True Confessions of a Former Helicopter Mom

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

There’s a study from BYU that says that helicopter parents are hurting their kids. You can read more about it here.  The study says that even loving parents don’t make up for the damage inflicted by excessive hovering.

I don’t know if I’d call myself a helicopter parent or not. My kids would probably say yes, but as one swim coach told my daughter, we are far from the worst parents he’s met.

To try and determine my status I took this quiz from the Christian Science Monitor.

I earned Terra Firma.

13e7cdf4346de40aade6db55399ea91eMy two kids are so different, I question if I parented them differently? I feel like I helicoptered my first born, and was more laid back with the second. The result is one more dependent and one independent.

I used to boil my son’s binky’s after they hit the ground for a good five minutes. I’ll never forget that smell of burning rubber when the water boiled away. The joke my husband used to tell was that with our second child, I asked the dog to “fetch” the binky.

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Binky’s

When my son was born, I worked on my writing and PR business from home. I thought I could full-time parent and work simultaneously. I didn’t take into consideration that clients would want to me run over for meetings without notice.

Then, Robert went mobile. He was crawling around. Spitting-up on my keyboard.

Nope, full-time work and stay-at-home parenting didn’t work out well for me. I hired a full-time babysitter and then became jealous every day they left for the park.

Three years later, when my daughter was born, the full-time help was gone, and I switched to part-time work. I was able to spend time with the kids, and do a little work, too. It was a nice balance.

Early on, I volunteered in my son’s classroom. I corrected papers, taught computers, writing. Anything they’d let me do. I’ll never forget arguing with his second-grade teacher over the word “artic.” After all, I had drilled him the night before on the continents. “It’s arctic,” the teacher told me. Oops.

My son constantly asked me to bring things to school. Papers he forgot. Projects left behind. I always dropped what I was doing and drove to school—including during his senior year! I can’t believe I did that! I did not do that for my daughter. Mostly, because she never asked.

I helped out with her schooling, too. But, in her elementary school years, it was limited to driving for field trips and special events.

I have one child that now calls whenever there is a problem. His face pops up on my phone and I automatically ask, “What’s wrong?” A broken computer, a fender bender, a parking ticket. It’s always something. Of course, there are exceptions—he aced a test, or got asked to be a guest speaker by the Dean at a fundraiser.

My daughter calls once a week or so to talk to tell me how she’s decorating her room, about a backpacking trip to hot springs, or that she had a good workout.

Maybe the difference between my kids is this: they are entirely two different people, with different goals, personalities, and interests. 

As far as my being a helicopter parent? I think I improved over the years.

My two kids.

My two kids.

How do you define if you’re a helicopter parent? What things have you done that are over the top?

If I could go back in time, I’d do this instead…

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My young Piranhas.

If I could go back in time, say 15 or 20 so years, I’d do things differently as a parent and a swim mom. I’ve loved every minute of being a swim parent and truly believe that signing my kids up for our local club, the Piranha Swim Team, was the single best thing we’ve done for them. Sticking with the team through ups and downs was a plus, too. Not only did my kids become crazily physically fit and skilled swimmers, they learned to never give up through tough times—whether it was an illness, a plateau or learning what a new coach expects.

So what would I do differently? Here’s my list:

One
Not focus on performance.

Sometimes, I get way too caught up in big meets and best times. I wish I could kick back, relax and enjoy the little moments more.

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Medals at a meet.

Two
Not get involved in parent drama.

Like most sports today, where you find a bunch of enthusiastic and involved parents, there’s bound to be some drama. If I could do it over, I’d never take sides or get involved. At times, I didn’t have a choice because of being on the board. But, the drama and problems we lived through don’t amount to beans, anymore.

Three
Realize everybody is different.

Not every swimmer has the same drive or goals. Not every family is going to focus their lives around the pool. It’s okay for some kids to skip practice and have other interests besides school and swimming. I’d be less judgmental if I got a do over!

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Signing day.

Four
Not compare my kids to others.

