Understanding Codependency: What, Why, & How COVID-19 Has Made it Worse

Unless you have gone to therapy or been close to someone seeking help for codependent tendencies, your perception of codependency is likely inaccurate in some ways. Aside from popular belief, the term does not refer to the behavior of people who “can’t do anything on their own” or “had parents who did everything for them growing up.” In fact, it often means quite the opposite.

And, believe it or not, codependency doesn’t just affect a small portion of the population! Some estimates suggest that close to 90% of people demonstrate codependent behavior in relationships, with many having realized they struggle with codependency only during and after COVID-19.

So, what is codependency, why do so many of us experience it, and how has COVID-19 made it worse? Keep reading for the answer to these questions and more.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is a pattern of behavior characterized by a mental, emotional, physical, and/or spiritual reliance on another person in a close relationship (e.g. spouse-spouse, friend-friend, coworker-boss, sibling-sibling, etc.). It can also be thought of as an imbalanced relationship in which one person (“the giver”) assumes the responsibility of meeting the needs of the other person (“the taker”) and, in doing so, cannot acknowledge their own feelings and needs to the point of personal detriment. 

Codependent people are typically empathetic, highly capable, and independent in that they take care of everyone, including themselves, without asking for help. The problem with this ultra-independence is that it is impractical; we all have needs, and they can only go unmet for so long. And while codependents can maintain complacency for extended periods of time (months, years, sometimes decades), they do eventually become resentful of the lack of reciprocation from others and explode—either internally or externally.

At their core, codependents want to feel secure and wanted for their true selves, but in pursuit of this safe connection, they self-sacrifice so much that they end up losing all sense of themselves. In other words, by making others “need”/depend on them, they make the very thing they crave, authentic connection, impossible. 

What Causes Codependency?

Codependency is not a personality disorder or clinical diagnosis but rather a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. Those who struggle with codependency usually developed the condition by watching and imitating other family members who managed situations of abuse, neglect, illness, addiction and other traumatic situations (usually within the family) the same way—by “fawning” (repressing one’s own needs in order to be loved and accepted, i.e. people-pleasing).
But it goes deeper than that. At its root, the compulsion to self-deny is the result of a complex form of attachment disorder and PTSD developed in childhood. As children, codependents received inconsistent attention, affection, and emotional support from their parents—a sort of hot and cold dynamic interpreted by children as a reflection of their own inadequacy. To cope and thus reduce these feelings of abandonment, they learned to attain more consistent love through people-pleasing, a softer form of manipulation and control.

Unfortunately, as these children become adults, the fear never goes away (PTSD), driving them to continue fawning in hopes of never being abandoned again. What they don’t realize, though, is they are still being abandoned—only now by themselves. For these reasons, codependency can be considered a symptom or defense against PTSD.

…AKA relationship addiction

When we think of addiction, alcohol, drugs, sex, and gambling are the first words that come to mind, but a less commonly known form of addiction is the addiction to people, which is codependency in of itself. As codependents begin to only think of the thoughts, needs, and desires of the one they are pleasing (“the taker”), they are no longer able to identify their own. This enmeshment means that their only sense of worth derives from the praise, recognition, or affection they receive from the other person. Over time, this creates an addiction to the highs of validation and affirmation, much like the highs you would see in any other addiction. The codependent looks for ways to help, and they are rewarded with praise in return. On the flip side, when their help goes unnoticed and the other person withdraws, the codependent fears the relationship will end and falls in a state of severe emotional distress until they feel valued again. With time, the caretaking becomes compulsive, and the codependent experiences feelings of helplessness in the relationship, unable to break free.

Signs of Codependency

  • A tendency to do more than your share all the time.
  • Never asking for help; overwhelming yourself with tasks that others could do.
  • Fear of losing relationships/abandonment.
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Doing way more than the other person to hold onto your relationship.
  • An overwhelming need to be reassured and recognized.
  • A compelling desire to control others.
  • Lack of trust in yourself and/or others.
  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others.
  • A tendency to love people you can rescue.
  • Excessive concern with loved ones’ behaviors.
  • Constant feelings of hurt when people overlook your efforts.
  • Guilt after asserting yourself.
  • A tendency to apologize to keep the peace.
  • Difficulty naming your feelings or fully feeling them.
  • Minimizing your feelings when you do feel them.
  • Worrying about what others think of you.
  • Problem with creating and keeping boundaries.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Dishonesty.
  • Doing things you don’t want to do to make others happy.
  • Poor communication in relationships.
  • Idealizing loved ones to the point of maintaining relationships that don’t fulfill you.

