Parent's Guide to Spotting Teen Depression and Anxiety

A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health revealed the prevalence of anxiety disorders in adolescents aged 13 to 18, with more than 8% suffering from severe impairment. Depression is becoming more prevalent, too, with more than 13% of the country’s teens experiencing at least one major depressive episode in their lives. This can be really alarming for parents, especially since it’s not easy to spot the symptoms and indicators of anxiety and depression in teens.  

Mother puts hand on shoulder of depressed teenager.

The situation is even more serious when you consider the lack of support in educational institutions. There is a growing demand for more psychologists in schools as there is currently a huge shortage. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one psychologist for every 500 -700 students. In Polk County, there is one school psychologist for every 2,200 students. And this is common across the country. To deal with the shortage, schools are looking for psychologists that can relate to students and what they’re going through. Maryville University claims that the connection between psychology and education is leading to a growing demand for specialists who can understand this correlation. If the need for more support isn’t met, the number of depressed and anxious teens that don’t receive help will only continue to increase.

 A parent reading this will find it very distressing. However, you can help. If you’re wondering if your children are suffering from anxiety and depression, here are some of the things you need to look out for:

Constant Fear and Nervousness

The Conversation notes that one of the most obvious signs of anxiety disorders is a fear and nervousness that doesn’t go away. It can be really challenging to differentiate between the normal emotional challenges that come with puberty and signs of anxiety. If you’re seeing a lot of fearfulness, secretive behaviors, constant worrying, and nervousness in your teens, you can ask them if it’s something they experience on a daily basis. Everyday worrying is normal, but if it’s already causing your teen to miss out on important opportunities, it may be a symptom of anxiety and depression.

Loss of Interest in Activities and Hobbies

If your teen suddenly loses interest in their favorite pastimes and hobbies, it may be a sign that they’re suffering from depression or anxiety. They will most likely withdraw from friends and activities, and show a lack of enthusiasm, energy, and motivation. You may also notice that they are performing poorly at school. Although not all teens show all of these symptoms, you will still notice a change in their social activities.

Prolonged Feelings of Hopelessness

This usually manifests through a change in your child’s sleeping and eating patterns. Either they will oversleep or eat excessively, or find it hard to sleep and have a loss of appetite. You will also notice that your kids often look sad, contemplative, and a bit withdrawn. They might even talk about or show signs of feeling worthless, useless, or even guilty. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that in some cases your teens may not appear sad, but they might make trouble, act out, feel a lot of rage, or show a lack of motivation towards trivial things. In the worst case scenario, you might have already seen self-destructive behaviors or even visible marks of self-harm. If this is happening you need to take your child to see medical professionals immediately.

Here on Hope Therapy Center we provided some of the simplest things you can do to help your teens, including offering reassurance and listening with focus and without judgment. Practicing deep breathing exercises can also help them deal with their fears and worries as it allows them to respond rather than react to outside stimuli.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety often occurs in everyday stressful situations, and it signals you to prepare for and attend to the circumstances. Anxiety disorders are different because they involve excessive fear, worry or nervousness. These are the different type of anxiety disorders:

Panic Disorder

The disorder includes recurrent panic attacks that generate physiological responses, including rapid heart rate, palpitations, trembling, dizziness, fainting, feeling of losing control, shortness of breath and fear of dying. Clients may feel that they are facing cardiac arrest and go to the hospital. Panic attacks can be in response to a feared object or situation, such as sitting in airplanes.

Specific Phobia

This involves excessive and persistent fear of an object, activity or circumstance. The situation or fear item may not actually harmful or as dangerous as perceived. The client cannot overcome it, despite knowing that the fear is excessive. Given the distressing stimuli, people go to extreme lengths to avoid the situation, such as fear of elevators, spiders, dogs, airplanes etc.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This involves an excessive and persistent fear due to which daily activities are disrupted.  In distressing situations, the person constantly worries about a possible approaching danger, which rarely occurs. There is a feeling restless, fatigued, difficulties in concentration and sleeping and muscle tension. The person may worry about job, responsibilities, family, expenditures or minor everyday things, such as tasks and appointments.

 Separation Anxiety Disorder

The person feels anxious about separation from people he is attached to, which leads to dysfunction. The person is persistently worried about losing a close one and would be disallow the close one from going away, even if it is for a short duration or distances. Patient may see nightmares about being separated.

