In just a short period of time, it seems the world has changed dramatically as it relates to how we live our daily lives.

While “sheltering-in-place” was initially perceived as a “nice break” from the fast-pace many keep, it is now turning into agitation that invariably breeds anxiety.  So many of us structure our lives around work. But for many, that structure is either gone or altered in a significant way.

How are you using your “gift?”

We can fill those open spaces in our day with “stuff” to keep us perpetually distracted from the worries of the world, or we can look at this shake-up in our routines as a gift to be used responsibly. Look at your unique circumstances and think about how you could make each day a meaningful step forward in your work, your faith, your relationships and the larger culture.

I had mentioned in my last newsletter that I wanted to offer resources in these messages and I have three that you might be helpful. All relate to this theme of making meaningful use of your time and energy.

What is your mindset?

The first resource looks at how you think about yourself and your abilities. When you are faced with an unexpected challenge, whether that is loss of job, income, health, routine, or relationship, you can either respond to that loss with a spirit of helpless resignation or work toward a possible solution. Of course, solutions to these types of life-altering issues are not instant and can even be painful. But, it is the mindset you take toward potential set-backs that determines which path you take.

Your mindset matters

Dr. Carol Dweck, professor at Stanford University has done groundbreaking work on this idea. She says that people can broadly fit into either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed mindset tends to view an obstacle as a hindrance to progress. A growth mindset views an obstacle as a challenge that can overcome with diligence and creativity.

If you would like to know more, you can watch Dr. Dweck’s TED talk on this subject or check out her book called Mindset for a more in-depth dive into the subject.

The power of showing up

My second resource pertains to how we are approaching our relationships these days. Many are feeling the “closeness” of sheltering together a bit too much togetherness. Patience and tolerance can be in short supply when you add anxiety into the mix. Parents in particular are facing challenges of how to carry on with their work while having their children home all the time.

The power of parental presence

I would highly recommend to parents a new book by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson entitled, The Power of Showing Up. Here is a short video from Drs. Siegel and Bryson that describes the basic ideas behind why showing up is potentially the most potent thing you can do in your parenting.

Time and urgency

Finally, here is an article I wrote previously for my blog that I entitled: Your Life: What will you do with the time that you have left? It will help you put the current challenges you are facing into a context for what you want the rest of your life to be about. There’s no better time to assess how well you are living out your stated values.

More appointment times

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I am opening up additional appointment times in my practice for those who may be seeking help. I have moved to all virtual sessions (phone or video) for the near-term. These are normal, hour-long sessions that are no different than in-person sessions. And, for those who have Blue Cross PPO or Blue Choice plans, these remote counseling sessions are covered at the same rate as in-person sessions.

Contact me by voice mail: (847) 450-7788 or email: gagilles16@aol.com if you are interested in discussing one of these options.

Here you can find meaningful tips on parenting, marriage, eldercare, and how to deal with the stress of daily life.

And, as always, I welcome feedback or suggestions on a topic you would like me to address in a future letter. Gary

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Angela DuckworthAngela Duckworth has written a book called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the Founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development.

I’m recently read her book and thought I would encourage you to learn more about the many important lessons that can be learned from her research.

So, what is grit? It is the combination of passion, determination and focus that allows a person to achieve goals despite the adversity that we all experience. In a world of short attention spans where we chase the latest shiny object, most of us could all use a little more grit. This is especially true for our children. I’ve included a short video of Angela Duckworth suggesting how parents can build grit into their child’s life. I’d be interested in hearing your comments after viewing the video and encourage you to pick up the book.

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Build better relationshipsWhat does it take to build better relationships? Well, let’s start with what is meant by “relationship.? When we use the term “relationship” we usually refer to it in the generic sense. “I have a good relationship with my spouse.” Or, “I have a close relationship with each of my children.”

We read into these statements as being positive, but in reality these statements of relationship tell us nothing about the quality of the relationship: [click to continue…]

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adolescent drinkingI was talking recently with the father of a 17-year-old who told me that he’s nearly given up trying to persuade his son to not drink. “All we do is argue about it and it’s ruining what little relationship we have left,” said the dad. So, he told me he’s changed his tactic and now promotes [click to continue…]

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marital conflictThe main problem with marital conflict is not that we are at odds with each other but rather the way we go about trying to resolve it. Here are the three most common and ineffective ways conflict is handled in marriages and how to work through them: [click to continue…]

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Relational boundaries are the foundation for healthy relationships. Yet, if you’ve grown up in a family with addictive behaviors or currently live in a family system where there is substance abuse, chances are very good that your boundaries need some work. The good news is that relational boundaries can be changed with deliberate effort. But, before we go over ways to tweak those boundary lines, let’s take a quick look at why boundaries are so important.

Relational boundaries in families serve three important purposes. [click to continue…]

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The narcissist is typically viewed as a person who is in love with him or herself. On the surface, this is an accurate way to describe the behavior. But, behind that charming preoccupation with self is a person who is deeply wounded and unhappy with themselves. You would never know it if you only saw them periodically. They seem happy, satisfied and confident. But, if you are in an ongoing relationship with a narcissist it’s only a matter of time before you begin to see the cracks in their façade.

Not sure whether you are in a relationship with a narcissist? Here are 5 of the most common signs to look for. [click to continue…]

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It’s no secret that drug use among teens is a major concern for both parents and the larger society. Numerous studies have shown the link between teen drug use and a host of problematic behaviors, such as an increased risk of auto accidents, risky sexual behavior, self-harm, mental health issues and poor academic performance. Perhaps as worrisome is the longer-term potential for teens to eventually become addicted to one or more drugs later in life.

Why teens start using drugs

There are a lot of reasons teens start experimenting with drugs in adolescence. The most common reasons include: [click to continue…]

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5 gifts your children will never forgetGiving gifts is a wonderful way to tell someone you value them or are thinking of them. But, most of the gifts we give to each other, especially our children, tend to be material in nature. Clothing, meals, movies, vacations and phones are the “things” of daily life that we need to some extent and that give us pleasure. But, perhaps the best gifts are those that come from your heart; the ones that strengthen the relationship between you and your child in a way that no tangible gift can match. Here are 5 such gifts that your child will never forget if you are deliberate and consistent about giving them. [click to continue…]

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The effects of traumaTrauma is one of those words that can have different meanings for different people. We typically think of a traumatic event as something that causes a person to feel an unusually high level of emotional distress. Most of us would agree that “big” events like fighting in combat, barely surviving a natural disaster, being the victim of rape or a physical assault or surviving a serious car accident would all qualify as traumatic experiences. These, and others like them, can be life-altering encounters and in some cases leave long-lasting emotional consequences.

Small traumas

But there are other life experiences, small traumas, which are also difficult to live with. They are like a splinter that gets under the skin. Initially, it hurts and is sore to the touch. But, eventually the pain subsides and you don’t notice it any longer. That is until it starts to get infected. It could lay dormant for a long time with layers of skin hiding it from view. But one day, something gets under the skin and infects the foreign object and that area becomes inflamed.

That is similar to the path small traumas can take in your life on an emotional level. [click to continue…]

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