Study: Snack might help avoid fight with spouse

SnickersAdMaybe the 2011 Superbowl commercial from Snickers had a point that “You are not you when you’re hungry.” A study out of Ohio State University proposed that low blood sugar can make spouses touchy and a snack could prevent major fights between husbands and wives. Psychology researcher Brad Bushman stated that it can make them “hangry,” a combination of hungry and angry.

“We need glucose for self-control,” said Bushman, lead author of the study, which was released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Anger is the emotion that most people have difficulty controlling.”

The researchers studied 107 married couples for three weeks. Each night, they measured their levels of the blood sugar glucose and asked each participant to stick pins in a voodoo doll representing his or her spouse. That indicated levels of aggressive feelings.

The researchers found that…Read the full story on the AP website.

What would you do if you were given a gift of time?

clock1This last spring, the bosses at Barrie D’Rozario Murphy, a Minneapolis based ad agency, gathered their 18 employees and gave them paid time off. While most of us spent the summer working, with maybe a week or two of vacation, the ad agency gave their employees 500 hours of their life back and told them “to figure out what they are passionate about and go and do it.”

So let’s do the math…500 hours of paid time off equals 12 and a half weeks (based on a 40 hour work week) or a little over three months off. Again this was paid time with benefits!

Watch the story from NBC Nightly News by clicking the picture or going to:


You can also view stories from some of the staff about how the 500 hours changed their lives on the Barrie D’Rozario web page.

What would you do if you suddenly had 500 hours of paid time off?

As a Federal Civilian that just finished taking 6 furlough days over 6 weeks, I too had some free time given to me. Despite the reduced paycheck creating a hardship, it was nice having the time to get things done around the house that I don’t normally have during a busy work week.

The ad agency bosses hoped that the staff would realize that the things they wanted to do, they could always be doing and find a place for them in their life.

I remember as a kid I would say to my mother often, “I don’t have time for…(whatever she was asking me to do)” and her response would always be to me “Make time for it.”

So whether we are lucky enough to have an employer that gives us time off or we make the time ourselves, don’t let the each day pass by. Take time for those things that can enrich your life or those dreams that you always find yourself saying you will do some day if you have the time.

A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope

As we all come to terms with the events of last Friday, our thoughts are with the community of Newton, Connecticut and the families of Sandy Hook Elementary. The national spotlight is on them as they grieve.

Meanwhile, we begin our week as we are expected to: while re-examining our lives, reviewing local policies and procedures we still have to return to our daily routines, many of us sending kids out the door to school for the day. To quote a parent of a Columbine Shooting victim, “The definition of normal changed that day.”

Whether it is 1999 or 2012 we are all now living in a new normal and continuing to build (and rebuild) our personal, family and community resilience. Everyone copes and grieves differently, but children often need more assistance. Below are some tips for parents and teachers from the National Association of School Psychologists in helping children cope.

Whenever a national tragedy occurs, such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters, children, like many people, may be confused or frightened.  Most likely they will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react.  Parents and school personnel can help children cope first and foremost by establishing a sense of safety and security. As more information becomes available, adults can continue to help children work through their emotions and perhaps even use the process as a learning experience.

All Adults Should:

  1. Model calm and control.  Children take their emotional cues from the significant adults in their lives. Avoid appearing anxious or frightened.
  2. Reassure children that they are safe and (if true) so are the other important adults in their lives. Depending on the situation, point out factors that help insure their immediate safety and that of their community.
  3. Remind them that trustworthy people are in charge.  Explain that the government emergency workers, police, firefighters, doctors, and the military are helping people who are hurt and are working to ensure that no further tragedies occur.
  4. Let children know that it is okay to feel upset.  Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy like this occurs.  Let children talk about their feelings and help put them into perspective.  Even anger is okay, but children may need help and patience from adults to assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
  5. Observe children’s emotional state.  Depending on their age, children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can also indicate a child’s level of grief, anxiety or discomfort.  Children will express their emotions differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel or express grief.
  6. Look for children at greater risk.  Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others.  Be particularly observant for those who may be at risk of suicide.  Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
  7. Tell children the truth. Don’t try to pretend the event has not occurred or that it is not serious.  Children are smart.  They will be more worried if they think you are too afraid to tell them what is happening.
  8. Stick to the facts.  Don’t embellish or speculate about what has happened and what might happen. Don’t dwell on the scale or scope of the tragedy, particularly with young children.
  9. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.  Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that the daily structures of their lives will not change. Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school.  They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence and threats to safety in schools and society.  They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. They will be more committed to doing something to help the victims and affected community.  For all children, encourage them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. Be a good listener!
  10. Monitor your own stress level.  Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief, and anger. Talking to friends, family members, religious leaders, and mental health counselors can help. It is okay to let your children know that you are sad, but that you believe things will get better. You will be better able to support your children if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner.  Get appropriate sleep, nutrition, and exercise.