 Social Anxiety Disorder

The person fears being embarrassed, humiliated or rejected in social situations. People experience excessive anxiety in the social context or try to avoid it completely. The problem may last for 6 months and causes problems in daily functioning. This could include fear of new people or public speaking.

Agoraphobia

The person fears being in situations from which it is difficult or embarrassing to escape. The fear is excessive in the actual situation and could last more than 6 months. Excessive fear causes problems in everyday functioning. This could include fear of open or closed spaces, being alone or being in a crowd.  

 

4 Things Only People With Anxiety Understand

Fear is negative reaction a natural response to stressful situations and drives you to perform to the best of your abilities. Fear keeps us alert. If fear becomes excessive and persistent, it prevents us from being happy and functional. Anxiety is like a hyper-vigilant state of fear. For many people anxiety is temporary; whereas for others it could be debilitating and lead to illnesses. If uncontrolled, anxiety can take over your life, happiness, performance and relationships. Here’s how anxious people feel different:

 Symptoms of anxiety can show up anywhere, anytime

People suffering from anxiety disorders experience rapid heart rate, palpitations, sweating and dizziness. They can’t control their physical symptoms and they could appear unexpectedly. It’s not just normal fear that you are dealing with and it doesn’t go away easily. It can happen any time anywhere without warning or a specific trigger.

You can’t help over thinking

Often an anxiety disorder causes someone to constantly worry about anything bad happening and these thoughts take a toll. The thoughts may appear exaggerated, irrational or blown out of proportion but people with anxiety disorders can’t help them. Rumination of negative thoughts is linked with depression. The physiological and emotional response to actually situations can be incapacitating. Anxious people feel that their thoughts are real.  

You need pills to reduce discomfort

People may be reluctant to seek therapy for their disorders due to fear of being laughed at or rejected. Thus, sufferers may be forced to suffer in silence and or take pills to temporarily relieve symptoms. Anxious people can’t easily control their negative thoughts. Busying yourself may not always work when you have on-going negative thoughts.

Anxiety is not your everyday stress

The negative thoughts are not just made up in the head. It’s no joke mocking people with anxiety disorders about their irrational thoughts or purposely putting them into anxiety-inducing situations. Be empathetic before you try to make jokes.

Burbank therapist can help you reduce anxiety, contact us today to schedule a session. 310-853-3638

Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety

Research shows that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been the most effective in treating anxiety disorders. It is effective because it unifies all methods and treatment plans. To help the client overcome anxiety disorders, the client is taught about strategies to cope. These strategies and techniques can be implemented at home. With repetitive practice, the new behaviors become automatic and anxiety is significantly reduced and sometimes eliminated. 

CBT targets the brain

To treat anxiety, clients may participate in mild anxiety-inducing stimuli in the initial stages then move on to more intense sessions. CBT targets the brain – by modifying thinking patters, increasing problem-solving and increasing confidence about decision-making. CBT targets the neural pathways so that the client learns new ways to think, act and feel about previously anxiety provoking situations, experience, or thoughts. Many clients who participate in CBT therapy report they have successfully overcome anxiety.

Group sessions

CBT group sessions can be another effective resource for anxiety treatment. Group sessions include others struggling from anxiety. Group sessions help build confidence and support for utilizing the CBT methods/techniques. CBT for anxiety is active, structured and result-oriented.

CBT addresses the origins of problems

To treat disorders, CBT reaches out to the core of issues, including experiences from the family background, early life upbringing and social or environmental factors. Psychotherapists analyze maladaptive coping patterns, use conceptualization to examine history of unstable schemas and attempt to modify the patient’s belief and coping system.

Looking for the best Burbank therapist to help you work through anxiety, contact Hope Therapy Center today.

3 Benefits of Therapy for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders have become the most prevalent mental health issue in America. It’s not uncommon to hear about people in your inner circle suffering from one form or another of anxiety which include but are not limited to conditions such as social anxiety, GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)r, claustrophobia (fear of small confined spaces), and more.

However, as common as this problem is, it is highly treatable – with a number of different treatment options for anxiety available the most effective of which is psychotherapy.

The top three benefits of therapy – behavioral and cognitive – for anxiety disorders include:

Finding the Root Cause

Prescription medication is thought to be the best course of treatment for patients suffering from anxiety disorders as it can produce an immediate reduction of anxiety by relaxing the body. However, as quick the results may be, it is a temporary form of treatment. What’s more, prescription pills only subdue the symptoms of the disorder rather than finding and treating the root cause of the illness itself – which is what psychotherapy does. Therapy, tailored to suit the specific needs of each individual patient allows them to discover the actual source of the problem, which often is based in how a person thinks about their world, environment or situations.  Therapy helps decrease anxiety, by helping you learn new ways of monitoring and changing thoughts that may be leading to panic attacks or feeling anxious.

