Its Okay to Feel

During COVID-19 you may experience a whirlwind of emotions all in one day. One minute you may feel overwhelmed and the next minute you may feel as though you aren’t doing enough. Here is your friendly reminder that it is OKAY to feel. All of the emotions that you are experiencing are VALID, and you should not be ashamed of this.

Allow yourself to feel the emotions that you are going through. Reach out to friends, family, or a professional if it would help you to talk out your emotions to someone. You don’t have to always have a brave face, it’s okay to be vulnerable, especially in a time like this. You are doing just fine, don’t be too hard on yourself. We are getting through this together, one day at a time.

Quarantine 2020: It’s OK to Grieve

Grieving the loss of milestone events.

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis 

Here we are, weeks into quarantine, and there is so much that has changed in so little time. In my house, I have a son who is in 8th grade and a daughter in 5th grade. This year marked graduation, special trips, and many events to commemorate the completion of one milestone and the start of the next one.

Last week, my daughter shared with me that she felt sad. She was sad that she would not be able to enjoy so many activities that a large group of parents and I started planning in June 2019. She’s sad, and I felt sad too. I wanted to make it better for her but realized I couldn’t offer her a consolation prize, or anything else in its place. Nothing.

My heart breaks for all of our kids, our 5th grade, 8th grade, high school, and college seniors. I realize that it is OK for our children to feel sad and to grieve the experiences they won’t have. I was speaking with my neighbor, a grandmother who is a retired teacher, who offered this perspective: “In a few years, we hope that our kids will move on to other milestones, and these milestones won’t hurt as badly.” One can hope and pray.

According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of grief that we tend to pass through. Those who are sad and grieving are likely to witness different emotions that they are likely to experience as they process the loss:

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3 Helpful Tips for When You’re Feeling Like a Burned Out Mama

Being a mama means that we are always caring for others and setting our own needs to the side. Our needs don’t go away because we set them to the side, rather they grow and we risk becoming burned out. In the end, nobody wins when mama is burned out.

It’s January and I am burned out. This past holiday season wore me down with three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Throw in two birthdays, a holiday play and finishing out the year within my private practice and this mama felt like a burnt piece of toast. Fried. Crisp. Anxiety was high every day, all day.

On December 26th, I was determined to break this cycle that I had created. I needed to make some changes and build in time for self-care.

Read on to find out the three things I do to help when I’m feeling burned out.

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by Dr. Liz Matheis

Simple Self-Care Methods for Introverts

While society may emphasize the importance of socialization and being productive every minute of every day, these are actions that help extroverts thrive. Introverts, on the other hand, are easily depleted by social gatherings and working with others. If you’re an introvert and feel like you live in an extrovert’s world, don’t let that discourage you from practicing self-care on a regular basis. Here are some simple ideas for working self-care into your daily routine:

Schedule appointments with yourself.
Chances are you’re a busy person, and time to yourself isn’t going to just happen. That’s why you have to make time for yourself like you would any other important activity in your life.

With that in mind, The Cut suggests scheduling time to spend in solitude each day. Once in the morning and once at night is ideal, even if it’s just for 10 minutes at a crack. However, once a day is better than nothing. This time can be used for anything that helps you to de-stress and recharge, whether that’s journaling, meditating, reading, or anything else.

Work out.
Regular physical activity is one of the most beneficial things anyone can do for their overall health and well-being. But if you prefer to exercise alone, it’s important to ensure that you are safe. If you are injured while running, cycling, swimming, or even brisk walking, it can help to have a smartwatch.

For instance, some models like the Apple Watch Series 4 come with features to help keep you safe, like emergency SOS and fall detection. These features can help you get in touch with someone in the event of an accident. Also, they can track your health and help you to accomplish your fitness goals. If you’re looking for a more affordable model, the Fitbit Charge 3 has heart monitoring, long battery life, and sleep tracking.

Unplug periodically.
These days, we are subject to non-stop stimulation in everyday life, from loud public places to rush hour traffic to social media. Taking a break from all the stimulation can do wonders for your mind and soul. Obviously, you can’t avoid every source of stimulation, but Huffington Post suggests unplugging from social media, television, and other kinds of digital media for a few days every now and then.

Go outside.
Being among nature is one of the most calming things a person can do, not to mention all the health benefits that come with exposure to sunlight. And it doesn’t cost any money to spend time outside. Do something active (running, hiking, yoga, etc.), or simply relax by reading a book or lying on a blanket in the park. Don’t overthink it, just enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and greenery around you.

