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Category Archives: Tips

Stop Tearing Down and Start Building: 5 Ways to Enrich your Relationships Today

Frustrated by the way your relationships are going? Feeling like you’re always at odds with someone at home or at work? Here are a handful of tips you can use to revitalize your relationships and improve your interactions with others.

  1. Look for the positives and focus on the other person’s strengths. For example, you might start by noticing how well your spouse manages his or her job, commitments at home, balance between free time and family time, or anything else. As you observe him or her, begin commenting about what you’ve seen like this: “You do a really good job with __________” or “I’m impressed that you were able to accomplish _________ today.” John Gottman says the magic ratio is 5 positive interactions for every 1 that is negative. In order to compensate for the inevitable bumps along the way, make a concerted effort to recognize the positive qualities of those around you each and every day.
  1. Employ active listening skills. Active listening initially includes paying attention, withholding judgment and reflecting the other person’s words by repeating them back to him or her. This is especially important—and challenging—when there is conflict. As you take the time to slow down and focus on your co-worker’s point of view, you may find yourself less focused on making your case and more willing to reach a mutually beneficial solution. If you want additional information on this topic, look here: https://www.ccl.org/multimedia/podcast/the-big-6-an-active-listening-skill-set/
  1. Take care of yourself. As you are able, focus on eating well, getting enough sleep, drinking water throughout the day, exercising, and managing your stress. This will have a positive impact on yourself and everyone around you. If you need help remembering to do these things, enlist some support partners. You might also use an app like Wunderlist to organize your goals and set reminders.
  1. Look for common interests and seek to engage in those whenever possible. When you think of your relationships, consider whether there are any favorite activities, interests, or even favorite foods that could bring you and the people you love together. For example, you might consider setting up weekly, bi-weekly or monthly dates to spend time with each of your children. Enlist their help to come up with ideas of things they’d like to do or explore with you, and work your way through the list you compose.
  1. Before you speak, consider the things you often say. If you are frequently at odds with someone in your life, think about the phrases you find yourself repeating to that person. Perhaps you need to change what you are saying so your family member can really hear the message. For example, if you find that you are constantly telling your dad that he’s embarrassing you in some way, maybe you could tell him some things you appreciate about him (see #1) and then give him a few tips about what he could say or do when he’s around your friends.

These five tips may seem simple, but will require a concerted effort on your part. If it seems overwhelming to implement all five at once, start with the one that seems the most likely to create positive change and work your way through the rest as you are able. Though you may encounter resistance at first, you will soon notice small differences in the relational atmosphere. If you or someone in your life would benefit from the help of a trained therapist as you work to improve your relationships, please call our office at 215.491.1119.

 

Dr. Lorna Jansen is a psychology resident at the Center for Neuropsychology and Counseling in Warrington, PA. She provides therapy, academic coaching and assessment for children and adolescents who struggle with academic demands, anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Additionally, Dr. Jansen works with adults who are navigating life transitions, including college, marriage, divorce, and parenting.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

March is Brain Injury awareness month, so it seems appropriate to discuss some memory strategies. Memory is defined as “the ability to recall events on command.” We all would love to have better memories, however, sometimes life events occur that alter this ability, but there are strategies that can help.

 

Adapt your environment: Hang a dry erase board in your kitchen or office to write down reminders or needed grocery items. You can also keep a dry erase calendar in a central area of your house or office to keep track of your daily/weekly activities. Some of you may be saying that you already do this on your Smart Phone, which is great, but for some folks after a brain injury, they need to “see” reminders to help improve memory skills – a visual reminder. If you want to use your Smart Phone for reminders, make sure to alarm your reminders. You could even set a daily alarm to remind yourself to look at your schedule! If Smart Phones are confusing, you can carry a datebook and get in the habit of reviewing the datebook every morning to review your day’s activities. Make sure you put things back in the same spot (e.g. keys on the hook by the door, coat in the closet, briefcase on the desk in the home office, bills in a basket, etc.) this will help build a routine of where items are to be found and it will significantly decrease your frustration when searching for the items (especially if you are in a hurry!). Routines are very important for memory because they help build long term memories, which is where information we want to retrieve exists.

