5 Ways to Cope with all the Bad World & Community news

Violence, death, destruction and mayhem are the most common headlines that constantly bombard us. Regardless of how you get your news, local television stations, social media, newspapers, neighbors, etc. it can cause feelings of anxiety or fear, depression and sadness, helplessness, confusion and anger. 

When bad news breaks it can be nearly impossible to escape from it.
Actually, most of us do everything we can to stay informed which works against our innate desire to feel safe and secure.
The unknown and known can be equally overwhelming. Just unplugging and trying to think about other things isn’t enough these days.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the news, especially when good news stories seem far and few between.

So, if you’re feeling down or overwhelmed about the constant onslaught of bad news, here are a few suggestions for you.

  1. Limit your intake of news and social media. 

It is okay to turn it off.  If you are experiencing discomfort from watching, reading or hearing about the bad news of the world, you can limit your consumption. You can give yourself an amount of time that you engage, say 30 minutes or you can only allow yourself to check the news 2x a day.   But give yourself a buffer of at least two hours before bed and even allow yourself to engage in the morning for two hours before you look at your phone or social media or the television.

2. Let your voice be heard.

After something awful happens we have a strong desire to be around other people who share our experience.  I encourage you to seek out high quality connections with an intention.  It’s not healing to complain and share your feelings exclusively.  That can make you feel worse.  Having a sense of hope and feeling empowered comes from taking action.  This may mean getting involved with a local group that is working toward healing the community, or contributing time or money to a cause that matters to you.  You decide what is the best way to be helpful and contribute to a cause. Finding ways to contribute a solution can be healing.

3. Maintain your routine and engage in healthy activities.

Continue your regular routine of healthy eating and activities.  Consider adding in more time for stretch, relaxation and meditation. Some studies have shown that  exercise can be particularly helpful for improving mental health. When you engage in strenuous physical activity, you’re essentially mimicking the responses that can come with anxiety, allowing you to learn how to manage these responses and not be overwhelmed by them in other situations.

4. Be kind to yourself 

Trauma reactions are normal reactions to extremely abnormal circumstances. Trauma reactions can occur from watching tragedy on television or social media.. It is important to allow yourself permission to have your reactions, and take care of them both by yourself and by asking for help from others, as best you can. Distraction and poor concentration is a way to avoid thinking about the tragedies.  The idea is that you are giving yourself a break or reprieve long enough for the strong feelings to decrease and then you can manage the experience.  

5. Acknowledge your feelings. 

A variety of feelings can flood you.  Take a moment and acknowledge what you are feeling at the moment.  It is important to feel empathy for others who are experiencing trauma and tragedy.  Check in with yourself, are you more emotionally connected than just feel empathy?  When you notice that you cannot manage your reaction, you should consider talking to a professional and seeking the emotional support that you deserve.

We are here to help.  Schedule a consultation right away. 

10 Ideas to improve your mood starting today

Did you wake up today feeling blah or down?  We all go through ups and downs as part of our mood cycle.  At times you may be down just for a few moments and other times it may last much longer.  There are ways to improve your mood almost immediately.  Here are 10 ideas and I encourage you to choose at least one that speaks to you and implement it right away.

 

  1. Tidy up.  If you are visual like me, it brings your mood up to have spaces that are free from clutter or visual chaos.  One thing I like to do to manage my daily mood is to make my bed.  It only takes a few minutes and I feel more relaxed when I enter my room and the bed is made. What space can you tidy up in a few minutes and feel tons lighter?

2. Go outside.  When you notice the blah or down feeling, go outside, take a walk or just stretch in the fresh air. It will do your body good.

3. Listen.  Music can be food for your soul.  Put on some tunes that you enjoy.  I choose to listen to the instrumental version of r&b music.  I notice that the melody and rhythms improve my mood.  Studies have shown that music between 4 – 13  hz can improve mood and creativity.  You can type music hz into search engine or try Steve Halpern. He is a pioneer in using sound to heal.

