,by Shana Prohofsky
Have you experienced a life transition during COVID that has left you feeling adrift? Perhaps you are looking for a way to feel more anchored, less lonely, or less bored? Many of us have spent the past few weeks, during the High Holidays, reflecting on the past year. But what if we go even further and take an extended look into the past? What if this look back could provide us with a newfound sense of contentment with ourselves?
In the book, Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, & Spirit, by Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Linda Thal, the authors propose a life review exercise, which aims to provide a chronologically descriptive, organized method of looking at our life’s journeys. The authors provide specific instructions on how to map out our lives, as if they are rivers, and to consider them stage by stage. Mapping allows us to explore the path of our personal river of life – where it has taken us, and where it might flow in the future. This exercise affords us with the opportunity to interpret the stories of our lives in multiple ways. We engage in nostalgia, we look for and recognize patterns, and we work towards attaining a non-judgmental relationship with ourselves. This new realization of our past can help us to feel more grounded in the present and comfortable moving forward into the future.
Let’s explore the methods of interpretation and their benefits more closely.
Engaging in nostalgia: Reminiscing is a normal reaction to stress and uncertainty. Focusing on positive moments of nostalgia offers us comfort, providing a temporary escape from emotionally stressful situations. Nostalgia also alleviates loneliness because in remembering a past event, we tap into pleasurable experiences, which are tied to persons with whom we shared those experiences, and we are reunited, if only in our minds, for just a moment. There are elements of nostalgic moments that you can bring into the present and incorporate into your self-care routine. Rediscover music, books, or television shows that you enjoyed in the past. Look at pictures of life events and reconnect with a family member or friend, by phone or in writing, sharing the memories with them. Eat a food that you found comforting and delightful in the past. Revel in these rediscovered experiences and find moments of happiness.
Seeing patterns: While memories may tend to jumble together, when we look at events across our lifespan in chronological order, we can see that just like a river, periods of time in our life go rushing joyously by, but there are also periods of slow down and pools of stagnation brought on by loss or other challenges. We are able to see what came before, what came after, and what resources we were able to draw upon to get us to the next stage. Perhaps these resources were drawn from within us or from external support given by family, friends, or professional counselors. While some of the external supports might no longer be available to you, such as a loved one who has passed away, you can still draw on what you learned from them. Additionally, it might be easier to deal with the unpredictable nature of life during COVID, realizing that we have handled many changes before and adapted to difficult situations in the past. We can examine what we were able to control, and what was beyond our ability to control. The strength and resilience we gained from working through past struggles helps us in our ability to cope with our current situations.
Finding contentment: Life review allows us to view past events with a more knowledgeable and forgiving eye. While we cannot change what happened in our lives, we can change how we perceive those events and what we can learn from them and apply to our lives. For example, maybe now we can see that the loss of a job led to a better opportunity, or a loss created the space for a new but different love. These realizations allow us to have a more accepting relationship with ourselves.
By moving through the steps outlined above, we may find ourselves able to reflect on the events of our lives with a new understanding of who we are and where we have been. These gains in perspective allow us to feel more secure moving into the future, knowing we are stronger and more resilient when faced with challenges than perhaps we previously thought.
Are you interested in mapping out your very own river of life? Please join me and my Kesher co-worker Tara on Zoom on Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 12 p.m. for "And So It Flows," an expressive arts program inspired by the book Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, & Spirit by Rabbi Rachel Cowan & Dr. Linda Thal. During the program, we will guide you through a life review exercise to help you gain perspective on your personal journey.
If you would like to participate in this activity but are unsure if it might bring up unpleasant feelings, I encourage you to first discuss it with your personal mental health provider, or either Tara Watkins or myself. Please keep in mind that the BH Link hotline, 401-414-LINK (5465), is available to provide free 24/7 mental health support and consultation. The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Also, as the Kesher worker for the temple, I am available to connect you to necessary community resources to help address struggles you may be experiencing during these challenging times (phone: 401-428-4084 or email@example.com). Please note that Kesher is not for immediate emergency situations.
Breines, J. (2020, Mar. 18). 10 Ideas for Coping with Loneliness During Social Distancing. Psychology
Campoamor, D. (2020, July 28). Why We Reach for Nostalgia in Times of Crisis. New York Times.
