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Remembering Your Dad on Father’s Day

Father’s Day is meant to be a joyful day to celebrate your Dad but it can be an emotional holiday for those who have lost their dads. If it is a recent loss, the  messages of Father’s Day may feel like too difficult  to bear. If more time has passed, the holiday may inspire you to do something special to honor your father Regardless of how much time has passed, there are several ways you can remember Dad this Father’s Day.

 Ideas for Paying Tribute to Dad on Father’s Day
Buy a Card
If the greeting card aisle makes you emotional,  maybe  buy a card that captures your feelings or describes your relationship with your father. Thoughtful, serious or funny, the card you choose can help put your emotions and thoughts into words. It’s also nice to write a note to your Dad inside the card.  You can bring the card to your father’s grave or keep it in a special place at home.

 

 Share His Stories
On Father’s Day, keep your dad’s stories alive for future generations by writing some of your favorites in a journal or retelling them to your own children or  ask each family member to share their favorite Dad or Grandpa story during  dinner.

 Bring Flowers
Taking flowers to your dad’s grave on Father’s Day is a nice way to pay tribute to him.  Choose flowers in his favorite colors.  You could also plant flowers in memory of him.

Visit Another Father
Father’s Day might feel lonely if you can’t visit or call your own father. Consider visiting a senior in a nursing home or senior center who might not otherwise have any guests on Father’s Day. If appropriate and permitted,  younger children can also come with you.

What Would Dad Do?
Spend the day in tribute to your father by participating in activities he would have enjoyed.  You can watch his favorite movies, cook his favorite foods or listen to music he enjoyed, this will  help you feel connected to him even when he’s gone.

It’s difficult to deal with grief during the holidays and missing  your Dad on Father’s Day is natural.  No matter how you decide to spend the day,  what’s  most important  is to listen to your heart and allow yourself to do as much or as little as you are able.

Practicing Mindfulness During Your Workday

A busy week at work often leads to increased stress.   Even with the best intentions for productivity at the start of the day, many people  find themselves going home thinking about the tasks they haven’t completed and wondering how the day went by so fast.

Successful mindfulness practice can help to reduce stress, improve focus, and help you to find more satisfaction in relationships.   I’ve compiled a list of 10 ways you can easily fit mindfulness practice into a regular day:

1. Practice Mindfulness in the Morning

Try introducing mindful moments into some of your first actions for the day, such as when you start getting ready for work.   For example, try being mindful while you get dressed.  How does the clothing feel,  take a deep breath as you get dressed.   Pay attention to the fabric touching your skin.

2. Practice Mindfulness on Your  Commute

If you drive, take a moment in traffic to safely notice the details around you. What does the car in front of you look like? How does the steering wheel feel in your hands? If you take public transportation, take a deep breath and notice how the seat beneath you feels. See the color and texture of it. Notice the sound the bus or train makes when it starts and stops.

3. Practice Mindfulness While Drinking Coffee or Tea

If you’re the type of person who chugs coffee or tea while checking email first thing in the morning, then this might be a good time to pause and take a moment for mindfulness.  Instead, sit down with your cup and notice how it feels in your hands. Feel the temperature through the container. Inhale the aroma, then slowly breathe it back out. How does the color of your drink contrast or blend in with its container?

4. Practice Mindfulness While Taking a Break

Make a point to take short breaks from work a few times each day. Taking a quick walk even if it’s around your office or grabbing a snack can help refuel your energy and productivity level. Studies have found employees who take breaks during the day,  return to their tasks with more stamina and feel more energized and motivated throughout the day.

5. Practice Mindfulness While Browsing Social Media

Findings from a University of Pittsburgh study suggest  that the more time people spend on social media, the more likely they are to experience depression. Social media can sometimes make you feel more isolated, can expose you to cyberbullying, and can sometimes distort your perception of time Try not to stay logged into your social media accounts all the time, so when you  decide to check Facebook or Instagram, you need to stop and log in.

6. Practice Mindfulness in the Presence of Others

If your day involves being around other people for a lot of the time, you can still find moments for mindfulness. If you’re in a work meeting, lay your hand flat on the surface in front of you. Notice how the table or desk feels under your palm.

