Should I get involved with my teenager's therapy? Parents and teen therapy

Why Should Parents Get Involved in Your Teen’s Therapy?

We have learned that true and influential change comes from numerous helping hands. Want to know how you can help in your teen’s journey through therapy? Here’s a few tips we have for parents that want to be more involved without overstepping boundaries.

1. You are with your teen WAY MORE than the therapist is.

You live with your teenager; therefore, your influence is more frequent than any therapist! It can be helpful to have several people working towards the same goal. For example, if your teen and therapist are working on improving depressive symptoms, it can help to have parent(s) or caregivers at home to remind the teen that they are doing a good job, are not alone in their struggles, and may need to try their therapy skills.

2. You can provide a different perspective.

The therapist and teen only have their own views. Adding in what caregivers see can greatly influence what is discussed, attempted, and a part of treatment.

3. You can help your teenager with their goals.

All humans need help. What would that look like?

  • Reinforcing what is taught in therapy at home
  • Encouraging your teen to do their therapy homework.
  • Practicing a therapy goal at home can influence change outside the therapy room into the teen’s whole world.
  • Could look like a family discussing and reflecting on the therapy session.

4. Your teen needs reassurance.

From my experience, when working with teens and bringing in their parents or caregivers, the teens are often happy we did. I’ve heard things like, “I’ve never talked like that before with them.” “It felt good.” “I didn’t know my mom thought that.” “I know my parents care about me, but it feels different; good different to know they really do.”

How do I get involved?

Your therapist may suggest you join a session or two. If that doesn’t happen, try asking the therapist if it would be helpful to join for your child’s treatment.

This blog was written by Meredith Edelen, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate, LSW. Learn more about Meredith and her work by calling True Counseling at 502-777-7525.

Healthy Aging Series by Mark Neese

How to Have a Killer Retirement: 3 Principles for “Writing Your Own Script” | Healthy Aging Series: Part 18

I was sitting at a McDonald’s a few years ago and overheard a conversation between two men. Both men were in their early 60’s. I recall that one of them had already retired and he was trying to convince the other man to retire. His argument was that when you retire, your time is your own.

It’s interesting the way we are programmed about retirement. Work all your adult life until you turn sixty-five. Stop working. Live on your retirement income. End of story. That’s how it’s written. I get it. I can’t imagine working a job when I’m eighty or ninety. Or maybe I can. I met with a couple this morning. They’re owners of an agency called, “The Center for Conscious Aging.” Chris, who is seventy-three, has a mother who is ninety-three. She retired at eighty-seven. Chris is still working. Maybe, that’s not how it’s written.

My brother-in-law is eighty-four and still working. People continue to work into their seventies and eighties for several reasons. They want to make a difference. They need to supplement their retirement income. They need to stay connected with people. They simple love what they do. Lots of reason. There is no right way or wrong way to spend your senior years. Retirement is a social construct. It’s a pre-written script that many, many individuals during retirement age refuse to follow. Maybe, we can write our own script for retirement.

I’ve been reading a lot of books on aging and one phrase that has come up a few times is: “You need to write your own script.” Maybe the word ‘narrative’ resonates with people today. 

Creating Your Own Script/Narrative.

The beauty of the retirement years is you get to decide what they look like. They are YOUR retirement years. Not mine. Not your children’s. Not your co-worker’s. Not your wife’s. You only get one crack at your senior years. Maybe thirty or thirty-five years if you’ve taken care of yourself and if you’re lucky. You get the chance to craft a life for yourself that will bring you happiness and contentment. Sure, there are limits to what you can do, limits to what your narrative will look like, but still, regardless of your limits, you can craft a life that suits you. You can write a script that mirrors what you value and what you find important.

How does one write their own script?

For some of you reading this, it’s too soon to start writing you script. You’re in your forties and fifties. The last thing you’re thinking about is retirement. But it’s not too soon to start dreaming about your future self, about what your life might look like in your seventies and eighties.

But if you’re in your late fifties or early sixties, it’s time to start, and here are some principles that I have used to write my script.

First Principle: What Gives Me Meaning and Purpose in Life?

My script reflects my desire to make a difference in this world. I can’t imagine not doing what I do. I get up each week, knowing that I help people face and solve their problems. It’s tiresome at times, but a good kind of tiresome. I work with a teen that is struggling with gender identity issues. I work with an elderly woman that lost her husband. I work with a young man that has lost his way. And a woman that struggles with her life choices. My script involves working  as long as I’m able to listen and express care and concern. What gives you meaning and purpose? Making furniture? Volunteering at the local homeless shelter? Crafting? Being a mentor to young people in your church, synagogue, or neighborhood? Being a Friendly Visitor? Whatever it is, write those things into your script.

Second Principle: What do I value?

My Script reflects the relationships that I value. I value my relationship with my wife. No surprise there! I value my relationship with my sons, with my grandchildren, and with my friends. My script reflects the people that I value. My script has me home most of the time with my wife. My script has me spending some evenings during the month with my son, Derrick, and every three months with my other son, Trevor, and my two granddaughters, Sophie and Harper. My script has me hiking with my good friend, Sam, and a couple of young men that challenge the hell out of me, Chris and Stacy. I have written people into my script.

