This is an emotional time of year for many of us. We can feel happy, sad, and stressed at the same time. Right now, I am happy that my kids will soon be home from college, but I am stressed that I won’t be able to clear the clutter off the dining room table in time for Thanksgiving dinner. I am also sad that this is the first Thanksgiving that my oldest son will not be home, because he recently moved across country. There is so much to do in a finite amount of time- cleaning, decorating, cooking, baking, and let’s not forget shopping. Are you one of those people that are near the front of the line waiting for the stores to open after you have finished your Thanksgiving dinner? If you are, I’ll admit I am a bit envious. I am usually the one endlessly circling waiting for you to leave, so I can have your parking space.
Managing your stress level is important throughout the year, but even more so around holidays. The best thing to do, which can seem impossible at this time of the year, is to work on preventing stress before it happens in the first place. Stress can lead to (or exacerbate) existing health problems. You can read about the causes of stress, its effect on the body, and how to effectively manage stress here.
It’s also important to recognize your stress triggers. I am embarrassed to admit that I canceled Christmas in our house one year, because I let my stress get the best of me. Some of the things you can do to relieve stress over the holidays are to set realistic and achievable goals, plan ahead, delegate, stick to your routine, get plenty of sleep, and don’t overindulge in food or drink.
One of the most effective ways I have found to reduce my stress is to take time for myself. The year I canceled Christmas I think what I really needed was a time out. So now I schedule time, just for me, around the holidays to do something I enjoy. What do you enjoy doing? Plan time in your week to do it. It can be as simple as taking a walk in your neighborhood or sticking to your fitness or yoga routine, meditating, listening to music, reading a book or watching a movie, or doing something more indulgent like getting a massage or a new haircut. It’s also the perfect time of year to support Howard County General Hospital and walk, drive or jog through the Symphony of Lights. Symphony of Lights is also a great place to send your family, relatives or guests if you need a few minutes alone (hint,hint)! Think about what you enjoy doing and do it! Everything will still get done and you will be happier. You can find more tips for enjoying the holidays here.
I hope everyone finds a little more peace and joy this holiday season. Happy holidays!
Do we need Girl Power today when girls have caught up and often outperform boys in school STEM-related subjects? When they are earning more college diplomas than boys, and are increasingly represented in STEM-related careers? So then, why Girl Power?
At the Central Branch of Howard County Library System, girls have an outlet for building self-confidence, developing friendships, and doing STEAM-related activities. If you ask these tween customers why they feel Girl Power is important, this is what you’ll hear:
“So we can encourage girls to do anything in the world.”- Anne (Age 10)
“Friendship!”- Marianne (Age 11)
“I believe that every single girl has power inside of them.”- Alexis (Age 9)
“It teaches girls to be brave & strong.”- Abby (11)
“It helps bring my inner voice come out.”- Trisha (Age 11)
“Because we want to fight back from being bullied.”- Brooke (age 9)
Research shows that as girls approach puberty and their bodies start to change, their self-esteem may decrease. An astounding number of tween and teen girls are unhappy with their bodies, and research shows that girls being worried about the way they look can influence their participation in activities. Thanks to national, state, and community initiatives in recent years, girls’ participation and success in STEM-related subjects has significantly improved. However, girls with lower self-esteem who believe in gender stereotypes such as “boys are better at math” suffer academically and consequently are less likely to pursue STEM-related careers.
There is good news! Positive female role models help combat negative female stereotypes. Likewise, getting hands-on experience in STEM-related subjects and activities can help give girls the confidence to pursue more STEM-related activities and/or careers. Another way to hone into that inner Girl Power is to check out the list of girl-empowering reads at the end of this post!
It’s also important to remember that not every girl will aspire to be a scientist or a mathematician, and that is perfectly okay! Girl Power is all about girls having the confidence to reach their individual potential and feel an inner happiness. Allison, an HCLS Girl Power attendee, sums up best why girls still need opportunities to explore and embrace their inner power: “To empower girls not to be afraid to do anything we put our minds to.” Check out hclibrary.org to register for the next Girl Power class.
