Our need for human connection is so powerful that it is essential to our physical and mental well-being.
When Cathy Moen’s son, Elijah, was in first grade, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She took him to the pediatrician, who put him on medication and suggested therapy.
The medication part was easy. But getting him therapy proved more difficult — not because Moen couldn’t find a therapist or didn’t have insurance, but because of logistics.
The appointments were always during the day, and between her work schedule and the traffic, it was nearly impossible for them to make it.
But she soon learned Elijah was able to see a therapist in his Bloomington school. More than 15 years ago, Minneapolis Public Schools helped pioneer a national model of bringing community mental health care directly to its students. Today, most of the public schools in Minneapolis — more than 50 of them — have a therapist on site, and many other districts, like Elijah’s, have followed suit.
These days, Elijah’s therapist simply walks down the hall and pulls him from class.
“This is like a godsend,” said Moen.
The family’s health insurance pays for the care the same way it would if the student were being seen in the clinic. The school program was designed so that no student in need will be turned away for lack of insurance.
The Minneapolis program has also provided a road map for schools across the country as more administrators realize that mental health is as important to students’ future success as academics. Studies have shown that students are more likely to show up for appointments when the therapists are on-site.
More and more states are making mental health care in schools a priority. At least two states have recently passed laws that require schools to teach mental health. And more are considering it.
But the benefit of having a therapist on-site goes beyond just getting students to see a therapist. In Minneapolis, it’s also helped make mental health a school-wide priority — and helped get counselors, teachers and others more involved, said Mark Sander, who helped start the district program.
“Those teachers start learning more and more [about mental health],” said Sander, who directs school mental health for the district and the county.
He said as they learn more about mental health, teachers are feeling like, “‘OK, I get it. And now, you know, I’ve got this other student who’s not diagnosed with anxiety but has some of those anxiety features. And now I know how to better support them.”
At South High School in Minneapolis, the therapists sit in the school clinic, the same one where students go if they feel sick during the day or to get a physical so they can play sports.
The issues the students bring to the therapist run the gamut from stress about grades and colleges to anxiety related to a bad situation at home.
Farah Hussein is a therapist at South. She said it’s hard being a teenager, and she tries to help.
“There’s a lot of conversations about, ‘Who am I? Where do I fit in the world? Where do I belong?’ and just a lot of distress in exploring that,” she said.
All of this has important implications for the students’ well-being beyond just their mental health.
Sharon Hoover, who co-directs the National Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said more schools are collecting data on outcomes of in-school mental health programs, and the results are clear.
“They are more likely to have good attendance and to graduate and to get improved grades. We even have documentation of having better standardized test scores when you put universal systems in place like classroom-wide social emotional learning,” she said, all of which makes for happier, better adjusted students.
Cathy Moen, the mother whose son, Elijah, is in therapy in school, said she doesn’t know if it’s the medicine, or the therapy, or just that he’s growing up, but she — and his teachers — are already seeing a difference.
Getting your teen to improve his or her focus.
“If the eye is patient enough, it will get a clear view of the nose.” – Anonymous
When people think about issues related to poor concentration, they immediately think about distractions. This is even more the case when it concerns teens. Things that come to the mind of the casual observer, are smart phones, social media and troubled peers.
A quick Google search for how to improve your teen’s lack of focus, will bring up issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD), depression, nutrition and strategies for developing a more efficient schedule. These topics and recommended strategies are appropriate and effective for helping your teen improve his or her issues with focus, but they cannot be effectively applied until one important issue is addressed.
That’s right. The primary reason young people struggle with poor focus and concentration is a general lack of motivation to do anything meaningful. The teen who lacks motivation will often gravitate towards activities which greatly stimulate neuro-chemicals associated with the brain’s reward system.
Activities such as video games, food, mind altering substances, alcohol and sex. These are things bored teens are likely to engage in habitually, in order to feel alive. This is because, in the absence of motivation to succeed, the teen is faced with a difficult reality consisting of a monotonous chore and a daily schedule. Even things like daily showers can seem time consuming and tiring to a teen who struggles with low motivation. It is also important to note that these issues are also symptoms of depression with a teen.
