How do we use social media to brand ourselves and leave our mark?
We all use social media differently but many of us are not mindful of the message we are trying to convey. Many times we repost a catchy meme, screen shot the funniest memes, pose “just because” the light was amazing, or we sort through the 1,000s of photos of our loving pets.
We hear more and more often “once you post it to the internet it’s there forever” which is true, even when we delete our accounts. It is much different growing up now in the digital age. Before the digital age we had the luxury of making our mistakes off camera. We didn’t have the pressure of needing to look camera ready all the time. We didn’t have a constant online highlight reel to compare our lives to. We also didn’t get left out of events and planning for not having social media accounts.
Growing up pre-digital age we also had the luxury of connection. Although we perfected the craft of writing letters, we still did most of our communication face to face. We used to pick up the phone just to chat and we spent our time playing outside rather than YouTubing videos of others who were playing outside.
Social media, however, can be a very beautiful tool if used properly. It allows us to stay easily connected with our loved ones around the world. We create beautiful digital photo albums that remind us of memories from years past. We also get to express ourselves and share our platforms with the world.
Here are 5 simple things to brand yourself through social media presence:
1. Be Authentic – Someone posed the question “what does beauty mean to you?” and my immediate response was AUTHENTICITY ! In a world where we can create fake profiles and highlight reels, be exactly who you say you are. It’s ok to not always be in the gym or have a face full of make up. It’s ok to be at home relaxing and not on some tropical island. Everyone says “Live your best life” which is true, live it. Just make sure that your best life one that brings genuine happiness. We tend to gravitate to those who are genuine because it’s rare. Your story is worth telling, flaws and all.
2. Be Mindful – It’s important to mindful of what we are posting. We see, too often, how many old photos, videos, and messages come back to haunt us. It’s important that we exercise self control and learn to regulate ourselves. Our ways of communicating through screens has made it entirely too easy to say whatever comes to mind in the heat of the moment without having to face the repercussions in the moment. Imagine if we had to wear the words we said on our body for everyone to read, would we still say the things we do?
3. Know Your Values – We have to know what we stand for and what we represent. We speak and do things every day but it’s rare that we are mindful of moving within our values. Typically, we become mindful in moments of conflict or decision making but don’t think about them much beyond that. It’s important to think before we post. Are we posting out of emotion? What message are we trying to send? Of my values, what values is this post inline with? If we can’t answer these questions, maybe we shouldn’t be posting.
4. Do not compare yourself to others – This goes back to the first point, be authentic. There is no one else on this earth that experiences the world like we do, so why would we try to create posts as though we do? We may have some shared experiences, but no two experiences are the same. Whether you travel the world or channel surf from the comfort of your own home, you are just as magical either way.
5. Be Informed – All of these points are important and all of them take work and being uninformed is never a reason to post on social media irresponsibly. We now have access to virtually any information we want right at the tips of our fingers. If you have access to social media, you have access to the internet which means you are only one google search away from becoming MORE informed. One of the biggest parts about being informed is also being accountable for the things we post, say, and do. It’s ok to make mistakes, as we are continuously evolving, but we need to be responsible.
Although your values or other aspects may evolve and change over time, if you stick to these 5 key components, you will be maximizing your brand. Our social media platforms should represent who we are, what we stand for, and have purpose. We all represent something, make your platforms work for you and make your statement, LOUD and bold!
This past weekend The Seany Foundation hosted their first ever Get Well Soon event which focused on the holistic wellness of the mind, body and soul. As patients, as caregivers and as everyday human beings we are pushed to our limits physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I cannot stress the importance of being able to treat every aspect of ourselves to truly be well. Living in a time and society that promotes busyness and multitasking, it can be extremely difficult to slow down and take some time for yourself. Here are 5 things you can do/look into TODAY to help put yourself and your wellness first!
1.Yoga does a body good!
Yoga is more than increasing flexibility and engaging in an active exercise. Yoga works to help us decrease anxiety while promoting mental wellness. According to Healthline.com, which cites many incredible articles, yoga has also been linked to promoting a healthy heart, aiding in migraine relief, promotes healthy digestion and much more. In my experience many people will say “but I’m not a yogi” or “but I’m not flexible like that”, which may be true TODAY but we all start somewhere. There are many tools and pose modifications to aid in making yoga suitable for just about anyone!
2. Essential Oils
There are many essential oils out there that can benefit a variety of things. During our Get Well Soon retreat we had the amazing Heather Bickel Stevenson, RN, BSN, Soul Nurse, from DoTerra Essential Oils join us by leading a workshop. She took time working with each participant to customize which oils were most suitable for them by scanning to identify key areas of focus.
Heather was able to combine her own testimony, medical background and essential oil training to discuss and address the attendees needs and questions pertaining to whatever issues they were dealing with in their own lives. Naturally, cancer was a focal point of the conversation but there were other conditions discussed as well including overall health, migraines, dietary restrictions and allergies.
3. Nutrition is more than calories or a label.
It seems like every year we are hearing about new fad diets or the latest adjustments to the food pyramid. Sometimes the information we receive can be overwhelming than it is helpful. One of the most impactful statements I took from our nutritional guide was when we shop, we need to decide are we buying FOOD or a Food Like Substance? We have become so accustomed to counting calories and reading the nutritional labels that we forget to look at the actual ingredients.
Yes, it is important to be active but it is even more important to allow food to be our medicine. One important take away from this workshop was the discussion medicine. When we are prescribed medication, we know we need to take 2 tablets, every 8 hours, for 10 days and we remain committed to that prescription. Food should be looked at the same way, with the same commitment. True food, not food like substances, are not only fuel and a source of energy, but is actually medicine to our body!
