By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
When you hear the word “affirmation”, how do you react? This is just between you and me here, be honest.
Did your eyes roll into the depths of your skull? Or, did it make you throw up in your mouth a little bit?
I hear you. Been there, done that. And, even now, I still feel that way at times, depending on the affirmation or the person discussing the topic. I would like to take you on my journey from complete skeptic to all-in believer. This shift happened once I cleared up the misunderstood perceptions on how affirmations work and looked at the facts.
Affirmations have been a topic of psychology for decades and have more recently entered the realm of personal growth and development. This shift from science-driven and concrete to creative and abstract has made how affirmations work cloudy and confusing.
The difference between humans and animals, even the smartest, is that humans have a larger brain to body ratio, with the biggest area being in the cerebrum. This area is where our higher brain functions such as thinking, perceiving, and understanding happens. Our brains are constantly taking in information, both internally and externally. It would be very inefficient if we had to react to each of these stimuli; therefore, the brain has developed different strategies to deal with these. A few examples of these strategies are reflexes and habits.
Even though we are not consciously recognizing all this information, our brains are registering it and storing it away. This is where we get the concepts of the conscious brain, what we are actively dealing with, and the subconscious brain, what we are inactively taking in and storing away. The amount of information we take in passively into the subconscious brain is much higher than what we are actively dealing with. The subconscious stores this information to process later.
A downfall to the subconscious is that it does not differentiate if the information we are taking in is positive or negative; it just stores is away. Therefore, unchecked negative influences from our environment can become ingrained habits that manifest in our day-to-day lives. The subconscious can create powerful habits and automatic responses that are triggered and acted out without you even realizing it.
This is where affirmations enter. Affirmations are a way to retrain your brain from these negative, unserving thoughts to positive, self-serving thoughts, to see possibilities instead of limitations. They can be used in multiple ways from supporting goals to overall well-being. A common misconception, however, with affirmations and many of the popular quotes is that all you need to do is affirm and believe it to achieve it.
Ever hear the popular quote, “what you think about, you bring about”? This sends a mixed message; it is literally true and untrue at the same time. What you think about, leads to your belief in yourself and attitude. Where this quote falters is that action is also needed. Many people have the belief that by thinking positive thoughts and affirmations, all your goals will magically appear. The truth is that you will have a more positive, uplifting, growth mindset but you still need to take action for the affirmations to actually become reality.
Phew...that was a lot. Here’s the quick and dirty:
Still not convinced? Here’s the thing, and this might sting. That negative thought, right there, is not helping you. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten” from Henry Ford. Negative self-talk typically results in negative attitude while positive self-talk typically results in positive attitude. In either situation, you still need to act to bring about any results. Taking results out of it, I would rather have a positive attitude and outlook on life, seeing possibility and opportunity rather than limitations and failure. If positive affirmations are one tool I can use to retrain my brain to positivity, it’s worth a shot.
I’ll let you in on a secret. Are you ready? No one will know that you are doing them unless you tell them, or until your attitude changes in such a way that they ask. Still hate the word affirmation? We have a solution to that; we are changing affirmation to compli-”self”-ments; check out our post on our SoulShine Life Connections Facebook page or on Instagram (@soulshinelifeconnections) on September 1 for the details. Shine on, friends!
The following tips on how to create powerful affirmations was taken from the post dated 4/25/2017 called “To Affirm or Not Affirm?” by Leena S. Guptha, DO, from psychologytoday.com:
By Jackie White
As the school year approaches, parents feel melancholy about beginning another school year. It means their children are growing up fast and the sands of time cannot be stopped. As a parent of almost-grown children, I can’t help but to look back on those memories and how fast we have moved through the years. We all experience similar feelings as we move through the stages of parenthood. It’s not uncommon for Back to School time to stir them up. One thing that I am happy to have done over the years is preserve the memories. Following this blog you will find several ways you can creatively keep your children’s school memories.
A song that captures some of those feelings is the song “Forever Now” by Michael Buble. Tissue Alert! The song eloquently captures the emotion and love we have for our babies as they grow.
Remember the first time you saw their face? It seems like it was just yesterday. That little face that you will love unconditionally and from a depth you never even knew existed. You knew then that you would do whatever was needed to always keep them safe from harm.
Your babies grow and move onto to school. The first day of Kindergarten just about wretches your heart from your chest. Your baby is now a “big” girl or boy. You fight back the tears and cheer them onto all the great things Kindergarten will bring.
What’s so fantastic is that your child sees life through the eyes of possibility. It’s almost as if the world if full of magic! Their enthusiasm for life is breathtaking and can even influence you to be silly and goofy sometimes. These children come at a time when most of us have become so cynical, that we need them to teach us how to remember to love the wonder of life.
As the “big” girls and boys get older in their elementary school years. They can be exposed to the pain the world can bring on. Bullies and Mean Girls are rearing their ugly heads. You just want to rip their ugly heads off for hurting your child, but you’re the role model and you must handle things in an adult manner. You can’t stand to see your child feeling sad or left out.
Once your child hits middle school, they are very aware of any public display of hand holding or hugging their parents or having any motherly sentiments overheard by their friends. You know it’s normal, but still feel the sting of losing your little baby in yet another way. You now notice that the swing set in the backyard has been abandoned and the swing moves only because it is blowing in the breeze. Even the swing set is lonely.
The middle years are awkward. Your child may be your baby one day and the next they may feel they no longer need you. They may look like a fresh chubby bunny one year and the next they seemingly have grown a foot! It’s normal and you need to start accepting that your child is becoming their own person.
