Sunday, April 1, 2012

World Autism Awareness Day

April 2, 2012 is World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) and it will take place across the world.  In 2007, the United Nations decided to enact this day to bring increased attention to autism, which affects approximately 1% of the world's populations.  Autism is a pervasive disorder and a general term for a complex group of developmental brain disorders.  About 1 in 88 children in the United States suffer symptoms of autism, and there is a focus to bring light to the importance of early diagnosis and intervention.  

Anyone who has met a child with autism knows the difficulties that come with the disorder (Common challenges include social challenges, difficulties communicating, repetitive behaviors, and physical or medical complications).  However, the children have incredible talents and skills that with patience, understanding, and cooperation can be uncovered and greatly utilized.  Often times, the person who has the privilege of working with autistic children and their families, believe that they are learning just as much or more about life as the family!  They are truly incredible individuals!

Today Autism Speaks, one of my favorite autism advocacy organizations, celebrates Light It Up Blue.

Please use this information to lend your own support in whatever way you may choose.  Education is always one of the most powerful avenues so you may want to check out the Autism Speaks website to learn more about symptoms, diagnosis, interventions, family services and other ways to lend support.  

Perhaps today you will join me and Light It Up Blue!  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is Facebook a Self Esteem Downer?!

Social networking has allowed friends, family, and acquaintances to share their day to day, and sometimes hour to hour, and even at times, minute to minute daily happenings with a wide network of people.  People use Facebook to post exciting life changes, hilarious pictures from weekends or vacations past, and quirky daily happenings that they hope others will find amusing.  There are also the negative posts.  We are all entitled to bad days or unfortunate situations.  In those times of great pain people reach out to their community of Facebook "friends" asking for support, prayers, and perhaps guidance.  Life happens...and support is essential.  However, a new study, to be published soon in Psychological Science, found interesting connections between Facebook, self-esteem, and negative thoughts or feelings.

Amanda Forest and Joanne Wood of the University of Waterloo, found that individuals with low self esteem, who tended to post more frequent negative thoughts, feelings, or events on their Facebook wall, received less attention and fewer responses from the Facebook community.  Forest and Wood found that individuals liked the study participants with low-self esteem less than those with higher self-esteem using a rating system.  

This study simply showed that individuals with low self-esteem are likely to overwhelm their "friends" with too many negative life details, making them less likable.  One might therefore hypothesis that as people do not respond, self esteem continues to remain low.  In comparison, researchers found that individuals with high self-esteem who posted a negative remark, were viewed by individuals in the study as more likable and more likely to receive "comments".  This is likely because individuals with healthy levels of self-esteem are less likely to regularly post negative thoughts or feelings.  

Given that nearly 50% of a person's Facebook "friends" are in reality strangers or acquaintances, Facebook is not the ideal place to turn when you are feeling low.  If you scan your last few status updates and find that you are more likely to post your hardships than anything else, you have a few options.

1)  Seek out a friend to have a one on one conversation.  It is easier to read someone's body language and social cues when you are sitting with them.  They can also aid you in working out your problems in a solution focused manner if you are present with them and not secluded with your computer.

2)  If you are really feeling low, it can never hurt to seek out a therapist and begin individual therapy.  Depending on your therapy goals you could improve your mood and coping skills in a few sessions.  

3)  Challenge yourself to put out positivity, in hopes of receiving it in return.  Be genuine.  If you are having an off day, make personal contact with someone.  Dial up a pal, before you hit the post button.  I would be willing to bet you will feel much better! 

Bad days happen!  The occasional negative Facebook post happens!  That's fine, and your true friends will likely call you before you call them.  However, if your negative thoughts out number the good, consider reaching out to a professional!  

Psychology Today offers a wonderful therapist locator! 

Now if I could...I would "LIKE" these comments:

I keep my mind focused on peace, harmony, health, love and abundance.  Then, I can't be distracted by doubt, anxiety, or fear.
Edith Armstrong

Live so that when other people think of integrity, enthusiasm, commitment, and caring, they think of you.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.  Watch your words; they become actions; Watch your actions; they become habits.  Watch your habits; they become character.  Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
Frank Outlaw

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Suggestions for Success

H. Jackson Brown Jr. once gave the following suggestions for attaining Success.
21 Suggestions for Success
1.  Marry the right person.  This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.
2.  Work at something you enjoy and that is worthy of your time and talent.
3.  Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
4.  Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
5.  Be forgiving of yourself and others.
6.  Be generous.
7.  Have a grateful heart.
8.  Persistence, persistence, persistence.
9. Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary.
10.  Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
11. Commit yourself to constant improvement.
12.  Commit yourself to quality.
13.  Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power, prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
14.  Be loyal.
15.  Be honest.
16.  Be a self-starter.
17.  Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong.
18.  Stop blaming others.  Take responsibility for every area of your life.
19.  Be bold and courageous.  When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.
20.  Take good care of those you love.
21.  Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make your mom proud.