When my kids were young and new to swimming, it was common for us to compare their progress to other swimmers. That led to upset feelings all around. Looking back on it, things that seemed so big at the moment, were only a fleeting moment in time.

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My son learning to dive with the swim team.

Five
Enjoy every moment of the process.

The years go by so quickly. The friends made with other parents, coaches and officials are ones to treasure. Enjoy it all.

What would you do differently as a swim parent?

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Back when my daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.

How to Plan the Best Staycation Ever

Thank you to guest blogger, Agostina Chemello, from Porch.com for contributing today.

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Every summer, many people put aside their work, daily stresses and responsibilities and escape on a vacation, somewhere far away from reality. It may be a secluded retreat in the mountains, a camping trip with the kids, an arranged tour in another country, an Alaskan cruise, or days relaxing at an exotic beach or resort.

However, with the current pandemic including travel restrictions, along with financial constraints for many, those plans may have to be temporarily shelved. But the desire to escape reality – for just a bit – is very much alive. So, with many people remaining in their homes, how can that off-work journey happen? We have some tips for making the best of the situation and creating cherished vacation memories without ever leaving home. It’s called a staycation.

What’s a staycation?

A staycation is, quite simply, a vacation at home. How realistic, how exciting, or how relaxing you make it is up to you. Theme it up for a more authentic “away-from-home” experience.

What makes a great staycation? Well, that depends on what you consider a vacation. Some people want adventure, while others like relaxing with a drink in their hand. Still others use vacation time to unwind by tackling DIY projects such as renovations. So, what would you enjoy doing if you could craft your own staycation? (Which, by the way, you can.)

Commit to it

Once you’ve decided to schedule a staycation – whatever it ends up being – commit to it. Mark it on your calendar. Plan for it. Make concrete plans. If you’re working, ask for those days off of work. Don’t just say you’re going to have a vacation and spend the weekend lounging on the sofa, noshing on Cheetos and surfing the internet, unless a week of rest is the staycation you’ve planned.

Whenever you’re going for vacation in your home, try to unplug so your mind’s not on work and responsibilities. Set your work email to the “out of office” setting and write an auto-reply message. Then, don’t check your work emails unless absolutely necessary. Consider NOT telling your boss that you’re vacationing at home. Turn your cell phone off or on silent, and set a small window of time each day to check for messages.

Skip the news. The idea is to get away from stress, away from reality. Just concentrate on your vacation experience. The news cycle can wait for a week. Really, it can. This is the time to be good to yourself.

Prepare

Prepare for your staycation much like you’d  prep for any other vacation. Create your itinerary. Decide what kind of activities you would like to do each day of your vacation. What kind of staycation would you like? Cultural learning, straight-up fun, pampering, relaxing? Write your vacation goals down, and then make a game plan. Don’t want to cook while on vacation? Gather menus from local restaurants that deliver, and have them on hand. You could even incorporate different restaurants into the theme of your vacation.

Before your official vacation start time, do all the necessary prep work. Complete all chores in advance. Wash the dishes, dust, pay the bills, scrub the toilets, empty the trash. Do the laundry BEFORE your staycation begins. You don’t really want to be sorting and folding while on vacation, do you?

Set the Mood for your Staycation

Many people have saved money in anticipation of an annual vacation to pay for things like hotel rooms, meals, plane tickets and a rental car. Why not channel some of those funds into your at-home vacation paradise?

Create your staycation space – really, truly, set up a space that exudes the theme of your vacation. Move the furniture, change the lighting, order pillows, fairy lights or scented candles – whatever your theme is, run with it. Look at magazines or online trip websites for inspiration. Think about the destination you want. Paradise under the palms? Set up a piña colada or margarita station at home. Roll up the rugs and go barefoot like you’re on the beach. Set up a hammock between backyard trees or on your back porch.

