Self Care

Social work: labor of love

Written by: Shauna Brooks, MSSW; Principal Investigator, National Safe Place Network

This was supposed to be a 4-day weekend for me – Labor Day holiday Monday, and a vacation day Friday to bring home a newly adopted pet and allow some time for her to adjust to her new environment.  This is the first time in almost 18 years my partner and I have added someone to our little family.  We have talked about it and delayed and negotiated our preferences for so long.  Kim wanted someone small, and I really like big dog personalities.  Kim wanted a fur family member to provide me with emotional support.  I also wanted a dog to help me be more active.  After months, even years, we just couldn’t push it back any longer.

The timing was, well… not ideal.  Kim is grieving the loss of her mom and dealing with difficult family in the midst of probate and estate issues which is weighing heavily on her.  She’s also unappreciated and disrespected at work despite a tremendous work ethic and high performance expectations for herself.  I love my work (which we’ll discuss more in just a moment), and three deadlines for major projects are converging this week, so there is some stress on my end as well.

We had impressions of the shelter dog formerly named Trixie, whom we now call PJ.  True, we each only met her for about half an hour (separately because of incongruous work schedules).  But the people who rescued her shared their observations, and her character and temperament were evident in pictures and in person.  She was thoughtful, almost pensive in photos.  She ambled around on a slip leash without pulling.  Taken outside, after wandering and sniffing about an 8’ by 8’ patch of grass, she lay down next to me in repose, offering her belly for a good rub without any hesitation – a mild-mannered young adult.

After a very sedate first night, spending the bulk of her time sleeping in a crate she instantly recognized as her own, her authentic personality began to emerge.  The great news is she seems to be comfortable enough to come out of her shell.  The more complicated discovery is that she is, in truth, a giant puppy.  She is brilliant and obstinate and could clearly jump our fence without even trying very hard.  Instead of running, she leaps like a deer.  We are working hard at consistency, patience, establishing communication, and teaching her boundaries, expectations and the big fun that rewards positive behavior.  Just consider for a moment the persistent and intensive attention this requires – literally every minute when she is not sleeping.  Thus, my grand plans of putting in some extra hours over the long weekend to help get ready for a very busy week were entirely shot.

But this is the reality of family.  Life is work.  Life is messy, and balancing priorities seems impossible sometimes.  I know these circumstances could look very different in someone else’s life.  Perhaps another person would have absolutely clear priorities that illuminate a path of certainty.  Perhaps someone who hasn’t benefited from the privilege that comes with being white or from having access to educational and employment opportunities I’ve had might face an unmanageable burden.  A person who isn’t as lucky as I am to share their life in unconditional love with a committed partner might find the experience lonely and overwhelming.  These are the dynamics of my environment.  My family, friends and co-workers provide a network of support.

Because partnering, parenting, working, negotiating, homemaking, studying, advocating, teaching, learning, trying, failing, surviving, striving, and everything else in life is hard work, it is humbling that people share their experiences with us.  It is a challenge to be worthy of that trust, to listen, to set aside judgment, to acknowledge personal bias, and to demonstrate respect to show people an example of how they deserve to be treated regardless of their circumstances.  Our work is both harder and more critical than ever in the culture of hate that is pervading our nation right now.

Social work is labor AND love.  It is doing AND being.  Social work is having empathy AND boundaries. We facilitate individual well-being, healthy communication, supportive relationships, and thriving communities.  We advocate for people served by public systems.  We fight for social justice and support policy solutions.  We work in schools and churches and community agencies.  We serve youth, families, teachers, students, veterans, and people experiencing homelessness, poverty, mental illness, and hospice care.  I have the privilege of serving people who serve runaway and homeless youth.  And for me, it is absolutely a labor of love.

