Body Positivity – A Guide to Embracing Yourself!

4 woman of different body shapes and sizes smiling

These days, we can’t get away from images of “happy beautiful people” who populate our digital world. Just check out all the carefully curated posts in your social media feed, not to mention media advertisements and content –no wonder they collectively fuel unattainable body expectations.  

But the problem isn’t limited to unrealistic media imagery. We also compare ourselves to people we know – classmates, teammates, coworkers.  

We all have things we don’t like about the way we look — weight, height, skin, hair, muscularity, shape, voice, smile, style…whatever it is, it’s easy to hyperfocus on it, and to think that’s all that other people see in you as well. 

How we see ourselves, and how we think others see us, has a lot to do with how we feel day to day, fueling feelings that easily spiral into depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. To combat the negative impact that looks can have on self-esteem, the body positivity movement has gained national attention and flooded our timelines in recent years. The movement promotes being comfortable in your own skin, offering messages like “You’re beautiful just the way you are,” or “Love your imperfections.”  

This movement may feel like it’s recent, but it’s actually been around since the 1960s! To understand its true meaning, we need to go back to 1969 during the Fat Rights Movement, when a young engineer from New York named Bill Fabrey was angry about the way the world was treating his overweight wife, Joyce. He gathered a small group of people and created the National Association to Aid Fat Americans, today known as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) to promote body positivity through community activism.  

It’s easy to preach positivity, but sometimes not so easy to truly feel it. Want to transform your life and change how you see yourself? Here are some ideas on how to embrace yourself and help others feel better as well. You deserve it – we all do!  

A Guide to Embracing Yourself 

Focus on how you feel instead of on the scale  

There is no one body type that’s ‘perfect’ or ‘healthy.’ So don’t get caught up in the numbers, or what’s in the mirror, when you are measuring the progress of your health journey. Instead, focus on how you feel physically and mentally, and remember that a number on a scale does not measure your body composition, the ratio of muscle to fat in your body, or your energy, spirits, or enjoyment of life!  

Remember to speak to a health professional you trust. They can help you better understand your body’s needs, choose healthy habits and behaviors, and set realistic goals. Understand and accept that if you do want to make changes to any aspect of your health, it will take a combination of large and small goal-setting, and a lot of commitment, patience and effort. But you can get there, especially if you have faith in yourself. And it never hurts to have good professional help in your corner! 

The numbers that we often focus on – weight, BMI, and bodyfat percentage – are each only a small part of our overall wellbeing. Check out this social experiment to see how misleading those numbers can be and how hard it can be to guess them. 

Avoid body-shaming yourself 

Focus on what you DO like about yourself and your body, rather than what you don’t. Celebrate it and play it up! Try to avoid giving voice to body-shaming thoughts or comments. Be a friend to yourself – that includes your body! 

Take care of your body 

Learn to recognize and give your body what it needs – like rest, relaxation, destressing, healthy food, and activity. Learning to love and care for yourself includes loving and caring for your body – and that starts with awareness. 

Get Inspired  

Embracing yourself includes taking time to do whatever brings you joy. Not sure where to start? Write down the things that make your heart, your mind, AND your body feel good. Look for people and activities that encourage you and build you up, both in the real and digital worlds.  Find sources of inspiration and motivation that keep you positive and help you work toward your goals. 

Use Positive Affirmations  

Despite best efforts, it’s easy to look in the mirror, give in to your insecurities and make judgments about yourself. These negative thoughts can really affect your mental health especially if they develop into a pattern of behavior which alters the way you view yourself and others.  

Positive affirmations challenge these negative thoughts by reminding you that you’re worthy, strong and beautiful. They help you remember to be kind to yourself. They say talking positively to plants helps them grow — imagine what it can do for yourself and those around you.

Here are some affirmations you can say to yourself:

  • My body is beautiful, my mind is strong.  
  • I am at peace with my body, my mind, and my life. 
  • I love myself yesterday, today and tomorrow.  

 More affirmation for every aspect of your life.  

Curate Your Social Media 

We spend 5.4 hours a day on our phones, so it’s important to be intentional about the content we consume. Social media platforms curate your feed based on content in which you show interest, and the people and organizations you engage with and follow. Review your feed and ask yourself: does this content help me mentally or physically? Does it inspire me? Does this person make me feel good about myself? 

If the answer is no, it is best to unfollow them and look for people who do.  Follow social media accounts that truly align with your life goals. Not only will this boost your self-esteem, mental health and well-being, it will help you redirect yourself toward the life and self-image you want and deserve.  

Beauty is Defined by YOU.  

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched but must be felt with the heart.” Despite Helen Keller’s sight and hearing disabilities, she felt and was constantly inspired by the beauty of the world.  

Beauty is defined by you –not by a number on a scale or by other people’s opinions. So, love and care for yourself. Your sense of confidence and conviction will not only inspire and sustain you – others will feel and respond to it as well.  

Women Who Embrace Body Positivity  

  1. Ashley Graham — The first size-16 model to land on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The supermodel quickly became an icon and example of body positivity in the fashion industry.  
  2. Lizzo – This singer and songwriter doesn’t shy away from advocating for the body positivity movement. The Grammy Award-winning artist has been open about how society judges people’s appearances, and about negativity towards plus-size women. 
  3. Estefania (Tefi) Pessoa – Famous for her TikToks about pop culture and life advice. She is known for her personality and views about the beauty industry, as she shared her struggles with an eating disorder in her teens.  
  4. Laverne Cox – You might know her from the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black. The actress and LGBTQ advocate makes it a priority to inspire others to love themselves, across all identities, shapes, and sizes.
  5.  Jules Von Hep – Influencer, podcast host and celebrity tanning expert. He’s best known as a promoter of body positivity and inclusivity in his videos.  

