Category: Teen Girls

Using Self-care As Preventative Medicine

So, what is all this talk about self-care on a regular basis? You’ve heard it, too, right?  Is it the latest craze, a buzz word or a practice that supports a healthy lifestyle?

Though the volume has been turned up on emotional and mental self-care lately—perhaps a credit to the pandemic and other challenging events—it has been around for a long time.  From prayer to yoga to Tai Chi to fad diets, self-care dominates our minds particularly in January and during difficult periods in life. It sometimes offers a narrow path out of the darkness, if not ways to cope while in it.

But here lately, self-care talk is not just about the dark days but about all days—using the concept as a preventative measure instead of a reactive one.

I like the sounds of this and here is why. Self-care has a positive influence on maintaining a healthy mind and with a healthy mind, life is easier to navigate.

As I think back over the years, I have always understood the importance of self-care on some level. As a young PR director at a Girl Scout Council, I remember announcing to the team that I was going home early to take some time for myself. Life was a bit of a circus, putting it mildly and I was the feature tight rope walker.

Yet I’ll never forget the eyeballs I got and the suggestions that our boss ought to put a stop to what was perceived as prima donna behaviour. And he might have, had he not understood a little about self-care. Bless him, I think he must have.

This was more than 35 years ago. And admittedly, for many years I would only take time to get the rest I needed just before breaking point. But after the loss of my mother in 2016, my anxiety and worry stepped up a notch, getting me an official diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder.

Only then, did I truly come to understand the importance of daily self-care. Without it, it is easy to let one’s mental health go. And while there are ways to recover, as from a physical illness, it is far healthier to practice preventative medicine, if you will.

That for me often means several practices.  For example, honouring a strict social media diet is at the top of my list. As much as I love connecting with friends and family, it doesn’t serve me to binge on social media. One thing for sure is that everybody else’s business and problems makes its way into the chatter box in my head, along with the bad news of the day and so on.

In rushes anxiety, robbing me of any sense of calm and of course, sleep, which is a great segue to another form of daily self-care. I have developed good sleep hygiene, as the experts call it, which is all about setting a routine, not only for what time to go to bed, but also the time to begin winding down, and what to include in my diet throughout the day, particularly if I have had a bout of insomnia.

Other daily practices I use include saying ‘no’ to asks that either disrespect my boundaries or trigger anxiety; taking a daily walk, even if it’s a bit gloomy outside and that happens often in London; admitting when I can’t take on someone else’s problems because I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with them; and practicing mindfulness throughout the day, if only for a few minutes to focus on what I am grateful for. 

Gosh, it sounds so selfish, or does it? On the surface it might, but underneath self-care has a dominant element of selflessness. As one expert puts it, self-care is as much for loved ones as it is individuals. It simply makes us better, healthier people, which enables us to show up for ourselves and for others, not only during the best of times but also in the worst of times.

Considering what self-care is all about, I, for one, am hopeful that more of us will infuse it into our daily lives as we do other remedies that nourish us and act as preventative medicine, if you will. After all, good health is the key to better living.

For more information on practicing self-care to manage anxiety, check out UIO podcasts On Social Anxiety with Claire Eastham and On Undiagnosed Mental Illness with Eleanor Mandelstam (formerly Segall). To learn more about getting good sleep, listen to On Sleep with Dr Nerina Ramlakhan and for more insight on setting and honouring boundaries, check out On Girls Rights with Lindsey Turnbull.

Our podcasts offer great tips and timeless advice on many contemporary issues. Thank you for listening!

 

 

Finding Opportunities In Grief

Unlikely, right. That is finding opportunities in something as all-consuming as grief.  But here is the thing: once grief sets in, it’s likely to be around for a while, if not always, though hopefully it loses its intensity in time. Of course, we all experience grief differently, but most of us can agree that dealing with loss can be akin to a destabilising journey.

No wonder it is important to find effective ways to cope. That’s where opportunities come in.

