Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Form Your Team and Reduce Your Stress

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC


               Do you go to bed with anxiety, feel your chest tightening when you think of your family’s daily schedule? Do your muscles tense when you consider how you will get from work to your child’s bus stop in time to pick them up, gather the kids and give them their snacks, assess homework, pile them into the car for baseball, drum lessons, and girl scouts?
            More parents are reporting increased anxiety, depression, and an overall increase in stress. When, as a child and family therapist, I see parents for stress related issues I ask, “Who is your support network?”           

          Several generations ago parent’s lived in close knit communities or tribes, receiving readily available support from grandparents, relatives, or community members. Today due to technology, transportation, and the economy - parents often go it alone or with minimal supports. 

          In our westernized culture a sort of “Supermom” phenomena has developed.  Parent’s often say they feel they need to be able to do it all, do it well, and do it alone or they are not good parents. They show feelings of inadequacy or failure if they need to ask for help. Yet the very nature of being human is our ability and need to connect with others.

            A lack of support and false idea that being a good parent means being able to do it all alone is extremely stressful. You don’t have to do it alone. Whatever the source, support is an essential component of being a parent and being human.
How Do You Get Support?

There are two types of support needs: physical and emotional. Phyiscal needs are daily activity supports. First, assess your current supports – where do you feel you would benefit from some extra help? Start your own Mommy or Daddy team by reaching out to others.  You can fashion your team by joining a parents ‘support group, play group, or creating your own book group. Instead of dropping your child off at practice, reach out and talk to other parents – perhaps start a carpool with a parent nearby or take turns making community dinners where each parent brings a dish to trade off on days your child has games, reducing the stress when you return home.  Find dependable and available sitters or offer to swap days with another parent for caretaking
            Perhaps your daily routine has a good rhythm but you need emotional support - someone to vent to or a friend to laugh with. Gather your team. Use your reliable sitter or friend who will care for your kids so you can have some “you” time. Start a “Mommies night,” join a pick basketball league, have date night with your spouse, or search your local adult education program for an activity that will interest you.  Join a monthly parent’s support group, seek a reputable online parenting forum, or find support with a professional for your emotional needs.

Next, designate the level of support from each “team member.” Think of your team as a bullseye – your center target consist of your closest and most dependable supports then moves outwards.  Some will be priority players and some may be backups. There are friends you know you can count on who are team players, providing a healthy balance of give and take.  Other friends you might contact and hear from a week or month later. They may still be good friends, and a good laugh, but perhaps not the team members to use in a bind.  Then there are the people in life – I’m sure you know one or two – which you want in your life, but they are unreliable for physical or emotional support. You don’t have to kick them off the team, just be mindful of where they stand, so you are not disappointed. Remember you are the captain – you can hire and fire team members as you choose.
  Once you have your team in place, practice seeking out different members for different types of support. As you do you will notice a change in your stress level, and perhaps even in your anxiety or mood. Your kids will notice too. Another benefit of actively seeking support - you are teaching your children to do the same.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

15 Budget Friendly Summer Activities for Your Family

15 Budget Friendly Summer Activities for Your Family

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC

Daylight lingers longer, evenings are warmer, and the kids are ready to play. Here are a few budget friendly summer activities for your family.

1.       Say cheese! Grab your cameras, phones, or purchase a throw away camera. Take an adventure through your neighborhood or go to a nearby park or walking path. Everyone photographs their favorite things in nature. Print the pictures and make a college or photo book.

2.       Scavenger hunt!  Make one in your neighborhood, backyard, beach, or local park.

3.       Picnic Time! Grab a blanket, a basket, and bring your favorite books and board games to play under the trees or at your favorite park.

4.       Take a trip to the farmer’s market. Summer is a wonderful time to peruse the tables of fragrant flowers, fresh herbs, and homemade jams. Choose your favorite foods, head home, and cook a meal together.

5.       Play in the dirt. One of our favorite activities in the summer is to grow a garden full of fresh  veggies, herbs, and flowers. Gardening with your kids can be a relaxing activity that encourages a love of fruits, veggies, and nature.

6.       Grab your towels, sunscreen, and shovels. Head to the nearest beach for fun in the sun.

7.       Camp-out or Camp-in! When my sister and I were younger my family tried a few camp-outs. Soon after my parents started the “camp-in.” We laid our sleeping bags out in the living room, kept our flashlights close, played board games, and grilled S’mores. Your kids won’t forget it!