Before we begin processing on how to get teens more motivated, it is important to come to an understanding on what motivation is. According to Wikipedia, the term motivation is derived from motive. Motive means a need that desires satisfaction. So, for a teen to be motivated, he or she must be actively pursuing a need which desires satisfaction.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Typically, we understand needs to be intrinsic materials necessary to keep us alive, such as food, water and shelter. However, an expanded discussion on the issue of needs would be based on the famous work of Abraham Maslow, regarding his hierarchy of emotional needs.
According to Dr. Maslow’s theory, there are two types of needs people strive for. They are deficiency needs and growth needs. Deficiency needs are comprised of basic needs and psychological needs. These are physiological needs, which have to do with food, water and shelter. Followed by the need for safety and security. The physiological needs and the safety needs are known as basic needs.
Next are the psychological needs, which have to do with the needs for a sense of belonging and feeling accepted. This is also followed by the need for esteem, which has to do with prestige and status in society. According to Dr. Maslow, people are only motivated to get these needs met, when these needs are deficient in their lives. Once these needs are met, people are no longer motivated in getting them met, which opens the door for addressing growth needs.
Then there are the self-fulfillment needs, which Dr. Maslow describes as self-actualization coming from having achieved one’s full potential. He also describes this as growth needs. Unlike deficiency needs, people become more motivated as their growth needs are met.
So, a teen who practices the courage to do his best in understanding calculus, becomes more motivated the more he succeeds and subsequently more focused. Further, teens who are experiencing success in achieving their potential, are also very disciplined in their home life. For example, they are disciplined in following through consistently with their assigned chores and personal hygiene.
It has been theorized that teens who struggle with depression, have experienced very little success in effectively getting their psychological needs met. This topic will be addressed in another post.
Upon examining Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is easy to conclude that most teens don’t have low motivation. Rather, most teens are preoccupied to getting their deficiency needs (acceptance and recognition) met, rather than their growth needs (success in academia) met.
Such a phenomenon is easy to witness with teens from low socio-economic backgrounds, such as an obsession in getting their physiological and safety needs met. However, with teens from middle class backgrounds and up, their focus is often on their psychological needs. For example, relationship with friends, close friendships and status among peers.
When teens are focused on getting their deficiency needs met, they are not going to be focused on issues regarding self-discipline and mastery. For a parent to help his or her teen become more focused on growth needs, he or she will have to teach his or her teen how to effectively get their deficiency needs met.
Conflict of Beliefs and Values.
This may be easier said than done, as today’s teenager is often exposed to new values and beliefs through social media. Meaning, that these values and beliefs are often in conflict with the teaching of the parents.
So, efforts to help the teen address his or her deficiency needs may result in a stalemate between parent and teen. Which then leads to a recurring problem with a lack of focus due to poor motivation with issues like school work, personal hygiene and chores.
The solution for a situation like this will be for parents to seek therapeutic services to assist their teen in effectively getting their deficiency needs met, in order to focus on his or her growth needs.
At the same time, it can be hard to know if the worries and racing heart you experience at the thought of, say, meeting new people, is run-of-the-mill stress, or if you’re actually experiencing some level of anxiety and could benefit from seeing a professional.
“I can’t tell you how many people I see who say, ‘I don’t know if I should be coming in here,’” clinical psychologist Robert Duff, Ph.D., author of Hardcore Self Help: F**k Anxiety., tells SELF. “On a broad scale, [talking about anxiety] is positive, but I don’t blame anyone for the confusion.”
Figuring out how serious your anxiety is can be tough because anxiety is a normal and essential part of being a human.
“Anxiety is a reaction to a situation we perceive as stressful or dangerous,” Monique Reynolds, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist at the Center for Anxiety & Behavioral Change in Rockville, Maryland, tells SELF. This produces a stress response in your body—specifically, your brain’s hypothalamus triggers your sympathetic nervous system to release norepinephrine (aka adrenaline) and cortisol (a stress hormone) to get you out of harm’s way.
