Q & A With DK

How can I stick to my new year resolutions this year?
 

I love the beginning of a new year! Although it is really just another day, there's something inspiring about reflecting on and saying goodbye to the last year and preparing for what a new year has in store. Many people start the new year making resolutions. Resolutions are firm decisions to do or not to do something. The problem with that, for human beings, is we don't like being told what to do, so we immediately set ourselves up for a vicious cycle of failure and disappointment.

So this year, don't resolve. Instead, make aspirations---a hope or ambition of achieving something. Make this year about possibility and create a theme for yourself that resonates with what you would like to accomplish in 2018. And keep in mind, you have a whole 365 days to make it happen! Too often, we set out on January 2 with the best intentions and then find ourselves back to the same ole, same ole by January 31st. Encourage yourself. Challenge yourself. What do you want to contribute this year? Open yourself up to all the possibility a new year holds! 

My theme this year is "Trust You.” Now, all I aspire to gets decided around what I am committed to, which is to be true to myself and getting quiet enough to listen and trust my intuition! It really does know best every time.

Peace and Love, Kim xo

Growing Up Social: Does Too Much Screen Time Have an Effect on Mental Health?

My daughter would stay in her room for hours and sometimes days at a time. I’d slip
food under the door and supply her with water to keep her hydrated. I’d poke my head in every so often to make sure she was still in there and offer a trip for ice cream. My daughter is an extreme introvert and a normal teenager!

But how do you know the difference between introverted, normal adolescent behavior and mental health problems that should not be ignored? While everyone faces mood changes and emotional highs and lows in life, the primary thing to look for that may signify a concern is that the person is crying for no apparent reason, multiple times a day, and for at least two weeks in a row. There is not only a loss of interest in participating in activities, but a profound loss of joy in really anything that formerly made the person feel good. Feelings of sadness are so overwhelming that even everyday tasks seem impossible and life looks hopeless.

Moodiness and irritability are normal signs of adolescence. Even lack of motivation and inspiration plagues us all from time to time. Sleeping for extremely long periods of time is necessary for healthy development and to recharge. Ask yourself, is there a reason for this irritability? Could it be lack of sleep, poor nutrition, too much homework, peer pressure, growth spurts, hormones raging? Who wouldn’t be cranky and want to isolate! But if there is no apparent reason for them to have a change in personality, or the response does not seem warranted in the situation and it’s persistent, then you need to look closer at what’s going on.

Loss of energy is a symptom of being overworked, overscheduled, and overwhelmed. Be very careful to not label this. A good night's rest or a weekend of sleep does the body and brain good. Change in appetite resulting in a change in weight is something to also keep an eye on.

Use of technology can definitely influence mental health. Recreational screen time - social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat - causes young people to compare themselves to their peers leading to negative self-judgements, cyberbullying, missing out on opportunities to spend time with friends and family, physical activity, and quality sleep. Take note of what is being watched on TV and online. The content of what they are watching and when they watch it may tell you something.

The most important take-away here is not to assign a label to the mood if  what is simply needed is to learn life and coping skills and take a break from screens. Medications treat symptoms and are not always the answer especially for young brains that are not fully developed until age 25. Counseling should look at and treat the cause.  Depressive, anxious, and hyperactive behaviors are in general, symptoms of something else. Talk to the young people in your life and find out what’s really going on. Sometimes they just need a place to be heard and validated.

Q & A With DK

Why do I feel like crap when I wake up ?
 

Changes in weather and light affect your sleep patterns not to mention the anticipation of the upcoming holidays.  Your body suspects there is something up!

Shorter days and colder temperatures translate to less motivation, more couch time and comfort food.  All contributing factors to healthy sleep.  

Is it time for a new mattress?  Maybe you need to add an extra blanket for the temperature adjustment.  Outside noise and distraction can subconsciously contribute to disruption in sleep either in your sleep and wake cycle or sudden awakenings.  White noise helps block out unwanted sounds you don’t have control over and can put you into a sleepful trance.

