#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.

#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.
 

#23: A healthy mind is the key to a healthy child.

October 22, 2019
It’s no secret that anxiety increases as we get older. Why is that? Why do we spend so much time dealing with anxiety and why is it so common?
If you look at a newborn or even a toddler you realize that their happiness comes from their needs being met. They are simple. If you feed them when they are hungry, respond to them when they cry, change them when they are dirty and help them to go to sleep when they are tired, they are for the most part “happy”. It is really that simple. Yet, millions of dollars are spent marketing to parents things to make their lives easier or more colorful. Marketing preys on the insecurities of the new parent as they stroll through the millions of options there are for car seats, high chairs, blankets, bottles, pacifiers, etc etc. The list is endless. Babies though, are happy with the simple. They don’t care what they are wearing or what stroller they are riding in. They really don’t. Yet parents spend a small fortune to keep up with what society has decided is cool or en-vogue. It’s fine I guess, if you can afford it and want to, but it is completely unnecessary.
Then come the childhood years when kids start going to school and begin comparing themselves to others. All of a sudden they become aware of the difference in each others appearances, homes, cars, clothes, etc. They begin to compare themselves academically, socially, and physically to their peers. It is during this time that the incidence of behavioral problems increases significantly. The reason for this could be because of these comparisons. All of a sudden, the child with the learning disability thinks they are stupid, or the child that acts silly realizes that this makes kids laugh so he/she does it more, or perhaps they feel like kids are excluding them in play groups or parties and they wonder if their is something wrong with them.
This is the window of opportunity that parents are given. This is when the window is open and all you need to do is reach in. If you think it is more than you can handle, seek help. Set up a meeting with the teacher, the principal, and gather information about your child and what they are observing in the school setting. Everything is important. Is your child going to the nurse everyday? Is your child giving you a hard time when you drop them off at school? Is your child struggling to read or having difficulty with math? Everything is important. Do not dismiss it or think that it is a phase or that your child just needs to mature. Your child’s social-emotional well being is developing during this time and just like you spend so much time worrying about what your child is eating and ways to ensure their bodies are healthy, we also need to pay attention to the health of their minds.
One of the best ways to do this is by encouraging kids to feel what they feel. Do not dismiss their feelings by saying things like, “you’re fine”, “you’re too sensitive”, “forget about it”, “get over it”, “stop crying”, etc. Instead, let your child feel what they feel. Hold them when they feel sad, explain to them that it is okay to be angry sometimes or to feel overwhelmed. There will most definitely be times in their lives when they are disappointed, upset or angry. Give them permission to feel those feelings in their entirety in their own way. Allowing a feeling helps lessen the intensity of that feeling. The opposite is also true. If you dismiss a feeling or tell them they are over-reacting, that feeling is still there, inside them, with no where to go. It needs a way out, so it presents itself with outbursts, sleep disturbances, physical symptoms,  behavioral problems, tantrums, or anxiety.
Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders affecting society today. Many adults are dealing with this on a day to day basis. Some turn to drugs, smoking or alcohol to help alleviate their feelings of anxiety. Others take it out on those they love or closest to them (even their children). It’s the worst feeling ever when you lash out at someone you love or yell at your kids. This cycle of anxiety and anger is all too familiar in our society and one that needs our attention.
What if you actually admitted to your kids that you were having a bad day and really needed their help. What if you came home from work and told your kids that something at work upset you and that you wanted to go for a walk to clear your mind or talk to a friend. Modeling coping mechanisms that are constructive instead of destructive not only will help you but it will help your child understand that a) You are not perfect b) you have days that are tough and that its okay to feel upset c) How to support those that you love when they need you (empathy).
Encouraging communication with your children by sharing a story of something that has happened to you, is a great way to start a conversation. In fact, you may be surprised how much you will benefit from the talks with your kids as well. You will remember perhaps your childhood with its ups and downs and this will help you identify with your children even more. Kids love to hear stories about their parents! The realization that you too struggled with life’s issues is comforting to your child or teen. They probably never stopped to think about you that way. They are so worried about how life is affecting them that when we shift their thinking to something they can relate to, all of a sudden, their perspective changes.
This brings me to my last point. Most people spend 99% of their day worried about themselves and their immediate world around them. Perhaps they are thinking about work, home responsibilities, their health, their friends, their family, etc. Yes, the general population is trapped in their minds replaying the same thoughts day after day. Sometimes these thought are destructive and are filled with feelings of inadequacy. This is the foundation of anxiety, our thoughts. It is our responsibility to change our way of thinking and what we focus on. If you really stop to look around, you realize that most of what you worry about never even happens. What a waste! All that worry, all those sleepless nights and all that anxiety, for nothing!
What if, instead of just allowing our thoughts to control us, we actually actively thought about positive things throughout our day. What if we tried to see the good in people instead of complaining about the bad? We all have the power to do this. This is the secret to decreasing anxiety in your life. Teach your kids the power of gratitude, the magnitude of their thoughts and the gift of appreciation and empathy. A healthy mind is the key to a healthy child.
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D., F.A.A.P
 

#22: When your child is different..