For more inspiring people to follow, click here.  

Need more help?  

If you or a loved one feel depressed or are having a hard time with self-image or self-esteem, consider talking to a mental health professional. Find a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.    

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.   

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

 

Communication, Comfort, Caring: Age-appropriate conversations about school shootings

Our screens are full of horrifying images and accounts of the recent massacre of children in Uvalde, Texas, on May 25, and of other shootings both before and since.   

Here at The Bougainvilla House, we are thinking with compassion of the families and their trauma, and also of all the families across the nation and right here in our community, trying to make sense of the senseless loss of precious lives. Of parents trying to support their children. Of children and teens as they wonder if they are safe at school. 

We understand the shock, the sorrow, and the stress our families are enduring, and also the importance of talking about it together. Below, we offer a few thoughts on how to talk to children and teens about school shootings, and additional resources for further information.  

How to talk about tragedy: 

  1. Manage your own response 
  2. It’s important to talk 
  3. Age by age 
  4. Keep it normal 
  5. Limit media exposure 
  6. Know your child 
  7. Seek help if it’s needed 

Manage your own response.

Before you talk with your child, make sure your own emotional reactions are under control. It’s understandable to feel deep grief, fear and other emotions, but take time to look after yourself and to process these feelings so that you are ready to support your children. 

Should I talk about it with my kids? 

If you are a parent of a young child, decide if you want to tell them about the event. As a general rule, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics counsel against telling children age 8 and under about tragic events like a school shooting, unless they are directly affected or likely to hear about it from others. Know your child and the likelihood that they may find out about the event, and decide accordingly.  

It’s important to signal to teens and older children that you’re open to talking about the tragedy, even if they don’t bring it up themselves. Equally important, don’t force the conversation if your teen is unwilling to discuss it. Let them know you are willing to talk anytime, that you’re concerned about their feelings and want them to know they can come to you with questions, comments and concerns.  

Age by age 

 

Preschool and early elementary-age children:

Decide on the simple story and message you want to give very young children. If you have reason to think they have seen or heard something about the shooting, plan out a simple sentence or two to explain, and try to balance it with a positive or caring message; for example, “a very angry person hurt some people, but the helpers are taking care of their families, just like we are here taking care of each other. Especially when we feel sad.” 

Parents who want to talk more directly about the event may want to consider this approach, offered by Dr. David Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. Schonfeld, who works with communities affected by mass shootings, suggests parents include some context for the location of the event relative to their own community: “I want to let you know that in a school that is hours away from us, there was a person who shot some children and adults, and a lot of people are sad.” 

Older elementary-age children: 

Find out what your child knows and wants to know, if anything. That gives you an opportunity to correct any misinformation and to answer their questions, but without giving too much detail. If you don’t know, or want to think about your response, say so, and follow up if you think it is appropriate. 

Young children quickly focus on how the event affects them. Talk with your child about everything that the school and the community do to keep them safe. It may also help to remind them that these events are uncommon (even if it doesn’t feel like it to you) and that they can go to school without worrying about their safety.  

Tweens and young teens: 

You can safely assume your child knows about the event, so ask them what they’ve heard. Listen actively and carefully, for both possible misinformation and for their emotional response to the news. They may be sad and scared, but afraid to show it or to appear babyish. Reassure your child that it’s okay to be upset, that this is a time when we all need to lean on others, and that you’re there to listen and support.    

Teens: 

Teens are old enough to understand if you express your own feelings about tragic events. Depending on your child’s personality, it may open the door to a discussion of their own feelings. Again, active and sensitive listening is the key, as well as respect for their own willingness to discuss their feelings.   

Make sure they know you are willing and open to talk about the event, including a discussion of the larger issues at stake, and what the country, state, community, school, and individuals can do to address it.  Gen Z teens can be skeptical challengers of information and opinions, so be prepared to say, “I don’t know” and to be honest and direct with your teen.   

With older children and teens, an event such as a mass shooting is also a reminder to reinforce the need to avoid bullying, judging, or isolating others, to be kind and inclusive with fellow students, to let a trusted adult know if they see or hear something concerning, and to call out negative behavior when they see it in others.  

Other healthy practices: 

 

Limit media exposure 

For your children’s sake and for your own, limit the amount of exposure to media coverage of events like the recent school shooting. It’s easy to keep watching and following every sad, horrific detail, but there is a cost to your family’s peace of mind and to yours as well.   

Keep it normal

Maintain normal household routines, rules, and expectations: doing homework, getting rest, exercising, enjoying activities, and eating healthy meals.  There is comfort in routine, for both you and your children, and it will help to reassure them that their world continues to be safe and predictable.  

Know your child 

You know your child, so watch for any changes in behavior, habits, attitude, mood, and socializing. If you have concerns, keep in touch with teachers, coaches, employers, youth leaders, and others who might need to be aware. And be sure to keep an open line of communication with your child, whether or not they appear to welcome it.  Find out more here. 