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Laughter Isn’t Always the Best Medicine

Written by Candace Leilani, Guest Blogger

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

I remember incidents where laughter got me through different life events. Some of my favorite memories include me laughing. Some people can say that laughing has made their life better. Some people can say that laughter has sometimes made their life unbearable. What is laughter? A feeling? Something we do? The word, “laughter,” is defined as “an expression or appearance of merriment or amusement.”  I have often heard “Laughter is the best medicine.” If this is true, I wonder why and if it is true for everyone? There are many health benefits to laughing, more than I originally knew before writing this blog post. Laughter has been proven to not only be a stress reducer, but a pain reliever too. Laughter causes serotonin and endorphins to increase in the brain and decreases stress hormones. Why are these health benefits important? It can help you get through tough times physically, mentally, and emotionally. As an example, when a child is learning how to ride a bike and falls off, his or her scraped knee may not be as painful if laughter is encouraged by a smiling, joking father. One memory I have where laughter helped me physically is of when I was at my grandma’s farm-house and got a splinter in my finger from the old porch swing she had. I cried my eyes out; but, my loving grandma took a minute to make me smile by pretending to cry hysterically in the hopes of making me laugh. Believe it or not, it worked. My memory ends well with both of us laughing as she wiped away my tears and lead me inside the house for her to doctor up my finger as she did in the hospital some twenty years earlier as a nurse. Not only did laughter help me physically, it also helped me mentally and emotionally. I realized having a splinter was not as big of a deal as I thought it was and the event provided me with a memory of my grandma I will cherish forever.

 

However, I have also experience times in my laugh when laughter wasn’t uplifting or helpful. I was raised in a sheltered, Christian home where I did not have many friends. As a result almost any attention from guys in my grade seemed like flirting. When a guy even pretended that he liked me, I would freak out and think he did truly like me. One day in middle school, a popular guy acted extra nice to me. I was too shy to make first contact with him in person, so I did what I thought was the next best thing: write him a note asking for clarification of his intentions and for him to meet me to talk after school in the hallway. I put the note somewhere where I knew he would find it and waited for him to read it. The moment I saw his reaction to the note, I immediately regretted it. We were not alone and I was confronted with almost all the popular kids with their phones out to take video or photos of our interaction. I didn’t even get to talk to him due to everyone laughing and all the photos being taken. I went home that day crying, begging for my parents not to make me go to school the next day. During that incident, laughter caused me emotional pain and reminded me kids can be cruel.

Erma Bombeck was correct when she said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

I have shared two instances when laughter impacted who I am today as a person. One filled with joy and the other pain. I will always be sensitive to the sound of laughter and will always wonder, at least for a moment, if the laughter is with me or about me. However, the sound of laughter is something I long for in my life. It reminds me of my grandma and it reminds me I am stronger than those who may use their laughter as a weapon. When you laugh at a situation involving others, please take a moment to think about if you are making things better or making things worse.

I know I am the person I am today because of my experiences. I appreciate God for all the events that have happened in my life. I am a stronger person mentally and emotionally because of them. Science has proven that laughter is good for the soul, mind, and body.  And I am ready for a good laugh. How about you?

“Laughter is important, not only because it makes us happy, it also has actual health benefits. And that’s because laughter completely engages the body and releases the mind. It connects us to others and that in itself has a healing effect.” – Marlo Thomas

Self-Care: So Who Takes Care of You?

Written by: Mark W. Wolf, Training Director at National Safe Place Network

This is my first attempt at a blog so bear with me.  I volunteered to do this one because the most significant thing I have learned in my nearly 40 year career in the youth work field is the importance of taking care of yourself.

It has always struck me how so many youth care workers, who are superstars at caring for others, fail so miserably at taking care of themselves. The other thing I know to be true is how those most effective in this field care down to their core. That kind of care takes a toll on you emotionally and physically, and often leads to burnout.  If you want to continue to work in the field and be effective you absolutely must make a plan to take care of yourself. Many of us learn to take care of ourselves the hard way and many drop out of the field, unfortunately, because they do not learn in time. Fortunately, self-care can be learned.  With guidance, support, and good role models I learned some things along the way about work and self-care that helped me in my career and life.

Before you can make a self-care plan, there are some things you need to figure out about your work.  You have to examine why you are doing the work you are doing, and who are you doing this work for. It’s ok that we all meet some of our needs through our work, but our work cannot be the sole provider, or even the primary provider.  Remember that in our work we are there to meet other’s needs, not our own.  We need to meet our own needs in our own way, on our own time. Most importantly, we must be realistic in our expectations of how much we can do at one time, it is indeed a marathon. Understand that at best, we are support agents that facilitate change and growth that must be self directed. In the end, hopefully we know and believe we are worthy and deserve to be cared about by ourselves and others.