Third Principle: Taking care of Myself.

My script reflects the importance of taking care of myself. I remember visiting my father after a very long and grueling backpacking trip in the Sierra Mountains. His response was, “Kimberly (the name he called me), that doesn’t seem like fun to me!” I said, “We’ll Dad, it wasn’t fun. That’s not why I do it!” His script didn’t involve challenging himself, mentally and physically that way. Mine did.

My script involves hiking, biking, and lifting weights. It involves limiting my sugar intake. Watching my weight. Reading self-help books. It involves watching very stupid movies like Sharknado and watching funny series like “What we do in the Shadows.”
My script involves spending time with my extended family. It involves walking every Thursday with my friend Gordon. It involves having some good collegial friends that I can call and consult with about tough cases.

My script involves what we call, self-care. I tell the newer therapists that I supervise, if they want to continue doing what they are doing for the next 25 or 30 years, they need to take care of themselves. How are they going to take care of others, their family, and friends, and their clients, if they are spent? I have written Self-Care into my script. Maybe this is where I should have started.

Writing your own script doesn’t mean that you are literally writing a script. What it means is, you are living the life that you want regardless of what others say. It means following your own compass in your senior years, your True North.

I love the movie, “Citizen Kane.”  The character played by Orson Welles, is on his deathbed, and with his last breath says, “Rosebud.” The reporter that witnessed his death spends the rest of movie trying to figure out, who was Rosebud. I won’t spoil the ending, other than to say that Rosebud was important to him. His final word reflected the script that he had been living.

What will you say on your deathbed? What is your Rosebud? Are you living a script that you’ve written?

I’m not sure what my last words will be in my script. I haven’t written them yet. Maybe they’ll be, “Game over, man!” (I love the movie Aliens) Or, maybe I’ll write something else. Maybe I’ll write what McMurtry wrote into Gus McCrae’s last words, into his script in Lonesome Dove. “It’s been quite a party, ain’t it, Woodrow.”

This is part eighteen in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

Improving Posture Can improve your aging and quality of life

How to Look Decades Younger | Healthy Aging Series: Part 15

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
And he found a crooked penny and he had a crooked smile,
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all live together in a crooked little house.

I remember the crooked man nursery rhyme. The image I got was of a man bent over shuffling along a crooked road. I saw the image of a crooked house, and the image of a crooked cat and mouse. It all seems a little nonsensical. There is a political interpretation that has to do with crookedness, as in dishonesty or “I’m not a crook” (I’m sure you get the reference.) But I’ll stick with the literal image.

When I look around in the community, much like the crooked man, I see lots of crooked people, bent over, twisted, shuffling, and often times using a cane. Or, another way of putting it is, people with poor posture. Unfortunately, poor posture is associated with being elderly.

Poor posture is a problem. One of the more obvious problems, if not superficial, is poor posture is associated with aging. 

In other words, poor posture makes you look older.

My wife and I were visiting Saint Augustine a few years back and we went to a place that they called the Fountain of Youth. “Drink the water and gain eternal youth.” I’m not one of those people who wants to deny getting older. My mother taught me that there’s no better age for you, than the age that you are right now. It’s more than just vanity to want to continue looking youthful. One of the ways that you can  accentuate your youthfulness is with good posture. 

Problems Created by Poor Posture

Beyond this somewhat superficial problem, there are other problems that poor posture creates. 

Poor posture can create mobility issues and put a person at risk for falling. When you are standing straight your body is positioned over your center of gravity.  As you become more bent over, your body leans out, forward of your center of gravity. It would be similar to you taking a 10-pound dumbbell and holding it out in front of you and maintaining uprightness as you do. It puts a lot of strain on the body and puts you at risk for falling over.  

Poor posture can cause back pain and other joint pain. It puts constant strain on your lower back muscles. And for those with more severe posture issues it can cause problems with your breathing by limiting the full range of motion that you need to inhale and exhale fully.

What Causes Posture Problems?

There are a few obvious answers to that question. These are habits that are usually out of our control.

  • Accidents

There are times that posture problems are created from accidents. I have family members that have a difficult time standing up straight because of back injuries due to car accidents. There are genetic problems that are completely out of your control that can cause posture problems. 

  •  Gravity

One of the more obvious problems that every human being deals with is gravity. Gravity is constantly pulling you downward. 

  • Aging

Another issue that we all face as we age is the lack of elasticity in our ligaments and the fragility that are bones experience as we age.

And here are the controllable, lifestyle causes for poor posture:

  • Poor Postural Habits!

Poor posture is more often than not related to two or three preventable issues that we all encounter as we age. Poor posture is often-times related to poor postural habits that we practice throughout our lifetime. This is in large part due to the fact that we sit a lot, stooped over a desk, or over a steering wheel, or just simply don’t resist the effects of gravity on our body. 

  • Loss of Muscle Mass

Throughout our lifetime, as we age, we lose muscle mass. Of course everybody is different, but beginning in our 40s and 50s, we slowly lose muscle mass due to a decrease in growth hormone and other hormones. I mentioned this condition in other blogs related to resiliency, this condition is called Sarcopenia. Our body needs muscle in order to stand straight. Muscle and ligaments hold our joints in place. Of course I’m oversimplifying this but a loss of muscle mass contributes to poor posture. 