Learn to say no.
Finally, don’t feel bad about saying no to people. It may not be pleasant to disappoint someone, but overcommitting will only leave you stressed out and underperforming. For example, if you need to recharge, opt to stay in for the weekend instead of going out with friends or working overtime. Making fewer commitments in your everyday life will leave you with more time to rest and more energy to do the things you do well.

Self-care is paramount for living a healthy, happy life—especially if you’re an introvert. Remember to make time for yourself, and add exercise to your routine. Take a break from social media, TV, and other sources of stimulation. Lastly, spend some time outdoors, and learn how to say no without feeling guilty. You’ll be happier and healthier as a result.

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by Eva Benoit

Hearts of Hope

Hearts of Hope is an organization with a mission to provide service to those who experience trauma, and loss through healing art, education, and compassionate outreach.

With chapters and outreach across the United States, Hearts of Hope has created and given away more than 114,000 gifts of hope to people worldwide. They have been actively responding to community tragedy since 9/11. They have been involved in providing to support to communities effected by tragedy, including, but not limited to:

  • Elementary school shooting – Sandy Hook, Connecticut
  • Boston marathon bombing – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Charleston church shooting – Charleston, South Carolina
  • Pulse Nightclub shooting – Orlando, Florida
  • Stoneman Douglas High School shooting – Parkland, Florida
  • Mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Synagogue shooting at Tree of Life – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Hearts of Hope has a chapter located in Northern New Jersey. From earliest days, Hearts of Hope have been created by caring communities who prepare, package, ship and deliver Hearts of Hope to people in need everywhere. North Jersey “Paint with a Purpose” events are held in various locations throughout the year as “Pop-Ups” at schools, restaurants, community centers and houses of worship.

Watch for “Pop-Up” event announcements throughout the year on Facebook at @OurHeartsofHope or on Instagram @heartsofhope

Visit their website to learn how you can get involved with Hearts of Hope!

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Parenting Is Not Just About Your Child

It’s not. It’s about you, the parent, and the ‘stuff’ that you carried into this gig. You and I both know that parenting did not come with a manual with a colorful cover, an appendix with chapters that range from infancy to adulthood, and we certainly didn’t have to take an exam or gain a license to become a parent.  If you ask me, before we decide to start a family, we should be required to take a course and gain a certificate that says, “You’ve Been Warned. You’re about to get on the bumpiest roller coaster ride of your life. You will learn and teach, you will watch and be watched, you will guide and be guided.”

When I became a parent, I had a vision of who my child was going to be. I often was lost in my daydreams of a blue-eyed little boy who would eat, sleep and follow my every instruction, who was athletic, confident and social. Well, I did have a beautiful blue-eyed boy but the rest didn’t work out like just like that.

Part of becoming a parent means that we need to understand and recover from the parenthood that we received. It means that we need to understand and become aware of the messages that were given to us, the wounds we continue to carry, the messages we continue to give ourselves that started off as our parent’s judgments, criticisms, and conditions and then became our own words that we speak to ourselves, with or without awareness.

Our Children are Not Here to Satisfy our Needs
Our children are not our narcissistic extensions. They are not here to fit into our visions and expectations of who they will and should become. Our children are born with clean slates and they have the potential to do everything, anything. But it is through our criticisms, expectations and our conditional love that creates judgments and deflates motivation and potential. We have been given by our parents, and their parents and their parents, a checklist of who we “should” become as parents and who our children “should” become. But that checklist may not be in sync with who your child is, who they want to be, and therein lies the problem. Instead, we live a life where we are “should-ing” all over ourselves.

Do the Dance
When two people dance, one person moves forward and the other responds by stepping back; one moves to the side, and the other follows. The dancers listen to the body language, feel the direction in which the pair is being pulled. Dancing is an art because there are no clear-cut rules about the exact steps. Yes, we can take dance lessons and have an idea of the type of movement, the beat, the general idea.
Parenting is a dance. A dance with no instruction on how your child will respond, what to say, how often to say it. It requires timing and awareness of what is needed, how much and when to stop. When to say something and when not to; when to guide and when to step away; when to intervene and when to let your child work it out, or not.

I know, it’s exhausting, but being in tune with your child will make your parenting more productive in that you are moving in the same direction. When you move out of sync, you, the parent, and your child become frustrated and the interaction is no longer enjoyable.

Image by: Thrive Global

by Dr. Liz Matheis

Preventing Burn Out While Parenting a Child with Special Needs

As a parent of a child with special needs, you are on duty 24/7 with no sick or vacation days. Days become weeks and weeks become years and burn out becomes inevitable if you don’t take care of yourself.