The Link Between Codependent Tendencies & COVID-19

COVID-19 has taken its toll on couples with underlying, previously unnoticable or manageable codependent tendencies. Without breaks from one another and access to other sources of fulfillment and support (such as exercise classes, lunch with friends, in-office work, etc.), many report feeding off of each other’s emotions more than ever and relying heavily on the relationship for every emotional need. Couples who don’t live together have also experienced strains on their relationship but for the opposite reason: not being able to spend enough time together due to shutdowns, quarantine, and limited date nights.

Amidst traumatic circumstances, slipping back into old ways—natural instincts—is normal. Just like with PTSD from childhood, PTSD from the accumulation of stresses caused by COVID-19 can cause codependent habits to resurface, worsen, or appear for the first time. If that is you, rest assured that there is hope. As mentioned above, codependency is a learned behavior, meaning it is possible to unlearn the compulsions causing you distress and negatively affecting your relationships. The best course of action is to seek help. A therapist can show you how to form healthy attachments in your relationships, establish your own identity, and assist you in healing from the triggering experiences you have had, whether in childhood or more recently.

The good news is, post-pandemic, our environments and circumstances are changing. With that, and professional support, how you are feeling will change too. Book your appointment online or call 1-800-632-7969 to get started today.

New Year: New Anxieties, Old Regrets

It’s a new year—a time to pause, plan, reflect, look forward, and dream before life picks up and the days and weeks start to blur together again. It’s what many would consider the second most wonderful time of the year—a fresh start, a clean slate, a moment of optimism. For others, though, the New Year isn’t so inspiring. It’s a reminder of setbacks and shortcomings, a reason to feel sorrow over decisions and events of years past. And, for at least 20 percent of the US adult population, it’s also a time of heightened anxiety over the months ahead. 

So, what’s the secret to actually enjoying the start of a new year—to fighting the regret and anxiety so many of us are feeling?

Be more positive! And no, we don’t mean “Cheer up, buttercup.” After all, emotions, whether positive or negative, aren’t bad. They’re just human. We mean finding a balance between the two by mitigating the never-ending flow of negativity in our lives in very intentional ways. This, research suggests, makes our minds more resilient, leading to less anxiety, regret, and an improved quality of life overall.

To help you get started, here are a few resolutions you can make to kick off your New Year right:

  1. Trade two for one. It won’t be easy to reverse your negative thought processes, but that old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race,” really does apply here. When you find yourself ruminating on past failures—the school you didn’t go to, divorce you never wanted, 30 pounds you didn’t lose—remind yourself that the past is the past, and you can only work on today to have a better tomorrow. The same goes for negative thoughts about the future: When expecting the worst, speak truths about the situation to yourself, remembering the positive possibilities and the strength you’ve developed from situations in the past.
  2. Aim to replace every negative thought with two positive affirmations, observations, or gratitudes that counter it. By trading two for one, you’ll be teaching your brain to see situations in a better light.
  3. Similarly, practice thankfulness. If you’re tired of focusing on the past or future, redirect your mind to the present by listing the people and things for which you are thankful today. Be thankful for a good night’s sleep, a steady job, a friend who cares about you, your education, yummy lunch, the task you just completed, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is, just give thanks! Keep a list in your notebook or phone, and glance at it throughout the day. You’ll notice a difference in no time.
  4. Want to get out of a mental rut? Prove it in your posture. It’s old news that the body affects the mind and vice versa, but studies have found that it’s not just healthy eating and exercise that make a difference, but the small habits too—like posture. On the days when you’re in a lull and can’t break out, stand up tall, pull your shoulders back, and stretch your arms out wide. This posture will not only get your blood pumping, but it will cause you to produce endorphins, much like exercise, that boost your positivity.
  5. To take this a step further, try power posing! A social psychologist at Harvard University found that there are “high power” and “low power” posture poses that affect our mood. By holding high power poses for about two minutes, we cause hormonal shifts in our bodies to take place, sparking feelings of self-confidence. The next time you need a coffee break, break into a power pose instead (like the Wonder Woman pose!), and feel more positive and empowered instantaneously.
  6. Set firmer boundaries. Distance yourself from negative people, and surround yourself with more positive ones—ones that are on the same journey towards self-improvement as you. We all know that phrase, “You are the sum of the people closest to you.” That’s because it’s true. Being around negative people for an extended period of time can rewire our neuronal connections. When this happens, the networks in our brains begin to respond negatively to situations that we once considered positive. These “re-wirings” can cause long-term depression and anxiety. It can take time, sometimes years, for our brains to learn to think differently again.
So, who uplifts you? Who pushes you towards your goals? Who is kind, patient, and genuinely concerned for your wellbeing? Choose them, and take measures to limit your time with the rest.
 
