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Does My Child Have ADHD? What To Do When The Teacher Calls: Studio 5

Licensed clinical social worker and therapist, Julie Hanks, has a step by step plan to offer support and find solutions to your child’s attention difficulties.


Your child is having problems finishing schoolwork or paying attention at school. You wonder “is it ADHD”? Parents have a variety of responses when the teacher calls to express concern about their child’s school performance or behavior. You may wonder if you’ve “failed” as a parent. You may feel sadness for your child’s struggle. You may want to dismiss the teacher’s concerns. Here is a step-by-step plan to help you support your child, to find answers, and to find solutions to your child’s attention difficulties. You are your child’s best advocate!

Julie Hanks TV Therapist

STEP 1-Get the facts

What are the teacher’s specific concerns? Ask for specifics on problem areas. Is there a certain time of day or a certain subject is particularly difficult for your child to concentrate?

What is your child’s experience? Ask your child about his or her experience. What are they feeling, thinking, wanting, and needing when they are having difficulty concentrating.

EXAMPLE (from a teacher’s perspective) – Krystal, a 2nd grade teacher, says that calling parents regarding attention or learning problems is difficult. “I hate making those phone calls (to parents), especially when the parent just doesn’t want to accept it. A lot of times it is their first experience. Since I teach in the lower grades I often have the first student in their family so they really don’t know what “normal” looks like. From a teacher’s point of view, I appreciate parents who will work with me to help their child be successful in school. I support whatever decision they make in regard to medicating or not, just as long as they are actively seeking help and a solution, too. I’ve already had to have a few of these conversations this year, and it never gets any easier. It’s such a delicate issue.”

STEP 2 – Examine the environment

Health issues, class room distractions, peer problems, family stresses, family losses, skipping breakfast, eating too much sugar or caffeine, sleep deprivation are just a few of the environmental factors that may lead to difficulty concentrating and completing school work.

EXAMPLE – Several years ago I counseled a family whose son was distracted, rambunctious, fidgety, and was having difficulty completing work and getting along with peers. In seeking solutions to help her son succeed in school and in relationships, his mother looked for factors in the environment that may be exacerbating his attention difficulties. She also suspected that there was a nutritional component involved, and found that he focused better when he ate fewer processed and sugary foods. She worked with her pediatrician to find effective medication, and met with natural health care providers to find nutritional supplements that were effective for her son. She also accepted that he was born with a high-energy temperament and needed a lot of physical activity, so she enrolled him in swimming, running and other sports.

STEP 3 – Translate problems into needs

When your child’s teacher identifies a problem behavior, ask yourself “What does my child need?” He or she might need extra time to finish work, may need to move to the front of the room, may need incentives to stay on task, may need to bring work home, a tutor after school to develop academic skill, a therapist to help with behavior modification or emotional coping skills, and more physical activity during school.

EXAMPLE – A family I’ve worked with for several years has a young daughter with Asperger’s and ADHD. The mother, a schoolteacher by profession, understands this concept of translating her child’s problems into needs and is an amazing advocate for her daughter. Here are a few examples of how one mother has helped translate problem behaviors into needs.

A) Problem – not completing work during school
Need – decreased volume of school work as long as she showed competency in that area, bringing home work to finish  at home

B) Problem – difficulty staying on task at school
Need – behavioral charts to reinforce completion of work, ADHD medication, frequent breaks from learning to exert physical energy

C) Problem – angry outbursts, self-harming behavior
Need – healthier ways to express frustration and anger, individual and family therapy

STEP 4 – Focus on your child’s strengths

Every child has strengths that will help him or her overcome life challenges. Many children who have attention difficulties have other strengths including creativity, sensitivity, energy, independence, and flexibility.

In which area does your child have natural strengths and abilities? Howard Gardener’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is a helpful tool in identifying your child’s natural intelligence.

• Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
• Logical-mathematical intelligence    (“number/reasoning smart”)
• Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
• Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
• Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
• Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
• Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
• Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

Which style best describes your child’s learning style? How can you use you adapt your child’s educational experience to his or her learning style?

Visual
Auditory
Kinesthetic

STEP 5 – Build a support team

Solutions are a team effort with the child, teacher, parents, and school counselor. Put a specific behavioral plan in place that all agree on to help your child succeed. If problems persist, consult a pediatrician or child therapist for help with a specific diagnosis and treatment options for ADD/ADHD.

EXAMPLE – Recently, I worked with a blended family whose son has been diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety. Their multidisciplinary support team includes his schoolteacher overseeing behavioral interventions at school, a child psychiatrist monitoring medication, a social skills group to help their son get along better with peers, a therapist to help develop emotional coping skills, and a couples therapist to help parents manage their own stressors.

