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Child Life Month: Surprise Feature via The Starlight Foundation!

18 Mar

In honor of “Child Life Month,” The Starlight Foundation, which supports Child Life Specialists as they develop holistic programing and positive coping modalities for children and families under stress during pediatric hospitalizations has chosen to feature and acknowledge respective therapists from across the country. Click here for my feature! Thank you so much Starlight Foundation NYC! … Your unwavering support of happy, healthy children is amazing!

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The Man / Woman in the Iron Mask

13 Feb

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In a world where things can be SO overwhelming and everyone wants a piece of you .. Make sure you take time for yourself … Self care is a beautiful and very necessary thing!

Sanity Breaks: Part 2

2 Dec

imageA while ago I created a post about the importance of taking what I affectionately call “Sanity Breaks.” I went on to talk about how magically delicious they were and how important it was to fit them into ones life. Like most people, I forgot to take my own advice. LOL : ]). As time went on, I got away from my healthy routine and fell into a super stressed, super anxious state. Everything was overwhelming … work, classes, my personal life. While I began not long ago to take steps to remedy these concerns, I also got the itch to “escape” … to just get away and disappear from the world with no distractions or responsibilities. Sometimes this is easier said than done. With the prompting of a close friend and a few coins I’d been saving up, I randomly booked a flight to the U.S Virgin Islands. I told a few family members and friends, then, just as suddenly, I left crazy Manhattan life and a sudden 20 degree cold weather snap behind.

As impromptu as this trip was, it was exactly what the faux doctor in my mind ordered. I went only for the weekend, but pulling the escape hatch on life was just what I needed. I went with no plans, expectations, to do list, morning alarms, or schedules. I just soaked up to some sun, ate delicious “home foods,” woke up according to my internal body clock, caught up with family from the island (St. Thomas), then on my last day, sat on the beach with my notebook and reflected. I was living a completely un-regimented life; the free-spirited hippie that lives inside me was overjoyed; she’d been stuffed away for a time. At the end of those four days, I felt amazing. It was in one of those moments of reflection that I had my lightbulb epiphany moment and realized, I had just taken the most epic “sanity break” ever! Not only did I get a change of scenery (and the chance to take the great photos included in this post), but I also got a chance to recoup, collect myself, and just recalibrate my mental / emotional state … It felt awesome. In the end, I rekindled my desire to start traveling while finding this long elusive sense of peace that’s been missing for quite a while now. This whole trip reminded me once again, how self-care and mental health check-ins are key to healthy living. The body can’t function on daily tasks if the mental core is frazzled. My take home lesson? Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs and if it’s calling for a break … Don’t wait for things to fall apart before you act.

In Support of National Denim Day …

24 Apr

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… Because there is NO excuse for rape

Oh God, It’s Monday Already??

10 Jun

The impending work-week pressure of “it’s Monday” can be SO overwhelming. What has helped me? Remembering to take it one goal, one task, one moment, one breath at a time. Then? Celebrating any achievement I made that day, no matter how small the victory, and especially on my rough days! Ultimately, realizing that some days might be a set-back is also key to not berating oneself over a seeming loss of emotional progress. We are human … with different biological makeups and different coping strategies. Yes! Some days you will want to scream, panic, pull at your hair, and run out the office door arms flailing towards the nearest cave to hide. In those few moments before you bolt, stop, take a breath, and find your center (what I call a calm mental space free stressors). Believe me, as scattered as your internal compass may feel, a core source of peace lies within you. With a little help / practice from a trained professional, you too can gain the tools to call upon it at will.

Sanity Breaks

8 Jan

Today’s weather was unseasonably warm. Light jacket, no scarf, no hat. Now, while it wasn’t warm enough for me to go frolicking in the streets of NYC wearing a bikini, the 57 degrees in January did feel pretty great! Before running a few errands and jumping  into my Saturday afternoon, I decided to take what I call my daily “sanity break.” Sanity Breaks are what I jokingly refer to as personal time. Let’s face it, life can be so overwhelming and stressful. With all of the academic, professional, personal, and familial responsibilities we juggle in our daily lives, it’s easy to forget a little self-care. In my opinion, these daily sanity breaks have been key to helping me maintain a healthy mind and body.

