With more than 30 years experience as a licensed psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Atkins conducts seminars, workshops, lectures, and panel discussions on a broad range of topics within each of the following core areas:
Living a Balanced Life
When our responsibilities and our feelings of control over them are about equal, we feel that our life is in balance. We may have a lot to do, but we manage and we feel good about what we have accomplished and what is yet to be done. A life in balance may not be balanced at every moment of every day. Appreciating and being mindful of our own health and well-being (body, mind, and spiritual connection); and of supportive friends and family with whom we are authentic are critical. Other fundamental elements include being in nature and creating a peaceful place for ourselves, keeping our brains active, living a life with purpose and passion, and savoring moments and opportunities to have fun, to rest, to marvel.
Living a life of gratitude allows us to be aware of the positive things in our lives. Each of life’s experiences provides us the opportunity to discover our own resilience. We can easily overlook the benefits of gratitude in the face of difficulties. Gratitude encourages us to see things from a different perspective; deepening the meaning of and reinforcing our core values. Developing an attitude of gratitude can help us through the most demanding challenges, enhancing our lives immeasurably.
Transitions are part of life. Some of us are better than others at adapting to "letting go" of what went before and "embracing" what lies ahead. During transitions we can feel adrift; distant from that which is familiar, resistant to exploring new opportunities. But it is during transitions that we have the chance for self-reflection; development of our inner strengths and coping strategies as we consider how we will live our life. As challenging as transitions are, whether from a loss such as death, divorce, job, home, health or from a joy such as a new partnership, child, home, friendship, we need to find a way to adapt, and thereby embrace the new.
It is a worthwhile challenge to develop and promote compassion and tolerance in a world where we are "bumping up" against people from different cultures, countries, backgrounds; or who look, speak, and act differently from us. We need to honestly examine our attitudes, beliefs, fears, and how what we say with our words and our bodies reflects our thoughts and feelings. How and where did we get the attitudes we hold dear? What role do stereotypes play? There are countless ways to participate in a dialogue that can make our community and our world safer and better places. By engaging in self-reflection, we can have a clearer understanding of how we and others respond to expressions of bigotry or hatred of anyone because of race, religion, background, physical or mental ability, or sexual orientation.
Nothing challenges us as much as parenting. It is one of the most dynamic, interactive relationships there is because we can feel self-assured one minute and doubting the next. We may be raising young children or a child who has special needs, focusing on an adult child, an in-law child, or caring for our grandchildren. With love, respect, gratitude and an open heart, we do our best, in the multifaceted roles of shepherd, guide, teacher, helper, protector, provider, and cheerleader. It gives us the chance to get to know ourselves, grow, and learn.
In great part, having healthy relationships is about managing expectations: our own and another person’s. Since most of us are involved in multiple relationships (family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances) it is essential to realize that we cannot change another person. We can, however, change our attitude and behavior. Relationships have a good chance of becoming and remaining healthy when we respect, support, appreciate one another and express those feelings. Specifically, relationships thrive and can be fulfilling and satisfying when we have fun and grow together, enjoy a sense of humor and keep perspective, are active listeners, take responsibility for our actions, understand the value of compromise, trust, fairness, forgiveness, and know the value of apologizing.
Happiness is a composite of many factors and each of us has our own composition. Happy people feel their lives are in balance. When there are positive, close, trusting relationships with family and friends, a feeling that our life has meaning, and believing that there is something bigger than ourselves(which can manifest in a spiritual connection), we can experience happiness. It is often about acceptance. Additionally, when we incorporate appreciation and gratitude for what we have, when our life goals reflect our values as well as draw on our personal strengths and abilities to face challenges, and we have opportunities for creative thought and expression, we are more likely to be happy.
When we have more to do than we feel we can do or we feel a lack of control, we feel stressed. There is stress that is motivating and is healthy and stress that depletes our resources and is unhealthy. Poorly managed stress can increase our susceptibility to illness and negatively affect our interactions with others and our outlook on life. We all react differently to stress, depending on our experiences, personalities, and coping strategies. We need to recognize the kind of stress we have, how our attitude affects our thinking and behavior, and our own personal warning signs. Each of us can live a life that incorporates healthy “stress busters” and prevent the disabling effects of unmanaged stress.
Caregivers can derive great satisfaction and personal fulfillment from caring for a loved one who is now unable to care for him or herself. Yet, many of us who care for another person with a chronic illness, disability, disease, or other condition, whether at home or from afar, run the risk of “burning out”. If all of our time, energy, and attention are focused on the stress of caring for that person we may only think of our role as a burden, duty, obligation or chore. When we are actively mindful of maintaining our own emotional, mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being, we can allow joy, appreciation, growth, and acceptance to enhance our experience, thereby maintaining a balance between satisfaction and hardship.
As we age, we often become concerned with over-all mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual changes that affect our health and well-being. Healthy agers are aware of time but don’t seem to focus on it in a negative way as they come to terms with the life they have lived, integrating all experiences, and giving back to society in some way. They focus on what is really important such as meaningful work and / or volunteerism; creating and maintaining healthy relationships; being emotionally and physically centered, intellectually engaged, and having a sense of purpose in life. Most healthy agers are open to experiences, willing to try things, and meet people as they adapt to changes that occur to their minds, bodies, and life circumstances, with positive resilience.
Raising Charitable Children
Encouraging children to become charitable is easier than most people believe. By examining our own beliefs and habits related to charity, concern, and obligation, we are better able to encourage our children to be aware of their place in the world where others function within a different life circumstance. By creating safe environments for children and adults to explore attitudes, and connection to others, children of all ages can develop an altruistic awareness and approach to the world beyond their own. Through a focus on empathy and service, by modeling, practice, and encouraging conversation and involvement, children will begin to appreciate how they can be a force for change.
Bullying is a problem that is threatening all of us as a collective society; children, adults in the workplace, and many of us in our communities. When we understand the social and political environment that allows bullying to occur, our reaction to it, and whether or not we feel a need to act, we are better able to address covert as well as overt expressions of bullying. One of the biggest problems with bullying is silence. Moving from being a bystander to an ally is an important shift to combat bullying and injustice. Bullies are allowed to function because people from all walks of life allow it. Others "feed" it. Each of us can say, "Enough."