High School brings a whole other level of parenting. Now, your angelic child may be getting into things they shouldn’t be. You can’t believe it, but then we remember when we were once teens too. They are trying on new roles and fashions. Sometimes, cringy roles and fashions, but you are hoping the phase of caked on makeup and baggy pants moves on as quickly as it showed up. The fact is they are learning to find who they are in life. And through it all, you see those bright little eyes you met no so many years before.
High School flies by quickly as you look back on it, but when you’re in it, it feels like the longest mile you’ve ever run. You pray your child will make the right choices and keep it together to graduate successfully. You hope they have survived the high school drama and social media bombardment. You prepare yourself for the next stop, your child’s adulthood. You might feel sad but are excited for the kids to see what’s on the next page of life
No matter what season of life you are in with your children or even if they have left the nest, Back to School time conjures up the catalog of memories and emotions. If you do still have children at home, it’s never too late to document these years. You won’t regret having the memories to look back on. Here are some ideas on how to preserve the memories.
Preserving your Child’s School Memories Forever Now
Pics and Videos:
Take a picture every first day and last day of school in the same location (preferably) For the first day, have child hold a sign with grade and year on it.
Video child on first and last day of school. You can ask them their name, age and grade. Also ask them what they are excited about for the coming year and any challenges they see.
Do a photo shoot of your child wearing a t-shirt with year they will graduate. The size of the t-shirt should be the size of the child when they graduate. The pictures will then show how much they have grown.
Interview your child every year. Do this both in written form and on video. Ask them to tell you about themselves. What their favorite subjects are, who their friends are, what they like to do, any sports or hobbies, the best book they have read, what do they want to be when they grow up etc.
Have a special tradition to mark the first day and last days. Examples: Pancakes on the first day of school and ice cream after the last day of school.
Put happy notes in their lunch.
Celebrate National Doughnut day and stop for doughnuts before school.
Keep a Journal:
You keep a journal of your child’s milestones, but also everyday things and funny things said. You don’t have to write a lot but capture a snippet of each day.
Save report cards, notes from teachers, awards, meaningful paperwork/schoolwork and artwork your child has made. Be choosy on what you are keeping because you can get overwhelmed with paper very easily.
Each year, secretly, have each teacher sign the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” at the end of the year. Save this for a surprise graduation gift for your child.
Compile thoughts teachers, coaches, scout leaders etc by sending them a form to complete. Make a book out of the thoughts and advice for your graduate
By Erika Fehernbach Prell
With summer winding down and back-to-school time upon us, it seemed perfect timing to feature a school expert living her purpose in this month’s Life Stories Series. Kim Cummings is Erika’s cousin-in-law and school counselor at the Wisconsin Dells High School. Kim is an amazing mom of two boys, wife, and friend. Their family also includes a dog, a cat, and a fish. Kim loves to read, hike, hang out with family, watch the Packers, watch her kids play sports, and bake. Besides her fierce love of family and adventurous spirit, Erika’s favorite traits that Kim possesses are her loyalty and empathetic soul topped with the right amount of sassiness and directness; Erika thinks these qualities serve her well in her chosen profession as a school counselor.
The Path to Becoming A School Counselor
Like many incoming college freshman Kim had no idea what she wanted to do for a career, which, per Kim, is pretty common with the most common major in colleges around the country being "Undecided". During her freshman and sophomore years of college, she explored a variety of classes and found that she really enjoyed psychology and sociology classes. She decided to major in psychology and minor in sociology. It wasn't until her senior year in college that Kim decided she wanted to be a counselor.
Kim says that her professors at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse encouraged her to get her master's degree and to pursue a career that worked with people. Several of them wrote her letters of recommendation for her master's degree program; two of them just wrote one for her without her even asking them for one. Kim feels that if it wasn't for them believing in her, she doesn’t know if she would have furthered her education.
Initially, she applied to a master's degree program with the thought of being a counselor in a domestic abuse shelter after volunteering at one during college. At the time Kim really wanted to work with the kids who were in those situations. Early on in her master's degree program, she switched to school counseling as it just felt like the right fit for her. Kim believes that making a difference in the life of a child is more valuable than anything else, and she gets to make this impact in the lives of her students.
She received a Master of Education/School Counseling---MSE at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It was a 2 year program during which she was able to intern at Fond du Lac High School, Omro High School, South Elementary in Baraboo, and Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo.
Living a Purposeful Life Through Your Career
Kim believes she was meant to be a school counselor as she enjoys working with kids and being able to be their safe spot. Kim reports she honestly realized being a school counselor was her life’s purpose when she started working at the high school level. She feels like she really makes a difference when working with this age group. Whether she is helping them apply to college, research careers, or letting them vent in her office, Kim feels like she is making a difference. Everyone needs a safe spot or person, and she can be that for her students.
All careers have less enjoyable pieces even when you are following your purpose. When Kim is working with students, she says it doesn't feel like work at all. This is the most enjoyable part of her job. However, she is charged with a lot of non-counseling duties and that definitely feels like work. One of the main challenges in Kim’s job is not bringing the job home. She hears a lot of things that make her heart so sad or even mad. For her own mental health, she can't bring that home with her or take it on as her problems, which is hard. Kim is very thankful for a great co-worker that lets her debrief with her. Since she is also a counselor, confidentiality is not broken.
Kim’s job lends itself to having a family. She usually has off when her kids are off of school. She is able to seek out professional opportunities during the summer and the school year to further develop her skills, and her husband is really good about helping with kid duties during that time so that she can get this development. Eventually, Kim would like to move to the college level and be more of an academic adviser and admissions counselor. Kim honestly believes that she was meant to be 3 things: a mom, a wife, and a counselor.
Kim’s Tips for High School Students
For all grades, Kim likes to stress to her students that someone else's opinion of you is none of your business.
To pursue your life’s purpose, Kim encourages everyone to follow their heart, and it will all fall into place. Kim’s favorite quote is, “Be kind to everyone. You never know the battles they are fighting”. This helps her to empathize with everyone.
