‘A New Way of Life’: Returning to College During COVID-19′


Returning to college during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth a myriad of challenges and opportunities. This article delves into the complexities faced by students navigating this new normal amidst COVID-19 and explores strategies to adapt effectively.

Challenges of Returning to College During COVID-19

The pandemic has disrupted traditional educational models, leading to uncertainties regarding safety, learning environments, and academic progress. Students encounter challenges such as limited social interactions, technological barriers, and heightened stress levels due to the impact of COVID-19.


 Illustration depicting a student studying remotely with a laptop, symbolizing the disruptions and challenges faced in traditional education due to the pandemic

The impact of the pandemic on traditional educational models has resulted in various challenges for students.

Importance of Education During COVID-19

Despite these challenges, education remains a vital aspect of personal and professional growth, especially in uncertain times. The pursuit of knowledge equips individuals with valuable skills, resilience, and adaptability necessary to thrive in dynamic environments  including those shaped by the impacts of COVID-19.

Adapting to Online Learning Amidst COVID-19 Challenges

One significant shift in education is the widespread adoption of online learning platforms. While this offers flexibility and accessibility, it also presents challenges such as internet connectivity issues, digital fatigue, and the lack of face-to-face interactions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A laptop displaying an online learning platform, symbolizing the shift towards digital education with challenges like connectivity issues and digital fatigue.

Embracing the Digital Era in Education: Balancing Advantages and Challenges

Pros and Cons of Remote Education During COVID-19

Flexibility and Accessibility in Education During COVID-19

Online learning provides students with the flexibility to study at their own pace and convenience  a particularly valuable advantage during the COVID-19 pandemic .It eliminates geographical barriers, allowing access to a diverse range of courses and resources regardless of physical location.

 Addressing  Technical Challenges and Solutions in Education Amidst COVID-19

However, technical challenges such as unreliable internet connections and learning platform glitches can hinder the learning experience especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Implementing robust technical support and training programs is crucial to mitigate these issues and ensure a smoother online learning experience for students.

Effective Strategies for Motivation in Learning During COVID-19

Staying motivated while studying remotely requires intentional strategies to create a conducive learning environment.

Creating a Dedicated Study Space

Designating a quiet and organized study space helps minimize distractions and enhances focus which is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic when studying remotely. Personalizing the space with motivational quotes, plants, or calming decor can boost productivity and create a conducive learning environment.

Setting Realistic Goals and Deadlines

Breaking down tasks into manageable goals and setting deadlines promotes accountability and prevents procrastination strategies that are especially crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic when adapting to remote learning environments. Celebrating small achievements along the way reinforces motivation and helps students stay engaged and focused on their academic goals.

Joining Virtual Study Groups

Engaging with peers in virtual study groups fosters collaboration, peer support, and a sense of community which are particularly valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic when physical interactions are limited.  It encourages active learning and knowledge sharing.

Balancing Responsibilities Amidst COVID-19 Challenges

Many students juggle multiple responsibilities, including work, family, and education. Effective time management and support systems are essential for maintaining balance and reducing stress levels amidst the various demands and uncertainties brought about by COVID-19.

Seeking Support from Employers and Family Members

Open communication with employers about academic commitments and flexible work arrangements can alleviate pressure a crucial aspect during the COVID-19 pandemic when individuals are navigating multiple responsibilities.   Family support, including childcare assistance and understanding, contributes to overall well-being.

Coping with Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The transition to online learning, coupled with external stressors, can impact mental health. Implementing self-care practices and accessing counseling services are crucial for managing stress and promoting well-being.

Mindfulness and Self-Care Practices

Incorporating mindfulness techniques, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits enhances resilience and mental clarity  especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when managing stress and anxiety is paramount. Taking breaks, practicing relaxation exercises, and engaging in hobbies reduce burnout.

Accessing Counseling Services Remotely

Many educational institutions offer virtual counseling services to support students’ emotional and mental health needs. Seeking professional guidance and utilizing online resources can address anxiety, depression, and academic pressures. Seeking professional guidance and utilizing online resources can significantly help students address these challenges and navigate the academic journey more effectively amidst COVID-19.

Future of Education in the COVID-19

The pandemic has accelerated innovations in education, paving the way for hybrid learning models that blend online and offline experiences.