Finding solutions that work for your child means identifying the specific problems, advocating for your child needs, and building a team to help support your child succeed in his educational experience.

Additional ADHD Web Resources:
borntoexplore.org
www.nimh.nih.gov


Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.

For additional emotional health & relationship resources connect with me at www.drjuliehanks.com and listen to my podcast www.youandyoursshow.com.

How have you supported your child when they’ve had problems at school? What has worked for your child’s attention problems?

Eat Pray Love…at Home: Studio 5

(I’m reposting this one because I FINALLY go the video clip added)


Studio 5 Contributor and Self & Family Expert Julie Hanks, LCSW shares ways to continue your personal growth and rediscover your passion without leaving your life to travel the world.

Eat, Pray, Love…at Home

Taking a year out of your life and traveling the world to rediscover yourself, like Elizabeth Gilbert in her best-selling memoir turned blockbuster movie Eat Pray Love, is hardly realistic for me and for most women I know. Yet, there is something about Liz’s quest to reconnect with herself and to rediscover her passion for life that resonates with millions of moviegoers. I believe its possible to continue the journey of personal development while remaining committed to family relationships, and without traveling to exotic destinations.

Tips to Eat Pray Love…at Home:

1-Venture out of your comfort zone

Liz: “I used to have this appetite for life and it’s just gone!” “I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something!” (Eat Love Pray, 2010).

If you feel numb, shut down, or on emotional “autopilot” try stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new, uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Try a new restaurant or a new sport. Extend yourself to someone outside of your circle of friends. If you like to read fiction, read non-fiction. You don’t have to travel to an exotic destination to get a new perspective on life.

Kelly O. a single 30-something professional decided to face her fears and say YES to new experiences throughout the year. Read her blog post “Unplanning Life” which highlighting 55 new firsts she’s experienced this year. http://kellyolivia.blogspot.com/2010/03/unplanning-life.html

From a man’s perspective…Steven Kapp Perry, radio host & father of 4 got out of his comfort zone by “climbing King’s Peak with my boys (twice) and I’m afraid of heights. I could go on. I think everything good about my life has come from venturing out of whatever my comfort zone used to be. It’s a lot bigger place these days.”

2-Savor your senses

Liz: “I’m having a relationship with my pizza”. This is my no Carb left behind experiment.” (Eat Love Pray, 2010).

Are you trapped in a routine of checking off tasks and making schedules? If so, try tuning into your senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. The ability to savor your own experience, no matter how small, adds dimension and increases positive feelings of pleasure. Focus on how it feels to be in your body, the wonderful smell of your favorite pizza, the warm touch of a friend’s hand on your shoulder, the beautiful sunset…

In my psychotherapy practice with women, many clients express that they have lost the enjoyment in physical intimacy. I think this is in part because they have become so good at tuning into their loved ones needs and emotions that it becomes difficult to “switch gears” and focus on their own senses; a requirement for fulfilling sexual experiences.

3-Practice mindfulness

Liz: “Ok, Simply empty your mind. You’re going to sit here for an hour of your life and you’re not moving, why is this so hard…” (Eat Love Pray, 2010) .

Focus attention solely on the present moment and acknowledge your thoughts and emotions without judgment. Take a few minutes each day to quiet your mind and see what comes up. Relaxation, meditation, yoga, prayer, and many other spiritual practices provide health and mental health benefits, and have even been shown to improve your relationships.

Jennie M., wife and mother of three boys advises: “Take time to focus on things that matter most to us and try to have a good balance. For me it is running. My husband supports me and watches our 3 boys while I go run 30 – 60 minutes. It’s my time to get out think, pray, re-focus, and have time to myself.”

4-Listen to your inner voice

Liz: “I need to change. Since I was fifteen I’ve either been with a guy or breaking up with a guy” (Eat Love Pray, 2010).

It’s easy to let the voices, needs, opinions, and expectations of others drown out your own voice, just as Liz experienced in Eat Pray Love. If your gut says you need a break, or need more time with friends, or need to rest, listen and ask for your needs to be met. Longings, dreams, thoughts and feelings are clues to what you need in order to continue your personal growth.

Jennie G., wife and stay-at-home mother of five says: “Learn to trust that inner voice. If it tells you that you really need a night out with a friend, do it! If you need to start a new book, buy one. If you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself, go serve someone else. If you want to learn something new, sign up for a class. I think each of us know what we need, we’re just too scared or not used to listening to that inner voice that will guide you to exactly what it is you need. The trick is to listen, and know that you are worth listening to!”

