Change your Lens

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Our thoughts, opinions, and perspectives are based on our experiences in life as well as what we’ve learned thus far. We apply meaning to a situation based on this. Yet there is more than one meaning that could be given to any situation.

For instance, say your significant other is super sweet and brings you coffee every morning. One day he doesn’t. You spend the day fretting over whether he is mad at you and why.

In reality he overslept and rushed out the door also leaving his phone behind.

This is why someone’s opinion of you has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with that person’s experiences and perceptions that have shaped their lens of life.

Which is also why “common sense” fails. Your experiences shape what you see as common sense. Your culture shapes this, your interactions with others, how you were raised, and on and on and on.

Perception is reality.

Let me give you an example.

For many, it is assumed that at age 18 you will graduate high school and will be going to college. The conversation even begins in school starting in 6th grade with heavy pressure applied as a freshman in high school.

Yet for others, this is not an option. It’s not even a thought. High school graduation may be a first in the family. College? Fantasy.

I share this with you for two reasons.

First understanding that each of us sees the world and each other differently based on our experiences and perceptions, helps us to interact with each other. It allows us to be more considerate and perhaps compassionate.

Your view is not mine. My view is not yours.

It’s an opportunity to meet someone where they’re at and have a deeper conversation. It’s also a great opportunity to learn new things!

Second, our perception of ourselves shapes our own reality.

If you perceive yourself as not being strong you’ll avoid doing tasks that require strength. 

You limit your own abilities by this thought.

If you THINK you’re not good with numbers, not very good at math, or not good with finances, and repeatedly tell yourself this, you’re actions will follow through and you’ll struggle with math and finances.

Yet if you tell yourself that you are extremely intelligent and capable of managing finances and BELIEVE this you will. It may also inspire you to learn more about finances and enjoy it!

The truth is our reality, the current lens that we’re viewing life through, is based on our experiences yes, but also our thoughts. Now our experiences can influence our thoughts. But it is our CHOICE to decide how we will think. It is our CHOICE what meaning we give to an interaction.

The truth is that each and every one of us is limitless. The only limits ever put on us are the ones we’ve put on ourselves. With our thoughts.

So how do you change this?

Pay attention to what you are thinking.

There’s a couple ways to do this.

  1. Meditation. Sit in a quiet place, set a timer for 5 minutes, and close your eyes. Breath in for a count of 3. Breath out for a count of 3. Keep doing this as you notice the thoughts that flow through your brain. Note the thought then re-focus on your breathing. Note the next thought that comes through. And it will. There will be many. And that’s good. Continue to note your thoughts and breathing until the timer goes off.
  2. Immediately after, write down all the thoughts you noticed during meditation.
  3. Meditation not your thing? Grab a small notebook or app on your phone and write down your thoughts as they come to you throughout the day.

Do this every day. At the end of the day review all of the thoughts you noticed. Are they thoughts that lift you up and encourage you to grow, reach for the stars? Or were they doubts, fears, negative self-talk? Note this in your journal.

Now, is that how you speak to your friends? How about your kids? No?

Then it’s time to stop talking to yourself like this.

Now. Rewrite these thoughts into a positive. Instead of I can’t lift that, I am strong. Instead of I’m not good at balancing my checkbook, I am smart and savvy. 

Now this next week, continue the meditation and/or journaling. Also include 5 minutes of affirmations. All of those thoughts that you just wrote into a positive, say them out loud. Feel them. Believe them. That’s an affirmation.

At the end of the second week, see if you notice anything different. Leave a comment on what you noticed and any improvements.

Your experiences and perceptions can also encourage others.

Why You should Invest in Yourself

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We repeatedly hear how important it is to take care of our bodies through exercise and nutrition. But what about our minds? What about our spirit? These are just as important to care for as our bodily health.

We are precious. We get one shot at this life so let’s make it our best!

Each of us was placed on this earth for a purpose. You are not here on a whim.

You are destined for greatness.

Personal development is an opportunity to realize this.

Through personal development you improve your awareness, develop your potential, and most importantly realize your dreams!

As children we had dreams galore! But then we got older and those dreams were gradually buried into the depths of our subconscious, never to be heard from again. Instead replaced with safe, predictable paths.

The thing is, there are no safe paths in life.

Many have taken the safe and secure route and gotten kicked to the curb through lay offs, unexpected medical issues, or a sudden death.

So really, what do you have to lose by following your dreams? Isn’t it better to live a life of joy pursuing your passions than settling and losing it all?

You were not designed to remain stagnant or settle.

You are definitely not meant to be mediocre!

I’m talking excelling in every area of your life, in every one of your roles, and having fun doing so. Finances, health, spiritual, relationships, parenting, your mind.

So what is personal development exactly?

Personal development comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes. Which means there’s something for everyone!

There are books, podcasts, webinars, and coaches just to name a few. Personally, I love incorporating all into my daily life. For example, I read a bit in the morning and before bed. I listen to podcasts on the commute to work. In the past I’ve utilized coaches to figure out the next direction in my life and to get started writing a novel.

