Social Wellness for Your Health

By Natalie Clark

Tracey Bratton, LSCW

Social wellness is about making healthy connections and developing healthy relationships. According to an article at the University of California, Davis at Student Health and Counseling page,

“social wellness” refers to the relationships we have and how we interact with others. Our relationships can offer support during difficult times. Social wellness involves building healthy, nurturing and supportive relationships as well as fostering a genuine connection with those around you.”

Humans are social creatures. We were created to interact with and support each other. Scientific studies have shown that our connections to others can protect overall health and can contribute to longer life spans.

Are you finding your social calendar to be a bit underwhelming? This is a great time to focus more on developing healthier social habits. Developing healthy social habits can assist you in improving your support network, and can contribute to overall health and well-being.

If socializing is difficult for you, you’ll find some tips below to assist you in improving your social wellness:

  • Find new avenues for making social connections
    • Join a group that focuses on a hobby you’re interested in
    • Take a community education course
    • Volunteer
  • If you’re a caregiver, take care of yourself as you care for others
    • Make sure to reach out to others and let them know you need help
    • Make to-do lists and delegate tasks to others that you don’t your personal attention
    • Keep yourself nourished, hydrated, well-rested, and be sure to exercise
  • Improve your physical health as you improve social connections
    • Start a walking group with friends
    • Try new physical activities
    • Join a yoga or Tai chi class
  • Shape your family’s health habits
    • Be a role model
    • Make healthy activities fun
    • Offer healthier activity and nutrition options
  • Bond with family members
    • Praise children for healthy/good behaviors
    • Perform random acts of kindness for and with family members
    • Find things that you can enjoy together
    • Interview an elderly family member about his/her history
  • Build healthy relationships
    • Set healthy boundaries
    • Be open and honest about your emotions
    • Be a compassionate and non-judgmental listener
    • Treat others how you want to be treated and expect the same in return

Remember, we are social creatures and we need each other. We all need to find ways to strengthen our support systems. Improve your social wellness and you will improve your overall health and well-being while adding years to your lifespan.


Author Unknown. (N.D.). Social wellness. University of California, Davis at Student Health and Counseling. Retrieved from:

Fitness for Mind and Body

By Natalie Clark

Do You Focus on Fitness #4Mind4Body?

Mental health is essential to overall health and well-being. Mental illnesses are common and treatable. Much of what we do physically, impacts us mentally, so it’s important to pay attention to your physical and mental health.

May is Mental Health Month, and the Laurence E. Schmidt Family Resource Center, a program of Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Family Services, is kicking off “Fitness #4Mind4Body” to raise awareness about the important connection between physical and mental health.

A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the onset or worsening of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. It can also play a big role in recovering from these conditions. Taking good care of your body is part of a preventative approach to mental health.

Here are four key areas to consider: 
Exercise. Getting the appropriate amount of exercise can help control weight, improve mental health, and help you live longer and healthier. 
Nutrition. Recent research is also connecting your nutrition and gut health with your mental health. 
Sleep. Rest plays a critical role in all aspects of our life and overall health. Getting a good night’s sleep is important tohaving enough physical and mental energy to take on daily responsibilities. 
Stress Management. We all know that stress can have a huge impact on all aspects of our health, so it’s important to take time to focus on stress-reducing activities like meditation or yoga.

The Schmidt Family Resource Center wants everyone to know that mental illnesses are real and recovery is always the goal. Living a healthy lifestyle may not be easy, but by looking at your overall health every day – both physically and mentally – you can go a long way to ensuring that you have Fitness #4Mind4Body.

Please join us on the VLPFS campus for a Mental Health Fair on May 23rd for FREE screenings, to help raise awareness and learn more about the mind-body connection.

For more information, visit or call the Schmidt Family Resource Center at 870-367-9035.

Why self-care is important

By Natalie Clark

Is making time for self-care being selfish? 

Tracey Bratton, LCSW

I can answer this question in one simple word, “NO!” Taking care of yourself is not about being selfish. As a matter of fact, it’s actually quite the contrary. If you’re practicing routine self-care, you’re preparing and enabling yourself to continue nurturing others.

If you’re an empathetic, caring, loving, nurturing human being, you need to seek ways to find balance in your life. Caregivers and nurturers give so much of themselves, mentally, physically, & emotionally, that they forget to care for themselves, or may even believe that caring for themselves is selfish. If this is the case, this can lead to feelings of guilt and low self-worth. If my intuition is guiding me correctly, I would say that, if you’re reading this, you fall into one of these categories: caregiver, nurturer, empath, and may even be in a profession that you were called to do because of these amazing qualities you possess.