I printed them off and framed them as a reminder that sometimes, it doesn't take a whole lot to become successful.  I am currently supervising graduate students who find themselves caught up in school work, practicum responsibilities, and qualifying exams.  I recently shared one of my own suggestions for success, which is also quite simple:

Do not allow yourself to get caught up in the stress of others. Be confident in your own abilities, trust that you are a capable individual, and stay focused on your present tasks.

I believe this helped me to remain relatively calm though some long days and nights of intense graduate school requirements!  I have recently defended my doctoral dissertation and used my same suggestion to overcome that last big hurdle.  

What are your suggestions for success?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Addressing the Unexpected and Succeeding in 2012

The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to share quality time with family, count your blessings, reflect on the year you have had and contemplate what you hope to accomplish in the upcoming year.  A common phrase as Christmas decorations go up and holiday party invitations arrive, is "I can't believe it's already December!!"  Despite how fast time went for you, the holidays are here and the new year is just a couple weeks away.  Has 2011 brought about any major changes in your life that you didn't anticipate at this time last year?  How did you deal with these changes?  Having some skills to deal with life's unexpected situations, such as job loss, or a financial blunder, or perhaps a break up can make the situation much more manageable!  Here are some tips for learning to cope with the unexpected:

1) Take a deep breath! Taking time to breathe, collect your thoughts, and focus on the important aspects of the situation can help you to gain a clear perspective.  The key is not to panic.

2) As you relax, begin to prioritize what your next steps should be.  At this point decide on the things that need to be accomplished right away, and those that can wait.  Writing down your priorities or talking with someone you trust about your plan can also aid in gaining clarity and perspective. 

3) After carefully thinking about your given situation, begin to take action.  Sometimes unexpected situations provoke the urge to procrastinate.  Fight that urge and forge forward with your plan.  Address the most pressing issues first and this will likely help you gain motivation and momentum towards efficiently handling your next steps.  

4) This is the opportunity to become very honest with yourself.  You are human and we all deal with the unexpected.  Be honest with those you love and don't make excuses.

5) Asking for help is an essential aspect to successfully dealing with the unexpected.  Your family, friends, co-workers, or people in your network want to see you succeed and likely have suggestions, contacts, or encouraging words to help you move forward.  Think about the people that you would help out in a minute and seek them out.  If you are willing to help them...they will help you too! 

As 2012 approaches, I hope the year brings you happiness, health, and prosperity!  May the unexpected bring about exciting new adventures!  Think of the unexpected as the perfect time for new opportunities.  

If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. --Henry David Thoreau 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trusting Your Gut Can Save Your Butt

Have you ever felt like the world is trying to tell you something?  Have you had things happen out of the ordinary that you feel you are destined to ponder?  Recently I have.  Given that this is a new blog and I can’t seem to find a greater purpose for what I am about to share…perhaps this is the outlet and I hope that maybe this is why the things that I am about to share happened.

Three weeks ago, on a Friday I got into my car to find that the light was on indicating one tire was low.  I had added air earlier in the week, but slowly it leaked out.  I thought it would be a quick fix at a tire shop so I headed to one after work Friday.  A nail had stuck in the tread and the man indicated I was very lucky it didn’t pop right away. The tire needed to be replaced.  The quick fix took far longer than I hoped (4 hours) and was an expense I wasn’t expecting.       
Two weeks ago, on a Friday night, I brought home a bundle of joy.  A new kitten =) As I left with my new kitten I quickly found that my car was missing from the spot that it was parked.  I had been towed.  For the first time my car had been towed…total bummer!  So my kitten and I hopped in a cab, headed to the South Side of Chicago and retrieved my car.  A $172.00 bummer! 

One week ago, on a Friday night, my fiancĂ© was in the mood for some sushi.  We headed to a local place and had a great dinner.  Before we left he went to use the restroom and came out with a puzzled look on his face.  “My keys to the car just got flushed down the toilet!” My response, “You have got to be kidding me, you aren’t serious, right?!”  We still aren’t sure how it happened, beyond a powerful flusher and pure weirdness.  But the keys were gone.  A new key is currently backordered and it could be two weeks before we see a second set of keys.