Last but not least, seek out a licensed counselor or therapist. Nobody should have to face regret and anxiety alone, and it’s important that one of the people standing next to you through these struggles has a deep understanding of their causes and effects. Friends and family are great for advice, consolement, and encouragement, but when it comes to chronic emotional distress, treatment is necessary. A professional will be able to break patterns of negativity on a more individualized basis—that is, according to your unique situation and needs.
So, begin implementing the habits above. If these feelings of regret and anxiety continue, schedule a time to talk to someone who can navigate these new habits with you, and maybe even help you identify more that will make this year worthwhile.
Here’s to a more positive 2022! Happy New Year to you and yours.

The Holidays and Depression: What to Look For and Ways to Cope

You’ve made it through the Thanksgiving meal, and now you’ve got weeks of holiday parties and gatherings ahead. If just the thought of all that fills you with sadness and dread (more than just the introvert kind), you’re not alone. This year, more adults will experience feelings of depression during the holidays than ever before.

The holidays already tend to be a hard time for mental health: the financial stress of gift-giving, the nostalgia of holidays’ past, and the inherent anxiety in getting together with some of the loved ones we prefer to love at a distance. But add loneliness, the loss of a family member, or just the thoughts of what “could be,” and you’ve got Grandma’s recipe for anything but holiday cheer.

And that was all before the pandemic sent depression rates skyrocketing. Since the start of the pandemic, depression among American adults has tripled—and they haven’t dropped. Even with reopenings and the release of the vaccine, rates have only increased, revealing that 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. now suffers from depression.

So, like we said, you’re not alone.

But other than statistics, what else do you need to know, or do, to cope with feelings of depression this season?

Know the Warning Signs.

If you’re reading this post, then you’ve probably already noticed some of the more well-known symptoms of depression in yourself or someone close to you. While sadness and demotivation are at the top of the list, it’s important to know that depression can lead to other, less overt changes, such as unusual sleep patterns, irritability, trouble concentrating, impulsivity, exhaustion, loss of appetite and weight, crying spells, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, mood swings, feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, and so on.

If you notice yourself experiencing some of these symptoms, take action: Call someone you trust, and consider contacting a mental health professional if they persist. If you observe these in a loved one, kindly express your concern, and be willing to listen.

Get plenty of sleep.

A hectic holiday schedule can easily cut into your sleep schedule, but when feeling distressed, sleep is the last thing that should go. Poor sleep makes you more vulnerable to depression, and sleep deprivation worsens symptoms like irritability, crying spells, exhaustion, and poor concentration. In other words, sleep helps to prevent low moods and manage them! To ensure your sleep is a priority, set a bedtime alarm, create a nightly routine, and avoid keeping your phone near you at night.

Drink only in moderation.

As “at ease” as it can make you feel, alcohol is a depressant, meaning it can bring down your mood, exacerbating negative emotions—the opposite of what you want when you’re feeling depressed. So, to keep spirits high, limit the amount of alcohol you drink during the holidays, aiming to consume no more than one or two drinks in a single setting.

Exercise.