8.       Rainy day? Visit your local library.

9.       Explore your local parks. Parks and hiking trails are cost-effective ways to get outside as a family (bring your pup too) and get moving. Don’t forget your sunscreen and water!

10.   Homemade popsicles to cool you down after a warm summer’s day. Find a recipe with your favorite fruits and enjoy!

11.   Berry picking! Find a local farm that offers berry picking. Pick your own strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Enjoy a big bowl of berries or make homemade jam and pies with your pickings.

12.   Make your own glow in the dark backyard bowling.

13.   Movie or music under the stars. Many cities and towns offer family friendly free movies or concerts in the park. Pack your favorite snack and blanket –then relax!

14.   Create an obstacle course in your yard - let the kids get creative on this one.

15.   Relax. Enjoy some lemonade, a good book, a family board game or movie. Summer is the season of abundance but also a time to recharge. Find your balance.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

8 Ways to Spread the Love

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC

"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” Mother Teresa

Growing up as a young child, each Valentine’s Day my father brought home a large bouquet of flowers, box of chocolates, and usually a gift for my mother. My sister and I would receive smaller bouquets of flowers, boxes of chocolates, and sometimes a stuffed animal. My mom always played it off not to expect something – because that was not what the day was about, but my sister and I waited excitedly for our dad to arrive home. Although she said,” that’s not what the day is about – it’s about sharing love,” my mom smiled a large smile when my dad came through the door carrying her roses. (Just to be fair there was always a gift for dad too.) The flowers were nice, and don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy flowers and Valentine’s now from my man, but the best message my family instilled as a child and my family practices today is to spread the love. Aside from the flowers we volunteered for community projects, helped others at home, and made homemade gifts for friends and family “just because.” This Valentine’s Day remember the more we give love the more love spreads.

Eight Ways to Spread the Love With Your Family:

  1. Start a family secret valentine. Everyone chooses a name and over the week they have to do one kind act for their valentine.
  2. Surprise a friend, neighbor, teacher, or loved one with a card, a homemade gift, or a nice phone call.
  3. Be mindful to practice random acts of kindness. Hold the door open for someone, give a compliment, or help a friend at school or work.
  4. Use positive words. Give compliments and express thanks and gratitude.
  5. Do something special for your community. Volunteer for a community project – check out local schools, community centers, animal shelters, or places of worship for ideas.
  6. Leave love notes.  Set up an area at home with crayons, paper, and other crafty items. During the week everyone can make a quick “love note” for family members and friends.
  7. Try something new as a family. Trying new activities together creates bonding moments and positive memories.
  8. Say, “I love you.” I’ve heard some say they save those three words for special occasions to save their meaning. I believe, however, to say, “I love you” as often as you can. For me those words never lose their meaning no matter when they are said. Let those you love know you love them.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Is Your Cup Too Full? 10 Ways to Reduce Your Stress

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC

Do you feel irritable, anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted, or down? Then your cup is probably too full.

Our cup – daily stress level - begins to fill each day with little drops – the drops can be physical, emotional, or mental. Physical drops may be the morning tantrum from your two year old because you didn’t give her the “right” socks, running late for work, the phone call reminder from your boss about that project due soon, or not getting enough sleep. These drops build throughout the day, some bigger than others.  Emotional or mental drops may be larger such as healing from a loss, disappointment, or sadness. These drops add to our “cup” throughout the day, eventually resulting in an overflow if we do not sufficiently filter it.

A child came into my office admitting he had a “blow-up.”  When we talked about his full cup he was able to acknowledge before his day began his cup was partly full with worry from listening to the news and sadness from kids teasing on the bus. As the day went on he didn’t get his way, struggled with a question on school work, and fought with his sister. By the end of the day, without having ways to filter his cup, it overflowed and he tantrumed.  Adults do the same.  I noticed I became cranky towards the end of the work day and my cup was feeling too full. I realized I wasn’t taking a lunch break, seeing clients for eight sometimes ten or eleven hours straight. Now my calendar has a set lunch hour. My mood became much brighter taking time for myself, nourishing my body, and utilizing the time for phone calls, meditation, or quick walk outside. Lunch and a breath of fresh air was a simple way to filter my cup.