Dreaming of a mountain retreat? Set out pine-scented candles and decorate the room with cottage home decor. Plan for any purchases you’ll need for your staycation. Does your week require some relaxing pillows, aromatherapy candles, a tent or hammock?  Dreaming of an overseas vacation? Hit the international foods section of your grocery and stock up on items from that region to set the mood. Planning a spa retreat week? Buy a set of high-thread-count sheets, a couple of luxurious pillows, scented bath salts, essential oils, and a super-soft robe.

To make your staycation ambiance even more realistic, you can make a vacation soundtrack with music that reminds you of that particular place, or perhaps a past favorite vacation that you’d like to recreate. Going to the beach in your mind? Ramp up some Jimmy Buffet music. Missing that trip to Brazil this summer? Make your own compilation of Brazilian favorites including the likes of Roberto Carlos or Anitta. Or, queue up some internet music mixes.

Think about your favorite luxury hotel amenities and try to replicate some of those special touches at your own staycation. Love peppermints or chocolates on your pillows? Do it. How about a fruit basket, or a water pitcher of cold spring water infused with the subtle flavor and inviting look of cut fruit? Make it happen. This is all about helping you feel like you’re somewhere else.

Self-Care Weekend

How about a pampering week, helping you release all the stress that’s built up this year? Consider a self-care “getaway” with a spa day, a YouTube yoga session, or a self-manicure. Start a journal of self-discovery. Draw a warm bubble bath, adding some calming essential oils like lavender or chamomile. Slip into the welcoming suds as you relax your mind and body. Soft music and candles invite you to soak away the stress. Then, wrap yourself up in the soft hug of a luxurious robe. This vacation is all about being good to yourself.

Retail Therapy Weekend

If you have money saved up that you won’t spend on a vacation this summer and miss shopping, you may want to arrange a retail therapy staycation. Curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine and start online shopping. You could budget what you had already set aside for your anticipated actual vacation, and spend some of that money, or just “window-shop” and dream from the comfort of your favorite recliner.

Plan Future Vacations

You can’t travel much right now, but the future is wide open. You’ve been staring at your walls for quite a while now, longing to escape. Why not start that escape, at least in your mind? Begin planning your post-pandemic road trip (or plane trip). There’s no time like the present to ponder where you’d like to visit – start with the continent or country, and narrow it down from there. Search online for destinations, hotels and fun activities. Jot them down and start planning for next year.

Look online for interesting destinations and then start searching for places you can stay, like at hotels or bed and breakfast inns. What kind of activities can you participate in while there? Take notes, plan your budget, and work out the details so when it’s time to fly the pandemic coop, you’ll have all your ducks in a row for your next adventure.

Cook a fancy dinner

The internet is filled with how-to-cook videos. Zero in on one and cook that meal and impress your spouse or family. See if you can find fanciful foods that fit into the theme of your staycation. Or, ask your family to pamper you and cook (including doing the dishes.). You can also sign up for delivered meal preparation kits. These kits arrive at your doorstep with all of the ingredients, already prepped, along with step-by-step directions. You’ll feel like a professional chef in no time.

Chill

You may be someone who just needs to chill for a vacation. Vacations don’t always have to be about excitement and activity. Sometimes, you just need peace and quiet to de-stress from life.

Create your zen vacation in a quiet place of your home – make it off limits to the children (perhaps you have someone who can take care of them). Then, unplug your clocks or put them in the closet so you can’t see them. Turn off your phone, put on earphones (if there’s house noise you can’t block out) and just…chill.

Fun for the Whole Family

If you’re quarantining with your family and yearning for a vacation, build a staycation with a family-friendly theme or activities. Although you have been in each other’s space for months, there are ways you can spend quality, vacation-esque time as a family and build beautiful bonds.

Camping out

Go camping for your staycation – for a night, a week, or somewhere in between – you choose. Set up a tent in the backyard, complete with sleeping bags and camp lights. Don’t forget the mosquito repellent or citronella candles. Pack up snacks in bags for a more authentic experience, and string lights in the trees or at the top of the tent for some extra ambiance.

