#44: How to stop worrying and start making decisions

April 29, 2020

I think my tendency to worry grew 100 fold when I became a parent. Deciding on a doctor, how and what to feed the baby, what to buy, understanding what is harmful and what isn’t. There are so many decisions to make as a parent and you want to make sure that your baby not only has the best of everything but that you don’t mess anything up. The internet doesn’t help. It provides an endless display of options from diapers, lotions, soaps, clothes, schools, shoes, etc….It is easy to get lost in the millions of opinions  and options available.

A few years ago, in the middle of parenting my 3 kids, I felt as though all I ever did was worry. I approached each decision with trepidation and fear and worried about making the wrong decisions all of the time. Even after I finally made a decision, the worrying just wouldn’t stop. I was trapped in a sea of thoughts going nowhere. One day I sat down to really thing about what good it did to worry anyway.

The first thing I realized is that worrying is exhausting and time consuming. It literally will eat up hours in your day and keep you up at night.  Some thoughts become repetitive and you can find yourself trying  to analyze the same situation in a million different ways. Sometimes too many options can literally paralyze you. You don’t even know where to start! In the end, I learned several lessons about worrying. 

  1. Worry doesn’t make anything happen. 
  2. Worrying is exhausting.
  3. Worrying disrupts my sleep.
  4. Worrying does not make problems disappear. 
  5. Worry is the synonym of inaction.
  6. Worry doesn’t make anything happen.

It is really only useful if it leads to action. Otherwise it is a waste of time. 

This time in quarantine, is making it even harder to make decisions and move forward. This unfortunately leaves too much room for worry. 

Here are some ways to decrease the amount of time that you spend worrying:

  1. When you are feeling worried, write down your thoughts and try to get to the core of your concerns. Just write everything that’s in your mind on a paper and try not to think too much as you write. Put the paper aside and read it a few minutes later. Seeing your thoughts on paper can sometimes help you to understand why you are actually worried. -What you write may surprise you!
  2. Try to focus on what you want as your end result and write a plan on how to get there.
  3. When a thought enters your mind reminding you to worry, acknowledge it as a thought and move on. Do not dwell on those thoughts/worries.
  4. If you are worried about something specific, try to learn as much as you can about the subject. Understanding something can help you make decisions.
  5. Find friends or people that can help you make objective decisions. Ask questions and listen with an open mind. Sometimes talking about something and listening to others opinions can help you feel that you are not alone.
  6. Limit how much news you listen to or watch. The news has a way of playing on repeat the same extreme circumstances over and over. The truth is that for every bad news broadcast, there is probably 10 times the amount of good news, it’s just rarely shared.
  7. Find the good news and read about it. 
  8. Reach out to a friend, even it is someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. This will not only help you, but it will help them too.

So instead of spending so many hours worrying,  try to focus on the present and make small decisions every day. The truth is that we are no more certain of tomorrow today than we were before this pandemic started. We just felt more confident. So as the next few days unfold, begin making decisions that will move you forward. Don’t let your mind stay stuck just worrying, it’s getting you nowhere.

Share this post with a friend.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

