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Although the 2013 Academy Awards are history, one gem - Amour - will continue to shine. This heartbreaking and unflinching movie was painful to watch but it stimulated conversations with more questions than answers.
As the people we love decline, how do we deal with the inevitable suffering?
Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke tackled this subject and won the 2013 Academy Award for best foreign language film. The leads, veteran French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, play a vital Parisian couple in their 80s whose happy marriage gradually unravels.
A retired music teacher and her devoted husband of sixty years struggle with the debilitating impact of a stroke on her health and quality of life. As Georges cares for the increasingly incapacitated Anne, their life together is irrevocably changed.
Ultimately they are both in an emotional prison. With memories of his lonely childhood, emotionally barricaded from their daughter and increasingly frustrated, Georges makes a horrifying decision to free Anne from her agony. In the end, doomed, he has no choice but to follow.
You may be thinking, come on - it's just a movie. But if a loved one is in crisis and you're trying to act as if everything is OK, here are some ideas that may help:
Be honest with yourself. Examine your state of mind. If you feel like withdrawing or hold backing, what are you hiding? And if you have frustration, resentment or despair, try to talk about it and clear the air.
Seek the support you need. Admit you can't do it alone. When stressed, ask for help from family members you respect and trust. Take a break and spend time with friends who understand what you‘re going through.
Be congruent. Notice when you feel one way and act another. Work on synchronicity and make your emotions align with what you do. If you deny your feelings, you may tend to disconnect from yourself and isolate from others.
If you haven't already seen Amour, I suggest you do - with someone you care about and with whom you can have a frank discussion. We're all aging and facing challenges in our families. And it can be hard to remain optimistic when the situation looks bleak. Of course we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard, but sometimes that may not be possible. Beginning a dialogue and continuing to talk about what's going on may help save a life.
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.
As you settle into the new year, do you sometimes feel like time is getting away from you? I make list after list of what I want to accomplish each day – and often get a large chunk completed - but never seem to get everything done. Now that I make my lists on my PDA, it’s easier to just change the date and roll the reminders over to the next day. Yet the sense of satisfaction that I feel when I do finish a project is a great motivator to become more focused so that I can attain more of my goals each day.
While we can’t stop the clock, we can learn how to manage our time better this year. Here are some strategies I’m going to put in place myself. Maybe you’d like to try them on for size too:
Resist wasting time. Keep track for a day or two of how much time you carelessly squander. You'll be surprised. While relaxation or socialization is time well spent, most of us also fritter away hours in non-productive ways. Be aware of the choices you are making by default and recognize how you can redirect your attention.
Break down tasks into small, achievable pieces. If a job seems overwhelming, you're more likely to put it off. Instead, when you recognize the distinct steps you need to complete to accomplish your goal, you can begin taking them, one at a time. And remember to reward yourself for each objective you achieve.
Begin, even if you can't finish right away. You may be setting your expectations so high that they stop you from starting a project. Rather than thinking about the final outcome, remind yourself that you'll gain a sense of power by completing whatever you can. It's OK to move towards your target without hitting the bull's-eye each time.
Use exercise to help you focus. The time you spend exercising will actually multiply your effectiveness when you return and pick up the task at hand. You'll be able to concentrate better, achieve your objectives in a shorter period and with greater success.
Prioritize. Let go of tasks that are less important and direct your energies to efforts that truly matter to you. You likely have developed many activities that you want to continue in your free time, but you may need to find a way to choose between them on a daily basis - emailing friends, reading good books, calling out of town family, going for walks outside, trying new recipes, stretching your mind through crossword or number puzzles.
The clock can become your ally when you are better able to balance the choices you make. So here’s to a happy, healthy and fulfilling year – I’ve put that goal on the top of my list.
© 2013, Her Mentor Center
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are consultants in family dynamics. If you‘re coping with marital stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, they have solutions for you. Visit their blog and website, [Link Removed] to subscribe to their free newsletter, “Stepping Stones,” and download complimentary eBooks, “Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching for Your Goals” and “Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm.”
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.