 

Improve your wellbeing: Anxiety, stress and depression can significantly decrease memory skills. You need to have a balance between work and relaxation, so seek out/plan enjoyable activities outside of your work day. Maintain friendships and talk about your difficulties and frustrations, you never know who will give you some good strategy suggestions! Stay physically active, even simple exercises like taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help. Be assertive; learn to say “no” to excessive demands. This one is really important, manage you time and take breaks. Sometimes after sustaining a brain injury people want to “push” themselves to get better, but this is actually counterproductive. Your body and brain need time to heal and taking breaks is the best way to make progress. Do one thing at a time; establish a goal and break the steps down into smaller, more manageable parts.

 

Other helpful cognitive strategies: Attention is the key to a better memory, so try to focus on information you want to remember and reduce the background distractions. When trying to remember new information, make associations with existing information in your memory. Mentally retrace your steps to trigger your memory for where you may have left an item. Hang reminder signs or use sticky notes to trigger memories of activities you want/need to do. When trying to recall a list of items, chunk the like items together to be able to recall them more easily.

 

As a neurorehabilitation specialist I have taught many of these strategies to my clients over the years and the majority had a lot of success. Recovering from a brain injury can take time, but using strategies consistently can definitely help.

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Carol Bardsley, M.A., CPCRT, CBIS – At The Center I facilitate the Therapeutic Activities Group, which is an educational group for people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury.  I also provide one-on-one Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy to clients either in their homes or in our office. In addition, I assist Dr. J. Stone with the neuropsychological evaluations.

Increasing My Productivity, Reducing My Stress: A quick overview

By Christina Carson-Sacco, Psy.D.

I think most people would say they’d like to be more productive, but also would love to be less stressed. As we are looking at a new year, it’s a good time to think about ways we can do this.

First, I’d like you to think about the roles you play in your life. Is it as a business owner? Parent? Partner? Community activist? Friend? Now, in light of that role, answer this question, “What’s my Mission Statement?” Draft your mission statement and write it down.

  • What do I do?
  • Who do I do it for?
  • How are they better off because of me?
  • What do I want them to feel?

Why do you need a mission statement? It keeps you on track. For example, if you’re thinking of yourself in your role as an activist helping homeless families, your mission statement might be, “I will increase awareness of homelessness in our county and support organizations that are providing shelter for displaced families.” If an opportunity to assist abused animals comes up, while you think it’s a very worthy cause, it does not fit with your mission statement, so you might delegate this task to another person, but not let it dilute your resources or take up your energy. Look at the questions above when examining whether or not to do something to test whether it fits with your mission statement for a particular role. This will keep you focused and help you to say “no” to requests that might distract or detract from your goals.

Next, how do we tackle those pesky to-do lists? Having lists of your tasks is a helpful way to organize and keep track of what needs to get done. Hopefully, you’re crossing tasks off on a daily basis. What many people are challenged by are the tasks that never seem to get done. Let’s take a moment to examine those tasks, by putting them into this chart. This will help you to examine why the task is never completed.

 

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For example, a task might be “organize my financial records.” The obstacles might be “need to get files from work.” You can then choose to either get the files or maybe ask someone at work to pull them together for you. Putting tasks on this chart can help clarify the obstacles, making it easier to decide how to handle them.

Some tasks have bigger obstacles, though. Beware of the “shoulds.” Is there a task that is on your list merely because you feel you should do it? However, you don’t really want to do it; you just think you should. For example, maybe one of your never-completed tasks is “Sign up to coach my child’s soccer team.” You may not really want to do that, but you feel you should because you believe “a good parent coaches their child’s team.” Examining that belief and making a conscious decision will help you to make a choice to either do it or remove it from your list. Be careful; the “shoulds” can be draining. You don’t need to do everything you feel you should do. For example, an incomplete task could be “fix things around the house.” You may believe “it’s frivolous to pay others to do household chores” or “responsible adults take care of these things,” but you never complete these tasks. Seeing them on your list could makes you feel drained or like you’re failing. It may be beneficial to either take some of these tasks off of your list or to hire someone else to do them.