Cowan, R., & Thal, L. (2015). Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, & Spirit.
Dreher, D. (2020, Jan. 22). Why Loneliness Is Hazardous to Your Health. Psychology Today.
By Tara Watkins, LICSW
During the High Holy Days many of us find ourselves reflecting on the role of forgiveness in our lives. We look back on the past year, consider the mistakes that may have been made and explore ways to atone. Sometimes as we work to make amends, we may find ourselves forgetting an important piece of the forgiveness process, self-forgiveness.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have struggled with increased family tensions, changing expectations, lifestyle restrictions, and uncertainty. We have also had to face new parenting challenges, complications with caring for older parents and loved ones from a distance, new job responsibilities (or perhaps loss of employment), not being able to be present during a loved one’s serious illness or end of life moments, and many other COVID related losses and struggles.
With all these new complexities on our plates we might, unjustly, start to blame ourselves for things outside of our control. Robert Enright Ph.D in his Psychology Today article entitled “Whom Do I Forgive in the COVID Crisis?” states that sometimes those who care for others can develop a false sense that they never have done quite enough.
We have to remember that the feelings we are experiencing now are normal and common experiences during the pandemic. We cannot forget that the ability to forgive ourselves for mistakes, both large and small, is critical to both our psychological and physical well-being. Studies have found that difficulties with self-forgiveness are frequently linked with self-harm behaviors such as eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicide attempts, among other problems (Breines, 2012). If you find yourself experiencing any self-harm behaviors, please speak with a trusted mental health professional or call one of the 24-hour hotline numbers listed at the bottom of this article.
Shame and guilt are often felt by those who struggle with self-forgiveness. Although these emotions may seem similar for in both experiences, we feel bad about ourselves, they are different. For example, feeling guilty may be healthy when it opens doors that lead to positive behavior change. On the other hand, shame is often very unhealthy causing lowered self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness, and behavior that reinforces that self-image (Engel, 2017).
One way to reduce feeling shame is to develop compassion for ourselves. According to psychotherapist Beverly Engel, compassion is the antidote to shame. Feeling compassion for ourselves does not release us from taking responsibility for our actions. But, it can release us from the negative self-talk that prevents forgiving ourselves and frees us to respond to the situation with more clarity.
The following are a few suggestions that may help if you are struggling with forgiving yourself and letting go of negative self-judgment (adapted from Cowan and Thal, 2015).
Chag sameach and l’shana tovah!
If you find yourself struggling with self-forgiveness I encourage you to reach out to a member of the temple clergy, for 24/7 mental health support consult BH link hotline 401-414-LINK (5465), or if for those 18 and under please call 855-KID (543)-LINK (5465). The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Also, as the Kesher worker for the temple I am available to connect you to necessary community resources to help address COVID related struggles you may be experiencing during these challenging times (phone: 401-428-4084 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Please note that Kesher is not for immediate emergency situations.
Beverly Engel L.M.F.T. “Healing Your Shame and Guilt Through Self-Forgiveness, posted June 1, 2017.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201706/healing-your-shame-and-guilt-through-self-forgiveness
Emotional Well Being and Coping During COVID, Weil Institute of Neurosciences, University of California San Francesco, Department of Psychiatry and Neurosciences https://psychiatry.ucsf.edu/coronavirus/coping
Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal “Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience and Spirit, Behrman House: New Jersey, 2015.
Robert Enright, Ph. D. “Whom Do I Forgive in the COVID-19 Crisis?” Mar 24, 2020 Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-forgiving-life/202003/whom-do-i-forgive-in-the-covid-19-crisis
Roger D. Williams, Jessica A. Brundage, and Erin B. Williams (May 2 2020) Moral Injury in Times of COVID, J Health Serv Psychol, 1–5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7195905/
In the past few months, parenting has become exponentially more difficult as the days have gone by. With the onset of COVID-19, our lives became topsy-turvy with school closings and shelter in place orders. Then came more losses, whether in the form of cancellations of graduations, events, and many camps; employment; or as the loss of a loved one, friend, or acquaintance. More recently, the lifting of some restrictions has brought about mixed feelings and even anxiety about re-entry. In addition to the stressors brought forth by COVID-19, we have also witnessed atrocious acts of racial injustice. Any one of these happenings would test our coping skills but taken together they have left many of us feeling overwhelmed. As parents and caretakers, we face an even greater challenge. How do we address these events and changes with our children? How do we have the difficult conversations? Below, we offer some general tips, as well as some topic-specific resources that you may find helpful in framing your own thoughts in preparation for having these talks with your children.
