Category Archives: Psychology

Turning Pain into Power

With tears in his eyes, my son spills out, why doesn’t Dad  want to hang out with me, Mom?  Despite my best efforts to communicate with my ex husband the importance of spending quality time with his son, I’m afraid it has fallen on deaf ears.  It is so hurtful for him at such an important age in his life and with everything he has been through to know that someone he loves and cares for deeply simply doesn’t make himself available anymore because it doesn’t serve his needs.

The absence of someone we love and care about is common place for many whether it be due to death, business travel or the ending of a relationship. How can we take these difficult times, the hurt and pain we feel and use it to make our lives better rather than bitter?

Although there is no magic pill one can take to cure this, there are a few steps forward that people can take to turn their pain into power.

Find ways to serve others.

This is a two fold benefit.  When our focus is shifted elsewhere, we put our mind and efforts onto serving others in positive ways whether it be volunteering at the local homeless shelter, visiting the elderly in nursing homes or putting together care packages to send to veterans overseas.  This strengthens our community one person at a time. It also helps to increase our moods by raising our  levels of oxytocin and serotonin in our bodies.

So for my son, who continues his battle with Chairi Malformation, I have spoke to him about the importance of how he can spread awareness of this disorder and be a  mentor and a friend for a new kid at his school who also has the same disorder.  Helping him to see the opportunity to be a leader to many of the younger, more inexperienced players on his team is another way to create bonds and feel appreciated.

Get Your Body Moving.

When we  feel strong physically, this helps us become stronger mentally and vice versa.  Running, yoga, crossfit,  team sports, biking, hiking or simply taking a brisk 30-40 minute walk every night helps to increase our dopamine levels and the reward centers in our brain. This is why, after we are done with a workout even though we may feel sore our mood is most likely improved and not focused on what’s missing in our life.

I keep my son moving by playing baseball, continuing with his physical therapy, swimming, and bike riding.  This season I am now one of his coaches for his team so those kids sure keep me moving !

Ask for Help When Needed.

Unfortunately, it seems we live in a world where so many think that if we show our emotions, share our story and express a need for help, that we are somehow flawed… weak.  Researcher Brene Brown states…


It takes courage to share your story, to ask for someone’s trust,  to be truly present in their company, to listen, show empathy, provide support and encouragement where needed.  Sometimes this help may need to come from a professional.

Or be the person who picks up the phone and  extends the olive branch to  friends and family in need and remind them that you are there for them not just during times when it is convenient but rather more importantly in the times when it is inconvenient. Perhaps when they feel others have walked out on them.







Plug Into What Matters

I’m not much of an artist, but allow me to try and paint a picture here for you.  The courtyard of the high school where I teach or probably any high school for that matter may fit this description…

-Ketchup packets strewn about on the ground that some teen thought would be  funny to stomp on all the while engaging in flip the bottle contest with pals.

-A table full of girls turning their backs to a couple of boys who like  sloths slowly make their way over, move in with a sly grin, throw out a couple of jokes and boom-score a number!

-Laughter, smiles, teens vigorously trying to type their essay before the next class.

-Group of boys rough housing it on the lawn, tormenting the young bucks on the team with a few slams to the ground and a lunch monitor giving a slight warning to knock it off.

Yep, we see it all on the daily including the times where the opportunity zooms overs their heads to create a connection or a touchpoint with a friend, teacher, parent.  Today was no different.  ‘Laura’ – sitting with four friends at lunch.  As they always do, they  pop open the lunch boxes, cell phone in hand or within quick reach.  She began to confide in them that her father had been in a serious accident and was in the hospital.  Each taking their turn with the required “aww, sorry- hope he’s ok” while  continuing to text and stare scrolling right along on their devices. Now in some cases, keeping things as normal as possible can be helpful.

In her situation, she needed them to really listen and  could sense that they weren’t truly interested in what she was sharing. A few moments later, she gathered her lunch and backpack and off she headed towards the library.


Pay attention.

It is so easy to miss these opportunities to make a deposit into the relationships that matter– to create  meaningful  connections where people feel validated, heard, appreciated, supported and where  people know  that trust and empathy are present. When we do this,  it leads to more productive and healthier  relationships between parent & child, among friends, partners, colleagues and within our communities.

As a teacher and Mom of two, I must  guide my students and children in understanding and practicing the right times and situations to plug into their cell phones/computers and when to plug into people and the moments that matter.

I must also remember to practice what I teach.

Please watch Simon Sinek discuss it best in describing the generational changes and the power of connection in our personal and professional relationships.


