ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Category: Stress

The Power of Feeling Powerless

Stress-270409You know the feeling. You’ve gotten horrible news. You’re standing at the scene of an accident. You were just laid off. A few things may be happening at this moment. You may be feeling the acidic taste of adrenaline in the back of your throat. You might feel a tightness in your chest from the panic. You may also be feeling something else-- the dreaded knowledge and/or fear that you are powerless over the ensuing events. That can be one of life’s most horrible emotions. Part of the reason why is obvious: without power, how can we get out of situations? The other reasons it can feel so crushing are a bit more nuanced. As humans, we are used to being in control. When a person, a situation, or life in general takes power from us, that can lead to sadness, anger, even rage.

So what to do? Can we take the power back? The short answer is often no, but there are ways to manage the frustration. In an emergency there are certainly steps to be taken, whether it’s calling 9-1-1 or staying clear of danger. In a more personal situation, where no one is in imminent danger, it’s often best to rely on old stress-relief tactics: steady breathing, a quiet place, and the comfort of a loved one.

The Changing Family

We all know that the two parent, two child household is now just one of many, many combinations that make up a family. That said, how do we navigate traditional family dynamics with the new reality? What is the polite thing to call a former mother-in-law? Do you buy your step-dad a Father’s Day card? Do you continue to call your uncle’s husband your uncle? Do you have to have your half-sister in your wedding if you aren’t close? You’ll find all of the correct answers to these questions and more below:

Just kidding. For every familial relationship, for every holiday and reunion, for every plane ride back to your home town there is a new set of rules. So why not just stick to the basics:

When in doubt, be as kind as you can. Your step mom knows she’s not your mom, there is no need to remind her. Odds are, she’s not trying to be, she’s just trying to make you (and herself) feel as comfortable as possible. Why not indulge her? Instead of acting defensive around new family, no matter who they are, don’t punish them for not knowing you yet. Offer gracious thanks and try to interact.

Sometimes, it’s gonna be awkward. And that’s okay. If you are in a new relationship with someone who has kids or your elderly parent is getting remarried, whatever the case may be, there is plenty of uncharted territory. The only recourse is to accept this as a fact and try to move forward. That may even mean acknowledging the surprising nature of life, making a joke of it and pushing along.

New and “non-traditional” family can provide new and “non-traditional” love. The beauty of forging ahead into an uncharted family dynamic is that there aren’t a million examples all around you. This can feel lonely, but it can also be a good thing. Most people could talk for hours about their relationship with their mother, and it’s easy to compare and contrast which can often lead to one party feeling badly. But a blended family might have less to compare it to, leaving more room to avoid unnecessary hang-ups.

Just be yourself. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a cliché, but it’s so true! Let these people in a little bit, show them who you are, and the family-like love we’re all supposed to feel for anyone who is remotely related to us, may flow more freely. Or it may not, but at least you can say you were kind, and that you tried.

Just Do It! Ways to feel the fear and do it anyway.

fear1Fear can be such a paralyzing little monster. We all have it, but why do some people seem to push through it, some thrive on it, and some hide under the bed while life passes them by? Odds are it’s a combination of each person’s personality and the specific fear they are facing. Here are a few tips to get through those paralyzing fears:

  1. The expression is true: We should “feel the fear.”      Ignoring it completely is a short-term solution to a long-term part of  life. IF we allow ourselves the time to feel fear, the eventual courage will come naturally, rather than the remorse that may come if we make decisions after ignoring fear.
  2. Ask Why. We should never ignore fear because there is always the chance that our fear is well-founded. Got butterflies about buying that house? Cold feel about getting married? Nervous about the new job? All of those feelings of nervousness are natural, but if that nervousness is really a deep-seated anxiety that never quiets itself, perhaps a re-examination of choices is in order.
  3. Try to recall the beginning. We should always reach back into our memories and try to deduce where the fear began. It might help us to discover whether or not our fear is a good enough reason to keep us from making a decision or life change. If the source of the fear is a memory of a time when a similar decision was made and things ended poorly, that may be a good reason to step back. It could also mean we’re projecting consequences of an unrelated situation onto our present life. Consequences that may not exist. For example, it’s all too easy to hold a new paramour accountable for an old love’s betrayals. And to fear the new intimacy, but there is a good chance the new lover won’t spurn us as the old one did.
  4. Hope. There are lots of studies about the power of wishful thinking, faith, and prayer. Whether our optimism comes from spirituality or just a positive attitude, much of what we know about the world indicates that the more good we put our there, we are more likely to receive in return. So think good thoughts before you dive in.

Fear is tricky business. Sometimes it’s intuition, sometimes it’s a trick the brain can play on us to encourage dormancy. One is self-protection; the other can hold us back. So how can we tell the difference? We can’t, but if we listen to both sides of our brains -- the one thatsays “no” and the one that says “yes”-- we can help make a more clear-eyed decision.