Once you figure all this out, and it can be complicated and take some significant time and effort unraveling who we are and what we need, you are ready to make a self-care plan.  First, understand that self-care is a bit of a misnomer. Much of self-care is making sure you have people around you that care about you and for you. The self-care part is allowing these others in.  As for a self-care plan, make a list of things you do for yourself that energize and inspire you, make a schedule, and keep it. Develop a support system outside of your work that includes a variety of people and activities. Give yourself permission to make time to play, have fun, and be totally selfish with your time and what you choose to do with it.

I was fortunate to have lots of support, guidance and great role models along the way to help me figure out how to create and maintain balance in my life.  Go out and find the support and guidance and care you need along the way.  You already know this but it is worth saying again – if you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to help take care of others.

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Take a Breather

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

Sometimes when one hears the word “relax,” it’s followed up with “Relax? Who has time for that?” “If only.” “It must be nice.” “I can’t turn my mind off long enough to relax.” “If I relax, who’s going to do the work, take care of the kids, and so on . . . ?” But did you know relaxing is actually important for your health? Here are “10 Health Benefits of Relaxation” shared by The Huffington Post:

  1. Relaxing protects your heart.
  2. Relaxing lowers your risk of catching a cold.
  3. Relaxing boosts your memory.
  4. Relaxing lowers your risk of stroke.
  5. Relaxing keeps you safe from depression.
  6. Relaxing helps you make better decisions.
  7. Relaxing keeps you slim.
  8. Relaxing eases acne.
  9. Relaxing will keep you in the mood.
  10. Relaxing could slow breast cancer.

Lucky for you (if you’re one who’s guilty of having the thoughts mentioned above), we found “40 Ways to Relax in 5 Minutes or Less.” Some of these suggestions include the following:

  • Nosh on chocolate.
  • Lay your head on a cushion or pillow.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • Rub your feet over a golf ball.
  • Drip cold water on your wrists.
  • Look out the window/find the sun.
  • Stretch.
  • Listen to your favorite song.
  • Sniff citrus.
  • Talk to a friend.
  • and 30 MORE!

We asked your NSPN family this question: “What do you do to relax?” Here’s how they take a breather:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “I read cookbooks, novels, etc., and I spend time ‘unplugged.’”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Read, write, and photography.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “To relax, I like to lose myself in a well-written book, movie, or TV show.”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “To relax, I lay on the floor with my dogs, have a beer and a shot of 1800, I listen to music, and people watch.”
  • Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: “Read or spend time with grandkids.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “I like socializing after work with friends and family. I find long talks with friends as good for relaxation as any exercise.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “Go to the movies or have a well-made cocktail.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I guess I relax by watching TV.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “Working out is really stress relieving for me. I read voraciously. I love naps with my puppy!”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “Read a book, watch a movie or TV show, or drink a delicious glass of Malbec wine.”
  • Autumn Sandlin, Marketing & Communications Intern: “I’m a big fan of naps! Although, I generally take those out of necessity and not for strict relaxation. When I’m actively trying to relax, I usually put on a tv show that I like and do some sort of face mask.”
  • Sabrina Smith, Development Intern: “When I get too stressed, I like to go outside and hang out with our chickens! They’re always so happy to see me – it’s impossible to be stressed when you’re surrounded by chickens.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I feel most relaxed when I’m snuggling with my pugs. Some people get annoyed when their dogs snore, but I find it quite calming. I think it’s because hearing them snore lets me know they are ok.”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “I like to read or do crossword puzzles.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team.

What do you do to relax? National Relaxation Day is August 15; feel free to share your “goto” relaxation ritual below.  

 

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Read Across America Day

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

Today is Read Across America Day—also known as Dr. Seuss’s Birthday! Dr. Seuss is best known for his wonderfully whimsical children’s books, including The Cat in the Hat; Green Eggs and Ham; Horton Hears a Who!; The Lorax; Oh, the Places You’ll Go!; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; and so many more. These books have inspired youth and adults to read since his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which was published in 1937. Dr. Seuss’s favorite book was There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!