What Parents Can Do:

  1. Focus on your children over the week following the tragedy.  Tell them you love them and everything will be okay. Try to help them understand what has happened, keeping in mind their developmental level.
  2. Make time to talk with your children.  Remember if you do not talk to your children about this incident someone else will.  Take some time and determine what you wish to say.
  3. Stay close to your children. Your physical presence will reassure them and give you the opportunity to monitor their reaction.  Many children will want actual physical contact.  Give plenty of hugs.  Let them sit close to you, and make sure to take extra time at bedtime to cuddle and to reassure them that they are loved and safe.
  4. Limit your child’s television viewing of these events.  If they must watch, watch with them for a brief time; then turn the set off.  Don’t sit mesmerized re-watching the same events over and over again.
  5. Maintain a “normal” routine. To the extent possible stick to your family’s normal routine for dinner, homework, chores, bedtime, etc., but don’t be inflexible.  Children may have a hard time concentrating on schoolwork or falling asleep at night.
  6. Spend extra time reading or playing quiet games with your children before bed.  These activities are calming, foster a sense of closeness and security, and reinforce a sense of normalcy. Spend more time tucking them in.  Let them sleep with a light on if they ask for it.
  7. Safeguard your children’s physical health.  Stress can take a physical toll on children as well as adults.  Make sure your children get appropriate sleep, exercise, and nutrition.
  8. Consider praying or thinking hopeful thoughts for the victims and their families.  It may be a good time to take your children to your place of worship, write a poem, or draw a picture to help your child express their feelings and feel that they are somehow supporting the victims and their families.
  9. Find out what resources your school has in place to help children cope.  Most schools are likely to be open and often are a good place for children to regain a sense of normalcy.  Being with their friends and teachers can help.  Schools should also have a plan for making counseling available to children and adults who need it.

What Schools Can Do:

  1. Assure children that they are safe and that schools are well prepared to take care of all children at all times.
  2. Maintain structure and stability within the schools.  It would be best, however, not to have tests or major projects within the next few days.
  3. Have a plan for the first few days back at school.  Include school psychologists, counselors, and crisis team members in planning the school’s response.
  4. Provide teachers and parents with information about what to say and do for children in school and at home.
  5. Have teachers provide information directly to their students, not during the public address announcements.
  6. Have school psychologists and counselors available to talk to students and staff who may need or want extra support.
  7. Be aware of students who may have recently experienced a personal tragedy or a have personal connection to victims or their families.  Even a child who has merely visited the affected area or community may have a strong reaction. Provide these students extra support and leniency if necessary.
  8. Know what community resources are available for children who may need extra counseling. School psychologists can be very helpful in directing families to the right community resources.
  9. Allow time for age appropriate classroom discussion and activities. Do not expect teachers to provide all of the answers.  They should ask questions and guide the discussion, but not dominate it.  Other activities can include art and writing projects, play acting, and physical games.
  10. Be careful not to stereotype people or countries that might be associated with the tragedy. Children can easily generalize negative statements and develop prejudice. Talk about tolerance and justice versus vengeanceStop any bullying or teasing of students immediately.
  11. Refer children who exhibit extreme anxiety, fear or anger to mental health counselors in the school. Inform their parents.
  12. Provide an outlet for students’ desire to help.  Consider making get well cards or sending letters to the families and survivors of the tragedy, or writing thank you letters to doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals as well as emergency rescue workers, firefighters and police.
  13. Monitor or restrict viewing scenes of the event as well as the aftermath.

For information on helping children and youth with this crisis, contact NASP at (301) 657-0270 or visit NASP’s website at

Modified from material posted on the NASP website in September 2001.

© 2002, National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Highway, Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814, (301) 657-0270, Fax (301) 657-0275;

“Music is the soundtrack of your life”

With the passing of Dick Clark last week, many people are experiencing a flood of emotions. Some of those emotions are feelings of grief and loss, but others may be emotions and memories from their lives based on the music that Dick Clark was associated with. In fact, it was Dick Clark that is quoted as saying, “Music is the soundtrack of your life.”