Gaining the knowledge is the first step. It will take you a bit further today than yesterday. But implementing it will have you soaring to your dreams!

Be warned – personal development will challenge you to go outside your comfort zone and push past those barriers. Most often self-created mental barriers. It will force you to face the demons you’ve tried to keep locked up. But when you rise to the challenge, when your inner strength takes those demons head on, you grow and become so much more than you were yesterday.

Personal development is about investing in yourself so that you can manage anything that comes your way in life. No more sitting back hoping things will be different. Instead, you’re grabbing life by the horns and taking charge! You’re making things happen in your life!

It’s a life long commitment but totally worth it.

Because you’re totally worth it.

Start by designing your life the way you want it to be.

As you become more self-aware, you become more focused. You start creating meaningful goals and become clear in how to reach them. You focus on tasks that will bring you closer to achieving those goals. Tasks that don’t bring you closer fall to the wayside.

Sounds great. But how?

What’s one thing that I can do today to have an impact on my life? One thing that will make a difference today?

Easy.

Put yourself first and invest in your best you yet. It doesn’t mean you don’t love those closest to you or that you’re being selfish in a bad way. It means you care for them so much you’re willing to invest in yourself to be your best for them.

  1. Pick an area in your life you’d like to improve.
  2. Find a book, podcast, or video on the topic and set aside 15 minutes daily to increase your knowledge.
  3. Spend 15 minutes daily implementing what you just learned.

It’s that easy.

By doing so you’ll be taking steps to become your best self and setting an example for your children and others to follow to care for themselves.

What are you waiting for?

Find your Tribe

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When I was going through a very difficult time in my life, I withdrew. I stopped talking about how things were going with me. I held my personal life very close to me and was quick to turn the subject away from me if anyone attempted to ask. You got an earful of how my kids were doing, but nothing about me.

I avoided opportunities to meet new people. I spent more time away from others.

You see, I was afraid of how people would view me. I was fearful of judgments from quick assumptions and false beliefs. They didn’t know my situation and they certainly wouldn’t understand it.

The result?

I spent too much time alone. I spent too much time in my head.

And that leads to massive doses of false narratives. Lies galore. Fears and insecurities running rampant.

I desperately wanted to confess to someone my difficulties, but fear held me hostage and lies prevented me from sharing.

And then one day, I was given a door to walk through. And it changed everything.

“What would you do if someone you loved was an active alcoholic?” I was asked. Funny you should I ask, I thought and for the first time felt compelled to speak my story.

I was shaking with fear as I told it, waiting for the world to come crashing down around me.

But it didn’t.

That small step, that was monumental to me at the time, gave me courage to take another small step and try a new church. And then another small step and sign up for guitar lessons with my son to meet others. (Safety in numbers you know.) And then another small step to join a small group which resulted in me sharing my story further with others.

And on and on until one day I realized I was surrounded by numerous tribes that listen to me without judgement, support me, and lift me up. They believe in me when I don’t.

They celebrate my successes. Reminding me that I need to do that more. They tell me like it is. No fluff, no tiptoeing, just plain honesty. And I love that!

So you may be wondering what exactly a tribe is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a tribe is, “a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest.”

But it’s deeper than that. It’s my people.

When I’m with my tribes I feel stronger and capable of taking on anything that comes my way. I worry less. I give more.

I pretty much have a tribe for every aspect of my life. And it. Is. Awesome. There’s my tribe that supports and encourages each other’s steps towards healthier living. Understanding that we’re each on a different path and lifting each other up along the way.

There’s the tribe that cheers each other on as we pursue our passions and share podcasts and books with each other that will get us energized and ready to take on the world.

There’s the tribe that I can safely share my deepest worries and fears and real life problems without hesitation. They encourage me, comfort me, and pray for me at the drop of a dime. Together we encourage each of our paths in deepening our relationship with God.

There’s also the tribe I love writing with and the tribe I explore photography with.

It is much too easy to pull away and seclude oneself. And nothing good comes of it. Tribes on the other hand help us to feel alive! And not alone! So many of us are going through similar issues, frustrations, and concerns. But we don’t realize it until we start talking to each other.

I encourage you to find your tribes if you don’t already have one. Find a group that shares similar interests. There’s pretty much a group for anything and everything. Not sure where to look? Start with www.meetup.com. Check into small groups of a church you attend or may be interested in attending. Check out groups on Facebook.

And if you already have a tribe, expand it! You can never have too many people cheering each other in life.

5 Easy Tips to Exercise Consistently

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We know how important it is to exercise. Yet we still struggle to make it happen.

There are so many wonderful benefits to exercise! It not only helps us maintain a healthy weight which in turn prevents so many diseases, it also boosts our mood and gives us more energy. As a busy mom dancing to the rhythms of life, I can use all the energy I can get!