  • Loss of Muscle Strength

This involves the muscles in our core, and those muscles that contribute to mobility and stability. It isn’t just the loss of muscle mass, it’s a loss of muscle strength and endurance.  It takes strong muscles to fight the never ending pull of gravity on our body. 

One of the muscles that rarely gets talked about is the Transverse Abdominus muscle or TVA. This is the muscle that is the innermost layer of our abdomen and it is responsible in large part for our stability. It’s the muscle that helps hold our guts in place. And therefore it makes sense that it should be the our focus when talking about posture.

How to Have Better Posture

I was standing in front of one of the young men that I work with the other day and I’m not sure if he meant it as a compliment, but I took it as a compliment. He told me that I stand like someone in the military. It does seem to me that young men and women in the military are taught to stand up straight and suck in their gut, and push their chest out. I felt pretty good about his comment because I spend most of my waking hours focusing on my posture. I do this for several reasons but I also do it for a reason that may not be the most important, but I do it because I want to send a signal to others that one way that you can maintain a youthful look is by focusing on your posture.  So, what do I do, and what can you do to improve your posture? 

Note: If you have been diagnosed with Hyper-Kyphosis, consult a doctor and Physical therapist before doing any flexion exercises that cause you to bend forward. Flexion exercises can increase risk for factures to the vertebrae. Here are a list of dos and don’ts to avoid flexion stresses when exercising and activities of daily living:

  • Maintain good postural alignment during exercise 
  • Strengthen core stabilizer muscles, such as transversus abdominus, obliques, and multifidus 
  • When bending or lifting objects, keep the spine in neutral, and bend at the hips and knees (hip hinge); keep objects close to the body 
  • When getting out of bed, roll onto the side before sitting up (log roll) 
  • When coughing or sneezing, stabilize trunk in neutral by hugging a pillow, or placing hands on knees while hip hinging, or place hand in small of back to help keep back in neutral 
  • Maintain the natural curves in your neck and back while sitting and standing. Imagine that you are lengthening through the crown of your head 
  • Adjust height of the walker and walk within the frame when ambulating
  • Avoid seated rowing machines or upper body ergometers 
  • Avoid crunches, curl-ups, or flexed position (traditional sit-ups) 
  • Don’t twist or bend your spine when lifting objects 
  • Don’t sit straight up from a horizontal position
    Avoid forceful trunk flexion while coughing or sneezing 
  • Avoid leaning over towards your work, or standing in a pelvic tilt 

Ok, for the rest of us, here is what you can do to insure you maintain good posture as you age.

Exercise! You need strong muscles in order to maintain good posture. I do this by resistance training and I focus on muscle strength and muscle endurance. I focus on my back muscles and my core muscles. Strengthening your back muscles, helps to pull your shoulders back and help you stand upright. 

Current best-practices suggest that spine-strengthening exercises and posture training help correct posture problems with older adults. 

I have pointed out in other blogs, that as you age, you need to incorporate instability into your workouts. This means narrowing your center of gravity as you do your workouts and alternating left and right plains of your body as you exercise. 

Stretch! Often times our body is out of balance and that can cause posture problems. For example overly tight hamstrings, the three large muscles at the back of your thighs, and hip flexors, the muscles at the top front of your thigh, can hamper basic movements like walking and running. When muscles are tight, a common result from too much sitting, you’re not able to fully extend your legs and straighten your knees. Inflexible hamstrings have also been seen as one of the causes of lower back pain. Another common problem that stretching can address is having tight chest muscles. These muscles pull your shoulders forward giving you a hunched silhouette instead of a longer, slimmer, youthful looking you. Stretching can also address the issues of joint inflexibility. Joint inflexibility can undermine your balance which can cause life altering falls. Stretching helps with all of these problems.

Practice Good Posture! One of the exercises that I do often is activating my TVA. I stand up, and then pull my belly button in toward my backbone. This is what some call “sucking in your gut.” Practicing good posture also means sitting up straight. It means limiting the amount of time that you sit. 

One of the things that has affected my posture over the years is my drive out to Colorado to visit family. I love those long road trips, but sitting that long, 17 or 18 hours straight, wreaks havoc on my lower back and on my posture.

There is no Fountain of Youth! But there are ways of maintaining your youthful appearance. And ways of avoiding the negative consequences of poor posture. Start working on them now!

This is part fifteen in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

True North with the AFSP in the Out of Darkness suicide prevention community walks

“Out of the Darkness” Fundraiser with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

As a society, we struggle with repressed emotions, feelings of hopelessness, and sadness to a worrying degree, and as a counseling practice, we see it in our own patients consistently. We provide assistance and care to those suffering, who walk in the dark – that’s why we felt that it was pertinent for us to form a team and partner up with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in their “Out of Darkness” Community Walk, taking place on November 5th, 2022.

We pledged our team to fundraising, and have set our goal to $250 with the intent to honor those lost to the darkness, but also to support those we see, those we love, and those we work with who struggle and grapple with this concept daily.

To donate, join, or support our team, you can visit https://supporting.afsp.org/team/297815. There, you have the option to donate to a specific member or the entire team, download checking forms for donations, or register to join the team.

