Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself

Many of you know I’ve been stepping up my speaking game for the past few years. Instead of treating speaking as an afterthought to my writing, it has (literally) taken center stage in my career. And I love it! At 47, when many of my friends are considering the months or years between them and retirement, I am eagerly setting work goals for the next decade. SHOULDING

I am blessed to be elbows-deep into a fulfilling career. I’m doing work I absolutely love and meeting spectacular, inspiring people every week. For an extrovert like me, this is a dream come true! Of course that doesn’t mean every day is a perfect day. We all know there’s no such thing as perfect, right?

Let me tell you about an imperfect (a.k.a. disappointing) day I experienced. I was scheduled to speak at a metro high school to a group of parents about the high school-to-college launch. Now this was no ordinary high school and certainly not like the rural, public one I attended. It was a large, private, Catholic, boys, military prep school. This wasn’t just a school. It was a campus. A gorgeous, sprawling institution of learning.

Normally, I don’t get nervous about speaking, I get jazzed. But for whatever reason, I was nervous about this one. So I prepared. And I prepared. And I likely over-prepared. And when the time came to speak, I did okay. Just okay. Instead of speaking with my fellow parents, I talked at them. Instead of connecting, I presented.

Don’t get me wrong, I still got the information to them, providing them support and strategies during this time of transition. But I know I didn’t deliver my best work. To me, it felt flat. Was it a total flop? No. But could I have done better? Absolutely. Let’s just say I spent the entire hour and-a-half drive home re-hashing in my head every little mistake I’d made, how I could’ve done this and should’ve done that. Trust me, when I get going, I can really beat myself up!

My career coach called me later that week for our check in and asked how it went.

“Oh, Sarah,” I sighed, “I just didn’t have my sparkle that night. It definitely wasn’t my best work. I should have been more conversational. I should have smiled more. I should have been more personal. I should have worn different shoes. I should have used more humor. I should have pushed for a headset mic. I should have…”

“Why are you shoulding all over yourself?” she asked.

“What?” I asked, not sure if I’d heard her correctly. Did she just say shitting?

“You are shoulding all over the place, which is not very productive,” she said. “Was it really that bad? Were they booing you off the stage?”

“Well, no,” I answered, “I did have parents come up to me afterward wanting to talk in greater detail, and I did sell some books. Clearly I reached some of them.”

“So stop shoulding,” she said. Her no nonsense tone softened as she told me to use this less-than-stellar performance to grow and to get better.

It was time for me to reflect without all of the shoulding. And without all of the self-imposed judgement. After all, we often learn more by our less-than-perfect experiences than we do the shining moments.

Are you a should-er? Do you should all over the place, too? How can you stop shoulding and start using your less-than-awesome moments to push you to be better? Here are three simple ways to start:

1. Own your mistakes.
By openly acknowledging any mistakes on your own part, you are confronting them in order to make better choices next time. But keep in mind that a mistake is not the end. It is an opportunity to grow.

2. Learn your lessons.
Analyzing an experience can be a good thing, as long as you aren’t beating yourself up relentlessly. Trial and error can be effective ways to improve our skills and knowledge. Write down everything you could have done better (without judgement) and use it to motivate you next time.

3. Keep perspective.
Perceived failure, particularly the public kind, will shake anybody’s confidence. That’s called being human. But understand that perspective and optimism are central to success. Remind yourself that everybody has strengths to rely on and weaknesses to improve on. It’s your job to improve your own. So stop shoulding and start growing!

Do I wish I’d given an Oscar-worthy performance to the folks at that prep school? Absolutely! But my “just okay” experience taught me some valuable lessons about preparation, communication and how to encourage more audience participation. I’m happy to tell you I took those lessons to heart and used what I learned to truly connect with my subsequent audiences.

#ForgetPerfection     #FindPerspective

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What to Expect When Your Student Studies Abroad

I’ve had so many of you reach out to me wanting more information about studying abroad after reading the last guest post by our daughter Brooke. So I asked (okay, I begged) her to share a little more information with you–the parents–in mind. Here she is again with a student’s perspective on the study abroad experience.

What to Expect When Your Student Studies Abroad    A Guest Post by Brooke Radi

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Pre-Departure

I think it’s pretty safe to say that students who choose to study abroad are excited about it. If they aren’t, it’s probably time to re-evaluate. That being said, there will probably be something that makes your student question whether or not they should even be going in the first place. You as a parent have the most important job in all of this: GET YOUR CHILD ON THAT PLANE. After that, they’ll thrive and it will be great.