A much better alternative to alcohol for managing emotions is exercise. Exercise increases the production of endorphins in your brain, leaving you feeling euphoric, and research shows that incorporating it into your daily routine can prevent and reduce symptoms of depression. While starting a rigorous, time-consuming workout routine right now is probably a no-go, starting your day with a quick walk or a 30-minute workout video is no big thing and really all it takes to keep some of those holiday blues away.

Don’t isolate.

Whether you’re longing for company or want to be alone (or a little bit of both), resist the inclination to isolate. A tendency to hunker down is a huge factor in the development of depression. If you’re alone this season, reach out to a friend for a Zoom call once a week, and let them know you’re down. Get connected in your community: Join a church, volunteer at a soup kitchen, sign up for a group exercise class. And don’t rule out meeting with a therapist. Seek support even when it’s uncomfortable. Negativity only breeds negativity without sources of positivity.

Plan things you can look forward to.

Who says you have to spend the holidays at home? Book a trip, visit a friend across the country, stay with extended family—do something different! Make a schedule of things to do or try, and stick to that schedule even when your enthusiasm dips. Having something to look forward to—like trying that new restaurant!—will motivate you to get up and go and mitigate the hopelessness you feel. Plus, when you’re on the move, your body (and brain) are bound to feel better!

Prioritize your needs.

We often think of the holidays as a time of “have tos,” but the truth is, you’re an adult, and you CAN say no. Don’t want to go to that party with the aunt that always asks why you’re still single? Don’t! This is not to say you should say no to every less-than-pleasant event, but it does mean that you need to consider what is healthiest for you…because nobody else is going to. Assess how you are feeling and what you need throughout the day, and hold yourself accountable to respecting those needs in your decision-making. Remember, just because you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean you should now.

Reconsider your expectations.

Sometimes, the enemy of good is great. Instead of running around in mental circles considering how your holidays don’t look as you had hoped, remind yourself of what is good about your life. Be intentional about staying present with your loved ones in the moment, actively stopping thought processes that lead you to unmet expectations. Don’t like how your days look? Figure out a couple realistic ways to improve them. The key is to realize that an imperfect reality doesn’t make your reality any less meaningful.

We hope that these tools help you and yours have a most joyous, peaceful holiday season! If the holiday blues turn into New Year’s gloom, consider scheduling an appointment with one of our mental health professionals. If at any point your symptoms lead to suicidal thinking, call 911 immediately.

Parents: 5 Tips to Prevent Bullying

November 15th through 19th is Anti-Bullying Week—a week meant to raise awareness about the prevalence and dangers of bullying across the globe. Roughly 20% of U.S. children and teens in school report being bullied, with 41% of these students indicating that they expect to be bullied again. And these numbers are only growing. With social media (Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, etc.) increasingly becoming children and teens’ primary form of communication, bullying is easier than ever…because why do it in person when you can hide behind a computer screen?

If you’re a parent, these statistics aren’t exactly comforting, especially when you consider the effects of bullying. More than physical harm, victims of bullying are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school.

So, what, if anything, can you do to make a difference? Here are 5 tips to get you started:

  1. Ask questions.

Some kids are more communicative than others, but either way, asking your child about their day can go a long way in helping you (and them) identify unsafe people in their midst. Ask, then listen intently to what they have to say. Learn their friends’ names, even the classmates you’ve never met. Stay mindful of patterns, and remember: Bullying isn’t just throwing punches. Verbal assaults and/or antagonistic behavior can be just as harmful to a child’s wellbeing.

  1. Teach your kids how to respond.

Teaching your children emotional intelligence—how to manage their emotions and identify and relate to the emotions of others—is a great way to prepare your child for abusive situations of any kind. Encourage your child to call out bullying when they see it, to ask questions, and on the flip side, to notice the effects of their own actions on peers. For example, when approached by a bully, teaching your child to respond, “Are you being mean to me right now? That is not okay with me,” and then to confide in an adult is much more effective than teaching them to ignore the bully (whose behavior might only escalate).

