Check out other folk’s take on 2E Kids and Adults.


Maggie’s other writings on giftedness:

Anxiety and Giftedness: What is the Reality?

Right Fit Shoes: Why Gifted Identification Matters

Building Community

Gifted. Do You Watch What You Say?

Other resources from Maggie:

Get Help! Stop Struggling with Homework Headaches

Get Better Grades: 10 Tips for Test Prep

Strengths Based Parenting. How to Build on the Positive.

Resources:

Characteristics of 2E Students

National Association of School Psychologists

SOAR Study Skills

22 Science Backed Study Tips to Ace a Test

20 Study Hacks to Improve Your Memory

Music for Studying: 10 Tips to Pick the Best Study Music

 

Feeling Exhausted?

Feeling Exhausted? Try These Quick Pick-Me-Ups

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Feeling Exhausted?

I am exhausted.

Exhausted = completely worn out, having trouble thinking and concentrating, body and soul tired, running on empty.

 

I don’t get this way often, but it has been a particularly grueling month or so. A kidney infection that won’t go away (since August). A trip for Davis and I to say goodbye to my Granny while she was still somewhat lucid (Alzhiemer’s). A few days in the hospital for a migraine that is now on week 5. Launching a new blog (from a hospital bed, even). Bidding for a large project for my small business. A mad dash to the airport (with kids in tow) to make it to New Orleans before my Granny died. Her death. Helping my kids process their grief. Winning and staffing that new project. Two memorial services. Managing my own grief.

Those are just the highlights, because I still had all the normal stuff going on – managing a household, parenting, and running a small business. Like I said – I am exhausted.

This litany isn’t meant to be whiny or a pity party – sometimes life just piles on.

I know I’m not the only person who has ever felt worn out like this. You’ve probably been there too.  A major project at work that is behind schedule, meaning late nights. The flu bug that slowly works its way through your entire family. The hot water heater that just went out or the roof that needs replacing. A tween who is just starting all those hormone surges. A best friend who is in the middle of an emotionally difficult divorce. A kid with 3 missing assignments – in ONE class. You know how it feels to be exhausted, too.

The specifics really don’t matter. The reality is that life can leave you worn out from time to time. Once you realize what’s going on, it’s time to do something about it. None of us like feeling beat down – so pick yourself up! Here’s what works for me:

  1. Be gentle with yourself. Recognize that this is a tender time. Don’t over-extend yourself. Say no. Make time to do the things that bring you joy and energy. Give yourself a break if something slips. Temporarily avoid people and situations that make you angry or upset.
  2. Hit the gym. Don’t overdo it. Raise your heart rate. Limber up those tense muscles. Release those endorphins that make you feel good.
  3. Protect your sleep. You know how much sleep you need to feel refreshed. Plan for it. Use good sleep hygiene practices (like no TV watching in bed, keep the room cool, etc… My sleep hygiene is awful and so are my sleeping patterns). Get your circadian rhythms back in sync – turn down lights a few hours before bedtime and open your curtains to let the sunlight help wake you in the morning.
  4. Stop Feeling ExhaustedEat. Put some nutrients in your body. When stressed and pushed for time, it’s easy to eat fast food. Stop! Go to the store and get some fresh veggies and lean proteins. (My favorites are zucchini, carrots, roasted cauliflower, beets or brussel sprouts, shrimp, roasted chicken, and grilled skirt steak.) Don’t make it complicated, just get some good vitamins and minerals into your system. You can even add a V8 or a nutrition drink like Boost or Ensure.
  5. Increase your H2O intake. Being low on water can make you feel run down. This is a no-brainer. Pick up the pace of your water intake. Make sure you aren’t unnecessarily adding to that exhausted feeling.
  6. Laugh. Call a friend your funniest friend. Scour YouTube for the most ridiculous blooper reel.  Look at those stupid cat videos that make you giggle. Whatever it takes, do that one thing that is sure to lighten your mood, to make you laugh and put a smile on your face. Laughter is a great stress-reliever and mood elevator – take advantage of it!
  7. Get social. Call a friend to talk. Eek out a little extra time at lunch to eat with a trusted co-worker. Plan a couple’s date night. Being social can be a means for emotional support or just a well-deserved break.
  8. Plan a break. For whatever reason, your current routine has you run down and exhausted. Plan ahead for a time you can take some time off. It may be a short shopping trip on your own or a long vacation with your spouse. Plan something you can do this week, plan something you can do this month, and plan a longer break that you can look forward to in the future.
  9. Get outside. Sun. Fresh Air. It doesn’t take much time in the sun to boost your vitamin D levels. Low levels of vitamins D and B can make you feel fatigued. You’re totally crammed for time, so combine your outside, sunshine, time with a quick walk or a easy meditation.
  10. Yoga. Meditation. A regular yoga or meditation practice can lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels (cortisol is a stress hormone), soothe tense muscles, improve functioning for people with chronic health conditions. Even if you’ve never tried yoga or meditation – check it out. Find a local class or a YouTube video or App that’s geared for beginners.

None of this is rocket science, but in the middle of major stress, simple reminders can be helpful. Making easy changes like this can lighten the load when you feel exhausted. Hopefully your recognition that you are exhausted, along with the help of a good friend and some simple self-care measures will have you back to normal quickly. If making simple changes, like these, isn’t helping, think about whether you may need a doctor’s help to feel better.

Exhaustion can be a sign of physical illness or depression,  sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between them. Your doctor can help. Go get a check up. If you have feelings of sadness that last more than a few days and interfere with your ability to manage everyday tasks, especially sadness that interferes with sleep, eating, concentrating, physical aches & pains or are associated with feelings of hopelessness, talk to your doctor and ask for help.