Aiding in Self-Discovery for Solutions

Much of the psychotherapy is designed to allow the patient to unearth the real reason behind the issues. Once they do, the therapist helps and guides them to realize the effective ways in which they can manage and control their thoughts and behaviors.  Therapy doesn’t provide a solution to their issues on a silver platter, it aids the patients to find out the means to deal and to eventually overcome their anxiety. This can provide tools and resources for the future to help reduce likelihood of experience anxiety in other situations.

Restoring Confidence

Anxiety disorders can sometimes cripple ones confidence. By allowing self-reflection, and providing deeper understanding of their own thoughts and feelings, therapy helps restore a patient’s confidence bit by bit. It enables them to have the knowledge, skills, and control over their thoughts, feelings and behaviors, which can help them live a happy and healthy life.

Horses Heal: How equine therapy works and how it's created a revolution in human development

Over the course of the last several years there have been some New York Times best sellers about horses and their journeys.  Some of these have been about famous race-horses, like Seabiscuit and others have been about underdogs like Snowman the former plough horse who became a show jumping champion after being rescued from slaughter.  People are generally fascinated by horses. 

Horses have been bred to be responsive to every facet of human behavior. They can smell small changes in sweat and other body chemicals.  They can sense small changes in the heart rate of the being next to them.  They can sense minuscule changes in their environments, and they respond extremely quickly. 

Stress-free woman rubs horse as part of therapy.

Twenty years ago, several pioneers in the field of equine facilitated psychotherapy created programs to train professional therapists and facilitators in the unique art of partnering with horses to help suffering humans.   Almost all equine assisted therapy addresses the relationship of the human being to the horse as one of partnership. 

The horse, therapist, and equine facilitator invite clients into a relationship that includes the horse.  To the horse, the relationship is reminiscent of a herd of horses, and the horse approaches the members of the group with the same kind of concern and consideration.  To horses, a relationship is instantaneous.  Whether or not it is a positive relationship, a negative relationship, one of domination, or subservience will get worked out in the herd behavior, but relationship begins upon the first meeting.  To be part of the group, is to be in relationship. 

Because horse relationships can be meaningful and short–lived, horses don’t make the same investments that people do.  The relationships that horses make to the members of their herds are different than the relationship bonds that people make with each other, and with horses.  The meanings that come up for the humans through the course of an equine therapy session are often very illustrative of what other relationships the client is navigating. 

The majority of communication for people is nonverbal, but we don’t think about this often.  But horses know, and they read the nonverbal communication in relationships quite well. 

Horses have gotten to be exceptional lie detectors.  If you are standing around and saying that you are in a good mood, and everything is beautiful, but you’re actually anxious because your mother-in-law is coming to stay this weekend, your horse will know.  He won’t know WHY you are incongruent, he’ll just know that you are, and it will mean that your session, your lesson, your ride, or your time at the barn is going to be less enjoyable than it could be. 

Horses don’t require much acknowledgement for you to become congruent.  You need only admit (usually out loud) that you are in a bad mood, and why, and the horse will calm down.  He calms down not because he understood the sentiment or the story, but because your body changed when your behavior got in-line with your feeling. 

Equine therapy can’t fix everything, but it can shed some light on issues that are difficult to get to in traditional talk therapy.

Equine therapy puts the client and the therapist in a different form of engagement.  Rather than sitting and talking, the client and therapist are engaging in a novel form of behavior.  The horse is introduced as a partner to assist both client and therapist.  Typical sessions are from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.  Typically, there is a part of the session dedicated to talking about the interaction with the horse, and how that interaction might be instructive about other behaviors or patterns for the client. 

Equine therapy has been very effective in helping people increase confidence, build self-esteem, decrease anxiety, recover from addiction, etc.  Also, there has been healing experience for clients who have autism.  Some of the most healing work has been with clients who suffer from PTSD, other traumatic experience and clients who have experienced severe neglect.  Equine facilitated psychotherapy can be used as a primary modality or as a secondary adjunct to traditional therapy.  It can also be very effective in helping couples work through communication issues.

If you are a client and would like to learn more, or if you are a psychotherapist and would like to refer your clients, please contact us at: 310-853-3638. 