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Connect with me on the web!

What did you think about the movie Eat Pray Love?

How do you stay passionate about your life and continue your personal growth?


Understanding Your Emotional Style: Studio 5

Understanding Your Emotional Style

Husband, wife, friend, family member – your emotional style is a contributing factor in each and every life relationship. It determines the level and depth of your connection.

Therapist Julie A. Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares how to identify your emotional style and understand how it affects your relationships!


Have you ever noticed that you find yourself repeating relationship patterns, even if you don’t particularly like them? Do you find that you tend to feel similar emotions in your close relationships time and time again? We all have a unique style of relating to others that has its roots in our earliest relationship patterns. In our first few years of life our emotional world revolves around our family and parents (or caregivers). While these patterns aren’t set in stone they provide a default pattern for our emotional life and our relationships throughout life. It can be helpful for you to understand your relationship style so you can modify it when it causes distress or it no longer works for you. Identifying your style doesn’t mean that you are blaming your parents for the way you are. It can be helpful to understand your early relationships and how they impact your current emotions and relationship patterns so you can choose to make changes.

Which of the following best describes you?*

1) I want to be closer to others than they want to be. I worry that the people I love will leave me. When I share my true feelings it overwhelms others.2) Others want to be closer to me than I am comfortable with. I’d rather depend on myself than on others. I prefer to keep my feelings to myself.

3) It’s easy for me to be close to others. I have many people that I can depend on. I can say directly how I feel and what I want in my relationships.

Emotional Styles:

1) Worried

You want close relationships but often feel not good enough, fear abandonment, and feel overwhelmed by your emotions. You have a difficult time saying goodbye or being separated from loved ones.

2) Guarded

You value independence more than close relationships, you have difficulty knowing and sharing your emotions and needs, and you prefer not to rely on others. Others regard you as somewhat distant.

3) Confident

You can easily develop emotionally close relationships, you feel deserving of love, and you recognize that saying “goodbye” is a natural part of relationships. You can express your emotions and needs directly in your relationships.

How to Develop a More CONFIDENT Relationship Style:

Worried

• Seek solitude
• Practice self-soothing
• Take emotional ‘step back’
• Seek consistent relationships
• Express feelings & needs

Guarded

• Seek connections
• Practice self-awareness
• Take emotional risks
• Seek nurturing relationships
• Express feelings & needs

References:

Quiz adapted from Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic Love Conceptualized as an Attachment Process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511-524.

Additional Resources:

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How they Shape Our Capacity to Love by Robert Karen

Finding Time for You – Overcoming the Selfish Myth: Studio 5

Find Time For Yourself – Overcoming the Selfish Myth


The Oxygen Mask

Several years ago, while traveling on an airplane from UT to CA with my 6 month old son in tow, the safety instructions given by the flight attendant struck me quite differently. “Should the cabin pressure change an oxygen mask will be made available. Place your mask on first, then assist dependent others.” As I held my beloved baby in my arms I thought how foreign, how wrong it would feel for me put my mask on first in the event of an emergency, and yet I also realized how crucial it would be to both of our survival. If I put his mask on first and then I passed out, what good would I be to him or to anyone else?

This analogy applies to our personal lives and the need to care for our physical and emotional selves. It’s often easier to place other’s masks on first and soon find yourself “passed out” due to our lack of “oxygen”. Before putting your mask on, you may first need to discover what your “oxygen” is. In my therapy practice, and in workshops, I hear stories of women who have lost touch with their personal needs, goals, and desires. Reclaiming the things that bring joy and passion into your is the first step in finding time for yourself. Here are two questions to help you identify your specific type of “oxygen”. Grab a paper and pen and write down the first things that come to mind.

1) What brought me pure joy as a child?

Now, take a step to incorporate what brought you joy as a child back into your life. For me, I felt pure childlike joy swimming in my Grandma’s pool in the summertime and standing on the piano bench singing like a little bird while my dad accompanied me on the piano. If I don’t get enough sunshine and water, and if I spend too much time away from music I start to feel less joy in my life now.

2) What do I want to do before I die?