Hybrid Learning Models Post-Pandemic

Combining the benefits of digital learning with in-person interactions and hands-on experiences creates a more holistic educational approach. Adaptive technologies, interactive simulations, and personalized learning pathways enhance student engagement and outcomes  providing effective solutions to the challenges posed by COVID-19 disruptions in education.

A collage showing a blend of digital devices, interactive simulations, and students engaged in hands-on activities, illustrating the holistic approach to education with adaptive technologies and personalized learning pathways.

Achieving Holistic Education: Integrating Digital Tools with Real-world Interaction


Returning to college during COVID-19 necessitates adaptability, resilience, and proactive strategies to navigate challenges effectively. Embracing change, seeking support, and prioritizing well-being are key components of a successful educational journey in the new normal.


1 How has online learning impacted student engagement?
Online learning has had both positive and negative impacts on student engagement. On one hand, it has provided flexibility for students to access education from anywhere, leading to increased participation in some cases. Virtual platforms also offer interactive tools and multimedia resources that can enhance engagement. However, challenges such as screen fatigue, limited social interactions, and distractions at home can reduce overall engagement levels. Strategies such as interactive sessions, collaborative projects, and personalized feedback can help improve student engagement in online learning environments.

2 What resources are available for students facing technical difficulties?
Students facing technical difficulties in online learning have access to various resources for support. Educational institutions often provide technical support services, including help desks, troubleshooting guides, and online tutorials. Additionally, many software providers offer user forums, FAQs, and customer support channels. Students can also seek assistance from peers, instructors, or IT professionals within their academic community. It’s essential for students to familiarize themselves with available resources and proactively address any technical challenges they encounter.

3 How can educators create inclusive virtual learning environments?

Educators can create inclusive virtual learning environments by implementing several strategies:

  • Providing multiple modes of content delivery, such as videos, text, and interactive simulations, to accommodate diverse learning preferences.
  • Ensuring accessibility features are integrated into online platforms, including screen reader compatibility, closed captioning, and adjustable font sizes.
  • Promoting active participation through discussions, group activities, and collaborative projects that encourage diverse perspectives and contributions.

4 What role do employers play in supporting employees pursuing education?

Employers play a crucial role in supporting employees pursuing education by:

  • Offering tuition reimbursement or financial assistance programs to help offset educational expenses.
  • Providing flexible work schedules or remote work options to accommodate academic commitments.
  • Encouraging professional development opportunities, such as workshops, seminars, and training programs related to employees’ fields of study.
  • Creating a supportive work culture that values continuous learning, growth, and skill development.

5 How are universities preparing for the future of education post-pandemic?

Universities are preparing for the future of education post-pandemic by:

  • Investing in digital infrastructure and technology upgrades to enhance online learning experiences and support hybrid learning models.
  • Developing flexible curriculum designs that integrate online, offline, and blended learning approaches to accommodate diverse student needs and preferences.
  • Implementing innovative teaching methods, such as flipped classrooms, project-based learning, and experiential learning opportunities, to promote active engagement and critical thinking skills.
  • Prioritizing student well-being and mental health support services, including counseling resources, wellness programs, and community outreach initiatives.

As the fall semester quickly approaches, college students in the U.S. may feel a mix of emotions while trying to determine how to socialize, handle changing academic formats, and prioritize their mental health. College is already a demanding time for students, and the coronavirus pandemic has been a new and unexpected stressor since the spring.

According to a 2020 study, college students reported increased anxiety and depression during the onset of COVID-19 compared to similar time frames in past academic years.

“This is not an event to tweak, it’s a new way of life to create,” says Kevin Gilliland, Psy.D., executive director of Innovation360, an outpatient counseling service in Dallas, TX. “Be mindful that there is a bug out there and you need to take appropriate precautions—socially distance, wash your hands, and sanitize the surfaces—but you absolutely can have friendships and experiences and learning opportunities that are wonderful.”

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Depression and Anxiety Are on the Rise in Young People, but Is Social Media to Blame?

If screens and social media are this central to the lives of millennial women, you can imagine the hold they must have on Generation Z, the first to come of age in this era. Americans spend an average of 11 hours each day interacting with some form of media, with those ages 18 to 34 spending nearly a third of that time on their phones. At the same time, adolescents and young adults are suffering from mood disorders and suicidal thoughts in greater numbers than any previous generation — a trend experts believe may have something to do with the way they relate to the world around them.