Prioritize your child’s emotional well-being
As adults, we must acknowledge and deal with our own discomfort with difficult topics, yet still be willing to talk to our children about it. By avoiding the topic altogether, we may inadvertently signal that the topic is too scary to address, thereby increasing their anxiety. Prepare for the talk by examining your own thoughts and biases and try to anticipate questions that your children might have and prepare to answer them by exploring resources. Try out the talk and bounce ideas off another trusted adult before approaching your child.
Seize the moment
Use comments your child has made, or that your child has heard (intentionally or inadvertently) as a catalyst for the conversation. Ask them what they already know about the topic and go from there. If an opportunity does not arise naturally, consider using a book or other age appropriate media as a catalyst for the conversation (see the resource section below for child-appropriate books and media links).1
Use direct, concrete, age-appropriate language
Euphemisms and metaphors can be confusing and scary, especially for young children. For example, when speaking to a grieving child, use concrete words like died or death instead of went to sleep or passed away.
Model appropriate emotional responses
Do not be afraid to allow your child to see that you are sad, angry, or disappointed. Be truthful, talk to them about how you are feeling, and show them how to manage these emotions in a healthy way. If you are struggling with these emotions yourself, reach out and ask for help from your clergy, your Kesher worker, or a mental health professional.
Avoidance does not indicate a lack of understanding
Children do not process in a linear fashion. Talking about it and then seeming to ignore the subject does not mean that they did not understand. They might be on information overload. Give them time and space to process their thoughts and emotions.
It is not a one and done
Children might then bring up the topic at random times. If they do not, do not assume they no longer want or need to talk about it. Check back in and invite them to readdress it with you.2
It is okay to not have all the answers
There is no one right way to have these difficult conversations. Do not fear messing up. Be comfortable with saying, “I don’t know,” or “I have to think about that, and we can talk about it some more later.” Trust your gut instinct and follow your child’s lead to determine how much information they can handle and process. Above all else, listen to them, validate their feelings, and be there for them.
Each family is unique and dealing with challenges in their own way. If you would like someone to help process and provide further guidance specific to your situation, please reach out to your Kesher worker. I am available by phone at 401-428-4084 or by email at email@example.com.
Are you interested in learning more about how to help children navigate the grieving process?
Please join me on Zoom, Thursday, July 9 at 8 p.m. as my Kesher colleague, Tara Watkins LICSW, facilitates a talk with guest speaker Ryan Loiselle LICSW, Program Director of Friend’s Way (Rhode Island’s only children’s bereavement center), on ways to help children and their families cope with grief and loss during COVID, the re-entry process, and beyond.
1 Turner Ph.D., Erlanger A. (Aug. 13, 2017). "Race in America: Tips on Talking with Children About Racism."
2 Koslowitz Ph.D., Robyn. (Apr. 24, 2020). "Scared to Death to Talk to Your Kids About Death?"
3 Katherine Nguyen Williams Ph.D. (Jan. 27, 2020). "Telling Your Child or Teen About Kobe Bryant's Death."
This list is by no means exhaustive, and we know that not every article with resonate with every family. If you need assistance locating additional resources, please reach out to Shana at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-428-4084.
Grief and Loss
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/going-beyond-intelligence/201708/mindful-meditation-the-mysteries-life-children (book recommendation with imbedded link to additional book recommendations)
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-modern-child/202001/telling-your-child-or-teen-about-kobe-bryants-death (information about talking to teens about death, with information on access to
social media and how it affects coping)
https://www.kveller.com/camp-kveller-will-help-with-all-your-questions-and-concerns-about-jewish-summer-camp/ (camp closures)
https://www.kveller.com/a-jewish-anti-racist-reading-list-for-children-of-all-ages/ (book recommendations)
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/parenting/kids-books-racism.html (book recommendations)
Talking to Teens
You can reach Shana on her work cell phone at 401-428-4084 or email her at email@example.com. You can find information on Jewish Collaborative Service's program on Managing Mental Health During COVID-19 here on their website.
