Rentrée Ready!: 7 Back-to-School Tips for Teens to Start the Year Off Right

rentrée teenAs August winds down, the start of the new school year here in France is just around the corner.

Are you feeling ready for the rentrée?

Whether you’re starting at a new school — perhaps even in a new country — or whether you’re going back to the same school this fall, the rentrée can be a time of both excitement and some anxiety. Between academics, extra-curricular activities, social challenges, and family pressures, many teens feel stretched thin and stressed out.

On top of all that, the teen years are full of their own challenges: figuring out who you are, clarifying what’s important to you, exploring new relationships, and renegotiating relationships with family members as you gain maturity and independence. These are exciting but challenging times, and all of the changes can send you on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of yourself.

How can you start the year off right to ensure that you don’t get bogged down with stress or emotional upset? Here are some tips to keep in mind to start your school year off on the right foot! Read More


A Taste of Mindfulness: Fine-Tuning Your Awareness Through Mindful Eating

raspberriesThe practice of mindfulness involves focusing our attention on the present moment — as it unfolds from one moment to the next.

However, when you’re just getting started with practicing mindfulness, it can be hard to know what to focus on. So many thoughts and distractions come into our minds, and it can be challenging to remain in the present.

To begin to train our awareness to stay in the present moment, we often use different “anchors” — such as our breath, sounds in our environment, or sensations in our bodies (like a cool breeze on our skin or the chair beneath us) — to keep us grounded in the present moment.

All of our senses can serve as potential anchors, helping us keep our metaphorical feet planted in the here and now. One of my favorite exercises for practicing mindfulness — mindful eating — incorporates all 5 of these senses. Read More


Learning to Listen to Yourself

woman

You know that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach? The one that says something’s not right?

Or the ease and comfort you have when you’re with someone you really trust? The feeling that says, “This person is safe. I can let down my guard.”

Or maybe you’ve noticed how energized and excited you feel about certain aspects of your work and how drained you feel by others.

These feelings have important messages to tell us if we only listen. But too often, we don’t tune in enough to hear what they have to say. Or if we do, we don’t trust them.

Maybe we did trust them once upon a time — but we’ve been burned.

Read More


Mindfulness Abroad

womanYou may have noticed that I’ve written a fair number of blog posts on the subject of mindfulness so far.

And if you’re an expat or international student following this blog, you may be wondering what mindfulness has to do with your experience of living abroad.

Good question!

While the practice of mindfulness can be helpful for almost anyone, those of us living outside our comfort zone for a period of time may find it especially helpful for a number of reasons. We’ll talk about just 3 of these reasons today. Read More


What Are You Waiting For?

rosesAre you waiting for something, thinking that when you reach that next step, then — then! — you can finally start living?

Or relax?

Or allow yourself to be happy?

Many of us struggle to live in the present moment. We spend a lot of time thinking about either the past (ruminating about things that happened or didn’t happen) or the future (worrying or anticipating things that may or may not happen). But relatively rarely are we really living our lives in the present moment, the here and now.

And one of the many things that can get in the way of our really living in the present is our goals.

Now, I have nothing against goals. Goals are great! The problem isn’t having the goals, it’s telling ourselves that we can’t… SOMETHING… until we reach them. That we can’t give ourselves a break. That we can’t be happy. That our lives won’t be complete.

Until X.

Read More


Embracing Change & Going With the Flow

streamHeraclitus (an ancient Greek philosopher) wrote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

I love this metaphor.

The moment you step in the water, it has already moved on, constantly flowing, constantly changing.

You may look at the river and see what looks like a single entity, but, of course, its very nature is constant change.

And, as Heraclitus so rightly points out, so is ours.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” —Heraclitus

Both we and our lives are constantly changing. Our bodies are changing. Our perspectives and even our personalities are growing and evolving, responding to the flow of our experiences. Our values may change. What we want may change. The circumstances and events of our lives are in a constant flux. Our emotions are ebbing and flowing from one moment to the next.

When we try to hold on to the moment, to prevent things from changing, we often feel out of control, desperate, afraid. Sort of like trying to hold on to water as it flows through our hands. Read More


Befriending Our Emotions

white-envelop-on-a-fence-1216383Emotions can seem very inconvenient sometimes. They can be distressing and overwhelming, and they often appear to get in our way.

Of course, it feels wonderful to experience happiness or excitement or love – so called, ‘positive’ emotions – but other emotions like sadness, anger, or fear are quite unpleasant. We often think of them as bad or frightening. They seem to cloud our judgment or just make us feel bad. No wonder we often want to run away from them or find ways to make them go away as quickly as possible!

However, what many people don’t realize is that the meaning we assign to our emotions (that they are bad or scary) and the reactions we have to them (trying to resist or escape from them) are actually responsible for much of our distress. We tell ourselves that we can’t handle these feelings or that they will never go away – or that they mean something terrible about us or about other people.

On the other hand, if we try to approach our emotions as helpful, (albeit sometimes unpleasant) messengers giving us important information about our own needs, we can begin to have a different relationship with our own internal experience. Read More


Pain May Be Inevitable — But Suffering Isn’t

wavesYou may have heard this quote before: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”1

Sounds good, right? But when we’re the ones suffering, it feels anything but optional. And to suggest that we’re choosing to feel this way feels pretty insensitive.

So let’s take a closer look at what this saying really means.

What’s the difference between pain and suffering?

In life, it’s true that pain is inevitable. Every one of us will experience not only physical pain but also emotional pain many times throughout our lives. We will experience losses, rejections, and defeats, and they will hurt — there’s no getting around that. To suggest otherwise would be to deny our experiences and our feelings, and no real good comes from denial. (We may push those feelings down in one place, but they’ll pop back up in another — in our relationships, in our physical health, or somewhere else.) Read More

Show 1 footnote

  1. While there is some debate about the origin of this quote, it’s often attributed to Japanese author and marathon runner Haruki Murakami: Murakami, Haruki (2009). What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, New York: Vintage Books, p. VII.

An Introduction to Mindfulness

leaf with water dropletMindfulness is getting a lot of hype in the news and media these days. Sometimes it almost feels like it’s just become the next trendy thing, with people promoting it without truly understanding what it is. However, this is a trend that I think is actually worth your attention — so what’s the hype all about?

Mindfulness is not some mystical or mysterious experience. And although it comes out of the Buddhist tradition, it is not inherently a spiritual or religious practice (although it can certainly be integrated into such practices).

So what is mindfulness?

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is the intentional practice of being fully present, grounded in the here-and-now, and taking a non-judgmental, compassionate attitude toward our experience, whatever it may be. Or, as Jon Kabat-Zinn — founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and author of a number of books on this subject — has described it: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Read More