Seek help 

If you or a loved one are struggling with fear, anxiety or stress, consider talking to a mental health professional. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with a safe space and an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.    

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.     

Call now to find support for you and your family: (954) 764-7337.  

Additional Resources: 

 

https://www.schoolcrisiscenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Guidelines-Talking-to-Kids-About-Attacks-Two-Sided-Onesheet-Format.pdf 

https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources//parents_guidelines_for_helping_youth_after_the_recent_shooting.pdf  

https://healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/talking-to-children-about-tragedies-and-other-news-events.aspx 

https://kidsafefoundation.org/topics/an-age-by-age-guide-to-talking-to-children-about-mass-shootings/ 

Original source: https://www.nytimes.com/article/talk-about-school-shootings-kids.html? 

The Myth of the “Strong, Silent Type” – Understanding Male Depression

In an episode of The Sopranos, crime boss Tony Soprano describes American actor Gary Cooper as the epitome of the ‘strong, silent type’. During the golden age of Hollywood, Cooper’s on-screen persona became the dominant image of the ideal American male figure. He portrayed a specific breed of masculinity, a physically strong man of action, quiet and emotionally reserved, never displaying feelings or weakness. Thankfully, things have changed since the 1950s. With the rise of mental health awareness, men are now encouraged to share their emotions and seek help in handling life’s challenges. 

June is Men’s Health Month and, while we have come a long way in encouraging men to be vulnerable, old perceptions of masculinity and gender stereotypes still affect young men.  

Brendan Maher, Movember’s global mental health director, saysyoung men are still feeling under pressure to conform to age-old, masculine stereotypes that stop them from talking about the things that keep them up at night.”  

Why is it hard for young men to talk about their feelings?  

The outdated perceptions of masculinity pressures young men to “man up” when life gets hard, causing them to suffer in silence to avoid being bullied, mocked, or labeled as weak. They feel this pressure not only from older men, such as relatives, but also from peers.  

Call it for what it is: an emotionally stunting expectation that makes it hard for teens and young men to express themselves honestly, because they may come to believe that it is inappropriate and risky to do so.  This reticence can affect their present and future relationships and, potentially, their parenting styles. 

A study conducted by research firm Ipsos MORI, found:

  • 58% of men feel like they’re expected to be “emotionally strong and to show no weakness.” 
  • 38% of men have avoided talking to others about their feelings to avoid appearing “unmanly.”  
  • Over half (53%) of American men between ages 18 and 34 say they feel pressure to be “manly.”  
  • 22% of those in this age group say they’re always or frequently mocked for “not being manly enough.” 

If a boy grows up in an environment where they aren’t encouraged to talk about their feelings, it’s tough to overcome later on in life.  This can lead to problems in developing their emotional and relational abilities.  

There are other reasons why men have a tough time sharing feelings. You can find more reasons here.  

Male depression 

Part of being human is the ability to share experiences and connect with others. Suppressing emotions has been linked to cardiovascular health issues, memory loss,  lower immunity to illness, lower productivity and faster burnout. It can also lead to depression and anxiety, and, significantly, it can also increase male suicide risk. 

In 2020, white males accounted for 69.68% of suicide deaths, with middle-aged white males accounting for the greatest number of suicides. The symptoms of depression look different for men and women. Men who feel depressed may appear to be angry or aggressive instead of sad, making it difficult for their families, friends, and even their doctors to recognize the anger or aggression as depression symptoms. 

Giving the boot to the “strong, silent’ myth 

The first step toward male mental wellbeing is to encourage all children and teens, regardless of gender, to express their emotions in healthy ways. Emotional Intelligence can be learned, along with stronger communication and interpersonal skills. Parents can start by raising boys who freely express emotions and can question masculinity stereotypes. Older family members can also work on recognizing and unlearning some of these stereotypes themselves. 

Men need to know that they aren’t alone, and that expressing emotions is natural, normal, and healthy. It also helps to hear stories from men in their midlife who have overcome mental health disorders. The more men hear  stories  from different social groups, sexualities, ethnicities, and ages, the more they will feel seen, understood, and supported.  

Men’s Mental Health Resources 

Movember Men’s Stories: https://us.movember.com/story?tag=mental-health 

Movember:  https://us.movember.com/mens-health/mental-health 

Young Adult Therapy: https://thebougainvillahouse.com/programs/specialty-treatments/  

Need more help? 

If you or a loved one feel depressed or are having a hard time expressing emotions, consider talking to a mental health professional. Find a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.   

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.    

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

De-stress tips that work for students during finals week

End of school year + final tests = Stress 

As the end of the school year approaches many students are experiencing more stress, not less.  Time is getting short to tackle late assignments, write those end-of-year papers, hand in those final projects, give presentations, and prepare for exams.  

At the same time, many are taking part in sports, recitals, theater productions, and other end of the year activities, and looking for summer jobs as well.  No wonder many students feel overwhelmed and exhausted.  

In fact, three quarters (75%) of American high schoolers and half of middle schoolers described themselves as “often or always feeling stressed” by schoolwork.

Stress is your body’s response to pressure. It is often triggered when you’re experiencing something new and have little control over a situation, or when you encounter something that threatens you. Stress is something we all experience. However, too much stress can affect your health, escalating anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle tension and pain, and more. That’s why it’s so important to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors. 

Is there such thing as good stress?  