Still, some doctors — including Kevin Gilliland, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and executive director of Innovation360 — feel that the effects of screens and social media are highly individual. POPSUGAR asked Dr. Gilliland how to reclaim control and even find what he believes we’re all searching for: authentic connection.

Read more


How i360 Helped Luke Turn His Life Around

Luke (name has been changed) was a lot like of other teenage boys: a huge sports fan who loved the Rangers, Netflix, and his X-Box. The youngest of three children and only son of prominent Dallas attorneys, Luke seemed to have everything going for him. He was smart, likable, and set up for success.

But late in high school, Luke’s life took a turn. He was bullied at school. Symptoms of ADHD surfaced. He began to withdraw from friends.  Social situations prompted a crippling anxiety in Luke. Soon he turned to alcohol and prescription pain pills to mask the pain.  Before long he was bunkered down in his parents’ home – no job, not in school, no direction in life.  Isolation and substance abuse had taken its toll.

Understandably concerned for their son, Luke’s parents reached out to Innovation360.  After assessing the situation, acustomi360 plan was developed. A member of our Life Development team brought him to the Cooper Aerobics Center for a withdrawal stabilization. But as is often the case for those in the throes of mood issues and addiction, Luke was resistant to treatment. He left the Cooper Aerobics Center and walked 11 miles back to his parents’ home where he bunkered down, in crisis but refusing to leave.

Fortunately, Luke’s parents were not alone in addressing their son’s crisis.Thanks to the powerful, positive influence of healthy relationships,i360’s Life Development team was there to support Luke and his family and able to convince him to return to the Cooper Aerobic Center. But as his substance abuse was removed from the picture, other problematic behaviors surfaced, including body image issues and binge eating.

Thanks to Luke’s relationship with the Life Development team, things started heading in the right direction. The team began to show him what authentic relationships look like – a stark contrast to the bullying he had experienced in high school. They began to work on body image issues and the importance of self-care. They worked on developing social skills, and skills to manage his anxiety, stress, anger, and shame. Team members worked out and ate with Luke to help him develop healthy, balanced lifestyle habits.And they spent free time with Luke, to help him understand how to have fun without the use of substances.

Luke fully engaged in treatment, attending an intensive outpatient program, DBT skills group, individual and family therapy and several 12-step support groups. The Life Development team helped connect the dots for Luke so he could process the things he was learning in individual and group therapy, and apply them directly to his life.

When Luke eventually moved from the Cooper Aerobics Center into a sober living facility, the Life Development team continued to work with him to implement what he was learning in therapy and to keep him plugged into healthy relationships.

In time, those healthy relationships began to take root. Soon Luke was ready to go back to school. He began at a community college, earning A’s his first semester.

Luke has been sober for two years now and has transferred to a four-year university where he has continued to make straight A’s. He plans to major in Political Science and has aspirations of becoming a lawyer, just like his mom and dad. Thanks to Luke’s commitment to his recovery and the support of his i360 Life Development Team, those dreams are on track to become reality.

Watch our video to learn more about our Life Development program: https://vimeo.com/112177384




If you follow anyone in their mid- to late-20s on Twitter and Instagram, you might be familiar with these hashtags. As young adults leave college and enter the so called “real world,” certain problems become a trending topic, from having their name spelled incorrectly on their Starbucks cup to figuring out how to do taxes and pay off student loans.

Often, this period of time is referred to as a Quarter Life Crisis. Similar to a mid-life crisis, the Quarter Life Crisis is a period of young adulthood in which 20-somethings struggle with their new found independence. Unemployment, job satisfaction issues and trouble in friendships and romantic relationships can all add a lot of stress to a person, especially when it all comes down on them at once.

People have often joked about the struggles of millennials, claiming them to be insignificant and selfish, and sometimes they are. However, many times these issues can cause feelings of insecurity, restlessness, depression, anxiety, loneliness and uncertainty – feelings that shouldn’t be overlooked. Instead of seeking help, these young adults might wallow and end up harming relationships with their families, spouses, friends and coworkers.

July is a month of celebration. Of independence. Of Freedom. For those emerging adults who are struggling to find their independence, our team can help. Because early adulthood can be an overwhelming time in life, we work with the whole family to help develop healthy routines, tangible goals and behaviors, and a broader understanding of the emotions associated with this season. We offer young adults and parents a new approach for this phase of life so that families can flourish.