The Community Walks have been going on since 2004, and we’re proud to be able to participate this year to band together with others who fight against suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the largest private funder of suicide prevention research, and their evidence-based programs implemented in local communities across the country reach millions of people every year, so we’re excited to contribute to their work as we continue in tandem with ours to provide a helping hand.

Together, we hope to open all the avenues of communication around suicide and to rid the negative stigma around getting help when you need it so that it doesn’t have to become a last resort. If you’re looking for a safe place to start your journey out of the darkness, we’re always here at True North for you, and you can contact us or call us at 502-777-7525 anytime.

If you you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, chat online at 988lifeline.org, text TALK to 741-741 for a texting option, visit a medical or emergency building such as Urgent Care, your local fire or police department, or talk to a trusted person in your life so that you don’t have to struggle alone.

We’re all in this fight together, and we want to be here for everyone in every way we can be!

Healthy Aging Series Part 12

Do These Five Things And I Will Predict Your Future! | Healthy Aging Series: Part 14

I’m sick and tired of watching the weather. I have a backpacking trip planed to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this weekend and they’re predicting rain. An 80% chance of rain. I’m tempted to cancel but I’ve canceled backpacking trips before, when the local meteorologist predicted rain, and I regretted it. 

Predicting the weather is one thing, but what about predicting the future? I remember the beginning of the pandemic. I told the clinicians in our agency to do what they could to attend to the needs of their clients, and then I predicted that it would be over in two months. LOL. I missed that prediction by about two years.

What if we could predict your future? I mean really predict your future. What if we could predict whether you aged successfully? There was a study that was completed a few years ago that looked at the possibility of predicting your future. It was called the HUNT study. It was performed in Norway with about 4500 participants, ages 45 to 59, and it lasted over 20 years. Here is the question that the researchers asked: 

Are there behaviors that you can do, beginning around mid- life, that can predict whether you age successfully? 

Their answer: Yes!

What is “Successful” Aging?

What exactly did they mean by successful aging? They were three criteria:

First, successful aging was defined by the absence of disease. The list of this orders was short. It included serious diseases like heart failure, cancer, stroke, and depression.

Second, it was defined by high cognitive and physical functioning.
The physical criteria generally meant that you could take care of yourself and perform most activities of daily living, to include, showering, dressing, cooking, laundry, shopping, and household task. It was also defined as being able to remember what happened a few days ago.

The third criteria for successful aging was engagement with life. You were engaged with Live if you worked or volunteered in a job or got out of the house at least once a month to do something like going to church, or to a concert, or to a museum.

Notice what’s not mentioned in the definition of successful aging. You can have diabetes, have high blood pressure, use a cane, be a little overweight, be fully retired and not work or volunteer, living solely on Social Security, sitting around the house watching and binging series on Hulu in the evenings, with a vodka martini or just popcorn. The bar is low for successful aging. No general fitness criteria like 18% body fat or being able to bench press your bodyweight. If you are aging successfully, you’re generally healthy, generally able to take care of yourself and you remember what you had for dinner the day before, and generally connected with people in the community. Not a bad prospect for getting older.

What Are the Lifestyle Predictors?

What are the lifestyle predictors for successful aging? Spoiler alert: there are no surprises here.

1. Being a former-smokers or non-smoker.
Notice that if you stopped smoking by middle-age we can predict that you will age successfully. No surprises here. During the height of the pandemic, we were shocked by the number of people that were dying from COVID-19. It was heartbreaking. But before, during, and after the pandemic there were approximately 1300 deaths related to smoking cigarettes every day. Tobacco use accounts for 30% of the incidence of cancer. Smoking cigarettes is one of the major causes of COPD and emphysema. Being a non-smoker or a former smoker is high predictor that you will successfully age.

2. The second predictor is high physical activity. This was defined as exercising one or more times per week and on at least one of these occasions sweating or being out of breath. Again, not a high bar: work out at least two times per week and one of these workouts needs to be more intense. This behavior, along with being a former smoker or non-smoker,  were the highest overall predictors for successful aging. Notice, you don’t have to run half marathon‘s, join a spin class, climb 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, ride your bike across the state of Indiana, be a bodybuilder, or participate in any extreme sport. Just work up a sweat or breathe hard at least one of the two times you exercise each week.

3. The third lifestyle predictor is having a BMI under 30, which put you under the obese criteria. Notice, there is no mention of any particular type of diet. The lifestyle predictor is, manager your weight anyway you can, using whatever diet strategy that suits your personality. My good friend Sam swears by the zone diet. Some people prefer the whole 30 diet or Atkins diet or Paleo or Mediterranean diet or Dash diet. Some people are vegetarian or vegan‘s. I tend to follow what is referred to as time-restricted eating or what some have called intermittent fasting.  This lifestyle predictor didn’t monitor for any supplements, or the percentage of macronutrients that you’re taking, or calorie intake. It didn’t even stipulate that you can’t be overweight. Just having a BMI below 30 or below being obese.

4. The fourth lifestyle predictor was low to moderate alcohol consumption. The definition of this predictor was drinking five times or less during the past 14-day period, without excess. Moderate/high consumption meant drinking five or more times in a 14-day period with periods of access during that time. Here is an interesting caveat to this predictor. Regardless of high or low alcohol consumption this behavior played almost no role in predicting successful aging. This is partly because most subjects were moderate to mild drinkers. Having said that, the low drinking status did not predict, by itself, successful aging.