Snag a couple of bags of ice from the store and fill a cooler with food and drinks to keep with the campout theme. Cook your meals on a grill, or have a fire pit if regulations allow. Roast marshmallows or craft s’mores. Tell stories around the fire. Stay up too late and laugh too much.

If your idea of camping is closer to glamping, or you don’t have a backyard, then move things indoors. Set up a tent or have your kids create a tent by hanging sheets and other fabrics in clever ways. Unleash your children’s creativity with tent-making – they know how to make the best tents and forts. Set up your indoor camping ambiance with flashlights and flameless candles for light sources. Eat from paper plates and make s’mores in the microwave. Search for a campfire video to play on your TV.

Have a family costume night or a themed party during your staycation. Challenge your kids to dress up as their favorite movie character, singer, or superhero, using clothes, props and supplies already in your home.

Love watching movies? Build a staycation around that. Have a themed movie marathon. Each family member picks a movie that you all watch, or you could categorize movies, like comedies, animation, action or another genre. Don’t forget the popcorn. Plan ahead and surprise your “movie audience” with their favorite movie theater candy and sodas.

Music or Karaoke Party

Use some of the money you would have spent on lodging, meals, attraction fees and more – and buy a karaoke machine. You may find your family singing until they’re all hoarse and falling down in laughter. Learn a new song on an instrument you play, and hold a “recital” in your living room. If more than one member of your family plays an instrument, work on a performance together.

Virtual Travel and Games

You could also spend the summer vacation money on virtual reality headsets. This marvelous technology is a fantastic way to virtually leave your house and go on vacations together, using 3D travel apps. Want to walk the streets of Paris? Climb mountains in the Himalayas? You’re only a VR headset away.

Backyard Water Game Day

Beat the summer heat on your staycation with a day of water games in your backyard. Ask your kids to plan games and gather the necessary accessories like water hoses, kiddie pools, sprinklers, soaking guns, water slides, water balloons (be sure to pick up the broken balloon pieces) and plenty of sunblock. You can go all out renting an inflatable water play set, or you can keep it budget-friendly. Bring on the popsicles and laughter.

Night in for the Parents

Parents may just need a vacation from their kids. Try to set up a cozy, romantic room or patio area for your loved one. Group candles around your backyard. Flameless candles4 are great and there’s no fire hazard. Set up a hammock or pillows or some other way to relax. Chill a bottle of wine, soda or whatever happens to be your favorite beverage. Make up a cheese tray. It can be fancy, or it can be laid-back. Pour a bag of chips into a bowl if that’s your style. Set some mood music, relax and kick back.

Learning Vacation

Many people love to travel to new locations and learn about culture, architecture, art, languages, food, and more. The opportunity to learn something new during your staycation is limited only by your imagination.

Because of the pandemic, many museums now offer free virtual tours. Spend days in the Louvre, or take an interactive tour of Mark Twain’s house. Visit zoos virtually, or set up Zoom meetings with friends or relatives in different countries so you can practice conversing in a foreign language.

Travel the world for free using your local library card. Libraries have a wealth of e-books available to download from the library’s website onto your own device. Just pick them out and download, prop your feet up and escape into a mystery, thriller, romance, fantasy, or whatever genre you enjoy. Have your favorite beverage and snacks near your reading haven.

Take an online class on cooking, digital art, sewing, or something that intrigues you. This is your staycation. If your goal is to spend more time outdoors, consider starting a new flower or vegetable garden or a compost pile. Set up a rain barrel water collection system, making use of the rainwater rolling off your roof.

You can even make it a learning vacation for your pet. Learn how to teach your pet tricks or a new skill, like sniffing out smells. Or, just chill with your cuddly cat on your lap. For some, that’s a heavenly vacation.

For those who would rather “do” than chill, spend your staycation time learning a new craft. Clear out your schedule and spend that time really digging into whatever it is you want to learn. Use budgeted summer vacation money to order acrylic or oil paints, modeling clay, mosaics or stained glass supplies, whatever strikes your fancy, and learn a new skill you’ll maintain long after your staycation is over.