TEEN GIRL FICTION
TEEN GIRL NONFICTION
Several weeks ago I was hospitalized for severe depression. I’d been dealing with a stressful project at work, my father’s terminal illness, and just getting over a painful breakup. For weeks it felt like I was drowning in my own head. I constantly felt exhausted. Simple tasks, like showering and getting something to eat, felt like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro without oxygen. Crying for no reason became the new norm. I went through my normal routine, numb and almost robot-like and could not find it within me to feel any pleasure in what I did. My range of emotion was limited to sad, hopeless, and angry. I’d suffered from depression and anxiety most of my adult life, but I realized how bad it was getting when I started to have recurring suicidal ideations.
These ideations were what scared me the most. I had no control over my mind. It didn’t matter what I was doing, thoughts of ending my life became persistent. In a sick way, the thought of dying provided comfort in finally putting an end to my misery.
One morning, I had an extremely difficult time getting out of bed. I slowly showered, dressed for work, drove to the office, and told my boss that I was afraid I was going hurt myself. He knew about my struggle with depression and I explained my life was so unbearable that I wanted to end it. I cannot remember much, but I do know I was brought to the psych unit of the ER. I cried hysterically several times, begging the hospital staff not to admit me to the psych ward.
I was admitted to another hospital for short-term hospitalization where I was stabilized with medication and group therapy. I am currently in outpatient therapy to learn coping skills, stress management, and recognize behaviors that I need to work on.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a chronic brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
I am Bipolar II which means I have patterns of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes, which involve elevated, high-energy moods. When I am hypomanic, I feel extremely energetic, talkative, and overly confident. For example, I’ll take on dozens of tasks at work and insist I do them on my own. Most of the time, I’m unable to complete the unrealistic goal I’d set for myself.
My psychiatrist said I am a high functioning bipolar. I’d been misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder all these years. Everyone that knows me thinks I’m a workaholic overachiever with a sweet, bubbly, outgoing personality. They think I have this tank of never-ending energy when I am up until 3:00 a.m. baking batches upon batches of cookies for no reason. Or when I can take care of a sick family member at the hospital all day and then answer work emails until 4:00 a.m. night after night for a week and not feel exhausted. I learned that this was also my hypomania.
No one ever saw the depression because I have mastered the art of hiding it from everyone, including most of my family and exes (even the last guy, who also had bipolar). When I am agitated or what I now know is an unstable mood, I always make a deliberate effort to be kind to those I interact with because I’m a firm believer that you never know what kind of day they’re having. It was only when I was alone that I allowed the dark depression to devour me and keeping up this act of normalcy took its toll.
MANAGING MY DISORDER IS MY RESPONSIBILITY.
The key to leading a happy, functional life is managing my disorder to the best of my abilities. Thanks to my ex boyfriend (also bipolar), I have a huge head start in educating myself about the disorder. I am fortunate to have a strong support system to help me cope and finally adjust to my new reality.
I am doggedly determined to maintain my stability and health not just for myself, but the people in my life. I am working out a plan with my doctor and therapist to make sure I stay on track. I am learning to manage my stress and look out for triggers. And most of all, I am holding myself accountable for how I manage my disorder moving forward.
I’ve seen so many negative things in the media about people struggling with bipolar. Not one bipolar person is the same -and to negatively label all of us is ignorant and requires more education about the disorder. We, with bipolar, also ask for empathy and understanding. I know good people who struggle with this disorder; who work incredibly hard every day to maintain their stability for themselves and their families.
I did not choose to be bipolar. No one with this disorder did.
[Editor’s Note: This post is a personal account of one of our contributors who asked their name be kept private. If you or someone you know is suffering with depression and feels unsafe, please go to your nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1.]
Did you know teens read nonfiction too? And, no, we don’t just mean Wikipedia or sources for research papers. A lot of questions come up during adolescence, and sometimes when you’re a teen, you want to find a reliable answer without having to consult another person (or swim in the sea of too many conflicting answers known as the Internet). This little video highlights some of the Teen Nonfiction Collection at HCLS.
Summer is not half way done and many of us are involved in the back to school process. Educators, parents and students will all experience that half-excitement, half-dread, pit-of-the-stomach feeling that unfamiliar experiences and change generate. And of course, there is a picture book for that. Lots of them. Reminding us that we can do this.
