Kids & COVID-19

Girl sitting at the table

When life is stressful, kids look to adults show them how to respond.

Most people have heard about Mr. Rogers’ response in times of trouble. He said, “when I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” I have found this message to be a comfort time and time again.

Children take their cues from adults. If we are scared and anxious and panicked, they will be too. However, if we are calm and confident that things will be OK, they, too, will rest in that assurance. The hard part is when it feels like things are falling apart around us and we don’t feel calm and confident. What do we do then? Fake it? Well, that’s one option. Let’s talk about some others.

  • Practice Self Care – Finding ways to process hard things and stay regulated is critical to creating a peaceful environment for your kids. So, do all the things that help you offload stress and anxiety – paint, craft, mow the grass, do some calisthenics, pray, journal, organize the linen closet, read, watch a funny show, play a game, phone a friend, have some closet time. 🙂 Even being stuck at home, there are tons of options to help us unwind.
  • Think in Terms of Prevention and Intervention – Both kids and adults need special things to keep us from reaching our limits, as well as, to calm down when we get there. Getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, eating well, avoiding sugar, connecting with others, having down time – these are great ways to boost our capacity to manage frustration and PREVENT meltdowns. And for INTERVENING when the meltdowns come, try some of those same things or these: time away, soft music, movement, coloring, building, a lovie – the list is endless.
  • Limit Overstimulating Activities – Although being stuck inside seems like a great time for screen time (after all, it does keep them quiet), the research is clear that screens actually disrupt the brain’s ability to regulate. What we see is a delayed response that is often hard to connect back to the devices. I’m all for a fun show or educational game or interesting research – in moderation. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only an hour of screen time a day for children ages 18 months to 5 years. As for older children and teens – the most I’ve seen recommended is two hours a day. Not very much, is it? To better understand how electronic medias affect your child and her developing brain, as well as, to take charge of electronics and create a Family Media Use Plan, check out these articles: Infants and Preschoolers and School Aged Children and Adolescents
  • Promote Play – Think back to when you were growing up and all the ways you played: hide and seek, building forts, barbies, Legos, arts and crafts, coloring, pretend play, cars, rocks and sticks, running and jumping and bicycling… Although a few of those things cannot be done in quarantine, so many others can. Even though children might balk at giving up screens, once they are engaged they usually won’t remember what they are missing. Pull out old toys and games and play with them, just to get them started. Small children sometimes need to be taught how to play and then given the freedom to do it their way. Choose a phrase from play therapy, “at our house, you can do that any way you’d like” to unlock their creativity.
  • Explore Sensory Activities – we hear more and more about sensory processing and how our senses affect our mood (think weighted blankets.) I wish I knew then what I know now about the power of sensory activities. And when I say “then”, I mean always. It’s amazing how powerful it is to identify which sensory experiences dysregulate kids (and adults) and which ones regulate us. To learn more about how this works, check out the AMAZING resources below. These books are full of fun, engaging, sensory informed play for kids. AND the activities are simple and inexpensive. Win Win.
  • Give Kids Feeling Words – Children don’t know how to express what they feel. They need us to teach them how to do that. The more we talk about our own feelings and name the feelings our kids seem to be displaying, the more competent our children will become in expressing theirs. It is critical that we give kids the freedom to feel the way they feel. This doesn’t excuse bad behavior that comes from big feelings. In fact, expressing feelings in healthy ways will reduce, and eventually eliminate, those behaviors. We need to teach kids that it’s OK to feel mad, sad, disappointed, frustrated, etc, but it is not OK to hurt ourselves or others when we feel those ways. Children need to be actively taught how to process and offload those kinds of feelings. And you are the perfect person to do just that. I’ve included more of my favorite resources to start the process below.

Sensory Resources (post includes affiliate links)

Feelings Resources (post contains affiliate links)

In uncertain times, we have to remember what is certain. For me, it’s knowing that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. And He sits at the right hand of His Father, who is STILL on His throne. Remembering this allows me to be a helper. The children in your life are looking for helpers. They are looking to you. I know you are up to the task. If there is anything I can do to help you navigate these difficult days, please reach out here. We are all in this together!