Renovate a Space in your Home

For those who need to be active during vacations, think about a renovation vacation. Since you’ve been home so much the last two months, no doubt you’ve zeroed in on a corner or a room of your house that’s begging for an update or a redo. Repaint the kitchen and add a backsplash or replace the flooring. Update your bedroom, adding new curtains or blinds. Turn that depressing basement into a new game room, guest room or home office. Browse among the DIY articles from professionals for inspiration and guidance.

Whatever your stay-at-home vacation fantasy is, try to make it happen. This pandemic won’t last forever, and the vacation you take this summer, at your own home, may just spark some of the best memories ever. Don’t forget to take photos!

This article was originally posted on Porch.com.

Why Boredom Is a Good Thing

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My son came up with bug headbands for a birthday party made from pipe cleaners, styrofoam balls and lots of glue and glitter. The kids looked adorable. He also got to wear a birthday crown.

Do you remember being bored as a kid? I do. But it never lasted. I could go outside when we lived in town and go ask a neighbor to play. Or, I’d jump on my bike and ride around the block. We could run over to the house down the street that had an extra lot with a brown quarter horse named Snoopy. I’d climb on the fence to pet the white strip that ran down his nose. Most of the time I’d read, or play library and create library cards for all my books and arrange them by author on my bookshelves. Boredom just wasn’t a thing. Our mom was strict about TV and it wasn’t an option. She allowed two half-hour shows daily that she circled in the TV Guide — and they were usually on PBS.

These days, many kids never experience boredom because they lose themselves in a device like their iphones. Before COVID, many parents had their kids involved in too many activities like swimming, piano, theater, dance, etc. that the kids didn’t have a chance to slow down while juggling hours of homework. Today, with shelter in place, many kids probably are bored. And that’s not a bad thing. Bored kids use their imaginations and find something creative to do. I don’t think it’s helping them to be entertained externally all the time. I wrote about promoting a creative spirit in kids last week, here and here.

Without creativity and an imagination, our kids won’t be problem solvers or discover new ways of doing things. If your kids are bored, so what? It’s okay. Ignore the whining and let them figure it out.

 In the Sarasota Herald Tribune, parenting experts Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman wrote Allow your kids to embrace boredom

 Have you noticed that our generation of parents is terrified of letting our kids become bored? Their anxiety is what drives them to pack a boatload of amusement options when they leave the house.

A few years ago, a waiter at a restaurant in North Dakota told us about a trend in his community. One local mom had created a custom quilted bag for holding multiple tablets so that every member of the family could be distracted and amused while they waited for their meal. It was wildly popular, he said.

Not only is our society’s pervasive reliance on amusement killing conversation and opportunities to connect and build relationships, it’s also preempting opportunities for boredom. Boredom is important for building imagination, creativity and innovation in our kids. Of course we can’t force these things into our children but we can set up an environment that will support the journey.

When we allow our kids to grapple with boredom on their own, rather than providing for them structured activities or distractions and amusements, imagination and creativity may come to their rescue!

“It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves,” said author Nancy Blakey. “If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

If we provide our kids with a constant stream of amusement options, which includes a plethora of extracurricular activities, we rob them of the opportunity to explore the open space in their own minds where the imagination hides.

They make a good point about having a structured schedule. With piano, swimming and homework, there wasn’t a lot of time for my kids to get bored during the school year. The summers gave us more hours for imaginative play. Also, swim meets when the kids would be sitting under a pop-up tent for hours on end resulted in some imaginative play. We’d be at a meet for five or six hours and they’d race for only a few minutes here and there. I remember observing some very creative verbal word games.

According to the article, the authors suggest having bins and jars filled with all sorts of things in easy reach for your kids like popsicle sticks, fabric, string, paints, googly eyes, papers of different colors and textures, glues, etc. Their suggestion:

Then let your kids get good and bored. Don’t offer many suggestions. Simply say, “Oh, there are lots of things you could do. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” It may take time but eventually their imaginations will awaken and lead them to new horizons.