5. Social supports. The definition of social supports in the study meant being connected with others and having significant relationships in your life. The criteria included two factors: Do you feel lonely? And do you have a person in your life that would help support you during an extended illness? The less lonely you felt and feeling that you would receive help when ill were predictors for successful aging.

What are Your Odds of Aging Successfully?

Look at your life and count the predictors.

1. Are you a former smoker or non-smoker?
2. Do you exercise intensely at least one of the two times that you exercise each week?
3. Is your BMI under 30?
4. Are you a mild or moderate drinker?
5. Are you connected to people in the community?


Of these five predictors the one that is most important to have in your life is being a former smoker or non-smoker. This means: if you smoke stop now! All bets are off if you smoke!

In other words, if you are a former smoker or non-smoker, you greatly increase your odds for successful aging. Having all five predictors dramatically improves your chances of successful aging.

If I were a betting man and you had the first predictor (former non-smoker) and at least two or three of the other predictors, my forecast would be clear skies ahead for you! 

You cannot predict everything about your future. Will you experience an accident, or exposure to an unexpected virus, or exposure to environmental toxins? No one knows. Those things are out of you control! What things are in your control are the lifestyle predictors that can and will predict your future.

BTW: I postponed my backpacking trip to the next weekend because of the rain chances. I watched my weather app closely that weekend. Not a drop ☺

This is part fourteen in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

Trust Based Relational Intervention, TBRI, explains an alternative way to handle siblings in a conflict.

A Way to Manage Sibling Conflict

Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) explains an alternative way to handle siblings in a conflict. The main goal of this intervention is to have your child:

1) stop telling on their sibling to promote healthy relationships, 

2) teach your child accountability, and 

3) manage conflict healthily.  

Now how do we get there?

  1. The caregiver says, “I want to know what you did” or “What did you do?”
  2. Repeat that phrase as many times as it takes until the child tells you what they did, not their sibling.
  3. After the siblings have both shared what they did, the caregiver responds with, “Thank you for telling me what you did; now, how can we do this better? Can we try again?”
  4. Have your children “redo” the situation.
  5. Move on.

There is no “punishment” or “consequence” – we prompt children to redo situations in a healthier way.

Additional options and concepts: 

  • You may need to remove the children from the space to a neutral or different setting. 
  • You may try prompting everyone to take a deep breath before the conversation. 
  • You may separate children and go from one sibling to the next, then bring the sibling unit together for a redo. This ideally is immediately after a fight, argument, or incident. 
  • Prompt with choices if necessary. “You can ____, or you can _____”. 

Siblings have conflict, and this cannot be avoided. But how your children learn, grow, and respond to these experiences matters. Stay connected to both children when using this intervention. Try speaking calmly and maintaining eye contact. If you need help managing sibling conflict, additional ideas could be looking into family therapy! 

This blog was written by Meredith Edelen, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate, LSW. Learn more about Meredith and her work here

Resiliency in Aging: What is it and 5 Things You Better Know as You Age (And Yes, You Are Aging)

Resiliency in Aging: What is it and 5 Things You Better Know as You Age (And Yes, You Are Aging) | Healthy Aging Series: Part 11

To understand the meaning of a word, sometimes it helps to know what it’s not. If you’re not resilient, it’s likely that you’re vulnerable. That’s a word we’ve heard a lot during the Covid Pandemic. 

The CDC prioritized vulnerable people as the first to get Covid vaccinations. These people included older adults (65+ years old), individuals with compromised immune systems (usually the results of chemotherapy), and people who suffer from Diabetes, Hypertension, heart disease, and obesity, just to name a few. 

Genetics and bad luck have contributed to some people being more vulnerable. A car accident can change a person’s life and affect their resiliency. That happened to my very good friend, Jeff. He had a car accident in his early twenties. Years later, as he approached his sixties, he could barely walk and was in constant, severe pain. Some people can go from resilient to vulnerable after exposure to something in their environment like toxic chemicals, or a virus, or a traumatic loss. Some folk simple inherited genes that have made them more vulnerable. People born with autoimmune disorders struggle with vulnerabilities throughout their life. 

For many, being vulnerable is due to no fault of their own!

There are, however, behaviors and lifestyle choices that people practice that eventually contribute to their lack of resiliency. Some choices include smoking, excessive drinking, isolation, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, poor sleep hygiene, self-induced stress or lack of calming strategies, and in general, poor self-care strategies. I could go on, but you get the point. 

We spend our whole life practicing behaviors and making lifestyle choices that either lead to or prevent our resiliency.

What is Resiliency?

Resiliency is the ability to recover or bounce back from difficulties. It means having a mental and physical toughness. Resiliency acts as a buffer between you and the difficulties that you are going to face in life. It’s very important especially as you age and approach old age. 