By Jackie White
They say life goes fast especially when raising children. They say don’t blink or they will be grown right in front of your eyes. I am the most recent statistic of this phenomenon. There’s no way to prevent it from happening, there’s no way to slow it down and the fact is you do want your kids to grow up and be responsible contributing adults...just not right now.
My oldest child is entering her final year of high school. She has one foot in her childhood and the other ready to leap into adulthood. This is it. The final walk through life with this girl under my wing. My final chance of fashioning the perfect family upbringing and providing the best childhood possible for my baby girl.
It seems like it was just yesterday that I brought home that beautiful redheaded round baby girl. Oh yes, and she was beautiful. Some babies come out looking like Uncle Fester, but not this pretty, little girl. She was curious and nosy (not much has changed). She liked to sleep, at all the wrong times (not much has changed). She used to babble her head off about all things important (not much has changed).
It’s funny because the truth is so much has changed. She’s a beautiful young woman now, who has dealt with the positive and negative that happens in life. Her challenges like fair weather friends, mean girls and teenage stuff have torn her down, but ultimately built her up. Today she is standing tall in her shoes, maybe not quite ready to face the world on her own but standing on the edge and preparing for flight.
I’ve known this time would come for approximately 17 years. 17 seasons. 17 summers. I’ve been dreading it. This month she turns 17 and that begins the last chapter of our time together as we have always known it.
I tried to make the most out of the time we’ve had together. I tried to be mindful of the ticking clock. Sometimes being mindful was difficult, like back in the sleep deprivation years! I admit, I did walk around looking like deer in the headlights for many years, but I still tried to do all the super mommy things like doing crafts, playgroups, reading lots of books, swim lessons, ballet, kissing boo-boos and putting all artwork on the fridge.
I remember looking at her little fingers and toes and thinking to myself, don’t forget this! Don’t forget she slept with favorite books in her crib. Remember how cute she was in her little dresses and patent leather shoes and that she was almost irresistible in the morning in her jammies and bedhead. As she grew, I held tight to the memories of her singing and dancing and playing for hours with her paper dolls, which we were people she cut out of a magazine. The years of taking her door to door to sell Girl Scout Cookies, now are fond memories. At the time, drudging a wagon through the snow to sell cookies seemed like a pain and it was, but now I long for that time again. And I knew I would.
It reminds me of so many years ago when my husband was walking across the living room floor and he was almost taken down by stepping on a Barbie shoe. He cursed that shoe, but I said to him that one day there won’t be a Barbie shoe to step on and we both winced at the thought of that. There are so many of those times when we would try to stop in the moment and hold on to the time. We didn’t need Jim Croce to tell us that we can’t save time in a bottle, but I can tell you that if there was a way to do it, I would have figured that out!
The memories swirl in my head. As the years passed, I’ve tried to burn those memories into my mind and of what my mind could not retain, I scrapbooked more than 50 scrapbooks of memories, so I would never forget this precious time in life. Ok, so maybe that’s a little overboard, but we all want enough memories to sustain us through the rest of our lives – right?! I hope 50 books of it will suffice! Even back then when I had years to worry about this time that is in front of me, I remember feeling a bit anxious of the passing of time. If I was anxious then, I am now a certified basket case with the sands of time slipping through my fingers!
The girl is becoming an adult. I should be proud that I was given the opportunity to raise such a caring, thoughtful, beautiful soul. And I am. It’s just that I am at the time in my life, in her life, that I have been dreading. Why does this choke me up so much? Why can’t I stop looking at every breath and step as “the last time”? Why can’t I be one of those moms who let this sentimental crap roll off their backs? Who are those moms? Do they exist? Do we all feel this finality of things? I reached out to some of my mom friends who have walked this path before me and what I found was that I was not alone in how I was feeling. It appears that this year I will be joining those who have come before me on a roller coaster of emotions that are ranging from melancholy, worried and nervous to excited and hopeful.
To me that sounds exhausting, but I don’t have a choice than to jump on that ride. That’s part of this too. As one of my mom friends pointed out, you are no longer in control. That child is becoming an adult and you aren’t in charge of their life anymore. I have to be honest, the Italian mom in me is having a really hard time with that! I get it though, she will make the decisions, good or bad. She will live the consequences of her choices. Her choices might not be the ones I wanted for her and I can’t do anything about it. I see now, that as a mom, you have no choice than to release the dreams you had for your child, just like you would a balloon. Let them float away because they are no longer yours to hold. Those dreams have been replaced by hers and that’s the way it should be.
What can I do now? How am I going to get through these last months without feeling like I am losing a part of me? One mom friend said that many of the lasts were wrapped up in so many firsts and when you look at it that way, it didn’t feel so sad. The excitement for her future and the next steps she was going to take was something I should be grateful for. I can say that I am confident that I have done all that I can do to prepare her for this exciting time. It’s just time for me to realize that our relationship isn’t ending, it’s just becoming something new.
As for me, I will continue being her mom. The over-protective, silly, loving mom I have always been. I will try not to take 20,000 pictures of her before the school year ends and scrapbook 10 more books. (I can’t guarantee that though!). I will stand along beside her as she steps forward to meet her future.
In my worry, I can see that I haven’t given her enough credit to know she will make decisions for her life based on her character that is steeped in her solid value system. She is smart and will learn and adapt just like we all did. She still might need my help with things in life – like cooking. Yes, she will definitely need my help there! There will be times when she still might need her mom to crack a joke and lighten the mood. She still might need a hug or a shoulder to cry on. She might even maybe even need some advice. God knows, I am full of that! I know she will grow stronger every day in her new life, in her new place. I too, will dig deep and find my strength to support her independence and feel calm in that I will still have a place because I am still her mom. I always have been and always will be.