Here are the favorite books of your NSPN family:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “I don’t have one favorite. I love, love, love cookbooks—so I have many.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Jane Eyre—Have loved it since childhood. I have lots of favorites that reflect my different moods, but this one stands out above the rest.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “I love the imaginative world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry along with its characters and relationships. My favorite among the books is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s an extraordinary story of adventure, danger, strength, and hope; a lesson that people aren’t always what they seem; and a quintessential demonstration of positive youth development!”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “The Bible—best stories of intrigue . . . love, hate, death, drama, miracles, free will, temptation, togetherness, divide, character, salvation, etc. It reflects the in-between phase of life, death, and even beyond.”
  • Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist: “Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas. (You’ll have to read it to discover why. J)”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “I find myself re-reading Slaughterhouse-Five every year or so. So it goes.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “The Stand, Stephen King.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I really like The Shack, by William Paul Young.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L’Engle; Anne of Green Gables; and Pride and Prejudice.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “I don’t really know. I recently read Me Before You and it was brilliant, funny, and heartbreaking.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I pretty much like any book—as long as it’s on a shelf. I receive no joy from reading. I’d rather be designing the cover of it—and other pictures—who doesn’t love pictures in books?”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “The Bible.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team.

Feel free to share your favorite book by leaving a comment below.

 

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Try a Mantra for 2017

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy for National Safe Place Network

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Looking back in my 2016 work notebook, I have a list of “possible mantras” instead of actual resolutions for the previous year. I was coming back to work after several months of maternity leave and I guess wasn’t quite ready to commit to a traditional resolution. Instead, I was adjusting to my life as a new mom working full-time. Some of my “possible mantras” for 2016 included: “This is enough;” “Don’t forget to breathe;” and “No is a complete sentence.”

I wish I had reviewed my 2016 mantras more frequently than in January and now.

So this 2017, I’m going to try again to pick a mantra, write it down, post it around my workspace and my home, and use it. And I’m going to just pick one, not make a whole list of them.

If you are a person who also has trouble sticking to a resolution, may I suggest a mantra as well? I got the idea here: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/forget-resolutions-embrace-a-yearly-mantra-instead-226656. The author provides an example: instead of deciding to exercise three times a week, your mantra could be “move more.”

Here are some other examples of possible mantras to replace popular resolutions:

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Do you have other ideas for mantras or resolutions? Let us know on Twitter at @nspntweets.

Happy 2017.

National Prevention Week: May 17-23

NSPN supports National Prevention Week!

NSPN supports National Prevention Week!

A note from Mr. William H. Bentley, Associate Commissioner, Family and Youth Services Bureau, and Frances M. Harding, Director at Center for Substance Abuse Prevention:

Dear Colleagues,

This week is National Prevention Week, a time for all of us to focus on behavioral health, the essential role it plays in the overall health of young people and their families, and its importance to our productivity and prosperity as a nation. The Administration for Children and Families’ Family and Youth Services Bureau is a partner with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in supporting National Prevention Week.  During this week, and throughout the year, we encourage you to bring awareness of the behavioral health issues that may be experienced by the children, youth, and families you work with every day.

The daily health themes of National Prevention Week cover many behavioral health issues, including: tobacco use, underage drinking, excessive alcohol use, opioid and prescription drug misuse, illicit drug use and youth marijuana use, and suicide.  By increasing awareness and educating others about these issues, we will make great strides in overcoming the challenges of youth homelessness, adolescent pregnancy, and domestic violence, and help our nation’s young people and their families lead healthy, productive, and violence-free lives.

In honor of National Prevention Week, community organizations in every U.S. state and many U.S. territories are hosting events (http://www.samhsa.gov/prevention-week/community-events) to inform the public about the risks associated with substance use and misuse and ways to promote personal health. State and federal agencies and national organizations are sharing information about actions communities can take to prevent mental or substance use disorders.

I invite you to join us in recognizing National Prevention Week by taking the Prevention Pledge (https://www.facebook.com/samhsa/app_227679917356169) and encouraging the youth and families you work with to do the same. In taking the Pledge, we demonstrate to others that we care and are actively working to advance behavioral health.  I also invite you to take a photo of how you maintain a healthy lifestyle and what inspires you to choose prevention.  Share your photos via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #ChoosePrevention (https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ChoosePrevention) to inspire others. Thank you for your commitment to National Prevention Week and the health and well-being of our young people and their families.

Sincerely,

William H. Bentley
Associate Commissioner
Family and Youth Services Bureau

Frances M. Harding
Director
Center for Substance Abuse Prevention

Alleviating Stress

By: Lindsey Collier, MSSW Student Intern with RHYTTAC

Quiz time!