Having these qualities, you may excel in helping others, but you also may carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’re like an emotional sponge absorbing all the emotions, moods, and energy around you. Unfortunately, you absorb the negative with the positive. Since you take on so much of others, YOU get lost in the mix. This is why practicing self-care is so important. In order to continue caring & nurturing, you MUST find balance, and once you find it, you MUST maintain it. I don’t often use words like “should” and “must,” because it can lead to negative thinking, but I take exception in the case of self-care.

If you lose yourself in caring for others, you’ll burn out quickly & thoroughly. The negativity that you take on will take a toll on your mind, body, and soul. You’ll become stressed out, depressed, and fatigued. Your immune system will take a wallop, and you won’t be able to bounce back. You’ll become imbalanced & unfocused. You may already be at this point.

Practicing self-care is not about being selfish, it’s actually a way of ensuring you can continue your journey in helping others. Self-care can not only assist you in achieving balance but is at the core of finding and maintaining balance in your life.

You’re probably wondering, “How can I prevent this from happening?” or “How can I crawl out of this steaming, smelly heap of negativity I’m already in?”

The answer is fairly simple: GOOD SELF-CARE. Repeat after me, “I need to take care of myself. I need to take care of myself. I need to take care of myself.” You’ve taken such good care of others but may not know where to begin in taking care of yourself. That’s why I created this list of tips below. Once you get started, you’ll be able to identify your own list of self-care activities.

Unselfish Self-care Tips:

  • eat nutritious foods
  • drink plenty of water
  • avoid sugar
  • moderate caffeine intake
  • physical activity
  • dance, dance, dance
  • listen to uplifting and/or relaxing music
  • take a leisurely stroll
  • enjoy nature
  • take photos
  • look at photos
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • buy something for yourself, however small
  • eat a piece of chocolate
  • play with your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, friend’s child
  • treat yourself to a manicure, pedicure, massage, or all three, or DIY
  • read an inspiring book, story, or article
  • write yourself positive affirmations to read when you’re stressed or down
  • write yourself an uplifting letter, as if you’re writing to your best friend
  • enjoy the company of a pet
  • go window shopping
  • do an internet search for “self-care activities”
  • watch videos of babies or animals
  • watch a comedy
  • bake cookies/brownies & share with a neighbor
  • take a long, warm bubble bath
  • get a check-up with your doctor/eye doctor/dentist
  • take your meds as directed by your doctor
  • look in the mirror every day & find 3 things you love about yourself, then tell yourself
  • learn a new skill
  • find a hobby, or restart a past hobby
  • talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend, not your enemy
  • get to know yourself
  • recognize & use the talents you’ve been blessed with

Add to this list once you’re able to recognize how self-care works. It’s not about extravagance or selfishness. Self-care can be simple & inclusive of whatever nurtures your mind, body, and soul. Keep your light shining brightly by practicing routine self-care.

How to Help Your Child Through a Tragedy

By Natalie Clark

How to help your child through a tragedy

Tracey Bratton, LCSW

School shootings have become a major worry for children and youth across the nation. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your child to help him/her feel safe and secure when tragedy strikes. They look to you for this felt safety already, and it becomes even more important at these uncertain times. 

Here are a few tips for staying connected with your child through traumatic events:

  • Open, honest, age-appropriate communication
    • Talk at key times –during commuting, dinner or at bedtime
    • Ask them how they are dealing with the news –don’t wait on them to talk about it
    • When they’re communicating their feelings. thoughts, concerns, etc., actively listen without interrupting
    • Validate and normalize their feelings
    • If they have misinformation, gently, but honestly correct them
    • Console them with a hug and let them know they are safe
  • Ensure your child feels safe
    • Make sure home is a safe haven and a comfort to your child
  • Watch your child for changes in mood and/or behaviors
    • Fear, anxiety, grief, increased stress
    • Changes in appetite and/or sleep, nightmares
    • Difficulty concentrating on school/homework
  • Ensure your child is not over-exposing himself/herself with news reports, internet searches, etc. about the traumatic event
  • Model self-care for your child
    • To take care of your child, you will need to take good care of yourself
    • Keep routine schedules
    • Make time for exercise and fun family activities

These are just a few tips for helping your child through a traumatic event. If you or your child feel stuck, reach out to your support system and talk to a close friend, relative, or pastor. If you’re overwhelmed and your daily routine is disrupted, it may be a good idea to consult with a mental health professional.

Christmas 2017

By Kathy French

Thank you for sharing your light!