7. Practice Mindfulness in Meditation

Many people practice mindfulness through meditation.  Quieting your mind is often very difficult. In mindfulness meditation, focus your mind on the present thought. If you find your thoughts drifting to other things, take notice of those thoughts—without reaction or judgment then redirect your attention back to the present.  If you’re having trouble getting started, try  closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing. Count each deep breath as you check in with your body. Notice where you are carrying tension. Focus your breaths on that area.

8. Practice Mindfulness While Eating

Physical health can contribute in many ways to mental health and well-being. Practicing mindfulness while making decisions about what you put in your body can help you feel better and also aid in creating healthier eating habits.  Being in tune with your body and eating while relaxed can also support good digestion.

9. Practice Mindfulness in Self-Care Activities

Meditation and mindfulness can be a part of your self care plan.   Think about what would most benefit your mind and body, and then choose a self-care activity thoughtfully.  During your activity, pay attention to your senses. What do you feel? What can you hear? If you find your mind wandering, take note of your thoughts and direct them back to your self-care activity.

10. Practice Mindfulness Before You Go to Sleep

A lack of good and restful sleep can raise your stress level and take a toll on your mind and body. If your mind is busy, and you’re having difficulty quieting it at night, a moment of mindfulness can be very helpful.   Try a few deep breathing exercises or a guided meditation.  As you lie in bed, focus on relaxing one section of your body at a time. Concentrate on your breathing until your mind feels quiet enough to fall asleep.

Racism and PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder usually makes us think of  combat veterans or terrified rape victims, but new research indicates that racism can also be a cause of PTSD.   I’m focusing this on the Black community since that is the community I know most about since I’m  a Black woman in the United States however other people of color may also suffer from PTSD and racism.

Racism-related experiences can range from frequent “microaggressions” to blatant hate crimes and physical assault. Racial microaggressions are subtle acts of racism,  these can be brief remarks such as “You’re not like other Black people”, vague insults, or non-verbal exchanges, such as a refusal to sit next to a Black person on the subway. When experiencing microaggressions, the person  loses  mental resources trying figure out the intention of  the one committing the act. These events may happen frequently, making it difficult to mentally manage the volume of racial stressors. The unpredictable and  often anxiety-provoking nature of the events, which are often  dismissed by others, can lead to victims feeling as if they are “going crazy.” Chronic fear of these experiences may lead to constant vigilance  which can result in traumatization or contribute to PTSD when a more stressful event occurs later.

While most people can understand why a violent hate crime could be traumatizing, the traumatizing role of microaggressions can be difficult to understand, especially among those who do not experience them.   Many African Americans also often wonder if what they’re experiencing is a microaggression and often worry that they will be perceived as being overly sensitive.

Studies also show that African Americans with PTSD experience significant impairment due to trauma, indicating greater difficulty carrying out daily activities and increased barriers to receiving effective treatment.  Racism  has also been linked to other problems, including serious psychological distress, physical health problems, depression and  anxiety.   A strong, positive Black  identity can be a potential protective factor against symptoms of anxiety and depression, but this not adequate protection when the discriminatory events are severe.

Trauma can also  alter one’s perceptions of overall safety in society.  Black people with PTSD have been found to have lower expectations about the positivity of the world than Whites.  This adds to the suspicion many Black people have of the motives of Whites.

Once sensitized through ongoing racism, routine slights may take an increasingly greater toll.  Microaggressions, such as being followed by security guards in a department store, or seeing a White woman clutching her purse in an elevator when a Black man enters, is  another trigger for racial stress.     I’ve experienced microaggressions myself on many occasions.  For example,  once when I was a social work intern making home visits, I had to visit a White family in a predominantly White area in New York City,  and one day the family had a visitor and asked me to hide in another room because they couldn’t explain to their friend why a Black woman would be in their home.  I remember feeling helpless, angry, and confused.  I  felt that I had a good relationship with this family and couldn’t believe they wanted me to hide, when I visited other families, if anyone came over they would introduce me as a friend or a social worker for their children.