It’s hard to say when my own journey with grief got under way but I know exactly when it became up close and personal. It was with the loss of my mother some seven years ago and then it intensified again about four years later when I lost my father and another close relative.

Since then, in 2020, the world has seen loss on a huge scale. In the UK alone, there were 6.8 million bereavements during the pandemic – with around 750,000 excess bereavements during this period compared to the previous five-year average, as found in the report—Bereavement is everyone’s business—from the UK Commission on Bereavement

Perhaps, caused by the pandemic, my perspective on loss and tragedy has been stretched for miles, if you will as my roots are in the US and I live in the UK. Loss, for many reasons, seems to be everywhere, all the time—in conversations with friends, relatives, in the news, on social media and so on, causing my sympathetic nervous system, our ‘fight-or-flight’ activator, to trigger personal grief while trying to accommodate the collective grief.

It is seriously hard work, and unhealthy, too, but the good news is that I am able and willing to do the work. And while grief counselling, producing a podcast (Dealing with Grief), reading regularly on the subject and so on has been stabilising for me, it has been imperative to seek out up close and personal opportunities for healing on a regular basis.

It is all about sending a consistent message to my parasympathetic nervous system, creating opportunities to ‘rest and digest’.

For example, after my mother passed, my father changed the wallpaper on his Mac to a slideshow of family photos. I now realise that this gave him an opportunity to remember her fondly throughout the day.

After his death, I adopted the idea and enjoy a continuous slideshow on my Mac, and most of the photos, if not all of them, tend to lift me up, remembering those who have gone and reminiscing with and about those who are still here.

My niece and her softball teammates have taken the opportunity to remember their special loved ones by having personal messages inscribed in their softball gloves. So, every time, they play softball they connect with loving memories.

One acquaintance organised a lovely memorial gathering for his mother, which fell on her birthday. This comforted him, not only during the planning, but throughout the event.

Other ideas that have worked for me and others include celebrating birthdays of those who have passed in a special yet subtle way such as reading a letter from your loved one, wearing an item of clothing, jewellery, or even cooking and eating a dish that gave them great joy.

The key is to find opportunities on a regular basis that will comfort and nurture you along the journey.

For more information on coping with grief, check out UIO’s podcast, Dealing with Grief with Kristi Hugstad. Since its release in October 2020, it has been consistently our most listened to podcast.

The bottom line is: it’s important to deal with grief, whether the bereavement is recent or distant, for the sake of good health, no matter how complex or difficult it feels.

When Your Parent Starts Dating

Dating can be a bit tricky at its best–getting to know another person and discovering so much about yourself.  Imagine, if you will, what it is like to date after the breakdown of a longterm relationship or the loss of a partner. Though I don’t have first hand experience in the area, l know many people who do, and I can attest to what it is like to date someone in such circumstances.

Navigating a new landscape can be challenging unto self and when there are children on the scene, it can feel a bit like a trial for all parties involved.  But no one has to fail! Though it might feel that way particularly for the offspring.

In this snippet from Your Family Matters , Dr Lisa Doodson offers practical advice on how to express concerns and feelings, while giving consideration to your parent and the choice they have made. Watch here.

And if you haven’t already, listen to the full podcast, Your Family Matters, on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Happy listening and do feel free to contact me here for further information, questions, etc.

 

Seeing The Benefits Of A Blended Family

Until I married more than 20 years ago, I had only known a traditional family first hand, even if three of my siblings lived out their teenage years before I made it to high school. Still, we moved through life to the same rhythm, albeit it in different generations. Still, we knew one set of parents, one household.

Nowadays, however, my immediate family navigates several households if you will. Our grandchildren will reap the benefits of belonging to a blended family.

Yes, you read that right—benefits, though a blended family, sometimes referred to as a stepfamily gets a bad rap, particularly the stepmother.  Remember, the Cinderella story? Who can forget it. Anyhow, I divert.

The point is blended families don’t have to be difficult or distort one character to make a happy ending for another. Furthermore, to belong to a blended family does not necessarily put a person at a disadvantage.