4. Smell.  Keep your favorite scents nearby.  I enjoy lighting candles, warming essential oils or using hand creams of my favorite scents.  

5. Wear. Get dressed and put on clothing that feels good to you.  Choose items that liven your mood because of texture, color or fit.  

6. Greetings.  Smile and greet a stranger while you are outside while walking, running errands, or at the post office.  

7. Watch.  My sister loves to watch short videos of baby animals playing.  It just makes her smile.  What can you watch that makes you smile.

8. Hydrate.  Drink water.  If you want flavor, add fruit, mint, cucumber, etc.  

9. Reach out. Send a text message, email or call a friend to see how they are doing.

10. Eat.  Heat a healthy meal or snack.  There are lots of foods that improve mood; dark chocolate, berries, nuts & seeds, fatty fish and fermented foods.  What food will you snack on today to improve your mood?

Are you wanting some additional suggestions or support with improving your mood?  Reach out to schedule a consultation.

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10 ways to Be when your child is Anxious, Nervous or Fearful

It is challenging as a parent to see your child upset, afraid, nervous and anxious.  But, what do you do to help your child?  Do you push them to do it anyway? Do you let them avoid it until they are ready? There’s so much conflicting advice out there!

 

10 ways to “Be” when your child is anxious, nervous or fearful.

Be Available

For many children, your presence will help calm them. Hug them or hold them on your lap. Even holding their hand can help give them a sense of security and comfort. Anxiety shows up in many ways and being physically present can calm the central nervous system.

 

Be Encouraging

Encourage your child to problem solve how they can cope with stress or anxiety. By telling your child exactly what to do or even what to say in stressful and challenging situations, they are not able to solve problems on their own or learn ways to cope by themselves.  Offer help after they have worked on the problem first.

Be Proactive

Fears and anxiety live in avoidance.  When a child is able to avoid situations that make them afraid or anxious, they are able to maintain the fear and it won’t go away.  You can take the initiative and try exposing them slowly to what makes them nervous.  For example, if they are afraid of dogs, you can read books about dogs, watch movies or videos about dogs and allow them to watch dogs at a kennel or secure environment while encouraging them and helping them manage feelings. Be careful not to expect too much at once because it can take time to manage anxiety. By slowly helping them adapt, you can ease their fear and prepare them to cope on their own when they’re older.

 

Be Active

 

Exercise has benefits in addition to health and fitness.  Physical activity can be calming during times of high stress.  Going outside to rollerskate, run, play tag, or other activities that involve gross motor movements or activities that increase heart rate, can help distract them from their worry or fear.   

Be Empathic

Even if what they are afraid of seems silly to you, it’s important to show your child that you understand. Although they may not truly have anything to be fearful of, the emotions they are feeling are very real.

 

Be Open

Give your child some one-on-one time and listen without judging or discounting their anxiety. Allow them to lead the discussion and resist the urge to tell them not to be afraid.  Rather, listen and be curious about their fears and share with them  how you have managed one of your own fears. The best time to talk it out is when they are feeling calm because they are able to listen to you more easily.

Be Realistic

Fear may not just go away and telling your child NOT to be afraid or anxious won’t help.  Letting them know that it’s possible to not be afraid and that it will take practice is helpful.  Knowing that they can overcome a fear in time can be empowering. 

Be Creative

Talking directly about their fear may be challenging.  You can use creative ways to help your child express their feelings.  They can draw pictures, use stuffed animals to act it out, create a puppet show, or even act it out without words.  There are so many creative ideas out there for you and your child to discuss their fears. 

Be Patient

Managing fears and anxiety do not happen overnight.  It can be frustrating as a parent to have to deal with a child not wanting to go to school or play with others or take swim lessons, but try to keep your emotions in check.  If you pressure your child too fast, it could increase their fear and cause power struggles. 

Be Enthusiastic

Encourage and praise small accomplishments. Cheer them on, have a reward for progress every now and then, give high fives or hugs to encourage them. Being brave while facing things they are afraid of or are feeling nervous about is something to celebrate!