Here’s another great reason to exercise. As we get older our bone density decreases, meaning more brittle bones and more likely to break a hip from slipping on the ice. (Living in Duluth, MN I’m gonna slip on the ice.) Weight lifting improves the strength of our bones. So consistently lift at least twice a week and you’ll be a fierce force on that ice. Not to mention have beautifully defined muscles. Bare those gorgeous arms ladies!  

Still not amped to go workout? How about this one- exercise slows the aging process, making us appear more youthful. At 41 I’m totally cool with that! (My daughter says I look like I’m 20, but I’m pretty sure she’s lying.)

So really, why wouldn’t we exercise consistently?

Here are 5 easy tips to get your body moving and grooving consistently for even the busiest of moms.

Find an activity that you enjoy doing.

This may take a little time as you explore a variety of options, but that’s ok! You won’t know what clicks until you experiment. So go out and have fun! Try a little bit of everything and then settle on one thing. Or maybe two. Just to keep it fresh.

Not sure how to get started? Try Beachbody On Demand for 7 days. There are loads of different workouts to try from yoga, country line dancing, weight lifting, Pilates, boot camp, martial arts…You name it! You can even mix and match! All require minimal equipment and can be done in the gym or at home.

Find the right time of day to exercise.

Take into consideration the activity you’ve settled on, when it may or may not be offered, and the equipment needed.

I highly recommend exercising in the morning. You wake up, exercise, and BOOM you’re done. You’ve already started your day having accomplished something and feeling good. You can never go wrong there. No worries or excuses to avoid doing it later.

Get it done before your brain wakes up and realizes what’s happening.

Need help waking up? These suggestions are taking from Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning. (If you haven’t read the book yet, you most definitely want to. It’s a life changer.)

  • Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Or better yet, sleep in them!
  • Set your alarm and put it across the room.
  • Set a glass of water next to your alarm.
  • Before you fall asleep, repeat your intentions for the morning.
  • When the alarm goes off, turn on the light, drink the water, brush your teeth, get on your workout clothes and BOOM! You’re ready to work out.

This totally works. Try it.

Pick the frequency you’ll complete the activity.

Are you more likely to stick with it 3 times a week or do you need to do something every day?

Years ago I would exercise 3-4 days a week for 45 minutes a day. Nowadays, it’s much more difficult to fit in 45 minutes and for some reason it’s harder for me to be consistent if I take a day off. So I exercise every day for 30 minutes and use walks and yoga for my active recovery days.

Be flexible.

We have seasons in our life. Things change. You gotta be flexible enough to go with the flow and the changing season. If you feel you’re working just a bit too hard at something that was once your favorite activity, take a step back. Assess whether it fits at this moment in your life. Doesn’t mean you have to give it up forever. Just means it’s time to find something different. Be open to readjust and find your new fit.

Decide if you need an accountability partner.

Could be a friend you work out with or a challenge group.

Tell others what your goals are and ask them to keep you accountable. When I ran the marathon at age 40 for the first time, I strategically placed family members along the racecourse to ensure I’d finish. No way did I want to suffer teasing for voluntarily stepping off the course! I also wore a sign that said “Hi, I’m Ami. 1st marathon. Give me a push.” Fellow runners motivated me for 26.2 miles. Some even physically pushed me forward when I needed it!

The point is do what you need to do to succeed in making exercise a habit you enjoy doing.

Trust me. Do it long enough and you’ll feel so good, you won’t want to stop!

The Pendulum Diet

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The Pendulum diet. Where you lose weight. Find it and it’s friends. Ditch the weight. The crew finds you again. And it just keeps going and going and going.

Let me tell you a story.

Four years ago at age 38 I was the fittest I’d ever been in my life. I. Looked. Good. Like smokin’ hot in a bikini kinda good! My husband couldn’t keep his hands off me.

I got there by working out close to two hours most every day, weighing portions, counting calories, and not eating carbs after 12 p.m.

So basically my life consisted of exercise and eating chicken and vegetables.

Then my mother made the decision to stop dialysis and I began the long emotional journey of watching a loved one die and saying goodbye to my best friend.

I took a month off work to help care for her. During this time we watched lots of cooking shows together. I started trying recipes to pass the time and keep myself busy. (Disclaimer: these recipes would by no means fall under the category of healthy. Shocker. I know.)

I also stopped working out because I didn’t want to miss a minute with her.

By the time she passed two months later, I had gained 10+ pounds. I continued to gain weight as I attempted to eat my grief into nonexistence and continued not to exercise. I hadn’t even realized that I had gained so much weight.

Until I saw a picture of myself 6 months later.

That picture was the kickstart of my journey on the Pendulum diet. I worked viciously to get rid of the weight, then life would bump me slightly off track, and I would instead be completely derailed. Regaining all the weight lost plus some.

Other times, I just gave up and wallowed in defeat and self pity.

I counted calories, weighed and measured my food, and added up points. Each one worked in its own right. For a short time.

And then before you know it, I was treating myself to this and that. I’d feel guilt and shame for most of what I was eating. So I’d eat more in a weak attempt to drown out the guilt and shame. It became a vicious cycle.

And pretty soon the scale and my waist line were creeping up in numbers again.