Another other reason some tasks never get done is that we have fear connected to them. Looking at your never-completed to-do items, are any of them incomplete because there is some fear holding you back? For example, one of your tasks might be “go to the gym regularly.” It’s easy to think that you’re not crossing that off your list because you don’t have enough time. However, if you pause to consider a possible fear, maybe the roadblock is really, “I’m afraid that I won’t be very strong and will embarrass myself at the gym.” Identifying and facing these fears head on can help you overcome them.

Third, being productive and reducing your stress means taking good care of yourself. Remember, while some people may boast about how much they are doing, there is no pride in being busy. Being “busy for busy’s sake” can get out of control, feel overwhelming, and at times make you feel powerless over your life. Be conscious of how you’re filling your days and when you can say “no” to tasks. Ask for help when you need it.

Self-care must be on your to-do list. If your friend said they were feeling really stressed out, what advice would you give them? Treat yourself as well as you would your best friend. Doing these things regularly will help you manage your stress:

  • Sleep 8+hours
  • Eat 3+ nutritious meals
  • Hydrate
  • Go outside a little each day
  • Unplug from technology for portions of each day by setting designated work times and space
  • Exercise or just move
  • Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol and other drugs
  • Create a good support system
  • Remember to care for yourself before caring for others; are you at the top of your priority list?

If you are struggling with any of these tasks like focusing, managing your life, overcoming fears, or any of the self-care items, a psychologist can help. While reading this may have added to your to-do list, the goal is to improve how productive you feel while keeping stress in check.

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Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco is a psychologist who has been helping children, teens, adults and families in private practice for 17 years. She specializes in anxiety, depression, parenting, school challenges, relationships, and life transitions. Learn more at www.TheCenterInWarrington.com

8 Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Many believe the holidays to be a time of joy, laughter, and good food. But, so often the reality is that you’re overwhelmed, tired, and extremely on edge. In order to successfully navigate your holiday to-do list, try these 8 steps:

  1. Take a deep breath in and out. Repeat as needed. As stressful circumstances pop up (family conflict, extra bills, bad weather), remember to take a moment for yourself to just breathe deeply. Count in through your nose to 5 and out through your mouth to 5.
  2. Consider your values. What matters most to you this time of year? Getting your shopping done early? Spending time with certain friends or families? Certain religious or spiritual observations or rituals? Whatever it is, be sure to keep your focus on the main things you value.
  3. Consider what must get done versus what “should” get done. Maybe your house does not need to look like a spread from Home and Garden, or your gifts do not need to resemble individual works of art. Figure out which things you are hoping to get to that are really just extra sources of stress, and agree to let them go.
  4. Plan. Look at your calendar. Which weeks are the busiest and when do you have time to address cards or buy gifts or help out in the community? Write down possible days on which to accomplish various activities and what you will do each day to reach your goals. Also, consider delegating some of your tasks to friends and family who can help.
  5. Talk with your loved ones. Maybe your partner’s favorite part of the holidays is watching a movie with you on New Year’s Eve. Maybe you have a fun tradition with a friend or your kids. Prioritize and plan for those things your loved ones hold especially dear this time of year.
  6. Set boundaries as needed. In order to preserve your sanity, you will have to say “no” to certain demands. Perhaps you’ll need to plan to see different friends or family members on different days or weeks. Maybe you usually host a holiday, but a new job or baby is making it difficult to do so. Give yourself the flexibility you need to do what’s best for you.
  7. Practice gratitude. Even in the messy moments of life (wine on the carpet again?), there is always something to be grateful for: food to eat, a place to gather, people with whom to share your life. Share your thankful spirit with those around you.
  8. Remember that nothing is perfect. No holiday meal, family event, or season will be picturesque and devoid of spills, tears, or melted candles. But, in the end, it is how we overcome difficult circumstances and support one other through hard times that truly matters.

Dr. Lorna Jansen

-Dr. Lorna Jansen specializes in treating children, adolescents, and families. She helps clients manage stress, deal with relationship issues, and also offers academic coaching.