  1. Set limits.

As we mentioned, cyberbullying is on the rise and can be more difficult to detect than other forms of bullying. This is where limiting the amount of time your child spends on social media is key. Bullies often know no bounds, so helping your child create their own by “signing off” after a certain amount of time sends the message that they need to have boundaries even when others don’t—even when it’s uncomfortable. Also, having “screen-free” hours will give you the chance to connect with your child and monitor their communication as needed.

  1. Be willing to intervene.

Nobody wants to be a helicopter parent, but when it comes to bullying, the “hands off” approach probably isn’t the way to go. If your child is expressing that someone is repeatedly picking on them, first try to understand the situation and your child’s point of view. Then, if possible, show them how to address the situation independently. If it’s clear that the bullying behavior is too severe or will continue, take action. Your child needs to know that you are their greatest advocate and first line of defense.

  1. Emphasize kindness.

This year, the theme of Anti-Bullying Week is One Kind Word, inspired by the idea that positive connections fostered through kindness can break down barriers and make a big difference for someone facing loneliness (Coincidentally, World Kindness Day also falls in November!). And this idea couldn’t be more true. Studies show that kindness increases our sense of connectivity with others, reducing loneliness and enhancing both our mood and interactions. It really is contagious!

So, perhaps the best way you can help prevent bullying is to make sure your child doesn’t become a bully themselves. Create a culture of kindness in your home, and apply the Golden Rule as often as you can in both speech and practice.

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Millennial mental health. From 9/11 to Parkland, politics to pandemics, social media to telemedicine – this generation is set to positively disrupt the world.  We purposely built SouthEnd for a mental health revolution.

Recognizing These Six Signs of Depression

Unfortunately, depression does not discriminate. This disease has affected the lives of over 300 million people worldwide. Just looking at statistics can be overwhelming, but it’s necessary to understand the magnitude of what’s happening to those around us. It’s imperative that we are in tune with the ones we love and cue in on the signs and flags they are metaphorically waving. 

6 Signs to Watch For:

Feelings of Worthlessness

When someone is constantly doubting themselves, never feeling confident in their abilities and their reflections are negative– this is a sign. 

Loss of Interest- 

When someone suddenly loses interest in activities that previously brought them joy such as sex, sporting events, hobbies, and social gatherings–this is a sign. 

Suicidal Thoughts- 

When someone feels they are no longer of use in this world, makes a plan, or speaks of taking their own life–this is a sign. 

Change in Appetite- 

When someone is overeating or undereating due to stress or anxiety, and these habits cause a dramatic change in appearance–this is a sign.

Trouble Sleeping

When someone begins to lose sleep due to daily stresses such as financial woes, work issues, marital or relationship problems–this is a sign. 

Fatigue-

When someone, rather they get enough sleep or not, has an overwhelming feeling of tiredness–this is a sign. 

Symptoms in children are quite similar, but we must keep a closer watch as 3.1 million children from ages 12-17 are experiencing depression. They might withdraw socially, suddenly become more sensitive, have unusual vocal outbursts, or feel overwhelmed with sadness. 

Regardless of the different outlets available to those who are depressed, 35% still receive no help. Listening is invaluable. Listen to your friends and family.  Check in on them and ask the questions that in a positive way, force an answer that will allow you to help. Here are some examples of questions to ask:

How can I best support you?

  • What specifically is hurting you? 
  • Who do you have in a supportive circle at work? At school? At home? 
  • What night can I bring dinner so we can talk? 
  • My calendar is open, pick a morning and let’s meet for coffee. 

Ask the questions, have the conversations, and tune in to those around you.

The flags will wave, it’s critical that you see them. Once seen, take the next step and have the conversations. Bring a certified professional in. Don’t be afraid to push them toward healing. At Southend Psychiatry, we offer services primarily online and in-person at flexible locations near you, and will be ready to support you and those you love on the path to mental wellness!

The Day is Coming- Let’s Cope with Heading Back

For most companies and schools, Labor Day is THE day. The day that offices and classrooms will begin to fill again. The day that many are looking forward to while others are dreading. The day where so many worries will surface and anxiety will take hold. 

Working from home and remote learning offered a safe haven.