Summer College Program for Emerging Adults
This summer we’re offering two summer college programs, one for young adults and another for parents. Our programs are not “therapy” in a traditional sense.  They’re really more educational.  We focus on expectations and developing plans and strategies to successfully navigate your student’s transition into and through their college years.

We offer a 2 ½-day program that walks through the fundamentals of adjusting to college – and managing the independence that college offers maturing young adults. If you or someone you know is struggling with emerging adulthood – whether they call it a Quarter Life Crisis, anxiety, confusion, etc. – please contact i360 today. You can reach us in Dallas at (214) 733-9565, or in Austin at (512) 710-5533.


Why don’t we ask for what we need?

When a pair of pants didn’t fit the way the rest of that company’s pairs fit, I recalled a recent interview in which the CEO said he personally checks his email.

And so I looked up his company’s email address format and sent him a note: “I live 300 miles from the nearest J. Crew, and I need the right pants — will you please assist me?”

Company head Mickey Drexler responded in 30 minutes, and I had the right pants within 30 hours.

Why don’t we ask for what we need?

To simplify that answer, a note on tribes: a group of us was taught never to ask; another sector of us is scared to ask; and a third pack might be both.

In my experience, the never-askers have a different but very useful skill: to seek. And that skill helps one assert: by reframing assertiveness as a variant of self-sufficiency (I’m doing the asking, not you), I accomplish something while fulfilling my needs.  I thereby challenge what I’ve been taught, and usually I feel better about the result.

The fearful bunch has a different, equally beneficial skill as well: often they know the right tone, cadence, and wording they would use if they were to ask for their needs.  Those elements also help us assert our needs as tone, cadence, and wording suggest that we are strategic, compassionate, and courageous.

So how do we challenge our tendency to say nothing?


The other day two men from the gas company stopped by my house — one appeared to be teaching the other. I stepped outside, made small talk, and ultimately requested the supervisor’s card.  Why?  I had been having difficulties with the gas company, and so an ally would be helpful at some point.  A cheerful fellow, he was more than happy to provide his card.

Sure enough, when a gas matter arose weeks later, I called on Joe to help me out.  (I also emailed the chief operations officer, but that’s another story.)  Asserting for his card paid off: Joe fixed the situation that the call center struggled to schedule.

Let’s pause to acknowledge some challenges often associated with assertiveness: There is, of course, a fine line between assertiveness and a demonstration of entitlement, just as there is a line between assertiveness and aggressiveness.  These lines ought to be explored with some guidance from therapists and trusted friends.  And they are topics for another blog.

In the meantime, if you’ve recognized that you are in need of assertiveness practice, start simply.  Remember: seemingly insignificant circumstances can be the best opportunities to try asserting, and it’ll pay off.

That great sweater? The website says it’s sold out, but it’s not.

Just ask Mickey.

– by Jack Britton


Transitioning Home from Treatment

Leaving a place of structure and security to head home into the great unknown can be quite daunting. Throughout your stay at a residential treatment program, you’ve been guarded from outside stressors and protected from triggers, but now you are transitioning home and familiarity is just waiting for you. Ideally, you are a new person but you are heading home to an old place, so what do you do to effectively adjust to living the full life you set yourself up for while you were away? How do you maintain sobriety once you are back home? How do you continue to cope with the things that used to send your anxiety through the roof? How do you deal with the things that always sent you spiraling into a deep depression?

What you may not realize is that after your extended stay at residential treatment, you are armed with so many tools! Think of it as your personal arsenal, it travels home with you so that as you face the challenges of adjusting to life outside of treatment, you can overcome. But the thing many people don’t realize is that once they leave, they need to continue to build upon the work they’ve already completed. You aren’t done. You aren’t cured. In fact, this is a lifelong journey that will have ups and downs, relapses and trials, and bumps along the way. Truth be told, transitioning home can be the hardest part of it all. At i360, we often come into the equation at this point. We work with people, join them for a time, and help them transition home successfully, keeping that momentum going strong! This is the part of the story when the rubber meets the road – all that work you did while you were away now needs to translate into behavior change in the midst of real, authentic living.