Sometimes I wonder how people continue to remain resilient in the face of ongoing, undeserved discrimination. Within the Black community, positive coping with racism may involve faith, humor or optimism.  These cultural values have allowed African Americans to persevere for centuries even under the most oppressive conditions. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect that we can “fix” people to enable them to manage constant, ongoing acts of prejudice with a smile, and ask them to be perpetually polite, productive, and forgiving.  I believe we  need a shift in our social consciousness to understand the toll this takes on the psyche of victims so that even small acts of racism become unacceptable. We  also need people who witnesses racism to speak out and victims to be believed.

 

What Does Beautiful Mean?

Unfortunately many people,  especially women, struggle with their self-image.  I’m not immune to this and sometimes  struggle with my self image too.

Here are some things which many people have said they struggle with:

  • Constant negative comparisons to others
  • Believing others are more “put together”
  • Worry about fitting in or belonging
  • Concern about being  pretty enough, smart enough, good enough, etc
  • Wondering why others look so beautiful
  • If I lose weight, then I’ll be beautiful

Many of my clients have told me that they never feel beautiful.   However when we discuss what traits they consider beautiful, they will be able to see that they do have beautiful traits such as warmth, kindness, being friendly and being welcoming to others.

Often, what we truly perceive as beautiful is not external but internal.  We recognize people in our lives as beautiful when being around them makes us feel good. We see them beneath their surface. The same can hold true for us.

Here are some examples of things you can do to improve your relationship with yourself and feel more “beautiful”—according to your definition of the word:

  • Find a feature you like. Look in the mirror and find a single thing you do like about yourself.   Is there a feature that makes you  feel unique and special? Perhaps that’s something that helps  you to feel beautiful.
  • Focus on what your body is able to do, on the ways in which it demonstrates its strength. Is your body able to breathe, move, speak, hug, smile, or hold someone’s hand?
  • Deliver the kinds of positive messages to yourself that you would give  to others. If asked, what words would you use to describe a loved one’s appearance? Would you be unkind, no  you would you be caring and encouraging.
  • Find a new way to appreciate your body and connect with it. Try yoga or  dance, or any type of movement  that requires focus and develops trust within yourself.
  • Develop a mantra, post it, and practice it. Examples: “I have incredible beauty within,”  “I am special,” or, “I bring beauty to the world.” Think of a statement and rehearse it on a regular basis.
  • Do what you love. As you do things that make you happy, you can’t help but feel wonderful.  That is beauty.

Think about what beautiful means to you, and the moments when you feel that way, this will help you to  put your beauty out  into the world.

Should you be friends with your co workers?

It used to be considered a bad idea to become friends with your co workers however today with the growth of social media , our personal and work lives tend to blend together more than in the past.  We often connect with co workers on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn soon after meeting and this will draw them more into our lives.

Of course being friends on social media with co workers has some drawbacks.  For example, should you post about hating your job if you have coworkers as Facebook friends?   And do you let your friend, who is also a colleague, know you weren’t really sick last Friday and went shopping instead of coming into the office?  You can hide some posts on social media so that’s a good option if you don’t want co workers to know everything going on with you.

A Gallup poll discovered people who identify having a best friend at work are  happier on the job. These people also rank high in overall job satisfaction. They tend to be more productive  and more loyal to their employer, and also get  sick less often.   The poll’s results suggest, spending time during your lunch break with colleagues  and meeting up with coworkers on the weekend can benefit you professionally as well as personally.

Here are some strategies for how to interact at work that allow you to spend quality time with coworkers while maintaining a good reputation:

  1. Take note of the office culture. Identify what attributes are valued among team members and how they communicate with one another. This will help you establish how you fit into the team and how to communicate with them.  This will give you a  a better idea of whether or not  your coworkers seem like people with whom you’d like to spend time outside of work.
  2. Avoid talking about other coworkers.  To avoid creating an awkward situation when a coworker is gossiping, you can reply with something like, “I don’t know, since I haven’t talked with her much.”

If you’re a manager or supervisor, you have a few extra things to consider.

  1. If you supervise people who are friends outside of work, make sure you never share information about other coworkers. What is workplace gossip to colleagues of an equal level is generally a violation of privacy for managers.
  2. Don’t try to cover things up. In most situations, honesty is the best policy. Tell your own supervisor if one of the employees you supervise is a friend and ask them to keep you accountable regarding fair treatment. While it’s not something you need to send a company email announcing, you  should acknowledge the friendship among your team if it comes up.