Ever since Title IX guaranteed equal funding for girls’ sports programs 40 years ago, we’ve seen the results in school, the workplace and women’s self-confidence. Studies have shown that girls who play sports in high school are more likely to do better in science classes, complete college, avoid substance abuse and join the workforce. And the more time they spend participating in team sports, the higher their self-esteem.
Naturally, there’s also an effect on the playing fields. For the first time in Olympic history, women competed from all represented countries and there were more women than men on the United States team in London. We can look to them as role models for positive traits to emulate. The strengths they’ve gained from years of hard work and dedication to their sport are more than just physical. They also illustrate many of the character virtues identified in Positive Psychology. Consider how to integrate these into your own daily life.
Teamwork. Kami Craig, who played on the national championship USC women's water polo team, and Courtney Mathewson, who was on arch-rival UCLA's national championship team, put their competition behind them and worked together as friends to win gold for the USA. Your team may consist of family, friends or co-workers and dedication to the common good of that group sets the tone for everyone's improved input.
Loyalty. Missy Franklin, approached to make endorsements, turned them down so she could remain an amateur and swim for her high school and future college teams. Missy is devoted to friends in school, family and her hometown coach. After 4 golds in backstroke and team relay and one bronze, she looked forward to getting back home and hanging out with friends. Your own sense of responsibility to your community and the value you place on giving back will help you remain true to your ideals.
Gratitude. Serena Williams is the second woman ever to complete the "Golden Slam," taking the Olympic singles gold as well as winning at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, Australian Open and French Open. Serena has expressed gratitude to her family for the education she received, and shown it by supporting educational projects in America, funding a school in Africa and mentoring aspiring athletes. You'll find that when you too express gratitude your mood improves, you feel better about yourself and more connected to the world around you.
Perspective. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings won gold in women's beach volleyball in 2004, repeating in 2008 - the only women's team to have accomplished that feat. After Misty was injured and Kerri took time to have children, some wondered if they could still be on top of their game. Yet with the perspective they gained and the balance in their lives, they won a third gold. When you're faced with difficult situations and important questions in your own life, consider what you have learned from your past experiences and trust yourself to make the right decisions today.
Generosity. The Fierce Five USA gymnasts are a close-knit group, supporting each other through the Games – even when they are competing against one another. When they all worked together, they drew strength from their friendship and won gold in team gymnastics. The commitment you and your own friends make to each other nurtures each of you and creates emotional bonds that provide the foundation for a fulfilling life.
Persistence. Dana Vollmer didn't make the Olympic women's swimming team four years ago. But she persevered and worked harder than ever to make it this year. All her practice paid off when she broke the world record, winning gold medals in butterfly and women's medley relay. When you're discouraged and tempted to give up working toward your own goals, believe in yourself and you'll find the strength to continue.
Hope. Kayla Harrison won the gold medal in judo, a first for any American, after almost giving up the sport several years earlier due to sexual abuse by her coach. But starting again with a new coach, she regained her love of the sport and her self-confidence. When you are dealing with a trauma or are frustrated by a setback, put all your energies into recovering from that challenge, think about what you can still control and work toward resiliency and achieving your new Plan B goal.
Vitality. Gabby Douglas, dubbed the flying squirrel due to the actual height she achieves as well as the high level of energy she exudes in her routines, won gold medals in women's all-around gymnastics and team all-around. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she engages everyone around her with an electrifying smile. What passion energizes you? When you pursue it with zest, you'll feel more alive than ever.
Although the spectacle of sport in London has ended, you can still reflect on the strength of purpose and commitment that the athletes – female and male – developed over the years. It’s a nice Olympic ideal to follow.
© 2012, Her Mentor Center
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are consultants in family dynamics. If you‘re coping with marital stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, they have solutions for you. Visit their blog and website, [Link Removed] to subscribe to their free newsletter, “Stepping Stones,” and download complimentary ebooks, “Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching for Your Goals” and “Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm.”
July is Sandwich Generation Month, a chance to pay tribute to adult children who are juggling the demands of raising kids while taking care of aging parents. The number of Americans 65 and older is projected to increase from 40 million in 2010 to over 88 million by 2050, doubling the ranks of those experiencing this stressful combination of responsibilities.