4. Acupuncture and Chiropractic
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that uses a very thin needle which is inserted at pressure points, traditionally, to relief pain. More recently it has also been used as one component of holistic wellness and stress relief. Although participants had the opportunity to try acupuncture for free, I saw many of them watch and observe with much hesitance. When asked about their hesitation, without failure, participants would look at me clinched fist and wide eyed and saying something along the lines of “with needles??” as though we were offering a free torturing session. Don’t get me wrong, needles and acupuncture, like anything else, isn’t for everyone. We made it a point to explain that the needles used for acupuncture are extremely thin and if you tapped your arm (go ahead and give yourself a quick tap!), is more significant then the needle.
Additionally, we a had Dr. Paul Peterson, DC, DACNB who discussed chiropractic stretching and body work. Participants were able to ask about various aliments and chronic pain. They were also given a chance to participate in a free demonstration and experience a different form of healing.
5. Sound Therapy/Sound Healing
Sound therapy, which is also referred to as sound healing is either used by itself or can often be used in combination with yoga. Although many different instruments can be used, most commonly you will find the use of sound bowls (alchemy, frosted or Tibetan), didgeridoos, gongs, chimes, drums and rattles. Similar to yoga, the benefits are said decrease anxiety, promote overall wellness and decrease stress levels.
During the Get Well Soon event we were able to close out the retreat with a sound healing session. As the day came to a close everyone came out feeling motivated, relaxed, informed and connected. Connected with more with one self as well as more connected with those around them.
At The Seany Foundation we understand how challenging life can get when navigating a diagnosis, a child with needs, doctor visits, treatments, family, work and all our children. This event was a 4-hour local retreat that was hopefully either a continuation of self-care already being done or the start of something new. Although we are most widely known for our famous Camp Reach For the Sky camps, we work hard to build a community that is present all year long. Part of that community is learning, together, about health, wellness, nutrition and holistic medicine. This holistic approach is not only for the Seany Foundation community, but for everyone!
__________________________________________________ Podcast: 1/23 Recap: 8th Episode: Meet Brittany and Ashton Harvey, Founders of Yellow Threads Company! Kahila does a beautiful job of diving into their passion that brought their vision to life. Their clothing line provides patients who need to have easy port access a unique, cute and stylish fashion with discretion. Check them out using one of the various, easy to use platforms, by searching "Cancer the Easy Life": Android: Podcast Player (purple icon) iPhone: Podcast App (purple icon) Soundcloud
As many of you may have heard, The Seany Foundation is hosting their first ever wellness retreat on Saturday Jan. 26th! Come join us at the GORGEOUS Soledad Club from 11am-3pm.
We understand that life gets tough and many times that means that we put ourselves, as parents, and our needs on the backburner. This also means that self care and mental wellness become a distant conversation that we hope we can do on that ambiguous “one day”. When working with others I always use the airplane analogy. If you have ever flown on a plane with a child, I am sure you are aware that they instruct you, in the event of cabin air pressure dropping you must first place your air mask on before helping your kiddo.
This to me felt incredibly backwards because as a parent, the well being of my child, naturally came first. Now I have learned that I cannot help my kiddos if I am not first taking care of myself.
This ½ day retreat is an opportunity for you to put self care on the top of your priority list. We will be providing time for reflection, guided gentle yoga, light meditation and self care techniques as we promote “Reflection, releasing, relaxing and restoration”.
This event is open to the community and we welcome everyone to bring your loved ones to join you in a day of wellness and pampering. We will have some of the best in San Diego leading each session of the event including: yoga with former ROC Camper Kristen Gascon, essential oil workshop with Heather Bickel Stevenson and body work with Dr. Paul Peterson.
Although setting a day aside for self care may seem counter productive to an already over busy schedule, the truth is that making time for self care actually improves the ability to tackle our goals while maintaining a sense of balance.
Tickets are available but are running out FAST! Visit the link below to secure spot and don’t forget to bring your yoga mats and water bottle! Light snacks and refreshments will also be served along with complimentary swag bags filled with goodies you won’t want to miss!
__________________________________________________ Podcast: 1/9 Recap: 7th Episode: Dedicated to our two angels that we lost: Kimi and Kalani. Sending our condolences and honoring their legacy. Kahila also addresses understanding what to expect in a time of grief. Check them out using one of the various, easy to use platforms, by searching "Cancer the Easy Life": Android: Podcast Player (purple icon) iPhone: Podcast App (purple icon) Soundcloud
__________________________________________________ Upcoming Events: 1/23 Podcast 1/26 Get Well Soon Self Care Event (purchase tickets online: The Seany Foundation) Ongiong: 35 & Thrive Event: Celebrate 35 years by raising funds for the 2019 CARES initiative and Seany's CR4TS 2/15-17: Teen Winter Weekend (register now: http://www.theseanyfoundation.org/camp/programs/)
Life is precious. This is an understatement when we think about our delicate community here at TSF. The reality of loss and grief in our community haunts us often. As we expand the CARES Program, we recognize that supporting our community during the delicate time of loss is something that is very important to every single one of us here at TSF.
As a result, we would like to provide support in honoring the memory of your loved one.
Tribute to life will honor and celebrate the life of the individual who has passed on. We will provide a safe space for families, campers, camp counselors, TSF staff, and any volunteers who would like to join us in honoring the individuals’ memory through shared stories, tears, and laughter.
The loss of a loved one is the most devastating and stressful event in one’s life which may trigger emotional crisis. In order to reduce the risk of a crisis know the most common experiences of grief: numbness; loneliness and emptiness; anger and resentment; confusion; deep and ongoing sadness; and a loss of interest in things that used to bring pleasure.