I know what you’re thinking.

Easier said than done.

But preventing burn out while parenting a child with special needs is just as important as caring for your child. If you are sleep-deprived, fatigued, or feeling anxious or depressed, your ability to tend to your child is compromised. So, if you need momentum and motivation to come from your child, here it is!

Take care of yourself so you can take care of your child.

These 2 strategies can help.

#1: Ask For Help
If you have social or family support that is available to you, I encourage you to take advantage of it. If you have a friend or family member who is offering to help in the care of your child, take it. Set up a schedule where a family member cares for your child while you care for your other children. Or take time to run errands by yourself or read a book at your local coffee shop.

I’ve heard parents say, “I don’t like to ask for help. I think I can do it all by myself,” too often. You need to leave this mindset behind and ask for help. If you do not have help from a person who lives outside your home, set up a system with your partner. Tag team who is on duty and who needs to take a break for the sake of each other’s sanity! For example, divide a task that is labor intensive, like bed time, so you are rotating each night or every two nights.

#2: Take a Daily Break
Quiet time is important for you and for your family members because it gives the physical signal that the day is coming to an end, but it also gives you time to disconnect from the day and all of the stimulation that came with it. This may be your time to process the day so that you are not waking up in the middle of the night thinking of solutions or worrying about a situation or potential situation. To make quiet time happen, decide on a time to shut down the house and set aside time to decompress every evening.

You may choose to do this as a family or as the adult(s) in the house. For example, you may decide that by 7 in the evening, you will stop making lunches and washing dishes, dim the lights, and engage in an electronic-free activity.

Your self care is just as important as the care of your child. Preventing burn out while parenting a child with special needs requires investing in yourself as much as you invest in your child. Asking for help and taking a daily break are ways of making small investments that pay big dividends for you and your child.

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by Dr. Liz Matheis

6 Simple Steps to Financial Planning for Parents

Sara Bailey hopes that by sharing her journey of grief she can provide insight and hope for others who experience loss. She created as a way to share her unexpected journey of losing her husband and learning to be the best parent (and person) she can be while nurturing her grief.

If you want a simple way to ensure the safety, security, and happiness of your family, then consider putting together a sound financial plan. Financial planning now can provide stability through every stage of parenthood and give you some peace of mind. From preparing for the costs of childhood to making yourself comfortable during retirement, here are six steps to securing your family’s financial future.
Take Account of Your Finances
If you are interested in planning your finances, begin by assessing what you have. Your assets can be everything from bank accounts to real estate. Sit down and figure out exactly what assets you have and how much they are all worth. And consider the true cost of owning your home, including your mortgage, utility bills, and property taxes. Depending on your worth, the kind of assets you have, and your expenses, it may be helpful to seek out the advice of a financial expert. In fact, anyone can benefit from the advice of a financial expert when it comes to first-time financial planning.

Prepare for Your Family’s Future
As a parent, you are used to thinking about the future. You’re already taking measures to keep your family healthy and safe, so now is a good time to think about how your future will impact your finances. Savings should be a part of any family’s financial plan. New parents should think about saving for everyday costs and emergency needs for their family. Education costs begin as early as pre-school, so it is wise to be prepared. It’s also never too early to start thinking about college and retirement. One way to save on monthly costs is to reduce what you pay for auto insurance. If you live in a state with high insurance rates, you can lower these rates by bundling your insurance policy with another type of policy, such as home insurance. Other ways to lower costs include being a safe driver, maintaining a high credit score, and avoiding tickets.
Make Life Insurance a Priority
If you do not already have a life insurance policy, you should make getting one a top financial priority. Life insurance will help your family stay financially secure after you pass away. A term policy is ideal, because you’ll only be paying for it for a specific amount of time. This means you’ll need to choose the right length of term based on your age and budget. A 30-year term policy is a popular choice due to its length and affordability; you’ll be paying a set premium for the entire length of the policy, while giving your family and yourself financial peace of mind.
Plan for Healthcare Challenges
Parents typically invest in health insurance, but you may want to invest in more coverage for your family. If you are injured and unable to work for a long period of time, do you have short-term disability coverage? What about long-term care insurance? The costs of a serious injury or needing for long-term care can be staggering, but specialty insurance can help keep your family’s life on track if the unthinkable should happen.
Practice Family Philanthropy
Giving back is a wonderful way to bring your family together for a good cause. Set aside a portion of your income for charitable giving each year or set up monthly donations. Ask for input from your family to determine which causes you will support. You can even ensure your family’s future while giving back with gift options like charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts. Talk with an estate planner or financial advisor to determine what kind of philanthropy will be most beneficial to your family’s future.Put Together a Will
Writing a will or estate plan can give you peace of mind and give your family financial stability in the future. Work with an estate planner or attorney to draft an estate plan that covers all aspects of your finances. If you have young children, be sure to appoint a guardian and set up some financial safety nets for them. Include any real estate in your will and think about including end-of-life wishes as well. It’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that can provide comfort to your family if ever needed.As a parent, you do everything you can to keep your family safe, secure, and happy. So take the initiative to keep your family financially stable as well. Providing a secure financial future will ensure your children can thrive and grow into healthy, happy adults while allowing you to enjoy all of the years ahead of you.
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by Sara Bailey