By Jackie White
With the turn of a new season, I always look at this time as a time to start fresh again. Some people wait until it’s the new year to begin any process of renewal. I think minimally we should be doing this quarterly in our lives. Think about it. When you are working on a project at work you don’t wait for large expanses of time to pass before you assess that what you are doing is on track to achieve the desired results. So, if that’s true, why aren’t most of us doing the same for our lives?
The percentage of people who regularly set goals and make regular efforts towards achieving them is 8%. Ok, I can see where your foot is already backing out the door because that’s a small percentage and why shouldn’t you just do what everyone else is doing. But, wait. Aren’t you worth more than that? Aren’t your dreams worthy of coming true?
If you are still doubting me and aren’t really thinking you can hang with the 8%, then hear what I am saying now.
You were built for this.
You were not put on this earth to achieve mediocrity.
Are you still with me? Here is a great way to kick start your way to greatness. It is a form of self-care and hey, who doesn’t love that? It is renewing your path in life through taking a personal inventory. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt, but it might make you uncomfortable enough to decide to do better. It also should spark some excitement within you to see the possibilities that lie ahead of you.
Here’s How We Do it:
Get a notebook or journal to track your inventory. You will want one you can continue to use over time. I use a small notebook and tabs for the sections.
Vishen Lakhiani in his book The Code of the Extraordinary Mind has identified 12 areas of balance we need to attend to in life. This is a great place to start your personal inventory.
In each of the following areas identify what’s going well, what’s not and what you want out of each of these areas of life. The thought-starter examples of what each area might encompass are not inclusive. Define the category as it fits your life.
12 Areas of Balance:
Love Relationship: Do you need to focus some energy in this relationship? Set up date nights?
Friendships: Have you reached out to friends lately to meet up? Set up time for lunch, coffee or a walk?
Adventures: When is last time you did something new? Set up time to do this.
Environment: Is clutter taking over? Make your space a place you want to be.
Health & Fitness: Do you need to get a routine of good nutrition or fitness started?
Intellectual Life: Find something that will stimulate your brain. Read a book? Attend a class?
Skills: Is there a skill you have been wanting to learn? Set up time to work on that.
Spiritual Life: This can encompass religion or just taking time to connect with the Universe.
Career: How is your career going? Are there things you need to do to improve or advance?
Creative Life: Getting creative can be art based, writing, dancing or solving problems. Make time for this.
Family Life: Do you need special time for your family to do things together? Set up time to do this.
Community Life: Helping others helps you. Identify how you can help others and schedule it.
Once you have your future state identified, then write 3 steps you can take towards achieving that level in that area of life. I suggest you chunk these steps across a 3 month period of time, so the next time you do a personal inventory you can see your progress. Yep, planning on doing this again in 3 months to keep yourself on track. I know you can do this!
C’mon 8% you can do this! I feel a pep talk coming on: Let me tell you something, if you didn’t know. It’s something I have always told my kids and in case no one has ever told you, I will today: You are special. God made you that way. You are here for a reason and that reason matters. Don’t forget it.
Now, that you know that. Can you step forward in your life and take your place in the winner’s circle? You belong there. It doesn’t mean you win because you’re the prettiest, smartest or richest. It means you win because you are looking at what you want in life and you are pursuing it. That is winning at life.
I thank you and you should than you for caring enough to take time for renewal and self-care through this personal inventory exercise.
Go forward and live the heck out of your life!
By Jackie White
Here is a quote that changed my life:
“It’s not that you don’t have time, it’s just not a priority.”
Ouch, that literally made me wince! I mean, like wait a sec, I want to complain about how busy I am. I want to explain away why I don’t have time for exercising or organizing the basement boxes or reading 2 books per month. We all have the lists of things we “don’t have time for”, but the reality is…
“It’s not that you don’t have time, it’s just not a priority.”
No, but really, there is stuff I really want to do…like get together with friends or work on a fun project I have pinned to Pinterest 6 months ago. Why isn’t that getting done either? We all have good intentions, but getting the get together scheduled or the project ready to complete is becoming a hassle and just don’t have time to do it, or maybe…
“It’s not that you don’t have time, it’s just not a priority.”
How about what about how we get into reactive mode and don’t think to plan ahead and then suddenly, the parent teacher conferences are this week and you haven’t scheduled it and the time slots available are few and far between. Now, it’s a major production and trying to schedule it is impossible! You don’t have time to deal with this either, but the truth is…Ok, I know, you got it! But, it’s this kind of scenario that can really causes the stress and anxiety. It’s when you should have made something a priority and didn’t and now it’s biting you in the butt.
So, that darn quote is a major slap in the face, but sometimes the truth hurts. I know it made me sit up and think about just how am I doing in the Planning Department? How are you doing in the Planning Department? How do we move past the chaos we are currently drowning in or prevent it from happening? And just how do we prioritize?
We turn to Stephen Covey and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People for direction on how to prioritize our lives.
Begin with the End in Mind:
Prioritize what’s important, not what’s most urgent. This is going to take some thought up front, but will make your life so much easier! Spend time identifying what is important in your life, relationships, recognizing new opportunities and planning ahead. This process is teaching you to be proactive in your life, not reactive. Ding Ding Ding! A-ha moment alert!
How to do this:
1) On Saturday or Sunday spend time reviewing the upcoming week.
2) Identify what tasks need to get done. Tasks and activities like cleaning the house, making dinner, paying bills, errands, work related activities or tasks fall in the need to get done category.
3) Identify which tasks are important to get done. Important tasks are things like spending time with your husband or kids, making time for yourself, exercising or pursuing a passion.