Our equine facilitated psychotherapy sessions are held in Santa Clarita, California. 

Photo by Ieva Vizule on Unsplash

5 Benefits of Mindfulness Based Psychotherapy for Anxiety

Anxiety is not limited to just being fretful, agitated, or worried about something trivial. Anxiety disorders such as OCD, PTSD, social anxiety or GAD are so extreme that they have the capacity to adversely affect your lifestyle and almost at times feel debilitating.

There are a number of ways to treat anxiety such a prescription medications and a few different types of therapy, one of which is Mindfulness-based Psychotherapy.

A mindfulness-based approach to psychotherapy is one that aims to establish a deeper connection between the patient and their own feelings and thoughts - causing them to become more aware of what they’re experiencing.

Of the various touted benefits of mindfulness-based psychotherapy, the top 5 are outlined below:

1.Reduced Stress

Stress is one of the biggest trigger points for anxiety-ridden patients. Research indicated that mindfulness-based psychotherapy greatly reduces stress by altering the thought processing, allowing one to selectively choose positivity over the negativity.

2.Increased Focus

It has been shown that mindfulness helps anxiety patients focus their minds and attention. They are better able to sift and eliminate the distractions to decrease anxiety and increase their productivity.

3.Decreased Emotional Volatility

People suffering from anxiety disorders often struggle to effectively control their emotions and hence are more prone to emotional reactivity or volatility. According to research, mindfulness-based psychotherapy allows patients to better control their feelings and emotions and disengage themselves when faced with emotionally triggering circumstances.

 4.Increased Relationship Satisfaction

Studies have found that mindfulness allows anxiety patients to communicate to and understand their partners better. An individual’s ability to be mindful can effectively predict their relationship satisfaction and success.

 5.Improved Memory

As found through various studies, mindful meditation seems to significantly enhance and improve a person’s mental capacity especially during or after periods of high-stresses. This is particularly beneficial for patients suffering from anxiety disorders who struggle with stressful situations, which can adversely affect their short and long term memory.

How Can Mindfulness Alleviate Anxiety

Anxiety is a mental state of mind that is characterized by a person’s inability to manage or control their own emotional reactions and responses. There are various types of anxiety disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Of the variety of treatment modalities available to treat anxiety, Mindfulness or Mindfulness-based therapy has become particularly popular in recent years. Mindfulness is conceptualized as the practice of being consciously aware and present for each single moment of a person’s life. Mindfulness based therapy in Burbank is particularly successful for treating anxiety and anxiety related issues because it enhances a person’s ability to decipher and distinguish between valuable thought that requires critical thinking and problem solving from a worrisome, nagging afterthought.

Mindful meditations helps alleviate anxiety and overcome anxiety disorders by bring calm and serenity to an overactive mind. On a cellular or neuronal level, it has been found that mindful meditation affects and essentially activates a region in the brain known as the anterior cingulated cortex – the area which is responsible for regulating thoughts and emotions.  

Mindful meditation is a conscientious movement which requires conscious effort and thought by the individual ensuring that they are actively involved and engrossed in the task at hand rather than being distracted or waylaid by the crowding thoughts. What’s more, by using mindfulness-based therapy modalities, individuals that suffer from anxiety are able to reduce their symptoms instead of hiding from them.  Instead of running away from the negative thoughts that seem unusually threatening, individuals are encouraged to actively recognize the ‘threats’ as completely perceived and inconsequential instead of real or important.

Therapy for anxiety combined with mindful meditation has the capacity to reduce the debilitating mental and physical symptoms of anxiety, allowing the anxious person to live a healthy, normal life.

How Guided Meditation Can Reduce Anxiety

Guided Meditation is a type of meditation that can help you attain the deepest levels of relaxation. Through the various modes of guided meditations available such as audio or visual directives, videos, imagery, or even written texts, a person is able to change their perspective and outlook on life for complete stress relief.

Audio or video are often utilized during the guided meditation sessions and are designed to soothe and relax a persons’ mind until it reaches a peaceful state. By allowing your brain to submerge itself into an imaginative world that is different from the usual, stressful one, one has the capacity to reprogram your mind to let go of the outside pressures and instead find the focus needed to concentration on their goals in life.

The whole concept of guided meditation is to help a person unwind and attain a state of serene inner peace. In a session of guided meditation, a person is asked to physically relax their bodies and open their minds to envision different visualizations depending on their purpose. In case of stress reduction, guided visualizations along with audio cues may be used to entice you to hone in on one point or aspect of your mind or body and consciously begin relaxing it.

