Category Archives: Uncategorized

Their Blood is on Our Hands

Standard

Essays From A Dysfunctional Life

“The bloodshed 30 miles south of Houston is the worst mass shooting in America since February, when 17 people were gunned down at a high school in Parkland, Florida, according to a database of shootings maintained by the Washington Post.” (MSNBC 5/18/2018)

Since February.

I am angry. I am angry that there has been another school shooting. I am angry that we can no longer track school shootings by how many years ago the last one occured. We now must track school shootings in days.

It has been 11 days since the school shooting at Highland High School in Palmdale, California. Just 21 days prior to Highland, students were fired on by a fellow student as they engaged in a walkout demonstration against gun violence.

Today, more children are dead and there has been no significant changes in gun legislation.

“Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement: ‘The thoughts…

View original post 442 more words

Advertisements

Reducing Anxiety in Children

Standard

In this technological age of instant news and social media at our fingertips, children are bombarded daily with news of school shootings, bombings, war, nuclear threats, genocide, and political extremism. At school and in their neighborhoods children experience peer pressure, bullying, and social isolation.

As a result there is a continued increase in the diagnosis of anxiety related disorders in children beginning in early middle school. Chronic anxiety can interfere with a child’s education as well as relationships with friends and family.

What does anxiety look like in children?

Anxiety is more than “nervousness.” Children exhibit a wide variety of symptoms including those listed below. If symptoms seem out of proportion with the situation or continue for long periods of time, seek support from your pediatrician or mental health provider.

  • Being easily startled
  • Clingy behavior with family members or care providers
  • Concerns about friends, school, or activities such as having conversations, meeting new people, being observed eating or drinking, performing in front of others such as giving a speech, etc.
  • Constant thoughts and fears about their safety or the safety of their parents or siblings
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Feeling as though there is a lump in the throat
  • Frequent stomach aches, headaches, or other physical complaints
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Muscle aches or tension
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Sleep problems including both difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep
  • Worry about sleeping away from home
  • Worrying about things that haven’t happened

What causes anxiety in children?

Biological Factors

Risk for experiencing anxiety increases with parental anxiety. Children who experience hypersensitivity to textures, smells, light, and touch are likely to have increased anxiety.

Environmental

Children who have experienced trauma experience higher rates of anxiety as are those who experience over or under protected. When schedules are too rigid, over scheduling, or under scheduled resulting in a chaotic environment, anxiety is likely to flourish.

Perceived loss of control is also an environmental source of anxiety including frequent moves, instability in caretakers, divorce, foster care, living through natural disasters such as fire, flood, hurricane, etc.

How can I help my child?

  • Support good sleep hygiene by limiting screens during the last hour before bed, maintaining a regular bedtime, and engaging in calming activities before bed. A Mayo Clinic study indicates that children 7-12 years old should get 10-11 hours of sleep each night and 12-18 years need 8-10 hours per night.
  • Encourage outdoor exercise such as taking walks, riding bicycles, playing games with other youth.
  • Improve nutrition by increasing water and decreasing sugar and caffeine,
  • Engage in positive activities such as playing catch, reading aloud, playing a game, etc. several times per week.
  • Develop healthy attitudes towards failure. Encourage your child to “Keep Trying!”
  • Learn and practice calming skills such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, paced breathing.
  • Learn to cope ahead; plan and prepare for anxiety triggering situations.
  • Talk through emotions. Support your child in learning to identify current emotions and then to rate them from 1-5 to help understand the depth of their feelings.
  • Practice affirmations such as:
  • I’m okay right now.
  • It’s ok if everything doesn’t go as planned.
  • I have the ability to cope with what happens in my life.
  • Enjoyable surprises often come from new situations.

What if self-help is not enough?

Although it is typical for children to experience anxiety at times, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is (CBT) is often necessary when anxiety becomes unmanageable and begins to interfere with a child’s social functioning. CBT is an evidence based treatment that focuses on identifying, understanding and then changing thinking and behavior. Clients are actively involved in their recovery by practicing assignments between sessions.