#29: Parenting teens

January 29, 2020
It was a regular well visit for a young girl. She was 14 and there was clearly some tension in the room between mother and daughter. It is nothing unusual. The teen years often come with a lot of eye-rolling and resistance as the battle for independence is in full gear. This young girl was a little over weight and had some acne on her face. The mother pointed out that she was concerned about her acne, her weight and said her hair was brittle and thin. We proceeded with the physical exam and then I was able to speak to the young girl alone. In the office, I have the opportunity to speak to both parents and teens separately which is always something I find insightful. Usually the parents and the child are worried about very different things. It is frustrating. It is normal.
If you have a teen, you have experienced the eye-rolls, the quick short answer responses to your questions and the seemingly aloof attitude. It is as if nothing that you say really means anything or matters. I suppose over time this frustration can lead to a sort of “giving up” on talking or giving advice. These feelings can leave a parent  worried about their teen and what he/she may not be telling them. Battles for even the silliest of things ensue and the distance grows larger.
The sad thing is that most teens feel alone as they navigate what can be a new and scary world. They are trying so hard to fit in and they are not sure of who they are and what they stand for. Some seem to cruise through the teen years without a bump and others struggle. It is a time of self-doubt and self-exploration. Who am I? Who are my real friends? What is life really about? Teens live in the now. The present consumes them and they think if a certain group of kids doesn’t like them or they are not cool their world is essentially over. Some become obsessed with how they look, their weight or their “persona” on social media.
Parents on the other hand are looking at the overall picture. They have experienced life and want so desperately to protect their teens from the evils in the world. It can become all-consuming. The internet has become a quick resource for teens and they have access to much more information (with videos and images) than most parents have ever had in their lifetime. It is hard to keep up. It is also hard for some parents to remember what it is really like to be a teen. They are so focused on their role as a parent that they do not really stop to put themselves in the place of their teen. This is exactly what was happening with my patient.
When I sat in the room with the young girl, the first thing she said to me was, “my mom hates me”. I paused. She continued and explained that her mother was always telling her that she needed to lose weight, that her skin looked horrible and that her hair looked awful and thin. She told me that her mother was always yelling at her and proceeded to cry.
In the next room the mother was waiting. When I went into the room she started to cry. She explained that she was a single mom and was trying her best to work and provide for her family. She felt alone and worried and didn’t know what to do. She went on to tell me that she was worried about her daughter who was often crying and refusing to leave her room.
This scenario is not uncommon. This the perfect time to bring up the possibility of therapy. Explaining to a family that sometimes what we really need is a neutral person to talk to. Someone that will not judge you and will provide a safe place to speak your mind. I try to explain to teens that there is nothing wrong with them if they see a therapist. There are times in life when we can all use a person to really talk to without the worry of being judged or yelled at. It is also a wonderful time to learn about coping skills and how to find productive and useful ways to manage stress and difficult situations. Often these therapy sessions can also involve the parents when the teen is ready and can prove very useful in helping communication. The earlier intervention begins the better. Studies show that the earlier we provide help the better the outcome.
Do not be afraid to ask for help and do not let your teens lack of attention to your advice stop you from giving it. This is when they need it the most. Even though it seems that they are not listening, they are. Be careful of the words you use and remind your teen that the best way to get through the teen years is to stay true to themselves. Encourage them to find friends that are like them (even if it is only one) and to focus their energy on what makes them truly happy and feels genuine to them.
However, more often than not the best approach is just listening. When you feel like you just can’t find the right words to say, say nothing. When you are considering giving advice but feel that the moment just is not right, say nothing. Many times in life what we all need is just to know that someone really cares. Be that one person for your child.
Have a wonderful week!
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D. 
 

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#26: Living with intention

January 8, 2020
The end of a year always brings with it mixed emotions. It often makes you pause and reflect on the year that passed. It is interesting how certain moments or specific events seem to stand out. I’ve always wondered why some things are given more meaning in my mind than others. I can experience something with someone and they may focus on completely different emotions and remember entirely  different things. So the reality is that a moment in time and the memories of the year that passed are created by the thoughts in our minds. It plays like a movie in your mind, but who is the director of that movie? Are you living your life or are you just going through the motions?
Sometimes, the thoughts are there and we barely take notice, and other times the ideas are all consuming. One thing I know for certain is that once you become a parent, the thoughts and ideas you play over and over in your head are almost replaced or overpowered by thoughts of your children.
This coming  year, I challenge you to pause and try to live your life with intention.
1. Identify the moments in 2019 that made you happy.
2. Focus on the people that loved you and were there for  you and seem to always be.
3. Think about what brings you a feeling of fulfillment and consider spending some time on whatever that may be.
4. Glance at your screen time (that your phone just loves to remind you of) and think of that the next time you say you don’t have time to do something.
5. Find 3 things you want to work on in the coming year and make a commitment to yourself to honor those promises you make to yourself.
Parenting can be overwhelming and all-consuming. It’s easy to get lost in the world of diaper changes, sick kids, feeding kids the perfect foods, school, homework, projects, setting up playdates and sleepless nights. I am encouraging you to dedicate 5 min, 10 min, 30 min, an hour every day…whatever you can to spend time nurturing YOU.
Your baby and your kids will benefit much more from a happy parent than a perfect one, so do things that make you happy and try to take life a little less seriously in 2020.
Try to repeat more of the moments that made you happy in 2019. Appreciate the people that love you and care for you (send a simple text – it’s better than nothing). Find things that bring you a sense of fulfillment outside of parenting and make the time to do this several times a week. You always show up when your kids need you.  Start showing up for yourself and begin living your life with intention.
Happy New Year!
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.
 

