Amid back-to-school and fall stress, a Lehigh Valley therapist offers tips to regain a life balance

Written by on September 5, 2022

Amid back-to-school and fall stress, a Lehigh Valley therapist offers tips to regain a life balance

By Brittany Sweeney
September 5, 2022

During the stressful time of back to-school and autumn, a Lehigh Valley therapist offers tips to regain balance.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – In the busy time that autum and back to school brings, being stressed or burned out are feelings Darlene Valentin, a single mother of four, knows all too well.

“It is a little stressful at times, but I try my best to just, you know, take a breath,” Valentin, of Bethlehem, said recently while playing in the sandbox with her youngest child at Rodale Cycling and Fitness Park in Breinigsville.

“I try to take my 2-year-old outdoors to get some air. That gives me a little bit of sanity and some quality time for myself. Just get a minute and just breathe.”

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That’s exactly what people should do if they are feeling out of balance, said Shonda Moralis, a psychotherapist, women’s empowerment coach and author practicing in Kutztown.

Morales recently released a new book called “Don’t Forget to Breathe: Five Minute Mindfulness for Busy Women.”

It’s about creating life balance.

“I define life balance as a gentle, ongoing recalibration of life’s priorities as we move through the seasons of our lives,” Moralis said.

“If we can be proactive and prevent burnout from even getting close, that’s wonderful. Of course, if we’re already in burnout, then we can pull ourselves back slowly.

“Paying attention to life balance on an ongoing basis helps us be proactive and take these small action steps so that we don’t reach burnout,” she said.

Breath of fresh air

Moralis said her advice is, “you can practice something as simple as an oxygen-mindful break, which is stepping outside for just a few minutes every day, taking a few deep breaths of fresh air, looking around using your senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel?

“And research shows that this can really benefit us emotionally, physically, mentally, and what’s interesting is if we can’t even get outside, just by looking at a photo or an image of nature has similar benefits.”

Elora Feliz, of Bethlehem, also was at the Rodale park sandbox with her 2-year-old.

“At any moment, you could get out of balance, whether it’s like your kid wakes up at the wrong mood, or, you know, you wake up tired,” Feliz said.

She said parents need to put themselves first, to set a good example for their kids.

“It’s important for moms to take care of themselves, mainly because you’re a prime example for your kids,” Feliz said. “If you lack balance, if that happens, it gets into your kid’s life and they lack it, too.”

Another tip Moralis said will help to bring some calm to a person’s life is using pie charts.

“A simple exercise is taking a piece of paper and drawing two circles next to each other and the first is our current pie and the next is our ideal pie and it’s how our life priorities are divided up,” she said.

“So we have work, we have family, hobbies, self care, whatever else is in there, and then we draw how it is now our current pie, and then our ideal pie,” she said. “And so try not to think about how you’re going to get to your ideal pie, just sort of go for it.”

She said then ask yourself “what is one small action step that will take me from my current pie to my ideal pie without getting so overwhelmed?”

Help to stay focused

Moralis said those practices can not only help when parenting, but can help people stay focused in the workplace.

“What we know is when we’re in fight-or-flight, when we’re overwhelmed, when we’re stressed, our brain is not functioning as efficiently as it can,” she said.

“And so the more calm-ish we are, the more we can access that part of our brain that is efficient with creativity and innovation and being able to step back and see the big picture.”

She said another important aspect of creating a life balance is making time for play.

The psychotherapist said that can include getting outside, being creative and picking up a paintbrush, or putting on music and dancing.

One of the moms at the park, Feliz, is studying cosmetology and said she incorporates that into her calming routine.

“I do self care with my son,” she said. “You know, we do like conditioning treatments and facial stuff and that’s what I do for my self care.”

“When we’re running on automatic pilot, we’re feeling more overwhelmed and we don’t know how to access this. We’re calming down fight-or-flight and we are calming down our body,” Moralis said.

“So that’s a very simple way, which sounds almost too simplistic, but it really does make a difference.”

As a mom of two, Moralis wants parents to stop and reflect on what they have already accomplished.

“What I really learned and teach to moms is that good enough is great. So we are so hard on ourselves, we want to do it well with this parenting thing, because it matters so much.

“But really, good enough is really what our kids need, and if we can give ourselves a little bit of grace and a little bit of leeway, they’re going to do just fine.”

Moralis invites people to take her “five minutes to better life balance challenge”. It’s a seven-day, free mini-meditation challenge on her website: shondamoralis.net.

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