I was so disappointed in myself. I constantly beat myself up because I knew better. I had been a personal trainer!  I had become my fittest self! Age age 38! I knew what to do! Yet now I struggled making consistent healthy choices.

What I didn’t give myself credit for was the fact that my life had changed drastically from when I had that hot bod.

Before mom died I’d leave the house at 7 a.m. to train and work out with clients in as a personal trainer and hiked. All before going to work at a youth program. I then spent the day running around with kids until getting home at 8 p.m. Just in time to say goodnight to my own kids.

After her death I went back to working an 8 – 5 desk job and spending more time with my little family. Once again I was there to help my kids with homework, take them to after school activities, and put them to bed. Which meant I didn’t have as much time to workout.

I compared myself to a version of me in a time and place that no longer existed. Which set me up for failing. When I wasn’t perfect in my food choices, I beat myself up by telling myself I might as well give up and go all out. It wouldn’t matter anyway. Like this was an all or nothing situation.

But it’s not.

Putting on underwear is all or nothing. But food choices? Those are lifetime choices. With the opportunity to choose to eat healthy every time I eat. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Either way I continue moving forward.

It took me a few years to realize this.

I now live by the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time I eat healthy; 20% of the time I give myself permission to have a treat or two. It offers flexibility when life gets chaotic and busy. The majority of the time I’m making healthy choices and sometimes I have pizza or ice cream, but I do so without guilt. And I no longer tell myself that I’ll start over tomorrow. No need to. I just pick up with the next meal!

To do this I needed to make an intentional mind shift. No more hit it hard, off limits foods for 30, 60, or 90 days.

I now think long into my future and break it down into smaller steps which become habits which accumulate into massive successes.

It will take me longer to lose the weight. But I’m ok with that. I’m no longer aiming for that smokin’ bod. I just want to be healthy so I can play soccer with my kids and hike. I just want to live til I’m a 100, movin’ and groovin’ the whole time. And all the while setting a positive example for my kids so they can avoid some of my hard learned lessons.

I don’t want results in 30 days. I want sustainable, healthy habits.

I’m in it for life.

How about you? Do you want to start taking small steps to succeed for a lifetime? Awesome! Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Meal Swaps

I’ve tweaked some of my family’s favorite meals. They don’t notice a difference and we all get healthier. Like making sloppy joes and tacos with ground turkey instead of ground beef.

Mason jar salads are made ahead to divide as a side salad for dinner. Think dijon mustard mixed with olive oil, chicken, red grapes, spinach, and shaved parmesan cheese layered in that order.

I also try one new easy healthy recipe a week. It’s definitely good to introduce new things every once in awhile. And I love quick and easy. Many new recipes have become kid and husband approved!

Meal Prep

I’ve prepped work snacks and lunches for many years. I highly recommend it.  But now I’ve taken it to a new level. Super simple. Chop all the vegetables ahead of time. Cook all the ground turkey at once. Divide, freeze, and BOOM! Pull and mix dinners! (Funny. I never thought to do that before.)

Feeling super pumped? Put together a homemade pizza, tape baking instructions to the wrap, and freeze. Pull and bake. Just like Papa Murphy’s.

Got a crock pot? Fill it with chicken then freeze a few in individual baggies and some in meal amounts. Then pull and shred for salads or add to dinners. Want to come home to a home cooked meal? Put all the ingredients in the crockpot the night before, turn it on in the morning and voila! Dinner is served! Add a mason jar salad, some music, and candlelight and your rockin’ it! Your family will think it’s a special occasion and you barely broke a sweat.

Portions

Portion control is the hardest. Order food at a restaurant and there’s enough for 3 meals. But if you’re like me, you eat it in one.

So make it easy on yourself! Get containers that are divided into 3 areas. These are my favorite. Carb and protein in the smaller areas, then fill the larger area with your vegetables. Yes, that many vegetables. Use the same containers to portion your dinner.

For snacks, get tupperware containers and ziplock baggies that are snack size. Pre-portion your snacks, limit yourself to 2 – 3 snacks daily, and over time I guarantee you’ll notice a difference.

I won’t pretend. Eating healthy is not easy. At times it’s even inconvenient.

But it can be fun. And delicious.

These are just a few things to get you started. Tweak as you go and build upon your baby steps over time.

Most importantly give yourself a break. If you have a treat don’t beat yourself up over it. Be present in the moment, enjoy the treat, and pick right back up with healthy food choices at the next meal.

So what do you struggle with when it comes to eating healthy? Have your own tips for keeping meal time healthy? Share in the comments!

How to take Time for Yourself

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I’m gonna share a secret with you. I’m terrible at making time for myself. I’m great at making time for my kids, co-workers, and pretty much everyone else. Well… I could improve on making more time for my husband.

Fact is when my time conflicts with another’s, I’ll sacrifice my own time without thinking twice.

And that’s not ok. We as moms deserve to put our needs first.

