Author: Lynn Vigo, MSW, LICSW

Mindful Monday – How Do You Know if You’re Being Mindful?

People sometimes ask me how to know whether they are being mindful or not. Good question! It might sound as easy as saying “if you are, you’ll know it” or “if you aren’t, you’ll know it” but I don’t think that’s always the case. Here’s my quick checklist to help you decide.

 

Do you often find yourself:

  • Thinking “I wish . . . ”, meaning you wish things were different than they are
  • “I wish I could lose 10 pounds.” or “I wish my life wasn’t so hard.” or “I wish I had a better job.”

 

  • Thinking about the past and what you might’ve done differently
  • “I should have studied something different in college.” or “I shouldn’t have wasted so much time on that project.”

 

  • Thinking about the future, with some degree of anxiety
  • “I have so much I need to do!” or “I’m worried this won’t turn out ok.”

 

  • Thinking judgmental thoughts of yourself and others
  • “Nothing looks good on me!” or “I can’t believe she wore that.”

 

  • On auto-pilot, going through the motions with reduced awareness of your experience
  • “I don’t even remember driving home.” or “I do that with my eyes closed!”

 

  • Characterizing life/your day in an “either-or” way, i.e.: all good or all bad.
  • “I had a horrible day!” or “My life is a hard one.”

 

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you’re in good company! We live hectic lives in an increasingly complex world where information comes at us from more sources than ever before, all vying for our attention. It’s no surprise we’re not more present, more fully aware.

Mindful Monday-The Faces We Wear

Remember the line in the Beatles song, Eleanor Rigby, “wearing the face that she keeps in the jar by the door”?  I don’t know what Paul had in mind when he wrote that but it makes me think of the different faces we wear depending on the time of day, the people we’re with, and the environment we’re in.

Here’s a mindfulness exercise to help us notice what face we wear when, where and with whom. Pay attention to the face you present in the following situations. Make a mental note or jot down a note about each. You can even use emojis to help capture your face, For example, for those who aren’t early birds, your waking up face might be a grumpy face. If you feel stressed driving to work, a tense face might fit.

Waking up face:

Driving/commuting face:

Arriving at work face:

Arriving home face:

Greeting partner face:

Greeting kids face:

Going to bed face:

Now review your faces and decide if there are any that you want to change, particularly if you often wear that face and it reflects a not-so-happy you. We’re often unaware of the face we present to others. Here’s a chance to notice.

 

 

 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Employment

employment-signHighlights from Beautiful Minds Wasted, The Economist

Thanks to my colleague, Jennifer Mannheim, ARNP , for passing along a recent article on autism and employment (The Economist, April 16, 2016 Beautiful Minds Wasted). As more and more children with autism become young adults, it offers a look at what happens after educational services end.

This article provides a global glimpse at the state of employment for those on the spectrum and is chock-full of sobering statistics:

  • In 1970, 1 in 14, 000 children in the US were diagnosed with an ASD.
  • In 2016, 1 in 68 children in the US were diagnosed with an ASD.
  • In France, 90% of children with an ASD attend primary school but only 1% makes it to high school.
  • In the US, less than 50% of students with an ASD graduate from high school.
  • In the UK, 60% of teachers said they were unprepared to teach children with an ASD.
  • In the UK, 12% of adults with HFA are employed and 2% of adults with “more challenging forms of ASD”.
  • Globally, per the UN, 80% of adults on the spectrum are unemployed.
  • In the US, 19% of adults with an ASD in their early 20s live independently away from their parents.
  • 1 in 4 adults with an ASD report feeling isolated (have not seen friends or received a social invitation in the past year).

The article identified some of the employment challenges for those on the spectrum, including difficulty with the social aspects of the interview process, the often over stimulating work environment and adapting to changes in schedules and routines. On the other hand, strengths of some on the spectrum include intense focus and an eye for detail, enjoyment of repetitive tasks, dependability in following rules and routines.

Also mentioned were employers throughout the world who have made efforts to assist employees with an ASD to be successful including Specialisterne, A Danish firm that offers training and help finding jobs, Kaien in Japan, AQA in Israel, Passwerk in Belgium, and Walgreens in the US.