As a parent, you would not have supported them thus far if you knew in your heart they weren’t ready, so listen to their concerns and help them find ways to deal with them. They’re probably going to be nervous. They’re probably going to be scared. They’re beginning a new chapter of their lives so this is perfectly normal. They essentially have to start over in a new country. This is not the time to tell your student how they should be feeling. Focus on what you can do to love and distract them from the pre-departure jitters. Help them pack, make their favorite foods, help them narrow down their weekend trip list. By planning with them, you’re showing them that you support them and that you know they’re going to be successful. And you’re not just doing that because you’re their mom. They’re ready.

Expat Living

Don’t freak out if you don’t hear from your student nearly as often as you would when they went to college domestically. This is normal. Mom and I definitely talk at least once every few days when I’m at school stateside, but we were lucky if we were able to connect even once a week for fifteen minutes or so. This got even harder when work schedules conflicted with sleep schedules and travel plans conflicted with open weekends.

Assimilating to a new culture can be really hard. I had to re-learn things that I was used to doing every day at home. For example: when I had to go to the grocery store at home, I would get in my car, drive to the grocery store, buy the three things I needed in brands that I knew, checked out and drove home. When I was living in Prague and I needed groceries, I learned that I had to take my reusable shopping bag, ride a metro train and a tram to the market, make game time decisions about what I thought I was buying, check out, bag my groceries in a reusable bag, and ride the confusing transportation back to my apartment. I’d get home, only to discover that I bought onion cottage cheese instead of plain yogurt. It took about six weeks to be able to confidently grocery shop. Encourage your student to keep trying, especially if they are frustrated.

If Disaster Strikes

In today’s social and political environment, talk with your student about what to do if disaster strikes. I was abroad when the Brussels attacks happened in 2016 (in fact, my friend and I were in the city only a few weeks before), and it was disorienting and scary. Have a plan for contacting you, but remember: if your student is in the city where the event is happening, they may have a hard time getting a hold of you, as phone lines are often jammed. Consider opting for a text or a Facebook message (I found that Facebook definitely worked the best when trying to reach the U.S. from Europe). Check in every few hours until the crisis has passed and encourage your child to stay out of the city center until things have calmed down.

Homesickness

Here’s the hard part: when your student is homesick, encourage them to do anything but call home. In my experience, I didn’t get homesick often, but when I did, it was easy to want to hide away in my room and scroll through social media and miss my friends at
home. This has never fixed homesickness and probably never will. If anything, it made me even more homesick and less likely to leave my room. If your student suddenly reaches out to you more than they normally do (You’ll know your “normal” after about a month), encourage them to go run errands, try a new café, go see a play, literally anything they were excited to do before they left. This will effectively get them out of their rooms and into the real world where they will have to focus on other things. Works almost every time.

Re-Integration

There’s no way around it: reintegration to American life is hard. I wish there was some magical formula that would make it easier than it was, but between the jet lag, the faster pace of American life and over-stimulus, students can be exhausted for the first few days or even weeks. If your student is moving home for a few weeks before going back to school, as many students do, please let them set the pace for their first few days home.IMG_6123

For example, when I was abroad, I had a hard time speaking Czech, so I became used to not being able to understand what people were saying around me if it wasn’t important. If I heard people speaking English, I’d get really excited and shamelessly eavesdrop because it was so good to understand without having to force my brain to work so hard. Fast forward a few months later, and imagine how overwhelming a trip to Target would be if you were used to doing your shopping in an environment where you couldn’t read, speak or understand the language fluently. It was exhausting to try to sort out what was important to listen to and read and what wasn’t. Many of my friends from that semester said the same thing and we relied heavily on one another for the first few weeks home because it was hard to explain to other people. Be mindful of this before scheduling welcome home parties, sporting events, or other things. It will likely take your student some time to get used to it again.

On a similar note, ask your student a lot of questions—literally anything you are curious about—but remember: it’s not abnormal for those answers to change from day-to-day because your student is still processing their own experience. It takes time. Don’t expect them to unpack their entire study abroad experience as fast as their suitcase. To hear their stories and experiences will be worth the wait.

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If you want to follow more of Brooke’s expat adventures, you can follow her at giveagirlasuitcase.com.

The Life-Changing Magic of Studying Abroad

Do you have questions about study abroad programs? Not sure if a global experience is right for your child? Read on and learn first hand the impact a study abroad experience had on this college student. I must tell you she’s no ordinary guest blogger. She’s actually my daughter. And she has a lot to say about the value of studying abroad…

The Life-Changing Magic of Studying Abroad

Guest Blog By Brooke Radi

If you’ve talked to me for more than ten minutes, you’ll know how I feel about the Czech Republic. As someone who isn’t lukewarm about anything, I’ve had passions come and go but Prague has become the obsession to end all obsessions, and it all started with one fateful family vacation in 2013 that rocked my world and changed the entire course of my life. I was there for a week and I was hooked.Brooke Prague 1

Long story short, some of the first meetings I had as a freshman in college were with the beautiful folks at the international office, trying to find the easiest way to get back to Prague. I’d come home during breaks with program packets to peruse and random facts about the Czech Republic (To be perfectly honest, I still do this.), and I’m sure it was (is) really irritating at times, but at the end of the day, I knew I was supposed to go.