Beginning from a physical starting point such as the muscles, you decrease your breathing rate, blood pressure, metabolism, and pulse rate to attain the deepest state of physical relaxation. Once there, you are then eventually guided to completely relax your mind along with your body to provide the much needed relief from the outside stressful stimuli. When a person has reached that pinnacle of relaxation, it is then they can begin shifting their attention to the thoughts, and feelings of distress, working to eliminate them one by one.

Guided meditation can be helpful for individuals struggling with anxiety and depression.

Therapy in Burbank can be a source of learning skills to help reduce anxiety, one such skill is guided meditation.

How to Help an Anxious Teen?

Anxiety in teens is more common than you would have thought. One in every 8 children suffers from some form of anxiety, and that’s just in the United States. As tumultuous and difficult as anxiety disorders are for adults, they are considerably tougher for young children and teenagers who are already struggling with emotional and physical changes.

Dealing with an anxious teen and effectively comforting them in order to alleviate their anxiety is something that most parents have difficulty with on a regular basis. However, there are a number of ways in which parents, counselors, and mentors can help calm an anxious teen. They include:

Reassure

The first step towards helping an anxious teen is providing them with the reassurance that everything is alright. Anxiety is essentially a storm of unnecessary worrying thoughts that bring a teen’s fears to life.  While verbal reassurance is necessary, in order to effectively reassure an anxious teen you have to use your actions together with your words. Make the effort to practice deep breathing with your child so that they physically calm down, and then provide the verbal reassurance necessary.

 Encourage

Once you have managed to successfully reassure your child that they are in a safe environment, encourage and gently coax them to discuss the problems that plague them. Resist the urge to lecture, coach, and teach- rather persuade them to talk about their fears by withholding judgment. Be persistent in your willingness and availability to listen and do exactly that- focus on the listening instead of you talking.

Teach

When a teen shows willingness to open up and discuss the issues that worry them – and it can take a considerable amount to time for them to do so, take the opportunity to inform and teach them about anxiety. It’s important for a teenager to know that the thing which seemingly alienates them is in fact, quite common, and normal even. It is not harmful, nor is it dangerous to their well-being. Rather anxiety helps teens prepare their mind and body for the possibility of real threat. When we let our bodies react as it would when threatened in the absence of any real plausible danger, that’s when things get troublesome – and that’s what needs to be taught to an anxious teen to help them overcome their anxiety.

A Burbank therapist that specializes in working with teens struggling with anxiety can be the next step to helping your teen.  Call our office today to learn more about Burbank therapy for anxiety.

5,4,3,2,1 Method to Reduce Anxiety

“…The longer I sat in the doctor’s office waiting for my test results the more anxious I became. My stomach was full of butterflies.  I had trouble sitting still.  My heart was racing, and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I could only imagine the worst case scenario…”

Many of us experience anxiety on a regular basis.  Anxiety is a normal and adaptive system in the body that tells us when we are in danger. This means that dealing with your anxiety never involves eliminating it, but rather managing it. However, just because you are experiencing anxiety does not mean you are in a dangerous situation.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) believes that what you think becomes what you feel, but just because you think something does not mean it is accurate. Thoughts are random and sometimes insignificant. Many times our minds can run wild creating situations of “what if”- that may not have any factual basis at all.  Suddenly your mind is running in the wrong direction, and your body begins to feel anxious.  

Panic attacks cause catastrophic thinking which means your thoughts are most likely irrational and out of proportion to reality in the moment. However, the symptoms of a panic attack cannot be ignored.  Panic attacks can increase with time, and prevent you from participating in every day activities.  

To prevent your anxiety from increasing and interfering with daily life, grounding exercises are recommended.  Grounding exercises help you manage the symptoms of anxiety.  As you feel your body becoming anxious, you can do these exercises to reduce the “spacey” feelings and prevent the spiral downward to a panic attack.  

One of the most common grounding techniques is the “54321” exercise.  It goes like this:

Young woman having a panic attack holds head with worried expression.

Start with deep breathing. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 5 seconds. Continue this pattern until you find your thoughts slowing down. 

5. Acknowledge 5 THINGS around you that you can SEE- Maybe it’s a clock on the wall, chewing gum on the floor, clouds moving past, however big or small, recognize 5 items you can see with your eyes.

4.  Acknowledge 4 THINGS around you that you can TOUCH- Maybe it’s your computer at work, the park bench you are sitting on, your cell phone, your wallet or purse.  Recognize 4 items you can feel with your hands or body.