The Benefits of Mama Meditation

As the carefree vibe of summer transitions into the pandemonium of back-to-school season, even the best of us can get trapped in a perpetual state of chaos. And as hectic as things get, each and every moment (even a messy one) is an opportunity to create a beautiful memory. Will you really remember spilled cereal or a late bus 20 years from now? Putting those moments into perspective will help keep you calm on frenzied, overscheduled days. The next time you feel like all the juggling is making your head spin, follow these expert tips to summon your inner Om.

Maybe you’ve got the basics of self-care covered: You eat healthily, stay active and prioritize sleep. Or maybe not so much. Either way, there’s an oft-overlooked and extremely effective way to stave off stress and stay calm: mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is easy; just slow down and enjoy the moment.
“Living mindfully means leaving the past behind and not worrying about the future—just being here now,” says Leo Aristimuno, a certified positive psychology life coach based in Montclair. “It means letting go of complaints…to embrace the surprises, marvel at the discoveries, nourish the connections and revel in the small joys hidden in every moment.”

Aristimuno suggests practicing controlled breathing to exercise the mindfulness muscle and create a relaxation response. “Sit comfortably and allow yourself to close your eyes for two minutes. Breathe in to a slow count of five…then breathe out to a slow count of ten…Repeat this for two minutes, controlling your breath…Your breath relaxes you as you settle into the moment, exactly as it is.” Your best bet: Try incorporating brief moments of meditation into your daily routine.

Meditation is an important way to combat stress. Starting the practice doesn’t require a big commitment. Aristimuno recommends trying to work in five-minute breaks of quiet meditation whenever possible. The key: Keep it simple and put down the electronics.
“The beautiful thing about meditation is that it’s not about stopping our thoughts. It’s also not about being completely still,” Aristimuno says. “Instead, meditation invites us to settle, observe, accept and return. We may discover things we never noticed before, like the sound of silence, the gentleness of the breath, how tired our bodies are, the fact that right now, at this moment, I’m alive. I’m breathing, here I am. Breathing in, breathing out.” Relax, observe and breathe. Doing this for a few moments is a great way to decompress and re-center.


by Heidi Borst

How to Put ‘Mommy Time’ Back into Your Schedule

If you’re a mom, I’m going to take a leap and say that you’re pretty exhausted. Do you know why you’re exhausted? Because you’re taking care of everyone, everyday, all.the.time. If you ask me, the words mom and overworked are pretty synonymous. Sad, but true.

When was the last time that you put some time for yourself on your list of things to get done by the end of the day? What? You can’t remember because it’s been so long? Well, guess what–it’s time. It’s time to put Mommy back on the list of priorities.

I’m a mom of 3 wonderful and overwhelming children. Each day, I find myself feeling as overstimulated as my child with a sensory processing disorder. I’ve heard my name called only about 3,002.3 times. And each time, I threaten to change my name and not tell my kids my new name! Motherhood is a relentless job that does not come with a paycheck or any time built in for respite. And nobody is going to hand you an hour or two to tend to yourself – that is something we have to do for ourselves. Even though it may seem impossible right now, it’s important for you to let something go so that you can tend to yourself before you burn out.

#1: Once the Lights Are Out…..
You know the feeling – Ahhh, victory! The kids are in bed and the house is peaceful. You know, the way it was before kids. You are not allowed to create a list of things to do that is greater than the number of fingers on one hand. Give yourself a maximum of 5 more things to get done, and then read a book, soak in the tub, stare at a spot on the wall, or whatever makes you happy.