There’s no one size fits all period of grief. Everyone has their own timeline for grief. The process of grief is not a race. It does not proceed in an orderly, linear fashion. It’s very sacred; and every individual must experience it based on their own terms, values, and needs. However, setting an intention to heal, and giving yourself permission to start on the healing journey is the most important part of the healing process.
Allow the flow of tears. Allow the uncontrollable emotional meltdowns. Allow the laughter from memories. Allow others to pick you up when you feel like you have nothing left in you. Allow love.
Remember, you are grieving because you loved. You feel the depths of sorrow because you have lost someone you cherished. You will never stop loving them; they will remain in your heart for the rest of your life.
Every year millions of people across the globe make a verbal commitment to do things differently, or better, in the new year. These “things” are commonly known as our New Year’s resolutions. The problem is that we don’t typically put ourselves in a position to actually execute our goals effectively. So here we will talk about 5 easy steps to turn resolutions into results by using some real-life examples.
As we discuss these 5 steps I will be using two resolutions: 1. Objective: Losing weight and 2. Subjective: How to be happier. I do this with the intention of being able to articulate the abstract because sometimes, when we can’t necessarily “see” something we tend to become discouraged a little more often and a little more quickly.
1. Be Specific. Losing weight is specific, yet vague. How much do you want to lose? Is there a size you would like to fit into? Is there an amount you want to lose per month? An overall amount you would like to lose?
Part of being specific is knowing yourself and knowing what you respond best to. If you are motivated to fit into your favorite dress that’s been sitting in the back of the closet for the last ten years then make that your goal. If you are motivated by seeing the physical number drop on the scale then make that your goal.
What specific looks like for weight loss: I want to hike 1x a week, play softball 1x a week, and train 3x a week. I like numbers and check lists BUT I do not want to become obsessed with a scale so I turn my numbers and check list into specific actions.
Becoming happier is much more subjective, so first you have to define for yourself what happiness is to YOU. This is YOUR goal so you have to define it for yourself. Does happiness mean doing more things? Smiling more? Getting out of bed more? Watching TV less? What does happiness mean to you?
It’s important to define things for yourself so that we can then talk about the next steps. Be flexible with yourselves and give yourself permission to change the way you define things throughout the year if you need to make some adjustments.
What specific looks like for happiness: I am pretty in touch with my mood and my thoughts so I can measure happiness by assessing my thought process. I want to continue working on not taking things personally and living in the moment which ultimately results in me being happier.
2. Make Your Goals Measurable. Being specific allows us to then break our goals down in a way that we can measure our actions.
Losing weight: This is easy. I specified how often I wanted to engage in specific activities so I can measure the outcomes by looking at whether or not I hit these numbers.
Happiness: I can track the times I am taking things personally. I can track when I am not living in the moment. One fun way to track this is by using a mood chart. A couple things happen when we use a visual for something as subjective as happiness: 1. We become more mindful of how we’re feeling and 2. We begin to put words to our moods and articulate how we are feeling, which in turn helps us move through the tougher moods. You can get as creative as you want with these trackers. (FYI: You can use this style of tracking for sleep, studying, calorie intake, etc)
3. Make your goals Achievable! The worst thing we could do is to set ourselves up for failure by setting unrealistic goals.
Losing Weight: Setting a goal to lose 100 pounds in two months isn’t realistic, but losing 5-7 pounds in two months is much more manageable. It’s important to know yourself. It’s better to set the goal of losing 5-7 pounds and actually losing 10 compared to setting the goal of losing 10 pounds and only losing 5. Achievable also has to be sustainable otherwise you’ll either burn out or give up.
Happiness: Saying I’m going to be happy everyday isn’t necessarily achievable. I would like to be happy at least 5 out of the 7 days of the week though and to me that’s realistic. If only 2 days a week is realistic then make that your goal and maybe by the end of the year that number will go from 2 days a week to 4 days a week. Again I like working with numbers so even in the worst of times I would like to be happy at least 25% of the time whether that means 6 hours a day or 1 week a month.
4. Make sure your goals are Relevant. If your goals are not relevant it will be easy to dismiss them or put them aside for things that carry more relevance.
Losing weight: If you are already in great shape and health then maybe losing weight isn’t relevant. Or if you are dealing with a specific concern: lack of activity, pre-diabetic, etc. then consider focusing on just “weight loss” but becoming more active or eating healthier to reverse a prediabetic diagnosis. Sometimes our goals don’t need an explanation on why they are relevant, just be sure that you know why this is important and relevant to you.
Happiness: Unless you are already happy a high majority of the time, focusing on increasing your happiness has many health benefits, meaning, it will remain relevant!
5. Resolutions should be Time Based. This is similar to measurable. The intention is that we want to see results in a timely manner. Most people, when we don’t see results in a timely manner we get discouraged and give up.
Losing Weight: If the overall goal is to lose 100 pounds that’s great, but remembering that a “timely manner” also has to be achievable. This is where breaking down the pounds by months because helpful. Again, I work well with numbers. If I believe losing 100 pounds in a year is doable, I need to see what the average weight loss per month would be. 8.33 pounds per month for 12 months would allow me to hit that goal. If 8.33 pounds per month sounds reasonable then 12 months would be considered a timely manner. If, however, 8.33 pounds per month seems like a lot, then maybe 18 months becomes timelier.