by Tara Watkins, LICSW
Punxsutawney Phil may not have seen his shadow this year, but for some of us the hope of six potential less weeks of winter may still not be enough to stop what is commonly known as the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
About twenty percent of Americans experience some form of winter blues and an estimated 10 million experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the main risk factors for SAD are age, sex, family history of depression, distance from the equator, and a history of depression or other mood disorders. Studies have shown that young adults and women are more likely to experience SAD, with three out of four being women. However, when men do experience SAD symptoms, they are usually more severe.
So, what exactly is SAD? SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the four seasons. Symptoms may vary depending on the time of year. Typically, SAD manifests the most during the colder months of late autumn through winter – when days are shorter, darker and chiller.
The exact cause for SAD is unknown. However, there is some evidence that it may be related to the body's level of melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, preparing the body for sleep. As the winter days get shorter and darker, melatonin production in the body increases and people tend to feel sleepier and more lethargic.
Individuals with SAD may also have trouble regulating their levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences mood. Research suggests that people with SAD may produce less Vitamin D in response to sunlight. (Vitamin D is believed to play a role in serotonin activity.) Insufficiency of vitamin D is associated with clinically significant depression symptoms.
There are a range of symptoms for winter SAD, but some of the most commonly reported include: fatigue (paired with oversleeping), trouble concentrating, chronically low moods, irritability, greater appetite, strong carb cravings (which can lead to weight gain), and greater desire to be alone.
Self-care is important for everyone, but for those with the winter blues or SAD it is vital. Experts recommend monitoring mood and energy level, taking advantage of available sunlight, planning pleasurable and physical activities, approaching the winter season with a positive attitude, and, when symptoms develop, seek help sooner rather than later.
Feeling like the winter blues or SAD might be getting you down? Below are a few other suggestions/strategies that you may wish to explore:
Life often gets in the way even for the most highly motivated among us, therefore it is important to have a plan and make it part of our regular routines help prevent and manage the winter blues or SAD.
If you think you or someone you love may be experiencing the winter blues or SAD and would like help with addressing their symptoms or finding help, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-428-4084.
"How can you cope with seasonal affective disorder?" by Maria Cohut, Ph.D.
Medical News Today, November 24, 2017.
"How to Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder," by Lizz Schumer
The New York Times, January 23, 2018.
"Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)," by Lawrence Robinson, Jennifer Shubin, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
HelpGuide, October 2019.
"Seasonal Affective Disorder"
by Shana Prohofsky
When making resolutions, many of us look to the past year to see what went well versus what needs improvement. As parents, many of us reflect on not only our own achievements and shortcomings, but those of our children, as well. This process can become especially difficult given the amount of attention that is given to parenting in our current culture. Social media posts, parenting blogs, and even parenting columns in well-known newspapers seem to be chock full of articles on parenting styles, and the subsequent judgment of parents who choose one style over another. There are articles on attachment parenting, free range parenting, helicopter parenting, mindful parenting, and bulldozer parenting just to name a few. But, for every so called scientifically backed method, there seems to be a counter method that is purported to be more effective.
In looking into this topic, I came across an interesting Psychology Today article by Dr. Stephen Mintz, who asserts that these parenting styles and associated labels have nothing to do with the actual physical or emotional well-being of children. Rather, Mintz says these styles, which are all supported and refuted by different scientific studies, play into the anxieties and fears that we have about the type of world our children are living in. He ultimately concluded that this preoccupation with parenting style has prevented parents from parenting un-self-consciously. More simply put, instead of following our hunches about what is best for our children, we are inclined to set them aside and follow whatever is the current parenting trend. We find ourselves in a mental struggle between being the parent we would like to be and the parent we are expected to be.
What are we as parents and caregivers to do when criticism, or even seemingly well-meaning comments are lobbed, whether it be following the meltdown in the grocery check-out line, a friend catching wind of misbehavior at school, or a top choice college placement not being secured? One way is to view the critique as misguided caring. Frame the comment by assuming that the person making the comment is worried and simply trying to help by doing or saying something. This person likely does not have enough information about the situation to give helpful advice, but perhaps there is no malicious intent. In this case, take the comment for what it is worth and move on secure in the knowledge that you, as the parent, are the most informed about what is going on and the best equipped to deal with the situation.