I’m sure you’ve heard this analogy before, but I’m going to use it again because it’s so true. Consider when you’re traveling on a plane. You’re told that in the case of an emergency you put on your oxygen mask first, then your children’s. Makes perfect sense right? You can’t help them if you’re passed out on the floor.

The same is true in our lives! We can’t be there for our little family if we’re exhausted and stressed out! Our own self-care is just as important, if not more, as our family’s.

Yet when I want to take time for myself, it looks something like this:

I check the calendar to make sure there are no kid activity conflicts, make sure my husband will be home, either either feed them ahead of time or have the pantry and freezer stocked so they can make their own dinner, list on the whiteboard what needs to be done to prep for the next day – make lunch, take shower, get homework done, school papers set out, remind them when bedtime is… and on and on and on.

When my husband wants to go out? He does.

That’s it.

Why can’t I make it that easy? (Did you catch the whining?)

Aside from the fact that I have this annoying habit of having to be in control of everything, traditional views of husband and wife roles still run strong.

Nowadays being a stay at home mom is the exception not the rule. Which means most women are working. Often full time. Yet we’re still expected to maintain the house and cook the meals. And if we have kids most often we continue to be the primary caretaker. So no surprise that there’s little time to take for ourselves.

Now I understand there are exceptions. But they’re just that. Exceptions.

I love being there for others – to support, spend time with, and help. My default will always be to give to others.

But in order to really be there for them, I have to take care of myself first and foremost. And I have to be purposeful in doing so.

So what does that look like?

Have a conversation with your significant other to make the time available.

Come up with an agreed amount of time dedicated to you. Whether that be 2-3 nights a week or an hour every night. Figure it out together and commit.

While you’re at it. Talk about household and kid responsibilities and divvy them up. Consider what each of you likes and dislikes doing in relation to this. For example, maybe you enjoy mowing the lawn because you get fresh air, a workout, and time to think. Maybe he enjoys cooking.

If your kids are older, give them some responsibilities to free up your time. It’s good for them to learn to dust, do the dishes, even help cook. They’ll have to do it when they move out. Why not start now? You do plan on them moving out, right?

Oh and if you’re like me, work to diminish your perfectionism and controlling tendencies. The house will run different and that’s ok. There is more than one way to do things. No one will perish. The house and kids may be a bit messier, but no lives will be lost.

Set limits and boundaries

Make it clear to your family that this is your time. No phone calls, texts, or messages unless someone is bleeding profusely or dying. If they don’t need an ambulance, they don’t need you for the next 1-3 hours.

If you’re taking your time at home, put up a Do Not Disturb sign. Make it known that no one is to bother you upon fear of death or grounding until the sign comes down.

Schedule the time and stick with it.

No excuses. If you don’t commit to it and take it seriously, no one else will. You can’t expect others to take your time seriously if you don’t.

Make a plan ahead of time of what you’ll do with your time.

Right now start a list of everything you’d like to do. Seriously. Stop reading and go make your list. I’ll wait for you to come back.

Got it? Good, post it in the comments.

When you find unexpected time for yourself, take a look at that list and do what calls you at that moment.

On your own doing it all? Find the time:

  • Nap time is a great opportunity to relax and pamper yourself.
  • Put the kids to bed earlier. The extra sleep will do them good.
  • Get up before your household wakes. I’ll admit I struggle with this. But when I do drag myself out of bed early I’m always happier I did. I’ve never regretted it. The uninterrupted quiet allows me to get a lot done.

The key to following through? Set up your alarm across the room. When your alarm goes off, turn on the light, turn off your alarm, and immediately leave your bedroom. Don’t hesitate. Don’t even think! A coffee pot with a timer doesn’t hurt either.

  • Mornings just aren’t your thing? Then stay up later.

Challenge:

Here’s my challenge to you. Try out one of the tips mentioned. Then check in here and let me know how it went! What worked? What didn’t? How did you tweak it to work for you?

How to Stop Social Media from Taking Over Your Life

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Social media can be a lot like chocolate. It’s hard to have just a little.

Every time I say I’m going to check my emails quick or hop onto Facebook for a moment, it turns into hours unbeknownst to me. It’s like the Bermuda triangle for social media!

Did you know that the average person spends over two hours a day on social media? Two hours a day! That’s 14 hours a week!!

No wonder I feel like I have no time to get everything done. I’m wasting half my time on social media!

But cutting down my time on social media is not that easy. The attraction to check my email or Facebook is so alluring! I’m like a pitiful little bug drawn to the light. Only to realize that… ZAP! I’ve gone up in smoke. As much as I know I shouldn’t and I don’t need to, I can’t fight the temptation. It hypnotizes me and sucks me in.

And it’s not just email and Facebook. The other day I glanced at the social media apps on my phone and was overwhelmed at the amount of information in just one! I’ve subscribed to so many podcasts, I’ve used up all the storage space on my phone. I have Facebook friends, groups, and pages galore! Most posts get buried because I can’t keep up with them! Don’t even get me started on emails and Instagram!

So they sit and become one more thing I don’t have time to do. Every time I swipe open my phone, there they sit. Starring me in the face. Increasing my anxiety.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I took back control of my time and life. So can you.

