On My Mind

Why Age Is Really Just a Number…at 21

Written on June 5, 2014 at 9:00 am , by

In a few weeks, the youngest of my four daughters will reach a milestone. She will officially be an adult, as there will be 21 candles on a very delicious cake. Yes, her ticket will be officially punched into adulthood.

Adulthood. It’s hard to believe that a birthday can mark critical issues like responsibility, employment security (if you have a job), housing status (What? You still live at home?) and the pressure to finally be in a serious relationship. In other words, there is a general emphasis on just pulling one’s life together.

Heavy stuff…but as a practicing adult I know that there is plenty of time to grow up. Growing up is a process that is not just marked by a numerical value. Growing up is a mindset.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the parameters of growing up were carded for, much like liquor sales? How cool would it be if delis and minimarts had a calendar marking the current date and the statement: “If you are still immature and born before this date ____, practice self-reflection or ask a real adult to share their experiences and most significant life lessons with you.”

What if the ritual of turning 21 was not focused on being able to drink legally but tapped into a person’s ability to help others, practice respect and goodwill, and simply focus on making the world a better place to live and coexist?

What if instead of honing in on a chronological age to symbolize the pinnacle of physical maturity and emotional growth, we understood that things like wisdom, self-understanding and self-acceptance are not easily quantifiable but can be gained throughout our life span with a willingness to do so?

In many ways, the over-celebration of adulthood or being “legal” minimizes the true benefit of simply growing older and growing up. The real benefit of growing up is being able to appreciate your own successes and failures, to find the silver lining in disappointment and to have gratitude for joyful experiences. Completeness does not arise from turning a certain age on a certain day. Happiness and self-satisfaction can be present throughout our life span.

If we provide our young adults with an accurate representation of growing old and the recognition that aging is not a disease state but a normal process that holds both real beauty and potential at every age, as well as a blueprint for finding them, then perhaps every 21-year-old will have much more to truly celebrate.

What emotional accomplishments do you hope your child will have achieved by the age of 21? Post a comment and share.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanetRead more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

A Little Sleep Self-Help for Your Home

Written on April 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm , by

Sleep—it’s that elusive thing all moms crave and rarely get enough of, especially with younger kids around. Most of the tips we’ve given you so far focus on the health angle—when to exercise, how to curb caffeine consumption and how to deal with a sleepless night. But when was the last time you considered what your home has to do with a good night’s sleep? Turns out there’s probably more of a connection than you think. The good news is that just a few small changes could have a big impact on the quality of your zzz’s.

Use your senses—smell, in particular.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, which can make you feel extra relaxed. So try a lavender-scented candle on the nightstand before turning in, or tuck a fragrant sachet inside your pillowcase. Better yet, wash and dry your sheets, PJs and other nighttime linens in the new lightly lavender-scented Sweet Dreams collection from Tide, Bounce and Downy. If you’re sensitive to fragrance, keep it to a single dryer sheet. Even a hint of lavender could help get you into slumber mode.

 

Make the bedroom a gadget-free zone, especially at night.
Face it, with the popularity of tablets, e-readers and laptops, more work, reading and Netflix watching is done in bed these days than ever before—it’s just so comfortable and convenient. We’re not suggesting you never marathon a series or ban the Kindle from bed, but be sure to limit that activity to daytime. Dr. Ian Smith, celebrity physician and wellness expert from The Doctors, recommends turning off all devices, including your smartphone, at least 30 minutes before bedtime. If you want to read, do it the old-fashioned way, with a book. Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock, because that gives you an excuse to leave it on all night and be tempted to check it.

Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
Creating the right environment is key for falling and staying asleep. Shop for breathable sheets, PJs and other bed linens, says Kelly Ellis, director of integrated marketing at Serta International, who notes that flannel sheets, while certainly cute, are best avoided, even in winter. Dim the lights in the evening to tell your body that it’s time for sleep, and choose calming decor—think whites, blues, grays, tans and other tranquil hues.

Replace that old pillow.
Everyone seems to know that mattresses eventually need replacing, but so do pillows. According to Erik Brandt, VP of iComfort brand development at Serta International, they should be updated more frequently than mattresses for optimal comfort. (How long have you been holding on to yours?) The cooling action of the iComfort Scrunch Pillow’s memory foam particles is right on target for enhancing anyone’s sleep experience. At $79, it’s a bit of an investment, but what better to splurge on than a good night’s sleep, right?

Be Willing to Learn from Failure

Written on March 18, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Inspired by my work at an inner-city hospital—but dismayed by what seemed a revolving door of the same critical patients—I decided to obtain a graduate degree in public health 10 years ago. I was exhausted by having a job during the day and school at night, but I felt like the luckiest student in the world when I confidently turned in my first paper.

I can still remember gasping for air when I checked my grade on my smartphone: C minus. I had let myself and my family down. I was an academic disappointment—or was I?

Looking back, that episode taught me a valuable lesson. I realized that there is a difference between a moment and an experience. Yes, I had let myself down in that moment. But the experience made me want to improve. This was not a fatal event, but one from which I could regroup.

Whenever you attempt a victory—whether it’s hitting a fundraising goal for your child’s school trip or creating the ultimate Easter basket—there is a risk that you may not succeed. The question is whether you stay in the game, knowing that there is always room for improvement, or slink over to the sidelines and never try, try again.

Be willing to learn from the experience of failing and be determined to turn things around. I did so with hard work and a willingness to listen to painful but honest feedback from my advisor. You can too. Remember: Failure is a symptom. It does not have to be a condition.

 

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.