4) Put a star next to all important tasks. Important tasks must be scheduled into your weekly plan. All other need to get done tasks you will prioritize with A, B or C. A means it is a top priority, B is a secondary priority and C is the lowest priority, meaning maybe it can be scheduled in another week.
5) Using a planner that has time blocks for the hours in a day is helpful to schedule your day’s activities. Remember the starred items must be given a time slot as well. Also, remember to schedule travel time for things like taking kids to lessons or driving to appointments. There’s no teleportation available yet!
A note about planners: There are online planners you can use if that best fits the way you live or choose a paper planner that is easy to carry with you. Forget the big clunky planners you won’t carry it with you. Been there. Done that.
This process may seem a little daunting the first couple of weeks, but once you get into the groove of which category a task falls into then you will be able to prioritize easily. You will see how this process streamlines your priorities and time management. It will become second nature and as a result, you will be less harried, more accomplished and will be attending to those things that are important in your life. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!
Other Things to Consider
Manage your energy, not just your time.
According to Daniel Pink in his book, When. There are certain times of the day we are better at doing certain tasks. The Peak is in the mornings are when we should be handling analytical tasks. The number crunching or head-down focus needed tasks. The Trough is early to mid-afternoon is when we should be doing an administrative work such as answering emails and filing expense reports and the Recovery stage which is late afternoon to early evening, is when we should be doing insight tasks such as brainstorming. If this makes sense to you, then think about scheduling your day’s tasks around the Peak, the Trough and the Recovery energy phases.
I don’t have time for me...Ok, then make time for you.
Give yourself the gift of time. Carve out 1 hour each morning just for you. If you have to get up earlier to do this, you must. It is a like a tune up for yourself. You keep your car running properly with regular maintenance and you need to do that for yourself too! This maintenance is for you. It’s a spiritual appointment with yourself. It’s a time for you to get yourself grounded for the day and for life.
This Power Hour will nurture your mind, body and soul :
Mind: 20 minutes of reading something inspirational.
Body: 20 minutes of exercise. You can combine exercise with reading if you listen to an audio book or podcast!
Soul: 20 minutes of meditation and/journaling. Doing this calms your mind and helps you to focus on what’s important in your life.
If you could use some help getting organized, give this process a shot, you might find that suddenly, you have so much more time than you ever thought possible. You will find that you aren’t frantic and you are scheduling what’s important in life. You will have time to breathe in life and enjoy it. What a gift for you and your family!
The Song Blog was born out of my life being inspired through the song lyrics. I don’t write music, I can’t play an instrument and my family would tell you I can’t sing. However, none of that matters to me, I still am profoundly affected by lyric and the music itself. It brings me joy and so, I sing. This blog series is inspired by music and how it relates to life experiences.
Buddy the Elf singing, just like me!
Like Buddy the Elf, I sing it loud and I sing it proud. I open all the car windows and sing it. It is almost impossible for me to spend a day without singing something. I almost never know all the words to a song or I make them up. I don’t really care! It is about the feeling of singing. It comes from my soul, albeit maybe, possibly off-key. Ok, so it’s off-key – it really doesn’t matter! What does matter is the joy it brings me and honestly, because my style of singing is really so bad, it cracks me up!
The act of singing exercises your lungs, stimulates circulation and can strengthen the diaphragm. This is the best workout I can think of! Add some dancing and you can really up the benefits of this workout!
Feed your brain with song. The National Alzheimers Association has a program called “Singing for the Brain” The program helps stimulate the brain and aid in the maintaining memories.
Sing out the sadness. Sometimes, listening to that sad song, helps you work through some unhappy feelings you may have buried. Sometimes, you just have to get it out and have a good cry! It can be cathartic. Just as a sad song can help pull out the sadness, an upbeat song, can shift your mood from negative to positive. One of the top “Feel Good Songs” is Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. You can’t help but smile when you turn that one on. For your listening and dancing pleasure, check it out below. I dare you to not feel better after hearing this one!
By singing from your heart, without a care of who hears you can really feed your soul. The lyrics may speak the words you need to say. The music may take you to a happy place. Overall, singing can boost your sense of self confidence because you are being true to yourself in song. Ultimately, this feeling will raise your vibrational energy and your personal power. You can gain clarity, peace, love and joy. Everyone could use a little of that!
Joining together in song has benefits as well. A study of choir singers has shown that singing can strengthen the immune system. The act of singing increases antibodies of immunoglobin A, which plays a crucial role in the immune system function.
Ok, so maybe you aren’t choir material – it’s ok. You can still sing with others at movie sing-alongs, karaoke and around the campfire! One hundred bottles of beer on the wall…By the time that song is over, you should feel like you can take on anything!
Music as Therapy
A growing field today is that of Music Therapy. It is a creative arts therapy that uses music and a combination of clinical and evidence-based interventions to improve physical and mental health. It can reach those affected by autism, dementia, depression and/or anxiety. Music and song is the universal medicine for your soul.
Sing It Out Challenge
So, come on. You can’t deny the benefits of music and singing! I challenge you to sing! Drop a comment or video of you singing your way through life! Sing out for your soul and good health. Sing out for fun and joy! Sing out and take in all of the benefits to your mind, body and soul.
Ahh, the carefree days of summer! Structure and routines have long been abandoned as you descend into the slippery slope of chaos and anarchy. As the days got longer, so does bedtime; suddenly, it’s 9:30 PM! The summer slide definitely applies not only to reading and math for kids but also family life.
Then something alarming happens that immediately sets off your stress response: back-to-school sales! All you can think is "How can it be that time of year already?!?" as you begin to think of all there is to do!
Take a deep breath, we’ll get through this together. Stores get flack for posting seasonal items so far ahead of time. But instead of that being annoyed, flip the story and thank them for getting you in motion to take action on the next season of life, whether that’s back-to-school, Halloween, or Christmas. Think about it, if you start preparing for any of these holidays when the stores do, you would have plenty of time to get it all done and avoid being stressed out!