With support, children can overcome the challenges of anxiety and learn to manage their thoughts and their behaviors.

Celebrating Mothers with a Big “M” and a Little “m”

Standard

Mother’s Day honors the mothers who cared for us and nurtured us as we grew.

Many celebrate with the mother they call Mom. This is the big “M” mom. The one who kissed wounds and gave hugs; the one who dried our tears and encouraged us.

But today we also celebrate the little “m” moms. These are the women who were likely not there for our births. They walked alongside us, often not even realizing the gifts of mothering they gave us. They are neighbors, teachers, aunts, coaches, counselors, and more. Like Mom, these moms tended and encouraged us.

So today, I give thanks for the Mom who loved me but left this life too soon. And I thank all the moms who bridged the gap.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Simplification

Standard

food-2940553_1280.jpgAn active 76-year old man recently shared about his experience in selling the home that he and his wife had lived in for many years. He shared about giving things away to family members and to local nonprofits. And also his dismay in the number of items that were sent to recycling or to the trash; the things he had kept which had little value to them. His wife was in ill health and they had decided to downsize to better enjoy their remaining time together. He felt fortunate that they had the opportunity to take their time and decide what was important to move with them and what could be left behind.

Several years ago, a woman who had a traumatic childhood followed by a difficult marriage found that she could no longer maintain the large home she had raised her family in. The maintenance on the property and the house was significant for a middle aged couple, but was an overwhelming burden for an octogenarian widow. Pressured by her family to sell the house and move, she found herself unprepared to make decisions about the belongings she had gathered over a lifetime. Now she is living in a highly regarded retirement community that is a poor fit for her. And while she has many of her belongings with her, she spends time regretting the loss of her home and so many items which held tremendous emotional value.

A few years ago, I might have had difficulty connecting with these stories. They didn’t connect with my stage in life. End of life transitions were too far away and I was fully engaged in building my life. Now, as I begin to accept that I have entered middle age and see that I have transitioned from life building to maintenance, I can begin to see the next stage ahead.

Thinking about these stories, I look around my own home and notice things that bring me little value. Mixed in with those items are treasures that bring me great joy: the mid-century modern inspired mirror, the photo collage from a beach trip ten years ago, or the books filling the bookcases. And I think about what could be invited to stay and what will be asked to go.

In her KonMari method of decluttering, Marie Kondo encourages you to hold items in your home and ask the question “Does this bring me joy?”

Joshua Fields Milbourne and Ryan Nicodemus, also known as “The Minimalists,” encourage the 90/90 rule: If you haven’t used it in the last 90 days and don’t expect to use it in the next 90 days, let it go.

So, I consider the task of downsizing and clearing out the excess. I want the luxury of taking my time and making well considered choices. There are many people who are master organizers and have resources for supporting simplification beyond the two mentioned above. For myself, I feel quite content to surround myself with those items which are truly used and which bring me joy.

 

6 Tips for a Less Stressed Holiday Season

Standard

christmas-1911637_1920.jpgNovember is upon us. Holiday decor has filled our local shops even before Halloween costumes hung on the racks. With the advent of November, the holiday season begins in earnest.

The stretch between November 1 and January 1 tends to be the busiest and most stressful time of the year. Shopping, company parties, family get-togethers, can be difficult to navigate.

Monitor your expectations

It’s easy to get carried away with a fantasy of the “perfect” holiday gathering. Take some time to evaluate what is realistic to expect of yourself and your family. Consider adjusting timing or size of holiday gatherings to reduce stress.

Set limits

Spend some time looking ahead at your calendar. Work and home obligations continue during this season. Considering limiting holiday events to one or two per week to keep them manageable.

Plan self-care

While your calendar is out, schedule your self-care including exercise, massage, and evenings at home. Stick to your schedule when invitations for holiday gatherings arrive, decline those that conflict with your self-care plan.

Don’t overindulge

Holiday parties and employee break rooms can be hazardous places during the holidays. Enjoy treats from time to time, but don’t overindulge. Excess sugar and alcohol make you feel sluggish and interferes with sleep.

Buy experiences, not things

Things tend to accumulate and create clutter. Consider investing in experiences with your family. Buy movie tickets, museum passes, or concert tickets as gifts that you can enjoy with your friends and family after the holiday season.

Do something for someone less fortunate

Take time to think outside of your circle of friends and family. Buy gifts for children living in poverty and donate to local organizations, serve a meal at a soup kitchen, donate gift cards for gas or groceries to your local church to distribute to those in need.

Life is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Standard

Galen Rupp won the Chicago Marathon on October 8, 2017. Rupp is an accomplished athlete having competed for the University of Oregon and the United States Olympic Track and Field teams.

 

Galen Rupp

Galen Rupp of the United States wins the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Chicago. –The Associated Press

 

I am not a runner, however, I am fascinated by the minds and lives of people who run. So many of the runners that I know are independent, determined, positive, and future thinking. The parallels between training for a big run and living life are endless.

Pace Yourself

“In a marathon, if you run too fast, you get exhausted. If you run too slow, you never make it.” ~ Uday Kotak

We only have this moment in time. If we hurry through it, we miss out on the experience, the memory. Be mindful of the moment and allow yourself to savor it before moving on.

“The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.” ~Unknown

This Too Shall Pass

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” ~Albert Einstein

Painful moments are just moments. Tap into your wells of resilience and stamina. Reach out to supportive friends and family members when life gets tough. The act of giving up is not the same as pausing or resting. Giving up means not only starting over again, but having to rekindle the motivation. Stay the course and you will reach your goals in time.

Talk to Yourself Positively

“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” ~ George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Use affirmations to remind yourself that you can get through the difficult times. “I’m okay, right now.” or “I can do this.” are simple reminders that can carry you through times when you feel like you cannot go any further. Positive thinking increases energy and allows us to continue forward despite struggle.

“With the spirit of endurance, we shall strive in any situation.” ~ Lailah Gifty Akita

Set Goals

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”  ~ Pablo Picasso

Set achievable goals for yourself, then attain them. Once you’ve attained your goals set new goals. Goals keep us moving forward, but only if they stretch us and are achievable. If you set goals that you cannot accomplish in a timely manner, you set yourself up to fail.

Set goals for every area of your life. Consider a career goal, a health goal, and a relationship goal. Start small and create a plan that will guide you to the completion of your goal.

Rest and Recover

“The best of all medicines are resting and fasting.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin

Take time regularly to rest and recover. Runners training for races take breaks in their schedule.  On a daily basis, this can be as simple as reading for 30 minutes in the evening or going for a walk. Plan time in your week to ride your bike, spend the day at the beach, or take a hike in the mountains. Plan a big trip once or twice a year to allow yourself to completely disconnect and recharge. Resting will allow your mind and body to become stronger and increases endurance.

woodland-656969_1920.jpg

Between the Miles

I have always counted the miles.

Sometimes they came quick,

Other times slow.

The distance between things,

The way I could know.

Close could feel far,

And far could feel near.

The miles that passed too quickly,

The ones I ran out of fear.

They weren’t all the same,

So I had been told,

The unmarked trails,

And the days I was bold.

Some miles went down,

Spiraling so low,

When I was afraid to look forward,

There was nowhere to go.

The sunset came fast,

And the day turned to night,

But the trails could be endless,

If I looked at them right.

Everything I knew,

All I was told,

The conversations left behind,

The people who grew old.

When the miles stretched out before me,

I wanted to sew them at the seam,

Looking forward and then back,

Holding everything in between.

~ Jacqueline Simon Gunn

7 Tips for Talking to Children About Mass Shootings

Standard

With great sadness I read of another mass shooting. 58 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds more were injured in the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday, October 1, 2017. As adults, it’s difficult to understand the hows and the whys of these events. For children, it’s even more difficult.

Young children, under the age of 8, have a difficult time differentiating between fact and fiction on screens including television, computers, smartphones, and game systems.

Children over the age of 9 have greater understand, but when overexposed to information about shootings and other traumatic events are at risk for developing anxiety, depression, anger, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Below are 7 tips for talking to children about mass shootings and traumatic events.

1. Limit exposure to news.

If possible, do not allow children under the age of 9 to watch the news.

If older children are watching news, make a point of watching with them. Take time to help them express their thoughts and feelings about the information. Provide additional information from a calm, adult perspective. Point out positive media images if appropriate.

Engage children in non-news related activities: Watch movies on DVD, play board games, go for bike rides, go to the park.

2. Reassure children that they are cared for and safe.

Remind them that there are more good people in the world then bad. Encourage them to make a list of all of the supportive people in their lives.

3. Validate their feelings.

Let them know that it is okay to be sad or scared, but they are and will be okay.

4. Identify ways to give back.

Doing something productive can help manage feelings. Encourage children to write a letter of encouragement to the injured, collect soda cans and donate the proceeds to a medical fund to help victims, or other ideas that they may generate.

5. Check in with them periodically.

Ask children if they have any questions. Be sure to let them know that you are open to talking more if they want.

6. Monitor adult conversations.

Children hear more than adults realize and can often misunderstand adult reactions to traumatic events. Have adult conversations in private spaces where you cannot be overheard. If a child overhears part of a conversation, be open and honest about your feelings while continuing to reassure the child of their safety.

Some indicators that your child needs professional help includes:

  • Persistent worry or anxiety about their safety or the of their friends and family.
  • Continuing to focus on thoughts of the incident, including seeking out news information, talking about the event, or drawing pictures of the event.
  • Significant changes in behavior including inattentiveness, irritability, sleeping too much or too little, lack of appetite, etc.
  • Persistent headaches or stomachaches.
  • Increased sensitivity to sounds.

On Being or Acting As If

Standard

Or, fake it until you make it.

Change is difficult.

cocoon-591554_1920

Smoothing out old patterns and creating new pathways doesn’t happen overnight. But is there danger in faking it? Yes, and no.

When we use affirmations, we affirm statements that are how we want life to be.

“I am healthy, strong, and fit.”

We may not be there, but our affirmation is pulling us that direction. We are working towards being.

When we act “as if” we can allow ourselves the opportunity to grow into our desired behavior. Putting on your running shoes and running around the block can begin to move you closer to being a runner.

However, acting as if can create significant cognitive dissonance when the acting is not being followed up by doing. Cognitive dissonance can become strong motivation to work harder at being more authentic. Ignored, it can develop into shame and manifest depression and anxiety.

Think back to the CBT triangle.

cbt-triangle

Stating that “I am a runner” when putting on shoes each day, but only walking as far as the kitchen for potato chips can create feelings of defeat, despair and disappointment and drive thoughts of insecurity.

Acting as if can be healthy if there is truly action behind it. In this same scenario, the client puts on their shoes and runs around the block each day. Each time they run, they increase their stamina and experience feelings of accomplishment. They begin to run a little further and positive emotions and thoughts increase about their move towards becoming a runner. Soon, they are no longer acting as if, but are firmly entrenched in being. They are a runner.

Take time to reflect on what you want to manifest in your life. Are you on the road to being? Or, are you just acting as if?

Dealing with Emotions: An Analogy

Standard

imageSometimes you don’t want to deal with emotions.

Sometimes you need to wait until you have more time to process.

Sometimes you hope that they will just go away.

Waiting until you have time alone to think things through or holding onto the emotions to share at your next counseling appointment can be a healthy option. Stuffing emotions down and ignoring them long-term can make them even harder to deal with and create more problems.

Unprocessed emotions are like leftovers. After dinner, you can carefully pack them away in the Tupperware and place in the refrigerator, but at some point you will have to take care of them.

If you deal with the leftovers within a day or two, it’s easy to handle. But the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to manage and will take more work to sort out.

If you really try to ignore the leftovers, push them to the back of the refrigerator and “forget” about them for a month, the task of dealing with them becomes awful. The leftovers become rotten. They are smelly, slimey, and hairy. Taking care of them takes more work and effort.

So, shall we deal with it now, or later?