A little girl in a humongous blue-striped helmet chooses a bike, practices a lot, and (aided by a patient guy in a green tie) learns to ride. The gentle text offers pithy encouragement. “Let’s go! . . . Watch everyone ride . . . They all learned how . . . Come on, let’s give it a try . . . Training wheels are helpful . . . They keep you from tipping over.” Raschka’s well-chosen words, spread over several pages, admonish: “Find the courage to try it again, again, and again until… by luck, grace, and determination you are riding a bicycle!” Raschka deconstructs what’s needed to acquire this skill (which may be unique for its lessons on the physics of motion and the rewards of self-reliance), but also suggests the complexity of achieving balance and independence in any of life’s transitions.
From those wobbly first steps to those wobbly last steps, it’s all about the balance. And if you have a cheerleader and someone to catch you that’s an extra bonus.
Kevin Henkes’ wonderfully appealing child-mouse has a stubborn habit: worrying. Wemberly, a shy white mouse with gray spots, always feels nervous. “At the playground, Wemberly worried about/ the chains on the swings,/ and the bolts on the slide,/ and the bars on the jungle gym.” She tells her father, “Too rusty. Too loose. Too high,” while sitting on a park bench watching the other mice play. Her security, a rabbit doll named Petal (rarely leaves her grip. Henkes lists Wemberly’s worries, “Big things” heads the list, paired with a vignette of the heroine checking on her parents in the middle of the night with a flashlight, “I wanted to make sure you were still here.” He shows how Wemberly’s anxieties peak at the start of nursery school with huge text that dwarfs illustrations. At school Wemberly meets another girl mouse, Jewel, who turns out to be a kindred spirit (she even carries her own worn doll). Henkes offers no solutions, handling the subject with realistic gentleness; while playing with Jewel, “Wemberly worried. But no more than usual. And sometimes even less.”
Sometimes you just want to know that you are not the only one. A perfect book for those with anxiety and for those who ‘don’t understand what all the fuss is about’.
Sometimes you need to be your own cheerleader and this girl has it covered. No matter what she does, wherever she goes, or what others think of her, she likes herself because, as she says, “I’m ME!”. Evoking Dr. Seuss’s work with quirky absurdity, she is so full of joy that readers will love her. Even with “-stinky toes/or horns protruding from my nose”. The rhymes are goofy, the illustrations are zany (for the “I like me on the inside” verse, he shows the narrator and her horrified dog in X-ray mode).
Whatever new experiences await you, you can do this! And we have a book, DVD, or e-resource that might help. See you at the library.
Have you ever experienced an emotion that you could not explain or describe? If you have, you can attest to this unexplained emotion leading to even more indescribable emotions. Before you know it, you are left feeling like you don’t understand yourself.
I have had experiences where loved ones have told me to “be happier” or “calm down” after I try to explain what I’m feeling. These dismissive responses have caused me to repress my emotions at times; as if they didn’t exist. You can’t just “be happy” because someone told you that you should be. In fact, you shouldn’t tell someone how and when to feel a certain way. Instead, be respectful of their feelings and find ways to help them.
Many people living with depression and/or anxiety can’t always put their feelings into words. Much less, explain why it’s happening, just that it is. The society we live in is very good at prescribing solutions to fix, assist, or aid in one’s physical health. If we tell a friend we’ve broken our arm, the solution is a cast. If we have any kind of physical illness or disease we have everything from physical therapy to surgery to address these ailments. Unfortunately, when it comes to emotional health (and intelligence) our friends and family aren’t always able to come up with tangible solutions. In fact, mental wellness is often seen as a more abstract concept and, sadly, isn’t always taken seriously.
Working to recognize your emotions (and the emotions of others) and the ability to distinguish between different feelings is key. Once you’re able to identify your emotions and the feelings that come with them, you can use that information to guide your thinking and behavior. Having a plan and taking action to healthfully address your state of mind is an essential step in managing your wellness. A few examples include: examining your diet and exercise regimen, trying meditation, exploring a new hobby, exploring the outdoors, making time for yourself, talking with a close friend or therapist, and coloring. These are just a few ways you can find positive behaviors that can make you both happier and healthier.
Each person experiences life, and the world around them, in a different way. So, the answers to their emotional needs will be just as diverse. Let’s find more ways to be more understanding and practice compassion when the people around us are comfortable sharing their feelings. Besides, we’re on this planet to help each other.