In some ways there can be advantages. For example, a blended family can in many ways broaden the horizons of its members and can also increase emotional intelligence, according to Understanding Stepfamilies author Dr Lisa Doodson, guest of Your Family Matters podcast (out tomorrow).

That I can vouch for.  Planning where and how to spend a traditional holiday, for example, can be challenging for most families with different schedules, interests and so on and once you consider an added component such as a stepparent and a step sibling, the task can feel even more overwhelming, as it did for Cinderella.

But it need not be this way. If we rely on sensitivity and effective communications, for instance, we bring an openness to the table rather than the closed mindedness that can squash opportunities.

No one needs to be marginalised or feel snubbed. But everyone must bring willingness to the table. In Your Family Matters, Dr Doodson and I have a great chat about situations that can cause stumbling blocks such as the acceptance of a new partner, new siblings, understanding roles and the use of social media and how it impacts family life.

It is a must listen podcast for everyone who wants to improve their family relationships and particularly those who are navigating new territory—the blended family.

When it is all said and done, whether traditional or blended, your family matters. Check out the podcast from September 27 on Apple, Spotify, Google Play, sonjalewis.com and wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Steps to Coping With Bullying

I can’t tell you how many times I have said under my breath, I cannot believe that this is happening to me. And for a split second, I’m tempted to ignore the situation, not even entertain it. Fair enough since a key thing to do when dealing with bullying is not to let the brutal words in.

Still, it is important to acknowledge what is actually happening–call a spade, a spade, accept that it is unhealthy and then talk about it.

Check out this snippet from Your Wellbeing Matters, offering great advice on how to cope with bullying.  And do listen to the full podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify and a host of other great podcast platforms. And when you are there leave a review to spread the word.

No matter how you look at it, bullying is unacceptable because the thing is, your wellbeing really matters.

Don’t Let It In

I love Cat Williams’ advice ‘Don’t Let It In’ in our latest podcast Your Wellbeing Matters. The UIO two-time guest, a seasoned rapid transformational therapist, is, of course, talking about the unhealthy words of a bully.

Shame I didn’t fully understand this as a teenage girl all those years ago but to be honest, I don’t remember any consistent episodes of being bullied. There were the people who picked me out to pick on me, sure, but I managed to shake them off rather quickly somehow.

I would be fully ensconced in business–well sort of, it was my first real job–before I experienced real bullying, which can be self-esteem eroding at the very least. And because I didn’t understand the important concept of not letting other people’s misconstrued perceptions get into my head, I fled as fast as I could.

This would mean a different career path for me. My hopes and dreams of becoming a seasoned journalist who would walk straight into a writing or publishing career took a rather crooked path and frankly never arrived at its originally intended destination.

To this end, I have come to understand that tremendous emotional and mental unrest comes with taking responsibility for someone else’s unhealthy behaviour or words, no matter how powerful that person is or seems. Don’t believe them.

In my case, the person held all power at the place where I worked so it wasn’t a bad idea to pack my bags and leave. My mistake was taking the unnecessary baggage with me.

No wonder I can’t get Cat’s advice out of my head. Of course, there will be missteps–that is part of personal growth. But lessons needn’t take years to grasp, thanks to varied  resources such as UIO podcast.  So, if you haven’t listened to Your Wellbeing Matters yet, now is the time to check it out.

And whether you or someone you know is experiencing bullying, or even stumbling into a place where you are the bully, share the podcast for more advice on how to cope with bullying and keep life moving in a forward-facing direction.

When all is said and done, remember the words that serve you and the rest, don’t let it in.

Why It is Important to Study

When I was in school, granted that was a long time ago, I didn’t always think studying was about me, but rather about what someone else wanted me to do–the teachers and my parents mainly.

In hindsight, my thinking was flawed because studying is about seizing the moment and living your best life in the moment. In this snippet from Your Education Matters, expert counsellor Donna Morgan explains why studying is important, particularly for girls. Watch here. 