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The bug headbands made an appearance at several birthdays.

What do you do when your kids are bored?

 

Are Parents to Blame for Our Children’s Angst and Anxiety?

I wrote this months before the pandemic hit and we began sheltering in place. Now that I’ve spent 109 days in my home without my normal activities of meeting friends for lunch, traveling, volunteering and hanging out with my swim friends, I’m learning that more and more people are suffering from anxiety and children are being hit the hardest. A friend of mine who is a psychologist for teens said she’s talking to a record number of kids who are talking about suicide. It puts a new perspective on our kids’ angst and anxiety.

randk 3I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And why is it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

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We were unplugged as a family every summer at the beach.

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

Maybe our corporate environments aren’t a good fit for young people. Our kids blame themselves when it could partially be the fault of the company they work for. Companies need to work extra hard to build the children’s social skills and work on their lack of confidence. We need to work on interpersonal relationships and one good way to start is to put the phone down.

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? Do you think it’s our fault they are suffering from depression and anxiety? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

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Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model.

Is Anxiety a Side Effect of COVID-19?

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Olive keeps me company.

The past week I’ve been experiencing anxiety. I’m so fortunate in my personal life and I’m grateful to have such a beautiful place to stay sheltered in place. But, being home day in and day out is taking a toll. I don’t think watching the news and surfing the internet for COVID-19 and political news is helping me either. When I felt my heart rate racing and my hands trembling on a drive home from taking groceries to my dad, I turned off the news and found a station playing Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown from 1970. As I listened to familiar songs from my childhood like Carpenters “Close to You” and the Beatles “Long and Winding Road,” I calmed down, sang along and found myself smiling.

Today, I quit looking at the news of spikes in COVID cases and wondered if other people were suffering from anxiety, too. The answer is yes. A quick search led me to so many articles with tips to handle anxiety and links to hotlines and health experts.

Here are a few excerpts from the articles. Please click on the links to read the whole articles. They are well worth it.

Suffering from COVID-19 anxiety? Here’s what you can do

By Jennifer KongSteven Chan

Jennifer—a postdoc—had been working from home for 4 weeks. Anxious about the COVID-19 pandemic, she was having trouble focusing on her research. She knew her mental health had deteriorated and that she needed advice to stay motivated. So she reached out to Steven, a friend who also happens to be a practicing psychiatrist. He didn’t solve all of Jennifer’s problems. But he did provide a new lens to view them through—as well as concrete steps she could take to improve her mental health. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

JENNIFER: In academia, we are often encouraged to suck it up when problems arise. I am currently writing two papers. I know others who are writing grants. Should we expect to use this “time away from the lab” to be superproductive?

STEVEN: Working in a COVID-19 world is not normal. You shouldn’t dwell on guilt if you’re not functioning at maximum productivity levels. You need time to process the grief that comes with the loss of your former work life and social life.

J: I occasionally find myself spiraling down a hole of despair, spending hours reading about all the terrible things happening in the world. The news makes me feel sad and helpless, which in turn zaps all the motivation out of my day. What should I do?

S: In these spirals, it is important to recognize that there’s a lot happening right now that you can’t control. Even though it is incredibly hard, shift your attention to things you can control. For example, you cannot control the number of people who are dying from COVID-19. But you can do your part to maintain social distancing.

J: I am worried about members of my family getting sick. I’m also worried about my future in academia because many universities are instituting hiring freezes. How can I get rid of all this worry?  

S: Try compartmentalizing the worry into a time block. Spend 20 minutes each day writing down and acknowledging your feelings. Then, think about reasonable solutions. For example, you could brainstorm how you could secure funding to extend your postdoc, which would give you more time to publish papers and apply for academic jobs next year. You could also learn about jobs that might interest you in other sectors, such as industry.

J: Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. I’m physically tired, but my brain is restless. I end up just lying there, thinking and worrying about everything that’s going on. Is this anxiety?   