I know you are probably thinking, “What can one more quiz tell me about myself? Haven’t I already learned everything I could possibly need to know about myself from Facebook?” I’m confident you already know what breed of dog you are, what your Smurf name is, and what your spirit animal is…but indulge me and take a moment to answer the following questions:

  1. Do you ever feel like your plate is so full you just can’t possibly take on one more task, answer one more phone call or email, or deal with one more crisis?
  2. Have you lost sleep, changed your eating habits, or noticed a difference in your interactions with colleagues, family, or friends? Have they noticed a difference in you?
  3. Is your hair falling out?
  4. Are you always tired and maybe even a little irritable?
  5. Can a vegetarian eat an animal cracker?

Just kidding about the last question…however, it is an important question to ponder.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be stressed. I have never met you, but I would venture to guess that if you are reading this, you will answer yes to at least some of these questions at some point in your life. As with much of life, the real questions is how you respond.

So, what do you do? First, you should figure out just how stressed you are. There are many different types of stress. The two most common forms you will encounter are acute stress and chronic stress. For more information on other types, like burnout, vicarious traumatization, and toxic stress (hint: toxic stress isn’t something adults experience), please click the following link where you will find tip sheets with more detailed information on stress in its various forms: http://www.rhyttac.net/resources/search?field_resource_type_tid=All&field_tags_tid=&title=stress.

Acute vs. Chronic Stress – How do you know what you are dealing with?

Acute stress is a brief stress response that doesn’t persist over time. For example, your heart rate and respiration increases in response to an impending car accident. Chronic stress is a longer-term stress response that can become so ingrained that a person may not realize their symptoms are related to a stress response. For example, a person loses interest in social activities and exhibits depressive symptoms as a result of their work as an elementary school teacher in a severely under resourced inner-city school where nearly all children are living in poverty and many have witnessed community, gang-related violence.

Basically, if you feel like you are living Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for a day or two, then you are probably dealing with acute stress. On the other hand, if you feel like Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad describes your entire life and has for the last several weeks, months, or years, then you are probably dealing with chronic stress.

Now that you know what kind of stress you are dealing with, what do you do about it?

Acute stress will typically resolve on its own once the stressful experience is over and your mind and body have a chance to return to baseline.

Chronic stress, on the other hand, may require action to mitigate. It could be as simple as taking a few days off work to recharge, or as drastic as making a job or career change. Perhaps you have taken on too many responsibilities and need to prioritize what matters most. Depending on the nature of the original stressor, some type of therapy may be in order. The bottom line is that chronic stress is, by definition, chronic and will not go away without some action on your part.

In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, do yourself a favor and do one thing this month to alleviate at least some of the stress in your life. Go for a walk, take a yoga class, reconnect with a friend over coffee or dinner, take a weekend getaway, try making sleep a priority. Treat yourself to some quality time with your significant other…or, if you are like me and don’t have a significant other, some quality time with a good book. I can also highly recommend changing your phone wallpaper or computer background to pictures of cute puppies. You can’t not smile if you are looking at cute puppies! If your stress level is chronic, have courage to make significant changes in your job or career. Consult trusted family and friends and seek professional counseling, if necessary.

If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to sign up for NSPN Communications at: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&mcid=form_173370%20.

Spring Forward with National Safe Place Network

By: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, NSPN

I love spring. It’s a time of new beginnings, warmer weather, flowers…

We mark this time of year at NSPN by launching our annual membership and licensed agency renewal drive. In case you missed the launch, you can read more here: http://www.nspnetwork.org/join-the-network.

I’d love to take this opportunity to share some of the exciting things we are doing, and some of the things we have planned. For starters, many of you are wrapping up the busy grant-writing season. We’ve been providing support to many of our member agencies, answering questions and reviewing proposals. We are available to do this year-round, for any of your grant proposals, not just your federal proposals. We wish you all luck who are writing and submitting proposals in the next few days.

Later in April, we are hosing a webinar for NSPN members about host homes. Some of you have been asking what host homes are. In the host home model, youth live temporarily with members of the community while receiving services. Host homes can serve as emergency shelters or as longer-term housing for youth in transitional living programs. Depending on the individual state regulation, the placement may be licensed of unlicensed. Agencies in rural areas often consider host homes a practical alternative to both short-term shelters (Basic Centers) and longer-term transitional housing (Transitional Living Programs). The host home model is a flexible model providing housing and stability. We have a terrific, experienced panel lined up to share experiences using host homes in their states. We have representatives joining us from Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte, Project Oz, and Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs. If you are curious about learning more about the model, or want to figure out how to strengthen the model in your state, check out this webinar on April 29 at 2 p.m. NSPN members can register here:  https://nspn.memberclicks.net/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&mcid=form_191383.