For me, I have always found music a great way to entertain myself as well as a way to de-stress and relax. If you looked at the music on my iPod you would find everything from classical, country, rock, pop, and even old school rap. There are many songs that bring back memories for me, but there are a few that I could just name and remember all the details of a memory tied to it. Examples would be Restless Heart’s song Bluest Eyes in Texas reminds me not only of my first exposure to country music, but sitting in my dorm room at tech school with my roommate playing this song over and over. Def Leppard’s song Photograph puts me on the black diamond ski slopes in Winter Park, Colorado, skiing the moguls in the winter of 1985 with my Sony Walkman and a cassette of mixed music I made just for downhill skiing. The next song on the tape was She’s a Beauty by The Tubes and it not only puts me on the slopes, but also reminds me of when I met an old girlfriend, Kristin.

Kristin passed away in 1986, so that song, as well as Andrew Gold’s Thank You For Being Friend and Dionne Warwick & Friend’s That’s What Friends Are For, which were both played at her memorial service, bring up strong emotions for me.

In February 2011, Thelma Duffey and Shane Haberstroh had and article in Counseling Today where they discuss musical chronologies and how music can be used in a therapeutic setting.

There have been many links showing memories are tied to our senses. In fact, musical chronologies have been shown to be an effective therapy tool. According to Duffey and Haberstroh, a musical chronology is like a musical scrapbook and “uses meaningful music to help clients connect with feelings, thoughts and memories, identify relevant life experiences and bring perspective to these experiences.”

In the article they also discuss a study conducted by Catherine Somody that focused on musical chronology and older populations. Participants reported that the emotions evoked by the music increased their self-awareness and reconnected them with “important memories and values.” In using the chronology, depending on their recollections, they experienced feelings of pride and accomplishment when remembering hardships. When they reported feelings of regret, they experienced forgiveness and “opened the door to hope.”

So what is you music chronology or the soundtrack of your life? What are some of the songs that will illustrate your personal story or “life themes.” As we grow older, new genres, artists, and musical trends will be added to each of our chronologies. You might be surprised several years from now what songs will transport you back to the events in your life.

In the meantime, explore where you have been and become more self-aware of those events that have shaped who you are today. Learn from the hard memories while enjoying the happy ones.

A Musical Chronology and the Emerging Life Song, Thelma Duffey & Shane Haberstroh; Counseling Today, February 2011 

Happiest States of 2011: The List

Live Science published a survey called the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index reveals which states are happiest. The index includes questions about six types of well-being, including overall evaluation of their lives, emotional health, physical health, healthy behaviors (such as whether a person smokes or exercises), and job satisfaction.

Here are the 50 U.S. states in order of their well-being scores, which are out of 100 points.

  1. Hawaii: 70.2
  2. North Dakota: 70.0
  3. Minnesota: 69.2
  4. Utah: 69.0
  5. Alaska: 69.0
  6. Colorado: 68.4
  7. Kansas: 68.4
  8. Nebraska: 68.3
  9. New Hampshire: 68.2
  10. Montana: 68.0
  11. South Dakota: 67.8
  12. Vermont: 67.7
  13. Maryland: 67.6
  14. Virginia: 67.4
  15. Iowa: 67.4
  16. Massachusetts: 67.4
  17. California: 67.3
  18. Washington: 67.3
  19. Connecticut: 67.2
  20. Oregon: 67.1
  21. Wyoming: 66.9
  22. Wisconsin: 66.9
  23. Idaho: 66.9
  24. New Mexico: 66.8
  25. Maine: 66.7
  26. Arizona: 66.6
  27. Texas: 66.4
  28. Georgia: 66.3
  29. New Jersey: 66.2
  30. North Carolina: 66.1
  31. Pennsylvania: 66.0
  32. Illinois: 65.9
  33. South Carolina: 65.7
  34. New York: 65.7
  35. Rhode Island: 65.6
  36. Louisiana: 65.5
  37. Michigan: 65.3
  38. Oklahoma: 65.1
  39. Indiana: 65.1
  40. Nevada: 65.0
  41. Tennessee: 65.0
  42. Florida: 64.9
  43. Missouri: 64.8
  44. Arkansas: 64.7
  45. Alabama: 64.6
  46. Ohio: 64.5
  47. Delaware: 64.2
  48. Mississippi: 63.4
  49. Kentucky: 63.3
  50. West Virginia: 62.3

For the third year in a row, the Aloha State gets kudos as the happiest U.S. state, with Hawaii residents scoring highest in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

But you don’t have to jet to an island for a smile, as North Dakota and Minnesota came in second and third, respectively. West Virginia’s residents showed the lowest well-being scores.

