Looking through the Eyes of My Child

By Kate Bennett, PsyD

Mindfulness is often described as childlike curiosity: Using your senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) to observe the world around you in the absence of judgement. My 15 month old daughter reminds me daily of her ability to simply be in the moment, curious about all that goes on around her. Her mindfulness, her ability to be completely present and delight in the smallest pleasures, was highlighted during our recent vacation. My daughter has an affinity for flags-American flags, Colorado state flags, collegiate flags, and in-ground flags (marking cable lines and fertilized yards)-she loves them equally and waves “hello” and “goodbye” to each. We walked by numerous flags every day in the small, mountain town of Steamboat. I did not notice a single flag until my daughter slowed down, turned, and waved. Big or small, decorative or utility, no flag was better or worse than the last; each one was unique and exciting. Not surprisingly, she also loves bikes. Again, we waved at each cyclist that rode by us-commuters, cruisers, road and mountain bikes alike-every bike that passed by was an opportunity to pause and delight in the two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle. Those bikes and flags were a reminder of just how quickly my mind mindlessly wanders away and how much I miss out on by running on auto-pilot throughout the day. Returning home from vacation, I intend to work harder at thinking less: My daughter reminded me that the best and most delightful moments in life occur simply by being-being present in the moment and curious about my surroundings. 

Photo courtesy of rmnpaula.wordpress.com

Photo courtesy of rmnpaula.wordpress.com

Take Control of the Turkey: Five Tips for Navigating the Thanksgiving Holiday

By Kate Bennett, PsyD

On the eve of one of our most food-centric holidays of the year, it seems only natural to be thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. For many of us, Thanksgiving is a holiday full of joy, football, and tasty foods that we only eat once a year. For others, those that struggle in their relationship with food, body image, and exercise, this particular holiday presents challenges beyond the daily grind of managing an anxiety-provoking relationship between food and disordered eating behaviors. For those people who dread waking up to turkeys in the oven and apple pies resting on cooling racks, this post is for you: Five ideas for navigating the Thanksgiving  holiday.

1. Follow your meal plan! While most people “save room” for the late afternoon feast, make sure to honor your body’s nutritional needs throughout the day. This means following your meal plan, meal by meal, snack by snack, starting with breakfast. Skipping meals and snacks to manage anxiety related to the turkey table will only increase anxiety and emotional reactivity to events throughout the day.

2. Identify your proteins, starches, and fats. Looking at a table full of food can be intimidating and may quickly become overwhelming. Rather than let the options provoke your anxiety, go on a scavenger hunt to identify what proteins, starches, and fats you would like to put on your plate. Worried about the pie? Have it for your evening snack. Remember, when following your meal plan, Thanksgiving dinner does not cancel out the evening snack.

3. Be honest with a support person. Large gatherings of families and friends also exacerbate anxiety. Be honest with a support person about your concerns for the holiday gathering on your schedule. Once you share your concerns, create a code word or signal to share with your support person. If the situation becomes overwhelming (i.e. Aunt Gertrude continues to tell you to eat more) or tiring, flash the signal/whisper the word and rely on your support person to help you graciously navigate your way out of the situation (or home).

4. Plan for self-care. Holidays are as much about spending time with people as they are about connecting with your personal needs. If you are introverted and easily overwhelmed by large groups, plan on an afternoon or evening walk. Too cold outside? Bring a book and quietly excuse yourself to read for an hour. Think about activities that help calm yourself and create a way to integrate them into your schedule. No holiday is too busy for self-care.

5. Be GRATEFUL. While this may be the holiday you dread the most, remember there are always things to be grateful for. Whether you pause in the morning to reflect on your gratitude, share it publicly before dinner, or use gratitude to ground yourself in overwhelming situations, take time to remind yourself that there are positive things in your life no matter the circumstance.

May this Thanksgiving be more positive than the last and bring hope for the future.

Photo courtesy of www.pinterest.com.

Gratitude in the Midst of Sorrow

By Kate Bennett, PsyD

Tuesday evening, tragedy fell upon the Colorado Springs Velodrome. A venue beloved by many athletes, the track quickly became a space filled with sorrow as a life was lost in the matter of minutes. While I did not know Vic personally, I would say that I had a close relationship with his rear wheel. When I raced with the men, he was a rider that I could count on to be steady, thoughtful, and determined. He was a safe wheel to draft off of. His presence on the infield seemed quite similar, peaceful but focused and determined. I shared that oval of banked cement with Vic for several years and will always respect his quiet tenacity. In the wake of his passing, I ask two things of you:

1. Lift Vic’s family and friends up in your hearts, thoughts, and prayers. I am certain their sorrow penetrates deeper than we could ever imagine.

2. Use this weekend to reflect on what you are grateful for rather than focus on what you are dissatisfied with. Take a moment to think about the people that offer you joy, support, and comfort. Identify all of the wonderfully miraculous things about your body that create strength and stamina to pursue your goals. Consider the simple pleasures that you frequently take for granted in the midst of the daily grind.

As I power down for the weekend, I am grateful for my husband, our awesome rescue dog, our families and friends, my health, the Rocky mountains and Colorado blue skies, Pandora, homemade pizza, gelato, physical and mental strength to train for a marathon, rest days on weekends, the peace and stillness of our neighborhood late at night and early in the morning, the opportunity to do what I love as a living…and so much more.

I am also grateful that I had the fortunate opportunity to ride and race with a man named Vic.

What are you grateful for?

Image courtesy of positiveparentingconnection.net

Image courtesy of positiveparentingconnection.net