This same idea also works in reverse. If we are setting goals that are not timely because they will take too long, we would want to break down the overall goal into something smaller to make it more realistic. A good example of this is when I was working with someone who wanted to buy a house in San Diego by next year but was working a minimum wage job and was unable to save more than a couple hundred dollars a month. This person then had 3 options: 1. Find an exceptionally higher paying job, 2. Extend the timeline from trying to do it in one year to a 5-7-year plan or 3. Consider relocating to a place outside of San Diego that is more affordable for their price range. The most immediate goal, would be to find a better paying job, even though the end goal is still to buy the house, the more realistic goal is to increase their income. So you can use this same concept if you find yourself with a resolution that might be a bit larger than what is realistic to work with at the moment.
Happiness: Of course, we want to see immediate results with happiness. The tough part is that we need to be patient and work on implementing new habits that allow happiness to flow more abundantly for us. We can talk about different strategies for increasing happiness in a separate blog, but for the purposes of establishing a goal that is timely we shouldn’t have a problem with establishing happiness in a timely manner. I have yet to meet someone who consciously and purposefully remains unhappy.
If ever you forget these 5 easy steps, you can google SMART Goals, click on images and find 1,000 friendly reminders to help you get back on track! And remember, it’s never too late or too early to re-evaluate and re-establish your goals! It’s ok to make adjustments, especially if something isn’t working or if you found something that is more effective!
Additional resources: My favorite resource is my Passion Planner that allows room on a semi-annually, monthly AND weekly basis to write down my goals and stay on track. Additionally, I keep a white board in my room that allows me to have easy access to writing down things that come to mind. Don’t be afraid to use social media as a resource also, I’m pretty sure there is a #Hashtag for that! And lastly, don't forget to have fun with it. Use color, make vision boards, join groups of like minded people and share even your smallest victories with your friends and family!
Tis the season for celebrating and carols, hot chocolate and ugly sweaters, traditions and loved ones. Tis the season for missing our loved ones and stressing over finances, standing in long lines and trying to do things perfectly. Tis the Season!
While the end of November through the New Years tends to be a favorite time of the year for many people, especially our kiddos, the truth is that this time of the year can also thee most difficult. During this time, I don’t find many “neutral” people. It seems as though people either absolutely love this time of the year or they are dreadful for this time to come.
If you are one of the people who love this time of the year, I can bet you love getting your favorite hot cocoas and apple cider. You probably plan which Christmas lights you are going to go visit this year. Maybe you can’t wait to play Dreidel with your loved ones or break bread with your community on the first day of Kwanzaa. My point is, if this is your favorite time of the year, then you have already mapped out what December looks like. For others though, these are the exact same reasons this time of the year becomes so challenging.
For some of us the holiday season reminds us when our loved ones have passed, puts our family strains under a microscope and magnifies the broken pieces we typically try to keep swept under the rug. So how do we manage when this season becomes thee most difficult for us?
Here are a few friendly tips on how to manage different types of stresses during the holidays.
First take a moment to acknowledge where the stress is coming from. Is it financial? Missing a loved one? Unrealistic expectations? See if you can identify where the stress is coming from so you can then properly address how to manage it.
Time Demands: Don't be afraid to say no! We might feel the pressure to attend every holiday gathering but the truth is that we are not obligated to attend. We have to learn what is realistic and we have to honor our own sanity. There are times we do have to just go to a gathering that we aren't too particularly fond of but that is different from over-committing ourselves.
Be Honest: Part of understanding boundaries, saying no and managing time demands is to be honest. Be honest with yourself as well as those around you. If you need to stay in and skip the ugly Christmas sweater party, then stay home and honor those limits. If you aren't in a place to afford gifting everyone then don't break yourself trying to make it happen. If you are needing something from someone, like support, understanding, or help work on using your voice.
Financial Stress: This one is a big one! I see so many friends working extra to afford that "perfect" gift or thinking they have to spend a certain dollar amount as though the price tag somehow translates to amount of love. It's ok to not afford extravagant things and trust me when it comes to the kiddos, they'll adjust! I have told my children I will not purchase ANY video games for them and I tell them that I would much rather do things with them then buy things for them and they GET IT! They're also savvy when they want something. They ask everyone for gift cards to the same store they can put their resources together and buy what they want, so don't worry about that part. We have actually done this for Disneyland trips, game consoles, actual games and much more! Trust me, loved ones will remember your presences much more than your presents!
Unrealistic Expectations: This ties closely into what I have already mentioned. Be honest about what is doable and not doable. Buying everyone $100 gifts may not be realistic, so don't break yourself trying to do so. If you are over booked, then unbook (if that's even a word) yourself a little bit. If you need to host a holiday this year but need help, ask for help. If you can't do something then stop saying yes! I know I make this may sound overly simplified because I don't address the "BUT" that comes after setting a boundary (that's another blog all by itself) but it is necessary for your mental health and well being.
Missing a Loved one: This one is probably thee toughest one because it's out of your control. Time demands, finances and setting boundaries are something we can work towards and become better at but we can't bring loved ones back, so how to we celebrate knowing they can't be there? This one is also the most personal one because everyone mourns and celebrates differently. First, don't be too hard on yourself for having feelings even if the passing was 60 years ago. Find ways to honor your loved one, maybe with their favorite holiday goodies, a Christmas ornament, light a candle for them or watch their favorite movie. If feelings come up, let them. Feelings don't last forever and typically when we try to suppress them we end up expressing them in other ways that may not be so helpful.
The important part is to honor where you are at while honoring those who are present. If there are new traditions you want to create, go for it! If there are some you want to hold onto, then hold onto those as well. It's also important to be mindful that not everyone grieves the same way and may feel differently about how to honor your loved one that has passed. If it was someone in the immediate household, it might mean that the family makes household decisions together.
