Friday, December 14, 2007

Holidays and Should-isms

Often during the holidays we are torn between doing things that we'd like to do for others, and those things for which we feel obliged to do. There's a tendency to use the auxillary verb should to reflect both of these ideas. We'd like to send a holiday card to far-off friends and family, but time constraints keep us from doing so. We might not want to attend a work holiday party, but the idea that bosses look more favorably on employees who attend work social events keeps us from doing what we want to do.

Should-isms can lend a heightened sense of anxiety in an already busy season. In order to keep should-istic anxiety in its place, ask yourself what are the most important activities that reflect what the season means to you and your loved ones? What activities have I engaged in during previous holidays that no longer reflect my preferred meaning of the holiday? Are there activities that I've engaged in that I still value but I could more richly express if moved to a different time? For example, could I send New Year's, summer solstice, or Peace Day (Sept. 21) cards to show connection with far-off loved ones? Would it be just as (or possibly even more) fun to deliver homemade Groundhog Day cookies as Christmas ones? Could I skip my work holiday party, but offer to organize a summer picnic instead? What if instead of giving physical gifts, I gave my friends and family experiences to have at a later date (e.g. taking Grandpa fishing in the spring, taking a friend out to a mid-winter dinner and a movie, or going to a theme park with kids over the summer)?

Untangling the holiday activites we look forward to doing from those which we feel compelled to do can help make the holidays feel more manageable, more enjoyable, and less anxiety-provoking.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Online Help for Anxiety

One of the tricky things about anxiety is that it is often an isolating force in our lives, just at the time when we most need connection. One way to connect to anti-anxiety resources without leaving home is the Internet. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America ( Web site offers tips to help one sleep better (e.g. don't do your bills just before bedtime--listen to soft music or read a book instead), a listing of therapists and support groups in your area, and self-tests for adults, teens, parents, and family members to determine if anxiety is getting in the way of one's daily life.

If you have a favorite anti-anxiety resource, please let me know, and I'll be glad to write about it here.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Overcoming Birth and New Parenting Anxiety

Many parents-to-be experience a heightened level of anxiety in the days leading up to birth. One way to abate anxiety's weight is to hire a labor doula who will coach you through labor and delivery. You can expect your doula to have practical knowledge about coping techniques, translating medical jargon, developing a birth plan, even helping you decide what to take to the hospital, or what to have on-hand for a home birth. To find a labor doula in Seattle, check out PALS. Many doulas offer sliding-fee scales to make their services accessible to everyone, so be sure to ask around for a doula who will meet your price point. They are out there. (Thank you, Jennifer!)

After the baby arrives, you may find anxiety nagging you: "Are you sure you're doing this right?" Finding a supportive person to tell anxiety, "Yes, you are absolutely doing this right" may be the best way to end anxiety's nagging. A postpartum doula can help you "find your feet" as a parent. Having a network of people who support your parenting is widely noted in helping new parents keep mood disorders at bay. Again, many doulas also do this work on a sliding-fee basis, making this care surprisingly inexpensive. In the Seattle area, NAPS offers a free postpartum doula referral service and can match you with someone who specializes in your particular need area (e.g. multiples, sliding fee scale, mood difficulties, lactation challenges, etc.).

We are especially blessed here in Seattle to have some especially dedicated, caring, and skillful doulas whose work I just cannot say enough good things about. Helping parents be at their best ensures that their children can also thrive.