I want to share five things that you need to know now about resiliency and aging:

1. Start Now!

Start practicing behaviors and making lifestyle choices now that will lead to a  more resilient life. I started this many years ago. I remember reading a book that my father had given me. It was “Dr. Bob Arnot’s Guide to Turning Back the Clock.” He challenged me to develop an “Athlete” mindset regardless of my age or activity level. I was lounging in my bed on a Sunday morning. Reading Arnot’s book. I was probably 25 pounds overweight. Inactive. Poor diet. I made the decision at that moment to change my behaviors and make good lifestyle choices. I became a runner, a cyclist, a hiker, and backpacker. I’ve kept reading. Years later, I became a Certified Personal Trainer and have added several supporting certifications. 

2. Make a Plan!

You need to make a plan and set goals that will affect your behaviors and lifestyle choices. Be purposeful and intentional. Schedule yourself in the gym and set goals for resistance training. I choose to set hourly and minute goal instead of volume goals. I try to spend 2-3 hours a week in my gym, stretching and lifting. I measure my cardio by hours and not miles (4-6 hours hiking or walking). 

Set a goal for the number of books that you want to read or set a goal to read so many hours per week. Buy books and put them on your bookshelf. It can be your reading que. Set a goal to listen to a certain number (or hours) of podcasts that appeal to you. 

I schedule time off each year. It’s amazing how many people never schedule a vacation. I just finished a trip to Utah for a backpacking trip. It was scheduled several months in advance.

The thing is, resiliency doesn’t just happen. You must be intentional about becoming resilient. For some people it intuitive, but not for me. I purposely and intentionally practice in behaviors and make lifestyle choices that promote my resiliency. 

3. Practice Addition and Subtraction!

Fill your life(addition) with people, places, things, and activities (behaviors and lifestyle choices) that will promote resiliency, and then get rid of (subtraction) the things that don’t. Toxins come in all shapes and forms. The same is true of resiliency promoting agents. I’ve had to leave people, foods, activities, and organizations that were not good for me. I’ve held onto those agents that were beneficial to me as if they were life preservers.

4. Be Hard on Yourself and Forgive Yourself.

Ignore your inner demons that tell you to quit working on yourself, and then forgive yourself for not being perfect. 

Years ago, I was sharing my workout regimen with a good friend. I was attending the gym 3-4 times a week, sometimes 5-6 times, sometimes for up to 2 hours each time. He responded with a caution that I was becoming addicted to working out.  I responded, not so politely, by asking him to keep his opinion to himself and that I already had to deal with my own inner demons that tempted me to stay in bed and overeat because, after all, hadn’t I just worked out, and didn’t I deserve to eat more. 

We need to be hard on ourselves and push ourselves to practice behaviors and make good lifestyle choices. 

But we also need to allow ourselves to be human and enjoy life. The truth is that we do only live once. Have a sweet. Take a morning or even a week off and recover. Waste some time doing nothing purposeful, or piddle, as I call it. A life full of regrets never promotes resiliency.

5. Enjoy the Journey!

Know this: A lifestyle that promotes resiliency is a coveted lifestyle. Aging doesn’t have to mean decline and deterioration. It can be a playful exploration, where you write your script. The lifestyle that you craft by your choices will become an exciting journey that leads to resiliency. The things that you do to promote resiliency provide a wonderful menu of activities, friends, foods, places, and experiences that will enhance your life. So, enjoy your journey.

I am going to spend several upcoming blogs providing a road map for that exciting journey.

This is part eight in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

Healthy Aging Series: Grandparenting 2 Lessons I learned about Grandparenting from My Grandparents

2 Lessons I Learned About Grandparenting From My Grandparents | Healthy Aging Series: Part 10

What did you call your grandparents? I called mine ‘grandma’ and ‘grandpa,’ and then use their first names when talking about them: Grandpa Jim and Grandma Louise, my maternal grandparents, and Grandpa Pat and Grandma Lulu, my paternal grandparents. 

If I asked you to recall the most vivid memory of each of your grandparents, what would it be?

Here are mine:

Grandpa Jim: taking us fishing in a creek that ran past his home in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

Grandma Louise: making cinnamon and sugar crisp. She always baked us  a cake for our birthdays. 

Grandpa Pat: riding on top of his John Deere tractor when I was elementary age.

Grandma Lula: taking me aside when I was 29-years old and telling me she had prayed us out of the Catholic Church.

Religion played an important part in my family during my formative years. My mother was raised Catholic, and my father was raised by a Pentecostal mother. My father converted to Catholicism when he married my mother. My grandmothers were always feuding about with us and each other about religion, and it seemed like the grandchildren were caught in the middle. 

My parents were practicing Catholics until I was eight years old. We left the Catholic Church due to disagreements they had with their Priest and my Catholic grandmother disowned us for five years. 

Score one for Pentecostal prayer.

During those next years, we were Lutherans, Methodists, and Unitarians, but never Pentecostal. 

Score one for open-mindedness.

 I could share more about my “faith“ development, but this is about grandparenting, not religion, even though religion and grandparenting we’re completely intertwined in my family life. Make no mistake, I learned a lot about grandparenting from my grandparents. 

What were those lessons? I want to make a point as I share these lessons. These lessons are the things I learned from MY grandparents. Many of us have very diverse experiences with grandparents. Some people were raised by their grandparents. Some people lost their grandparents when they were young children. My Grandpa Pat died when I was 13 years old. I didn’t have a lot of exposure to him as a teenager and adult. So, these are the lessons that I learned from MY grandparents.