And remember, don't be too hard on yourself. The holidays and grief are tough on their own so it only makes sense that it will be tough when you put these two things together. Be gentle, take time for yourself and honor your feelings. It's tough but remember that no emotions are permanent.
Unable to see family: Although nothing can replace physically being with family, the great news is that you are currently living in a digital world! This means you don't have to rely on snail mail to communicate during the holidays. You have Facetime, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook or even Skype to join loved ones virtually. Plan something nice for yourself, go somewhere fun even if its just the movie theater. All we can do is our best and sometimes it falls short of our hopes and dreams but the truth is we don't have control over much in our life outside of our attitude. So all we can do is make the best of it and hope that maybe next year it will be different.
On November 17th, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) partnered with The Seany Foundation’s (TSF) CARES Initiative to host the first ever Thrivership Symposium at Marina Village here in San Diego. This was a free educational program on navigating life after a childhood cancer diagnosis. This event was open to patients, family members, care givers healthcare professionals as well as school personnel.
We had some amazing vendors offering some delicious and healthy options as well as guest speakers and panels to not only provide informative resources but to also answer any questions. Although it is impossible to capture everything in one blog, we will highlight our speakers and topics, provide information a brief overview of the handouts and include any potential helpful links. Remember if any of the topics you see mentioned in this blog are something you would like to know more about please do not hesitate to reach out to us via comments on this blog, through The Seany Foundation website (www.theseanyfoundation.org) or through social media such as Facebook or Instagram @TheSeanyFoundation.
Navigating Life After Cancer
BSN, RN, CHPON (Rady Children’s Hospital)
Jeannie Marie Spies
MSN, RN, PNP (Rady Children’s Hospital)
COO TSF & Childhood Cancer Survivor
Making Healthy Living Work in Every Day Life
PhD, MaxLove Project, UC Irvine
Chief Hope Officer, MaxLove Project, UC Irvine
Going Back to School
Ed.D, SD Unified School District- Program Manager, Counseling and Guidance
Parent, LLS CARES Committee Co-Chair
Childhood Cancer Survivor
As the adults tuned into the information sessions and discussions their children got to spend the day in the children’s room where they made arts and crafts, hung out and watched movies. It was a beautiful opportunity for everyone in the family to attend and get something out of the day!
Rady’s Children’s Hospital: www.rchsd.orga non-profit, 524 bed pediatric-care facility dedicated to excellence in care, research and teaching.
MaxLove Project: www.maxloveproject.orgChildhood cancer survivors face a lifetime of serious, life threatening health risks. We aim to change the odds with culinary medicine and evidence-based wellness strategies for the whole family.
Ok, so the old saying "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me" can be quite deceiving. Words have a tendency to stick around longer than any broken bone and they also seem to hurt much more than a broken also. So how do we even begin to deal with the impact of the words and actions of others, especially those pesky little boogers...I mean bullies!
Here I have taken a holistic approach on how to address bullying. Journey with me, if you will, to take a look at how to prevent it, how to address it, how to buffer our children from it, the underlying reasons, a restorative justice approach and why this is a community issue.
How To Prevent
The tough part is that we cannot control what other kiddos say or do. The good news is that we can control how we respond. I believe one of the single most important things we can do is expose our children to diverse experiences and talk to them about it. Kids are smart and many times we hold back on conversations because we think they won't understand. I find this to be ironic though because one of the first things we tell our kids when they are born is how much we love them even though we KNOW they have no concept or understanding of language. We just trust that they'll feel our love for them and one day they'll understand. Use this same logic and apply it to anything. I have heard kiddos talk to one another about their diagnoses in terms far more sophisticated than anything I could understand and that is because they are sponges. They will learn quickly and they will understand.
For example: I grew up playing baseball, like so many other kiddos, and one day while I was waiting for my game time to start I went to one of the other fields to watch a game. I happened to be watching the challenger division which was a team of kiddos with varying disabilities. Some kiddos were in wheel chairs, others were developmentally delayed..you name it. I was invited to play and without hesitation I went. I was only 7 or 8 at the time and I never turned down an opportunity to play ball. I quickly adapted to the level of play and learned how to communicate with my deaf teammate, learned when to step in and help out my teammate with a wheel chair, and I even learned triggers for one of my other teammates who would sometimes have melt downs.
My point is this, when we are exposed to diversity as a kiddo we learn how to be inclusive and see the human in one another. There was no pointing and laughing and there was no avoiding anyone because I didn't understand. It's not often that we have classmates or close buddies that has been diagnosed with cancer, so when it does happen it is more of a foreign concept. As one person we never represent an entire community but we should recognize that as one person we do have the ability to reach out and ask for help from our community resources like The Seany Foundation. We are here to help step in and provide understanding, educational resources and tools, but we also need to make sure we are giving our children diverse experiences.
How To Address
There are many reasons why bullying can happen and we all have our own ideas on how to address it. Of course, my first instinct is to jump in and handle things to protect my kiddo or loved one, but lets be real...that is rarely the best option...although tempting.
First, know who your allies, gatekeepers and champions are. We'll use school as an example. The gatekeepers can be administrators, counselors, teachers, etc; the allies could be our kiddo's buddies or fellow parents; and the champions are the ones who will advocate for the gatekeepers to implement change.
Do NOT be afraid to ask for the bullying to be addressed head on, even if that means incorporating new policies, training or assemblies. Now I know what you might be thinking, this all sounds like a lot to take on when you're just trying to create a sense of normalcy. You're right but YOU don't have to be the one to coordinate. This is where our allies, champions and community resources come into action. There are so many programs that support the anti-bullying movement. My guess is that, if your child is experiencing bullying, there are other kiddos dealing with the same issue.