3. Acknowledge 3 THINGS around you that you can HEAR- Maybe it’s the buzz of the copy machine, the laughter of children at the park, birds chirping, construction work down the street.  Use your fine tuning and see if you can hear ambient sounds you may not normally tune into- the hum of the air conditioner, clocks ticking, cars going by.  Name 3 things that are audible to you. 

2. Acknowledge 2 THINGS around you that you can SMELL.  This one may be tricky if you are not in a stimulating environment. If you cannot automatically sniff something out, walk nearby to find a scent. Maybe you walk to your bathroom to smell soap or outside to smell anything in nature, or even could be as simple as leaning over and smelling a pillow on the couch, a pencil or hey do a check to see how your deodorant is working today. Whatever it may be, take in the smells around you.

1. Acknowledge 1 positive THING around you that you can taste is the most common way to end this exercise, but I like instead that you acknowledge one positive thing about yourself.  Anxiety can leave us feeling inadequate, or silly that we are getting “worked up over nothing”, but taking time to address your feelings is an accomplishment.  There are many good things about you.  Positive thinking can help bring about a positive feeling in yourself.  And finally at level 1, I also recommend taking one more big deep breath.  

At the end of the exercise celebrate your success.  Recognize you were able to ground yourself and prevent the anxiety spiral.  This will help you remember coping with anxiety is possible and that you successfully completed the exercise once before. The next time you feel your anxiety returning, remind yourself of your previous successes. If you are new to grounding and the 54321 exercise, here are some tips to remember: 

Tips for Grounding:

1. Eyes open. When doing grounding techniques, make sure to keep your eyes open, so that you can see and focus on what is around you right now. It is also a good idea to speak out loud, describing what you are seeing and doing.

2. Practice: Like any other skill, it is important to practice grounding techniques. It will be most useful if you have tried using this skill when you were calm, and you practiced it often. That way, when you find yourself needing to use it, you already know how.

3. Enlist help: Teach a friend or family member about grounding and why you need to use it. If someone you trust understands when grounding is useful, they can remind you to use it (and do it with you) if you are starting to lose touch with the present. For example, they might say, “I think you might want to do some grounding now... can you describe what you are wearing? What am I wearing? Where are we right now?”

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is effective for anxiety management. Contact Hope Therapy Center in Burbank today! Our trained professional therapist in Burbank help you reduce anxiety.  

Photo by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

5 Ways to Help Children Through Life's Transitions

“…Leaving the park is always so difficult.  I don’t understand why Ava continually puts up a fight.  Whenever I say it’s time to go, she throws the biggest fit and refuses to listen.  Sometimes if we’re on a tight schedule I end up having to pick her up, kicking and screaming, to get her in the car.  What do I do?”

Do you have a child that has difficulty leaving places like the park or library?

While each child is unique, many times these behaviors occur as a result of struggles with transitions.

Little boy acts up by sticking his tongue out at his parent.

Transitions and routines create predictability in your child’s day.  This helps give your child a sense of security and emotional stability, knowing what to expect.  When a situation occurs where the play is ended abruptly, your child may negatively react to that unpredictability. Depending on your child's temperament, transitions between activities may be easy or more difficult.  Going from play to lunch, lunch to the store, the store to home...and especially transitioning to bed time, can be challenging. 

Routines (like bedtime routines) can help make transitions easier. 

What are signs that your child is having difficulty with transitions?

  • Child cries when toys are taken away

  • Leaving the park often results in a tantrum or meltdown

  • Child fixates on an object or thing from the previous outing (like a book left at the library, or a toy at daycare)

  • Resistance to simple tasks like putting shoes on, or putting toys away. 

What can you do to help?

  • Keep a Consistent Routine:  Children need predictability.  They like to be able to anticipate what is coming next.  The unknown can be scary for some children.  While each day does not need to be scripted down to the very minute- a general flow for the day is advised.  This is easy to do if you have children in school.  From the time the child wakes up, keep each day as consistent as possible.  First, you make your bed.  Then go eat breakfast.  Next you put on your school clothes and brush your teeth…etc.  This way the child can anticipate what’s next.  Also, the going to bed “winding down” time needs to be the same.  Take a bath, read a book, then off to bed. 