Here are a few tips to get you started. If you want a total cleanse, implement them in conjunction with each other. Or if going cold turkey freaks you out and just sent your anxiety soaring, take baby steps and implement one tip at a time. Build up to having  a total non-social media dependent life.

Schedule it

Check your social media at a specific time each day. Only check it then and once you’ve checked it your done for the day. No cheating.

Set a timer

Limit your social media usage to 15-30 minutes a day. Total. This includes checking email, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Set a timer, check, when the buzzer goes off, you’re done. Do this for 30 days and see what happens. Not only will you have more time to do the things you love, but you’ll also feel more peace and calmness than you have in a while.

Do a purge

Limit the number of social sites and apps that you use. Keep only those that will benefit you in your personal and work life. The rest are like tv: fun, entertaining, but not a good use of your time.

Go through your apps on your phone and delete the ones you haven’t used in the last 3 months. You don’t need them.  

Go through your podcast subscriptions. Pick the 5 you’ve listened to most recently and most often. Unsubscribe from the rest.

Delete Facebook

Delete the Facebook app from your phone. If you just had heart palpitations from this suggestion, then move the app to the last page on your phone so you’re not tempted to check it as often. After a couple months, delete it so you can only check Facebook on your computer.

Turn off notifications

Turn off notifications on all of your social media apps, email too.

All of these tips will help remove the temptation to check real “quick”. Get to the point that you only check social media for a specific reason. For instance, updated posts for a virtual book club you participate in. Or a niece’s wedding photos. Most often we check out of boredom. Ask yourself why you need to check before you open the app. If you can’t offer up a specific reason, then don’t check.

You’ll thank me for it.

Challenge

Try one or more of these tips for 30 days. Note how you feel at the end. Any different? Do you miss not being on social media constantly? Did you or the world burst into flames? No, no and no? Then don’t go back. But feel free to stop back here and let me know how it went.

5 Reasons Why Social Media is Good for Kids

Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

Kids on social media can be a scary thing.

Social media can be full of little gremlins looking to tear you down. It’s overridden with negativity. People are made to feel insignificant and worthless.

Internet predators lurk behind the screen. Stalking our children and capitalizing on poor self esteem. Seductively luring our children into their house made of candy.

Social media can be scary, but it also has its benefits.

Instant Feedback

At age 12 my daughter started her own YouTube channel to create and post challenge videos. Apparently it’s super popular to watch people put random food items into a blender and drink it. “How to” gaming videos are also another huge hit. So she wanted to bring laughter to the world with smoothie challenges and help the world master Minecraft and Ark Survival Evolved. 

Initially I dug my heels against her own YouTube channel. My reaction was primarily based on fear. Fear of the unfamiliar and unknown.  

What I discovered instead was that other YouTubers were leaving her positive feedback saying her video was good or that she came up with a great challenge. They also offered her tips and suggestions on how she could improve her videos.

This not only provided her opportunities to grow as a videographer, but also provided a community of support. It connected her with people doing similar things. She was also able to shoot out questions and get answers immediately.

Gain a new set of skills

Having her own YouTube channel also motivated her to research and try out different video editing apps. She’s learning what equipment works best and learning more about lighting and sound for the videos.

She’s also gaining experience that she’ll be able to include on a resume or school application. Now I know what you’re thinking. She’s 12. But starting in 6th grade our schools are pressuring our kids to decide on a career. She has friends who have already picked out their college! So helping her gain experience in areas she is passionate about and start discovering if it could be a career seems like a kind thing to do.

Besides, as a creative she is building her portfolio and created a landing page for others to view her work. In this day and age, we don’t tell people about our work, we show them.

Meet people different from us

Let’s be real. We surround ourselves with people who are similar to us. The communities we live in consist of people that look like us. Our friends have similar interests. The schools we select are made up of people like us and are staffed by people who think like us. So the reality is, we don’t provide ourselves much opportunity to experience diversity. When we do, we become socially awkward.

Our kids, however, get to interact with people on a daily basis who think differently, look differently, and live in different places all through social media. Through gaming, my daughter has met people from a variety of countries. They give each other tips on how to beat a level or just chat about their day. It’s also become the one and only opportunity for her outside of school to practice her Spanish since some of the players she’s connected with live in Mexico.

Practice problem solving

In Minecraft the players are given a clean slate. They then must figure out how to survive and stay safe. In battles and for basic necessities.

I’ve watched my kids and their friends create entire worlds on Minecraft from nothing. They’re designing buildings on land, in the water, and in the air using architectural concepts. They’re creating sustainable communities. Figuring out where to find animals, train them, and use them either for a mode of transportation or as a source of food. They’re also seeking out other food sources by creating gardens. They build shops, stock them, and trade supplies amongst each other.

Stay connected & strengthen relationships.

Throughout school friends move, change schools, and get involved in different interests. It gets harder and harder to spend time with them as everyone gets older. Yet social media allows them to stay connected.

