Relax, Recharge, Release: What to do When You Need a Break

Being the best parent you can be takes both physical and emotional energy! While it’s easy to forget about your own needs when you’re taking care of your kids, it’s important to recharge your batteries so you don’t become burned out. With that said, here are three ways to nurture your own mind, body and spirit.

Mind: Join a Book Club or Other Social Circle in Your Community

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Bloggers getting crazy!

Joining a local book club is not only a great way to feed your mind with knowledge but also the perfect place to meet other people in your community.  If you’re into sports or games, consider joining a softball or a bowling league in your area. I like to meet friends for trivia nights with my husband, and I am a member of the Tampa Bay Bloggers. We get together for fun events all around town.

According to Happify Daily:

  • Strong friendships are as good for your health as quitting smoking and are better for it than exercising or maintaining a healthy weight.
  • People are 12 times likelier to feel happy when they spend at least six hours per day with family and friends.
  • Doubling your group of friends has the same impact on your well-being as a 50 percent increase to your income.

While connecting with people online can also be beneficial, the point here is to get out of your house and away from your children – as much as you love them. Schedule some time at least once each month to cultivate your friendships.

Body: Set a Physical Goal and Arrange Your Life Around Achieving It

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At the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation “One Step Closer To The Cure” 5K with my friend Shannon, a survivor.

While you might think running after your kids substitutes for daily exercise – and it certainly might feel like it – it’s important that you invest at least 30 minutes per day during the week on conditioning your body. Eating healthy and staying in shape should remain a priority so later you can chase after your grandkids. Whether you’re aiming to increase your daily steps or training for a marathon, come up with a physical goal and create a daily exercise routine to help you accomplish it.

A healthy daily exercise routine will:

  • Prevent weight gain and help with weight loss
  • Combat harmful health conditions and diseases.
  • Improve mood, boost energy and promote deeper sleep cycles

Spirit: Practice Daily Meditation and Weekly Yoga

Have you tried aerial yoga?

Have you tried aerial yoga?

Relaxing your mind for as little as five minutes per day through the act of meditation has countless physical and mental health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, an improved immune system and decreased anxiety. A great intro to meditation is simply catching yourself at moments throughout the day when you can pause and think, “This is my breath going in, this is my breath going out” for three breaths – while at a red light, or while waiting for the next thing on the computer to load. My husband likes the meditation app Headspace, which gives you 10-minute mindfulness sequences.

When attempting to meditate:

  • Sit with your back straight in a comfortable chair or lie on a blanket in the grass if being in nature is your jive
  • Close your eyes, inhaling and exhaling naturally.
  • Focus your attention on your breath, your body’s movement and a mantra.

To complement your daily meditation sessions, which can help you rest and relax in a chaotic moment, consider enrolling in a weekly yoga class to strengthen your muscles, improve your flexibility, relief stress, and detoxify your mind and body – or find a yoga class on Youtube that you enjoy. I like Sequence Wiz for recuperation and relaxation, or Sadie Nardini for a power workout.

Take care of yourself this holiday season, and make it a priority all the time!

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College Roommate Tips

naked roommateLast year, Bob Andelman (aka Mr. Media, and a friend) interviewed Harlan Cohen, of “Help Me Harlan” and author of The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only (which I’ve read and recommend), about parenting teens leaving for college. I took notes because my daughter’s boyfriend was a graduating senior, and my daughters were a junior and sophomore, so I figured I had some relevant lessons to learn.

There was a lot I enjoyed about the interview, found here: http://mrmedia.com/2014/08/help-me-harlan-kid-going-to-college-fall-video/. Today I share with you, paraphrased…

3 Roommate Rules:

1. Your roommate is there to share the fees and does not need to be your friend. I had this problem with my first college roommate. I got there, we bonded, then I made other friends and she felt left out and retaliated in rude ways. I wasn’t wearing a promise ring from her, I just wanted to get along… which brings us to…

2. If you want to get along with your roommate, you’ll find a way. Seriously, all you need to do is be respectful. You can avoid drama even if you don’t like each other. But sharing space is always more comfortable if you do like each other!