How To Buffer
In addition to providing our kiddos with diverse experiences it is also important to help our kiddos build a buffer. The biggest way to do this is to build a strong sense of self from a young age. In doing this, as parents, we also need to check ourselves and understand what norms and expectations we buy into and project onto our kiddos.
Again, I will use myself as an example. As a kiddo I always had a sense of fashion, not high fashion but I always had to coordinate my colors and brands in my own little athletic stylish twist. Well...let's just say, my son is nothing like me. While most kids have mismatch days during spirit week, my child does this every day, no matter the occasion. It would drive me absolutely CRAZY! We literally discussed his fashion sense during a therapy session because I worried people would think I didn't care for him properly. Needless to say, I have let that issue go....I get it, it's only clothes. In the bigger picture I realized I was trying to force my kiddo to conform to both my own and society's ideas of what was "appropriate" attire when what my baby needed was a mother who would allow him the space to be himself freely. Now I compliment him and tell him how amazing he is for expressing himself how ever he sees fit. I realize that, although his uniqueness could leave him open to be made fun of, it was more important that I nurture his confidence so that he can have a buffer to anything coming his way.
I also get that this is a very different example than a kiddo who is being bullied because of the impact of treatment. My son could very easily change the way he dresses but we can't stop the impact that treatment has on our kiddos. We can, however, still create that buffer. One thing I will say over and over again is that we all long for three things 1) to be liked 2) to be accepted and 3) to be understood. Not every day will be a good day but when we are able to embrace and celebrate our kiddos for everything they are and everything they aren't we begin to build a buffer for them. As adults we often consider ourselves to be the educated ones who need to teach our children but I have found that the truth is quite opposite. Our kiddos are themselves, freely, until adults begin teaching them to try and fit into these imaginary boxes that are riddled with norms and expectations. When we do this we begin to break down their buffer.
The Underlying Reasons
It is just as important to understand why bullying happens as it is to address it. I have found that many times bullying occurs because the kiddo, or "bully" themselves have experienced bullying in some form. This might come from an older sibling, cousin, parent, classmate, teammate, etc. I strongly believe if we only address the bully for their negative behaviors we miss out on helping a kiddo who most likely needs some relief as well. This also means that if we don't address the underlying issue, we are only addressing half of the problem. This is why I will talk about why bullying is a community issue rather than just an individual or family concern.
Another issue might be that the kiddo engaging in bullying behaviors gets the attention they seek. I remember my mom telling me "not all attention is good attention" but for some people this doesn't hold true. Maybe they enjoy making people laugh, even if it is at another person's expense. I find myself referring to kiddos throughout this blog, but truthfully, we see this as adults as well. We often refer to this as scapegoating. Scapegoating is another issue that can be addressed, but not today. The important part of this is making sure that we are encouraging positive interaction and positive attention. We need to teach our kiddos that it is not funny to pick on one another for our differences and encourage them to step up and speak out when they see it happening. Many times, when we realize what we are doing isn't funny or ok, we change our actions because ultimately we want to liked, acceptance and understood.....which is opposite of bullying.
This is huge with any conflict resolution. The term "restorative justice" has been a new trendy topic, but how many of us actually know what it means? Restorative justice is a form of conflict resolution that allows both parties to come together and have BOTH parties be active participants in the healing process. Traditionally we have a punitive process which means if our kiddo is being bullied, we report it to the school, the school then handles it and the kiddo who was bullied is left out of the process while the kiddo who did the bullying receives punishment and has now gotten in "trouble". Restorative justice seeks to provide healing to both parties in an inclusive process.
How would that look with bullying? Simple, sort of. The kiddo who has been bullied gets to address their bully and learn to use their voice, advocate for themselves and be an active participant in the conclusion of what too place and ultimately happened TO THEM. Additionally, the one engaging in bullying behavior gains a deeper understanding of their actions, how it impacted the other party and is reminded that they are not just getting in trouble. Yes there are natural consequences for our actions but now they are also given the opportunity to learn how to become accountable for their actions.
As I mentioned previously, we all seek to be liked, accepted and understood, but we also want to be right (vs. wrong), good (vs. bad) and to be ok (vs. not ok). Restorative justice takes these judgements out and allows for both parties to move towards healing. How we perceive ourselves is typically how we act and treat others. We need to be reminded that even when we make poor decisions we can still be a good person and we can still be ok. We want to teach them how to genuinely connect with one another and understand that how we act can really have an impact. We want to take out the good/bad and right/wrong mentalities.
The reason I say it is a community issue is because, as humans, especially little humans trying to figure out what is means to be a human, we follow trends, we pick up on social cues and tend to do/say things that help us find a sense of belonging. If a kiddo is engaging in acts of bullying and they themselves have not experienced bullying, my guess would be that their actions are somehow being encouraged OR at least NOT being discouraged. This means that the bullying is now a reflection of the greater community. We also need to be aware of the bystander affect. We need to make sure we aren't waiting for someone else to speak up. WE can be that someone. We dont want to turn a blind eye to it either. I so often hear "that's not my problem" and even though it might be true for the moment, in the bigger picture it is all of our problem. Believe it or not, it is actually possible to hold one another accountable in a gentle, loving manner. So please, if you see it, at school, at camp, in the workplace, on the ball field...WHERE EVER, find a safe way to address it. What happens to our kiddos impacts their happiness, their adulthood which impacts future generations and our community as a whole.