This is actually a good thing when there is a real threat of danger present. “A major part of our brain’s job is to keep us alive, and fear and anxiety are a big part of that,” Reynolds says. For example, the anxiety you would feel at seeing a truck hurtling towards you would make you move from its way more quickly.
But if you have anxiety, that stress response can kick in when it shouldn’t. “You feel very much the way you do when in a dangerous situation…[but] there’s no real danger there,” Duff says. Instead of being helpful, this misfiring of your fight or flight reaction can hinder you.
While a little anxiety can also help you to perform at an optimal level under stress, giving you a burst of adrenaline and hyper-focus to finish a business proposal before deadline or nail that dance number at a performance, living in a constant heightened state of anxiety can be distracting at best and debilitating at worst. When anxious thoughts are interfering with your life and causing you significant distress, that isn’t something you should just chalk up to nerves and push through. That’s something you can get help with.
Anxiety is the most prevalent mental illness in the United States, and it comes in various forms.
Anxiety affects about 40 million American adults each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). But it’s not as cut-and-dry as saying that anxiety is simply when you feel nervous all the time. This mental health condition comes in many forms.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by having excessive worries and fears for months, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Per the ADAA, GAD affects 6.8 million U.S. adults each year. Panic disorder involves spontaneous bouts of debilitating fear known as panic attacks, along with intense worry about when the next attack will come, according to the NIMH. Per the ADAA, it affects 6 million American adults each year. Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) happens when you have a marked fear of social situations in which you might be judged or rejected, as well as avoiding these situations or experiencing symptoms like nausea, trembling, or sweating as a result.
Then there are other issues that are closely related to anxiety, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, which involves intrusive thoughts and urges, and posttraumatic stress disorder, which happens when people have a prolonged stress response to harrowing situations.
These are just some of the various anxiety and anxiety-adjacent disorders out there. That these issues can present in myriad ways can make it even harder to know if what you’re experiencing is anxiety that could benefit from outside help.
“Some people feel they can control their anxiety, some feel it’s something they ‘should’ be able to manage, some feel shame, some fear they might be ‘crazy,’ and others downplay how much their anxiety is impacting them,” Reynolds says.
If anxiety interferes with your daily life—whatever that might look like to you—that’s reason enough to see a mental health professional.
“When your world starts to become limited because of anxiety, that is a good signal that it’s time to seek treatment,” Reynolds says. “What is it doing to your life, your relationships, your sleep, health, work, and ability to learn and pursue things that are important to you?”
This “functional impairment,” as Reynolds calls it, can show up in different ways in different people. Is anxiety making you avoid doing things with loved ones because you’re too nervous to go outside? Do you skip school or work out of fear of what people may think of you? Can you not get enough sleep because you’re up all night worrying about the next day? Is your anxiety over certain tasks, like paying bills, leading to procrastination so extreme it comes with consequences, like getting your lights turned off?
Keep tabs on whether you’re blowing up at people, too. Anger and irritability can sometimes be a sign of anxiety. “We often forget that fight or flight includes ‘fight,’” Reynolds says. “If you have a shorter fuse or are always on edge for triggers, it could be related to anxiety.”
So, too, could physical issues. “We think of ourselves as these disembodied heads floating around,” Reynolds says. “We forget that there is a big feedback loop between the nervous system and the body.” Every part of you, from your head to your stomach to your feet, has nerves to regulate important processes, which is why your sympathetic nervous system’s stress response can be so far-reaching. You even have an entire nervous system reserved for gastrointestinal function, known as your enteric nervous system, which may help explain why there’s such a strong link between issues like irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety.
Constant fatigue can also kick in if your anxiety is in overdrive. “The physical reaction to anxiety, by nature, is supposed to be short-term. The body is supposed to come back down to baseline,” Duff says. “But a prolonged period of anxiety depletes your resources and exhausts you.”
