Posts Tagged 'Lisa Edwards'

Starting the Semester with Intention and Positivity

This post originally appeared on Dr. Lisa Edward’s blog Hopeful Mama on July 9, 2018.

colorful-autumn-leaves-871286965014L8g8By Lisa Edwards

Yes, the Fall semester is upon us. Summer is over and despite all my best intentions to come up with a summer plan to be super productive, I don’t feel like I got enough work done. Now I need to quickly finalize my syllabus, attend college and department back-to-school meetings, and start responding to the emails about reference letters that have already begun to fill my inbox.

It would be easy at a time like this to become sour and start to dread the semester, especially because we know it can be intense. In some ways, semesters are like marathons, where you give more for 15 weeks than you probably ever would during a normal “run.”

If the semester is like a 15-week marathon, it seems like we should be psyching ourselves up with positive thoughts, rather than pessimism and negativity. No-one starts a marathon thinking “this is going to be so awful,” right? They probably think it will be hard, they’re up for the challenge, and they’re going to do their best.

​As I look ahead to my marathon of the Fall semester, I’m going to do all I can to start the race with a positive attitude. I’m not expecting that every day will be positive, or that I’ll be able to maintain my positivity through all of the challenges, but I want to at least have that as my starting point.


Below are some strategies for starting the semester off on the right foot:

Intentionality – Rather than watching the semester fly by like a kite being dragged by the wind, I’m going to be a little more intentional about my planning. First, I’m going to try and stop my work early (in other words, not when I’m already 10 minutes late for the daycare pickup), and “take stock” for a second. What priority tasks have to be accomplished the next day, and in what order should I tackle them when I arrive to the office? I’m also going to schedule a coffee or lunch meeting with a colleague every few weeks because I know that type of break will help me stay energized. And if I don’t put something on the calendar in advance, it will be November before I remember to even think about doing it!

Focus on Positive Colleagues and Conversation – I love venting as much as the next person, but I realize that after a while it can bring me down. Not to mention that I can also start to spread my own negativity and bring others down. My goal for this semester is to complain a little less, and to try and get extra time with those colleagues who lift me up (see Intentionality above).  I’m also going to adopt one of Dr. Christine Carter’s 19 ways to reduce workplace stressStop talking about how busy and stressed I am. Dr. Carter reminds us that the more we talk about being busy (even if it’s just in our head), the more we’re actually training our brains to believe we should be freaking out.

Mix Things Up – There are positive things I sometimes want to try but hold back from doing because they sound like they will be too complicated, take up too much time, or adjust the family routine in some challenging way. Ironically, it may be just those things that I need in my month or semester to stay positive. Exercising early one morning while my husband gets the kids ready, scheduling a monthly get-together for drinks with a friend, using that gift card I got three years ago for a massage, or trying a new craft or cooking class. Why not treat one of these like an experiment in my life, and see how it works? Will it be disruptive or time-consuming? Maybe. Will it help with my self-care? Maybe. I’m guessing I’ll really enjoy it and it will give me that burst of positivity I might need, but I won’t know until I try…

What will be your strategies for starting Fall with positivity? 


This article originally appeared on on 8/28/16.

The Privilege of Being a Mother of Children Who Look White

key-96233-1280By Lisa Edwards (re-posted from Dr. Edwards’ blog Hopeful Mama, this post was written prior to the tragic events that happened in Dallas. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this and any other acts of violence no matter where, when or how.)

Soon after I woke up this morning I read about the shooting of Philando Castille, and then I read updates about the shooting of Alton Sterling. Because I teach and do research about multicultural psychology, these stories of lost innocent lives and the complexity of race relations and discrimination in our country are not entirely surprising. But this morning I found myself contemplating the events in the context of being a mother.

I walked around the kitchen, preparing cereal bowls and lunches. Preparing my children for the day ahead, preparing clothes and combing hair. Our roles as mothers always involve preparation. The one area that I never have to prepare my kids for, though, is how to exist in this world as a visible ethnic minority.

To give you a little background, my mother is Latina and my father is White. I identify as being of mixed ethnicity and have spent a good deal of time exploring my privilege associated with that identity and the way I look. While my children have South American family members and they feel connected to their Latino ancestry, they look 100% White and are always identified as White.

So today I’ve been struck by the privileges of being a mother of children who look White. These are unearned privileges, because I didn’t do anything to get them. Yes, I am a hard-working mother. Yes, parenting is not easy and we have challenges as a family. And yes, there are obstacles in life for my daughters because they are girls. This is all true, but I still have unearned advantages that others do not have.

As I try to wrap my head around this idea I think back to one of the most powerful essays about White Privilege by Peggy McIntosh, in which she describes a list of advantages she has because she is White. She notes everything from being able to shop in a store without being followed, to finding a band-aid that matches her skin tone. I realize that my own set of privileges related to parenting are similar, but also unique in some ways. Because parenting and the protection and positive development of my children is so fundamental to my life, all of these privileges have profound benefits.