Warmly, Erin

Keep Calm and Carry On

Two brothers eating ice cream

Whether you are high strung or easy going, uncertain times create tension for everyone. 

In this high-speed, connected world, that tension can easily become bigger feelings like anxiety, fear, frustration, anger and worse – panic and despair.

I have to admit that I can struggle with anxiety in normal, everyday life. So, of course, things like Covid-19 play hard on that inclination. Uncertainty leaves me feeling out of control. As someone who thrives on “always being prepared”, feeling unprepared is scary. And I have to fight against the fear and panic that threaten to set in. Do you? How about those you love? 

When we listen to the fear, it is a short trip down the proverbial rabbit hole to losing our minds to panic, which can quickly become mass chaos. Think Lord of the Flies. Ugh. 

In 2000, the British discovered posters designed to prepare the English people for the Blitz that was to come with WWII. Although 2.5 million were produced, only a few were ever seen publicly. The words, Keep Calm and Carry On, have re-emerged as memes across social media. But as the Brits knew back then, it is important for us to keep to our senses in times of crisis. To do otherwise seals our fate. 

Personally, I am reminded of the following scripture: 

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

II Timothy 1:7

Did you know there are over 365 verses in the Bible that speak about fear? And they all point to two truths:

  • Fear is not from the Lord and
  • We need not be afraid because HE WILL NEVER LEAVE US.

(Check out a few of these here: Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 4:8, Philippians 4:6-7, Isaiah 41:10 and Psalm 23)

The truth is that in the midst of the Corona Virus or the Tennessee tornadoes or the dropping oil prices or the stock market crashes, He is still on His throne. And He gives us hope for our future. 

So, what can we do to avoid the panic? How do we come together in times of crisis, instead of turning on each other? What do we do to take care of ourselves and our families? Here are a few ideas. 

  • Manage your own mental health. Keep a positive and hopeful perspective. Focus on what is true and not what the fear wants you to believe. Make an appointment with your counselor or coach. Most of these professionals are set up to do phone or video appointments, especially now. 
  • Prepare. Just as Joseph prepared Egypt for the coming famine, we should use our sound minds (as Paul wrote) to have the things our families need, should we become ill or need to be quarantined.
  • Love each other. Don’t succumb to hoarding things that you don’t need. Leave some for others. Give generously when others don’t have what they need. Care for families who are ill or have tragically lost loved ones. Pay attention to those in your sphere. Remember that the people who are sick are not to blame for this pandemic. Separate your criticism of governments’ decisions from the people who inhabit those countries. 
  • Be informed. Know what is true. Do your homework. Follow credible sources at their origin.  
  • Keep yourself healthy. If you aren’t healthy, how can you help your family or do your important work? Cut down on sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Fear and hard feelings draw us to these things – be mindful and resist the urge. Exercise. Take Vitamin C. Stay home when you are under the weather. Wash your hands. 
  • Breathe. Find ways to stay calm. Pause before speaking or acting when you are feeling afraid or angry. Pray.

We have a responsibility to care for ourselves, our families and our community. I challenge each of us to find practical ways to do that very thing. 

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

There are a few professionals I am following for wise counsel and helpful tips on how to prepare and take care of myself until Covid-19 passes. I’m including two resources below for your convenience. Although lots of medical professionals are sending emails with valuable information, these two have dedicated web pages they are updating regularly. The important thing is to find someone you trust, who is giving wise counsel and not promoting fear.

The truth is, it will all be OK. We just don’t know what OK looks like, yet. There will be suffering. People might die. Our conveniences might be disrupted, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I’ll let you know if my opinion changes on that. LOL.

Know that I am walking with you in the journey. If there is anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can email me directly at [email protected].

When Life is Overwhelming, Where do You Go?

