Archive of ‘Society’ category

An Open Letter to 2020-2021 College Students

Dear College Students,   

What a year it has been for you all. I want to speak to you directly because I feel that the unique ways you have had to adjust to the myriad changes that have occurred this year are often overlooked. I work with college students in my clinical practice, and I want to reassure you that your grief and disappointment are real and justified. 

I remember watching the news in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and hearing that elderly individuals and college students were most at risk. I was grateful to hear someone acknowledge how difficult this time has been for you all. Not only have you had to pivot to virtual learning and face an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, but you have been isolated from your friends and social gatherings. With limited access to these social supports, it is expected that you would feel depleted.    

In college, your friends are more like family. You live with them, you go to class and study with them, and you share your life with them in ways that were not always possible with your childhood friends. These friendships engender a level of relational intimacy that is seldom replicated during other times in your life. Moreover, you are in a stage of human development wherein you are forming your identity in the context of your relationships with others. This is precisely why it has felt like such an insurmountable task to quarantine apart from your peers and refrain from connecting with them regularly. 

You have probably heard many people tell you that college will be “the best four years of your life.” College is certainly a fun and exciting time, but it is not devoid of hardship and adversity. When you feel sad, scared, or lonely, you start to think you are doing something wrong because you are not having the time of your life. The pandemic has added another emotional reaction to this lofty expectation for your college years: anger. 

I have heard so many of my clients express how frustrated and devastated they are that they are not having the college experience they always imagined. Please understand that it is normal to feel this way. We are all grieving the loss of our pre-COVID realities, and your “new normal” has been anything but normal. Your old assumptions no longer fit your current circumstances, and accepting this is no small task. 

I know how easy it can be to compare your struggles to those of others. People in our community and around the world are suffering. This pandemic has taken loved ones, jobs, and our sense of safety and security. However, you are not immune to the damage it has caused, and your distress is worthy of care and attention. 

To quote Brené Brown, “empathy is not finite, and compassion is not a pizza with eight slices. When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of these qualities to go around. There is more. Love is the last thing we need to ration in this world. Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.”

I want to remind you of how resilient you are. You forged your own path by going to college and building a life apart from your family. This requires courage, and doing so amidst a global pandemic has tested you in ways you never thought possible. I challenge you to practice self-compassion by treating yourself how you would treat someone you love. You are weathering this pandemic the best you can, and your best is always enough.  

For Reference: 

“Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW

“Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself” by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

Written By: Claire Taylor, LPC- Associate Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S 


Child & Adolescent Nutrition 101

Early childhood and adolescent nutrition is a lost educational opportunity in many sectors. There are a few ways to approach the introduction of foods to a child at an early age for them to develop a healthy relationship with food from birth. Here are a few of my tips I give to parents and adolescents to help them shape a healthy relationship with foods and their bodies.

Remember to include a variety of foods on the plate.

Whether color, textures, flavors, or nutritional components (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, additional micronutrient rich foods like fruits/vegetables).

Remember to not ‘force’ your child to eat just because it’s a designated ‘meal’ time.

Provide them with a variety of foods on a plate and trust and nurture the idea that when your child is hungry they will get to the food that has been prepared and plated for them.

Allow your child to have at least 10 exposures to a food before deciding that they don’t ‘like’ it.

Research from the American Journal of clinical nutrition shows increased acceptability of foods after 8-10 of repetitive exposure. Just because your child doesn’t like a food the first time they try it, doesn’t mean they actually don’t like it, it may be that they have never experienced that flavor, texture, smell, etc, and will develop tolerance to it over time.

Mirror a healthy relationship with food yourself (inclusion of all foods).

Children heavily rely on learning cues from adults and older siblings, so your relationship with foods and the terminology you use around foods (good v bad foods) molds your child’s view of food too.

Secondary to childhood, adolescence is a time in which a child’s relationship to food and their bodies’ can be highly sensitive. And the education surrounding adolescent nutrition is heavily laced with dieting messages, which promote the development of disorder eating, eating disorders, low self-esteem, low self-worth, etc. Society relies heavily on media (social, TV, ads, magazines, etc.) to give our kids the information that they need in regards to caring for themselves well and making sure they know why food is important. Hard facts are that they get incredibly misinformative information that is entrenched  in what we know as DIET CULTURE. 

DIET CULTURE is known to be a system of beliefs that worship ideals surrounding thinness, equating it to moralistic virtues of more acceptability, love, and overall worth, regardless of true health status/vitals. 

Diet Culture gives very sneaky messages surrounding food holding moralistic weight/value. In the most general sense, food serves the purpose to nourish and nurture growth and development in adolescence. Engagement in dieting behaviors, can increase risk for malnutrition, delayed development/growth, and bone fractures/breakage. 

Here’s some ‘go-to’ basic nutritional information surrounding the value of all foods: 

Carbohydrates (no matter the source-whether ‘refined/white’ or whole grains): are broken down by the body and converted to glucose (blood sugar) to help cells have the energy needed to send signals to different parts of the body for functioning; Provide the brain exclusively with the energy it needs to think and process information clearly and effectively; Provides energy for organ/organ systems to run at optimal capacity.

Proteins (no matter if it’s higher or lower in fat content): Provides energy for muscle, cell, and tissue repair, growth, and regeneration (creation). 