Not just with friends but family too! It is much easier to build a relationship with a cousin that lives in a different area today than when I was growing up. We were completely dependent on our parents to physically bring us together. Now you can Skype, FaceTime or connect with Facebook or Messenger. 

They can even connect on games and play with each other. While in separate states!

Social media can be a bad thing or it can be a good thing. It’s all about how we choose to use it. But based on just the few reasons listed above, I truly believe it is good for our kids. The ability to gain feedback to improve and expand your skills, connect with different people and expand your knowledge of life, and strengthen new and existing relationships is invaluable.

Now that you know the benefits of social media for our kids, check out my tips on how to keep them safe while they use it!  

Be Brave. How to Overcome Tyrannical Cliques

Photo by Luiz Hanfilaque on Unsplash

Cliques seem to pop up out of nowhere overnight!

My daughter discovered this within the first week of 6th grade. She was blindsided when a summer friend ignored her at school. She was even more shocked when this “friend”, along with others, teased and snubbed people over the silliest of things! She acted as if she were a queen on her throne addressing her peasants!

Kids who had been friends for months, even years, were now unexpectedly divided. Put downs, name calling, and rudeness prevailed. The pressure to fit in is stifling. Some kids resort to anything to do so.

Battle lines are drawn as kids fight to conform and fit into the “right” group in an attempt to survive.

So who decides who gets to be the authority to pick who’s cool and who’s not? How does that even occur? Was there a secret ballot?

And how do some kids manage to transcend the whole clique and popularity battle?

What’s even more frustrating is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how you get accepted into a clique. It’s subjective and can change on a dime. One who once held power can lose it in a blink of an eye, instantly abandoned and forgotten.

For the majority of middle school and high school I was definitely not in the popular crowd. Nor was I in the unpopular crowd. Somehow I managed to skate right in between. Except for one fleeting moment when I became golden.

For about a week.

I don’t know how or why I got in. But I was exiled the moment I chose to spend time with someone outside the clique.

Middle school is made up of a bunch of kids just trying to make it. Trying to figure out who they are. Who at their core just want to be loved, accepted, and feel valued.

So cliques are created to help them establish an identity. To be accepted and belong.

And yet cliques divide people because your determination of who you are is based on comparing yourself to others. Cliques are the evil side of acceptance and belonging. Of being valued. They make uniqueness a bad thing instead of something to celebrate.

So  at one the most important stages of their life, instead of creating unity, they’re creating divisions. Pitting each other against one another.

Popularity becomes based on status and power. A way to manipulate and ostracize others to appear better. It puts people into a pecking order.

Yet the standard is a moving target. Whether you’re popular or not could change any moment for any reason.  There’s no consistency. There’s no predictability. Though it may seem there’s some control in becoming popular – wear the right clothes, ostracize people – the reality is there’s not.

School then becomes a battleground for acceptance. An attempt to feel valued by one’s peers. And if you’re the unfortunate soul who may be deemed unpopular, you become untouchable. Soon you doubt yourself. It alters your reality. You begin to believe the lies. It becomes reality.

But it’s not reality. It’s a false lens placed before you by others.

So how do we help our preteens navigate this battlefield littered with mines?

Listen & be empathetic.

Sometimes our kids just need to vent. Sometimes they need help figuring out what to do. Don’t judge or push it off as a temporary phase. We know this is a temporary period in their life and in the grand scheme of things will be irrelevant. But they don’t. They’re in the midst of it and it’s their reality. It’s their current lens. Try to remember being their age and how you felt.

Point out their strengths.

Preteen is a time when kids are trying to figure out who they are and where they may fit. Help them figure that out by letting them know what they’re really good at. Let them know what interests you notice they get excited and passionate about. Provide opportunities for them to utilize these strengths and boost their confidence in themselves.

Don’t encourage they alter who they are just to fit in.

As tempting as it may be, this may not change anything. Buying expensive, brand name clothes is not the solution. That’s just reinforcing the belief that acceptance is based solely on appearance. A person should be accepted based on their personality and how they treat others. Not the label on their pants.

Do encourage they remain true to themselves and their values. Encourage them to develop friendships with those who are not only aligned with their interests but also their values. People who will support their uniqueness and lift them up as a person. Not constantly try to bring them down just so they can feel better for that instant gratification.

Give them tips on how to deal with difficult and rude people.

It might not always change the circumstances, but it will give them confidence in dealing with difficult people. Rude and disrespectful people can’t be avoided. So let’s allow our kids time to practice dealing with them early on when we can guide them and be a safety net. That way, once they’re adults it will be a little easier.

Here’s some things they can start doing now: always respond with kindness and respect. Regardless of what the person says, don’t give in to anger. The situation will only get out of hand. Ignore the snide comment. The person is often doing this to get a reaction. Don’t give them one. If ignoring doesn’t deter them, walk away, if possible.

Now obviously these tips won’t work in the case of bullying. In those cases our kids should seek out help from adults to protect themselves or others.

If it helps them, role play situations so they can get more comfortable responding.

