Is Your Child More Anxious and Worried Since the Election?

During the election season, many of our children experienced a tremendous amount of stress and worry about who would win the Presidency.  It became especially apparent to me the night of the election. My daughters had invited a bunch of friends over to watch the election results.  As it became more clear from the news that Donald Trump might win, my younger daughter and her friends, who are all about 14 years old, looked at me with tears in their eyes and asked, “Allison, are we going to die?”

I was certainly not happy that Donald Trump might become President, but I wondered why they were reacting so acutely to the news.  “Why do you think that?” I asked. One after the other, they gave me their reasons why.  One child said, “My mom said if Donald Trump wins we will all be doomed.” Another girl said, “My dad said Donald Trump is incompetent and can’t run this country.” My daughter said, “Mom, I heard you ask dad ‘Do you want Donald Trump’s finger on the button?” I realized at that moment that a key reason they were so upset was because of the conversations many of us were having in front of our children about Donald Trump becoming President.  Interestingly, some of my friends who voted for Donald Trump also admitted to having had very little filter when they were having conversations about Hilary Clinton in front of their children.

As I looked at the fearful faces of these young girls, all I could do was imagine how worried and anxiety-ridden I would be if I were a 14-year-old child hearing from my parents that the world was not safe if a particular person became President. With much less life experience, our children view these comments as Continue reading…

What’s Needed in these Uncertain Times? Maybe More Empathy…

hands in shape of love heart

In the fourth week of the Trump Administration, with the news changing so quickly every day, we are once again reminded that we need to stay grounded. I have been staying active in my community and riding most of the tumultuous waves by practicing the mindset of Maybe. But the deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who came to this country when she was a teenager and was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration officials during a routine check-in, shook me deeply. In addition to Maybe, I found myself needing another way to cope. I watched the live news coverage of Ms. Rayos sitting in a van with immigration officials waiting to be deported. Her two kids, husband, friends and immigrant-rights advocates tried to block the van from moving. As I sat on the couch with my two children by my side, watching the news, I could not stop crying. Immigrant-rights advocates have portrayed Ms. Rayos as a victim of President Trump’s sweeping new deportation orders. At the same time, her deportation has been viewed differently by others who have praised Trump’s immigration orders because Ms. Rayos had a felony conviction. That conviction stemmed from a 2008 work-site raid on employees at amusement parks, Ms. Rayos among them, who were working using false social security numbers.

The deportation of undocumented immigrants was not a policy originally created by the Trump administration. The Obama administration deported millions of undocumented immigrants over the last eight years. Donald Trump and his administration might be casting a wider net, deporting immigrants with no criminal records, but both administrations have supported the removal of people present in the United States illegally. In an effort to understand and process what’s been happening, I called a few friends who voted for Hilary Clinton and some who voted for Donald Trump about these immigration issues. The results have been interesting.

My friends who voted for Hilary Clinton were not totally aware that millions of people were deported during the Obama administration and all felt that Ms. Rayos should be allowed to stay in the country. My friends who voted for President Trump were under the impression that Obama did nothing to deport undocumented immigrants. Unanimously, my pro-Trump friends felt it was the Continue reading…

Why Are We Always Looking For Certainty In Our Lives?

Paper ball forming a lightbulb, white background

When sharing his secret to happiness, the great philosopher Jiddhu Krishnamurkti said, “Do you want to know what my secret is? I don’t mind what happens.”  I think many of us reading this quote can understand why this state of mind leads to freedom and happiness.  If we don’t mind what will happen next in our lives, we would have no reason to be stressed and worried today.  Although this sounds like a ticket to emotional freedom, most of us cannot help but care what happens next in our lives.  We care about keeping our jobs, having enough money, our children being healthy, and a slew of other crucial aspects of our lives. We want to make sure that the things we want to happen actually do happen and that is exactly where our need for certainty begins. We want to know what will happen next so we can rest in the moment knowing everything will be okay. Yet we can’t control everything and life is filled with twists and turns; sometimes our efforts to secure certainty leave us far from the life that we desire. And we mind.

Our “need to know” can become the foundation or priority for every choice that we make.  In fact, our search for certainty affects how we face life, approach work, maintain relationships and even how we parent.  At work we may lean towards a particular job with a “certain” future or pay grade or we may analyze a problem with a limited view of all possibilities.  We choose relationships that feel secure and engage in activities we know and with which we are comfortable.  We make choices for our children that seem like the most prudent paths to success. Sometimes these decisions work out great.  But often we are ignoring new opportunities, stifling creativity and true desires for the sake of certainty. And let’s not forget that nothing is certain, and even choices that seem prudent at the time can change when the unexpected wind blows our way.

If we can find the courage to face the unknown, we can “mind” our futures more gently. We can examine new ideas, go places we never expected to go, or develop a relationship with someone that is different from us.  We can let our children quit the soccer team if they want to spend more time with friends or pursue a new interest.  Mindfully releasing our need for certainty also creates more tolerance and patience as we give up our view or our path as the only way.  This in turn can open us up to the blossoming of a life filled with wonder and maybe even happiness.  It is amazing that the very thing we avoid can be the catalyst for creating the life that we really want.

So how can we start to release our need for certainty? Here are a few suggestions to start to change how you make the choices in your life in the face of the unknown.

1.   Let some Maybe into your life.  The idea of Maybe reminds us that life unfolds more than one way.  Just because we don’t know the answer or we are unfamiliar with a problem, it doesn’t mean that it won’t work out to our satisfaction.  Maybe what we are experiencing is good, Maybe it will get better, or Maybe we can find a new way to handle the situation and still be okay.  Maybe we can take a risk, Maybe we can just peek at some new possibilities and see how it feels.  Maybe is an invitation to view life differently.  It doesn’t demand it.  Instead Maybe is supportive and allows us to realize that the unknown has gifts and benefits. Sometimes this little word can become the platform for making new choices in life because it shows us uncertainty is filled with hope and dreams that have yet to manifest.