We expect to take care of our growing children. After all, isn’t that part of the parenting job description? Even after the last kid moves out and we are settling into the empty nest, if one of them drops out of college, loses their job or separates from a partner, we let them come home. But with ailing parents it can be even more complicated.
From time to time, we all feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. But for the sandwich generation, that’s especially true. The stress, guilt and exhaustion that come from trying to keep so many balls in the air can be overwhelming. One goal of Sandwich Generation Month is to raise awareness. Here are some tips so you don’t have to cope with all the demands by yourself:
Encourage your parents’ independence. Identify what they really need you to do and what they can do for themselves. Have respect for their experience and wisdom as they make decisions and take responsibility. Step back so they do as much as they can for themselves.
Find professionals to help you out. Put this into place ahead of time if you live far away or before there is a crisis. Do your parents need the support of a geriatric case manager? Learn about health care advocates, geriatric assessments, specific gerontologists, in-home help and continuum of care.
There are community resources available. Take advantage of them. Home health and companion companies help with chores such as cooking, cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping. And adult day care centers encourage supervised time for your parents to socialize while you get a break.
Caregiver groups can be a lifesaver for you. These consist of others who are in the sandwich generation and understand exactly what your life is like. Led by a group facilitator, you’ll get support, information, suggestions. You may even laugh a little as you share experiences.
You are more prepared than you think. Look back and track the strengths that have worked for you in the past when you have faced difficult circumstances. For the comfort and wellbeing of you and your parents, put them into play now.
Your attitude and behavior impact the challenges. Recognize the emotional shifts you need to make as well. Talk to friends who are having similar problems with their parents. Seeing the situation from another perspective can normalize your reactions, help you prioritize the issues and ease the transition.
Take note of the changes your family is experiencing. Remain sensitive to what your parents are going through. And come to terms with your own feelings of frustration, anger, sadness or loss. Address unfinished business with your siblings, resolve the issues and get them involved.
Pay attention to your own needs. As you assume greater responsibility for your parents’ care, make nurturing yourself a priority. Renewal gives you more energy and resilience. You’ll find that being positive and centered - emotionally stronger - you‘re more ready to meet the challenges.
These can be very stressful times in your life. Rely on your coping strengths when you take smaller steps than you would like. Through acts of kindness you’ll bring greater joy and richness into your parents’ lives. When you spend intentional time with them relish their appreciation, which you deserve. And savor the power of the example that you set as your own children watch how you support their grandparents.
© Her Mentor Center, 2012
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are consultants in family dynamics. If you‘re coping with stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, they have solutions. Log on to [Link Removed] for practical tips & learn about “Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm.”
2012 College Graduates are Moving Back Home
This year over 1.75 million college students walked across the stage to pick up their diplomas. Seniors everywhere were excited to graduate as parents were thinking about words of wisdom to impart. With the scarcity of jobs and school loans due, it's going to be harder than ever for these kidults to engage in adult roles. If your brand new graduates are boomeranging back home, here's some practical insight to share with them:
Face uncertainty with a positive attitude. You can't change the slow economic recovery but you can have control over how you handle it. You may feel frustrated that you don't have a job or anxious about the future - these reactions are common and normal. Try to face your feelings directly as you explore situations that will work for you.
Take control of your circumstances. It'll help you focus and gain perspective when you spend time identifying your inner strengths and external resources. If you know that what you want is within your reach, keep after it no matter how hard it gets. Be sure to recognize the difference between what you can manage and what you can't.
Turn to those who support you. Family and friends care about you and you can count on them to cheer you on. They'll be there to help because they love you and want you succeed. And remember, as you move ahead, you don't have to do it alone - ask for help whenever you need it.
Make a public commitment. Talk with others about your intentions and you'll create a strong reality that'll motivate you. As you begin to set and reach short term objectives toward longer range goals, you'll become even more determined. Although there may be stumbling blocks along the way, never give up.
Rely on your instincts. Listen to the advice of those you trust. But look inside for answers and find your own voice. Don't jump at money or do what others think you should - define success on your own terms. If you feel you're moving in the direction of where you belong, believe in what you're doing. Emotional discomfort can be an opportunity to grow.