A spiritual perspective in the midst of the flood

Woman walking in the woods

Violent riots. Hateful rhetoric. Eclipse. Hurricanes. Forest fires. Earthquakes. Were we not living the reality, none of us would have believed all these events could have happened in the last six short weeks. America alone has and continues to suffer devastation in three of the four corners of our precious country. And the beautiful world around us suffers even more destruction. That would be enough for many of us. But in the midst of it all, Houston, my city, our city, has taken a huge blow. Even those whose home or business wasn’t personally damaged, are experiencing the trauma of living in an area where so many were. Each person knows someone who has experienced loss. The first question to friends and strangers is often, “How is your home? Did you flood?”

Driving through the streets of Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey there is a frequent shift in sights ~ from business-as-usual to what resembles scenes from a war zone. There is no making light of this. The impact of seeing such devastation and police presence is pure shock. Curbs are piled high with sheet rock, carpet, furniture and every personal possession to be imagined. Buildings are vacant, as if hurriedly left in the middle of the night – furniture overturned, books, papers and personal items strewn about by powerful, rising water. Several parts of the city remain submerged, patrolled by local and national law enforcement present in boats, helicopters, squad cars, and humvees. Many live with an ever increasing knowledge of levees, mold, insurance adjusters, “mucking out”, respiration masks and FEMA. Whether in Houston or elsewhere, it is clear that the damage is real. And long lasting.

In the midst of it all, life continues. Loved ones die. Layoffs happen. Cancer diagnoses are given. Relationships end. Even those who have been unscathed, experience the reality of survivors guilt. The pain and suffering can feel overwhelming.

Lest you think this post is simply another news story cataloging the destruction, let us ask the questions, “What good is there? What do I do when it feels overwhelming? Where is God? Where do I go??”

Oh, the good. He brings the good in spades. Look around. What do you see in the midst of the chaos? What do you hear?

When I think back to the week of August 15th and the state of my social media sites, I am reminded of the conflict, criticism and anger. No one was spared. The judgment and guilt flowed freely. It was clearly brother against brother across the country. And yet, four short weeks later and what fills my feed? Stories of heroism, sacrifice and love. Hope for a hurting country.

Thousands have poured into Southeast Texas from far away places. Millions of dollars have been donated by people, companies and sports teams across the land. Businesses have stepped forward to offer aid and grace. People. People have come forth in boats and trucks, donned masks and gloves to rescue the people and restore the homes of strangers. The freeways are full of emergency vehicles set to keep the peace, recovery vehicles to restore property and buses and vans filled with strangers to do the work. Name a license plate and I’ve seen it. Every day I am amazed by the generosity of strangers. That they would leave their homes, travel across the country, wade through the infested waters and enter mold-filled homes to help another human being is inspiring. And humbling. This is the good.

These stories are manifestations of the scriptures. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Matthew 22:36-40 tells us, “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'” We see them come to life in technicolor. Look for examples around you.

But what about when it’s not enough? Do you find yourself asking, “What do I do when there is too much? How can I possibly handle it?”

Houston and many other places have experienced a significant trauma. The widespread destruction, the sheer number of people impacted, the suddenness, the experience of being IN it and the fact that support systems have also been affected make it even more difficult to overcome. Difficult, but not impossible. Jesus himself told us, “…in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We are promised in Deuteronomy 31:8, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” To the Israelites, Isaiah said, “…the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 52:12) Take heart, dear ones!!

The scriptures are full of promises just like these!! He sees our suffering and weeps with us. He longs to comfort us in the midst of the pain, as He stands in front of, behind and next to us throughout it all. (See Zechariah 2:5) Paul writes in Philippians, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” And yet, we can do very little on our own. Certainly not in the wake of such trauma and heartache. Where is God? With us. Always. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Rest, dear ones.

And in the midst of the struggle, He gives us good gifts. These are some that you can embrace:

1. Grief“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:1, 4) The Lord gives us the gift of grief. The ability to feel deeply the losses we experience, so that we may know the value of this life. So that we may turn to Him for our comfort. Jesus experienced this. He knows the suffering and is a balm to our souls. Let yourself grieve the loss – however big or small. It is a natural human emotion, given to us by Him for expression. Don’t bottle it up or brush it aside.