If fear is continually knocking at your door and paralyzing you, consider checking it out with a qualified health care practitioner in your area. Consult our Resources tab for ideas on where to seek help.



What if You Are the Bully?

We live in a world of snark. Online comments, rude texts, flippant snarkemails, and snappy comebacks are all part of daily life for most people. Often we are the on the receiving end of rude remarks, but sometimes we are the perpetrators. Why do we feel so justified when we come up with what we think is a clever retort to someone’s perceived deficiency? For starters, snark is cyclical. When we feel threatened or stung by someone else’s rudeness, we carry that with us and in turn often throw it at someone else. If we read something uncomfortable directed toward us on Facebook in the morning, we keep that with us when we leave the house, we wear a scowl, we snap at the Starbucks barista. Then the barista feels stung and tweets something uncouth to someone she barely knows, and so on and so on.

We also use wit, sass, and sometimes outright meanness to protect ourselves.  It’s a classic defense mechanism: we say something nasty before someone else does. There is also a flipside to this. In a world where we are constantly plugged-in, it can feel boring when nothing happens for minutes, even seconds. So in the online world, it’s easy to prod and provoke, all in the name of playing Devil’s Advocate.

How do we stop negative behavior? Cold turkey. Before you type, before you speak, before you roll your eyes far back enough that you can see your own brain: think. Who benefits from what you are about to say? If the person you are saying it to doesn’t benefit in any way, stop and take a moment. Close your laptop, turn off your phone, shut your mouth and breathe. It’s a beautiful day.

Making up for our old wrongs

We’ve all done something nasty to someone. We all have at least one regret about how we’ve treated a stranger, a friend, or a loved one. More often than not, an apology (even a belated one) can mean a lot to the injured party. A heartfelt, apologysincere “I’m sorry” goes a long way in repairing relationships. But what if it doesn’t work? What if you hurt someone and they are not ready to accept your apology? That’s okay. It’s tough and it can make us feel heartbroken and vulnerable, but it is not our apology to accept. Once an apology is out there, hanging in the air, it’s no longer ours. The injured party has every right to reject apologies or even good wishes. This is one of the truest hardships about human relationships- there is no rewind button. If we are lucky the person we hurt will accept our regrets with warmth and strength, but sometimes the hurt is too deep, even if we never intended to cause any pain.

So how do we accept a refusal? Breathe in, breathe out and let it go. An apology is truly sincere if the goal is not for the other person to blindly accept it, but if the issuer is remorseful. Once a sincere apology has been put out there, all we can do is let it be.  With any luck, the other person will accept it and you can move on together. If not, you can still move on.

How Millennials can get the respect we deserve

millennials-360 We’ve all heard it. From teachers or journalists, politicians or parents: the “Millennials” are lazy. We lack direction, we’re unfocused. We’re spoiled andcan’t detach from the teat of society. We are over-educated, under-achieving, couch potatoes. We’re too obsessed with social networking to really DO anything.

Is this perception true? If not, how do we reverse the perception, and if so, how do we reverse ourselves? First we must acknowledge that the assumption isn’t totally out of left field. As a generation we do spend more time on phones and computers than any other, and many of us are unemployed or underemployed. That said, there are many encouraging trends for people born between 1980 and 2000. Constant connection to the internet means constant connection to the world.  For example, Twitter is more than just a way for celebs to connect with each other. It’s aided in major protests all over the world by, keeping people connected. Social networks have allowed a platform for debate, and a forum for questions between politicians and voters. And who are those asking the questions? That group is largely made up of people under 35. We are also using these tools to market ourselves. Millennials have an innate understanding of the forward momentum of technology, and are often ahead of the curve. Musicians, writers, researchers, fundraisers, and entrepreneurs all have ways to broadcast their message and their brand for free.

It’s also true that we buy things. A lot of things. From iPads to skinny jeans, Millennials have an incredible buying power. This is a sticky wicket, because we also live with our parents longer than any generation before us, so where is all of this money coming from? Shouldn’t it be going toward paying our student loans, or putting down a security deposit on an apartment? You’d be hard pressed to find someone to say no, but it’s also true that buying power has the word “power” in it for a reason. We’re trend-setters, meaning that we have the power to advocate for socially, ethically, and fiscally responsible items. When the popular crowd makes a good-hearted decision, the trend will spread- as it has with the popularity of hybrid cars, ethically made goods, and organic food.