Cliques are as old as time. They’re not going anywhere any time soon and may not be controlled. What we can control is how we respond to them. So when your preteen is in the midst of the battleground be sure to:

  1. Listen and be empathetic.
  2. Point out their strengths.
  3. Don’t encourage altering who they are just to fit in. Do encourage they remain true to themselves and their values.
  4. Do encourage they develop friendships with those who are also aligned with their values.
  5. Provide them with tips on how to deal with difficult and rude people.

So what have you found to work in helping your preteen deal with cliques? Share in the comments!

 

When You Doubt Your Parenting Abilities

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of yelling. And my kids are the primary target. I didn’t even realize how much yelling I was doing until my son asked, “Mom, do you like yelling at me?”

Ouch.

Why do I yell?

I yell out of pure frustration. Frustration at repeating myself for the gazillionth time and having a premonition that I’ll be repeating myself again. Very soon.

Take cleaning up after themselves for example. I’m constantly reminding one to pick up his toys and the other to wipe up after cooking. Barking out orders like a dog at the arrival of the mailman.

One day I opened my mouth to bark, but to my surprise, my daughter cleaned up the scrambled eggs aftermath without me saying a word. And she did a great job! On another occasion I was about to bark at my son, but hesitated deciding to wait. Low and behold he put everything away without my saying a word. Wow.

Too often I don’t allow them the opportunity to show me they’re more responsible. I’m too busy jumping in wanting it done instantly. Instead, I need to pause and let them do it on their time. Within reason of course.

I yell because I’m stressed and overwhelmed juggling multiple obligations. Acting as career woman, personal assistant, chef, and chauffeur. And of course I crazily try to pursue my own interests when I can.

I yell because sometimes I’m tired of adulting.

I yell because I fear that I’m not a good parent because I can’t give them everything. At times only the bare minimum. And I feel guilty about it. I hate telling them it will have to wait or maybe someday knowing someday may never arrive. I’m afraid I’m disappointing them. 

I feel guilty for not being “perfect”.

Can you relate?

So I yell because let’s face it, I’m overwhelmed, out of control, and put too my pressure on myself. I have completely lost it. I seriously need a timeout.

Here’s how it all came to a head.

The other day the lens popped out of my daughter’s glasses and I couldn’t get it back in. It was the week before school started. I immediately did a run down of our calendar and when we could possibly fit in a trip to the eye doctor among soccer games, practices, lessons, and meetings. The list of activities and appointments scrolled through my head like a computer reading code.

I was getting overwhelmed trying to fit one more thing into the next few days.

“I’m not sure when we’ll be able to have these fixed,” I mentioned distracted as I squinted at the calendar.

“Great!” My daughter exclaimed irritated. “Now I’ll have to wait months before I can see again! Great start to the school year,” she muttered under her breath as she sulked into her room.

I instantly got offended that she felt her basic necessities weren’t a priority to me. So I exploded. “Unbelievable! I’m sorry that I can’t drop everything on a dime to get your glasses fixed! You’re not the only one in this house! We have to balance everyone’s life and I’m trying to do the best that I can.” (Not one of my better parenting moments.) As I stood there with fire shooting from my eyes and smoke billowing out of my ears, her words sink in extinguishing my temper. “Wait. Why do you think it will take months to get them fixed?”

“Because earlier you said we had to have an eye exam before we could replace these glasses.”

Oh. Yet again we’re on two different tracks of the mind. “Not to pop the lenses back in,” I reply.

“Oh.”

Here’s a little basic communication tips so that you can avoid the tantrum I just had. Stop. Listen. Don’t assume. Don’t jump to conclusions. And most importantly don’t leap to yelling.

Confession

I yell because for all the justifications and reasons why I yell, what it really comes down to is that I’m afraid that if my kids don’t do well it means I failed as a parent.

I worry I haven’t done enough for them. I worry I won’t have taught them everything they need to know. What if I missed something? What if I messed it all up?

Do you ever worry about this?

Truth is every parent has fears. We’re constantly doubting ourselves and our abilities.

There’s no instruction manual for this parenting thing. Closest one I ever found was Jo Frost’s Supernanny. Shame it only applies to kids birth to age 6.

The reality is my kids will fail sometimes. Just as I fail sometimes. However, it is a learning opportunity and not a reflection of me as a parent or person. We can’t be afraid of them failing. It’s important to allow them to fail and then be there to help them reflect on the experience and learn from it.

We’ve been placed in our child’s life because we are the best person to help them navigate life. It was no accident. No mistake.

So I’ve decided to make a greater effort to yell less and be quiet more. To listen more. To pause more. I will provide more opportunities for them to be responsible. And I will try to loosen my controlling tendencies and allow more independence, within reason, and be supportive if it doesn’t quite work out the way they planned.

In a society living in a facade of perfectionism, it’s hard not to second guess our abilities. It’s okay to doubt ourselves. What’s important is that we don’t buy into the false narratives.

Remember, we’re each doing the best we can with the experiences and resources we have.

Our kids are too.