2. Community – Think again of all the examples of community coming together. Be inspired by the brotherly love that is growing day by day in the midst of tragedies. There is an old song that keeps playing through my mind, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they will know we are Christians by our love…” We have an opportunity to show the love of Christ to friends and strangers. To love as He first loved us. If you have need, ask for help. Give others the opportunity to be His hands and feet to you. If you have enough, offer to others. We each have special skills to share. And yet there are tasks that don’t require any skill at all. Find a place to serve. Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes another will himself be refreshed.” Go, and be refreshed.

3. Self Care“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16) Jesus knew that he must have time alone with his Father – to be refreshed and re-centered in the midst of this earthly life. And we, in our humanity, must do the same. We must take time to rest, recharge and refill so that we can then love and serve others. So, sleep, eat, laugh, take brain breaks, move your body, pray, meditate and refresh your soul. Fill your pitcher, so that you then have something to pour into the cups of those you serve. For, if you don’t HAVE anything to give, you don’t have ANYTHING to give.

4. Connection – We are created for connection. The Lord gave Eve to Adam because he saw it was not good for him to be alone. (See Genesis 2:18) Throughout the scriptures we see the power of family and friendship. David had Jonathan, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were together in the fire, Jesus had 12 disciples and three in his closest circle. We are created for community and connection. In times of despair and anxiety, it is crucial that we reach out to those we love. We must make our needs known AND we must anticipate the needs of others. Love goes both ways. Think of two people you can call this week to check on or offer love to or pray for and with. You won’t regret making the time for this connection.

There are so many gifts. Look for them in your life and share them with others.

And in the meantime, notice what is happening… each day brings changes. Babies are born. Treatment is finished. Weddings are celebrated. Roads open. Power is restored. Homes are accessible. Trash is collected. Businesses reopen. The weather cools. Yes. Change happens. Restoration begins. Healing comes. This is the circle of life. We see it before us and we are hopeful. We begin to believe that maybe things won’t always be as they are. Maybe it will be okay again. Whatever your loss, whatever your anxiety or worry, whatever your pain, remember that He sees you. He is with you. He will never leave you. Go to Him.

Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 1 are full of these assurances. Spend some time there this week.

What are your favorite scripture verses to remember when life is hard? What do you do to cope with difficult feelings and circumstances? 


Survive the Holidays…With People

Six tips to dealing with the difficult people in your life this holiday season

Table Set for Christmas Dinner

With Christmas and New Year’s breathing down our necks, it can be a challenge to keep the joy alive. As discussed here and here, the holidays can be one of the most difficult times of year for many in our world. One of the best and hardest parts of it involves people: the people we love and the people who are at times the most difficult to love. So, let’s finish up this series with some ways to experience the joy and quite frankly, maintain your sanity, when surrounded by people.

Sometimes it seems that if it wasn’t for other people, we would coast through life just fine, right? But we know that certainly isn’t true. Philosophers, scholars, theologians, psychologists and even Hollywood writers have proven time and time again, that although getting along with others is often a challenge, without them life wouldn’t be worth living. (Think Cast Away) We are designed to live in community and that means with both easy and difficult people.

Sure, we can arrange our lives to minimize the time spent with known difficult persons, but what happens when they end up around our dinner table every Christmas Eve? That’s a completely different story. Here are some things you can do before and during those anticipated visits this year.

Plan Ahead: If you know Aunt Martha will be joining the family gathering this year, anticipate ways you can keep the conversation to acceptable topics. Think about how you will respond to her nosy or off-putting remarks. Visualize yourself engaged in a pleasant conversation. These simple techniques will help you to stay focused and in control of your own feelings and responses when Martha gets revved up.

Eagerly Anticipate the Reunion: If you dread seeing Uncle Mark, that will color your entire holiday experience. Think of something you can appreciate about your Uncle. This might require some help from other family members. Be grateful for those positive qualities. This will help you to greet him with genuine gladness. Remind yourself throughout dinner of those good things. When things get tense, bring the conversation back to these attributes: “Uncle Mark, I have always loved your ability to do impressions. Will you do one for us now?”