#25: Parenting Lessons Learned this year

December 27, 2019
It’s natural to end a year thinking of what the next year will bring and looking back at what the last year brought with it. It seems most of us look back as a critic. It is almost automatic that we look back and analyze how we maybe failed at a goal or did not show up the way we would have liked. This year, I am going to challenge you to look back with a different perspective.
Try looking back at this year with a loving heart. What were your intentions? Maybe someone misunderstood your actions and in return you felt as though you failed. The first lesson I learned this year was the importance of communication in relationships. More importantly practicing the art of listening instead of talking. The truth is our family and our friends and those we truly care about all just want to be understood. It goes much further when you actively listen to those you care about instead of jumping to give advice or solve their problems. This one I will continue to work on in 2020.
The second lesson I learned was to show up. Show up when someone needs you or invites you to a special occasion. These moments and these shared experiences are really what life is about. In fact, if I had to guess these will be the times you will truly remember in the future. (Not that you cleaned up your kitchen or made your bed). Forget the perfect house and just show up.
The next lesson is to take the time to take care of yourself. I know as a parent, it’s easy to put yourself to the side in order to take care of your kids. There have been many times that I would run myself ragged trying to be there and do everything for my kids and nothing for myself. It turns out that doing this only hurts your relationship with your family instead of helping. Those simple thirty minutes a day that you spend exercising, talking a walk, meditating or journaling (or whatever will bring you peace and closer to your goals) will make you a happier person and as a result a better partner and parent. Making this a priority and actually doing what you say you are going to do for yourself (instead of making excuses) is true self love.
The last lesson I learned and will continue to try my best to practice is to remember that my children are individuals with their own hopes and dreams. Each is unique and talented in different ways and has so much to offer the world. My job as a parent is to help guide them on their journey to adulthood while always celebrating their individuality and accepting their way of viewing the world. It is the hardest part of parenting. We want so much to protect our kids from disappointment and we worry about probably every single thing that could possibly go wrong on a daily basis, but the truth is that life is not just about the triumphs and the successes. It is through failure and disappointment that we truly grow. So the next time your child fails or feels like their world is falling apart,  take a step back and keep your super cape away and just listen. Allow them to feel sad, disappointed or let down. Hold them and hug them and tell them that this too will pass but that its okay to feel sad, disappointed or let down. What is not okay is letting the fear of failure stop them from taking a chance again whether it’s on another opportunity or another person.
I look forward to the new year and I hope that I can take these lessons with me. I hope  that you will continue to join me on this parenting journey in 2020.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

#24: Like vs Love – There is a difference!

November 12, 2019
Those eyes! Its hard not to look into the eyes of a baby and immediately feel the intense love that comes from knowing that you had a big part in making this little person that is now completely dependent on you. It can feel overwhelming. You want to get everything right and that means no mistakes allowed. You read every book you can get your hands on and you prepare for the most important job of your life.
You look around at other parents and find yourself saying things like, “I would never do that!”, “I would never let my child do that!”, “Wow, how can parents be so mean?”, you get the idea. In your mind you think that if you love your baby that everything will just fall into place. If you find yourself thinking these thoughts, I urge you to pause. You do not know the story of that parent or that child and the complexities of a parent-child relationship. What you witness may be a five minute snippet of a deeper issue or situation, so do not judge.
Each parent is living their own unique life with individual circumstances that we may know nothing about. Focus on your relationship with your child instead and try to remember to keep an open mind. Life has a way of making you see things in a different light and perhaps even changing your mind. If you have two or ten children, each one of them will be “an original” and you will be a different mom for each of them.  You too will change as a person and grow as you parent each of your kids. Somehow the things that seemed so important with your first child seem almost insignificant with your third. The idea is to parent and embrace change. The only thing guaranteed in life is change. We have to accept change and use it as a tool to help us create new circumstances and opportunities.
In fact, as a parent, you will be challenged time and time again as your child makes his or her “mistakes” and comes to you for guidance. Some of their “mistakes” may even directly affect you. This is where the difference between like and love comes into play, so always choose your words wisely.
You can love someone unconditionally but not like what they did. You can love someone unconditionally and not like what they said. This is one of life’s lessons that can teach your child the importance of respecting others and their opinions even if you disagree.
So the next time your child does something that you disapprove of, whether they are three or sixteen,  remind them that you love them, but you didn’t like what they did. This will open up a conversation between the two of you that will help build a relationship based on love and mutual respect instead of leaving you both feeling judged or misunderstood. Communication is the key to a healthy and loving relationship. Chances are you will be the first relationship your child has, and teaching the difference between love and like is one of the most important.
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D., F.A.A.P