  • Provide Transition Prompts: Children who struggle with transitions have a difficult time stopping a task abruptly.  Instead, these are the children that need the “five minute warning” that the activity is coming to an end.  Maybe your child is too young to understand the concept of time, but the verbal cue lets them know that the end is coming.  It allows them the opportunity to finish building their tower, or go down the slide one more time, and allows them to process the transition.  Other transition prompts can be:

    • “When you finish reading that book, it will be time for bed…”

    • “Two more minutes to play in the bathtub, then it will be time to get out…”

    • “After you put your shoes on, it will be time to get in the car…”

  • Prepare Them for Something New: Is this the child’s first time to the doctor? Are they going to kindergarten or preschool for the first time? Is a babysitter coming over so you can have some adult time? These are all situations that children who struggle with transitions will need to know about ahead of time.  Also, it’s important to prepare these children for how you want them to behave in a particular environment.  If you are walking into the Post Office or Library- these children need the verbal prompting “Ok, we are about to walk into a building.  This building requires us to use quiet voices.  Can you show me quiet voices?”  By setting the expectation ahead of time for behavior a child can respond to your request without the confusion of what’s expected. 

  • Use a Transitional Object: Now a days many families are divorced or blended and consistency is hard.  What Mom does at her house is different than what Dad does.  While getting the two houses to conform to a familiar schedule can be challenging, a transitional object can help a child move from home to home, or throughout their day.  A transitional object does not need to be a large stuff animal.  It can be small- something that fits in their pocket or backpack.  Maybe it’s a favorite toy, or stuff animal they like to sleep with at night.  For one child I worked with, a self-drawn picture of his family folded up and kept in his pocket was enough of a reminder he was safe and that his family was returning.  In a school setting it is important to speak with the Teacher or Staff about what kind of object your child can use- but many times just knowing their special object is in their backpack waiting for them at the end of the day is reassuring enough.

Using these 5 techniques can greatly decrease your child’s anxiety with transitions, and allow a smoother day over all.  By simply adding verbal cues or prompts, your child will learn what to expect and will be able to adjust themselves to the next activity. 

If you are having trouble with a child struggling with transitions, therapy can help. Our Burbank therapists specialize in working with families and children, and are excited to help you apply these tools in your own life. 

Photo by Hunter Johnson on Unsplash

How to Get Through the Holidays When Life Doesn't Seem So Merry

Many people are excited about this time of year.  Time for good food, visiting with family and friends, and maybe even a little shopping.  However the holidays can be a very difficult time for many.  The holidays come with traditions, lots of memories, and a time when we miss our loved ones the most. 

  • Is this the first holiday you are spending post divorce?

  • Is it your first holiday where you’re children are at your ex’s house?

  • Is this the first holiday since the passing of a loved one? Maybe it’s the 7th holiday of the passing of a loved one, and the holidays are still hard to get through. 

It is important for you to recognize the changes in the year and the feelings you are experiencing during the holidays.  While everyone else seems to be “merry and bright”, it’s important to know that it’s OK to take a step back and reflect on where you are. 

Woman alone and depressed during the holidays looks up at sparkling lights.

5 ways to help you through this holiday season:

  • If It’s Different, Make it Different-  If this is the first year you won’t be able to create your traditional holiday then mix it all up altogether.  If you will be alone without children for the holidays, think of fun activities to do to keep yourself busy.  Here are some fun ideas to mix up your holiday:

    • Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen so you are surrounded by people.

    • Always serve Turkey? Order Chinese Food and give your meal a little Kung Pao!

    • Say “Yes” to invitations.  Office Holiday Party- Say Yes.  Neighbor invites you for dinner- Say “Yes”.  You may surprise yourself at what a fun time you will have.

    • Go to a Movie

    • Support a Local Toys for Tots Drive

  • Honor The Person Who’s Passed - If this is your first holiday without a loved one then find a special way to honor them.  Take time with your family to share holiday stories about them, or even recreate their favorite dishes of the season.  Pretending you aren’t sad does not make the sadness go away.  Sharing your sadness and reaching out to others will help ease the pain.  Chances are you aren’t the only person missing them, and talking about it with someone may ease their pain too. 

  • Take a Trip - If you are always used to a holiday at home and pieces of your family may be missing, use this time to go explore somewhere new. Have you ever visited a winter wonderland? Visit Colorado, or New York.  Tired of the cold and gray? Pack your bags for Arizona or Florida! Visiting some place new may be just the change of scenery you need.

  • Host Military Personnel - Many times those serving in our military are not able to travel for the holidays.  Their leave is often so short that they cannot make it home and back in time to report for duty.  Contact your local Military Office and see if there are soldiers staying local who could use a place to visit and celebrate a holiday. 