Stress has many negative effects on your health and well-being. SoulShine wants to help you destress the back-to-school grind with these 10 tips!
#10: Make time for your last summer fun and adventures
Take a moment to review your summer bucket list or, if you don't have a list, take a quick inventory of all you have done this summer. What's missing? Music in the park? Drive-in movie? Water park? Beach? Baseball game? Rank these items in order of importance, and schedule time to knock as many out as you can! Chances are, some of these items can carry over into the early fall, too!
#9: Break down the “must-do’s” into weekly pieces
Anyone else feel like there is so much to do before going back to school? School supplies, back to school clothes, sports physicals, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, orthodontic appointments, haircuts, eye doctor appointment, enrollment paperwork/sports registration...
Before your stress level gets too high, stop and take a deep breath, then, ask yourself if this really needs to be done before the first day, or would it be nice to be done before the first day. Of course, some of these do need to be done before the first day, but others, like appointments and clothes shopping, can happen a bit later. Break these tasks up into weekly to-do’s. For example, school supplies one week, haircuts the next, setting up appointments the following week. This keeps the list manageable and decreases stress.
Bonus ideas! Online shopping is great for school supply shopping without the crowd, and, some schools have a back-to-school classroom supply kit you can buy, which might be worth it!
#8: Design a homework contract
Discuss a plan for tackling homework expectations with your child before school starts. Having your child be part of the decision-making process will increase the likelihood that they will follow through with the contract. Decide on when homework will be done (e.g., immediately after school, after snack, before dinner, or right after dinner). You may also want to include what they can do before or after homework is done. An example contract could be that they can have a snack and outside/non-electronic free time after school, homework starts when dinner is being prepped and continues after dinner until finished, then, television/electronics/free time after homework and any expected chores are complete. You might consider making a visual document outlining the expectations so they are clear for all.
#7: Discuss chore/responsibilities list
You might notice a trend here: open communication between you and your child/children regarding expectations is crucial to getting the school year off to a great start. Discuss and outline expectations for chores, including frequency and expectations for completion and consequences if they are not. A chore checklist or chart may be helpful, especially for younger children. Older children may enjoy a chore app such as RoosterMoney, Chore Pad, or Chore Monkey.
Bonus idea! I would include a school prep chore where your child gets everything ready the night before for school. This could include putting shoes and book bag in a designated place, packing any needed items like gym shoes or sports equipment in their bag, preparing cold lunch, or filling a water bottle and placing it in the refrigerator. Younger children may need assistance with these tasks, but they might enjoy being part of the getting ready process.
#6: Set school year goals
It’s never too early to learn how to set goals and break them down to achieve them. Elementary school children might not understand what goals are and think they pertain to a sport like soccer, so this is a great opportunity to explain goal-setting Plus they do actually relate to athletics, since we want to score!
Brainstorm 3-5 goals that your child would like to achieve this year, such as improving math facts or learning to write better. You can then help them break these down into smaller pieces like practicing multiplication tables for 10 minutes each day. An important part of goal setting for any age is to celebrate the small victories along the way, so be strategic with how to measure progress and when to celebrate. One idea would be to have a jar where they put a marble or rock in every time they perform a task towards their goal. Once the jar has reached a certain level, they get to do something fun like go for ice cream or choose a movie for the night.
#5: Select a positive mindset morning mantra
Mindset is everything! A positive mantra, quote, or affirmation is the perfect way to start out the day. In our house, my husband uses two of them for our kids; they are:
-“Growth and comfort rarely go together.”
-Adam asks, “What’s the difference between a good day and a bad day?” Ethan or Liam respond with, “My attitude.”
Feel free to borrow these. One word of caution, Liam needed it explained that growth is his brain growing, not his body, when he was in a new learning (uncomfortable) situation; younger children are very literal, so your quote might need to be altered or the meaning explained for them to fully benefit.
#4: Plan out your monthly and weekly commitments
Having commitments mapped out for the week and month helps my stress level stay low. There are multiple ways to accomplish this. You can use a phone app such as Cozi or your phone might have a built-in calendar app; most of these are shareable to other devices so you can sync with your partner or children. I color code mine, giving each family member their own color, as well as events that are family events or just for my husband and me. I also have a paper weekly schedule that I fill out at on Sunday for the upcoming week, including my weekly meal plan. This helps me review the week, make sure there aren’t any holes, get everyone on the same page, and adjust the plan as needed.
Bonus idea! Kids are involved in so many things these days]. Although much of it is fun, downtime is also important. Like everything else, downtime may not happen if it isn’t scheduled. So, schedule in a night off to do something low-key as a family!
#3: Establish a morning routine
This is pretty self-explanatory. Plan with your child/children what their morning will look like. Work backwards; start with what time they will leave, then factor in the approximate time needed for each of the tasks they will have to do such as get ready, make/eat breakfast, brush teeth, get on outer wear, along with transit time to school. Creating a visual schedule may be helpful, especially with younger children.
In our house, our younger son, Liam, takes his time. He has a set time that he is done with breakfast and needs to move on to teeth-brushing and getting out the door. He knows the consequence of not finishing breakfast is that he might be hungry if he takes too long to eat, but this is a choice he can make. Everyone, even children, likes to feel in control of their situation. This gives Liam freedom to choose and removes my stress of nagging him to keep moving while keeping our morning on track.
Bonus idea! Timers! It’s easy to lose track of time, right? Setting a timer on your phone or other device is a great backup plan to end the out-the-door rush.
