10 Ways to Get the New Year on Track

By Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D.

The dawn of a new year is a natural time to take stock of where you are, think about what you want to do differently, and plan for what you hope to achieve in the coming months. With that in mind, I offer the following suggestions as a starting point to help you and your family kick off the new year in a positive direction.

  1. Respect yourself. As hard as things may have been, focus on your strengths. Your path, however bumpy, has gotten you to be the person you are. You are unique, and no one else can contribute your insight and perspective. That’s also a great message to pass along to your child who may be struggling in school.
  2. Reach out for support. If you have family or friends who “get it,” that’s terrific. If not, there are communities of support out there on Facebook and other social media. People have had similar experiences and are working on the same issues. To get started, access Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities on Facebook and you’ll find a number of groups relevant to families of kids with learning and attention differences.
  3. Advocate clearly. No one can see inside you. Consider how best to communicate to the person who is listening. With some people, you can probably say what you want plainly. For others, help them understand. You might try this: say something positive (Our son wants to do a good job in school), then your need: (but he needs a quieter place to work) and then something positive (With your help, he’ll able to get his class assignments done). Or another example when communicating with your kids: positive (I want to help you with this problem), need (so I need you to be clear and not expect that I know what you mean), positive (that will really help us deal with this issue).
  4. Take care of your health. Your body is critical to your mood, your ability to think and your wellbeing. Too many people don’t get enough sleep, eat well, or take the time to care for themselves. Treat yourself to a recharging walk to somewhere you enjoy, or a nap—whatever works for you.
  5. Meditate. It’s been proven that meditation can structurally change your brain to be more stress-resilient, and it’s like creating a center of calm for yourself. There are many ways to do it (mindfulness, repeating a phrase, yoga, even walking). You’ll find great apps to lead you through meditation like Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer.
  6. Know yourself. Know your triggers for emotional and sensory overload and early warning signs in your thinking, feelings, or body that say it’s getting to be too much. If you know you’ve reached your limit, say something like “Mom needs a time out so I can handle this well.” Set a time when you will revisit the issue.
  7. Have strategies. Think about whether the situation is so critical that a time out is unreasonable: is someone in physical danger? If it’s that extreme, use breathing or other techniquesso you can calm down enough to think clearly and be effective. For situations that happen repeatedly, have strategies you’ve in mind for calming down and diffusing difficult situations: take a walk, listen to music, meditate, or anything else that helps you collect yourself.
  8. Have compassion for yourself. We all do our best and no one is perfect. You may have made mistakes and regret them but that’s how we learn. You need to give yourself the compassion you’d want to give a friend in the same situation.
  9. Let go of anger.This saying is allegedly attributed to the Buddha: “He who holds onto anger is like the man who drinks poison and expects the other person to die.” Anger stimulates your stress response so your autonomic nervous system stays in fight/flight mode. This is bad for your health, your immunity, your self-concept, and your outlook on life. I’m not saying forget; just do whatever re-centers your focus that enables you to overcome obstacles you encounter. You’ve undoubtedly had some good experiences; focus on them as a balance to the negatives.
  10. Learn the serenity prayer. Give me the serenity to accept what I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Marcia Eckerd is an evaluator, consultant, and therapist who specializes in working with children with NLD and autism-spectrum disorders. This article originally appeared on PsychCentral.com as 10 Ideas to Live Healthier and Feel Better: Divergent Thinkers and Everyone . All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission.

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