How to Drain Your Cup and Reduce Your Stress

  1. Check in with yourself throughout the day. Take a minute to take a deep breath and scan your body. Are you tense, frustrated, clenching your jaw, or taking shallow breaths? If so take one minute to do deep breathing. Then ask, “What do I need right now?” Try a quick walk outside, a call to a friend, or five minutes to journal.
  2. Move. Try yoga, walking, dance, or any form of exercise which helps reduce stress.
  3. Use your tribe. If you feel overloaded ask a friend or your partner for help.
  4. Nourish your body and soul. Nourish your body with healthy food choices. Nourish your soul with inspiring activities – read a daily positive affirmation and practice activities that are soul inspiring for you.
  5. Embrace the word no. Your cup will quickly overflow without having boundaries. Just because you are physically capable of doing many things – PTO meetings, making cupcakes for boy scouts, or hosting that fundraiser doesn’t mean you have to. Ask yourself, “Which activity to I really want to participate in?” Then kindly say “No” to the others.  
  6. Get enough shut eye.
  7. ight"er the "r mental. Physical drops may be the morning tantrum from your two year old because you didnt Have daily electronic- free time. The overload of emails and social media are quiet triggers for stress. T
  8. Connect with others.
  9. Practice gratitude. When our gratitude increases our ability to manage stress increases.
  10. Say "YES" to yourself. Remember: self- love is not selfish.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Savoring August as a Family

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC

I was recently asked to make a list of ways to help kids with back to school anxiety, which I will share with you – but not today. Tomorrow is August first. If you live in the Northeast kids begin to head back to school beginning of September or the end of August (grimace). You and your kids can think about this in two ways: we only have a month until school starts or we still have a month left. Which one feels better? I prefer the latter.

Today kids are busier than ever, which means so are you. Between over scheduled activities and school’s increasing demands, I am seeing more anxious, overwhelmed, and stressed –out kids in my psychotherapy office. So, today, instead of writing about how to make the transition back to school easier I am writing about embracing summer this month.

Summer is the season of Abundance. Grab your flip flops and picnic baskets and head to the beach basking in the sun, jumping in the waves, resting in the arms of a summer’s breeze. Frolic with your kids through the freshly cut grass, play ball, jump in the pool, peruse the local famer’s markets and make a meal together savoring all of summer’s bounty. Rest under a tree, bare feet grazing through the grass and reading your favorite book. This is summer in all of its glory - a time to exhale, unwind, and recharge. You deserve it and so do your children. 

I am not telling you to procrastinate the inevitable – I am asking you to enjoy the present. If your kids are excited to get their lunchboxes and backpacks by all means do it, but then put them away. Return to summer. This August I invite you to practice being in the moment – you and your family will feel relaxed and happier.

6 Ideas to Help You Savor Summer:

1. On index cards make a list of reasonable summer activities you and your family would like to do. Have each person place the cards in order beginning with their favorite activities and moving down. As a family decide which activities you would like to do throughout the month. Remember, this isn’t a plan to “go, go, go,” - make sure to leave time for lazy summer days because some of the best memories occur during unplanned time.

2. Practice presence. Breathe. Inhale. Notice the scents of freshly growing flowers, barbeque, newly cut grass, and salty ocean air. Exhale. Feel your feet on the grass or sand.

3. Express gratitude. What you are thankful for grows.

4. Take it slow. Schedule lazy days. Unscheduled down time allows for kids to use their creativity and imaginations.

5. Parent from your CORE. Take a moment to imagine what summer, ideally but realistically would look like for you and your family. How does that feel? Can you make a few small changes to get closer to that image?

6. Enjoy! Embrace your inner child with your family.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fill Your Cup

     It’s easy to get pulled into the everyday routines of caring for your kids or others, focusing on work and deadlines - the last thing you think to do is care for yourself. When you take care of yourself, you take care of your family - something I call filling your family’s cup. By doing something that feeds you, you are feeding your family.  You will have more energy, enthusiasm, and emotional presence. Doing something for yourself can be as simple as a quiet  cup of tea, hike or walk on the beach, ten minutes to read the news, talk with a friend, date night, basketball game, or yoga class.
     This week I challenge you to do one thing for yourself each day. Schedule it as an appointment or a meeting and do not cancel. You deserve it. You are worthy of your own love.

Share with us what you will do for you this week!

Blessings and Love,