Trauma in children

Trauma in children can take many forms.  As much as we try to shield our young ones from traumatic experiences, it can happen.  Understanding the signs and symptoms can provide the information needed to determine if your child needs additional support.  Children of all ages can suffer from traumatic stress after experiencing a violent or dangerous physical, psychological, or emotional experience, and it can overwhelm their ability to cope and heal properly, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Many experiences can trigger an emotional trauma response in kids, per SAMHSA.  Some potentially traumatic stressors include bullying; psychological, physical, or sexual abuse and/or neglect; natural disasters, terrorism, and community and school violence; witnessing or experiencing intimate partner violence; sexual exploitation; accidents; illness or injury; the sudden or violent loss of a loved one; refugee and war experiences; and military-related experiences, such as parental deployment, loss, or injury.

Each child acts or reacts to traumatic stressors differently based on many factors; family history, religious beliefs, gender, age, etc.  Also note, that as a parent, you may not be aware that your child has even experienced a traumatic event.  Just knowing the signs and symptoms of trauma is not enough, it must be taken in context of the child, family and caregiving systems, support, etc.  The symptoms listed in this article can also be unrelated to trauma. 

Trauma experts agree that “the body keeps the score,” which means that when we experience a seriously distressing event, the trauma has a way of weaving its way throughout our bodies, with the after-effects of fear and stress showing up days, weeks, months, and even years later, especially if we don’t actively work on healing.  

Our central nervous system is designed to keep us safe, calm and happy.  If we perceive or experience a major stressor, it can put our bodies into fight, flight or freeze mode, which means our nervous system then focuses on how to manage the threat and maintain feeling safe, calm and happy.  With children, they often cannot escape the threat so their bodies may stay in the fight, flight, freeze mode, leaving them feeling helpless and hopeless.  So even when they are no longer in danger, their brains and bodies remain on high alert, releasing unnecessary stress hormones that can interfere with their ability to pay attention, sleep, or engage with others socially. Some of the common signs of trauma in children include:

Preschool Children

  • Fearing separation from parents or caregivers
  • Crying and/or screaming a lot
  • Eating poorly and losing weight
  • Having nightmares

Elementary School Children

  • Becoming anxious or fearful
  • Feeling guilt or shame
  • Having a hard time concentrating
  • Having difficulty sleeping

Middle and High School Children

  • Feeling depressed or alone
  • Developing eating disorders and self-harming behaviors
  • Beginning to abuse alcohol or drugs
  • Becoming sexually active

Any trauma symptom can be transient or long-term, which is why spotting signs early and supporting your child is of utmost importance, if left unaddressed, can alter the development of the brain and body’s stress response system. 

The main intervention a parent can provide is to notice.  You know your child better than anyone and can distinguish between normal ups and downs and major shifts in their behavior.  If you notice that all of the sudden they are eating less or more than usual, having more nightmares, seem more clingy or scared,  complain of stomach aches,  or moody, aggressive or irritable, take note and inquire..  These signs don’t automatically mean something is wrong,  but it alerts you to seek more information and not ignore the changes.

It is important for your child to feel safe and connected.  Being available and reliable and willing to listen to your child’s experience is an important intervention for your child. . Your child needs to know that you can tolerate their experience, are willing to be supportive and soothing, and they have you to lean on.  

Reaching  out for help and assistance can always start with your child’s school counselor or pediatrician for referrals.  When choosing a therapist, make sure they are trauma-informed and trained to work with children and/or teens.  Seeking your own support as a parent is available as well.  Listening to your child may activate some of your own childhood traumatic experiences.   You will be better able to support your child if you have your own support.

The good news is that trauma can be addressed through therapy and changes to help children feel a sense of safety and stability.  Healing from trauma can occur at any stage of life, early intervention is especially effective — the sooner we can identify and work to heal emotional trauma in childhood, the more likely we are to prevent the long-term repercussions on their physical and mental health.