#2: Monthly Me Time
Once a month, schedule an evening where you are not putting the kids down to bed. Ma’am, walk away from the bedtime routine, take your keys and leave your house. Do this with a fellow mommy in need or go by yourself, but most importantly, get out. Whether you are having dinner with a friend, going to see a movie, or just walk around the mall in peace because you can, do it.

#3: A Job for Everyone and Everyone with a Job
Our children are perfectly capable people. They are resourceful and good problem solvers when they want something badly enough. Give each one of your children a job to do once homework is done and after dinner. Those busy hands can be helping you to get through all of the ‘things’ that need to get done before bedtime. Enlist the help of your favorite little people and free yourself up a bit.

As moms, we are pros at taking care of everyone else around us – our children’s teachers, therapists, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, etc. We are not good at asking ourselves the question of “what do I need right now?” With that comes burnout, and when we are burned out, nobody wins, especially our children. So, if you can’t find the motivation for your self care, then do it because it will make you more available to your children when you are cared for.  Now, start looking at your calendar and mark down what you will do for yourself and when!

Image by: Shield Healthcare 

by Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Julie C.
"Dr. Matheis has a remarkable ability to understand the unique needs of her patients and address them constructively. She builds strong, meaningful relationships with patients and their families, encouraging trust and collaboration. When working with my son who struggles with autism-related anxiety, she created an environment in which he was able to calm down and open up to her in ways I had not seen before. She was able to reach him and helped him work through his crisis/problem. Most importantly, she empowered him to move forward."
- N.L.
"Dr. Matheis is amazing. She has tremendous resources and loads of energy. She is not willing to accept anything less than the most effective results for her clients. She made me feel as if my son was her top priority throughout the entire process. I would, without reservation, give her my highest recommendations.  Thank you, Dr. Matheis!"
- Anonymous
"Dr. Matheis has an amazing ability to read kids and connect with them. She has been an invaluable resource for our family over the past several years and has helped us with everything from educational consulting, to uncovering diagnoses as well as family therapy. Working with Dr. Matheis never feels clinical and most importantly, our children love and trust her. We can not thank you enough Dr. Liz!"
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"My teenage son had been seeing Dr. Matheis through his senior year of high school, as he was only diagnosed with ADHD at 16 years old.  Dr. Matheis came highly recommended from our pediatrician and she has done wonders for our son as well as our family, navigating new ways for him to deal with his diagnosis without the use of medication.  She taught him ways to organize himself and even when something did not work for him, she patiently continued teaching him new ways to keep himself on track.  She has also helped us as parents to understand how his mind works so that we did not continue to blame his lack of focus on him, rather on his unique way of thinking.  Thank you Dr. Matheis!!!!"
- LG
"Dr. Liz is the best! Our family was directed to her by our Pediatrician to assist with figuring out severe mood changes, severe anxiety, strange new fears and food aversion that had come onto one of our children literally overnight. After just a couple of visits, she suggested that the issues may actually be rooted in a physical issue and suggested we immediately take our child to be swabbed for strep, because Dr. Liz suspected PANDAS (a pediatric autoimmune disorder brought on by strep). The same Pediatrician that suggested Dr. Liz would not do the swab (they do not believe in PANDAS and we no longer go there) but I took my child to my doctor who did the swab and it was positive for strep. When our child went on antibiotics, within 24 hours all symptoms went away and our child was back :-) Dr. Liz then recommended a PANDAS specialist who helped us and our child is in complete remission and is happy and healthy. We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Liz for her knowledge of all things, even the most remote and unusual and for helping us so much! Thank you!"
- Anonymous
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Anonymous
"Thank you, Dr. Liz. Although we have told you countless times, it will never feel enough. You have listened when J could barely speak and continued to listen when he was sad, angry and confused. You've challenged him and directed us in our roles as parents. You've helped J face his fears while the list evolved and changed, and yet you've stayed committed to 'the course.' We pray that your children realize that time away from them is spent helping children learn and that vulnerability is a sign of strength and bravery."
- June I
"My son was admitted to an Ivy League school when only 2 years ago, you assessed him and saw his struggles, his Dyslexia. We are grateful that he no longer has to carry that deep feeling of inadequacy or shame that must have kept him so self conscious and from reaching his potential. He has the PERFECT program for him. He has A's in high math and economics. He became a Merit Scholar, a Boys State legislature, the HEAD captain of the football team and help a job ALL while studying and managing his classes and disability. I am PROUD of you, a young doctor, who knows and sees the vulnerability of children and helps them recognize "it's NO big deal" God bless."
- Anonymous

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