Yes! “Good stress,” or what psychologists refer to as “eustress,” is the type of stress we feel when we’re excited. For example, that feeling you get at the top of a roller coaster, poised for a wild ride ahead, or the energy you feel when you’re near the finish line during a race. These exciting moments are what make us feel vibrant and excited about life. Without good stress, our lives might be bland, boring, and even unhappy.  

When you view stress as a challenge instead of a threat, this change in perspective allows you to more easily manage the pressure. Think of your stress as an opportunity to prove to yourself what you’re capable of accomplishing. Knowing how to overcome your stress during difficult situations helps you focus on your tasks, stay calm, and avoid focusing on all of the bad things that could happen.  

De-stress tips  

When it comes to relieving stress, it’s about figuring out what works for you. Here are some suggestions to try out:  

  1. Get organized. We understand that getting and staying organized can be hard work but creating a to-do list will help reduce the sense of drain and chaos that you feel as due dates approach. Note the due dates of all your tasks and add them to your calendar, together with your schedule. Don’t forget to include class time, assignment preparation, study time, tests, group meetings, and extra-curricular obligations like practices, babysitting, job shifts, home chores, etc.
  2. Manage your time. Your organizational efforts will pay off with a visual aid to help you plan your work time, avoid overbooking yourself, and find time to hang out with friends, exercise, and do other activities. So instead of waking up without a plan and spending your day doing things whenever you feel like it, try time blocking. Time blocking helps you make productive use of your day, by working during the hours when you feel most focused and engaged. As you plan your time, think realistically about how long each task will take, and schedule studying, papers writing, and assignments for a time of day when you work most effectively. Use other less effective times of the day for exercise, chores, or fun with friends. If you are a morning person, schedule those hours to produce your best work, and vice versa if you feel most focused after lunch. This way, time will always work with you and not against you.
  3. Practice deep breathing. The symptoms of stress can vary depending on the person, but in periods of high stress, be mindful of your body’s needs. Deep breathing strengthens full oxygen exchange and helps slow down your heart rate. The result? Relaxation. Even though breathing comes naturally to us, exercising deep breathing takes practice and conscious effort. Here are some techniques to try at home or during a walk.  
  4. Keep it positive. When you are stressed, how do you talk to yourself and others? Does being stressed turn you into a jerk? If your stress causes you to take out your frustration on others and sometimes yourself – that is not okay. When you feel like your stress is about to burst out of control, try taking a deep breath and remember to adjust your tone and your self-talk. You can say things like “Thank you for your help, but I just need to be alone for a minute” when you’re talking to others or “I can do this” when talking to yourself.  
  5. Exercise. No surprise here! Exercising is a great way to release tension and stress. When you exercise, your focus on something other than your stressful work or school day, allowing you to return to your tasks with a clear head. Exercise also releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals in the brain) which is why you feel good after working out. So next time you’re stressed out, try going for a walk or run, doing yoga, kickboxing, or whatever form of exercise helps you blow off that steam.  

Stress videos to watch: 

  1. How we cope with anxiety & stress by MTV’s Teen Code https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qnYXCLk5bQ  
  2. How to make stress your friend by Kelly McGonigal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU 
  3. Relieve stress & anxiety with simple breathing techniques https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odADwWzHR24 

Need more Help? 

If you or a loved one are overwhelmed and having a hard time coping with stress, consider talking to a mental health professional. Find a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.  

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.   

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

ADHD & Productivity – How to Get Things Done

ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is often the subject of jokes, quips, and casual excuses, but living with the real thing is no joke at all. 

ADHD is most often diagnosed in children and teens, but symptoms can continue or even manifest themselves into adulthood. Experts aren’t sure what causes ADHD, but research shows that genetics plays an important role. Know that if you have an ADHD diagnosis, you’re not alone and it’s not a “new” condition – in fact, descriptions of the disorder date to as early as 1902. The good news is, today we better understand the condition and how to help manage it. 

ADHD has nothing to do with how smart you are. A study in Germany found that some characteristic traits, such as hyperfocus, make those with ADHD great entrepreneurs. However, if you aren’t aware of the symptoms, ADHD can make even the routines of life into a daily struggle.

Many people with ADHD face tough challenges staying on task without being distracted.  It may be hard to complete day-to-day tasks on time, like schoolwork or chores. They may hyper-focus on one task or aspect of a task (for example, one paragraph of an essay) and struggle to move on.  

It’s hard to stay ‘in the zone’ and to work efficiently. It’s hard to listen carefully, to take your time, to wait. People living with ADHD may make careful to-do lists but have trouble estimating time commitments and following through to get jobs done, even with the best of intentions.   

Not surprisingly these minute-to-minute and day-to-day challenges and perceived failures can lead to feelings of guilt, stress, anxiety, and depression.  

Over time, the ADHD community has identified and developed a number of coping mechanisms and strategies that help people to live and function successfully with the disorder.  Here are a few tips that might help to boost productivity and concentration. Even if you do not have ADHD, this advice may be useful! 

How can you increase productivity?