Once you leave a rehab program, there are some things you should focus on doing to carry those healthy behavior changes into your everyday world. You have the tools, now you need to use them. But the last thing you should do is attempt to continue your recovery journey on your own. At i360, as an outpatient mental health treatment program, we work with our clients to give the support they need so they can be successful in their journey. Here are the top five things we suggest doing to implement healthy changes upon transitioning home:

Add structure into your daily routine: We help our clients set up a schedule to follow day to day – when to get up, chores to be done, timeframes for exercise, attending AA, job searching, heading to work, exploring fun and hobbies, time for lights out, etc. Keeping to a normal routine reduces the chance of boredom which could lead to opportunities for relapse. Stay occupied, stay active.

Identify a support network: Once you return home, plug into outpatient groups like i360’s IOP, workshops, and DBT skills group. When we work with clients, we will often go with them to AA – going with a buddy helps eliminate some of that anxiety. But it’s key to have a support system around you when you have those difficult times, and also when you have good days and want to share that with others. Seek out a counselor, join a church, and stay away from old friends, places, and things that you associate with the past to prevent cravings from resurfacing.

Exercise and eat well: Take care of yourself! Hygiene is important, as is good sleep, eating habits, and exercise. Focusing on wellness is a major component of the work we do with clients. You are a healthy you when you take care of your whole self. And when you get the nutrition and sleep you need, you are armed to overcome triggers and challenges throughout your day.

Explore spirituality: Who are you going to lean on when you face difficult situations? How can you find a way to respect yourself and others? What do you believe is right and wrong? Get in touch with your moral compass, and let that be a guide to how you live from here on out.

Leave room for fun: When you take out a negative (substance abuse, anxiety, depression) you’re left with a void unless you fill it with a positive! With our i360 clients, we explore fun and hobbies, helping them figure out who they are and what they love once that negative is removed from their lives. Don’t sit inside and isolate yourself from the rest of the world, get out there and become who you are intended to be! Sign up for photography class, take cooking lessons, join a small group at Church, learn to pay tennis, do something to get outside yourself – like volunteering…The options are endless.

Remain dedicated to the mission as you integrate back into life – give it everything you’ve got! Just remember that going away to inpatient treatment doesn’t equate to a quick fix. Yes, you will have the tools you need, but that doesn’t count until you can implement them in the midst of life. By staying accountable to a daily schedule, identifying a support network, focusing on wellness, exploring spirituality, and leaving room for fun, you will be setting yourself up to succeed in translating insights into behavior when you come home. Reach out to us at i360 as you plan to transition home so we can support you in that.

Written by Lauren Barnett, i360 Marketing Director


Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail

A fellow therapist and I spoke to a group of about 50 people at the Adolescent Symposium of Texas this past February on the topic of “Failure to Launch.” It’s a term I’m hesitant to use as a stand alone because usually the first thing that comes to mind is the movie with Matthew McConaughey as a 30+ year old living in his parent’s spare bedroom. There is a kernel of truth in the movie as far as painting the picture of what not launching looks like, but there are deeper common factors that prevent a person from gaining independence and embracing the fullness of adulthood. Unfortunately, the cure isn’t just a dating relationship.

The teacher who writes this article certainly gives a good perspective of what failure to launch looks like from the vantage point of a teacher. She sees the beginnings of what’s happening when the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders aren’t allowed to fail. The article describes overparenting as being “characterized as parents’ misguided attempt to improve their child’s current and future personal and academic success.” The overparented children are simply being set up to lack the emotional resources needed to get through the inevitable failures and setbacks later in life. They are not being allowed to fail and learn from their mistakes or experience the educational benefit that consequences provide.

As clinicians, we don’t expect you to let your child fall on their face repeatedly while you watch, but we also don’t expect you to place a pillow under them every time they might appear to be tripping. Neither of these extremes will lead to what we like to think of as a fully emerged adult. Extreme levels of parental protection can actually be quite counterproductive.  But no parent will ever be perfect, so I’ll go ahead and release you from that burden. I’d encourage you to read the article, reflect upon your parenting style, and see if you are one who justifies doing your child’s school work for them. Are you overly responsive to the perceived needs of your children, or are you giving them a chance to address their own problems? It’s not only math and science that children are learning in this stage of life, but also responsibility, consequences, independence, and foresight.

If you or a loved one have a child that meets the description for “failing to launch,” please contact Innovation360. We’d love to work with them toward establishing a healthy, productive, and structured lifestyle with failures and successes that will boost their confidence in regards to what the future may hold.