With the deadline approaching to re-enter the world not as we knew it, there are elements that are likely to cause more worry. Public transportation, no reliable childcare, getting sick and lack of space are the most mentioned concerns when surveyed. Just like adults, kids have worries too, and we all need to know how to navigate through their feelings. Remember, that any anxiety you feel is normal. We love order, making plans and following routines. Upon returning, order-plans-routines may all be up in the air.  However, humans are exceptional at adapting. Remember that when you walk into the office or you’re preparing your children for class next week. 

How can we make it a smooth return to the physical workplace or classroom? 

  • Dress Rehearsal – Make lunches, lay out clothes, set the alarms and practice a dry run of an actual day back to work and school. Iron out all the kinks. This means stepping on to the subway or hailing a cab, socially interacting with others in public and then coming home to work through the feelings. 
  • Schedule a time to relax – As busy as we can find ourselves, make sure that you schedule in some time to breathe, take a bubble bath, read to the kids, go for a walk or just sit. Getting back into the groove is going to be exhausting and this time of relaxation is imperative for you and the kids. 
  • Maintain a routine – Being home means the routine may have gone right out of the window. You’ve taken breaks when you needed one, made an afternoon tea and possibly even had a lunchtime nap while at home.  The office and school setting is quite different and an adjustment will take time. Give yourself and the kids that time by establishing the routine now. 
  • Ask for the employer’s or school’s COVID 19 policy – Prior to returning, make sure you are well versed in what is in place to protect you and your children. If you feel uneasy, this is the time to reach out and ask the questions. This also gives you time to prepare yourself and the kids on how to handle situations that may arise as you re-enter. 
  • Show yourself some mercy – Don’t enter back in full force and go 100 mph because you’ve got a to-do list a mile high. Take it slow. 
  • Practice calming methods – Breathing exercises are key to calming down and easing your mind. Teach these to your children as well. Equip them with the same tools that you intend to return with next week. 

Remember, emotions and feelings are real.

It’s normal to be cautious, nervous or even weary, but it’s also important to be prepared to re-enter the world with a toolbox filled with the right tools. These strategies will help you feel some much-needed ease this fall as we try and learn how to navigate in another new normal. 

Staying Abreast of What’s Best for Your Mental Health

August is National Breastfeeding Month, and it’s necessary to take a look at how it can affect one’s mental health, both positively and sometimes negatively. As a mother, we want to do what’s best, but does that always mean the breast?

What do the Experts Say?

For babies, breastfeeding is recommended by the American Pregnancy Association as the most nutritionally balanced meal as it helps protect against common infections and increases the survival rate in the first year of life. But, how does it benefit the mother? From increased confidence and self-esteem to lowering the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, there are many benefits to breastfeeding.

Additionally, there are two hormones produced when breastfeeding: oxytocin and prolactin. These two hormones promote stress reduction, positive feelings and lessen the risk of postpartum depression. The American Psychological Association reports that 1 in 7 will be diagnosed with what is otherwise known as the “baby blues,” and breastfeeding is a great way to combat this disease that has affected many new mothers. 

The Pressure to Breastfeed.

On the flip side, can the pressure to breastfeed exclusively affect your mental health? Psychologists and real-life moms say YES! When it comes to what is best for the baby, a healthy mother takes precedence.

“Breastmilk does not care for, nurture and bond with the baby. A mother does. I am not arguing the health benefits of breastfeeding. Those are known facts. I am talking about the part that just isn’t talked about enough: a mom’s mental health.”

Carrie Bruno, a lactation specialist, writes in a Today’s Parent article

Viable options are available now more than ever to help supplement and dissolve the feeling of inadequacy, stress, or pure exhaustion. When the pains and strains of exclusively breastfeeding feel overwhelming, it may be time to take a step back and make a new plan. In the end, you have to let go of the societal pressures and do what is best for you.

Moms, this is your decision!

We recommend you surround yourself with supportive people. Discuss options with your doctor and lactation specialist, join a support group online or in-person, and most importantly, trust your instincts!