  1. Avoid Multitasking – Try focusing on one task at a time. While this may be difficult in some situations, there are ways to avoid multitasking and get things done. Create a list of all your tasks and rank them by priority from most to least important.  This may help you to stop jumping from task to task, becoming overwhelmed, and ultimately succumbing to paralysis and procrastination. You can use this strategy not only at school or work, but also for house chores, appointments, event planning, and all the other small tasks that make up a day. If you tend to misjudge how long something will take, check with someone who can help you make more accurate time estimates. 
  2. Manageable intervals- Did procrastination kick in? Manage your workload in intervals. In track and field sports, intervals are a series of high-intensity workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. You can apply this approach to your to-do list. Try breaking down tasks into 45 minutes of full focus, followed by a short break to recharge and repeat. The goal is not to speed through your work, but to make steady progress and also to take time for a self-care break, so you can come back fresh and focused! This will help you manage big workloads, get stuff done, and avoid procrastination.  
  3. Set up a work zone – If you attend classes remotely, have a lot of homework, or work from home, you probably already know how difficult it is to work without a designated area. Having a work zone helps you not only feel comfortable while working, but it also helps with productivity. This dedicated space will help your mind to transition into focus mode. Your work zone doesn’t have to be fancy as long as you keep it organized and neat to keep your mental space from feeling cluttered. We recommend that you avoid working from your bed, as it can signal your brain to think about work when you’re trying to sleep. This will only decrease your sleep quality as well as your energy level.  
  4. Devices – If devices are too distracting, perhaps a friend or family member can take charge of them for you while you work. Perhaps you just want to turn off notifications or set your device somewhere out of your line of sight. If procrastination is a problem, decide in advance what strategy will best help you manage device use while you are in work mode. Learn more about how your phone is a roadblock to productivity.  
  5. Hand-Held Fidgets – Do you find yourself scratching, rubbing, picking at your fingers, fidgeting, or engaging in other repetitive behaviors? Having an object like a fidget toy can help you manage small hand/foot movements and calm your thoughts without self-harming. These movements allow people with ADHD to feel focused and to boost their alertness. A fidget toy can be anything from a small ball to roll in your hands, a ball to squeeze, or a pen to play with. See the best ADHD fidget toys for adults here.  
  6. Find an accountability partner- It’s hard to stay disciplined, so ask someone close to you to help you stay accountable regarding goals, routines, and habits. Pick someone who is consistent, and who you can trust. Talk to them regularly about your progress and be honest. Whether you’re trying to be more productive at work, school, or in daily life generally, having someone to help you through it will make it easier to meet your goals. Remember to celebrate every success, small or large!  

ADHD productivity tools 

These additional tools may help people with ADHD to manage their days, routines, and tasks more easily.  

Some helpful tools include: 

  • Lo-fi music: lo-fi music helps the front lobe in our brain to focus – those low hums can also help the brain to focus. Here is a 24/7 lo-fi stream.  
  • Brain Focus: a time management app to block apps and quiet notifications 
  • Calendars: calendars provide a ‘visual’ sense of the passage of time and help you stay organized. You can use physical monthly calendars or digital tools like Google calendars to set reminders and events on your smartphone.  
  • Brain dump: helps declutter your brain by having a place for your thoughts. You can brain dump by writing all of your thoughts in, a notebook or use your notes app on your computer.  
  • Todoist: a checklist app with recurring due dates and the ability to share or delegate tasks to others.  
  • Productive: a habit tracker app to set personal goals, track your progress, and focus on what makes you more productive.  

How can we help?  

If you or a loved one are overwhelmed and having a hard time staying focused, consider talking to a health professional. A good first step is to look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help. 

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.  

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337.

“The voice inside my head” How to quiet your inner critic

Ever find yourself thinking things like “I shouldn’t have said that!” or “Why did I do that?” or, more positively, “I nailed it today!”? 

What are you thinking right now, as you’re reading this?  

What you’re experiencing is an internal thought monologue, also known as “the voice inside your head,” or your “inner voice.” It’s perfectly normal.  Think of it like the Netflix show You, where the protagonist Joe narrates his thoughts –but without his creepy intentions. This internal conversation might be nothing more than mundane observations or self-queries like “Did I turn off my flatiron?” when leaving the house or “What’s for lunch?” when you’re hungry. Or more emotional concerns might be on the internal agenda.  

This inner conversational capability is thought to develop during childhood, at the same time as external communications skills begin to flower. However, not everyone experiences an internal monologue — others think in a more visual way.  It’s perfectly normal if you don’t experience an inner monologue as described here. 

Your inner voice is actually helpful for problem solving, critical thinking, emotional self-management and behavior regulation. Because the voice inside your head can sound like your own, it is usually tied to your sense of self.     

Your inner voice can serve as a cheerleader, encouraging you to persevere or reinforcing feelings of accomplishment. Unfortunately, it can also be a harsh critic, exacerbating mental health issues like anxiety and depression.   

What kind of messages is your inner voice feeding you, and how do they make you feel? 

Inner Critic  

Your inner critic voice may surface in times of stress and doubt, pummeling you with extremely judgmental messages about your capabilities, looks, or actions, making you think that “I’m not smart enough” while studying, or calling you names (“stupid,” “fat,” “failure,” “ugly”).  

Pediatrician and teen health expert Dr. Anisha Abraham says, “With constant exposure to social media, pressure to fit into a peer group, demands from parents and coaches, and other stressors, teens nowadays are particularly vulnerable to being self-critical.”  

A constant inner stream of criticism isn’t normal or healthy. This destructive inner commentary negatively affects your self-esteem, confidence, and performance at school and work, causing you to quit when things are hard, or to not try at all. However, it’s important to recognize these hurtful thoughts when they surface — because ignoring them just doesn’t work. 

