Hosting a Stress and Anxiety in Adolescence Seminar

Twice a year, our middle school parent-teacher association (PTA) hosts seminars to educate parents on student related issues. In October, we brought in several police officers to talk about drugs. In February, we decided to cover Stress and Anxiety in Adolescence.

We lined up one of our counselors and the school district police sergeant who oversees our cluster of schools to do the lunch time presentation. Then the day before our seminar, a student at a nearby high school committed suicide on school property. Both the counselor and police officer were called away the next day to help the students deal with the tragedy.

Luckily, our principal and another counselor pulled together information and put on the presentation – doing an excellent job on such short notice.

Students today are under stress – even our middle schoolers are already thinking about grades and college. I know when I was their age, neither of those were on my mind. And now they have state-mandated testing that dictates if they advance to the next grade.

With social media, there is more pressure on students and as it shows with the suicide at the high school, more chances for bullying. Today there is stress from parents, peers, and teachers. It isn’t the world my husband and I grew up in.

As always, when I hear a lecture, I apply it to my life or my kids’ situations. I’d say Lexie has more anxiety with peer opinion. With Jase it is the stress of grades and those pesky state tests.

They started talking about recognizing anxiety and what it feels like for people who experience chronic anxiety. And they talked about how they looked for students in distress.

One thing the counselor spoke about that I thought was interesting was ANTs or Automatic Negative Thoughts. These ANTs creep into the thoughts of teens (and adults) all the time. You think you aren’t good enough, can’t pass the test, won’t win the game, the other students are talking or laughing about you, and the list can go on and on. It is easy for negative thoughts to sneak into our minds.

But that is all they are – thoughts. They are not facts. But the pre-teens and teens of the school of course can’t always see that. The counselors work with student to evaluate the validity of these thoughts and change them. Because challenging negative thoughts takes away their power and gives you the control over your thoughts, moods and behaviors.

I can see how this can definitely help my kids and heck, even me. When the counselors decided to set up a Wellness Week and asked PTA for help, I suggested ANTs was one of the things they discussed with the students. That week is next week so we will see how that goes. The purpose of Wellness week is to focus on stress so they will also go over exercising, journaling and sensory activities that can reduce stress.

Using Twitter to reach readers

Last week I wrote about setting up a Facebook page to connect with your readers. Twitter can also be a great way to reach readers.

Twitter is a social networking site where users can send short (280 character) messages called Tweets. You can include a hashtag (#) to allow people who are interested in a topic to find those who share that same interest. But be warned – using too many of these looks like your message is spam.

As with Facebook, you shouldn’t spend all your time posting about your book. I’m not saying you can’t post about it but it can’t be all you do. You can post announcements – a new review, a cover reveal, an author interview/guest post or a book giveaway, to name a few.

But be sure to intermix tweeting about your own content (your books or blogs) with sharing useful, interesting and amusing resources from other people (retweeting) as well as perhaps glimpses into your life or things you are interested in.

Now some people say you should work on connecting with people, making friends instead of selling. The theory is if people see you interacting and are interested, they will find out for themselves what you have written. But this can be time consuming – time you may want to spend writing.

The best way to build relationships is of course to engage the other users in conversation or at least commenting on their Tweets. Another way to build relationships is to retweet the content of others. The goal here is to hope that others will reciprocate.

And by connecting with others and helping share their tweets, hopefully people will take an interest in you. They may check out your Twitter profile so make it a good one. Consider something witty and of course list that you are an author. You also might upload a header about your upcoming or latest book. If you have a book promotion or announcement, pin a Tweet about it to the top of your profile.

There are a vast array of programs you can use with Twitter. From programs that allow you to schedule your tweets or find out who doesn’t follow you back to sites that shorten any URLs you want to include in your tweet, there is something to help you get the most out of Twitter.

You can read numerous blogs about the dos and don’ts of Twitter. But in the end, you really just have to do what you feel comfortable with and what works for you. But I will say that I know I have sold books off my tweets, and I have certainly increased my blog’s traffic with mentions on Twitter.

Working from home finally pays off

Almost 15 years ago, I quit my job at a promotional product company to become a stay-at-home mom. While I have stayed home, I haven’t totally quit the work force. For the six months after my son was born, I did some freelance writing for the company I just left. And of course, there is my writing of novels.

But neither of those bring in a steady paycheck. Luckily, I didn’t need a paycheck as my husband’s salary was enough for me to stay at home and raise our son – and soon after our daughter. Raising two small kids takes up a lot of time so I didn’t work on anything but that and my writing.

When Jase started preschool, I helped with parties and would later become the room mom in charge of those parties when Lexie attend preschool. And this desire to help followed with me joining the PTA when Jase entered elementary school. And I love volunteering. I love seeing the difference I could make at his and Lexie’s school.

And then, my husband started his own law firm. He needed to be out there doing lawyer stuff, so I invoiced his clients. As his firm has expanded, I continued to do his bookkeeping from home and the workload increased.

Pros of working from home

  • You work when you want – I can do invoices during the day when the kids are at school or in the evening when they are in bed. If I need to go volunteer at the school, I can do that and get to my work later.
  • You can work in your PJs – Since no one sees me, I can wear what I want. No shoes – fine. Work in my PJs that is fine too.
  • No commute – Ugh. The one thing I used to hate was driving home in that rush hour traffic.

Cons of working from home

  • Staying motivated – I am working at my home computer. It is easy to be distracted. (Hello Facebook.)
  • It can be lonely – Because I am not in the office, I don’t see any of the employees. They know I work from home and do email me, but there is no camaraderie and no joining in on offices lunches.
  • It can be hard to differentiate between work and free time – As I said, I work all hours. Enough said.

And until recently, one of the cons of working on home was I was doing it without pay. Of course, I knew my work for the law firm was important and in helping the firm, I was allowing my husband to bring home money. But I was not getting my own paycheck.

That all changed last month. As we were evaluating the firm finances and making billing goals for the paralegals and attorneys, we decided we should follow the advice our accountant gave us years ago and give me a paycheck. From a financial point of view, it can help me later in life when I collect social security (assuming that is still around with funds by my retirement age).

From a personal standpoint, it is nice to know my work is valued. And it is nice to know I am bringing in some money – even if most of it will go to vacations at the rate I plan them.