Have you ever complained about the chaos of Christmas and been secretly (or not so secretly) relieved when it’s over?  In the mad rush to celebrate and decorate, shop and visit, sometimes we lose the meaning.

Here at Vera Lloyd, the music, the decorations, the gifts, the parties…it’s all precious because we’re creating happy memories and teaching our boys and girls the true meaning of love and family.

The boys and girls at Vera Lloyd are working to heal from the pain of abuse, neglect, abandonment or adjudication.  Not only are they dealing with painful backgrounds, but they are trying to find a new normal during what is supposed to be the happiest time of year.  Your gifts share a ray of hope in their darkness, and tell them that they are valued and not alone.

Please enjoy a quick snapshot into one of our Monticello homes this holiday season…

Trimble Home shares abundance.

On December 22nd, Joe came to live at Trimble House.  The house was decorated and scents of cookies and candy filled the air, but the chaos of life left him little anticipation for what he would find on Christmas morning.  When asked what he would like to receive, his only requests were a soccer ball and a watch for his sister.                

On Christmas Eve, after all the boys had gone to bed, Michael and Melissa Brock, Trimbles’ house parents, had much to prepare. Mrs. Brock began cooking at 4am including peeling 15 pounds of mashed potatoes!  Gifts were arranged with care, and Joe awoke to find so much more than a soccer ball.

In fact, Mrs. Brock shared that Joe was shocked at the number of gifts under the tree with his name on them.  Over and over Joe asked if these presents were really for him.He was overcome with emotion and started to cry.  Long after all the other boys had finished, Joe was still reeling.Mrs. Brock sat beside him on the floor, and encouraged him until he finally finished unwrapping his gifts.  Later, they shared a traditional Christmas lunch with all the trimmings.  The youth ate all the mashed potatoes, and also enjoyed ham, chicken and dressing, sweet potato casserole, fruit salad and pecan pie.

On December 27th, the fun continued with a trip to Little Rock to go shopping.  The boys visited Westover Hills Presbyterian church, and had lunch and fun in the church gym.As the season came to an end, Joe echoed the sentiments of many in the house…this was the best Christmas they had ever had.  For some it was the first ‘real’ Christmas they had ever experienced…

You might be surprised when you hear how much upheaval the children who come to Vera Lloyd face before they walk through our doors.  This year alone, there were six children admitted to our care in the week before Christmas.Our team works diligently to transform their chaos into peace and hope.  For those who chose to donate gift cards: please know that this is one way we are able to ensure that every child enjoys gifts from their lists under the tree.  For kids, who have come to expect so little from life, to ask and receive, is more powerful than many of us can imagine.

From all of us at Vera Lloyd, we hope you had a wonderful Christmas.We also pray that these stories inspire you to see the difference you make, and that you continue to experience the joy, beauty, and meaning of the Christmas in this New Year.

Your Light and Generosity shine into the darkness to shine Christ’s healing love.

Thank you for sharing the true meaning of the season with boys and girls at Vera Lloyd.

Summer at Vera Lloyd

By Natalie Clark

Vera Lloyd youth are already back in school, but thanks to you they had a great summer! We are grateful for the support of many foundations, churches and donors. Trinity Presbyterian Church and Holmes Chapel Presbyterian Church hosted pool parties and cookouts during the summer for boys and girls at Vera Lloyd. Youth also learned how to play the drums because of a grant from Arkansas Arts Council.

Vera Lloyd youth were able to participate in a summer enrichment program thanks to the Riggs Benevolent Fund. Vera Lloyd contracted with teachers from the Monticello School District. This was an eight-week enrichment program that exposed students to the culture, language, crafts and foods of Japan, Peru, England, Swaziland, Romania, Mexico, Hawaii and Madagascar.

A grant from Blue & You for a Healthier Arkansas funded nutrition and cooking classes for our youth. Vera Lloyd contracted with a registered dietician to teach youth about things such as healthy fats and whole grains. Youth used this knowledge in their cooking classes to make things such as quesadillas, fruit salsa and guacamole. One youth said she had never even tried guacamole before! This grant from Blue & You also funded the “Beauty and the Beast” program for girls on our campus. They learned about confidence, manners and self-image during the program. Thank you to our incredible supporters for making this summer possible for boys and girls at Vera Lloyd.

We are proud of Vera Lloyd youth!

By Natalie Clark

It’s the middle of May and we are getting closer to summer and the end of school. For four boys at Vera Lloyd, Ramon, Rian, John and Jerry, that means graduating from high school. In the United States, about 50% of youth in the foster care system graduate high school by the time they are 18. For children not living in the foster care system, the graduation rate is much higher–82%.