But what if the comment is indeed hurtful? Advocate for yourself and your child. Let the person know that what has been said or done was upsetting. Although this could lead to an uncomfortable conversation, not saying anything leads to continued hurt feelings and even resentment. How do you start this difficult conversation? Hold off on giving an immediate, emotionally charged response. Once you have had a moment to regroup, put your feelings into words, and constructively address the comment with clarity. You can even suggest an action that would be constructive in the given situation, if you can. However, if the comment from another is truly ill-intentioned and mean-spirited, ignore it as purposeless negativity. By not responding to these harmful comments in a hasty, negative manner, you are in fact modeling self-control and positive behavior for your children.
Parenting would be easier if everyone kept in mind that there is no one “right” way to successfully parent, and that no two children are exactly alike. Consistency, clear expectations, good listening skills, setting a good example, and seeking outside or professional support when needed are all important components of parenting. While there will most certainly be things that do not go well, it is important to focus on the big picture, not the minutiae of day to day life.
Are you hitting bumps in the road on the journey of parenthood? Are you looking for resources? Let’s talk. Please contact me by phone at (401) 428-4084 or by email at email@example.com.
Here are some other sources on this topic:
Kira Asatryan, "Five Ways to Survive Criticism from Family Members," Psychology Today, November 16, 2015
Maurice J. Elias, Marilyn E. Gootman and Heather L. Schwartz, The Joys and Oys of Parenting: Insights & Wisdom from the Jewish Tradition. Springfield, NJ: Behrman House.
Apple Sauce or sour cream on your latkes? If only this was the question when everyone talks about the December dilemma.
Winter holidays can provide shared experiences ripe with warmth, joy, and caring through the collective partaking of food, music, ceremony, and tradition. Yet, for many, the days surrounding Christmas and Chanukah can be a time of emotional turmoil and struggle for harmony. The choice to observe Chanukah or Christmas, both, or neither can weigh heavily on the minds of individuals and families. There is often the desire to avoid hurt feelings, and even disapproval from others, within families, or even in the larger community.
If you are wrestling with the December dilemma, or you just want to learn more about it, the following links address the topic from many different perspectives, and there is an abundance more easily found on the internet:
Redefining the So-Called December Dilemma by Rabbi Josh Brown https://reformjudaism.org/blog/2012/12/06/redefining-so-called-december-dilemm
A Rabbi’s Take on the Whole Celebrating Christmas-and-Hanukkah Thing by Rebecca Einstein Schorr https://www.kveller.com/a-rabbis-take-on-the-whole-celebrating-christmas-and-hanukkah-thing/?_ga=2.188360296.1783103058.1571159694-822958029.1571159694
Happy Hanumas? Ditch Season’s Greetings by Linda K.Wertheimer https://reformjudaism.org/blog/2010/11/18/happy-hanumas-ditch-seasons-greeting
Actually, You Can’t Celebrate Hanukkah AND Christmas by Jordana Horn https://www.kveller.com/actually-you-cant-celebrate-hanukkah-and-christmas/
I’m a Rabbi and I Love Christmas by Howard Goldsmith
My Orthodox Jewish Kids are Obsessed with Christmas by Rivki Silver
We at the Kesher program do not advocate for any one position. There is no one size fits all answer that applies to every person or every family’s situation. However, we do feel it is important to feel at peace with your decisions and practices. The Kesher program is available to offer emotional support and practical resources to guide you through the winter holiday season.
Compiled by Tara Watkins, LICSW
Struggling to fight an invisible battle with suicidal thoughts may make us feel that we are alone. During these moments, a personalized suicide prevention kit which includes concrete objects and steps to help us get through the day, may be essential.
A suicide prevention kit is a collection of items that help us remember our reasons to live — even when we may feel that all hope is lost. If this sounds like something that might be useful, but you don’t know where to start, the following ten suggestions from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and The Mighty (an online community offering peer support for those experiencing mental health challenges) may be a good place to begin.