Fast-forward three-ish years and I’m in the airport, staring at the looming security line. My parents were waiting and nobody wanted to say goodbye. When we finally ripped off the Band-Aid, I went through the security checkpoint and walked to my terminal and got on my plane. I was scared and, if given the choice, I probably would have gotten back into my mom’s SUV and gone home. Thank God I didn’t.

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I’ve got to tell you, the first few weeks were disorienting. I couldn’t understand a word that was being said. I got stranded in the city in the middle of the night and couldn’t even buy my own groceries without help. I remember sending a video to my parents where I said I was scared of the grocery store but I knew I had to go back until it wasn’t scary. I was overwhelmed in the best and worst ways, and sometimes I didn’t think it was going to get any easier.

But the most amazing things happened. Strangers were kind. A woman at the supermarket helped me work the self-checkout kiosk. My vegetable man started to save me pita on Mondays because he knew I’d come in. People offered directions when I learned to ask. I also became more accustomed to life in my new world. I learned the night tram schedule, I became used to learning new words every day and in a few weeks I could order at a restaurant and get what I thought I asked for. It came together, but it took a little time and effort.

I wish I could put into words what that semester abroad did for me. Much like the way cleaning out your house can help you see what’s important, studying abroad helped clarify what I wanted in my life. I was forced to start over, to be independent and to grow where I landed. I found a tribe that became like my family, I learned how to cook (questionably), and I figured out how to handle a missed train, a bomb threat, and some often-hilarious cultural faux pas. It was earth-shattering and made me feel whole all at once, like I was closest to who I was created to be.

Now, I’m not saying everyone’s experiences are going to be similar to mine. I even know people who had really tough study abroad experiences and struggled with homesickness and disorientation. I dealt with those things too and it was really hard to need a hug from your mom and then have to wait another 18 hours to see her face on a computer screen because it’s the middle of the night at home and you have to go to class. It’s not all tours and train rides and Instagram-able desserts. Regardless of the experience, your student will come home with a new perspective on the world around them, and that makes it worth it.

Parents, if your student is studying abroad, the best thing you can do is listen and learn with them. Those weeks and days leading up to that plane ride are going to get weird and your student will probably deal with that stress in some pretty bizarre ways, but seriously, GET THEM ON THAT PLANE. Be patient with them and remember that they are at one of the biggest transition points of their lives. Hug them and distract with movies and favorite foods but, for the love of everything, don’t make it about them leaving you. That doesn’t make it easier for anyone. Just love them and give them your time, even if they don’t seem to want it.

Studying abroad in Prague changed the way I walk through the world— both in my awareness of the world around me and also in where I’m choosing to walk. I’m choosing to return to the Czech Republic in July for my first “big girl job” and could not be more excited if I tried. People often ask me if I’m afraid and the answer is easy. No. Not even a little bit. Taking the risk to study abroad prepared me and lodged Prague so deeply into my heart that I can’t escape its draw. I’m being called back to where I belong, and if it wasn’t for the love and support of my parents, I would have no idea that this was my place.

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Follow Brooke’s travel experiences and learn the ins and outs of living abroad at giveagirlasuitcase.com  or on Instagram.  She’d love to have you join her on her latest adventure!

 

Also, click on the link below to read my previous post about studying abroad from a mom’s perspective.  From Clingy Kid to World Traveler, How Did That Happen? 

How to Start a Book Club

“Would you like to join our book club?” she asked.

Those eight words were music to this bookworm’s ears.

I felt like I’d been asked to sit at the cool kids’ lunch table! I’d been hoping to bust into this group of voracious readers for some time. And then it happened. They finally had an opening. And I was in!

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More Than Wine
This group of ten women has been meeting and reading together for years. We even have a name: The Lit Chicks. And in spite of many book clubs’ reputations as “organized wine drinking,” this one actually discusses the book. In great detail. And yes, we do also drink wine.

Joining the Lit Chicks has opened up my reading repertoire as well as my mind. In our club, the hostess gets to select the book. This has pushed me to read many books I may not have otherwise chosen to read. And our respectful, insightful discussions have challenged me to consider new ways of thinking.

We read mostly fiction. We’ve enjoyed psychological thrillers, historic fiction, best sellers, chick lit and romance novels. We’ve even had an author attend to discuss her work. And occasionally, if the book has inspired a movie, we’ll add a field trip to go watch it at the theatre.

How it Works
Our group meets in our homes with a different member hosting each month. We usually meet on week nights for about two hours. The hostess provides snacks and beverages, and facilitates discussion to keep us on track. At the end of a meeting, we compare calendars and select the next meeting date based on availability, and the upcoming hostess lets us know the book she has selected.