3. The Uncomf0rtable Rule: If you are ever uncomfortable with something that happened with your roommate, you must communicate about it in 24-48 hours. Not before, not after. Make this a pact with your roommate so you BOTH do it. People suck at uncomfortable, but if there is a plan in place it helps.

One parent asked about a very sexual roommate living with her religious, virgin teen, and how that might play out. Remember, says Harlan, living with someone who has different values probably won’t change you. You won’t start having threesomes five times a day because of a sexually active roommate if you are saving yourself for marriage. You won’t become a huge partier after watching your roommate throw up from drinking too much and failing math class. In fact, it might make you second guess their poor choices. You’ll learn and grow from it, like a visit to a foreign country. I discovered the band “The Cure” from my roommate even though she ended up being a butthead.

My daughter found two roommate leads before freshman in year in different ways. One was through a cousin who had a friend with a daughter interested in the same school. The other was through a Facebook group her college made for her graduating class, like “College Name Class of 2019.” People left little notes about themselves and their personalities, and could message others who sounded compatible. “I’m a science major who plans to rush Ate Two Pizzas sorority and I like loud techno music. I’m a night owl who eats peanut butter out of the jar, and I will totally help you with your hair – I’m really good with braiding and products.”

Good luck to whoever lives with DD1! She’s a mess! But she’s honest and fun, which will probably matter more.

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College Tour Done Right

collegetourIf you are the parent of a high school junior or senior, you may start to receive invitations to special informational events on college campuses. Perhaps your child is vying for a scholarship, a spot in a prestigious honors program, or they just want to get to know a potential school better.

Although you can attend local seminars in high schools, in hotel conference rooms on random evenings, or at college fairs, you learn more by attending events on a campus if you can make it there.

alicenhsRecently my daughter was invited to one event that was wrapped up with such a nice scholarship offer that we decided to fly out of state to attend. We figured she could get questions answered, get a feel for the campus, understand how to travel there from home with me by her side the first time – and possibly end up with a free college education. Good ROI.

I contacted the university about 6 weeks before the event. College counselors will often tell your child to contact schools on their own, but I had something up my sleeve this time. Instead of contacting the local area rep, like my daughter would do, I contacted the Honors department of the school who was offering the prestigious scholarship. They were kind of recruiting my daughter, letting her know all the great things she could accomplish in their program. I wanted them to know all the great reasons why they wanted my daughter on their list for sure.

I called the right contact, let her know we’re scheduled for the event on campus, and that it would be our first time in the area. Then I asked if we could come a day early so my daughter could spend the day before the event seeing what it would be like to be a student on their campus. I told them that she has friends in college, but when they come home they don’t chat about classes, they chat about sororities, football games and parties. My daughter makes a point of studying and getting good grades, and she wants to know that other students around her will be doing the same thing. (Not everyone gets drunk every weekend at college. I know because I didn’t. I went out and had fun, I went to bars, and parties, and comedy clubs. Sometimes I even had a drink, but I never got wasted. I never threw up or passed out. And I was able to keep my place on the Dean’s List. My husband wasn’t a big partier, and neither is my daughter’s boyfriend.)

The woman at the college was VERY receptive. She sounded thrilled over the phone. She asked me to email a list of what DD1 was interested in and exactly when we would be there.

There was some passing back and forth of duties in her office, and I had to follow up a couple of times and resend an email once, but a couple days before our flight out I was emailed an itinerary and it was just what we wanted.