#2: Practice your morning routine before the first day of school
All this talking and planning is great, but you do not know how it’s going to go until you actually do it. Even the best-laid plans can fall apart when put into action! And the first day of school comes with some extras like those adorable first-day pictures, finding classrooms, last-minute jitters, and so on. Practicing your routine at least one day, if not more, before the “big” show on the first day of school is a fantastic idea. That way, you can adjust anything that didn’t work. We also try to restart the bedtime routine, including the earlier school year bed time, a few days earlier, if possible. Of course, if your kids are like mine, they rarely sleep in during the summer, but it is a guarantee they will sleep in the first day of school!
#1: Start Practicing Gratitude and Reflection
Mindset and attitude are everything; it’s never too early for children, or too late for adults, to start practicing gratitude and reflection. The transition from summer to the school year is a natural period to start this. Often in transition periods emotions are high--disappointment or sadness that summer is coming to an end, anxiety for the upcoming school year, dread in getting back to the grind. These are the children’s (and maybe even the teachers’) feelings; parents are inwardly rejoicing that school and the structure it forces on your mutinous army is returning!
This is a great way to practice flipping our mindset to the positive. Reflect on all the fun that was had during the summer. You could write a list of all the adventures and fun you had this summer and how grateful you are for them. Renowned academic centers such as Harvard and Berkley have demonstrated that practicing gratitude is beneficial to your health in many ways, one being making you happier. So, practicing gratitude intentionally during the back-to-school transition when you might be feeling negative should allow you to instead feel positive.
After reflecting on all the good times you had during the summer, circle back to Tip #10 and pick a few more summer adventures to complete before the first day of school and schedule them. Next, start a discussion about everything you are excited about for the school year, like seeing friends, learning new things, or a favorite fall sport starting. Children may be anxious about starting the school year, especially if they are starting at a new school. Discuss these worries with your child and actively work together to flip them from a negative to a positive. For example, if they are worried that they won’t know where to go, acknowledge the worry then discuss that it will be everyone’s first day, too, and that it will be exciting to figure it out with their friends.
Bonus ideas! A first-day-of-school tradition can be something that children look forward to and will help with going back-to-school. This can be as simple as going out for ice cream or a special dinner. Another way to ease the back-to-school letdown is to plan a fall adventure like going apple picking or to a pumpkin patch. This gives children, and you, a fall adventure to look forward to!
The bottom line is that having a plan of action ahead of time will take the stress out of the transition from summer fun and chaos to back-to-school structure. Keep it fun! Fun is the key to having a task be a “get to” instead of a “have-to”!
By Jackie White
Nobody likes to use the public restroom. There are some things that go on in public restrooms that no one talks about. I am here to reveal the real truth of public restrooms right here, right now! This expose’ will uncover the craziness that we all experience in the restroom, no one talks about it.
What I am talking about is the ridiculous obstacle course of poorly automated fixtures that require you to perform magic tricks and do weird dances that ultimately make it feel like someone must be taping this for some sort of hidden camera prank show!
It all begins before you even sit down. Some bathrooms have these weird toilet seats that automatically slide a new piece of plastic on the seat before you sit down. Once that gets situated, you can then sit use the “hover over the toilet seat method”. Either way, you do your business. Sometimes, midstream, some toilets do not detect enough movement and it flushes while you are sitting there! If that happens, you either are scared to death and you fly off the toilet seat or just the opposite, you feel like you were almost sucked into the depths of hell by the massive extraction of the toilet!
If you don’t have the automatic sensing flusher from hell, you now must figure out were the flusher is. Sometimes, it’s obvious and in that case, you choose to either flush with your hand or with your foot. The cleanliness of the bathroom usually dictates that choice. I have found that sometimes toilets have the tiniest flusher button and it is hard to detect where it really is. As you are trying to figure that out, the toilet then flushes itself! That’s the worst because you are now facing the bowl! You wonder, did I get grossly splattered? Ugh, I can’t even think about it!
After you gain your composure, you get yourself together and exit the stall. That is when the real fun starts. You get to become psychic. You walk up to the sink and place your hand out to get the soap. That’s when you have to identify if this is a manual soap dispenser where you actually have to push down on the dispenser to get soap or do you wave you hand in front of it to get soap? Waving your hand usually means the soap missed your hand and is now on the counter, so you have to do it again. By the time you have enough “Tiny Bubbles” on your hand, you’ve wasted enough soap to wash the hands of 20 people and you look like an idiot because you have now messed up the counter!
After you get your soap, then you get into investigative mode again. If this soap dispenser if manual, then it would seem that the sink faucet is also manual. Nope, not always the case, Sherlock! Here is a good tip, if you do not see faucet handles, that would mean it’s automatic. I know, A-ha moment! Now, for the next obstacle, how does this sink “sense” your motion. I am forever waving my hands in front of the faucet to no avail. I can’t tell if it doesn’t work or “I’m doing it wrong”. The lady next to me is washing away and I look like I am performing some sort of Hawaiian hand dance in the sink. That is about the time I launch into my, “I can never do this” concession speech to the total stranger next to me. Sometimes people laugh with me, sometimes they look at me like I may have issues far beyond the ability to use the sink!
Now, here’s an especially tricky thing you can find in some bathroom sinks. The sinks do not have faucets, but no amount of waving at them will turn them on. That’s when you look to the floor to see if there is a pedal to push with your foot! I know, like, what the hell? Why complicate a sink with pedals? You press down on the pedal and there is no gentle mode with these sinks. The sinks opens up at full force and sprays out of 3 different spouts! You are now washing your hands and likely half your body in the Dancing Bathroom Firehose Fountains!