Written by Danielle Fermier, LPC

Article reference from The Atlantic, by JESSICA LAHEY 


What Are Your Blind Spots?

What Are Your Blind Spots?

I had a great response to my last blog, Blind Faith, where I detailed my adventures as a blind woman.  It led me to think about the fact that everyone has their own “blind spots” of one sort or another. There has actually been significant research conducted regarding this topic in the business world.   But in the therapy world, we usually call these blind spots “defenses,” and we believe that identifying them can be the key to helping someone improve their personal relationships.

According to author Claudia M. Shelton,  “blind spots” are patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that we often do unconsciously, potentially negatively influencing our relationships with others. As a counselor, I call these “blind spots” defenses. More simply, unconscious things we do that drive others crazy.  Blind Spots can become possible problems in our working processes and relationships, and if left unchecked, can become serious obstacles to our effectiveness and progress, especially in the way we relate to others.  Adolescents can easily point out the blind spots of both parents. Spouses know their partners’ blind spots intimately. What we may think people don’t notice about ourselves is usually common knowledge to those around us.

Some Truths About blind Spots

  • Every personal strength when overused has the potential of becoming a personal weakness.
  • Every personal weakness when developed has the potential to become a personal strength.
  • The environment we are in may influence seeing a personal characteristic as a strength or weakness.
  • Different people may regard what we believe are our strengths and weaknesses very differently from how we do.


How Does Being Unaware Hurt Us?

Being unaware of a blind spot is like carrying a time bomb. Others see our blind spot but back away when we give signals that we don’t want to hear about it. Some try to tell us that we’re doing something that bothers them, but we ignore it or become defensive. Sooner or later though, these blind spot defenses can harm relationships or prevent us from connecting well with friends, family, and co-workers.


What Are the Most Common Blind Spots?

  • Misused Strengths – These are strengths used too little or too much, or even used ineffectively. When I took a look at myself, I realized that some of my own core strengths could be interpreted in a negative way if I overuse them. For instance, in the work place, I often resort to humor as it comes natural to me. But if I overuse this gift, I risk colleagues perceiving me as someone who doesn’t take anything seriously. So I’m aware of how frequently I use humor, and when it’s the right setting.  I challenge you to peer into yourself…are you someone who is laid back and doesn’t get ruffled easily? Certainly that’d be a strength, as you are able to “brush it off” and not let little things alter your attitude. But do your friends view you as a doormat? Are you easily taken advantage of? Or maybe you are quite structured and organized? Great! But to the point that it’s hard for you to allow in creativity or incorporate in the ideas of others? Are people to nervous to ask you for help because they know you don’t like to alter from your daily routine and schedule?
  • Old Habits – This entails relying on behaviors that made you successful in the past that would no longer be effective. These are the most difficult to uncover because they are ways of thinking and acting that have become fixed and routine for you. Maybe you showed your love to your ex via acts of service – running their errands, taking out the trash, and ironing their clothes. But the new object of your affection just wants quality time with you and couldn’t care less about whether or not you did their laundry. Step back and evaluate what some of the engrained habits of yours might be. Maybe that route worked in the past for some time period; now you must reevaluate and alter the way you express your love, respond to your colleagues, treat your friends…whatever it might be.
  • Stress Expressed – How do we negatively express the stress we feel? How is our behavior under stress affecting others? Do you lack patience and thus snap at others quickly? If things are perfect, do we lash out? Maybe you notice that you start to speaker louder and faster when you are having a stressful day – does this make those around you anxious and not want to be in your presence? Possibly you become demanding and short tempered – and all of a sudden those around us seem more stressed. Do you act as if it’s a major interruption to your day if someone sparks up a conversation with you while you are trying to get work done? Do you tap your foot when waiting in line at the grocery store? I encourage you to reflect on how some of the things you do to manage stress may negatively affect others.
  • Unturned Radar – How do we misread other people, ignoring the non-verbal cues given and received? Are you a “close talker” – never noticing people slowly backing up as you talk to them? We’ve all had that phone conversation – the one we try and try politely to get hang up. The person on the other end just doesn’t take a hint. When you evaluate yourself, do you find there are areas in which it is more difficult for you to pick up on social cues? This can be a major turn off when relating to others. Try to be extra aware this week, what are some of the cues you might be missing?
  • Disconnection – How do we fail to communicate? Or communicate in ways that we don’t intend? What is your nonverbal language saying about your current mood? Is your sarcasm received well or are do people get offended? Do you think people can tell easily if you are not engaged or feel bored with the conversation? Are you slouched over and yawning? Try to be unbiased about the way you relate to others – for instance – when you are busy and rushed. What about the way you act towards strangers? Be conscious about how your mannerisms and nonverbal. Do you often imply ideas rather than just state them? Are you blunt or do you find it hard to express yourself? How do you think others perceive you and your energy?