“If your anxiety is bothering you and you are suffering, you deserve to get help,” Duff says. That’s true whether or not you think your anxiety is serious, whether or not you think you meet diagnostic criteria you read online, and whether or not your friends and family treat your anxiety with the weight it deserves. And if your anxiety is getting to the point where you’re worried for your safety, call 9-1-1 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (it’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-8255), or go to the emergency room, Reynolds says.
Seeing a therapist can be anxiety-inducing on its own, but it’s worth it. Here are a few ways to make it easier.
Knowing what to expect at your first therapy session may make the experience less scary. Although every professional is different, you’re likely to get a lot of questions at the first visit. Ultimately, your psychologist or therapist’s goal is to learn what troubles you’re having so that they can create a plan to help you build the skills you need to address your anxiety.
They’ll also want to figure out which kind of therapy best matches your needs. Different forms, like cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to help people change negative thought patterns, work for different people.
Since the cost of therapy can be prohibitive, know that there are resources to help you find affordable treatment, like the National Alliance on Mental Health’s HelpLine at 1-800-950-6264. The HelpLine is available Monday through Friday, from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M., and you can explain your specific situation to the staffer or volunteer who answers. They may be able to refer you to local organizations that offer more affordable treatment. You can also try the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment locator tool, which can help you find mental health providers who take various forms of insurance, offer payment assistance, or use a sliding scale. Resources like GoodTherapy also allow you to limit search results to therapists who use sliding scales.
And don’t stress about meeting some arbitrary threshold of anxiety for your appointment to be worth the effort. “Somebody with anxiety [may] think there is a risk to seeing someone. ‘If I go and don’t have an anxiety disorder, there’s something bad about that,’” Duff says. “That’s not true. If you are suffering and seeing some of these signs, that’s enough.”
It may be that all you need is a few sessions, or you may meet weekly for months or years based on your goals. Your psychologist or therapist might decide medication would help you live your healthiest, happiest life, or just having someone to talk to might work for you. Also, if you decide you’re not really into the person you’re seeing but you still want help, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying someone else, Duff says.
Ask yourself what kind of life you want to live and what’s holding you back from achieving it, Reynolds says, adding, “If there’s anything related to fear and anxiety, it’s a great sign that maybe you need support around those things.”
Concentration and memory are the two key focus points for every individual. When you are concentrated, your memory automatically improves as you are able to retain the information for a longer period of time.
Having a sharp memory and good concentration power is useful to people of all ages and all professional domains, whether a student or a CEO. Do you not wish that you could have the memory of an elephant who never forgets anything? So, in this article, we are going to discuss some similar tricks and methods that you can use in your daily life to improve your concentration power and in turn, memory.
1. Play Mind Games
Before you plan to beat me up, listen. Mind games are an amazing method to improve your concentration.
Moreover, it is more effective when you are playing these games offline rather than opening a new tab and searching for the best mind games to improve concentration.
2. Creating a To-Do List
A to-do list is probably the simplest thing that you can do. With the availability of almost everything over the internet, we are now the people who take out the phone and ask Google everything right then and there. But, what about after that?
Also, have you ever noticed that once you ask your Google assistant what’s the weather like tomorrow, you are browsing through your Instagram feed before you realise it?
So, create a to-do list that you can paste right in front of you. Keep it in your view and you will be saved from getting distracted.
You don’t need to be a sage almighty or you don’t need the peace of nature with a waterfall and chirping birds so that you can meditate peacefully.
Meditation can be done right at your home, at your desk! You just need to calm and focus. Play relaxation music, but take care to not fall asleep. Close your eyes and focus on the one thing that motivates you to go on about your day.
It can be anything, some fictional character, your girlfriend, your parents, money or any other thing. You don’t need to pack your bags and depart for the Himalayas but work here and now.
A lazy body is the devil’s abode. You should not even cry that you have such a poor concentration when all you do the entire day is eat pizza, drink beer, watch tv and sleep.
The first step to a healthy mind is a healthy body. Dust off the shoes in the shelf, put ‘em on and go jogging. Watch yoga tutorials on YouTube and learn the techniques that will open up the jammed parts of your body.