No matter how big your dreams, I encourage you to take one tiny step toward your goal. If you want to travel in Europe, start planning your itinerary and saving a few dollars a week. If your goal is to publish a book, start by writing an outline. You get the idea…

Selfish vs. Self-care

Once you know what kind of “oxygen” you need, the next step is to make your needs, joys, and passions a priority. I’ve surveyed hundreds of women asking them this true/false question “I have enough time to pursue my own interests and needs.” Well over half of them answered “false”. If you aren’t pursuing your own interests and needs who is? Your kids? Yeah, right! Friends? Uh-uh. Hubby? Nope. Others can only help you meet your needs and support you in pursing your passions. If you are waiting for someone else to take care of your personal needs and to fulfill your dreams you will end up being very disappointed, and will likely feel empty and angry.

Many women are reluctant to take responsibility for taking care of their own needs because they fear the “S-word” … being Selfish. When you are considering doing something that nurtures you and doesn’t appear to directly benefit anyone else, do you dismiss your thought as “selfish”? Whether it’s taking care of your physical health like exercising, napping, or eating healthy, or doing things to nurture your mental and emotional health like taking a vacation, spending time with friends, gardening, painting, or reading a good book, it’s easy to let these things you need or want to do take a back seat to the needs of others. See if any of these phrases sound familiar:

I just don’t have time to take care of myself!
I can’t take time away from my family.
I have to finish all of my work before I ‘play’.
I don’t want to be selfish.

Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines selfish as “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself, seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.” Selfish is doing what’s in your best interest without regard for others. Self-care is doing what’s in your best interest with regard for others. Remember “place your mask on first, then assist dependent others”.

Tips To Find Time For You

T    Treat yourself as you would treat others.

Ask yourself, “Would I allow someone else to do this?” If you would allow someone else, then why not allow yourself?

I    Investment in you means rewards for others.

When you care for yourself it creates more energy, more joy, more of you to share with our loved ones.

M    Make and keep appointments with yourself.

Build into your life time to take care of yourself. Put it in your planner and honor your commitment to yourself as you would honor an appointment with a colleague or friend. Schedule in your yoga class or time to write or paint or nap or walk. Also, build in the necessary support you need to follow through with your plan (i.e. schedule a regular babysitter if you have small children)

E     Explore your passions and make them a priority.

Take your answers to the questions, “What brought you joy as a child?” and “What do I want to do before I die?” and give them high priority. Require those around you to support you in your efforts. They may not like it at first, but they will soon see the benefits – a happier you!

All He Wants for Christmas is You – Studio 5

All He Wants For Christmas is You

but first…a sneak peak behind the scenes on Studio 5 set (& attempt to try out my new iPhone app)


Studio 5 contributor and licensed therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW shares meaningful gifts of self to give your spouse this Christmas.

The most meaningful Christmas gifts don’t require much money, but do require thought, time, and awareness. Though it’s fun to shop and wrap gifts, we ultimately all wish for the same emotional gifts from our spouse — things that can’t be purchased – gifts of self. We all long for reassurance that we are loved and cherished, for comfort when we are sad or hurt or scared, and for validation that our experience matters to the person we love the most. Even if your husband doesn’t have the words to express these wishes, he longs for the same emotional gifts too. Here are some ideas to get you started thinking less about gifts you can buy and more about gifts you can offer from your heart.

1. Gift of Emotions

Tell your emotional truth

Too often, in an effort not to hurt your spouse’s feelings, you may have stopped expressing the full range of emotions – your hurts, your fears, your anger and your joys, and dreams. “I don’t want to be a nag” or “I ‘m supposed to be nice and happy all of the time” are common phrases I hear in my therapy office as reasons women stop expressing themselves. It’s helpful to consider that intimacy means “into-me-see” or see into me. True intimacy requires a deep level of emotional honesty and the tender expression of a full range of emotions, not just the good, happy, nice ones. Your thoughts, your feelings, and your expression of them are what make you uniquely you.

Ask for what you really want

Sending clear signals about what you need emotionally from your spouse can be difficult. It requires an internal awareness and a willingness to ask deeper questions that go below the surface. Behind every complaint and criticism you have for your spouse is an emotional plea for closeness. Practice going below the complaint and expressing the emotional need directly. Instead of saying, “You always work so much! Are you going to be working until 8PM forever? I’m sick of eating dinner alone.” try saying, “I want to spend more time with you. I’m afraid that I’m not important to you. Can we plan a date night for this weekend?” Trust me. Being direct with your emotional needs is a gift to him.

More gifts of emotion:

Write a handwritten love letter describing in detail what you love your spouse and what they mean to you.

Write an apology of letter or forgiveness for past hurts.

Share your “Bucket List” with your spouse.