Fats (no matter the source-whether saturated (animal sources) or unsaturated (plant sources): Provide energy for body temperature regulation; energy needed for absorption of vitamins & minerals; energy needed for protection of vital organs; energy needed to facilitate hormone balance (develops in adolescence-estrogen, progesterone, testosterone).  

For additional resources and materials surrounding Childhood & Adolescent Nutrition from an Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size (HAES) lens, check out:

Books:

Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens: A Non-Diet, Body Positive Approach to Building a Healthy Relationship with Food

By: Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch

Born to Eat 

By: Leslie Schilling & Wendy Jo Peterson

Celebrate Your Body (and its changes, too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls

By: Sonya Renee Taylor

Videos:

Poodle Science

Research on Food Exposures:

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/issue/109/Supplement_1

Written By: Tess M Patterson MS RD LD


Adversity is a Great Teacher

As I am sitting here writing this blog, it is hard to believe that we are already in 2021!  I am sure many people will agree with me that 2020 has been quite a challenging year to remember.  It was a year filled with sorrow, laughter, anger, hope, frustration, surprises, despair, love, just to name a few.  Can you believe we have survived all that?  We always hear people saying that life is full of ups and downs – to say that for year 2020 is just an understatement.  For me, personally, I have learned how to accept the ups and downs, embrace emotions (both positive and negative), and adapt to the environment with intention and meaning.  I have learned not to be afraid of challenges but instead acknowledge them, take care of them and ask ourselves how we can turn these experiences into valuable life lessons.  I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned in 2020:

Accepting the Uncertainty

Life is uncertain.  There is never a time, even before the pandemic, when we can have any certainty of what is going to happen in the next minute.  The only thing certain is the present moment and our actual experience of the moment.  As Eckhart Tolle puts it: “People don’t realize that now is all there ever is; there is no past or future except as memory or anticipation in your mind.”  It is only natural to feel stress in the face of uncertainty. Staying in the moment and be present has helped me face and accept uncertainty, and manage the stress of uncertainty.  Do not be afraid of uncertainty, learn to accept and face uncertainty with resilience and ease.  Together, let’s find peace in uncertain times.

Power of Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness has helped me turn my attention to the present moment.  We should not dwell on the past or worry about the future, instead, we should focus on the present moment.  Practicing breathing exercises and meditation throughout the day have helped me tremendously in the past year, these practices truly taught me how to be present with a non-reactive mind.  I am also discovering how to incorporate mindfulness in daily living – mindful eating, mindful parenting, and mindful exercising.  If we practice focusing on the present moment, it empowers us to be with it, and we start to find ease of living.  I invite you to try these practices, even for just 2-minutes a time, you will see a difference!

The Importance of Connection

Separation is definitely one of the most challenging things we had to face in year 2020.  The pandemic has kept us all physically distanced from one another.  Many of us felt isolated and frustrated in our social distancing, but many found new meaning and connection with each other.  We have learned to make connection with each other in many different ways — saying hi to our neighbors from a distance underneath a mask, having “zoom” holiday meals with our friends and relatives, sending kisses to our elderly relatives at a nursing home through the windows, seeing clients via telehealth, etc.  As human beings, we instinctively need to connect with others, but to be able to build solid human connection, you have to first connect with yourself.  Doing mindful check-ins throughout the day to get in touch with my own feelings where I pause, take a deep breath, acknowledge how I am feeling right here and right now and how I would like to proceed with this moment have really helped.  Make space for self-reflection each day, it can bring clarity to the moment.

Practice Positive Mindset

Every cloud has its silver lining, but whether you see it or not is a choice you make. Focus on what you control, do not stress over things you cannot control. The year 2020 can be a difficult year to love, but if we just look on the positive side of things, I promise you can find something you are grateful for.  Just as importantly, whatever does not kill you makes you stronger. 

It Is Okay to Reach Out for Help

Believe this, we are all in this together.  You are not the only one suffering, you don’t have to do this alone.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust, or seek therapy if you need to.  Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.  Take care of your whole body, inside and out.

Create Your Own Happiness

Take responsibility of your own happiness, never count on someone or something to make you happy.  You don’t find happiness, you create it.  Many people think that only if the pandemic is over then things will get back to normal and they will be happy.  No.  If you think that way, you will never be happy.  Happiness can be created, under any circumstances, by you.  If you take charge, you will find your own happiness.

Resilience

You are more resilient than you think.  We went through a lot in 2020 – the pandemic, economic crisis, lockdowns, the politically polarized election, the racial justice movement, RBG death, just to name a few. We all have the strengths inside us to overcome life challenges.  “It is worth remembering that the time of greatest gain in terms of wisdom and inner strength is often that of greatest difficulty.” – Dalai Lama

Make Self-Care a Priority

We are always busy helping and taking care of others that we often forget to take care of ourselves.  Get to know yourself, be truthful to yourself and find out what your true needs are.  Only when you take care of yourself you can then have the capacity to take care of others and be able to get through tough times.

Thank you, 2020, for all you have taught me!  Hello, 2021, I am ready to take on challenges that you are sending my way this year!  I look forward to learning and growing to be a better person one moment at a time.  “No one has ever lived in the past or the future, only the now.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Life can be challenging at times, but it can also be amazing!

“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” – Deepak Chopra

What have you learned in 2020, and how you are going to move forward in 2021?

Written by: Catherine Mok, M.A., LMSW Supervised by Melissa Haney, LCSW-S

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