Following a trend that has been consistent over the past four years, Western and Midwestern states fared well on the happiness index, accounting for nine of the slots on the top 10 happiest states’ list, with Southern states sliding into half of the bottom 10 states.

The 2011 telephone survey was carried out between Jan. 2 and Dec. 29, 2011 and included a random sample of 353,492 adults, ages 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. To understand state well-being, Gallup relied on six measures: life evaluation (self-evaluation about your present life situation and anticipated one in five years); emotional health; work environment (such as job satisfaction); physical health; healthy behavior; and basic access (access to health care, a doctor, a safe place to exercise and walk, and community satisfaction).


Valentine’s Day: Spoken vs Unspoken Expectations

Valentines day is around the corner and for those of us that celebrate the holiday we start wondering what to get our significant others. It would be so much easier if we knew what our significant other wanted or expected as a gift.

Many of us either already have a plan for our significant other or you’re just reading this and realizing that is the end of January and you don’t have a clue what to do. Don’t panic, according to the National Retail Federation, Americans procrastinate their Valentine’s Day shopping more than any other holiday, with 60% of sales coming in a 3 day span (Feb 12-14).

So if you know what you are going to do, you have some time to shop. If not, you may still be in a panic over what to do for your significant other. For those of you that are just dating or newly in a relationship, figuring out what to get each other doesn’t always get easier with time.

More than half of the U.S. population celebrates Valentine’s Day, which happens to be one of the largest holidays for spending in the U.S. at around $15.7 billion. In 2011, it is estimated that the average person spent $116.21 on gifts, meals, and entertainment for Valentine’s Day. Of that, Men tend to spend double what women spend on Valentine’s day: $158.71 compared to $75.79 (1). Adults 25-34 will spend an average of $189.97, about three times the $60.22 adults 65 and older will spend.

What do they spend that money on, you ask?

  • 52.1% buy cards, the most popular Valentine’s Day gift (1) and it is estimated that 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged worldwide (2).
  • People will spend $1.7 billion on flowers this Valentine’s Day — 73% are bought by men, 27% by women (1). Oddly, 15% of U.S. women send themselves flowers on Valentine’s Day (3,4).
  • Even odder is the statistic that more than nine million pet owners are expected to buy gifts for their pets on Valentine’s Day with the average person spending $5.04 on them.

During research on this subject, I also found this scary fact for men to be aware of: 53% of women in America would dump their boyfriends if they did not get them anything for Valentine’s Day (3). Even if your significant other tells you “You don’t need to get me anything,” don’t think you are safe. Gentlemen, listen up…you need to get them something. So this brings us back to the issue of what to do in the way of gifts for Valentine’s Day and I was reminded of this JC Penny ad from 2009.

Wouldn’t it be great if we knew what that perfect gift was for our significant other so that we didn’t end up in the doghouse? For as long as humans existed, it is probably safe to predict that men have always wondered what women want and women…well they probably are right when they say they know what men want.

In relationships, discussing expectations between you and your spouse/significant other is important and will cover many aspects of your relationship from the early days of dating, to wedding plans, child raising, retirement, life goals and beyond. This isn’t a one time conversation that you can have, but will take place many times throughout your relationship.

So what does your significant other expect in the way of gifts? Do you know? If not, have you asked? That would be the best place to start. Responses range from a straight answer to, “nothing”, to (my personal favorite) “you should already know.” If they are asking, they don’t know. Help them out. Give them a “bone.” A national jewelry chain has an email form that you can send to your sweetheart giving them a gift suggestion.

My wife and I discussed Valentine’s Day gifts and agreed that we would not get flowers for each other. For us, a bouquet of flowers are not a gift that lasts and especially when a dozen roses, that normally cost $40 anytime of the year, doubles around Valentine’s Day. At the minimum we get at least a card, if not something else.

When it comes to gift giving, think outside of the box (or shopping bag). Give gifts that match the person. Do not waste money on stuffed animals and flowers if they will not be enjoyed. Valentine’s Day, is not a time for one-size-fits-all gifts. Knowing a partner’s real desires will express the meaning of the day, and could eliminate irrelevant and expensive purchases.

One suggestion would be to go the homemade route. Write a poem, create your own card, a homemade gift, or prepare a home cooked meal. Whatever it is you have the benefit of the gift being completely personalized to suit their taste.