How the Mentally Strong Handle Hard Times

With recent MRI results coming back on my son, we were disappointed to say the least.  It takes a few days to process the possibility of him having brain surgery for the second time.  What he and I  won’t do however, is sit around and feel sorry for ourselves and do nothing.  We have come to understand that there are certain characteristics that most or all mentally strong people utilize when hard times fall their way.

 1.  They focus on what they can control -even if it’s just their attitude in approaching a difficult situation

 2. They create a course of action-they figure out what the possible solutions are and get to work on what they need to do. They keep moving!

 3.  They practice gratitude-morning|noon|night-it’s tough to see the rainbow through the clouds so they look closer at the small things around them that they are grateful for such as taking a walk with their dog, a call from a distant friend.

4.   They evaluate their priorities-while experiencing loss and hardships, one must always remember as Stephen Covey calls them, the big rocksbig-rocks or what is most important in their lives; it may be their health, family, job etc… take care of the big rocks.

5.  They draw on their inner strength-they remain committed to having a positive outlook and staying the course til the storm calms no matter how long this may take.

It is often in the worst of times that we discover the scars we have endured are  our strengths| the miles we’ve run are our determination to never quit| the difficult situations we face are opportunities to find the positives| and walking through our fears is how we develop the courage to carry on~




An Ethic of Care

This was the central focus of my college essay titled Philosophy of Teaching.  While completing my final internship at the same middle school I attended as a student, my college professor said, “You must know Why you’re going into this profession and How will you accomplish it.”  Have you ever had such a “hit you in the gut” question asked of you before?  This was certainly one of those for me.  Once I started writing, I realized exactly Why I wanted to teach and help kids.

I want every child to know they aren’t alone and that someone cares.

Not until I reached high school, did I feel that a teacher really saw Me as a person and not just a student number and another test to grade.  One teacher that made the effort to connect with me and cared enough to know who I was and wanted to be.  My sweet, sweet Math teacher would allow me to eat lunch in her room sometimes.  She sensed that I wasn’t comfortable among the crowd of other kids. She listened, she asked questions, she paid attention… Eventually,  she gave me the courage  to join a club that worked with younger kids.  This amazing  teacher saw something that I didn’t see in myself at the time; that I loved helping other people and had a nurturing way about me.  I eventually became  president of the FEA(Future Educators of America) Club. It was then, I knew I wanted to teach and/or be a Psychologist.  If it hadn’t been for her, I don’t think I ever would have made it through college.  I saw her sweet, caring face in every struggle that came my way and I carried on.

to the world you may just one person quote

Thank you, Mrs. Spaulding

As I reflect on my 20 years in the classroom now, my Philosophy of Teaching  essay still rings true.  Anyone who works with children must possess an ethic of care. This is not one that simply cares that a student passes your tests and the class or adheres to every rule you put forth but rather one that lays a foundation that fosters trusting relationships in which children can achieve both academically and personally throughout their lifetime.  My philosophy on teaching?  Teach the whole child; get to know the whole person.  Spend time developing trusting relationships where they feel safe, heard,  encouraged, and inspired.  Peak their curiosity. Go to their awards ceremonies and cheer for them at their games(even when you’re tired). Sometimes, you may be the only one. Remind them that you will always be there for them as they embark upon their own journeys in life.


One of my friends recently said, “Teaching is a thankless job.”  Those “thank you’s” may not come  immediately but they do  come in small and beautiful ways-sometimes years later when they invite you to  lunch or their college graduation.


University of Miami graduate-now off to med school.  So proud of you! 🙂

Arena Spotlight- 5 Ways of Dealing with Negative People

If we fill our heads and hearts with negativity, then there is no room for all the beauty and love that surrounds us. 5 great tips on how to cope with negative people.


rainbow_annie_brettell_driving_back_from_bristol“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.” ~Joyce Meyer

1. Recognize and accept their toxicity
First and foremost, it is important to identify and accept that someone we know is a negative person. This can be difficult, especially when the person is someone we care about. Either way, we must be careful not to allow their negativity to transfer onto us. We need to accept that negativity is toxic and will only breed more negativity. It is especially important to avoid complainers. People who complain have given up hope that their actions can make any difference. We must be careful not to enable complainers by always listening to their woes.

2. Stop playing savior and/or problem solver
As human beings, we are wired to connect. For most of us, it is in our nature to lend a compassionate ear to someone who is in need. We must be careful not to let ourselves fall into the…

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