Consider the Source: Difficult people have reasons they are difficult. When we can identify what makes them tick, it helps us to understand them better. This, in turn, increases our compassion and often our patience with them. Recognizing which behaviors are strictly about them also helps us to let things roll off our backs.

Manage Your Time: If your visits will be prolonged, be sure to work in time to rejuvenate and recharge your battery. For an introvert, just being in a big crowd uses up a lot of energy. And when you add one or two challenging folks, it can be downright exhausting! Whether introvert or extrovert, being around difficult people takes it out of us all. This year set a schedule to have time to yourself throughout the visit. Go to bed earlier than usual so you can read or connect with a loved one far away. Volunteer to run an errand or watch the kids at the park. Go for a stroll during the day – just you and your walkman. #kickinitoldschool

Remember: Fish and visitors smell after three days. Whoever said this, was right on the money. The older we get, the more busy our lives become, the more we are inundated with constant bad news, the less capacity we have for close quarters with others. When planning your holiday times, keep your trips short. Better to leave wanting more than to exceed your expiration date with a bad taste in your mouth. If the trip is already planned, use the previous tip to create breaks in your togetherness.

Spread the Joy! Make a commitment to share the joy of the season with others. Remind yourself of this every time you get in your car or walk into a store or gathering. Keep your reasons for joy close to your heart, post reminders throughout your life and then pass it along. Put a smile on your face and a ready greeting on your tongue. Be the crazy fool who makes everyone wonder, what’s up with her?? Joy is contagious. Do what you can to spread it around.

Difficult people are all around us. Every family has at least one in their midst. If you find that these people are more toxic than difficult, hiring a counselor or coach to help you navigate the relationship in a safe and healthy way will produce great rewards for you and for them. We are called to love others as we love ourselves. The trick is learning how to do that well. The good news is that it can be done!

My hope for each of you is that this is your best Christmas ever. I hope you and your loved ones remember the reasons you are your favorites. And may the Good News of Christmas bring comfort and peace to you this month and all year long!

What are your tried and true ways of handling tough people or situations? Does eggnog help? 

Survive the Holidays…When Grief Comes

Practical ways to support someone who is grieving at Christmastime

The holidays can be the hardest time of year, especially for someone suffering the loss of a loved one. As discussed in this post, grief stress can easily overwhelm and steal the joy of the Christmas season. Whether it is you or someone you love who is grieving, it is important to offer grace. The grace to miss them. Grace to slow down and simplify. Grace to let yourself weep. Grace to take one day at a time. And even the grace to enjoy the season without them. 

Today, I’m honored to share a post written by my friend and colleague, Teresa Bartnicki, MA, LPC-Intern. Teresa’s post, with wisdom and compassion, provides practical ways to support those who grieve. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Many of us struggle to find ways to help and support grieving family members and friends during the holidays. We want to help, but we often don’t know where to start. We are afraid of doing the wrong thing, so we end up doing nothing at all. Here are some ways that you can reach out to and support your grieving loved ones through the holidays:

  • Support loved one’s decisions about how to celebrate the holidays. Give them the freedom to keep or change traditions as needed. Let go of any expectations and provide a consistent, calming and accepting presence.
  • Offer to help with baking, cleaning, or seasonal decorating. These tasks can be simply overwhelming for those who are grieving.
  • Offer to help prepare holiday mail or join them in holiday shopping.
  • Invite the person to join you or your family for the holidays. Help plan an exit strategy in case one is needed.
  • Ask them what help they need for the holidays and be open to what doesn’t help.
  • Respect their need for privacy and solitude.
  • Offer to share a cup of coffee or take a relaxing walk.
  • Listen to them. Then listen some more. Practice being at ease with whatever emotion they may be feeling.
  • Send them a gift. Give them a journal with words of encouragement or hope written on the inside cover.
  • Offer to sit with them. Let them know that they are not alone.