Lesson One: Mind your own business!

Listen to me, those of you who have adult children and are anticipating or already have grandchildren! Mind your own business. 

You don’t like the politics of your grown children? Mind your own business!

You don’t like the way you’re grown children parent your grandchildren? Mind your own business! 

You don’t like the way your children spend their money? Mind your own business you don’t approve of their choices of friends, or choices of occupations, or even their choice of partners? Mind your own business! 

You don’t like the tidiness or lack of tidiness of their home and  think they should be getting along better with your other adult children, their siblings,  or they get divorced. Mind your own business. 

If you don’t approve of their choice of pets or the number of pets they have, keep your opinion and your advice to yourself. Even if you don’t approve of their choice of religion, denomination, or the church they attend, mind your own business!  

If you want to have a loving caring, nurturing, supportive relationship with your grandchildren, then accept their parents, your grown children, for who they are and mind your own business.

This includes giving unsolicited advice. Never do it! Giving unsolicited advice is a subtle form of disapproval. I always felt alienated and  the disapproval of my grandmother‘s because they disapproved of my parents’ choices.

Lesson Two: Spoil your grandchildren with your time and attention.

Hug them. Kiss them, even when they don’t like it. My older granddaughter is at that stage, but I hug her when I see her and kiss her on the forehead and tell her that I love her! My granddaughters live in another state, but I see them every three months. Before I go, I visit bookstores and other stores where I can pick up small things to make a grab bag for them. I love watching them open the grab bags. Later during my visit, I take them on a shopping spree to H&M or American Eagle, or Charlotte Russe.

I love going camping with them and their parents. We love going to a state park in Colorado called 11 Mile Lake. On my last visit we went out on the driveway and played basketball with their mother. My granddaughters have three other grandparents that are actively involved with them doing all types of things. I see them fishing with their other grandfather often on Facebook. One of their grandmothers is constantly encouraging them to go hiking with her. We all tell them that we love them, and we hug them, and spend as much time with them as we possibly can.
We all think about leaving our grandchildren money for things like college or a down payment for a house. And if we can, that’s an important form of inheritance that we can leave them.

I believe the most important things that we can leave our grandchildren are the memories and experiences we had with them.

In the business world, investors make a distinction between tangible and intangible assets and investments. Tangible investments are things like buildings and equipment. Intangible assets are things like a company‘s brand, their goodwill, and intellectual property.

In parenting and grandparenting, we can make tangible and intangible investments in our children’s and grandchildren’s lives. Leaving a college fund or down payment for a home or car can be helpful for our grandchildren. Those are tangible investments.

The way you make intangible investments in your grandchildren is by spoiling them with your time and attention

Making an intangible investment in your grandchildren isn’t being proud of them! It’s telling them that you’re proud of them. 

It means encouraging them to follow their bliss. It means telling them that you love them.

What did you learn about grandparenting from your grandparents? Think of ways you can learn from them. They made mistakes. We all do. I have. I hope that I’ve been a good grandparent and set an example for my granddaughters when it’s time for them to be grandparents. 

This is part ten in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

true north therapy is now offering a teen zoom talk therapy group on july 28, 2022

New Online Teen Group Therapy Session Starting July 2022

Does your teen struggle with their emotions? Are you a teen who wishes they could communicate better?

At True North Counseling, we are now offering a Teen Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) Skills group! Join us weekly to practice coping strategies, emotion regulation, and communication skills.
This class is open to ages 13-17. Classes are online every Thursday, from 3-4 pm, beginning on July 28th. Classes are $15 per week.
If you know of a teen who would be interested/appropriate for the group, please reach out to admin@truenorththerapylouisville.com.
You can also contact us by visiting our Contact Us page or calling 502-777-7525.
Your Body is a Temple

Your Body is a Temple | Healthy Aging Series: Part 9

Part 1: My Parents

The last 10 years of my father‘s life were very difficult. He died at 82. At 72 he had quintuple coronary artery bypass surgery. Then he received an Aortobifemoral Artery Replacement. And then he needed a small section of his colon removed because of cancer

The doctor performed the heart bypass surgery gathered us around in the surgery waiting room and told us that there were signs of emphysema. This was not good. He recovered from his surgeries but over the next 10 years suffered from COPD which was caused by the emphysema. 

It would not surprise you to hear that my father was a lifelong smoker. Most of my father‘s health problems were lifestyle related. My mother fared better but her last 10 years were challenging. Mom was physically unstable. She walked to Hardee’s every morning about 2/10 of a mile. I had coffee and socialized with her peer group. I do not remember mom ever exercising. Beyond mild cardio and I never remember any resistance training. Consequently mom fell at least twice she was lucky because neither fall resulted in a hospitalization but she short suffered a shoulder injury and her face was black and blue. She also suffered from atrial fibrillation or a-fib. It can be genetic but more often it’s a lifestyle related disorder. My mom‘s instability and a-fib were due, in large part, to lack of cardio training and mobility stability training. My mother‘s death was caused by symptoms related to the a-fib. She had difficulties with it a month prior to her death. She was hospitalized and most likely contracted an opportunist virus.