If you think you may be struggling with postpartum depression, please reach out to someone that can help – schedule an appointment with our team or call or text the Postpartum Support International helpline at 1-800-944-4773

Helping Someone Cope: Providing Hope

Grief is not our friend but is certainly not a stranger to most of us. It has knocked on our door and walked right in without an invitation, never facing a warm welcome. When those we love are grieving a loss and trying to cope, words can fail us. While there is no perfect response to one of the most challenging emotions we experience as humans, we can offer hope in the ways we help.

Communicate

Someone suffering a loss will feel alone and may even want to be alone, but a phone call, text, or card can provide a sense of comfort. Fear can sometimes creep in, making us think we will say the wrong thing or convey the wrong message. Don’t let this prevent you from reaching out. The reaching out is the comfort. A smile, hug, and just being present and available helps those grieving know you see their grief and remember their pain.

Serve

Cook a meal, pick the kids up from school, mow their lawn, or run errands. It helps the griever when we do, rather than ask. Acts of service speak for themselves when words are lost.

Listen

Hear their words. Hear their cries. Hear their laughs. Hear their silence. Be available and make it known that you are there to listen.

Provide

Ongoing support is critical. Whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly, any way you choose to do this will provide a sense of hope and a brace of connection. Mark important days such as birthdays on your calendar, and send a text or make a call to let those grieving know you remember their loss. 

Helping Someone Cope

Grief will almost always overstay its welcome. When we communicate, serve, listen, and provide comfort to those suffering an unwelcome visit from grief, we offer validation while acknowledging that what they are feeling is important and real. And although we know the process of grieving takes time, the time we take to help someone cope will offer them something they desperately need during this time: HOPE.

Our Resilient Children Need Healthy Parents

As we trudge (seems an appropriate verb, some days) through the first months of a new year, we’re still blanketed by many of our old stresses. The environment is hard for mothers and fathers who have seen their routines and schedules materially disrupted.  And so I’m led to remind you all – THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT. So, what in the world do I mean by those words, exactly?

I mean…. Breathe. Pause. Be patient. We’re still in the midst of the pandemic. Our socio-political landscape remains volatile. Unemployment won’t be a quick fix either. Further, our children are still challenged with the uncanny mixture of in-person vs. remote class learning.  The point is that we have a chance to set our expectations properly, for the long term, so we can be the best parents we can be for our children. So, to be direct, I encourage you to settle in, accept this new normalcy and stop waiting for things to be “normal” again. Our kids are resilient and they need us to be well strong and healthy! 

UNPLUG

If you are unbalanced and unwell as a mother or father, it makes sense that you won’t be fit to best care for your children and healthily guide them through these rough waters. One option we all have from time to time is to unplug, whatever that means for you. And do it without guilt! Not always easy as a parent, I know… But the fact is we are all juggling so much and every person must have a healthy path to recharge and reset. Just do so with open communication… but taking the necessary “me time” is a MUST!

POSITIVITY IS A CHOICE

This is the one which sometimes hits me between the eyes, figuratively speaking. Specifically, we all have the ability to choose where our mental + emotional focus lie – in the negative or the positive. The world isn’t going to change, but where I spend my energy can, and I want to be sure to spend it well. For a real-life example, I have a high-stress career which I absolutely love with all of my soul. One trade-off is that for several years of my young son’s life I didn’t see him very much. A little bit in the morning, and an hour or two before bedtime in the evenings at best. Ugh. But today, as so much of our lives (including my practice!) is remote/virtual, I’m blessed to be with my son at home more, knowing he’s just in the other room. This is precious time to me and I’m choosing to find the GRATITUDE in it.

BOUNDARIES ARE OK

This idea relates to my previous thoughts on unplugging. I’m giving you room, right here, right now – to set healthy boundaries when and where you need them. One boundary may be taking the room to be imperfect. To make mistakes. To get bad news. Please let me remind you – SETBACKS DO NOT EQUAL FAILURE. Setbacks do not equal failure. I said it twice because I’m making a point. And as always, when considering your partner and loved ones, keeping open communication is healthy when defining what your boundaries are, but self care cannot be understated these days.

Self care tips for parents

I hope you took even a bit of encouragement away from this article – I know firsthand how hard parenting in this environment can be. But I thank you for being part of the SouthEnd journey!