When I was a child, school always let out the second week of June. Even though the Summer Solstice doesn’t occur until June 21, the last day of school was the official beginning of summer for us kids. Since the United States no longer follows the traditional agrarian calendar for school, and the weather here in California is definitely not on a traditional schedule, my internal seasonal clock has changed and I am much more attuned to the natural circadian rhythms of my body.
Every living organism has a biological clock composed of specific molecules. Nearly every tissue and organ has its own biological clock. A primary clock in our brains keeps all these secondary clocks in sync by channeling messages received by our senses, most notably, sight. This is why most people’s sleep cycles correspond to natural light and dark. We notice the effect of circadian rhythms on our sleep patterns. The brain controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy and serotonin, a hormone that moderates mood, digestion and healing. The brain clock receives information about incoming light from the optic nerves, which relay information from the eyes to the brain. When there is less light—for example, in the winter, when days are shorter— the brain makes more melatonin and less serotonin. We tend to sleep more and have less overall energy. The longer summer days provide more light, so we want to sleep less, eat less and play more.
As summer approaches, I am trying to adopt microchanges for well-being. One of these is to “follow the light.” I’m trying to set my alarm 5 minutes earlier each week, and use the extra time to incorporate more mindfulness, more meditation and more movement into my morning routine. In the evening, I am trying to begin my sleep rituals a little earlier as well. These small changes have definitely made an impact on my overall well-being. Here are a few microchanges you might try yourself:
- Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up. One glass of water increases energy and relieves fatigue. Our brains are mostly water, so drinking water helps us think, focus and concentrate better. Water improves our mood and our complexion and flushes out toxins!
- Add a “micro-meditation” to your morning. Take just five minutes to begin your morning with a “moment of mindfulness.” Meditation eases anxiety, reduces stress, fights inflammation and promotes overall emotional well-being.
- Set an intention for the day – in writing. When you set an intention in writing, it provides accountability and allows you to take control of your personal choices and life. Think about what you want to get out of the day – what kind of energy you want to attract. Ask yourself: What kind of person do I want to be today? What do I need to achieve today? What do I need to focus on to achieve my goals?
- Get outside! Try a ten-minute mindful walk. Inhale as you walk four steps. Exhale as you walk four steps. Over time, deepen your breaths and increase to six or eight steps.
- Eat one fruit or one vegetable at EVERY meal. This is easier than you think. Meal prep on Sundays and have small snack bags of blueberries, grapes, cuties or apple slices, as well as baby carrots, celery, broccoli or peppers portioned out and ready to go. I do the same with a variety of nuts, dried cranberries and a few chocolate chips for instant energy!
- Check in with friends or family. Text or call someone just to see how they’re doing. Practice listening actively and responding from the heart.
- Take 5 minutes in the evening to tidy up. Set a timer and play some music. One chore in the evening decreases a day of cleaning on the weekend!
- Unplug and power off an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by our electronics (phones, tablets, computers) can impact our body’s ability to produce melatonin and prevent sleep.
- Read a chapter a day. Before you know it, you’ll have flown through your entire summer reading list.
- Reflect on gratitude – in writing. Just as setting a daily intention allows us to focus on the attitudes and achievements for each day, reflecting on even one tiny thing we can be thankful for at the end of each day can help us relax and retune our thoughts before attempting sleep. I know on my most challenging days, the anxiety I carry definitely affects my sleep. I’m not saying you can forget everything that’s weighing on your mind, but try “reframing” your challenges as opportunities for growth, change or even to test your strength and resilience.
As always, I am grateful each and every day for our staff and resource families as well as those who support you as you do this challenging and life-changing work, and for the opportunities we have to make positive, significant and lasting change in the lives of those we care for.
Cher Ofstedahl, CEO
Cher leads our agency which serves over 200 children and families daily through residential therapeutic services, mental health programs, foster care and adoption services. Cher advocates for children in need after experiencing her own childhood trauma. Her firsthand experience gives her unique insight into our mission to help children and families create a better future. Cher has been with Trinity Youth Services for over 20 years In 2019, Cher completed her master’s degree in ethical leadership from Claremont Lincoln University. Cher currently serves on the Human Relations Committee for the City of Claremont to help oversee their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts, serves on the Policy and Practice Commission for the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), is on the Juvenile Justice Steering Committee for the California Alliance for Children & Families, is a Design Thinking Department Advisor at University of California, Riverside and serves on the board for the Association of Community Human Service Agencies (ACHSA). In 2018, she was recognized by Senator Anthony Portantino as Outstanding Nonprofit Executive Director and, in 2022, Cher was named Woman of Distinction by Assemblymember Chris Holden.
There are many memorable experiences that occur for social workers over their time serving in foster care. One such occurrence that comes up is when a biological parent is distressed with the removal of their child who is placed into the foster care system. There are many reasons this takes place including substance abuse, incarceration, mental illness or neglect of the child. Whatever the reason for the child’s removal, it is for their safety and in their best interest. This can be devastating, not only for the child, but also for the parent and biological family.
The purpose of foster care is to provide a temporary safe place until a permanent solution can be achieved through reunification with family, adoption, or emancipation. It is the hope and responsibility of foster care agencies and foster parents to ensure every opportunity for reunification is attempted. At Trinity Youth Services, we deeply hope and root for biological families to change the circumstances necessary to reunify children with their family. We look to foster parents to help by getting youth to and from visitation meetings with biological families, attending family meetings, and utilizing mental health and counseling services.
It is very important that all parties maintain respect and compassion for one another for the sake of the child. It is also important to understand what the birth parent is going through, listen to their feelings and remember they are deserving of respect and a chance to be reunited with their child if it is safe to do so. Until then, we make certain that biological parents know we do everything to ensure the safety and well-being of their child.
If reunification cannot be achieved, their parental rights will be terminated and the child will be available for adoption. Our goal is to provide the child with the best permanent solution as soon as possible so they may have a chance to heal from the trauma experienced in their life and find the normalcy they long for.
This process isn’t always easy and our social workers certainly have had to form a thick skin to effectively and compassionately communicate with upset birth parents, but this work is rewarding. We often hear from families long after a child has been in our care regarding their progress and how, ultimately, the experience changed their life for the better. Our reward is knowing a child is safe and leading a stable life. Years later, we get phone calls and letters of gratitude about our genuine concern for everyone involved. It’s stories like these that make it all worthwhile.
Jenelle Phillips, Director of Development
Jenelle’s role is to identify and access resources for youth in our care. She is also responsible for maintaining a distinctive look and voice for Trinity through our online presence, media and community outreach. Before joining the Trinity team in 2016, Jenelle worked in the newspaper/magazine industry for nearly a decade as an award-winning graphic designer, photographer, writer and editor. Jenelle earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at California State University Fullerton. Jenelle is very involved in the community and is active in her church.