  • Use this time to Process your Grief - A loss of any kind may result in sadness.  It is important to process your loss and acknowledge the feelings you have regarding your changes.  Here are some ideas on ways to process your grief:

    • Read - There are many books on Amazon, or at your local library on surviving the holidays after losing a loved one.

    • Write - Start a journal or write a letter to your lost loved one saying all the things you wish you could if you could see them one last time. 

    • Local Tree of Lights - Check with your local hospital if they celebrate with a tree of lights- a ceremony to honor those who have passed.

    • Contact Hope Therapy Center - The holidays may have brought to light how difficult things are right now.  Maybe you didn’t even realize you miss your ex spouse until now.  Working with a Therapist will help you identify your feelings and support you through this difficult time.

Whatever you choose to do this Holiday Season, we wish you Health and Happiness!

Photo by Krissara Lertnimanorladee on Unsplash

Effective Ways to Manage Anxiety

Everyone worries about all sorts of things, and sometimes that act of worrying can be helpful in pushing you to solve a problem and take action when needed. However, constant self-doubt, paralyzing fears, and high levels of anxiety can be very harmful to your health. If you are experiencing panic attacks as a result of your anxiety, it’s essential that you see a therapist who can help you. Your mental health is not something that can be left ignored and untreated. But if you are experiencing anxiety without panic attacks, you can train your mind to break the habit of worrying and teach yourself to relax and calm down.

Worried woman stares out of window.

Worrying about Worrying

One of the main reasons why managing anxiety is so hard is because of the way you think about anxiety itself. Some people are concerned that worrying so much will cause major health problems for them both physically and mentally, and it will consume them wholly. This adds more anxiety, and the vicious cycle of worrying continues.

Other people feel that their anxiety is good as it helps them solve problems, protects them from unexpected occurrences, and prepares them for any potential bad situations. This means that they can never get rid of their anxiety, as they treat it like a security blanket. So they will constantly have elevated levels of anxiety.

It’s important to understand that anxiety, in moderation, is a good thing; but when it starts to take over your life and interferes with your daily routine, it must be alleviated.

Tips to Reducing Anxiety

Once you decide that your anxiety is bogging you down, and it is something you must manage and reduce, you can try some tested self-help methods to get you through it:

Create Boundaries

It’s hard to stop thinking about something, because when you want to stop thinking, it entails thinking about it. Distracting yourself and telling yourself to calm down will just increase anxiety. What you can do is embrace the anxious thoughts, but with restrictions. Set a time and place for your worry; such as the sitting on the patio from 6 pm to 6:30pm and allow yourself to worry. Give yourself a specific time to worry about everything and then stop when you leave that place. During the day, it you start to worry, tell yourself that this is not the time and wait till 6 pm to think these thoughts. This delays the anxiety and restricts it, helping you avoid it during your regular activities.

Identify Good and Bad Anxiety

When you start to worry, stop and think about whether the problem at hand is solvable or unsolvable. This will tell you whether your anxiety is fulfilling a purpose or not. If yes, you can deal with the problem and your anxiety will go away. If no, you can delay the anxiety and worry about it at 6 pm (or whatever time you choose). Identify your feelings of fear and anger, and accept them as part of who you are. This way, you won’t be so overwhelmed by these emotions and won’t get so anxious when having to deal with them.

Live in the Moment

Be mindful of the present. Start to notice everything around you and stay completely focused on what’s happening in the present. This will control worrying about the past and future, and all your imaginary what-ifs will be kept at bay. Don’t get frustrated when your old worries keep resurfacing, each time to draw attention back to the present, you are reinforcing a new habit that your brain will eventually adapt.

 5,4,3,2,1 Zap Anxiety 

One way to help ground you back in the moment is to activate the 5 senses – this is why we call it the 5,4,3,2,1 Zap Anxiety Plan. 

With this plan, take a moment and identify the following:

1) Indentify 5 things you can see

2) Identify 4 things you can hear

3) Identify 3 things you can touch

4) Identify 2 things you can smell

5) Identify 1 thing you can taste

Through the process of activating the senses it brings you back to the present and allows the mind to stop worrying about the “what ifs.”

When you implement these tips, you will start to see a noticeable change in your levels of anxiety.

Give it some time, and if it persists, you may want to seek professional help – a caring therapist can help you alleviate anxiety. Contact Jennie Marie for more information.