The Economist cites lifetime cost of unemployment associated with an ASD (lifelong care, lack of output by such individuals and un/under employment by families who care for those who do not work) is cited as between 1.4-2.4 million dollars.

Depressing? Yes. Surprising? No. The world is still not capably or comprehensively providing services and supports for children with an ASD and their families. It is only beginning to see the massive wave of children now coming of age into adulthood. Our kids are not ready for the real world and the real world is not ready for them.

 

Mindful Monday- Choose To Be Happy

Scientists tell us that our genes play a big role in our temperament – whether we are naturally positive or negative, high-strung or low-key. Does that mean, however, that we have no control over how we feel or on our outlook on life?

We all know people who seem to enjoy being miserable. They find fault with everything and everyone, feel victimized by life, and seem to not experience any happiness. We also know people who seem to bounce from one happy moment to the next, always looking at the bright side, and spreading joy wherever they go. Most of us are somewhere in the middle as we navigate life’s ups and downs. Is it possible to shift the scale to more happiness and less dissatisfaction? YES! As with anything, it takes practice. What could be easier though, then practicing being happy?

Practice Being Happy

  1. Hang out with happy people. We may not get to choose our family but we can choose our friends and acquaintances. If a relationship is not mutual, if it is dragging you down, consider pruning your friendship tree.
  2. Show thanks. This is one of the easiest things to do and the return on investment is incalculable. 
  3. Look for purpose. Ask yourself, “what is my purpose in life?” and you’re likely to find reason to be happy. Perhaps it is to be the best mom you can be or to serve others or make lives easier/better in some small but significant ways. 
  4. Look for meaning. When things go wrong, as they do, find meaning. Don’t dig too deep! It may be as simple as a lesson learned or another step in resilience. 
  5. Live in the moment. Make an effort to let go of yesterday and not worry about tomorrow. All that you have any control over is what is right in front of you today. 

Mindful Monday – More Being and Less Doing For The Holidays

If you found your Thanksgiving holiday to be more doing (shopping, cleaning, prepping, cooking, serving, hosting, cleaning again) than being (listening, breathing, walking, seeing things and people in a simpler light, enjoying special moments), there’s still hope for you!

The next round of holidays is just around the corner and now is the time to set an intention to s-l-o-w down! Many people have come to realize how stressful this time of year can be and with a child with ASD, even more so.  While some things are not within your control to change, some are. Here are some tips:

  • Think about your traditions and appraise them in the here and now. For example, if you have always sent out holiday cards, ask if this is still meaningful for you and the recipients. Can you update your list of recipients and shorten it? If this year is particularly stressful, consider not sending cards this year and revisiting the issue next year. If you are nagged by “I should” and “I always”, ask yourself what the worst- case scenario would be if you skip this year. Will anyone disown you?
  • Decide more is not better. Too often we spend extra time and money on “filler” such as what goes into a child’s stocking. I realized one year that I spent almost as much on the little stuff as I did on the “main present”. My answer was to stuff the lower half of the stocking with new socks and then add a few items on top. If you have many people on your list for gifts, just give one. Radical idea for the kids, I know! But as kids get older, the things they want are smaller and more expensive. There’s no need to buy more just so they have a lot to open. Last year I bombed on a number of items I bought for my family – things they didn’t really need or want. I vowed to recall this next time. It was one gift that made their day.
  • Call to mind the small yet meaningful aspects of the holiday. We tend to get caught up in the gift-giving part and breeze past the moments that truly count. It could be the smell of fresh pine or a song that brings back childhood memories. This year decide to pay attention, to notice the small things. Make a mental note of them.
  • Set your own pace. Television and the internet will convince you that time and gifts are running out and that you better hurry or else you’ll miss out. Turn it off. Tune it out. Recognize that the purpose of this is to sell something. Slow down and think through your list.
  • Refrain from comparing. Expectations tend to be our downfall when it comes to the holidays. We compare ourselves with our own parents, other families, fictitious families on TV, Face Book families (they seem fictitious sometimes too!) and storybook families of holidays long, long ago. Instead of comparisons, think of possibilities. Leave some room for being adaptable to whatever may come your way.

Wishing you love, peace, and quiet this holiday season!