Discover your passion. With our society and the job market in flux, you may have to reorder your priorities for now. Keep busy and try to make a contribution as a volunteer or mentor, where you can use you talents and energy to be of service to others. And tap into your compassion and courage to find a larger purpose.
Increase your capacity for resiliency. At times it may be difficult to maintain composure under trying circumstances. Take one day at a time, and call on your faith or spirituality. Develop strategies to manage stress and build your confidence. Step by step, you'll turn your hopes and dreams into reality.
Your recent grads may not be sure of what road they're on or whether they should have taken it. Perhaps they're having second thoughts: if only I had applied to law school or what if I had majored in engineering? It's common and normal to have ambivalent emotions - the desire to hold on and to let go, excitement as well as fear about the future.
The 20s are still the defining decade of adult life and your kidults are living with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Let them know you have their back. Encourage them to reach deep for the resolve to face their situation squarely – in time, they can't help but grow from the challenges.
© 2012, Her Mentor Center
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. is a consultant in family dynamics. Whether you‘re coping with marital stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, she has practical solutions. Log on to [Link Removed] and sign up for a complimentary eZine ‘Stepping Stones,’ and eBook, “Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching Your Goals.”
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.
Now that all the mega-lottery winners have stepped forward, the overwhelming odds are you didn’t win. Americans spent $1.5 billion in their quest to win the jackpot, fantasizing about how they would happily spend the $656 million to be paid out to the winner. As it happened, there were three winning tickets so the final after-tax take home for each will be about $100 million. Still, nothing to sneeze at.
Are you wondering how winners have fared in the past? In many cases, not so well. Over 1/3 were in serious financial trouble within five years, some facing bankruptcy. Others saw their health deteriorate or addictions spiral out of control. Relationships often turned sour, with friends or family taking advantage of them. And after an initial spurt in elation, most were not any happier than they were before winning.
So now that you don’t have to spend time counting your fortune or interviewing and hiring a wealth adviser, here are six approaches to think about as you seek the happiness you thought a winning number would bring:
Focus on gratitude. Several times a week, count your blessings and write about three specific experiences for which you were thankful that day. Linger over these memories and choose not to take them for granted. Express your gratitude to those who have made a positive difference in your life - you'll feel happier and so will they.
Savor pleasurable events and emotions. First immerse yourself in these activities, being mindful so that your experience is rich and deep. Then set aside time later to re-live the event and enjoy Your feelings all over again. You'll find that your body becomes more relaxed, your thoughts more focused and your mood more upbeat.
Engage in the world around you. When you're absorbed in a challenging activity that you love and are skillful at, you'll feel more alive and authentic. Your energized focus and immersion in the task at hand create flow. This peak experience is accompanied by deep feelings of fulfillment and happiness.
Build and nurture personal relationships. Studies continue to show that positive relationships provide a buffer for stress and are correlated with greater happiness, well-being, optimism, improved health, even a longer lifespan. And they work to create an upward spiral - the happier we are, the more we attract additional positive relationships.
Create a meaningful life by helping others. Receiving a windfall of money - like that coming from a lottery win - doesn't actually lead to a long-term rise in happiness when you use it only for yourself, once your basic needs are met. However, when you spend a portion of that money on others - either as a gift or as a charitable donation – your joy and contentment increase.
Set goals for yourself and work to achieve them. Striving for and accomplishing a goal increases self-esteem and a sense mastery and efficacy. When you overcome challenges along the way, it creates even deeper wellbeing and feelings of control. And the optimism that you have about future meaningful successes can generate authentic happiness.
Is happiness really as simple as a warm puppy? Or as materialistic as a winning lottery ticket? There have been scores of philosophers and theologians over the years attempting to define it and to identify its components. As President Abraham Lincoln put it: Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
How happy will you decide to be?
© 2012, Her Mentor Center
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are family relationship experts with solutions if you‘re coping with marital stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law. Visit [Link Removed] to sign up for a complimentary eZine and eBook, Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching for Your Goals.
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