S: It could be. Anxiety is a persistent feeling of worry. Sometimes it is constant, while other times it rushes over you all at once. When dealing with anxiety, it’s important to assess your emotions and talk about what you’re going through with trusted friends and family. You should also practice activities that are restorative and relaxing, especially before bedtime. Listen to music, take a hot shower, read a book, or do something else that you enjoy.

From the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website I discovered Top Ten COVID-19 Anxiety Reduction Strategies by Ken Goodman.

Goodman is the author of The Anxiety Solution Series: Your Guide to Overcoming Panic, Worry, Compulsions and Fear, A Step-by-Step Self-help Audio Program., and Break Free from Anxiety, a coloring, self-help book for anxiety sufferers. Ken Goodman is an ADAA board member and Clinical Fellow. Here are the first three of his tips.

During this time of national crisis, we must manage two things simultaneously: 1) Protect ourselves from the Coronavirus, and 2) Protect ourselves from anxiety. If your anxiety, fear, and worry has been overwhelming, put these ten strategies into practice. 

1. Media Distancing: To stop the spread of COVID-19, we’ve had to practice social distancing. But to stop the spread of anxiety, we must distance ourselves from the media. All anxiety stems from uncertainty and an active imagination which produces catastrophic thoughts. The media, which is 24/7 Coronavirus and virtually all negative, is the driver of those thoughts. (The CDC estimates that the flu this season has killed between 24,000 and 62,000 people in the United States. We are not panicking because the flu is familiar and the media does not give it attention). My patients who are the most anxious about the Coronavirus are those who are consuming the most news from social media, online, and traditional outlets. The more anxious you feel, the more you should distance from the media. And if you are extremely fearful, stop watching and reading altogether. Do no Google or research. Stop checking the latest news about the virus (as well as your investments). Any vital information you need to know, you will find out.

2. Do Not Engage with Worry. Take Action: Whether you are worried about contracting the virus, your struggling business, or being unemployed, the more your mind focuses on worst-case scenarios, the more anxious you feel. You can’t stop thoughts from entering your mind, but you can choose to stop dwelling and you can choose to take action to solve problems. There is a huge difference between worrying and problem solving. When your mind tries to bait you into worry, don’t take the bait. If you do, like a fish in a lake, you will be caught. Anxiety will try to bait you with many “what if” questions. Don’t answer them. Respond, “Not taking the bait,” turn your attention away, and focus elsewhere. Spinning your wheels with questions that don’t have answers will take you down the rabbit hole of fear. Instead, find creative measures to get you through this storm until you can get back on your feet. None of these measures will be comfortable. Like an umbrella and a raincoat, we use them to get through the storm, not to stop it. Much of anxiety stems from a lack of confidence in our ability to handle challenges. Push yourself to take one uncomfortable step at a time.  With financial stress these steps might include seeking out loans, asking for help, paying portions of bills, cutting back on spending, and finding creative ways to make money including selling items on Ebay. The goal is to stay afloat until the storm passes. 

3. Focus on Present Odds: All deaths are tragic, but we must maintain proper perspective. The vast majority of people infected with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms or no symptoms at all. And the mortality rate if you do contract the virus ranges from 1.4% to 3% (The exact mortality rate is unknown at this time). The number of deaths will continue to climb (and the news will report every one) and yet, the chance of you or a loved-one dying is still remote, especially with everyone’s effort to maintain distance and isolate. But death is possible and that’s why anxious people take the bait and dwell. Possibility becomes probability. Remind yourself of the present odds, which are very good. After all, if you went to Vegas and had a 97% chance of winning, you would be excited to take those odds. If you take care of yourself properly, even if you are in a higher risk category, your risk of death is still low.

After the complete list of ten tips Goodman said this:

This list is a recipe to reduce anxiety. Review it again and put it into practice. Otherwise it’s like reading a cooking recipe in bed – in the end you have produced nothing and have nothing delicious to eat. So…start cooking. 