When you catch yourself thinking about grieving loved ones this holiday season, be sure to reach out to them. Remember that they need your support now more than ever. While you can’t take away the pain of their loss, you can let them know that you care and that you are there for them for the long haul. Continue to check on them after the holidays and be present in as many ways as before. One of the most helpful things you can remember is that grief is not linear and grief doesn’t go away after all of the “firsts”. Continue to reach out to your loved ones on meaningful days and let them know that you are there for them through ALL of their seasons of grief.

Teresa BartnickiTeresa Bartnicki is a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern at The WARM Place in Ft. Worth, Texas. She has a heart for all those who grieve and spends as much time as possible with her great loves: family and running.


If, this year, you are the one grieving, ask for help. Share this post with those you love to help them understand what you might need. Find ways to honor those you miss. Remember them this Christmas.


Survive the Holidays…With Style and Grace

Five ways to manage the stresses of the season

Christmas Tree Ornaments

Hello, November! With a turn of the page the busiest time of the year is upon us. Although the holidays are advertised as “the most wonderful time of the year” they are usually the most stressful. Do you feel tired even reading a post about Christmas? Are you still trying to manage the Thanksgiving menu? Are you stressed out knowing the number of shopping days is dwindling rapidly? Do you find yourself resenting the mere suggestion of THINKING about shopping days? Are you more interested in making this season less busy and more enjoyable? If so, read on for practical tips on how to bring back the wonder and joy the season is meant to celebrate.

Many people around the world recognize that Christmas is the fulfillment of God’s promises throughout the scriptures as summarized in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

The Lord joyfully gave His Son as a gift to us! And so, we should experience that same joy in the celebration of His birth. Unfortunately, we often experience the most tribulation during these very same months. The evil one comes to kill, steal and destroy – our faith, our hope, our joy. But the good news is that He has overcome the world through the very gift of the Christmas we celebrate!! Hallelujah!

So, how DO we not just survive, but DELIGHT in the celebration of Christmas?? Recognizing the ways we are distracted from the joy He offers is the first step. Below are six stressors that creep in to wreak havoc in our lives and steal our joy. They make us tired, grumpy, anxious and no fun to be around! Sounds like our old friends the Grinch and Ebeneezer Scrooge, right?

Acknowledging that these stresses exist and understanding how each affects you will better prepare you to combat them. Read through those listed in Step One and then spend time brainstorming ways you can reduce or eliminate them this year. Even the smallest change can make a big difference over time. Step Two includes ideas to help you really take charge of your holiday experience and make it what you desire it to be!

Step One: Identify the stressors that impact you and the ways they use up your resources.

  • Time Stress – During the holiday season, we have more tasks and events that take our time but no added hours. Tick tock. Tick tock.
  • Choice Stress – Every day in December seems to bring a wonderful opportunity to do something fun and “holiday-ish”. Sometimes choosing between what you can do and what you want or need to do feels like a risky game of eeny meeny miny moe.
  • Financial Stress – How many times have you set a Christmas budget only to realize you’ve doubled or *gasp* tripled it by December 24th?!? To say that the holidays afford financial stress is no laughing matter. #pundefinitelyintended
  • Social Stress – Whether long-lost or bestie our friends love to invite us to celebrate with them, right? It’s great to have friends, but sometimes the invitations simply increase the pressure to spend time and money doing things our resources don’t allow.
  • Emotional Stress – Most of us have at least one family member who is a challenge to be around. Social pressure dictates that we spend holiday time with difficult people simply because they are related. The mere thought sends some people to the corner to cry.
  • Grief Stress – Whether our grief is recent or long-standing, the holidays usually make it bigger. We find that our favorite traditions are rife with memories of those who are no longer with us. What was once a joyous occasion has now become full of sadness that, if not addressed, can hijack our ability to feel joy.

Step Two: Use these ideas to make a plan to reduce your stress and enjoy the Season!