__________________________________________________ Podcast: 10/31 Recap: Check out the latest podcast where Kahila interviews TSF's COO Robby Medina. Robby shares parts of his story, thoughts and insights on going through treatment as a kiddo and how it still impacts him today! Check out the podcast using one of the various, easy to use platforms, by searching "Cancer the Easy Life": Android: Podcast Player (purple icon) iPhone: Podcast App (purple icon) Soundcloud
__________________________________________________ Upcoming Events: 11/14 Podcast: Bullying 11/15 Seany Movie Night (purchase tickets online: The Seany Foundation) 11/17 Childhood Cancer Thrivership Symposium (Registration required: The Seany Foundation)
You just got news of a new promotion, a bundle of joy on the way, an engagement, graduation…or….a diagnosis. None of these things mentioned are synonymous with death in the traditional sense of the word, BUT all of these events (plus many more) can definitely have us experiencing the 5 stages of grief. I know what you might be thinking “why would I be experiencing grief if no one has died?” or maybe you even re-read the first sentence again and thought to yourself “why would I be experiencing grief with a promotion, engagement or something as magical as some the announcement of a child?”. The answer is simple: grief is not just the feelings associated with death. Grief is something we experience with change, regardless of the excitement or sadness associated with the event. Grief is also complex, it is what we experience when we are facing change.
So what exactly do these stages look like and what can we expect? We’ll get to that in just a moment, first, I want to be sure to explain that these stages are in no particular order. These stages are also fluid, meaning, we can feel them in any particular order, we can move through stages and go back to feeling a stage we may have previously worked through. There is no “set of rules” when it comes to change.
Denial: We all have our own ideas of what is supposed to happen…or not happen in life, so when the unexpected happens it is very possible that our initial reaction is shock or denial. Denial can subtle, like when a friend does something shocking and we keep saying “there’s no way THEY could do that to me”. It can also be a bit more extreme. I remember when a long-time family friend passed away a couple years ago, I went back to the house to visit after her services, her mom came to talk to me and began asking me if I could hang around a little longer because she was in the hospital and would be coming home soon. Although I new she would never be coming home again, I also knew that her mom was in shock, so I gave her a big hug and told her I would wait around a little longer. Some people would also refer to this stage as Shock.
Anger: I have found anger to be the most “acceptable” form of grief. The reason I say acceptable is not because I agree or disagree with any of the stages, but more so, because anger seems to an emotion that many people are familiar with. For some of us anger has also become one of the most commonly expressed emotions. Why is that? Simple, we learn from an early age that anger is “normal”, “acceptable” and healthy to express if done correctly. If you look at the other stages Denial, Depression and Bargaining, those are not emotions that are encouraged or explored from childhood. I don’t think I have to go into depth about anger or what it looks like.
What I would like to say about it is that it is completely normal! Although it may bring discomfort or bring out a side of us we don’t particularly enjoy, the truth is that anger gives us a lot of good information. Why are we angry? What do we need? What do we miss? Who are we angry AT? Most of the time the things we are most angry about or at are the things we have the least amount of control of. Which makes sense, this is typical in nearly every setting and is enhanced when we are experiencing grief.
One point I always try to make with Anger is to try and re-evaluate our relationship with it. Although it is nice to feel happy all the time, I believe, that we need to also learn to befriend anger. I used to think that Anger was a “negative” emotion but more recently I stepped away from the idea that emotions are either positive or negative because emotions are what they are and nothing more. They are simply indicators of where we are emotionally and give us information as to what work needs to be done. But I could talk about anger all day because anger is a secondary emotion which means it is protecting us from having to feel the primary emotion.
Depression: Many people have experienced depression, whether it was associated with grief or not. Depression is also a big word that scares many people but I would like to tell you, it’s not so scary, it just has a bad reputation, similar to Anger. I also think there is a huge fear that if we are experiencing depression that we will get stuck there and next thing you know we are clinically depressed and somehow helpless.
Is it true that a person can become clinically depressed? Absolutely. When we experience happiness we never look in the mirror and judge our smile and start asking ourselves why we’re so happy or how long will it last, we simply enjoy it and understand that, like every other emotion, it will leave and eventually come back around again. So why do we treat depression differently? Another thing I have learned is that, as humans, we are horrible at suppressing emotions. We might think we have become clever and mastered wearing a “mask” but usually it’s not so true, it tends to leak out in other ways.
So, what is the trick?
-Recognize when your emotions are beginning to shift.
-Allow the emotions to come and go, like the waves in the ocean. Some will be higher than others, but all waves will soon crash.
-Listen to how to you talk to yourself during these times. We never say “MY happiness” we just say “I feel happy”. For some reason when depression comes knocking we say “MY depression” as though it was a long-lost friend that came to visit and we’re unsure if they’ll ever leave the house again.
-Understand triggers. It might be a person, a song, a place, a smell or even a word. As we are working through the stages there are times where we need to protect ourselves from these triggers. A perfect example that is all over the media right now is pop star Ariana Grande taking time off of social media because she has been unable to avoid certain triggers. We owe it to ourselves to do that same, even if that means staying away from people or things we love. Be cautious though that this is done in a healthy way and not in a way that encourages us detaching from the world around us.
Bargaining: This one is definitely my go to. “If you just let me pass this test, I promise I won’t cram or pull an overnighter next time.” We somehow think that we can magically control our surroundings but it’s not true. I have found that I feel most empowered when I let go of all attempts at control. When we try to control or bargain what is happening in our life what we are essentially doing, is to resist what is actually taking place.
Of course, there are times we wish would have never happened or things that we wish we never had to go through, but, life is going to happen regardless of whether or not we want to accept it. Bargaining is a natural instinct and the more we work on acceptance and challenge our thoughts the more we are able to move through this phase.
