Susan McKeown is passionate about helping caregivers strengthen their relationships, especially couples who are in the throes of raising their family and trying to juggle all of life’s demands. To build a strong foundation for our families, she stresses the importance of self-care and the benefit it has on those you love. When parents and caregivers have support, resources, and coping skills, they can then show their children they care, communicate their expectations and stay connected- even through challenging times.
Susan joined us as a guest on The Power of Prevention podcast in an episode titled, ‘Strengthening Families: Exploring What it Takes to Build Happy Homes‘. She shares how we can make small changes in our daily lives to strengthen these connections with our family members.
Recently, I asked the family support group that we facilitate for adults who have a loved one living with substance use disorder to think about what they have found helpful at other times in their life when they faced a problem that had no quick solution. They came up with this list:
Make a plan to address one issue at a time.
When there is a big issue to tackle, Desmond Tutu referred to how to eat an elephant, “one bite at a time.” Some issues can seem overwhelming, even impossible, but if you break them down into smaller parts, things can become doable.
Be realistic about how much you can do to solve the problem.
It helps to remind ourselves that we cannot do all things alone. Asking for help can keep you moving forward.
Take action while knowing your limits.
Action does cure fear, so even taking a small step can make a difference.
Pray; turning it over to God or your higher power.
The Serenity Prayer a good reminder. “God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.” That last phrase is a kicker!
Believe that things can be different, even against the odds.
What you think is possible will make a difference in the choices you make and the actions you take. Focus on possibilities and a positive outcome.
One woman in our group shared an example of how making a plan helped her. She explained that her finances were a source of worry. She knew that she had to do something to lessen the stress. Her action plan involved creating an Excel spreadsheet. She laid out all the financial details on what money was coming in and going out. From that, she created a strategic plan to pay down her debt. She was thrilled to share that her proactive efforts gave her a clear picture of her financial reality that she could then work with, and a goal she could work toward. She felt a significant sense of relief and also a sense of control.
Exercise: Write down the issues that you are facing that might be draining your energy and need attention. Choose one and make a constructive plan about what you can do. Write it down. Then, take one action that will relieve some of the stress. Stick with your plan. Remember that action cures fear. Once you have done that, enjoy a sense of freedom and control. Then, go do something fun!
Susan is a graduate of St. Anselm College and Northeastern University’s Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program. She worked with families as a pediatric nurse practitioner for over forty years and is a Certified Prevention Specialist, educating and advocating on issues of mental health and substance misuse. Susan and her husband have presented workshops to over 4,000 engaged couples on issues that affect married life. In 2020, she earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Southern NH University.
Susan is an author and speaker promoting healthy relationships, strengthening marriage, and preventing divorce. Susan published her first book, Beyond the First Dance—A Guide for Couples to Think Beyond their Wedding Day, for those contemplating marriage. Her second book Beyond the Tango—A Guide for a Thriving Marriage while Juggling Careers, Kids, and Chaos is now available through independent bookstores, her website, and Amazon. She currently speaks to businesses to help employees balance the stress of home and work. Susan and her husband Patrick have raised four children and are blessed with two grandchildren.
The Power of Prevention podcast provides important information about preventing the misuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. Produced by The Partnership @drugfreeNH, each episode features some of the great work taking place in the Granite State in prevention.