Of course, boys need to study, too, but the point made in the podcast focuses on historical facts–opportunities exist for girls now that simply did not exist, even a few generations ago, perhaps in informal education as well, as mentioned in our podcast, Your Voice Matters.

And though you don’t have to study for life lessons (you only have to heed them), studying or formal education really matters.  Check out the full podcast here.

 

Seize The Moment: It Matters

I still carry my first grade ‘Straight A’ report card around mentally.  Really, I do and over the years have come to understand the indelible mark it has made on me about the importance of education.

Even if I wasn’t career prepping at age six/seven, and let’s hope I wasn’t, I was learning a lifelong lesson about education—it matters on so many levels.

But it would be a long time before I understood that not only does it matter for the future, but it also matters right where you are.

Fair enough! I have no regular use for the trigonometry that knocked me off my ‘A’ perch, but trig taught me a thing or two about myself–the importance of perseverance, for example, and learning to become who I wanted to be and not who others wanted me to be.

I must say there was something about seizing the moment, too. Ok, so I am not going to get an ‘A’ out if this, I remember thinking, though not verbatim, but I can get an ‘A’ out of that and that would be English and writing and anything akin to them.

You get the point, which counsellor Donna Morgan, makes beautifully in UIO’S Your Education Matters podcast, out tomorrow. She emphasises that there are more opportunities for girls now than ever before. If Math is your thing, go for it!

Although it truly was not mine but who’s to know how much the lack of opportunity and support influenced my disinterest in the subject.

Anyhow, Your Education Matters is the second podcast to be released in the U Matter Series, and also looks at the importance of finding a healthy balance to studying and avoiding burnout.  In addition, the podcast offers tips for parents and guardians on how to offer necessary support during the school years.

Your education matters on so many levels, both formally and informally, and has a huge impact on emotional and mental wellbeing.  The podcast is out September 13. Listen here and wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.

How To Voice Your Opinion

Sometimes voicing your opinion can be downright tricky, especially when the situation is intense.  Our latest podcast, Your Voice Matters, offers great advice on how to get your point across.

Bestselling author Cai Graham says in a nutshell, it is about getting people to listen to you.  Check out this snippet from Your Voice Matters, offering succinct yet spot on advice on how to voice your opinion. 

Listen to the full podcast where ever you check out your favorite podcasts or subscribe to the show from this website.

 

Having Your Say In the Right Way

Not speaking up has a negative impact on your emotional and mental well-being—at least it does mine.  It’s a bit like carrying around dead weight, weight that pulls me down in the dumps but as soon as I have my say, I feel uplifted.

Let’s be clear about what having your say means and what it does not mean.  First, things first! It does not mean blowing off steam or telling someone off at the top of your voice or engaging in a futile argument with someone about politics, religion, or morality for that matter.

It’s more about saying and doing what is healthy and right for you. And how you say it matters too, according to bestselling author Cai Graham, guest on UIO’s podcast, Your Voice Matters.

In our chat the author of The Teen Toolbox and I agree that having your say is not always as easy as it sounds. It can be tricky when there is looming peer pressure, for example. That’s why it is important to understand the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence and use them both effectively to get your point across, particularly when it matters the most.

In a nutshell, self-esteem is about how you feel about yourself in a particular situation and self-confidence is believing in your ability to do something.

Makes a whole lot of sense to me, which takes me back to my first point. Often when I am feeling low about myself or a situation, upon review I will conclude that I didn’t have the confidence to have my say. Owning and understanding this gives me the confidence to put it right and it often gives me a segue to the right words.

For example, I might say, you know I was thinking about our recent conversation and, I prefer we agree to disagree about women’s rights, political beliefs, whatever it is that has caused the upset. I need you to respect my views but as and when this is not possible, let’s not talk about it. Otherwise, it is a strain on our friendship, whatever the relationship is, and because I value it, it is imperative that we avoid these explosive conversations.

Now that’s confidence.  No screaming, yelling and naming calling, just putting your point across, remembering that your voice matters.  The namesake podcast is out September 6. Listen here or wherever you listen to podcasts.