Resources for Stress Relief:

30 Guide to Getting Started with Yoga – Men’s Health

Yoga Basics – REI

13 Foods that Fight Stress – Prevention Magazine

12 Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep – Harvard Health

Resources for Depression:

What is Depression? National Institute of Mental Health

Depression Overview – National Alliance on Mental Illness

Anxiety & Giftedness

Anxiety and Giftedness. What is the reality?

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Anxiety & Giftedness

Gifted. Intelligent. Brilliant. Genius. = Anxiety. Spiraling fear. Uncontrolled distress. Panic.

Popular culture likes to portray the most intellectually gifted among us as also suffering from mental health disorders. The image of the mad scientist quickly comes to mind when thinking Mad Scientist Rankingsabout extremely intelligent people. Throw in the availability bias that comes from over-saturated news stories about intellectually brilliant criminals like Ted Kaczynski, and it’s easy to overestimate the relationship between mental illness and high IQ.

Honestly, I get fairly annoyed with these characterizations.

Being brilliant does not mean you are also mentally ill, nor does it mean you are socially maladapted. In fact, many researchers have found a protective effect of increased IQ related to psychological well-being. (Check out The Relationship Between Giftedness and Psychological Well-Being, by the folks at SENG.)

Anxiety & Giftedness – Our Reality

I couldn’t tell you how common or uncommon our family experience is. I know the statistics put us far into the minority, but I suspect that pieces of our story resonate with other families.

Our kids are delightful, quirky, caring, eccentric, and funny young boys. Patrick is profoundly gifted and Davis is a classic 2E* kid – he is verbally gifted, but his anxiety frequently gets in the way of demonstrating his talents consistently in an academic setting.

At our house, anxiety really takes on two forms: transient existential crisis and maladaptive worry.

The Transient Existential Crisis

Perhaps you can relate. It’s late at night. The kids are in bed and you are just about to fall asleep. The footsteps on the staircase signal that a kid is awake and the knock on the door confirms that he needs your help.

Patrick ponders heavy questions when he’s alone in his bedroom. Sometimes the questions are too heavy to process on his own and we get that late night knock on the door.

The questions have varied over the years:

BrothersAge 4: If we had lived in the 1950s, Davis and I wouldn’t have been allowed to play on the same playground. Why couldn’t black and white kids play together?

Age 6: If God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are really the same thing, why do we talk about them as being different?

Age 8: What made Hilter kill so many Jewish people?

Age 10: How do we know that we are real? Couldn’t we be the figment of someone’s imagination? Maybe, we are a computer program – one designed to make us think we have free will?

In our family, these are the expressions of anxiety born out of an intellect that outmatches emotional maturity. These heavy questions cause short-term angst and worry. The transient crisis is directly related to my sweet Patrick’s very powerful mind. It is not a sign of a larger pathology or a mental health issue that needs treating.

Patrick’s existential crises need a compassionate listener and a thoughtful coach. He needs a sounding board and gentle guidance, so he can answer his own questions. So when comes knocking on our door late at night with his worry, we let him climb into our bed and get some much needed cuddling; then we quietly process the heavy issues he ponders.

Maladaptive Worry

Those of you who suffer from a true anxiety disorder (or love someone with anxiety) will understand how very different Davis’ experience of anxiety is from Patrick’s.

Crippling fear that paralyzes the body and stops all rational thought. Sheer panic that grips not just his mind, but also his entire body. It is an over-estimation of and unrealistic ability to categorize and assess potential threats in his environment.

Worry that is so encompassing, that when a classmate turns in a test before him, Davis would rather turn in an incomplete exam than listen to the negative self-talk telling him how dumb he is – even though he knows he understands the material.

Davis’ maladaptive worry also requires a compassionate listener and thoughtful coach. He needs someone who can help him get beyond the self-doubt and who can teach him to make realistic assessments of the world. He needs someone to teach him to calm his thoughts and body when panic overwhelms him.

Davis’ worry is in no way the result of his intellect. It is a clinical condition that requires therapy, medication and ongoing coaching. His intelligence and anxiety disorder do play off of each other, however.

Fortunately, his advanced verbal abilities and exceptional insight into interpersonal dynamics have been a huge boon for the psychotherapeutic interventions we use – increasing their effectiveness. The verbal abilities are almost like a protective effect, making the strategies easier to use and more effective. Unfortunately, the anxiety gets in the way of demonstrating his impressive verbal skills in an academic setting – especially when the clock is ticking on an exam or he compares himself to peers on some unrealistic set of criteria.

Recognize the Difference. Get Help.

The interplay between anxiety and intelligence can make it difficult to separate normal worries from unfounded fears. It is important to recognize when healthy anxiety has slipped into a maladaptive thought process that interferes with life. Worry that interferes with functioning – academic, social or family – probably warrants professional help. If you think someone you love has a kind of worry that inhibits, instead of protects, get some help. (When Worry is Too Much – Childhood Anxiety Disorders)

*2E is shorthand for Twice Exceptional. These are kids who have evidence of intellectual giftedness in one or more area, but also have a disability. The disability typically interferes with the ability to demonstrate the breadth of the giftedness.


Hoagies Blog Hop - Anxiety

This post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education.

Check out other folk’s take on the relationship between giftedness and anxiety.

 


Resources:

When Worry is Too Much – Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Is Your Anxious Child Gifted?

The Relationship between Anxiety and Giftedness

The Relationship Between Giftedness and Psychological Well-Being

Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals

The Insanity of Genius: Criminal Culpability and Right-Tail Psychometrics

Photo Credits: Diane CantrellGeekologie