2. Gift of Attention

Push the pause button

When is the last time you really listened to your spouse? Do often find that you’re so busy with children, household chores, or other commitments that you rarely look your spouse in the eye and talk? If your conversations with your hubby are while you’re multitasking – unloading the dishwasher or texting or watching TV, you may want to practice “pushing the pause button”. If you’re focused on other things, you’ll miss the meaning behind what your hubby is trying to tell you. Too often couples I see in my practice are so distracted by other activities or so busy reacting from their own intense emotions that they completely bypass the emotional meaning of their spouse’s expression.

Here’s an example of how this might play out in a therapy session. In an effort to reach out to his wife John says, “I really miss you. You’ve been so preoccupied since our son was born. Let’s spend some alone time together.”

Megan responds defensively, “I’m trying to be a good mother. You know this is all new for me. I’m overwhelmed and I’m trying to be there for you – can’t you see that? Megan, flooded by her own emotions missed John’s main message of, “I miss you. I need you” and she heard some version of “You’re not good enough.”

If Megan had “paused” her emotions response and slowed down her reaction enough to hear his emotional message she might have said something like, “Oh, John, you really miss me and want to spend time together. Thank you for reassuring me of that.” Then once John is heard, Megan can share with John how she is feeling about the transition to motherhood. Putting your emotions temporarily on hold and really hearing your spouse is truly a gift.

Learn to speak his love language

Ask your hubby how he feels most loved and learn to be more proficient in his “language”. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, identified distinct categories of how people experience love: physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gifts. Couples often give love in their own language instead of in their partner’s language. For example, if your husband’s primary love language is acts of service then make a special home cooked meal, or surprise him by doing all of his household chores. If his language is physical touch, actively approach him for a hug and kiss, hold his hand, sit by him, initiate physical intimacy more often. Offering love in his language will help him feel deeply loved by you.

More gifts of attention:

Ask him about the times he feels most loved and cherished. Take notes and do something from his list every day for a week.

Plan a candlelight dinner, turn off all electronics, and talk.

Plan a playful night of physical intimacy with your spouse.

3. Gift of Memories

Keep track of the good stuff

Do you keep a mental note of your spouse’s failings, or of past hurts or offenses? This year try write your hubby a Christmas letter recounting all of the good times, family milestones, and positive relationship moments. I knew a couple who did this for a few decades now enjoy a beautiful book containing years of personal expressions celebrating their memories of each year, significant family events, and the evolution of their love. To reflect on tender feelings and focus on the positive memories created through the years will validated that your husband is indeed cherished and loved.

Revisit the romance

Often I hear couples complain that they feel more like roommates than lovers.

After the initial infatuation of new relationships has faded, reclaiming and rekindling those romantic feelings takes…effort.

When is the last time you talked with your spouse about early romantic feelings that brought you together, browsed through your wedding photo book, or looked through photos of your favorite vacations? You don’t have to take a trip to the location of your honeymoon or first date to rekindle romance, just take a trip with your hubby down memory lane.

More gifts of memories:

Create a photo book of your favorite memories.

Create a relationship soundtrack CD with a mix of songs that have special meaning to you.

Plan a date to revisit a visiting a romantic location that has special meaning to you as a couple.

Learn more about my therapy practice

Good Parenting is Not What You Think: Studio 5

What you may not know about good parenting

Studio 5 contributor and therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW, shares important parenting skills you might be overlooking.


Good Parenting is not just about you treat your child. I recently stumbled across a recent blog on PsychologyToday.com highlighting surprising research — two out of the three most effective parenting skills don’t directly involve interacting with your kids. In the recent issue of Scientific American Mind (Nov./Dec. 2010)“What Makes A Good Parent?” psychologist and researcher by Robert Epstein, PhD found that while showing love and affection to your child is the most important parenting skills, how you treat yourself and how your interact with your spouse or co-parent rank second and third. While real parents are quite good at love and affection, they report poorer scores on areas stress management and adult relationship skills.