Later this spring, we are also convening an on-line course, Clinicians’ Coffee House. This four-week course will cover: how self-care can lead to preventing vicarious trauma and contribute to a better trauma-informed approach for your entire organization. You can learn more and sign-up here: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&mcid=form_192441.

Be on the lookout for additional webinars and training opportunities through National Safe Place Network membership. We are excited about the events we have coming up and look forward to sharing them with you.

What do New Year’s Resolutions mean to you?

What is a resolution?  I asked this very question to a couple people and received the same initial response from all.  I received a “look”, a look that implied “I know the answer to this but I have to think about how to verbalize it.”  They had to think about what a New Year’s Resolution really was.  After thinking for a moment, they shared replies such as “it’s something new someone wants to do for themselves”, “a new beginning”, and “putting something into motion”. What if I told you a resolution is as simple as a promise.  A resolution is a promise that you make to yourself (and work hard at keeping)!

Year after year, resolutions are made; yet, you find many are broken.  Why is it so difficult for people to follow through with their resolutions?  Perhaps the reason that they are so easily broken is because they are not thought to be actual promises, but instead ideas.  People like the idea of something, but it is expected that not all ideas come to fruition.

How can you do better?  Start by simply thinking of your resolution as a promise.  It will help motivate you to be more thoughtful about the resolution and you will be more motivated to keep it.  When you feel down, remember that you can do it!  You wouldn’t have made the promise if it weren’t realistic or if you didn’t believe in yourself to do it.  You have made progress and it’s not time to give up.  Next year, one of two things will happen.  You will be proud that you kept your promise and accomplished your goal –OR- you will wish you stuck to it and will be starting all over again.  Which will you choose?   Make this year the last year that you make this same promise to yourself.  Whatever you choose, make sure it is the right choice for you.  Believe in yourself and don’t give up.  You are worth it!  A promise is a promise!  Happy New Year!

Feel free to check out the tips below to get moving in the right direction. 