While at this school my daughter spent Friday:

  • seeing the Honors College office
  • learning about the special program they were inviting her to apply for
  • meeting with a professor in her intended major department
  • going on a campus tour – which I did with her
  • having lunch with a friendly Honors student (on their dime) in one of their dining halls, who invited her to a genetics class
  • seeing the digital media center because I told them my daughter was editor of the school newspaper (turns out journalism was not in the same place, but it was a cool tour and she got to see behind the scenes of where they broadcast football games)
  • taking an Honors Bio class with a teacher who DD1 thought was both brilliant and hysterical
  • meeting the bowling club
  • meeting an advisor in her major department
  • having dinner with a sorority girl to learn about Greek life on campus (friend of a friend)
  • learning where the Honors college would be taking her out of the country for special projects.

Everything was prearranged and they gave her a schedule with who to see when, and what their phone number was, along with a highlighted campus map.

On the 2nd day we were together the whole time for the event that about 600 other people came in town for. We learned about residence halls, financial stuff, had a mock Honors Seminar class, had lunch in a different dining hall, heard a panel of engineering professors, and she spoke with the professor who would probably run the research she’d get to be a part of in 10 months.

So she had a day that was completely personalized – and got to feel like a college kid behind the scenes without mom. Then she had a day with mom acting like a tourist and getting a sales pitch. After both days she was completely exhausted. Not only is she often an introvert, she felt like everyone she spoke to was kind of interviewing her, so she was trying to be her best self constantly. But if we had only had that 2nd sales pitch day, we would have just scratched the surface. The extra day really let my daughter see beneath the veneer.

That’s all I can say for now. Perhaps when she has made a final decision I can share with you how we came to that decision. It will probably be another 6 weeks before that happens. Applying to college these days has a lot more steps then when I went through the process! My daughter spent about 4 months writing essays for colleges, scholarships and special programs within those colleges. Hopefully her decision will be the best one for her!

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Standardized College Entrance Tests

If you are the parent of a junior or senior in high school, encourage your child to take practice tests before their standardized tests. You can get a book full of them. Is it worth the $25?? Well… if your student gets one more scholarship because of one better test score, it will pay for itself. Be sure to buy the most recent version, because the way these tests are handled keeps getting altered. For 2 months leading up to each test, I ask my kids to take a practice test every 2 weeks.

You can also sign up on both the ACT and SAT website for practice questions. See SAT Question of the Day.

My daughter took the SAT and ACT. She did significantly better on the ACT, so she focused on bringing that score up. She did practice tests and could see where she was lacking. On her first real ACT she got a 30 (out of 36). Then she got a 30. Then she got a 30. She begged me to take it “just one more time” because she thought a 31 would really make a big difference with college entrances. She took the 4th one and came home exhausted. She didn’t save any energy for the essay – no one really seems to care about your essay score anyway – she just focused so hard on that damn test. She got a 33!

Some schools accept an SAT or ACT superscore. This is when they look at all of your tests and pull your highest math, your highest reading comprehension, etc, to make your best test score possible from a variety of tests. Her ACT superscore was a 34!

(Not every college superscores, and some will take SAT but not ACT or vice versa… that’s why it’s a good idea to have a list of schools in mind early.)

When my daughter’s test score took a jump, she was suddenly on the mail list for Princeton and Brandeis. It only took one test score for her to be considered a different type of student, the type of conscientious, hard working, brainiac student we knew she was all along. Because she was honest about our financial situation on her test (they usually ask if you’ll be applying for financial aid, not your household income), she got a letter from Princeton telling her step by step what to do by what date in order to get their top scholarships. (Obviously her grades and letters of recommendation would matter too, but it was a reminder that many big name schools aren’t necessarily out of reach if you are smart with low funds, because they have the backing to give big scholarships.)

She is also working her butt off even during senior year. She stresses less, but her grades are even higher – so getting into college honors programs may be easier. She wishes she could rewind and work harder FRESHMAN year. Many colleges base your entrance on your 9th-11th grade GPA, and don’t look much at senior year, so it is actually more important to maintain a high GPA earlier on.

Another early tip – the PSAT is taken junior year. This is the test score that determines a lot of scholarships like National Achievement and National Merit Scholars. Start practice SATs before the PSAT for more great opportunities! Good luck!

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