(*** Please note that this list is not all inclusive and any suicide prevention kit should be explored first and foremost with your personal therapist or clinician. If you do not have a therapist or clinician and are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For local support please reach out to the Providence Center’s Emergency Services line at 401-308-2139. This line is answered by a trained clinician 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)
Potential things to include in a suicide prevention kit.
Above all else remember- your life does matter, and you are not alone! Every small step you take – sometimes simply just putting one foot in front of other- will help get you through the toughest moments and continue to live.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. All calls are confidential.
*****For local Support/help: Providence Center Emergency Psychiatric Services 401-308-2139. A clinician is available to speak with callers by phone 24/7 and may also be able to respond in person for support, depending on time of day of the call (generally, 8:30-4:30pm weekdays and 12-8pm on weekends.) *****
Reference Sources: World Health Organization website The Mighty.com. September 10th edition focusing on Word Suicide Prevention Day (The Mighty is a safe and supportive peer lead community for those experiencing mental health challenges.)https://save.org/about-suicide/suicide-facts/ SAVE uses the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization; Rhode Island Chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.https://afsp.org/chapter/afsp-rhode-island/
Free Event for Survivors of Suicide Loss: November 23, 2019
Rogers Free Library
525 Hope Street (Route 114)
Bristol, Rhode Island 02809
To register or for more information please contact: Missy Ames
It’s about the journey,
not just the destination
By Tara Watkins, LICSW
For many, the High Holidays are a time for reassessing goals, those achieved as well as those that remain unfinished. We might ask ourselves, “would our (unfinished) goals align with our core values, be realistic, or hold meaning in our lives?” If the answer is “no” then perhaps they were created for the wrong reasons and therefore not truly useful for us.
Studies have shown that the more we align our goals with core values and principals the more we are likely to find satisfaction in goal setting. Meaningful goals involve values, bind us to reality, and call for self evaluation. They help us more fully understand what is important. (Chowdhury, 2019.)
Meaningful goals also play an important part in the development and maintenance of our psychological well-being. When we are making progress on our goals, we are happier emotionally and more satisfied with our lives (Pychyl, 2008).
Unfortunately, too often we might find ourselves focused on the end result, rather than the process it takes to get there. The goal process, or journey, is itself full of rich opportunity for personal growth. Some experts suggest that the journey towards our goal is even more important than the ultimate completion of the goal itself (Robbins, 2014). When we ignore the process and focus only on the attainment, we lose sight of what we are trying to achieve.
Studies show that goal progress is related to positive emotions and overall wellbeing. (Pychl, 2008) When we make progress on our goals, we experience positive emotions and more satisfaction with life. This in turn increases our sense of overall well-being.
Positive emotions also contribute to our motivation to act. Thus, working towards our goals is a win win situation, if we can just begin the process.
The following are four simple steps to help us get started in goal setting:
1) Make a plan (and write it down). As the famous saying goes, “Begin with the end in mind.” The most crucial aspect of goal-setting is to build an effective plan. Plans, especially written ones, make habit forming and maintaining easier.
Research shows that goals that are not kept only in our heads but rather written down have a higher completion rate. Personal goal setting might be as simple as writing up a daily “to do” list (depending on the complexity and time frame of the goal).
2) Explore resources. The more we educate ourselves about the goal itself, the easier it will be to see it through. For example, we might begin to broaden our knowledge base by talking to experts or engaging with others who have also completed this goal.
3) Be accountable. We tend to succeed with goal setting more often when we are held accountable by/to someone else. If we must be accountable only to ourselves, keeping a log or journal of our progress can help with accountability.
4) Use rewards. Rewarding ourselves – whether it’s spending time with a friend or engaging in a special activity we have really wanted to do – motivates and boost us up. Using a rewards system, particularly when we are trying to achieve a difficult goal, may help continue with the plan and not lose motivation. (Chowdhury, 2019)
Remember that there may be set backs along the way. Realistic expectations should factor in a certain amount of getting off track. But, please do not allow yourself to remain stuck here. Accepting ourselves as we are – both our strengths and our weaknesses – helps in maintaining realistic expectations. By allowing ourselves to bend sometimes, we are able to adapt to the changing needs of our lives while not losing sight of the goal.
