Dr. Jan Hittelman

It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of our lives and lose sight of what is important, particularly in our current times of fiscal challenge, world unrest, and disturbing environmental changes. For many of us, these can be scary times. As our collective stress level rises, so too does our ability to effectively manage our emotions and maintain healthy relationships with others. Whether it’s arguing about the upcoming presidential election, dueling bicyclist versus pedestrian letters to the editor, or reduced parental frustration tolerance, higher levels of stress often result in increases in negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and depression. While we might feel helpless in terms of the challenges of the modern world, we can make changes in our own lives that can positively impact our emotional health and family well-being.

Here are some suggestions to reclaim our emotional sanity during these challenging times:

• Make time to relax. For some of us, if we don’t schedule down time it doesn’t happen. Even a half hour stroll in a peaceful place can do wonders.
• Try to focus on the positive. We naturally focus on the negative, whether it’s our child’s behavior or our own imperfections. Take stock in the many positives in your life.
• Schedule quality family time. Even if it’s just playing a board game together or going to a movie, we must balance “normal” chaotic family interaction with some positive bonding time.
• The magic of exercise. In addition to improving our physical health, regular exercise has consistently been shown to reduce negative emotions like anxiety and depression.
• Fun is underrated! Parents as well as children work too much these days. Life is short; try to focus on safe healthy fun activities by yourself, with friends, and with family.
• Remember your mortality. Imagine how different our existence would be if we lived everyday like it was our last. Make good use of the precious time you have and enjoy it!
• Remind yourself of what is important and give thanks. As Thanksgiving approaches, take some time to remember your many blessings and let those around you know how much you appreciate them.