When you start exercising, you will not restrict your energy to your body but channelise it and allow it to flow. Hence, it will improve your concentration and your memory significantly.
5. Avoid Multitasking
I know it hurts but this is actually a way you can improve your concentration power and your focus. It is natural that the person want feels the need to juggle so many tasks at once and try to complete them all at once. Though the capabilities of the human brain are not fully known, we do not know very well that how can multitasking become more efficient.
Hence, for the time being, avoid multitasking and focus on one thing at a time. Rather than trying to complete 5 different works with your 20% efficiency, allow your 100% efficiency on one single task.
6. Reduce Dependency on Gadgets
There is a phrase I am fond of – phones are getting smart and humans dumb. This is really true. If you ever look around yourself, you will see that everyone is busy with their necks down and thumbs moving.
These smartphones and other gadgets affect our brain directly and hamper with our decision making capability, our judgment and our concentration.
Whatever be the thing, we simply ask Google assistant to save a reminder. We ask Alexa to create our to-do list for the day. We need to set birthday reminders for the people who are close to us! Such dependency on technology should be reduced and the brain should be made to function more and more.
Trust me, your concentration will improve significantly after a couple of weeks when you start remembering everything and not your phone.
7. Identify Your Learning Style
Every human has a preferred learning style with which they learn everything. Whether you remember better and focus more during a video or by hearing something. Once you identify this, your concentration will improve.
What happens is that you will be able to identify which style of learning suits you more. As a result, you will automatically strive to focus more when your preferred learning style is available. See, your concentration improved.
These 7 tips are easy to incorporate in your daily lives as a way to improve your concentration.
You’ve done it! High school is over and it’s time for college. Everyone is just so proud… and you’re alternating between wildly optimistic and sure of certain failure. As a person with a diagnosed mood disorder, you just barely survived high school—and that’s no exaggeration.
Maybe you’ve accumulated a list of experiences that don’t exactly enhance your resume—frequent absences, medication trials, psychiatrist visits (outpatient or in), special schools, therapists, suicide attempts and drinking sprees. But you’ve gotten good enough grades, and you’re off to college away from home. Maybe you’re hoping the geographic and lifestyle change will help you (You can confess! It’s what your Aunt Mildred thinks, too).
You are one of a new and mighty generation, with access to early diagnosis and treatment for your mood disorder. In generations past, a “nervous breakdown” in youth meant years of seclusion, sedatives and broken dreams. Today, though, higher education has never been more accessible for those living with mental illness.
With support from NAMI and resources like “The Mighty” and social media, you certainly won’t be living with mental illness all alone, and you’re about to join an exciting, new college community where stigma is reduced. But only about 56% of students earn degrees within six years—it isn’t easy.
Your success depends partly on how quickly you can get into the driver’s seat of managing your illness. So, here are a few practical tips for the road ahead:
Prepare For Your Trip
Make a mental health plan with your parents and hometown mental health professionals. Assume the year won’t be perfect and set up your supports before you go. NAMI actually has an awesome guide that can help you plan and start all necessary conversations—including what you decide to disclose to college officials about your mental health condition. Planning will help you succeed.
Avoid The Potholes
Sleep! You know you have to. Lack of sleep is both a trigger and a symptom. Even if you’re behind on studying—it’s better to get a C on a quiz than deal with a trip to the ER. Limit your late nights to 1-2 per week, max. If your sleep gets disrupted in a dorm, make a change. Speaking of lost sleep: please party wisely. Your medications probably don’t mix well with alcohol and ignoring this warning will be at your peril.
Put On The Gas
Practice self-care. This is likely to be easier than in high school, because many of your new friends will be going for walks or runs, working out in the campus athletic center, taking classes in dance or fencing, practicing meditation and joining clubs full of likeminded students. College is a great time to develop healthy habits, and exercise and self-care are so important for mental health.
Choose Your Passengers
At home, most people probably knew a lot about you. Be honest and open at college, but be wary. Once you’ve shared your story, you cannot un-share it. The world is not always a fair place. If you tell others you have a mental health condition, you may be known by your personality and your diagnosis. Some will see you through a veil of their own ignorance. If this happens, you can take on the task of educating others. You may choose to become a mental health advocate, but wait until you are ready.