If you push aside negative thoughts or emotions rather than addressing them, they are more likely to recur and to intensify.  If you’re constantly battling your inner critic, here are some suggestions to help you quiet this negative monologue — to say, as Alberto teaches the title character in the Pixar movie Luca, “Silenzio, Bruno!” 

 4 ways to silence your inner critic  

Acknowledge your thoughts – Our brain is a busy place.  As well as running our body systems 24/7, thousands of not-very-organized thoughts swirl around our mind every day. “By one estimate, each day, an average person thinks fifty thousand spontaneous thoughts…chaotic and mostly repetitive from one day to the next,” says Dr. Amit Sood of the Mayo Clinic. 

 As mentioned, it’s important to recognize self-critical thoughts when they surface and to maintain a healthy balance, by separating the facts from exaggerated reactions and feelings that are simply not true. Most importantly, don’t let these thoughts bully you. It might also help to identify the source of and possible motivation for these negative thoughts (for example, an incident from childhood) as a way to keep them in their place.

Change the narrative – When your inner critic starts to kick in, replace the negative thought with a positive one. This practice will be hard at first. Start by questioning your thoughts. If you’ve been thinking, “I’m not good enough to make the team” you can say, “How do I know? I’m trying my hardest and maybe I AM good enough.” In other words, reroute the inner critic with a positive affirmation, keep your inner monologue light, and actively try to go easier on yourself.

What would your friends say? – This is a serious question you should ask yourself! If you talk to a friend about your feelings of doubt, they will respond with compassion and words of encouragement because they believe in you and they care about you. So be a friend to yourself. Live by the rule “If I wouldn’t say these hurtful things to a friend, then I shouldn’t say them to myself either.”  

Use your inner voice for the better – Your inner critic has a positive role to play, protecting you from danger and helping you to set standards and stay on track. Once you learn how to silence your negative thoughts, you can learn how to use your inner critic to help you choose your path and make better decisions in life. Reframe your inner comments with thoughts like “I’m capable of achieving my goal.  What do I need to do or change to be successful?” 

How can we help? 

If you are having a hard time navigating your inner critic and maintaining positive thoughts, consider talking to a health professional. A good first step is to look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help if you or someone you love needs to overcome anxiety and depression or work on skills that help tame the inner critic and build self-confidence.   

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to give you the tools that will support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow. 

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

This February, Celebrate All the Relationships That Matter

3 teen girls hugging

Welcome to February, the month associated with Cupids and hearts, candy and flowers – and romance. 

The history of Valentine’s Day is murky but is thought to originate with at least two martyred Christian saints named Valentine, and may have also been an effort to transform a Roman spring fertility rite into a Christian festival.  

Today, the holiday is heavily about romantic relationships – but it’s also a great opportunity to broaden this focus. Why not use this month to celebrate love in all its forms, and strengthen all your connections with friends, family, and community? 

It’s also a good opportunity to ask yourself which relationships have occupied most of your time and focus, and which ones need and deserve some extra attention. 

Relationships of all kinds are essential to our shared human experience. Some relationships are forever, while others come into our lives just for a season – but all of them play an important and sometimes overlooked role in mental well-being.  

Better Health Channel lists three kinds of connections we typically experience with others 

  1. Intimate connections – with people who love and care about you, such as family and friends. 
  2. Relational connections – with people who you see regularly and who share an interest or activity with you, such as work colleagues, classmates, or a sports league in which you or your children participate.  
  3. Collective connections – with people who share a group membership or an affiliation with you, such as people who vote like you do, or who share the same faith.  

These social connections bolster our sense of belonging and enjoyment of life. Without question, healthy interactions of all kinds also have a positive impact on your mental health. Your most intimate connections, like your relationship with your family, deserve your best ongoing efforts to strengthen (and if you need help, that’s what TBH is here for).  

As adults, we know (and must teach our children) that good relationships of all kinds reward us with a sense of trust, connection, and satisfaction, and can lead to exciting new opportunities and experiences. All our relationships become part of who we are and help prepare us for the next chapter of our lives. They deserve the time and effort it takes to build and maintain them. 

Healthy social connections support our emotional and physical wellbeing by lowering anxiety and depression. Studies have also shown that those who enjoy positive relationships typically have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, and are more trusting and cooperative.   

We’ve all experienced what can happen when relationships go south – whether just two people or an entire group is involved. For relationships to work, everyone must be committed. It’s not always easy – some relationships take longer to build than others. 

How to nurture your relationships Two girls making mustaches from their hairs

Maybe you’ve moved to a new job or community, and you’d like to build new connections. Maybe you’d like to strengthen relationships that you already have. Here are five ideas to help you reach out in a meaningful way to the people in your world.

  1. Take time for the people who are important to you – It seems obvious, right? It’s amazing how taking a few minutes out of your day to check in or show someone that they’re a priority can make a difference and sustain connection – for instance, when you’re at work and your children are at school. Keep a positive, kind, and honest tone, share a moment together, and let them know you’re thinking of them.  
  2. Stay positive – Bring a calm, positive attitude to your encounters and your relationships. Look on the bright side of things, let your personality shine, and take little moments to have fun. You’ll soon see how people gravitate to someone who can make them smile.
  3. Appreciate others– Being appreciated can mean the world to someone. If you notice someone going out of their way to help you, thank them. If your co-worker did a great job, congratulate them. If your child steps in to help when you’re run off your feet, show them you noticed. Recognize the contributions of others, however small. Showing appreciation for someone’s kindness, helpfulness, or hard work makes a big difference to any relationship, whether team or individual.  
  4. It’s the little things that matter – Small words or acts of kindness really matter! Try texting an old friend to ask how they’re doing, pick up your partner’s favorite snack when they’re feeling down, or share a smile or a compliment with a stranger. You never know how much these actions can impact someone’s day.  
  5. Be available emotionally – When you know someone is going through a tough time, be there for them. You may not want to intrude during a difficult time, but it never hurts to let them know you are aware, and that you care. You can simply say, “Hi, I hope you’re okay. If you need someone to talk to just know I’m here to listen whenever you’re ready.”