If I crammed for a test and know that I am unprepared it is not going to be helpful to try and bargain at that point. If I happened to have failed that test it will not be helpful to get upset and run through the bargaining phase again. What is helpful is to recognize what I can do differently and make the necessary changes. If there are things beyond our control, such as a diagnosis, it can be helpful to remind ourselves that no amount of bargaining will change the outcome but the energy we put towards the resistance can impact our every day lives. Bargaining is absolutely natural and is our attempt to try and process and understand the circumstances in our life. This part of the process is not bad or wrong, like every other stage, it is what it is. Having awareness can help us move closer towards acceptance.
Acceptance: Some people would say this is the final stage, I prefer saying this is the ultimate goal. This is the goal with all things in life, not just loss or grief. Once we get to a place where we can move with what’s happening around us and accept what is, we have the ability to create change and find peace. There will always be things happen “to” us, we cannot stop what others will say to us or about us but we can control how we react, how we handle the situation and how we move forward.
Yes, I am sure there are verbal lashings you didn’t deserve. Yes, it is true that no one deserves something as cruel as cancer. It is also true that life happens and we cannot change it, we can only accept it and be as strategic and loving as possible in the process. This is my belief with all things in life.
Similar to every other stage previously mentioned, acceptance can come and go. These stages can happen in any order they would like. I say “they” because we simply don’t have control over them. We might go from Denial to Acceptance back to Denial to Depression to Anger back to Depression then Acceptance again. Each stage can be a different duration of time. When does it become a diagnosable clinical issue? When you begin experiencing depression for months at a time.
What happens now?
Talk about it. Challenge the idea of what might be considered taboo.
Talk about it. Challenge the idea that you are burdening others.
Talk about it. Challenge the idea that your feelings are ridiculous.
Talk about it. Challenge the idea that just because you received “good” news means you “shouldn’t” be experiencing these stages.
Talk about it. Challenge the idea that no one understands.
Talk about it. Challenge that idea that you don’t need help.
Talk about it. Challenge the idea that counseling is for the weak.
Talk about it. Challenge the idea that you shouldn’t be talking about it.
Have you heard what’s new in The Seany Foundation (TSF) community? Hopefully you have heard by now some of the amazing new initiatives coming from The Seany Foundation such as the CARES initiative and Cancer: The Easy Life podcast!
Meet Kahila, the woman behind two incredible new movements happening at the foundation. Kahila is a Marriage and Family Therapist currently working as a life coach to help people discover their highest possible selves. She is passionate, driven, and lets her heart lead the way in all her endeavors. Her goal is to empower and motivate those around her and if you have ever had the opportunity to speak with her you would also agree.
But Kahila is much more than what she brings to the table! When she was just 13 years old, Kahila moved to the United States. She speaks two languages, both Persian Farsi and English and has lived in three different countries. Originally born in Iran, Kahila lived with her parents and older brother before moving to Germany for a year and then establishing California as her new home. Although she has been here for over 20 years, Kahila still remembers how terrifying it was relocating to an entirely new country and not knowing how to speak the language. Like many other kiddos she experienced bullying and challenges, but also like other kiddos, Kahila loved Disney movies, especially The Jungle Book!
Although Kahila is passionate about helping others, she is sure to take time out for herself so she can let her hair down and let lose a little bit. She even shared a secret with me!! She told me she loves to dance and sing to Lionel Richie’s “Hello” AND she is always up for a good Kiki Challenge dance off!!
Look for our Podcast Cover!
So how did this fun loving, passionate woman land here at TSF? Simple: Bernie (aka Madrid). Who doesn’t know Bernie?! This guy can hook anyone who gives him 2 minutes to talk about TSF because either A) He’s just that good; B) TSF is just that good…or C) It’s a lotta bit of both A and B!
Well, Kahila gave Bernie 2 minutes of her time and the rest was history! In time you will get to hear more about Kahila’s story so I’ll keep it short but she's worked over the past few years volunteering and raising money for Ovarian Cancer, the same cancer that cut her mom’s life short. After meeting Bernie she found the perfect home to combine the sentimental connection to the cancer community through her mom’s diagnosis and her passion for helping to empower others through mental health.
We are so excited to have Kahila launch Cancer: The EasyLife podcast. Who is this podcast for? This podcast is for anyone who has ever known someone who has been impacted by cancer, so the short answer is: This podcast is for EVERYONE! Who doesn’t love a good pod cast now a days? We are making the effort to reach a new platform to create a safe place to talk about the most impactful aspects of cancer. You can listen to it in your car, at home, on a plane…ANYwhere! (See below for easy and convenient phone app options.)
Cancer seems to be taboo while mental health is definitely still very taboo so we’re here to challenge that norm and work to re-create and establish a new norm. It’s ok talk about it! This is bigger than a support group, this a tool for understanding, education, and where people can connect on an every day level. We’re changing what the relationship between cancer and mental health looks like!
CARES Initiative Workshop
Additionally, one of the questions I am often asked is “what does TSF do for the community outside of camps?” So here it is: Did you know that in 2017, in collaboration with Kahila, TSF launched the CARES initiative to bring open discussions about mental health and its relation to the cancer community? These events and workshops are free and open to the public, have provided catered dinners AND free child care! We also have some really exciting events coming up in the next few months, such as the Childhood Cancer Thrivership Symposium happening on Sat. Nov. 17th at Marina Village, but we can talk more about that a little later. (You can register for this event at www.LLS.org/Seany)
Be sure to join us! Be a part of the conversation and let us know what you want to hear. This is much different than anything currently out there and we want your voice to be heard and for you to be a part of it!
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