It may sometimes be  more difficult to navigate work and life when they intersect, however having friends at work can make you feel happier about going  to the office and it creates a culture of support when work gets complicated and life gets difficult.

 

Celebrating Mother’s Day when your Mom has Passed Away

Although it will lessen as  time passes, the pain of losing your mom is something that stays with you forever.  This will be my 2nd Mother’s Day without my Mom and although the pain is less sharp it is still there.   Mother’s Day  can be wonderful time to spend with your family and children,  however it can also be  somber if your mom has passed away.

I’ve compiled a list of ways you can remember your mom on  Mother’s Day, this will keep her in your thoughts on a day which can be difficult to get through.

 

Make Her Favorite Recipe

Making a recipe that she really loved will help you to feel close to her and if you have children have them help you and you can talk about and share memories of your Mom.

Eat at Her Favorite Restaurant

If  possible visit your Mom’s favorite restaurant with your family or siblings and reminisce about when you went there with your Mom. 

Plant Her Favorite Flowers

Planting her favorite flowers will help you remember her and you’ll think of her every time you see the flowers.

Write Your Mom a Letter

Write her a letter telling her what’s going on in your life and how you’ve been feeling.  You can put it in a scrapbook or box of memories of your Mom.

Make a Scrapbook

Fill a scrapbook with mementos of her life, things she loved, pictures, cards she gave you, anything that reminds you of her.

 

I hope that these ideas will help you to have a good day as you remember your Mom on Mother’s Day.

When You Dislike Your Partner’s Parents

When we commit to someone,  we are  usually not only agreeing to commit to them, but to what and who they bring with them.   Family members are  usually part of what a partner brings to a committed, long-term relationship.   Unfortunately although we can choose our partner, we can’t choose their family.

Building a relationship with a long-term partner’s family can be difficult for all involved. Everyone involved is adjusting:  parents are trying to adjust to a new relationship dynamic with their child and build a relationship with their child’s partner. The couple is establishing and strengthening their own relationship and making their own life choices. If these choices conflict with what the parents wanted  for their child, the parents may see  this as a rejection.  Parents who miss their child and want to have more of a relationship may seem pushy or over-involved to the child’s partner.   There are also many other reasons that can  complicate this  relationship.

In my experience as a therapist, strained relationships with a partner’s family members is very common.   If you find building a relationship with your partner’s parents to be challenging, or if you just don’t like your partner’s parents, the following tips and considerations may be helpful for you:

  • Discuss the level of involvement you would like to have with your partner’s family.  Do you want to see them every week or only on holidays.   If you choose to have children, what type of involvement should they have with them? If you and your partner disagree, you can talk through the reasons and try to reach a compromise.
  • Work on building a positive relationship and focusing on the good. It can be hard to relate to someone if you don’t know them well. Try to have more shared experiences and plan activities together. Try seeking advice on small things, like which tablecloth is best or what dishes to use at a celebration.
  • This is a long-term relationship, so it is likely worth investing in. In most areas of life, it’s fairly easy to minimize contact with people we don’t like. However, in a marriage or other committed partnership, it may be worth trying to reach common ground.
  • Not all events have to include all the members of the family. If it remains difficult—for whatever reason—for you to enjoy or even handle seeing certain members of the family, try instead to create (or allow) opportunities for them to see your partner or their grandchildren.
  • Don’t force your partner or children to cut off their relationships. You may dislike your partner’s parents. But allowing your children to spend time with their grandparents may really benefit them (and their grandparents). Preventing your children from building this relationship can be a huge loss (unless you have reason to believe they are in danger). And if your partner wishes to spend more time with their parents (with or without you) and you prevent them from doing so, conflict and resentment often will take place.
  • Set boundaries. Doing this early on in your relationship is likely to make the adjustment easier for everyone involved. Assuring your partner’s parents they are an important part of the family may help them agree more easily to the boundaries you set without feeling as if you have cut them off.
  • Communicate clearly. If you usually only  communicate with your partner’s family through your partner but find things often become muddled, try speaking directly to them instead. This can  help prevent miscommunication and misunderstanding and will keep your partner from being caught in the middle.

Dealing with your partner’s parents is often  one of the most challenging parts of your relationship, but if possible try to make your interactions with them as pleasant as possible.