2.   I know people talk a lot about gratitude and it seems too simple and basic to tackle our relationship with the unknown.  However, the mindset of gratitude is a wonderful and strong platform to launch into something new in your life.  Sometimes we are so afraid of the unknown, we become fixed on what we don’t have, what never works and what can’t change.  When we start listing what we are grateful for, we start to see the things that have worked out.  Sometimes we recognize risks that we took that we didn’t realize or beautiful aspects of our lives that manifested and blossomed from a place we could have never imagined.  It gives us some support and hope that life can work out and we have good things in our lives supporting us on the journey.

3.   We also can increase our awareness in our decision making process.  Sometimes we can’t even get to a Maybe or a gratitude mindset because we don’t realize we are choosing certainty over another possibility in our lives.  A great way to create awareness is to review various choices you made throughout the day or week.  Ask yourself did I make this decision for certainty? Did I make this decision to feel more secure or to pursue my goals? Does this decision make me feel joyous or dreadful? Do I think it will lead to new opportunities and experiences? What if I wasn’t afraid of the unknown, would I have made this decision?  If you find you are making more “certainty” choices than ones that align with your true desires, MAYBE you can rethink your decisions using the steps above.

These are just a few ways we can start to reduce our need for certainty.  Be gentle with yourself and see if you can build some resilience to face the unknown road ahead.  The more expansive we can be, the more likely we will find new opportunities and possibilities because we are willing to shift our perspective to a larger playing field.  Over time, we begin to understand we can either try to avoid the unknown and play it safe or embrace what we don’t know and expand our lives beyond our imagination.

Maybe facing uncertainty is the beginning of a new life filled with more joy, less stress and new opportunities!

Originally published in Psychology Today


Finding A New Way To React To Problems

Miniature car carrying a red heart cushion

The other day my husband was pulling out of a parking spot and we got into a car accident. It was just a fender bender but enough to cause a significant amount of damage to our car. As my husband got out of the car and approached the other driver, I heard him angrily say, “You did not signal.” The guy answered back in an agitated tone, “I did signal. You didn’t see me.” As they went back and forth, I jumped out of the car and said to the fellow, “You didn’t signal.” He looked at me and I looked at him and we both smiled and almost simultaneously said “Thank goodness no one is hurt.” Then he quickly said, “Cars are easy to fix, people are harder to fix.” As my husband called the insurance company, we introduced ourselves (his name was Tony) and just starting chatting about life. After about thirty minutes, I had to leave because I had tickets for a show uptown. My husband and Tony stayed and waited for the police. By the time by husband met me later he knew Tony’s entire life story and Tony had asked my husband to have lunch some time.

When our car was appraised, the damage was more expensive then I had expected.  I have to deal with the insurance company, go to the police precinct to pick up the report and take my car to the shop to be fixed for two weeks.  So it is definitely creating an inconvenience in my life, but since my conversation with Tony I don’t mind that much.  I think about the moment when our eyes met and we both decided that we didn’t feel like being angry about it. There was a choice. And it’s not that having emotions are bad, it’s just that in this particular situation it was clear that we could both be angry and suffer, or accept the situation and make the best of it.

There are so many situations throughout our day that could cause us to feel angry or annoyed. For example, a kitchen appliance breaks just before a holiday dinner, we are late for an appointment because we are stuck in traffic or in the subway, our child will not go to bed on time, we have to wait on a really long line to fill a prescription or buy a cup of coffee or a friend cancels plans at the last minute; the list goes on and on.  In the big picture, none of these things seem like such a big deal, but each incident can derail our mood and sometimes can take us in a direction that snowballs for the rest of the day.

So how can we be more aware of our reactions to the minor collisions (pun intended) during the day? Here are a few tips.

1. The minute you feel agitation or annoyance, say to yourself “Maybe everything is still okay.”  It sounds so simple but it works.  It gives us just enough time to stop and get our bearings.  Because most often we get upset because we have lost our way. We forget the big picture and just how insignificant this one thing that is bothering us is.  We can then see we are suffering unnecessarily.

2. Breathe breathe breathe. Take 5 long breaths, in and out, slowly. You can never go wrong with this tactic; it takes the energy out of your mind and into your body. It will slow your thoughts down and allow you to see the situation more for what it is and so be less reactive.

3. Recently I took up the practice of transcendental meditation and I find that it really helps me calm my mind throughout the whole day. You could also use an object like keys or a bracelet, and focus on it, noticing all of its qualities, to bring your mind away from what is bothering you and allow some space within which to calm down.

4. Some people like to make a list of the things that are important to them and keep it with them, bringing it out and looking at it a few times a day. If a problem arises that does not fall on the list, they immediately gain some perspective on their emotions. It doesn’t mean a situation won’t bother you, but it can help align your reaction to the importance of the issue.  Sure, there are difficult situations that come up each day that will not be on the list, but if it’s really not what you consider “important,” then you will be less likely to waste energy on it.

These are just a few examples of how we can choose a different, more measured reaction to a situation. It is not always easy, but always worth a try. It is not about suppressing emotions, but instead examining them and giving yourself perspective while you are in the midst of an unexpected or challenging situation. For me, what transpired in that moment after the accident saved me from being unproductively angry and aggravated these past few weeks.  And that evening I was able to go uptown, enjoy the show and go out for dinner.

And who knows, MAYBE we will meet Tony for lunch some day. However, if we ever go together in a car, I will put Tony and my husband in the back seat and I will drive!