Walking and backyard bungee swims are not enough to keep the stress away. My dear friend Linda told me that she and her family are doing a workout challenge on Youtube by Chloe Ting. I decided to check it out and the workouts are perfect for me. Ting has a modified low impact version that I can handle. I am doing the 2 Week Shred challenge followed by an ab workout. I’ve done my first two days and although my body is screaming at me, it’s got to be good for me!

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I miss our pool and my team. When will it reopen?

How are you handling COVID-19 uncertainties?

Here are common symptoms of anxiety from the Mayo Clinic

Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
  • Having an increased heart rate.
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.
  • Feeling weak or tired.
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.

 

How Michael Phelps Is Fighting Against the Stigma of Depression

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A few years ago, I got to hear Michael Phelps speak at a fundraiser for Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children. It was very enthralling and I couldn’t believe the darkness he had gone through on his quest to become the GOAT (Greatest Olympian of All Time). Also, It was special to me because I was present at the groundbreaking for the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center held on Frank’s 75th birthday (yes, that Frank!) during my tenure as a PR account executive for Cliff Brown Associates. Today, Phelps continues to work to help others who are battling depression and other mental illnesses. HBO is releasing “The Weight of Gold” documentary starring Michael Phelps and other Olympic athletes that details the mental health struggles they experience. Here’s my post about my experience hearing Michael Phelps open up about his battle with depression:

I sat with my Piranha Swim Team fellow swim moms and Masters swimmers at a fundraiser where Michael Phelps was the keynote speaker.

He had some really good stuff to say and seems incredibly happy with his life. As he said about his comeback from retirement and Rio Olympics, “I got to show the world who I am.”

He said he wouldn’t trade anything in his life because even the struggles have made him who he is today. What an amazing person he is and has become. Not only was he speaking at the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children, he spent time with our local Piranha swimmers and other high school swimmers before the event. How special will that memory be for those kids? It will definitely be a day they’ll remember forever.

 

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Alex Flanagan interviews Michael Phelps. Photo from Steven Erickson, Piranha Masters swimmer.

Sitting for an interview with NBC’s Alex Flanagan, Michael was relaxed and comfortable. Accompanying him were his wife and baby Boomer, who could be heard crying occasionally in the background.

Phelps said all his many accomplishments and discipline were “all in my heart.” He said, “I started with a goal and a dream. I wanted to do something. I wanted to become the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz.”

When he talked about his darker days and struggles with depression, Phelps explained that he “said affirmations every time he walked through a doorway.” He said, “If you keep track of how many times you walk through doors in a day, it’s a lot.”

He said it’s important to “not be afraid to ask for help and talk about things. You can’t do everything yourself.”

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A lot of his strength, he attributes to his mom Debbie Phelps, who he called “the most powerful mom. She single-handedly raised us. Growing up, I learned about hard work and dedication from her.”

Abut his coach Bob Bowman, “He has been there all the steps of the way. He taught me how to drive. The two of us get along so well. We’ve been together for 20 years.”

On his return to swimming for Olympic Trials and Rio, Phelps recalled that he called Bowman to tell him he wanted to come back. Bowman was skeptical and said it wasn’t going to happen. Phelps waited and called him back the next day, and Bowman agreed so long as he bought into his program and did it completely his way. It worked out well.

With his parents separating when he was young, Phelps found the pool to be an escape. His coach told him to “leave everything at the door and focus on swimming for the time he was there,” whether it was one and half hours or two. “That stuck with me. If you look at anyone great, they find the time to do their best under any circumstance.”

Phelps is enjoying his time as a husband and father and looks forward to a growing family. He’s focused on his brand MP and his foundation that is saving children’s lives through water safety.

Although Phelps Olympic career is over, as the most decorated Olympian in history with 28 medals and 39 world records, he said “The pool is very relaxing for me. It’s very Zen.”

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Our local USA Swimming and high school swimmers meeting Michel Phelps.                      photo from Piranha Swim Team