These days, we conduct many of our interactions and relationships online as well as in person. It’s worth remembering that the same relationship-building principles apply, and in fact, are even more important — showing authentic interest, a positive attitude, and a willingness to listen and engage.  

As humans and social beings, the need to connect with others is part of our DNA. As a community and as parents, it’s on us to model and to teach our children the skills and sensitivity to communicate positively, to give as well as receive, and to see and sense how others react to us. Positive connection-building starts with each of us. So, take some time this month to ask yourself: How am I nurturing my relationships?  

Need More Help?  

Learning to build and maintain positive connections is challenging enough for young people, even more so if they suffer from mental health issues. A good first step is to look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that critical first step and ask for help if you or someone you love needs to overcome anxiety and depression or work on skills that help build strong, lasting relationships.  

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to give you the tools that will support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

2022 Family Resolutions for More (or Better) Quality Time Together

2022 is here and the “New Year, New Me” sayings are hitting social media feeds. The New Year is a reset, bringing fresh energy and motivation to do better, to try new things, and to leave unwanted habits in the past.  

No surprise, the most common New Year’s resolutions involve losing weight and getting in shape — gym membership directors love it. Saving money ranks high as well. If you’ve set goals in these areas, congratulations and go you!  

We at The Bougainvilla House are also big fans of New Year’s resolutions related to strong family relationships and mental well-being.  If you’ve been thinking about these areas of your life, consider how you can make this your focus as well! 

Parents spend a lot of time with family all year, but so much of it inevitably involves the logistics of life – meals, running errands, taxi service to practices and lessons, cleaning — not to mention work and school demands. It’s all too easy for the days to fly by despite best efforts to focus on sustaining strong, dynamic, and healthy family relationships.  

The new year offers an exciting opportunity to refocus. Here are a few ideas and suggestions for setting, enjoying, and keeping family resolutions! 

How to set family New Year resolutions  

Every family has different values and beliefs about what matters to them, so come up with resolutions that work for you. The new year is a great opportunity to sit down together and talk about what you want to accomplish, both as individuals and as a family. This also sets you up to work together to keep those resolutions all year long.  

Your goals can be big and small-scale, serious and fun, creative or mundane – and above all, unique —just like your family.  

Family Resolutions that work for everyone.  

Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas that may be good starting points for families looking to improve their quality time together.  

1. Less screen time– You may already be doing this, but if you aren’t monitoring your family’s screen time (including your own), now is a good time to start.

Technology is the ultimate easy children’s entertainment and Facebook does an excellent job at keeping you on the app, but it’s stealing your kids’ time and your own. On average, an 8- to 12-year-old in the United States now use screens for entertainment for 4 hours, 44 minutes a day, and 13- to 18-year-olds are on screens for 7 hours, 22 minutes each day, as reported in 2018 by the nonprofit organization Common Sense Media. When you add it up, that’s a lot of hours your family could spend together without screens!

 If you find this resolution too challenging for your kids, try setting their devices to a max screen time per day. This way, the device will automatically enforce your agreed-upon screen-time limits. Set an example yourself too! You’ll be surprised at the amount of free time you have. Learn how to set limited screen time here. 

2. Family exercise – If your goal is to exercise more often, take advantage of our beautiful Florida winters to plan walks or bike rides on a trail or around the neighborhood. Plan a day and time to go (and maybe a Plan B) to help you set and maintain a routine.

If you don’t have a lot of time, start small. Even a 10 – 20-minute walk is more than enough to get started. Remember that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Don’t be intimidated by these numbers –habits take time. It’s worth it!

3. Schedule family activities – Family time is important, so schedule it just like soccer practice, piano lessons, and date nights with your partner.

Family time can be anything you all want it to be — playing board games, visiting a park, watching a movie, cooking together, or taking a weekend getaway. There are so many ways your family can bond and make memories that will last your lifetime and your children’s. Have fun thinking about the kinds of things you love to do together!

4. One on One time – As much as family time is important, so is one-on-one time with each of your family members. Regular ‘dates’ with each child become fun, much-anticipated events and great opportunities to connect with each child. Plan a lunch at their favorite restaurant, go bowling, or just enjoy an ice cream date. If they like playing video games, join them in the game. 

As you enjoy time together, it’s also a great chance to check in with your child and to just enjoy them as they grow.  

We hope these ideas spark more than a few of your own – but don’t overdo it!  Start off with one or two and add more later in the year once you’ve made progress on the ones you consider to be most important.  

It’s okay to take a break!  

We understand that new habits are challenging to maintain. If you’re feeling discouraged, or if things pop up at the last minute (and they will), don’t stress. It’s okay to take a break. The point is to set goals as a family, keep trying to meet them, and enjoy the journey together along the way!  