Vera Lloyd recently hosted a celebration for these boys who reached this major milestone. On our Monticello campus, staff threw a graduation party with cookies, cake and plenty of 2017 graduation decorations. The four young men will soon walk across the stage and accept their diploma from Monticello High School.

With help from our Transition Services Coordinator Tiara Miller, they are ready for their next steps after high school.

  • Ramon wants to move to Michigan, where he has family. He is considering enrolling at the University of Arkansas at Monticello to complete his first year of college. He wants to earn a degree in criminal justice and have a career as a probation officer.
  • Rian is considering the military or UAM.
  • John is working for the City of Monticello this summer and will enroll at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock this fall. He wants to earn a criminal justice degree and aspires to open his own private investigation firm.
  • Jerry plans to move back to northwest Arkansas and work in automotive repair with other family members.

We are excited for what the future has in store for these Vera Lloyd youth!

We are Family!

By Natalie Clark

Family is one of Vera Lloyd’s core values. The definition of Family has certainly evolved over the years. A modern description is two or more people who share goals and values and have long term commitments to one another.At Vera Lloyd, we use the word Family often. Our youth live in Family-style homes with house parents and their children. We hear time and time again from Vera Lloyd current and former residents that we are their Family. We’ve had former residents marry on our campus, host their children’s birthday parties on our campus and visit regularly to tell our staff about their lives—the peaks and the valleys.In addition to Vera Lloyd’s youth living in Family-style homes and viewing our staff as Family, our staff often refer to each other as Family. You’ve heard, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and our staff often come together as a Family to determine how best to meet the needs of our youth. Our staff Family works diligently to provide healing to our youth who have experienced trauma in their biological families.You may remember the 1979 Sister Sledge song “We Are Family.” My favorite line from that song is: “High hopes we have for the future and our goals in sight.”At Vera Lloyd, we definitely have high hopes and goals for the future of the youth we serve. We are Family. Blessings to you and your Family,Donna Mahurin


​ Thank you for being our angels this year!

By Melissa Hendricks

Christmas at Vera Lloyd

Because of you, boys and girls at Vera Lloyd this holiday season experienced the gift of your generosity and love. Thank you for purchasing gifts for children who are healing from abuse, neglect, abandonment and adjudication while they live at Vera Lloyd’s children’s home in Monticello. Let me tell you a little about Christmas Day at the Barton Home for girls and the Trimble Home for boys, two of the five homes for youth at Vera Lloyd.

Barton Home for girls in foster care 

Clare and Deverick Franklin, house parents, and the eight girls at Barton Home decorated for Christmas weeks ago. The girls received a small gift for each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, they shared hot chocolate and opened one gift before heading to bed.

On Christmas Day, the girls woke up about 7 a.m., came downstairs for hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls and gathered—excited—around the Christmas tree to open gifts. They stayed in their pajamas for the morning festivities. 

They were thrilled to open gifts of clothes, shoes, gift cards, make-up kits and more. They attended church with their house parents. After church, Clare and Deverick prepared steak and potatoes at the girls’ request. They ended the day watching Christmas movies together. 

The girls traveled to Little Rock after Christmas to have lunch at Chili’s and spend gift cards at Park Plaza. 

Trimble Home for boys in foster care 

Brandon and Wendy Williams, house parents, said the boys’ wish lists were all fulfilled. “The boys had a great time and were thrilled to receive gifts they really wanted and needed,” Wendy said. Favorite gifts included clothes, tablet computers and shoes.

A few days before Christmas, Brandon, Wendy and the boys opened board games for a game night. They had hot chocolate, played games and enjoyed a fun family night. 

On Christmas Eve, Brandon and Wendy put gifts under the Christmas tree. The next morning, the boys had breakfast and opened gifts. After they tried on clothes and played with their new games, they had a big lunch of ham, potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rolls and pie. 

They, too, traveled to Little Rock over the holidays to spend gift cards on clothes and other items. 

Brandon and Wendy were equally excited to receive gifts for the home, especially a coffee pot—the Trimble Home has not had a coffee pot in recent months. 

Some of the boys and girls at Vera Lloyd had home passes so they could visit family members or family members traveled to Monticello to visit with youth on campus. A grandmother for one of the boys at Trimble Home made a special trip to see her grandson on Christmas Day. 

Love. Caring. Generosity. Christ’s healing love. Thank you for sharing the reason for the season with boys and girls at Vera Lloyd.