These results aren’t surprising to me and coincide with my professional journey. Interestingly, all of my early training was in play therapy working directly with children, but within a few years I realized that the best thing I could do for children was to help support their mother’s emotional well-being and to support their parent’s in developing healthy relationships. In my practice I frequently see well-meaning parents who don’t take good care of themselves and their adult relationships and their children suffer. A common dynamic I often see in my practice working with divorced families is parents speaking poorly of their child’s other parent or putting the child in the middle of conflict between co-parents, with devastating impact on their child

Improve your parenting by developing skill these 2 areas:

Stress Management

Have realistic expectations for yourself
Take a “time out” when you’re overwhelmed
Practice optimism

Healthy Adult Relationship

Talk positively about other parent
Model affection & communication
Keep child out of middle

The Parents’ 10 Competencies

1-Love and affection – respect & support, physical affection, quality time together

2-Stress management – reduce stress, practice relaxation, positive outlook

3-Relationships skills – model good relationship with spouse/significant other, co-parent

4-Autonomy & Independence – treat child with respect and encourage self-sufficiency

5-Education & learning – promote learning and provide opportunities

6-Life skills – provide financially, plan for future

7-Behavior management – use positive reinforcement and punish as last resort

8-Health – model healthy lifestyle

9-Religion – support child’s spiritual and religious development

10-Safety – protect child & have awareness of child’s activities

Free Parenting Test

Test your competency in the “Parents 10” skill areas. Take this free online test :
myparentingskills.com

Pat yourself on the back for your strengths and then make a plan to improve in the areas with lower scores. According to Dr. Epstien, good parenting skills can be learned and parenting classes can be an effective way to improve your parenting and help raise a happier, healthier child.

 

 

 

Toss Your “To Do” List

Toss Your “To Do” List

Therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares tips on how to transform your “To Do” list from a source of stress to a resource for success.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping a “To Do” list. Writing down errands, chores, and other things that you’d like to accomplish on a list can be a helpful tool, especially in remembering the details. The trouble with “To Do” lists is not that we use them, but how we use them. In my practice and in my women’s workshops I often hear individuals complain of feeling “not good enough” or thinking “I can’t seem to get anything done” and use their never-ending “To Do” lists as evidence for their negative self-evaluations. “To Do” lists usually contain things that you may not remember to do, and rarely encompass all of the things that you always remember and automatically take care of each day. Taking an occasional break from your “To Do” list can help you to relax and gain perspective. Practice acknowledging all of your important contributions that never actually make to a “To Do” list.

Tips for Tossing Your “To Do” list:

Try a “Ta Da” List

Try sitting down at the end of the day and listing everything you did that day. The most important things we do to care for ourselves and our relationships usually never make it on the “To Do” list! Include details of small tasks that you, and others at home or work, tend to overlook (i.e. changed the toilet paper rolls, organized the linen closet, finished a report for a co-worker, talked with an elderly neighbor). Remember to include the small relationship contributions that you have done to enrich the lives of those you love (i.e. talked with a friend about family stresses, prepared a church lesson, took your child to the doctor, made a meal for your family).

Here are some questions to help you get started on your “Ta Da” list:

• What did I do today that no one will notice unless it doesn’t get done?
• What did I do today to provide physical or emotional support to someone else?
• What did I do today that made life better than yesterday for myself and those I love?
• What did I do today to take care of myself?

Make a “To Be” Goal

Instead of focusing on tasks you’d like to accomplish, toss your “To Do” list and pick one personal quality or character trait you’d like to practice and improve upon throughout the day. Whether it’s demonstrating more patience with your elderly parent, practicing increased discipline at work, showing more trust in your spouse, or being a better listener for your child, shifting your focus from what you are doing to who we are being can help you to feel less overwhelmed by life’s details and more confident in yourself.

Here’s an alphabetized list of suggested personal qualities for your “to be” goals over the next 26 days.

Remember to focus on only one per day:
Attentive
Bold
Creative
Demonstrative
Energetic
Forgiving
Generous
Happy
Imaginative
Jovial
Kind
Loving
Mature
Nice
Observant
Punctual
Quiet
Respectful
Self-disciplined
Tender
Understanding
Vivacious
Witty
eXuberant
Youthful
Zealous

“No More Than 3” Rule

When totally tossing your “To Do” list isn’t practical, try limiting the number of items you focus on each day. Instead of having a running “To Do” list with an overwhelming number of items that need to be done over a period of time, try a daily “To Do” list with only 3 items. Limiting your expectations for each day can help you feel more accomplished than looking at the overwhelming number of items that still remain on the list. Renowned author and business management guru Tom Peters has said that the formula for business success is “under promise and over deliver”. That same advice applies to success in the business of life!

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, specializes in psychotherapy with women and couples. She is passionate about women’s self-care and emotional health and frequently presents workshops to women’s groups around the country. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com to learn more about counseling services or email julie@wasatchfamilytherapy.com. You may also know Julie as an award-winning singer and songwriter. Visit www.juliedeazevedo.com

Handling A Narcissistic Mother: Studio 5

Studio 5 Contributor & therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW of Wasatch Family Therapy answers a viewer email on how to begin healing…


Have you ever dealt with a narcissistic family member? Do you have any recommended books or resources to share?