As you head off to college, be happy! And be prepared. You have a disorder that you wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it is part of who you are. You’re already accomplished: You made it to college and that’s a great achievement. Your preparations will help you be even more successful and every class will bring you closer to having an educated mind.
Many of the people you will be reading about in school—Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, J.K. Rowling, William Styron, Annie Lamott, Kay Redfield Jameson—were once in your shoes. These role models were once young adults facing the adversity of living with a mood disorder, but not letting it define them. When their works are discussed in class, you will have powerful insights about their lives. Mood disorders don’t go away, but with medication, support, lifestyle care and a little luck, they can be managed. You can succeed on your journey.
Sharon Carnahan, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL and Executive Director of Hume House Child Development & Student Research Center. She has taught first-year college students since 1990 and is an advocate for students with special health care needs. www.rollins.edu/cdc.
Starting from childhood, it’s critical for school counselors to use evidence-based interventions to help students with ADHD stay organized and manage their time. And those skills can translate into the workplace as adults. According to Counseling@NYU, which offers an online master’s in school counseling from NYU Steinhardt, small steps to manage a child’s time in the classroom efficiently and minimize distractions can make a big difference in the long run.
As an adult, you can use similar practical tactics that school counselors would use to manage your ADHD. You might not struggle with all these issues, and all these solutions may not work for you, but these tips may help boost your productivity at work.
- Start work earlier or stay later when it’s quieter.
- Keep your desk clear of clutter.
- Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office. If you don’t have an office, find an empty office or a conference room.
- Position your desk away from office traffic.
- Ask if you can work from home on certain days.
- Use noise-canceling headphones or listen to music (this can help the brain concentrate).
ADHD means you may take longer to finish projects. So, it’s important to get help staying on track.
- Bundle tasks. If you can, answer your phone, check your email and scan Twitter only at set times of the day. Otherwise, let your calls go to voicemail and stay off the Internet.
- Clock yourself. Use an alarm or your phone to keep from veering off to another task. prematurely. A beeper also can be handy if you’re prone to hyper-focus and lose track of time.
- Enlist your supervisor. Your boss may be able to help you stay on top of your deadlines with reminders and regular feedback.
If you’re prone to hyperactivity, you already know that moving any part of your body can bring relief. Turns out even tapping your fingers can help raise levels of dopamine and norepinephrine brain chemicals that help sharpen focus and attention, so:
- Move around. If you’re restless, find an appropriate excuse to get up and walk. Grab a coffee from the cafe. Go to the bathroom. Take the stairs. Chat with a coworker down the hall.
- Fidget. If you’re trapped at your desk or at a meeting, look for unobtrusive ways to release physical tension. You can discreetly wiggle your toes, tap your pen on your thighs, doodle, take sips of a drink or squeeze a stress ball.
- Work out. Exercise can be a powerful antidote for hyperactivity. Just pick something you enjoy—whether it’s yoga, walking, biking or team sports—and get moving.
Don’t Forget Self-Care
It’s a myth that you can treat ADHD only with medications or professional therapy. Self-help strategies can also help corral your attention and energies, so you can focus and be productive. Here are some ways to help yourself:
- Get out. Being outdoors, especially when the sun’s out, can boost your mood.
- Eat right. Fuel your body with lean proteins, whole grains and vegetables.
- Sleep well. Make getting quality shut-eye a priority. Avoid caffeine in the evenings, put away the phone and stick to a restful bedtime routine.
- Chill out. Destress your mind and body with meditation, yoga, tai chi or mindful walking.
ADHD may be a well-known condition, but it’s often misunderstood. You may help yourself if you educate your loved ones and coworkers about how it affects your life and job. Then make these productivity and self-help tips your habits, and you might just turn chaos into calm.
Alexis Anderson is a Digital PR Coordinator covering K-12 education at 2U, Inc. Alexis supports outreach for their school counseling, teaching, mental health and occupational therapy programs.
from Psychology Today
It’s no surprise that when parents read to their kids, it helps them succeed in school.