The term “psychosomatic” is a term used in psychology to refer to a cognitive theory which in short states: as the mind goes, so does the body. When the mind becomes frazzled and overly stressed, the body will begin to physically manifest these feelings as well. Headaches, body tension, jittery muscles, even stomach nausea can be the body’s way of saying you have reached your emotional limit. As a mild preventative, I’ve found that sanity breaks: allow time away, resulting in a clearer perspective on stressful situations, create space for the calming and re-centering of emotions, and provide opportunities to complete enjoyable tasks which always mean to get done, but are often postponed for things deemed “more important.” Coupled with brief meditations and deliberate deep breathing, sanity breaks have truly helped to keep me, well, SANE! .. LOL :]).

Generally, there is no one way to spend your personal / sanity break time. However, for it to work effectively, you must completely remove yourself (mentally and physically) from any and all stressors. That means no multitasking during lunch hours. No checking or replying to work emails. No wondering about that last item on your “to-do” list. No stressing about what bill to pay or what meal to fix your children for dinner. This self-imposed time-out is all about enjoying you. And no-nonsense about not having enough time to dance in a field of sunflowers for an entire afternoon. I took a quick 15 minutes to enjoy an overly complex Starbucks frappuccino (yes, I’m one of those!) while sitting on a park bench enjoying the breeze. It was glorious and in that little bit of time, I felt rejuvenated and ready to return to the real world to kick some butt! Don’t wait for a near breakdown or some vacation scheduled months out on a calendar to take some much needed selfish time. The relaxation you will feel afterward will be worth it : ])

When was your last “Sanity Break?” .. What sort of things do you enjoy ?

When Silence Becomes Dangerous: 10 Signs to Recognize Child Abuse

11 Dec

In recent weeks, the topic of child abuse and public scandal seem to have taken over the media. Stories are being repeated almost daily of children placed in the hands of trusted adults, only to later be victimized. Child Abuse. A crime associated with waves of internalized blame, shame, isolation, and anger. A dangerous, unhealthy game of silence often played by three key players: the victim, the perpetrator, and those on the outside who often suspect something is amiss.

The following are 10 signs to help recognize child abuse:

1) Unexplained injuries: Visible signs of physical abuse may include bruises or burns in the shape of objects. These injuries are often accompanied by unconvincing explanations.

2) Changes in behavior: An abused child may suddenly appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or overly aggressive.

3) Age-Inappropriate behaviors: An abused older child may begin bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, or develop a fear of the dark, especially after having once mastering these tasks.

4) Fear of Going Home: A child may express either a fear of going home or a fear of going places with the abuser.

5) Changes in Eating: The stress, fear, and anxiety of  being abuse can change eating behaviors and cause weight loss or gain.

6) Changes in Sleeping: Frequent nightmares or constant fatigue is often present.

7) Changes in School Performance / Attendance: Difficulty concentrating (performance) or excessive absences (attendance) may be due to adults attempting to hide injuries.

8 ) Lack of Personal Care or Hygiene: Abused children may appear unclean, uncared for, or wearing clothing unsuitable for the weather.

9) Risk-Taking Behaviors: Adolescents facing abuse may engage in risky behaviors such as taking illegal drug / alcohol or carrying a weapon for protection.

10) Inappropriate Sexual Behaviors: Children who are victims of sexual abuse my exhibit overly sexualized behaviors, language, and/or knowledge.

In all, while no one clue alone may indicate a child in experiencing abuse, multiple clues could be a cause for alarm. Some may be hesitant to report abuse due to a long-standing mistrust of the Child Welfare System. However, in my opinion, reporting child abuse is like the New York City MTA transportation slogan: “If you see something, say something.”  At worst, you report anonymously and are proven wrong. At Best? You potentially save a child’s life.