It’s helpful to have a nighttime ritual such as a wind down meditation or soothing music.  Shut down all screens at least a half hour before you plan to retire.  If possible, don’t have your phone near you when you sleep.  If you read before bed, chose something soothing or happy.  The way you fall asleep will have a tremendous impact on the way you wake.

Sweet Dreams!

Growing Up Social: Screen Time and The Brain

Empathy is not something we are born with. Self-centeredness present in the early years of life is a necessary component of the cognitive stages of development.

You are born into a conversation that goes something like this:  Do your best. Life is hard. You’ve got this. If I cry someone will come. Sometimes I’m on my own.  

You learn early on to survive based on your early experiences and what your young brain interprets those experiences to mean.  The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so.

Enter Social Technology.  Now your interpretations include the experiences of your Facebook friends, Instagram, Google, violent video games, and reality television all accessible instantly at the push of a button.

This should be a wake up call to ensure at home and at school that kids are getting enough face-to-face time.  Human interaction is what teaches us how to put ourselves in the place of others. It is the stimulation of the senses, what you hear, see, touch, and feel as a result of that interaction, that contributes to the emotion of understanding what it’s like to be that person.  You probably can’t imagine what it’s like to be hungry, but visit a food bank or soup kitchen and sit with those who don’t know where their next meal will come from and gain a whole new level of appreciation which inspires you to act and engage. In some cases, it can be transformational.

In addition to the ability to empathize with others, various studies have shown that  screen addictions can lead to changes in the brain's gray matter. Kids can lose acuity in several important domains, including organization, planning skills, impulse control, and think fast-on-your-feet decision making, risking permanent damage to the developing brain, impeding the development parents are so eager to foster.  If too much screen time zaps brains of the ability to reason, kids face greater risks for early sex, drug and alcohol abuse, and other high-risk behavior.

When smartphones and computers put a screen between a bully and a victim, kids lose the instant feedback that their actions are hurtful. So, they don't stop. It’s easy to say whatever and whenever we want if there are little or no consequences. Screens don't divorce kids from just the real world, but the consequences of living in that world.

Babies and kids learn about human interaction thru the senses as well as thru speaking to their parents and having them model it back. Kids need human interaction--period--if they're ever to gain empathy, and each additional screen gets in the way of that.

Enough face-to-face time is necessary to ensure we becoming competent social beings, not just “social doings”. Social technology is here to stay. We just need to make sure it’s not going to take the place of all the other good stuff out there!

Q & A With DK

How do I handle stress related to all of my deadlines?

When you look at all you have to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis the tasks ahead can seem daunting. How am I going to do this? There are not enough hours in the day you tell yourself. This sets you up from a place of panic before you even start! The trick is to start with an attitude of “I’ve got this", taking on one task at a time. If you are more of a visual person, make a list of all you need to do in order of priority focusing on completing one thing at a time. Being a good multi tasker, something we all aspire to, is just a myth. The reality is that you when you are focusing on more than one thing at a time, you are being less effective. Multitasking does not work. We are constantly bombarded by interruptions. Each time you let yourself get distracted, it can take you as long as 25 minutes to return to task. Think about how much less time it would take to do your assignment  if you eliminated the things that distract you most allowing you more time to enjoy the things you love! For more on this subject I recommend reading The One Thing  By Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.  

Growing Up Social: Some Healthy Guidelines

As long as your children are living at home, it’s not too late to become more active in guiding them in healthy directions. Screen time usage becomes a question of not whether how much is too much, but more important, what is being missed when our faces are in a screen?

Here are some strategies :

  • Create viewing guidelines-
  1. What factual data is my child learning from this program
  2. What kind of character traits is it seeking to build
  3. How does this program treat family members
  4. Is it consistent with our family values

 

  • Growing up in a hyper connected world kids admit they would rather text than talk. Encourage them to open up by saying “tell me more”. They will want to put down their screens if you allow them to have a point of view.
     
  • Include the kids in creating a family plan around screen time. Set rules around use, incorporate contracts, or try NO TECH Tuesdays.
     

  • Free play should be NON SCREEN . Give kids space to use their imagination. They are so use to instant gratification and access to cures from their “boredom”. The art of patience is lost when efforts are immediately rewarded.
     