Sister Power: How sisters improve mental health

Sister Power: How sisters improve mental health

Studio 5 Contributor, Julie Hanks, LCSW with Wasatch Family Therapy has tips to help you tap into the positive power of sisters.

A recent New York Times essay “Why sisterly chats make people happier” by Deborah Tannen caught my eye because I have five, yes, FIVE sisters. I love research that supports what I already know from real-life experience — sisters are important to mental health. Having a sister protects teens against feelings of depression, loneliness, self-consciousness, fear, and being unloved according to Laura Padilla-Walker, head researcher in a recent BYU study.

The positive impact of sisters extends beyond adolescence into adulthood. British researchers Liz Wright and Tony Cassidy found that people who grew up with at least one sister were happier more motivated, had more friends, and were more resilient during difficult times, especially during parental divorce.

Here are some tips for helping your children, sisters AND brothers, develop close, positive relationships with each other during childhood and adolescence so they will continue to support emotional health as adults.

Tips to Help Your Kids Help Each Other

1) Show Affection

Encourage your family to express physical affection, to notice and express positive traits, to increase emotional sensitivity to siblings, and to celebrate other sibling’s successes. Affection is an important aspect that contributes to the positive mental health outcomes among siblings, According to Padilla-Walker, “An absence of affection seems to be a bigger problem than high levels of conflict.”

A-list star Gwenyth Paltrow, and her producer brother, Jake Paltrow are a great example of affectionate siblings raised in a loving home.

2) Express

Emotion

Healthy emotional expression is a crucial component to emotional health. Wright & Cassidy found that in families whose parents divorce, sisters tended to express themselves, and encourage emotional expression in others leading to less distress.

Coach your children to express feelings to their siblings in a non-attacking way. Here’s an excellent tool to help your children communicate their emotion:

I feel (emotion word) when you (other’s specific behavior) because I think (thought) . I would like it if you would (requested behavior) .

Here’s an example: “I feel mad when you take my clothes without asking because I think you don’t respect my privacy. I would like it if you would ask me before you borrow my clothes.”

When single mother Jennifer Child’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer her sisters were her strength.
“I have 2 sisters whose lives CHANGED when my daughter was diagnosed. I was a young single mom, my sisters PULLED me through~ I COULD NOT have made it through without my family. We pulled together and somehow made it through this HORRIFIC time in our life. My sisters are my best friends. I now have 2 daughters, 6 and 7 they are best friends. They do fight like NO OTHER, but love each other as I have seen with my sisters.”

3) Show Kindness

Coach your children to treat each other with respect, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Having a loving sibling of any gender seems to promote kindness and empathy toward others, according to Padilla-Walker. Interestingly, the relationship between positive sibling relationships and good deeds was twice as strong as the relationship between parenting and a child’s good deeds.

Mother of eight children, Andrya Lewis, promotes kindness among her children “by having sleepovers on Friday nights with movies and treats and sleeping bags, by letting siblings tell good news and surprises and

distribute treats to the other siblings, and by verbally interpreting and translating that acts of kindness or service (like sharing a toy, or finding a lost shoe) mean their sibling loves them.”

4) Communicate Often

Tannen’s research found that women talk with sisters more often, at greater length, and about more personal topics than they do with brothers. She concludes that the frequency of contact with sisters, not necessarily the content of the communication, is most important component contributing to the positive impact of having a sister.

Annie Frazier says she checks in with her older sister Jennie Gochnour by text or phone every other day. “It’s not always a big conversation; often it’s just a check in. We share everything and it’s not judged. We have gotten each other through everything – deaths, marriages, and divorce. She’s the only reason I’m not in intensive therapy! I particularly remember one day when we were running together in the early morning. I was going through infertility treatments and hoping to get pregnant – despite the reality of the months of darkness that I knew were around the corner with my postpartum depression. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember what I felt. In her eyes, I could not have been any more wonderful – even though in my eyes, all I saw was failure, sadness and inadequacies. She was my crutch and has carried me along many dark roads that have led to beautiful moments of celebration. She has always been by my side.”

5) Minimize conflict

Set family rules of no name-calling and no physical fighting, and don’t be afraid to intervene in your children’s fights. High levels of sibling conflict is associated with increased risk aggression in other relationships, and increased delinquent behavior, but on the positive side, a little bit of conflict gives siblings a chance to practice emotional control and problem solving skills.

According to Oracne Price, mother to tennis superstar sisters, Venus and Serena Williams, though they are fiercely competitive on the court, her daughters are very close friends.