October 8, 2019
It’s probably safe to say that at some point in your life you have done something to fit in. Perhaps it was a hair style, the clothing you wore, the way you spoke,…you know what I mean. It seems that this becomes especially obvious in the teenage years. The tall kids want to be shorter, the short kids want to be taller, the kids with curly hair want straight hair and those with straight hair want wavy hair. The race to average is on. Maybe your child is struggling with their weight or maybe they don’t like the music their peers are listening to, but they do it anyway, all in the name of being accepted and flying under the radar.
Sounds like a safe place to be, until the realization hits that happiness is not found in the pretending to be something your not or acting as if you like something that you don’t. In fact, trying to be someone that you aren’t will probably put you in uncomfortable situations and draw you to people that you have nothing in common with. You can feel it. When you are around people that love you and you feel comfortable, its an awesome feeling. You feel relaxed and probably laugh and are not worried that what you say will be misinterpreted or used against you. It’s the best feeling ever.
This is why it’s so hard when your child doesn’t fit into the mold that society says is normal or is born with a disability that makes him or her stand out. You feel stuck and unsure about how to parent your child.
Yet, history shows that some of the most creative geniuses and creative people that we admire, went through a phase where they too felt like an outcast or were rejected by their peers. So, today I want you to focus on the differences in your child and look at them as strengths.
Hone in on those differences and nurture them. Encourage your child to follow their hearts and pursue their passions, even if the world isn’t ready for them yet. Creating a love of learning or creating will take them much further in life that riding in the middle of the pack.
We are all born with our own unique potentials, it is up to us to find what they are. Celebrate what makes you different, don’t hide it,  and find your true self (and true friends as well).
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D. , F.A.A.P

#20: Are you parenting in the GRAY zone?-maybe you should be…

September 24, 2019
Have you ever stopped to think about what you believe? I mean have you really stopped to think about it? Perhaps you believe something because your parents believed it too and taught you. Maybe you had a life experience that changed your view of the world. The truth is you are who you are because of what you believe, or have chosen to believe.
Did you know that there are approximately 7.9 Billion people in the world? Pretty amazing huh? What are the chances that each of those 7.9 Billion people believe the same things and live thier lives with the same values? ZERO.. Yes, that’s right zero.
I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t believe certain things or live your life according to what you believe, but I do want you to challenge yourself to opening up your mind to the fact that others can have different beliefs and its okay. In fact, it better than just okay, it’s what makes the world and relationships so interesting! Most wars, arguments and disagreements begin with just two people or two  groups of people having different beliefs.
It’s funny because one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in the years I have practiced Pediatrics is how similiar we actully are. Sure we may have different traditions or ideas, and of course we look different, but we all fundamentally want very similar things. I witness this every day when families from very different backgrounds come in asking the same questions and expressing the same concerns.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this with respect to the rise in violence and intolerance in the world today, the world your children are growing up in. It’s hard to watch the news without witnessing how extreme behaviors are influencing our youth. We need to do better. There is room in the world for all kinds of beliefs and ideas and we need to help our children understand this and live it!
As kids grow up they start to look for groups that they fit into. They may try out different friend groups only to find that they really do not fit in entitely into any. It can be tough as a teen to navigate these tight friendship circles! Sometimes kids start acting like their peers just to fit in and sometimes they make stupid decisions just to be accepted! These circles are often the beginning of hurt feelings, bullying and sometimes even violence.
Encouarge your kids to be open-minded when seeking out friends. We sometimes make so many assumptions about someone from the way they look or act that we don’t really give them a chance. (Adults do this ALL the time). It’s easy to talk to people that think like you and act like you. It’s a lot more challenging to try to meet people from different backgrounds, who may disagree with you, but really you are truly missing out! Staying in this black and white mind-frame is so limiting! Instead, try to encourage your kids to talk to different kids in school or at their after school actitivities.
Of course there is a chance that they don’t really want to hang out with that person  after school or invite them to their house, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t sit and have lunch together and enjoy each others company! Or, the exact opposite may occur and this could be the beginning of a real friendship. It doesn’t have to be black and white! Make your circle bigger and your joy in life will grow with it!
This is real life! Kids will grow up to be adults and will find themselves in the workplace surrounded by people from many walks of life. The earlier they learn about tolerance and living in the GRAY, the more well-rounded and happier they will be. Life is not a competition. Everyone has their own journey and ours can become a lot more colorful if we open up our minds to the GRAY zone.
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D., F.A.A.P
 

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