Expectations
Lit Chick club members all live busy lives, but the expectation is that we come prepared, having read the book. After all, it is hard to discuss a book you haven’t read. Our group is a mix of women with diverse professional lives and political views. Because of this, we generally avoid partisan politics. But we do encourage respectful discussion about the books and their themes.

How to Get Started
If you’re considering starting a book club, here are some items to consider:

  • Think about your intentions for the club. Decide on your tone and theme.
  • Will you focus on a specific genre or type of book? Some clubs only do business or self-help books. Others leave it wide open.
  • How often will your club meet? How long will your meetings be?
  • How will you divvy up the responsibilities?
  • Will you be the leader? Or will you rotate who leads meetings?
  • What are the minimum and maximum number of members your club can accommodate?
  • Where will you meet? Consider a library, a book store, a restaurant, or members’ homes.

Remember, there are many ways to organize a book club. It just takes a few interested people to get you started. All you have to do is reach out to friends, colleagues, or fellow bibliophiles and say those eight magic words…“Would you like to join our book club?”

 

Here’s a list of the Lit Chicks 25 most recent books:

  1. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
  2. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
  3. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
  4. Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif
  5. The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
  6. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
  7. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
  8. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  9. Room by Emma Donoghue
  10. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  11. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  12. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
  13. Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  14. Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
  15. The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
  16. The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
  17. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  18. A Lesson Before Dying by Earnest J. Gaines
  19. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
  20. Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza
  21. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  22. Constellation of the Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra
  23. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
  24. The Storyteller by Jody Piccoult
  25. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

 

Anxiety and college students

anxiety and college students

College can be stressful. Students must juggle school, work, friends, and finances, all while trying to figure out the trajectory of the rest of their lives. Feelings of loneliness, uncertainty and isolation can overwhelm even the most well-prepared students. They become stressed. Anxious.

As adults, we know anxiety is a normal part of everyday life. It is often a natural reaction to stress that can help a person stay alert and motivate them to take action. Anxiety can be uncomfortable, but it is usually brief and resolves itself when the stressor goes away or a problem has been fixed.

An anxiety disorder, however, occurs when these feelings of nervousness or fear grow out of proportion to the situation, become difficult to control, and interfere with daily life.

It’s a real thing.

And it’s becoming more prevalent on college campuses. In fact, anxiety has now surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students.

Nearly one in six college students has been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last twelve months, according to a study by the American College Health Association, and more than half of students who visit campus clinics cite anxiety as a health concern.

How can a parent help?
At this age, students are still maturing and developing the coping skills to manage their perfect storm of emotions. Dr. Kimberly Christensen, a pediatric psychologist, reminds parents there is a typical adjustment to college for all students. “There’s excitement and stress, so keep that in mind,” she says. “Even a child who is depressed may be just stressed by college, and some of that stress is good. Parents need to tease out what’s depression and what’s typical stress.”

For many students, time and self-help are enough to pull through a “low” time. However, other students who have more severe feelings of depression or anxiety may benefit from professional treatment. Many students don’t seek help because they don’t realize the seriousness of their situation. They may be embarrassed, they may view their feelings as personal weakness, or they may feel too “stuck” to reach out.

Signs of anxiety
Signs of anxiety are varied and often hard for parents to catch, especially if children attend college far from home. It’s difficult to decide over the phone if she’s just having a bad day or if she’s truly struggling. Here are some signs that your student may need help:

  • Negative feelings that persist for several weeks
  • Irritability
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of motivation, missing class, procrastination
  • Sleep disturbances, difficulty waking up
  • Lingering, unidentified illnesses
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • 
Difficulties with alcohol or other drugs

Anxiety disorders are treatable
Is your student feeling overwhelmed and out of control?  It may be time to suggest a visit with a counselor. The campus counseling center is a good place to start. Licensed professionals are available for confidential consultations and can refer students for further help. Some centers offer drop-in sessions that teach stress-relieving techniques. Often these visits are at no extra charge, paid for by student fees.

Other ways you can support your student

  • Be an active listener when your student is feeling stressed or anxious.
  • Don’t judge. Just listen.
  • Avoid criticizing or belittling the severity of their symptoms.
  • Encourage healthy coping strategies. Remind them to get out of bed and out of that dorm room.
  • Help them research the next steps they can take for overall wellbeing.
  • Don’t stop telling them how much you love them. They may never admit it, but they still need your words of support and validation.

Resources for parents and students:
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
adaa.org

The JED Foundation
jedfoundation.org

 

You are not alone. Did you know?
One in four students have a diagnosable mental illness
40% do not seek help
80% feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
50% have become so anxious that they struggled in school
—National Alliance on Mental Illness

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*This is an excerpt from Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage by Kelly Radi