Strategies for Identifying Blind Spots

  • Analyze yourself as if you were another person so you can depersonalize the process and be more objective.
  • Always start by analyzing your strengths; this gives you a positive outlook.
  • See your blind spots not as weaknesses but as behaviors that get in the way of fully using your strengths.
  • Gather information from others (close friends you can trust) about what they see as your strengths and blind spots.
  • Do not hesitate to ask people for information; the most confident people always ask for balanced feedback and constructive criticism.
  • Make it comfortable for people to share negative feedback with you.  Be grateful for their help.


Questions to Ponder

How do you define your greatest personal strength in your current work?  How might you overuse that strength in a way that it creates a blind spot that could limit your success? How do you typically act out your stress in the workplace or at home? If you identify blind spots that are creating challenges for you, consider reaching out to a therapist to help you sort through them and improve your personal and/or work relationships.

If you would like to explore your Blind Spots, go to http://www.whatsmyblindspot.com. You will be able to complete a survey and find out your Blind Spot Profile. I completed the survey and it was incredibly accurate.

Blog written by Pam Newton, LCDC


Overcoming Procrastination: The Art of Conquering Your To-Do List

Federal tax returns must be postmarked every year by April 15th.  Although Kathryn is acutely aware of this deadline, if she wasn’t, the Statue of Liberty mascots and inflatable advertising balloons various tax preparation services place on virtually every corner would, no doubt, alert her to the impending deadline.  It’s not that she doesn’t know when her taxes are due each year; it’s just that she detests doing them!  She has a full 365 days to gather her receipts, documents, and papers, and organize, itemize, and deliver them to the accountant in time to meet the 11:59 PM deadline on April 15th.  Nevertheless, every year Kathryn—and the rest of the people making the late-night run to the post office—waits until the absolute last minute to file her federal tax return.  What’s worse, she makes herself miserable in the process!  She stresses about doing her taxes for weeks preceding the deadline as she transfers the word “taxes” to each new day’s To Do list.  Kathryn feels guilty each weekend that passes without making any progress on her taxes.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Given that procrastination is a problem that effects so many of us, here are a few concrete strategies to help us tackle those issues we dread, just in time for tax season.