I tell my clients, “You have to prepare for the last 10 years of your life.” I tell them that these are in all likelihood going to be the most difficult years of your life because those are the years that you are more vulnerable and susceptible to opportunistic illnesses and injuries related to instability and lack of mobility

Mom and dad were examples of just how important it is to take care of yourself.

Part 2: Practicing What I Preach

I’ve been very fortunate in my 40s, 50s, and now 60s. I’ve been doing the Grand Canyon since 2001 almost every year. I’ve backpacked Rim to River to Rim (R2R2R) 15 times or more.  A few years ago I did R2R2R2R2R in a period of three days. 

I can do the Incline, in Manitou Springs Colorado, a 1 mile in distance but gaining 2000 feet of elevation, in 75 minutes.

I’ve done some hellacious backpacking trips in California to include Mount Whitney the highest peak in the continental United States. I have backpacked in the Tetons in Wyoming, Canyonlands National Park in Utah, and many 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado. I’ve run several half-marathons and two marathons and countless of 5Ks, 10Ks, and 10 Miler‘s, 

I’ve ridden my Cannondale 613 across the state of Indiana, 161 miles, the day before my 55th birthday, all in one day. I rode across the Golden Gate bridge, ridden the Mount Vernon trail to DC, and along the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I’ve kayaked a 20 mile stretch of the Green River through Mammoth Cave National Park. 

I recently rebooted my interest in orienteering, and have been running through the woods. I lift weights almost every week. Tristin, my Personal trainer from my 50s asked me what I wanted for my goals and I answered: I want to be a badass at 60

I spent my 60th birthday on the top of Mount Bierstadt.

I’m not in perfect health. My kidneys don’t filter like they used to. Most likely due to taking too much ibuprofen. My thyroid doesn’t work anymore. I take level thyroxine. I’m 5 pounds heavier than I want. I walk or hike 3 to 5 miles 4-5 times a week. I still lift weights 2 to 3 times weekly I use intermittent fasting control my weight. Monday through Friday I don’t eat until noon. I avoid sugar during the week.  I limit my alcohol intake to one or two drinks daily. I like getting “Misty“ in the evenings much like Gus McCrae confessed in the novel “Lonesome Dove,” by Larry McMurtry. I think sugar is the scourge of our modern era. Did I say that I think sugar is the scourge of our modern era!  I’ll be 66 this year and I want to do a feat of strength like Jack Lalaine did every year but I’m learning to be more gentle on my body.

I take more break days. I cut back on my mileage. I’m getting older. There, I said it. When I was in my mid-50s I started to think about aging  so I concluded that I needed more information. I started reading. And I got certified as a Personal Trainer with a specially in Senior Fitness. A few years back I read everything I could about nutrition. Now I’m reading everything I can on healthy aging and fitness.

Part 3: How to Prepare for the Last Ten Years of Your Life

Here is what I’ve learn about preparing for the last ten years of your life:

1. Move!

Never stop moving! Walk, skip, jump. Lift, carry, transfer! Park as far from the entrance of the store as you can. Lift as much as you can and of course lift with your legs. Walk in the parks, walk in your neighborhood, walk after dinner, walk on walking paths, walk on trails, and of course lift weights. Do squats, do step ups, and move in any way that you possibly can! Never stop moving. 

2. Incorporate instability in your movement!

If a doctor tells you to use a cane or walker and follow those recommendations. Otherwise incorporate as much instability in your workouts as you possibly can. Walking on level streets is good but walking on unlevel surfaces is even better! I typically run into hikers doing day hikes in the Jefferson forest and see them using trekking poles. This is providing a level of stability utilizing their arms and trekking poles and upper body that is preventing their legs and lower body and core from strengthening the muscles that they need to increase their stability. The more unstable your surface the more likely that it’s going to create stability in your core and in your legs! This is very important!  I recently became a Functional Aging Specialist and this is absolutely the most current information that you can have on becoming more stable as you age.

3. Build Muscle Mass

One of the conditions that begins in mid-life that affects most people is something known as Sarcopenia. This is a loss of muscle mass. Hormonal changes in middle life, such as decreasing growth hormone, contribute to this loss of muscle mass. You can, however, counteract this process by maintaining a moderate level of resistance training and consuming an adequate amount of protein. Researchers have been studying protein supplements with and without exercise and have overwhelmingly concluded that an increase in protein supplement without exercise contributes very little muscle growth. If you want to maintain or grow muscle mass then do resistance training. It’s one way to ensure that you don’t suffer from Sarcopenia.

4. Fitness and the Brain

One of my concerns as I age is my brain. I’ve read numerous books on developing a healthy brain or maintaining a healthy brain and here’s what I’ve learned: the two more most important things that you can do are: eating lots of fruits and vegetables and exercise. It’s that simple. You maintain a healthy brain by exercise and good nutrition.

I titled this blog, Your Body is a Temple. One thing is very certain: you only have one body that is going to get you through until the day that you pass on. You have to take care of it, and you have to start taking care of it now. In a sense there should be some amount of reverence that you show towards your body. Take care of it. Nurture it. Exercise it. Ensure that it’s getting the absolute best fuel that you can give it.

Preparing for the last 10 years of your life means preparing now.

Exercise and eat well!

This is part nine in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.