*Information gathered from Safe Horizon

“Things Fall Apart:” When a Tough Economy, Anxiety, & Medical Stressors Collide

7 Nov

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For many families, life during these hard economic times can be full of stressful triggers. Putting food on the table, paying the house note, keeping the lights on, getting gas into the car, maintaining your social/love relationships, looking for new work .. all of which can be anxiety provoking. While keeping this scenario in mind, imagine now adding the serious stressor of having a loved one admitted to the hospital or dealing with a new medical illness. It can be enough to literally make you want to pull your hair out! Sadly, this is the reality for many families around the country. If any of this sounds familiar, rest assured that there are resources to help.

1: Sound Mind: Within many hospital settings, there are often well-trained psychologists on staff who are ready and willing to help. They can provide a safe, non-judgmental outlet for you to vent, talk through your fears, address personal challenges, and brainstorm on coping strategies that best fit you. Best of all, these medical psychologists and counseling staff personnel are specially trained to work within the hospital setting to serve those who are affected by the pressures of health concerns. They can offer tools to not only decrease your heightened emotional state, but also ways to promote engaging ill loved ones in a positive way without experiencing what is known as “caregivers fatigue” (when a loved one caring for another becomes physically and emotionally drained).

2: Sound Body: Did you know that many hospitals are now offering spa services? YES! Unbeknownst to many patients and families, a growing number of hospitals around the country are offering holistic services such as: yoga, massage, acupuncture, meditation, dance, and music therapies to name a few. Even beauty enhancement services are becoming increasingly common to address the need of boosting emotional morale. While the primary focus remains treating the illness and ensuring true health, who doesn’t feel better after a nice massage or a few beauty regimes? It reminds families that they are still human and can have a big normalizing effect for everyone who participates.

3: Sound Life: Now that the mind and body have been cared for, what services are available for the other non-medical stressors? With the help of human services, social workers do more than simply help with discharge. They can: work with your doctor and insurance company to ensure care is financially covered as well as make community referrals to assist with securing key needs (such as housing, food, utility support, etc).

In the end, though things may seem bleak, help IS indeed available. Please, if things seem unbearable, reach out to a friend, loved one, doctor, etc … you don’t have to struggle through life’s rough spots alone.

Social Networking: Going to the Next Frontier

7 Nov

In the past ten years, the explosion various social networks have been remarkable. While used for many different reasons, social networking can also have a strong therapeutic value as well. Through monitored social networking and communication applications (such as FaceTime and Skype), those facing isolation due to prolonged hospitalization have the opportunity remain connected to friends and loved ones between visits.

This use of technology, can be especially helpful for children and adolescents. During this stage of development, youth typically are very close to their peers and thrive during socialization. Via this use of technology, children can have a safe vehicle to express fears, stay connected with ongoing life events at home/school, stay connected with siblings, or simply enjoy non-medical conversations with friends who understand them. Social Networking can not only provide much-needed opportunities for peer-to-peer interactions, but overall, it is a great and familiar way for young people to normalize their hospital experience and connect, gaining much-needed emotional support in the process. Ultimately, social networking can be a good choice for the entire family. As seen often times through my work, as children begin to better cope with hospitalization, so do adult caregivers and family members. Stress begins to wain and a return to increasingly positive interactions can resume.

“At the Corner of Nervous and Concerned”

7 Nov

We all know that hospitals can feel like a large overwhelming maze filled with various departments, tons of new faces, and unnerving sights or sounds. One way which adolescents and parents with young children can become familiar with and become more knowledgeable about the medical environment, is through hospital tours. This can be especially helpful for anxious children scheduled for surgery or any procedure requiring overnight stays / hospitalization for any length of time. Not only is everyone able to see the space beforehand, but families also have the opportunity to meet key pediatric staff and ask specific questions that might not have been discussed during the doctor’s visit. Tours are also a great way to learn about rules for your particular pediatric unit, including: security concerns, visiting hours, comfort items that can be brought from home, as well as who can stay overnight with the child.

To schedule a pediatric tour for your family, contact your hospital’s Child Life or Pediatric Department to express interest.