Tips on Making and Keeping Your New Year’s Promise

  • Put some thought into it! What do you really want to change?  Is it a personal goal or does it have to do with family, friends, or the outside world including work or school?
  • Make sure it is attainable. You want to do something that is good for you, which is why you are promising yourself in the first place.  You don’t want to set yourself up for failure before you even start.
  • Don’t leave it open ended. If you want to lose weight, set an amount (“I promise to lose 20 pounds this year and keep it off.”)  If you want further your education, decide what you want to learn and be specific (“I promise to take a pottery class this year.”)  One is less likely to give up or “phone it in” when setting clear specific goals.
  • Plan ahead! Do you know how much you want to save?  Have a schedule?  Ideas on types of storage or labels you need to get organized? Do you need to have healthy food options on hand?  A pair of walking shoes?  Need to get rid of things from your home or work environment? Want to be better at your job?  Joining NSPN can help with this!
    • Write it down. There may be times where you don’t remember what you should or shouldn’t do.  Writing it down makes it more formal and it helps when your “bad habit brain” wants to take over!
    • Have a contingency plan. Identify what you will do if temptation kicks in! Anyone, at anytime, can suffer from a pesky craving or forget and fall back into bad habits.
      • Does your promise depend on the weather? What happens if it rains?  Make a plan and take away the room for the excuse ahead of time.
      • Craving ice cream or an after dinner sweet snack? Try cool whip mixed with flavored Greek yogurt.  YUM!!
      • Running late? Don’t hit that snooze button!  Set your alarm for when you actually need to wake up and place it on the other side of the room.  Don’t waste an hour of interrupted sleep just to keep hitting the button.
  • Let others know! The last thing you want is external influences pushing you to break your promise.  Let people know around you that you have made a promise to yourself and appreciate their support.   You increase your chances of success when sharing details of your journey as you tend to receive extra external motivation and encouragement!
  • Have a friend ready to support you. There will most likely be a time when you need the extra support or someone to get your mind off things.
  • Write down some positive self talk statements. Who knows the best part of you more than yourself!  It’s ok to tell yourself how awesome you are and that you are WORTH doing this for yourself!
  • Be persistent! It takes at least 21 days to start a new habit. Don’t expect that things will change overnight.  It took some work to create the bad habit, generating a poor credit score, or gaining the extra pounds, so it will take some work and time to turn things around.  Take things day by day.  Don’t look at it as a lifetime commitment or a yearlong commitment.  Wake up in the morning and say TODAY I am (or am not) going to do this for this day.  Recommit yourself each day.
  • Track your progress. Regardless of the size of the step, every step forward is a plus!  Give yourself credit when credit is due.  A little happy dance never hurt anyone; go ahead, stop what you are doing and smile about what you have just accomplished.
  • Reward yourself along the way! Yep, that’s right… you deserve a pat on the back!  Make your rewards meaningful. Some reward examples include downloading a song or album of choice, having a spa day (You can find great deals online for local massages!), or something like going bowling.  Depending on what your promise is, you might have a short-range, mid-range, and of course the ultimate goal!  The rewards can mimic the outcomes (the more you do, the more you reward)!
    • Here’s some more great reward examples:
      • Complete a Brain Break from NSPN’s Plugged iN Email!
      • Take a hot bath. Go ahead and splurge on that calming lavender oil (or other pleasing scent of choice).
      • Give yourself a Mani and Pedi! (Or if it’s a mid-to-ultimate goal splurge for the professional one!)
      • Get a massage or a facial.
      • Visit a farmers market and get some goodies.
      • Buys some fresh flowers and set out on your counter. Seeing them every day for a week will be a great reminder of how hard you worked.
      • Have a play date! Yep, whether with a friend or significant other, take time for a movie or other fun outing.
      • Turn on some music and dance around like no one is watching.
      • Enjoy a fun attraction like the zoo or city Ferris wheel (even the largest sky scraper in town and check out the skyline if you’re in a large city).
      • Do a crossword puzzle, word search, or play a card game.
      • Allow yourself a few hours to read a book.
      • Check out a play at a local theater.
      • Host a game night with friends.
      • Have coffee or tea with a friend.
      • Take a road trip! Weekend trips to a new destination a short distance away are great!
      • Take some photos and make a collage.
      • Give someone special a gift (like flowers, a meal, or something else special)
      • Reach for the stars! … Or just look at them. Star gazing can be breathtaking. Perhaps your city has a local planetarium.
      • Go to a local craft show or home show that’s in town.
      • Take a nap. Sleep is a good thing.
      • Go through your DVDs at home, pop some popcorn and watch a throwback movie you enjoyed and haven’t seen in a while.

Helping Youth Make a Promise?  Here are Some Tips to Help Them Get Started!

  • Help Youth categorize their resolution promises.
    • Examples: school/work, finances, recreation, social life, health
  • Make sure the goals are attainable.
  • If they are unsure about what to change or do to enhance their life, ask them questions to get them thinking. Where do they want to be in a few years?  Are they looking to save money for a car or rental, go to college?  What steps do they need to take to get there?  Are there areas they can focus on to help?
  • Share your success stories with them. You can share with them the amount of work it takes to make it happen, and that it is possible!  You might be able to offer ideas to make it easier.

 

Sample New Year’s Promises:

  • Stop a Bad Habit
    • Smoking, Biting Nails, Drinking, Fibbing, etc.
  • Lose Weight / Have a Healthier Lifestyle
    • Eat Healthier, Become a Vegetarian, Walk/Exercise More, Drink More Water, etc.
  • Learn a New Skill
    • Grant Writing, Cooking, Blog Writing, Sewing, Typing, Knitting, Speaking a New Language, etc.
  • Try Something New
    • Yoga, Zip Lining, Sky Diving, Hiking, etc.
  • Start a Hobby
    • Painting, Dancing, Collecting Coins, etc.
  • Travel / Visit a New Place / Be Spontaneous!
    • Travel to Another City, State or Country; Visit Your Local Museum(s) in Your Own Town, etc.
  • Spend More Time with Loved Ones (Including your pets!)
    • Plan a Family Game Night Once a Month, Take Your Dog to the Dog Park Once or More Times a Month, etc.
  • Get Organized
  • Save Money / Manage Debt
    • Create and Use a Budget, Use Coupons, Build/Rebuild Credit, etc.
  • Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
  • Be Kind! (Offer at Least One Random Act of Kindness Each Day.)