As a generation, we tend to fall on the educated side. This can be tough because the demand for certain types of education rise and fall with the state of the economy and innovation trends (think tech, financial, and automotive industries- each with specified training, and their own ups and downs in the last 15 years). But we sometimes forget that school offers more than just a degree or a course of study. Our experiences, in and out of a university setting, shape who we are and can be used to give us a leg up. Social skills, public speaking, time management and a host of other skills are all part of higher education, and can help you create the best career for yourself.

Millennials are blessed with another characteristic: energy. Boundless energy is our best friend and our most powerful ammunition in the desire to move the world forward. We can use our connections, our social media skills, our degrees, our savings to create the world we’ve envisioned for ourselves, but none of those things will get us very far without the fervor of youthful energy.

Much of the world is in the hands of Millennials and it’s a trend that won’t end for decades, so we’d better get used to it. We’re often handed greeting cards, posters, or refrigerator magnets urging us to heed Gandhi’s words and “Be the change we want to see in the world,” so let’s do just that. Even if we’re using Kickstarter to get there.

So You Haven’t Reached Your Goal Yet- It’s OK, You Will

  We live in an incredibly fast-paced world. It can seem like people are out- GoalPicaccomplishing us every minute, personally and professionally. Even if you are not a person with set goals for one year, five years, or twenty years out, there can still be a nagging voice behind your eyes saying, “You should have done that by now”. While that feeling is understandable and can feel very depressing, the reality is: there is no finite set of rules for living as an adult.

School and work are by nature competitive environments- and that’s not a bad thing. Competition can keep us striving for more productive and effective ways to complete tasks, and ultimately result in a better world. Competition in sports teaches us endurance, perseverance, and teamwork--- all vital qualities in human relationships off the field. But there is also a dark side to competition as it can leave many folks feeling left behind. And if we’re feeling irretrievably behind, what’s to keep us from giving up and not trying at all?

First things first. Let’s get rid of any “should-haves” in our heads right now. As humans, we are blessed with free will, but we (despite our best efforts) do not control the universe. You may not get married, get the promotion, get the degree, have the baby, make the team exactly when you thought you would but that doesn’t mean you won’t do it. We could sit down and painstakingly plan for hours how our lives will unfold, but the universe will always have surprises in store.

It’s also helpful to remember that some of the folks we consider so accomplished weren’t child prodigies; that the already woven fabric of their lives led them to what made them famous. From Superman creator Stan Lee to Pop Star Cyndi Lauper to Alan Rickman (Professor Snape himself) - there are a slew of well-known folks who were far older than their counterparts in the same field when they became well-known.

Not only can we ditch by the roadside our preconceived notions about when things should happen, we can also accept that our personal priorities change all the time. And guess what? That’s OK, too. Our goals are our own, and only we have the power to push them forward into reality.

Dream, think, plan, act, react. It’s the cyclical deliciousness that makes us human. It deserves our embrace, in addition to our constant frustration. What new goals can you set today? Rather than giving yourself a due date for completion of those goals, determine the first task that needs to be completed to achieve it. Take a deep breath, and begin.

Beating the Stigma of Being the “Odd One Out”

Can we be frank? Young adulthood can suck. It can be wonderful and perhaps the best years of our life, but that doesn’t make them easy. This is the age we can so easily be trapped between the rules of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. It’s easy to get excited when school is a thing you look back on, but without the safety and structure of the institution of a high school or college, playing by society’s rules can be tricky. We live in a world where statistics play an incredibly important role in assessing our self-image. We hear about them all the time. An article recently hit the media stating that the amount of money a person should be making per year is equal to their age in years, and if you are “good” at what you do, you should make double your age. Is that what we measure ourselves against?

Another recent study says that the average age of marriage continues to rise for young men and women. Another notes the rise in couples who cohabitate before marrying. Again, are we pressured to conform to the “average.”

The problem with these statistics is that it’s incredibly easy to read them and feel out of place.

Perhaps you are unmarried in your mid-twenties, and are feeling like the only single person in your peer group. Perhaps at 27 you are making $25,000 per year.  Perhaps you and your spouse did not live together before tying the knot. Statistics are meant to help us better understand our society, and the needs and characteristics of the people in it. But when you pin down an “average,” statistics do a funny thing: they make anyone outside that small bubble feel like an outsider, and anyone inside the bubble feel ordinary.

So how do we go about our lives and think of statistics as what they were intended to be? It starts with the way we view others. Freeing ourselves from negative judgment when encountering peers who don’t fit into a box designated as “average” helps us connect and be more considerate. If most of your friends don’t have kids, but a close friend is a new mom, consider her feelings before planning a last-minute trip for all your friends.  If you’re getting married as a friend is divorcing, recognize the challenges he may face at your wedding. The kindnesses will be remembered when you are the odd one out.

Perhaps when that newly divorced friend makes twice as much money as his age, he’ll pick up the next dinner check.