If our current trend of a warm winter continues, head outside. Use the magic of the night to fuel some energy for ice skating, or build a bonfire and eat s’mores. Or create a winter picnic with blankets and hot cocoa. Then head inside, defrost and snuggle up
with a blanket for a movie night.

Give helpfully. Brainstorm a list of things a partner normally handles, but dislikes such as the laundry, dishes, walking the dog or shoveling snow. Make coupons that he/she can redeem to enlist help with the activity. Don’t forget to add some romantic and relaxing activity vouchers as well. HOWEVER, a word of warning…make sure you will honor the coupons!

Whatever gift path you take: give it some thought, make it personal, make it financially realistic, and keep in mind that all that truly matters is it came from the heart. Communicate your expectations with your significant other, whether it be about gifts or other matter, and be prepared to actively listen to their expectations as well. That way you can avoid going to (or returning to) the doghouse.

(1) 2011 U.S. National Retail Federation survey
(2) Hallmark
(3) CT News
(4) Wisebread

Copying with Grief After a Loss

Grief is a reaction to a major loss. It can be triggered by the death of a loved one, but people can also experience grief if they have lost a job, experienced an end to a significant relationship, loss of personal property, an illness for which there is no cure, a chronic condition that affects their quality of life. It is most often an unhappy and painful emotion, but it is a normal process that each person must move through. It is not something you get over or can bypass.

Everyone feels grief in their own way. However, there are common stages to the process of grieving. It starts with recognizing a loss and continues until a person eventually accepts that loss.

Shock, denial, disbelief, numbness. When you learn that you have lost, or may lose, someone you love, you may find the news hard to accept. Common thoughts include, “This can’t be happening” or “There must be some mistake.” The feeling of disbelief gives yourself some emotional breathing room and protects you from the full effect of the news when you are not ready to accept it.

Anger, blaming others. After you have begun to accept a loss, you may feel very angry. You may blame others or the person who died for the situation even if you know, realistically, that they are not responsible for it. Or, you may let out your frustration by becoming irritated easily or unintentionally doing things that hurt others. All of these feelings are normal. Anger can be a way of hiding your pain when you can’t or don’t know how to express your real feelings.

Bargaining and guilt. Even if you know there is little or no hope for a recovery, you may tell yourself you can do something to solve the problem. You may try to make a deal with the doctors, God, or yourself, promising to make changes if the situation will go away. You may have thoughts like, “I’ll never become angry with my partner or child again if only the cancer goes away.” It’s normal to go over past actions and think, “If only I had done this . . .” Many people also feel a sense of guilt or responsibility that fosters the belief that they can still or should have somehow changed things.

Depressed mood, sadness, and crying. At some point, you will feel the full impact of the loss, and begin to understand what it will mean to go through life without someone you love or whatever you may have lost. At this stage, you may feel very sad and perhaps allow yourself to cry for the first time. Feelings like these usually mean that you are closer to the end of the grief process.

Acceptance, coming to terms. At the final stage of grief, you accept your loss even though you still don’t like this fact. You forgive yourself and others and, perhaps for the first time, may feel a sense of peace about the loss. You may still feel sad, but you have stopped trying to fight reality. You may be able to clean out the room of the person who died or participate again in some of the activities you enjoyed together. At this stage, people often think about trying to find an enduring way to pay tribute to the life of someone who has died.

People’s responses to grief will be different, depending on the circumstances of the event that is causing the grief symptoms. Not everyone goes through all of the stages of grief, or experiences them in the same order and you may also go through a stage more than once. At some point you may think you have moved beyond depression, but you may feel sad again on a holiday or an anniversary. Or, you may get angry when you have to handle alone the everyday difficulties that you used share. Experiences like these are normal.

The grief process can’t be rushed and shouldn’t be. It’s important to let yourself feel the pain and most people find that over time the intensity of the pain will decrease. Even if one denies their pain of a loss, the grief still exists. If it does not affect them at this moment, it will eventually erupt in some way, maybe at an inappropriate moment or during another traumatic event. Most professionals suggest that it is always better to admit our strong feelings about a situation, to feel them, and to move through the grieving process in order to move beyond the event.

It is important to know that grieving is an important, normal, and healthy response to loss. If you feel overwhelmed or very sad for much longer than other people in similar situations, or if you continue to have trouble eating, sleeping, or enjoying life, you may want to talk with a therapist or clergy member.