  1. Discover why you procrastinate – While there are many explanations for why we procrastinate, the three most common reasons are: fear of the task, dislike of the task, or lack of knowledge about how to perform the task.  Figuring out the reasoning behind our procrastination enables us to break the cycle and tackle the task head on.
  2. Figure out how to do the task, how to make it more enjoyable, or why you fear it. – For tasks you don’t know how to do, conduct a bit of research.  Do a web search, check out Youtube for a tutorial, or enlist the help of a friend, relative, neighbor, or professional with knowledge or expertise of the task.  For a task you know how to do but just don’t want to do, think of creative ways to make it more enjoyable, challenging, or interesting.  For example, create a feel-good environment by lighting candles, preparing a snack, and turning on music or your favorite TV program before sitting down to organize and file your receipts.  Challenge yourself by making a game of it or by setting a timer and seeing how fast you can get it done.  Estimate the amount of time you think something will take you and see if you can beat your own estimate.  For those tasks you avoid out of fear, make a list of what you fear about the task, what the worst possible outcome could be, and develop a plan of attack for those outcomes.  Then, make a note of the potential consequences for avoiding the task and not doing it.  Finally, anticipate how you will feel after completing the task and compare the lists.  Often, the result of not doing the task is much worse than whatever you fear about doing the task.
  3. Timing is everything – Break the project down into manageable sections and schedule a date and time for each step.  Sometimes, the first step will be to gather all the materials or tools required for the task.  Often, just getting organized and creating a clear vision of the steps for the task is enough to get you going.  If not, write out the steps in sequence and enter the deadlines for each step of the task in your agenda or your mobile phone’s calendar, and post reminders on sticky notes in prominent areas where you will constantly be reminded of the impending deadline.  If the task is one that requires focus and concentration, schedule it at the time of day when you are most alert and energetic.
  4. Be good to yourself – Make a list of things and activities you enjoy, places you want to visit, and friends with whom you enjoy spending time.  Assign one of these rewards to each step in the process of your task.  After gathering your receipts, for example, treat yourself to a coffee break, game of tennis, movie, relaxing bath, or phone call to a friend.  Reinforcing the desired behavior in this way will make it more likely you will tackle the next step in the process.
  5. Recruit an accountability partner – Enlist the help of a trusted friend, colleague, or family member.  Explain the task you have been putting off, the steps required to complete the task, your self-imposed deadlines, and the rewards you have outlined for each step completed.  Ask your accountability partner to either join you for a work session (sometimes, just the mere presence of someone—even if that person is working on something completely different—can generate productivity) or to call, text, or email you for progress updates.  Most of us would rather let ourselves down than another person, which makes this an incredibly powerful motivator!
  6. Develop routines and habits – Putting things off doesn’t make them go away, but getting things done does!  There are immediate benefits from tackling a task and completing it:  completion generates energy, makes us feel competent, and improves our mood.  Learning to implement habits by associating new behaviors with those that are part of our regular, daily routines is extremely beneficial and can prevent tasks from snowballing and getting out of hand.  For example, most of us remember to get our mail every day.  Therefore, if we link the activity of filing the day’s receipts to the activity of opening our mail, and do it every day immediately after opening the mail, we can very effectively make receipt filing a habit.  Taking 3 minutes every day to file a handful of receipts after opening the mail is far easier, less time consuming, and infinitely less daunting than waiting until a year’s worth of receipts has accumulated into a pile the size of Mt. Everest.
  7. We all procrastinate to some extent every now and then – For Kathryn, taxes are her nemesis, but what is it for you?  Take a few minutes to write out a plan for dealing with the task you are most prone to put off as long as possible.  Identify why you procrastinate, strategies for figuring out how to accomplish the task or how to make it more interesting, what steps are involved in the task and when you will complete each of the steps, how to reward yourself when you follow through with your plan, and who can help hold you accountable for sticking to the plan you’ve created.  Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!  So stop putting off until tomorrow what can be done today.  Tackle that To Do list and reward yourself along the way!

Accepting and Experiencing Freedom

If you are anything like me, you are probably juggling what feels like a million things between a full time job, school, family, and of course the to-do lists – – the ones that just grow longer each time you cross something else off. With all of the busyness in a day, it is easy to get put off by others who are having a bad day or making choices that affect you or to simply get overwhelmed with all that your day entails. At the end of the day don’t we wish that we could simply be free of negativity and the stress of a crazy schedule?  What I have truly learned in the last couple of years is that acceptance is the key to freedom.

On a daily basis we each have the opportunity to choose how the day will play out. Now don’t get me wrong, we all have bad days where things seem impossibly unfair; but in those same moments, we still have the choice to enjoy an outlook that allows us to have a good day despite the uncontrollable situations in life.

I know it’s much easier said than done. I am one who struggles with this every day. But I choose to refuse to let actions of others, (driver who cut me off, or the rude checkout lady at the store) take away the peace and joy that I otherwise get to experience during the day.  I promise, it gets easier each time that I choose to not get frustrated with the things that I cannot control. I can accept those things as “life” – sometimes life doesn’t play out the way we plan or as smoothly as we’d like it to – but the more I accept life as it presents itself to me each day, the more free I can be to experience peace and appreciation…and freedom from pessimism.

I dug deeper within myself while teaching my six year old this very lesson.

I challenged her to choose to have a good day even though she was not going to spend the night with her cousin. She was mad that the answer was no, so she refused to get out of the car to play on the playground as we had planned. I simply gave her two choices: stay in the car and choose to be mad, or get out and enjoy your day! She actually chose to stay in the car; she is very strong-minded, but it reminded me that I need to be sure I can exhibit the same behavior that I am asking of my six year old!

I enjoy knowing that I can still experience freedom and peace despite all the things that can rub you the wrong way during the day! You can too. Don’t let external forces dictate your feelings of happiness. Welcome things that push you out of your comfort zone and try to have a positive outlook despite how you feel or how others around you are acting. I promise it is rewarding in the end!

Written by Kayla Proffitt, Life Development Team at i360.