Ok, so if you have survived that far, it’s time to dry your hands. This should be simple, right Folks? Oh, no…First of all, let me say that I pray for paper towels in the bathroom, but you don’t always get them. I want paper towels because they serve multiple functions. A paper towel can dry your hands. Depending on how thin the towel is, you may need multiple to get your hands dry. The other, very important part of the paper towel is that you use it to open the bathroom door, so you don’t get somebody else’s dirty bathroom germs on you. You know those people, who are not washing their hands after using the bathroom? Yeah, I don’t want their germs on my hands. The bathrooms that are 5 star bathrooms to me are those with paper towels and a bathroom door that pushes out (I can use my shoulder to push the door and never have my hands on the door!) or at the very least has a trash can near the door, so I can dispose of my paper towel there.
Back to the hand drying. You know what I am going to say, some paper towel dispensers are manual and some require you to wave your hand and say abracadabra! The manual towel dispensers could have a handle, some have a lever that you need to push in about 15 times to get enough paper towel to dry your hands. The automatic paper towel dispensers again are detectable by a large sensor on the front of the machine. How well the sensor works is really up to your own magician hands.
Here’s the other fun thing about public restroom paper towel dispensers, if you are vertically challenged like me, some dispensers are hung way too high. That’s when you know it was some tall dude installing it, not thinking that some us will barely be able to reach the handle or sensor as it may be.
Just when you thought, my God, how long can this woman talk about bathrooms, I haven’t even addressed hand dryers. Yuck. I’ve heard them called Bacteria Bombs! They actually suck up the bathroom bacteria and then blow it back out on your hands! OMG! Of course, if you insist on using them, you will also note there are manual dryers where you push the big silver button with your once clean hands to dry them. See the other issue there? Touching that button! Now there are also the automatic ones that you don’t have to touch, but still are blowing bacteria and finally there are the ones you stick your hands into, jet hand dryers. Those are worse than regular dryers for blowing out germs and it sounds like a frickin’ jet is landing on your head when you use them.
If no paper towels are available, then I opt for the shake ‘em out method of drying my hands that usually ends with a quick wipe on my pants. It’s much better than using the hand dryers, but if you are all dressed up and out to dinner and you come out of the bathroom slinging your hands around and flicking your fingers, it’s not the elegant move.
Who knew that using the public bathroom could cause such issues? I am guessing most women know the struggle is real, but no one talks about the craziness. You are not going crazy even though you feel like you have just performed some ancient witch doctor spell and hand danced your way out of the bathroom!
So, there it is, the truth about public restrooms that has not been revealed until today! This public service message has been provided to let you know you are not alone when you are performing magic tricks on the sensors in the bathroom and you have wasted half the soap on the counter! You are not losing it, it’s just the way the public restrooms are. You are now informed to handle any public restroom craziness!
By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
Since starting my nursing career more years ago than I care to admit, I have noticed more and more that my friends, family, and acquaintances are very confused after their medical appointments. With the growing demands on medical professionals to see more patients in a shorter amount of time, not to mention the short supply of primary care providers, the time to adequately explain information to patients is usually less. Now, to be fair, I do not know if this is a new occurrence, or if people just feel comfortable asking me to decipher for them. Most likely, it is a combination of both of these.
As some of you may know, my dad’s best friend, Bob, died of a heart attack at the age of 47. His death was the reason my dad, Tom, did not die of his own heart attack three months later as he recognized the symptoms and took them seriously. This greatly impacted my decision to go into nursing and pursue my Master’s Degree as an Adult Nurse Practitioner. My vision since that time has always been to help as many people as I can start their journey to their healthiest selves. This vision, combined with the confusion many health care consumers are experiencing, sparked an idea: a regular “Learn the Lingo” blog post to help all of you decipher and sift through the medical talk. My hope is that this knowledge will shed light on what you are reading and hearing so you can be empowered to make decisions and take action to improve your health.
What exactly are risk factors?
I think starting from the beginning is always good. The term “risk factors” gets thrown around a lot and often providers assume that everyone knows what these are. But we all know what happens with assuming, right? Let’s clear this up!
Risk factors are attributes or characteristics of a person’s health that increase the chance, or risk, of developing a disease. The more risk factors you have for a given disease increases the likelihood of developing that disease. Everyone has different risk factors. Risk factors are further broken down into types called modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. Understanding the difference between these types is very important to reduce your risk of disease.
Non-modifiable risk factors are the risk factors for disease that you cannot change. These include age, ethnicity/race, family history, gender, and genetics. You are born with your non-modifiable risk factors. Even though you cannot change these things, knowing how they could impact your health are very important to help lower your overall risk of developing a disease, especially preventable illnesses such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and many heart diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and coronary artery disease. You can make lifestyle changes that help control the effects of modifiable risk factors.
Modifiable risk factors are the risk factors for disease that you can take action to change. These include, but are not limited to, smoking/tobacco use, high blood pressure, diabetes/pre-diabetes, physical inactivity, being overweight, high cholesterol, diet, socioeconomic status, and stress. Each disease has its own associated risk factors, but this list is very common across medical diagnoses. Making positive choices or changes in modifiable risk factors can affect your non-modifiable risk factors, thus, decreasing your overall risk of acquiring a disease.
Let’s take myself as an example in relation to cardiac disease. I have a strong family history and genetics of heart disease since my father had advanced coronary disease requiring bypass surgery at the age of 47, as well as several other family members with coronary artery disease. My age, gender, and ethnicity/race do not increase my risk in this case. I could choose to increase physical activity, decrease my weight, eat a heart-healthy diet, and control stress to decrease my risk of heart disease, even with the risk from my family history. My knowledge of risk factors for a specific disease and the choices I make to help prevent it gives me the control back for my health.
Here's a quick summary:
Knowing about risk factors gives you valuable information about what lifestyle changes may help you decrease your risk of getting certain diseases. Even those non-modifiable risk factors can be affected positively with the right lifestyle changes. This puts you in the driver's seat of your health!
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.