Later that weekend, I believe Sunday, we were both watching Oprah’s new show on her network, Life Class, where she shared a story about listening to what your inner voice is trying to tell you.  She was speaking to the idea that big life events (the bad ones), do not just happen.  Usually God, or whoever your higher power is, or the universe, does not just impact your life out of the blue.   She shared a story pertaining to drinking and driving.  The story went something like this:

She was headed out to meet friends for one drink.  Someone that worked in her home asked if she wanted a ride.  She declined stating that she would only be there for one drink and she knew that she would not be drunk or even anywhere close to “tipsy”.  She gathered her things and headed out to her car.  Prior to getting in, the same person was in her yard and asked if she was sure she didn’t need a ride.  HER INTUITION KICKED IN.  Something was telling her that she should accept the ride.  She trusted her gut. 

While she knew with a great degree of certainty that she would have made it to and from safely, she made the decision that she felt she was led to make.  She then flashed back to an old episode of the Oprah show where 90’s tv star Tracey Gold shared her story of being arrested for drunk driving in 2004.  Tracey had attended a family party with her three young children and her husband.  He was too drunk to drive home by the end of the day and asked her to drive the family home.  Her gut told her that she shouldn’t drive either, because over the day, she had had a couple glasses of wine and her personal rule was not to drink and drive ever.  He asked her again and she decided to turn off her little voice telling her not to do it, and she got behind the wheel of their SUV.  The truck went down an embankment and rolled three times throwing one of her sons from the vehicle.  Amazingly, the family all survived with minimum injuries.  Tracey was charged with a DUI and had to ensue a great deal of public scrutiny for something many people have done before. 

While alcohol was not involved with any of my car mishaps this month, I aligned with Oprah’s statement that often times we feel that we are okay to drive after one or two drinks.  With the holidays coming up there will be holiday parties, get togethers, celebrations, and fun.  Listen to the little voice, your gut, or whatever it is that helps you get through the day.  Do not chance your life, someone else’s life, or your reputation just to get your car home at the end of the night.  Having to deal with my car issues this month was inconvenient, expensive, and quite frankly a pain in the butt.  However, they got solved and my life was not too impacted.  I can’t know for sure why these things and events happened, but my intuition tells me perhaps it is my opportunity to tell all the people I know, and those that I don’t that you have to listen to the little voice. Sometimes we can’t know the reason things happen, but I just needed to find some use for all the things that happened to my poor car this month. 

Enjoy your time with your friends and family, enjoy some holiday cheer if that’s your thing, but make arrangements to get home safely.   And pay attention to your own inner voice!  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Clients and Courage

There is nothing quite like the moments in your career when something happens and you think, "Wow! THIS is why I do this."  As a therapist, we are making a commitment to be walk with people through their toughest times.  To be very good and effective at our job, we essentially live and relive traumas, suffering, and pain as we explore issues with our clients.  It can make for long, tiring days.  However, when a client arrives at a conclusion about their life that they have been struggling to figure out for several weeks, months, or is a gift to be sitting with them.  It is their gift to then move forward, let go, let live, and embrace.

Opening your hands sometimes and letting go (of pain, struggle, what ifs, shoulds, etc.) can be very difficult.  Each and everyone of the people that I work with exudes a certain degree of courage!  I admire that greatly!

Alfred Adler encouraged individuals to have the courage to be imperfect.  Find comfort in living your imperfect world!  Letting go of the need to be one way or another allows for creativity and enlightenment.

Is there anything holding you back from something?  What do you admire about the people you work with?  I admire the courage.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Visual Picture of a Long Term Goal

So the journey to becoming a Clinical Psychologist is quite a long one.  During my 2nd year, a mentor of mine stated very frankly, "Just keep jumping. There are going to be alot of hoops to jump, but keep jumping."  I've been jumping for along time now.  A friend of mine, who has been jumping along with me, sent this to me to help put our long term goal into perspective.  No matter what your long term goals are, approach them with courage, determination, and humor.  Just when you think you have made it, you will likely look forward to the next set of hoops and challenges required to attain your next goal in life.  Never lose sight of the bigger picture.  Live life to the fullest and be present in the moment.

Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge
By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little:

By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bachelor's degree, you gain a specialty:

A master's degree deepens that specialty:

Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge:

Once you're at the boundary, you focus:

You push at the boundary for a few years:

Until one day, the boundary gives way:

And, that dent you've made is called a Ph.D/Psy.D.:

So, don't forget the bigger picture: