Tag Archives: anxiety

7 Tips for Talking to Children About Mass Shootings

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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.
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Making the Shift: An Evening Ritual

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Making the Shift: An Evening Ritual

harmony-1229893_1920In a recent post I discussed the value of a morning ritual to support focus, creativity, and peace. I have found that a brief evening ritual can support the transition from work to home.

Working in community mental health care can be challenging and sometimes stressful. It is important to set aside the content of the day and leave it in the office so that you can be fully present at home with family and friends.

I first recognized the need for an end of the day ritual when I was providing mental health services to children and families in their homes. I often ended my day at a client’s home before beginning the commute home.

On my hour long drive, I would find myself processing the contents of client sessions, planning my work for the next day, and reformulating treatment plans. I would arrive home worn out and mentally still at work.

After several months of my commute, I noticed a ramshackle barn about halfway between home and work. The old red barn had started to crumble and nature was doing its best to reclaim the space. Vines grew through the building, up and out of holes that had developed in the roof. I first noticed the barn when the vines began to flower in the spring. Hundreds of tiny white flowers blanketed the roof of the barn.

That ramshackle barn in the middle of nowhere became the trigger for my first evening ritual.

Rituals require structure to be effective and I created a simple rule that cared for my budding ritual. Each night as I traveled home from work, I allowed my mind to process and wander through all the sessions, meetings, and tasks of the day. However, when the old barn came in sight, all thoughts of work were relegated to the back of my mind and I turned my focus to the tasks of my life. My mind began to make dinner plans, consider the route for walking the dog, think about weeding the garden, and creating a list of things to pack on my upcoming vacation. If work thoughts crept in, they were shooed away and I refocused on personal thoughts and plans.

A couple of years ago, I made a shift in my work to clinic based treatment. This has created a number of changes in my life including eliminating a lengthy commute. However, with the loss of the commute also came the loss of my evening ritual.

My new ritual is just as simple, but takes place before I leave the office for the day. Each night after the last client has left, I straighten my office so that it is ready for the first client the next day. Chairs are realigned, toys replaced on shelves, and the markers and colored pencils are sorted back into their cups on the art table. I gather my personal belongings to take home and clear my desk of everything except my notebook. Taking a couple of centering breaths, I consider any tasks or ideas that I want to follow up on the next day and jot them in the notebook before returning it to the desk drawer. Having cleared my mind, I pull the cord on the lamp to turn out the light, lock the door and step out of my office door into my personal life.

3 Ways to Improve Wellness Today

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Small steps forward are more productive than immobility.

The last few weeks, the Pacific Northwest has been hit by several unusual weather events. Many areas of the country are accustomed to dealing with snow and ice and life continues to move forward, albeit a bit more slowly. In Oregon, anything resembling a white flake in the sky is cause to shut down schools and send people running to the grocery store in a panic. You must stock up now for Snowpocolypse 2017.

Tens of thousands of people become immobile. People cancel medical and mental health appointments. They hole up in their homes, drinking hot chocolate and hoping that the weather will return to normal by tomorrow and secretly praying for another snow day.

Choosing wellness means choosing to move forward, even with the smallest of steps. In fact, experience shows us that small steps are usually more sustainable than giant leaps forward.

Wellness is the fruit of planning and commitment to the plan. You must make time to create wellness in your life:

to think

to play

to do

Think

Slow down. Stress and burnout is fueled by over action. Take time each day to simply think. Develop a daily ritual which includes meditation, prayer and journaling. Read deeply and widely about many subjects. Give yourself time to reflect on your reading, your wellness, your relationships, and your community.

Time to think gives you space to work through problems, generate ideas and just be.

Play

Play and fun are the fuel of creativity. Dance, sing, skip, exercise and move your body daily. Draw, paint, color, cook, and dream. Take vacations, travel to cities and countries that you haven’t visited before. Attend community theater, poetry readings, and art gallery receptions.

Fill you mind and body with color, light and energy.

Do

Create a plan to accomplish the tasks on your wellness plan, to build relationships, manage self- care, and achieve your career goals. Use a planner or bullet journal and identify 2-3 tasks that you can accomplish each day to move you closer to your wellness goals.

Mind Over Stress: One Minute Mindfulness Activities

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Stress happens to the best of us. There are pressures at work and at home. Daily meditation and mindfulness practices help to reduce overall stress and anxiety and support focus. Sometimes, however, you just need a quick reset to get grounded. Below are seven of my favorite mindfulness activities that can help you to regain balance.

  1. Paced breathing

Find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes or focus on an immovable object in the room. Take a deep breath in for six counts, filling your belly. Hold the breath for four counts and then breath out for eight counts. Repeat 4-5 times.

  1. Visual Imagery

Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Imagine you are in your favorite place. It could be the beach, your garden, on a mountain top, anywhere that you find peace. Notice the sounds and smells of your favorite place. The temperature? Is it cold or warm? Look around at the things that makes this your peaceful place. Take a deep breath and slowly open your eyes.

  1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Sit or lay down in a comfortable space. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths. Beginning at your toes, tighten your muscles and hold for 5-10 seconds and then release. Continue to your calves, thighs, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and face. Tense your muscles, hold and release.

  1. 3 Senses

Your senses ground you to this place and this time. Look around the room and notice three things that you can see. Then identify three things that you can hear. Finally, notice three things that you can smell.

  1. Cup of Tea

This activity may take a bit longer than a minute if you need to heat the water, but is well worth it. Choose a tea of your liking and breath in the scent. Slowly pour hot water over tea in a cup. Notice the change in aroma. Hold the cup with both hands, absorbing the warmth as the tea steeps. Focus on each step in the process of making the tea.

  1. Candle Watching

The light of fire is mesmerizing. Light a candle and focus on its flame for one minute. Notice the way it flickers in the air. See the changes in color from the center to the outside of the flame. Extinguish the flame and notice the scent that remains on the air.

  1. Eating Mindfully

Need a chocolate fix? Chocolate is a great stressbuster, especially if you take time to eat it mindfully. The goal is to eat the chocolate as slowly as possible. Open the wrapper slowly, inhale the aroma of the rich chocolate. Take a small bite and focus on how the chocolate melts on your tongue, filling your mouth with smooth sweetness.