Need More Help? 

If you or your family are struggling with mental health issues, look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that critical first step and ask for help to overcome anxiety and depression and reconnect to the life you want to live (or that you want for someone you love). 

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

Feeling the Holiday Blues? Six ways to tackle seasonal depression

If you just ‘aren’t feeling the spirit’ this holiday season, we understand and offer our support.  

Maybe you usually enjoy what’s supposed to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ But this year, it’s bringing on feelings of stress, sadness, and loneliness.  

Music, movies, TV, social media, and advertising reinforce the sense that everyone should be feeling their merriest and brightest selves. You might be wondering what on earth is wrong with you.  

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, another festival, or none at all, the holiday blues (seasonal depression) can strike anyone for any number of reasons. 

It’s especially difficult if this is your first holiday experience without a loved one. It can be a lonely time, especially for those who don’t have anyone to celebrate the season with them.  

Or maybe the season becomes an overwhelming, exhausting marathon for you, with extra-heavy demands to bake and cook, shop, wrap gifts, decorate, clean, and entertain. The holidays feel like an endless list of chores instead of fun and pleasurable time spent with loved ones.  

Perhaps the pandemic’s continuing presence – and some lingering social introversion from lockdown days – might be making you feel pressured and nervous about traveling or getting together to celebrate. Is it really safe? 

If you’re already struggling with mental illness, the holidays can affect it even more. Know that you are not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse.  

What are the holiday blues?  

NAMI describes the holiday blues as “temporary anxiety or depression during the months of November and December that can associate with extra stress, unrealistic expectations, or even memories that accompany the season.” Even though these feelings are temporary, it’s important to be mindful of their impact on your mental health.  

Understanding your feelings and making a plan to manage your mental health can help you get through this time. If you recognize any of these emotions, here are six ideas to help manage them.  

How to tackle the holiday blues? 

  1. Stick to your routine – You may be dealing with disruptors like travel, social activities, or a long to-do list, so it’s important to preserve you-time. Stick to your normal routine as much as possible – don’t sacrifice all your personal time for holiday chores and activities. Take time to enjoy your favorite morning coffee.  Continue your usual exercise routine. Give priority to your daily self-care ritual, whatever it may be.
  2. Don’t isolate yourself –  Feelings of sadness can sometimes lead us to hide at home, but social isolation can make us feel worse. If you’re not going to be with friends or family for the holidays, it’s harder to feel connected. When you’re feeling alone, seek support from a close friend, a family member, or a community in which you’re involved. Schedule a video call with a family member, talk about your feelings, and tell them how much you appreciate them. Spend a day with a caring friend. You might find it helps to volunteer for a local community event. Talking about your feelings, connecting with others, and avoiding too much isolation will hopefully help to steady and manage your emotions during the season. On the other hand, if you’re a more introverted personality, you might actually need to schedule and protect some alone time, if the presence of additional guests and family is draining your emotional batteries. If you need that time, speak up and take it. Go for a walk, chill out with a book or music, and ask everyone to respect your need for some solo recharging time.
  3. Make a to-do list and keep it simple – And check it twice! Planning and delegation are key. Mark your calendar with all your holiday events. Plan dates for advance cooking, decorating, shopping, and package mailing. If you’re traveling, pack and plan ahead for unexpected issues and delays. Are you hosting a social event? Make sure all your guests know when to arrive, where to park, and what to bring. Set up your space the day before and delegate preparations to family and friends. Above all, try to keep things simple and manageable. Be realistic about what you can get done in the time you have, and remember that the most important things are to look after yourself and to enjoy time with the people around you. 
  4. Set a budget – Money can be a huge source of stress during the holidays, so before you start shopping, set a budget. Try not to overextend yourself financially. Figure out how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and food shopping. Write down the people you want to gift, set individual budgets, and stick to it. You can also find less costly alternatives like making homemade gifts but be sure to set aside enough time to make them. Here are more ideas on alternative gifts.
  5. Set reasonable expectations – High or unrealistic expectations can cause unnecessary pressure and tension. Focus on this year’s holiday season and try not to compare it to memories of other years. It doesn’t have to be perfect or elaborate or even the same. Remember that traditions can change, so think about ways you can make the holidays work for you and your family in your present circumstances.
  6. Honor memories – If you are mourning the loss of someone you loved – and there are many kinds of loss – be gentle with yourself. You may feel painful waves of grief during the holidays, when everything reminds you of a missing loved one. Depending on the nature of your loss, think about what might trigger the sadness, and what might help manage it. Talk to friends and family and enlist their support to plan a holiday season that recognizes your need to continue grieving as part of the healing process. 

This season, too many people are mourning the deaths of loved friends and family members from Covid and many other causes. If you are among them, it may help to think about special ways to honor your loved one. It can be as small as lighting a candle every night, sharing memories, or making your loved one’s favorite food. Honoring the person you lost can serve as a physical reminder that although they are gone, the good memories and the love remain. Find more ways to deal with grief here. 

Need More Help?  

If your holiday blues are overwhelming you, look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that critical first step and ask for help to overcome anxiety and depression, and reconnect to the life you want to live, or want for someone you love. Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. In addition, these resources (https://www.nami.org/help ) are also available for you. Please reach out if you or someone in your life needs help.  

Source:  

https://www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/november-2015/tips-for-managing-the-holiday-blues