  • Be intentional – You get to decide how you will spend your available resources. Considering which areas of stress are most predominant for you, decide how you will spend your time, money and energy this year. Remember, whatever you say “yes” to means you are saying “no” to something else.
  • Create and protect cherished holiday traditions – What is your favorite tradition(s)? What brings you back to remembering the reason for the season? Plan your time, energy and money around enjoying a few of your most favorite traditions instead of every one that presents itself. #sopunny
  • Decide what’s most important and focus your energy there – How can you simplify your life during the holidays? What can you temporarily eliminate to make room for festivities and celebrations? Just like a financial balance sheet, all categories must equal zero. Spending more time, money or energy than you have puts you in the red.
    • Answer these questions: What will I spend my available time on this year? How much money will I budget and how will I spend it? Who will I make a point to spend time with this year?
  • Put it in writing – Making lists, written budgets and event calendars that you can refer to often will keep you on track throughout the season.
  • Take care of yourself – Give yourself plenty of margin to recover from long days, exhausting small talk and late nights of baking cookies and wrapping gifts. Be sure to incorporate time into each day to decompress. Ask for help when you need it. Cramming your schedule full is a sure way to make you crazy. If you don’t have ANYTHING to give, you don’t have anything to GIVE.

Although there are many more ways to reduce stress and enjoy the holidays for the celebration they are, these will give you a good start. Want more? Are practical worksheets and step-by-step formats your jam? I have just the thing for you ~ download tools to help you work through each of these steps at Then, watch your inbox for more suggestions on how to manage those six stressors this year.

What are ways you reduce stress during the busy holiday season? Are there other stressors I didn’t mention that you have to deal with? What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'” ~ Luke 2:10-14

Do You Ever Feel Like a Fraud?

Five ways to get back on top of your game

Woman looking in the mirror

Do you ever feel like the world’s worst parent? The employee who really doesn’t know what you’re doing? The entrepreneur who is faking it more than making it? The musician, athlete, artist, diaper-changer who can’t imagine that you have anything good to offer others? I sure do.

I have intense moments of crippling self-doubt. Moments of sheer exhaustion from the energy it takes to keep moving forward. Moments of abject fear that everyone will realize what a fraud I am. The kind of moments that make me want to stop doing the hard thing.

Its a fair bet to say that everyone can speak to these exact same feelings at some time or another. Those who can’t are sleeping. 😉 AND although no one knows everything, to call ourselves a fraud is beyond extreme.

So, what do we do in those times to keep moving forward? To conquer the fear? To shore up the tired heart and find the energy and faith we need to keep doing life?

I know the right things to do. The key is to get ’em done. Sometimes I just need a reminder. The next time you find yourself in the throes of giving up, try a couple of these.

Phone a friend. Call up someone in your raving fan club. You’ve got at least one. Your spouse, best friend, mother. Call and let them know what’s going on. Ask them to do what they do best – encourage you. Leaning on your support system is essential in times like this.

Meet up. Send the text or email that asks someone to make time in their day to connect with you. Your people will always make time, especially when they know what’s behind the invitation. It may not be immediate, but even looking forward to the occasion will raise your spirits. We are designed for community. Let your needs be known so others may have the blessing of meeting them. The scriptures say it well, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Exercise. Activate your body. Get the blood flowing. Faulty thinking is usually the problem in fraud-like thinking. Take time to create the endorphins and serotonin your brain needs to clear the cob webs and get you thinking clearly again. Go for a walk, with or without the dog. Do some yoga or calisthenics. Push the wall. The options are limitless.

Pray. Taking time to pray or meditate on the truths of your faith can make the most difference to the spirit that just can’t do it alone anymore. Start with a favorite verse for inspiration and encouragement. Here’s a good one: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

Be your own best friend. Its common that when these doubts and fears plague us, we know the truth in our heads, but our hearts don’t seem to get the message. So, talk to yourself like you would your best friend. You would remind them of what is true – they are working hard, they have great value to offer, they are NOT a fraud. Sometimes you need the same message spoken by one who knows.

As quickly as we can go from the top of the mountain to the bottom, we can also recover from the fall. Taking time to connect with others and the reality of who you are, will get you back on the right track. If today you aren’t facing these feelings, spend a few minutes making your emergency list for the future. Knowing who you can call and what you can do when times are hard will put you ahead of the game.

There are so many ways to calm fear and boost our confidence. What works for you? Who is the first person you would call for encouragement?