Do you have a sister? How has she impacted your mental health?

Mini Changes That Will Boost Your Mood: Studio 5

Mini Changes That Will Boost Your Mood

Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of Positive Psychology’s top researchers estimates that 60 percent of your moods are impacted by a combination of genetics and environment. The remaining 40 percent of your happiness is within your control and can be altered by intentional activities. Here are a few simple changes that you can make today to feel happier and lighten your mood.

1-Listen to Music

Small changes in your environment can improve your mood, like listening to music. Music activates the pleasure center of the brain, according to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology at McGill University. Music can improve moods and intensify positive emotions–it doesn’t matter what kind of music you listen to, as long as you like it. I recently blogged about music and mood Music & Mood-Musings from a Songwriter and Therapist which includes playlists for when you’re stressed, lazy, frustrated, down, or lonely.
Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without — Confusious

In addition to adding music, other small changes in your environment can elevate mood. Nancy Etcoff, director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well-Being at Harvard found that there are many emotional benefits to having fresh cut flowers in your home. If you don’t have a special someone, send flowers to yourself.

2-Smile More

Emotions are contagious. Smiling makes you feel better inside and appear more attractive to others. Several research projects demonstrated that even forced smiles improved moods. Even when subjects held a pencil in their teeth causing facial muscles to simulate a smile they reported feeling happier.

Laughter is also contagious and helps reduce tension, promote relaxation, diminish pain, strengthen your immune system, and boost your mood. Watch a funny movie, play a zany game, do something silly, or hang out with hilarious people and you’ll feel happier.

3-Get Some Sun

Who doesn’t feel more cheerful when the sun is shining? Researchers agree that thirty minutes of sunlight daily can improve mood, improve sleep, and increase Vitamin D production. In fall and winter months when the days are shorter exposure to sunlight is even more important. If you tend to get the fall or winter blahs start planning now for a January vacation to a tropical island! In response to my Facebook post on asking what is a simple thing you do to improve your mood, many responses included outdoor activities such as hiking, walking, laying on the grass, and going to the beach.

Individuals who suffer from clinical depression during specific months may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a seasonal depression that can be diagnosed and treated by a health or mental health professional. One treatment for SAD is phototherapy which is exposure to sunlight or to an artificial light for a specific amount of time each day as prescribed.

4-Talk to Strangers

Your mother may have told you not to talk to strangers but researcher Elizabeth Dunn, assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, found that talking to strangers has a benefit — boosting your mood. We are used to being more cheerful around people we don’t know. So, next time you’re in an elevator or standing in line at the grocery store strike up a conversation and see what happens.

Reaching out to others in small, kind ways can help you feel happier. According to a University of California, Riverside study, participant who performed 5 acts of kindness in a single day reported feeling happier. If you want to be happy, practice compassion — Dalai Lama.
Many research studies found that in addition to kindness, an expression of gratitude also has a positive impact on mood. Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside found that participants who wrote down what they were grateful for once a week felt significantly happier. Try this by keeping a gratitude journal and write down all that you are thankful for each week

5-Change Your Mind

When you’re feeling low, your thoughts slow. Emily Pronin, assistant professor of psychology at Princeton University found that when research participants read statements quickly their mood and energy level improved, even if the statements they read were negative. Next time you’re feeling blue, try brainstorming solutions to a problem, playing a fast paced game, or engaging in witty banter with a friend to speed up your thoughts.

Another effective mood booster is to challenge your negativity. Just because you may think something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. If you’re thinking “I’m dumb”, “I’m a slob”, or “I’m not lovable” challenge the negative thought by asking yourself, “Is it true?”, “Where did I learn this?”, “What is a healthier thought to replace this negative thought?” Changes in your mind translate into changes in your mood.

6-Move Your Body

Even if it’s only a brief walk, moving your body elevates your mood, especially if you’re outside. At Duke University researchers found exercise to be as effective as antidepressant medication for treating depression. For additional information on benefits of exercise watch my previous Studio 5 segment on exercise and mental health.

In addition to aerobic exercise, practice deep, rhythmical, and repetitive breathing and experience the benefits of elevated mood, reduced stress, and calmness. If you’re new to deep breathing read Dr. Weil’s article The Art and Science of Breathing for excellent beginning breathing exercises.


If you struggle with thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, feeling of guilt or worthlessness, disturbances in eating or sleeping, and experiencing low moods seek help immediately from a medical or mental health professional.

Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for help with low moods, and to learn about my therapy clinic and individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.