Need a little help with getting started with goal setting or figuring out what went wrong with a particular goal? As the Kesher social worker for the temple, Shana Prohofsky is available to help with exploring any obstacles or barriers in achieving goals as well as other personal challenges. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 401-420-4084.
Breuning, Loretta G. Ph.D “Four Common Obstacles That Interfere with Goal Setting” Psychology Today posted on March 17, 2013.
Chowdhury, Madhuleena Roy. “A Look at the Psychology of Goal Setting” PostivePsychology.com June 6th 2019.
Clear, James. “Goal Setting: A Scientific Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals.” Jamesclear.com https://jamesclear.com/goal-setting
Mitchell, Marilyn Price. Ph.D “Goal Setting is Linked to Higher Achievement” Psychology Today. March 14, 2018.
Nowack, Kenneth, “Facilitating successful behavior change: Beyond goal setting to goal flourishing.” Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol 69(3), Sep 2017, 153-171.
Pychl, Timothy, Ph.D “Goal Progress and Happiness” Psychology Today, June 7th, 2008.
Robbins, Stever. “How to Set Goals for the Life You Actually Want.” Work Smart April 29, 2014.
Guilt: noun, \’gilt\, 1. The fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving penalty, 2. The state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously, 3. A feeling of deserving blame for offenses.*
It is the punchline of many a Jewishly-themed joke, but feelings of guilt as a caregiver for an aging parent can become no laughing matter. While a small dose of guilt can serve as a great motivator, too much can overwhelm and become unhealthy. Caregivers, who experience high levels of guilt and feelings of inadequacy, are more prone to depression, risk physical exhaustion, and can become resentful. Those caregivers, whose loved ones have passed, yet who continue to second guess their caregiving, often experience prolonged, more complicated grieving.
Professionals in the field of aging acknowledge that it is unrealistic to achieve a caregiving relationship that is completely guilt free. No caregiving situation is ever going to be perfect. End of life decline is a process that cannot be fixed or reversed.** Furthermore, seeking to provide complete relief or a cure from suffering is an impossible goal. It is however recommended that caregivers manage guilt by setting realistic goals for themselves, as well as the person for whom they are providing care. Although it is difficult, it is necessary to come to terms with the fact that what you think you should do is not always equal to what you can or are even willing to do.*** A wealth of supportive services exist to alleviate the burden on you, as the caregiver. As your temple’s Kesher worker, I can assess your family’s unique caregiving needs and link you to appropriate programs at Jewish Collaborative Services, as well as services in the greater RI community that are available to assist you and your family members on your caregiving journey.
In addition to seeking help from others and utilizing available services, it is important to practice self-care by taking time for yourself in order to achieve a balance between caregiving tasks and other personal objectives and relationships. This could include exercise, meditation, reading a book, taking a walk, or visiting with friends. Moreover, occasional negative feelings such as anxiety or even dread associated with caregiving tasks are normal and do not mean that you do not care about or love your family member. Caregiver support groups, as well as individual counseling can be helpful in addressing feelings of inadequacy, guilt, anger, or resentment. As always, I am available through the Kesher program to provide support free of charge by lending a compassionate, confidential ear. I can also assist in making referrals for caregiver support groups, or ongoing private counseling.
Below is a listing of program areas within Jewish Collaborative Services that may be suitable to meet your family’s specific needs:
Are you looking for volunteer opportunities? Partners in Care, Tamarisk, The Louis &Goldie Chester Full Plate Kosher Food Pantry, and the JERI program could always use a helping hand. Please contact Jessica Murphy at 401-331-1244 for more information.
* - Guilt. 2019. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved July 6, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guilt.
** - Capuzzi Simon, Cecelia. (July 14, 2008). Guilt by Association: Even Caring Adult Children Don’t Outgrow Feelings of Guilt. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/whos-caring-mom/200807/guilt-association.
*** - Jacobs, Barry J. (June 1, 2016). Caregivers: Living with Guilt. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2017/living-with-guilt-bjj.html.
Shana Prohofsky is the Kesher social worker at Temple Sinai and Temple Torat Yisrael. Kesher is the congregational outreach program of Jewish Collaborative Services of Rhode Island, funded by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and private donors. Shana can be reached at email@example.com or 401-428-4084.