  • Play Unplugged games  that stimulate the brain and help kids predict another’s view like card or board games. Role playing and dress up helps them step into another’s shoes .
     

  • Look for and take opportunities for teachable moments .  This cannot happen when everyone’s face is in a screen - unless you are doing it together - ie reading and discussing a recent news article or looking at facebook photos with each other
     

  • The most cherished times your children will remember are the times they spent with you, not their phone.  They might not admit to it though so you have to make it happen.
     

  • Bonding is learned thru direct interaction with humans.  You/ your kids should definitely be spending more time on strengthening personal relationships than growing your virtual friend list.  
     

  • Do not use your phone or ipad as an electronic babysitter!
     

  • Use screen time as a reward or consequence. Technology is not totally to blame but the impact on the growing mind and heart of a child is undeniable.Grateful kids realize the world does not evolve around their wants and needs. Cultivating a thankful heart in your child has become a lost art.
     

  • Look out for mood changes. When children spend too much time playing video games , especially if they are playing violent games, they will often become grumpy, easily angered, impatient and argumentative. Try taking away their devices and see what happens. Notice other social behaviors maybe not outward anger but withdrawn, no desire to do anything, secluded, or low communication.  
     

  • REST AND RECHARGE should not come from a screen. Downtime should and must be spent away from our devices.
     

  • Family Table Talk Discussions - Find it impossible to have dinner together? Schedule family meeting times or discuss in the car, at bath time or bedtime.  Use these times to teach your kids social skills.

 

Growing Up Social: Don't Let Children Get Too Much Screen Time

I’ve researched this topic for some time mostly to prove to my kids -  18 and 21 - that too much screen time is NOT good. At least that’s what I thought. I knew about 10 years ago that this facebook thing was going to be a problem when I used threat of removal from it as a consequence for an unwanted behavior. I thought my then 11 year old daughter was going to implode at the thought of not being able to “visit” with her friends...All 200+ of them!

I intuitively knew this was not good but it wasn’t until then, based on her reaction, that I knew this was going to be an epidemic and I had to begin defining  what was going to be my role as a parent and counselor.  

That said, there are pros and cons.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • The average American child age 8-18 spends seven hours and 38 minutes per day plugged into some sort of screen. And based on an article in the Washington Post in 2016 it’s up to 9 hours for teens
  • The number of people in the U.S. spending more than 20 hours a week on the Internet nearly doubled between 2008 and 2015 to more than 43 million people.

  • By the age of seven a child born today will have spent one full year of 24 hour days watching screen media.

  • Today’s teen are 40% less empathetic than those of thirty years ago and College students who hit campus after 2000 have empathy levels that are 40% lower than those who came before them,according to a stunning new study presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science by University of Michigan researchers.

  • Almost 75% of children aged 2 and younger have access to some type of “smart” mobile device at Home

  • 30% of households admit to leaving their television on even when no one watches exposing children to almost 4 hours of background television on a typical day

YOU DO THE MATH

If kids sleep eight hours a night, attend school and other activities for 8-9 hours, and text about a hundred messages a day, opportunities for real-time face to face time are scant.

Although it’s easy to criticize our kids, we as adults are are just as guilty. Who bought their devices and who are they modeling?  Are we spending far too much time on our cellphones texting and calling while driving telling our children, “Don’t you dare do this.” We’ve replaced board games with cable tv and electronics. We don’t even go for an outing to the mall anymore, instead shop online.  The frontal lobe and now cerebral cortex of the young brain is developing without the ability to learn empathy or problem solve.  

It may be too late for us , but we can help them! Stay tuned in next month’s column for some healthy strategies.

Q & A With DK

What's a good way to handle back to school stress?

 

Make sure your vitamin D and B levels are in range. Low levels can cause fatigue, depressive symptoms and loss of appetite. Proper nutrition is important to get your though those first weeks of the school year. Easier said than done, but taking one day at a time (even one hour at a time) helps you feel less overwhelmed. After the long days of summer, it's important to get back on a regular sleep schedule even if it's 15 minutes at a time. And take advantage of it still being light out to get a short walk or bike ride in!