Below are just a few of the daily advantages I have as a mother of children who look White:

*I have confidence that teachers and professionals are interacting with my children without bias.

*If my children get in trouble in public, I know they will not be seen as bad examples of their race.

*I can find toys and books that have characters who look like my children.

*If a concern emerges at school or daycare about my child, I can feel confident that the teacher has not magnified the issue because of my child’s race.

*I can be confident that my children will learn about role models, public figures, and accomplished professionals in the world who look like them.

*I can let my children wear whatever they want, even clothing that is trendy.

*I can feel confident that if my child is not invited to another child’s birthday party it is not because of their race.

*I can be sure that the world will have high expectations for my children.

*I can write a blog entry like this without people accusing me of trying to “play the race card.”

There are so many other privileges I have, but this one is perhaps the most poignant to me today:

*I can hear news about shootings of innocent teens like Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice without feeling like I could lose my children one day in the same way.

This post is dedicated to the mothers.

A Season for Self-Care

6808412351_d8928f0240By Dr. Lisa Edwards – “It’s that time of year!” I’ve been hearing this a lot recently from colleagues, students, and friends, and I’ve been saying it myself. There seems to be a certain level of stress in the air, an energy that you can almost feel as you walk around campus or enter a school or mental health center. There are piles of work to get done, coupled with unexpected situations and crises that have to be addressed. And in the midst of it all, each of us is trying to manage our own professional and personal lives, while avoiding the latest cold or flu. Perhaps it’s the time of semester, the change in weather, or the holidays. Either way, it can be a lot to manage.

It would be easy during this time of year to push ahead and sacrifice sleep, balanced meals and exercise to get everything off the to-do list. We could spend our moments complaining about how busy things are and day-dreaming about a more calm time. I admit that I sometimes do this—my mind will wander as I imagine a day off from work (and kids) where I can sip hot chocolate, do some baking and reading, and take a few naps.

The reality is, however, that I won’t have an entire day like this. Dreaming of this just makes me frustrated, and then I find myself complaining. So, what’s a more productive way for us to approach the season rather than working to the point of exhaustion or living in a fantasy world? Slowing down and taking the time to periodically nourish our bodies and minds.

It’s exactly in these busy times, when it feels like we can’t possibly squeeze in another minute or activity that we have to make time for self-care. Research would suggest that when we take the moments to step away from work and engage in self-care, we can actually be more productive. The consequences of not attending to self-care, of course, are that we can become sick, overwhelmed, irritable and even burned out. At that point, we surely won’t be able to accomplish anything on our to-do lists!

Below are some basic self-care strategies that are easy, brief, and that you can implement today (or even right now!):

Take 5. Try taking a walk (outside, or up and down the stairs), or doing some basic stretches to get your body moving at different points during the day. Also consider trying a short guided meditation. Sitting in silence can be challenging if you don’t already have a regular meditation practice, so guided meditations are great for helping us through the process. Some of my favorite meditations (options range from 3 to 20 minutes, about different topics) can be found at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center website:

Turn off the technology as early as possible. We all have grand plans to go to bed early, but then one activity leads to another, and another, and suddenly we are faced with getting less than an ideal amount of sleep. Research suggests that sleep is critical for our bodies for a variety of reasons, and a recent study even demonstrated that adults who were infected with a cold virus were less likely to develop the cold if they slept at least 7 hours per night. So let’s promise to turn off our phones/ iPads/ TV’s/ computers at a certain point in the evening and head to bed for some quality zzzz’s.

Pace yourself. There will be a lot of food temptations this season, many of which will be replete with the very ingredients that we know will zap our energy and increase inflammation in our bodies. Just because the cookies are there in front of us in the lounge doesn’t mean we have to take them every time. But, it can also feel discouraging to constantly deprive ourselves of a treat. Perhaps a little balance is more helpful. We can pace ourselves by having healthy breakfasts and lunches (think adding more whole fruits and vegetables) if we know we are going to indulge in treats later.

Extend compassion to others, and yourself. There are times when it’s important to hold others, and ourselves, to a certain standard or expectation. Sometimes, however, we can ease off a bit without sacrificing what we need. If a certain relative doesn’t pitch in during the holidays, cut them some slack. If a friend doesn’t seem to be as attentive this time of year, let it go. We’re all just trying to get through these busy times, so let’s be patient with one another. Most importantly, extend that same compassion to yourself. So you didn’t get to bake something for a party, or you didn’t accomplish everything on your list—oh well! None of us is perfect, and life will go on.

What self-care strategies do you do this time of year?

A Note on the Author: Lisa M. Edwards is an associate professor in the Department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology. Her blog,, is dedicated to sharing mommy-inspired and science-informed strategies for cultivating strengths.

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