Three separate systematic reviews of what educators call dialogic reading—essentially engaging in a conversation with young children as you read to them—found positive effects including improved language skills, literacy, and school readiness.
Now a new body of research is finding even more benefits of reading to children—for both the kids and the parents. A systematic review published last month in the journal Pediatrics looks at broader benefits of intervention programs designed to encourage parents to read to their children.
Researchers looked at how reading interventions affected both kids’ and parents’ psychosocial functioning – essentially their physical and mental wellness and ability to interact in society. (Psychosocial functioning is typically measured by indicators of depression and stress, behavior problems, quality of life and personal skills.)
The reviewers found 18 studies of interventions that included more than 3,200 families. The interventions provided structured training to show parents the best ways to read with their children, and then followed up with the children and parents. The shortest duration was one month and the longest was 48 months.
Eleven of the interventions focused on parents with low levels of educationand 13 focused on families with a low socioeconomic status.
The reviewers found, on the whole, that these reading intervention programs had a significant positive impact on both child and parent psychosocial functioning. Specifically, children showed improvements in social-emotional skills and their interest in reading and reported improve quality of life. And parents experienced better attitudes toward reading, improved relationships with their children and improved parenting skills.
The benefits extend to babies and toddlers, as well as children up to age 6 and apply equally to boys and girls.
While it’s clear that reading is great for kids, the evidence also shows that some parents need guidance in engaging with kids and books. The Reading Rockets project, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, provides some practical tips. Among them, use fun voices for different characters, ask your child questions about the story as you go, and connect what you are reading to real-life experiences whenever possible.
If there are any small children in your life, sit down with them for a regular story time. The evidence shows it’s great for kids, and might just benefit you as well!
For more information on our work solving human problems, please visit Cornell University’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research’swebsite.
Xie, Q., Chan, C. H., Ji, Q., & Chan, C. L. (2018). Psychosocial Effects of Parent-Child Book Reading Interventions: A Meta-analysis. Pediatrics,141(4). doi:10.1542/peds.2017-2675
from Psychology Today
We’ve all been there: We’re freaking out about something that just happened to us — what someone did to us, said to us, or didn’t do for us. And we’re pissed or terrified, or defeated — our emotions have become overpowering. What do we do now to get our emotions under control when they’ve already gotten completely out of control?
There are tons of ways to better manage our emotions in the long run — for example, we can develop positive thinking skills, reappraisal skills, and resiliency, but these skills require effortful practice over long periods of time. Sure, learning these skills is a great idea, but maybe you’re just not sure what to do (take this well-being quiz to figure out what skills to focus on), or you just haven’t gotten to it yet. So what do we do right now to control our already out-of-control emotions? Here are some science-based tips:
1. Cut off the negative thought spirals.
When bad things happen, sometimes we get stuck ruminating about these events, thinking about what happened — or could have happened — over and over. Often it’s these ruminative thought cycles that drive our emotions up, and not the actual event itself. So to control these emotions, we usually just need to stop having the thoughts that are creating them. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
One strategy is to play “I Spy.” It might seem silly, but naming different objects you see around the room can help you redirect your thoughts to other more mundane things, so that your emotions can get a rest and start to calm down. Another strategy to redirect your thoughts is to get up, do something, or change your surroundings — for example, you could excuse yourself to go to the restroom, or if the situation allows, go for a short walk. This approach helps give you a moment to reset and take your thoughts in a new direction.
2. Take deep breaths.
“Take a deep breath” might seem like a simple platitude, but it actually activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps calm high-arousal negative emotions, like anxiety or anger. So breathing deeply is key when it comes to managing our more challenging emotions.
Because the brain has a harder time making good, rational decisions when emotions are in the driver’s seat, we are also likely to make better decisions if we take a few deep breaths first. So when emotions start to feel overwhelming, pause. Take a couple of deep breaths, and bring those intense emotions down a bit so you can carefully choose what to do next.
3. Generate some positive emotions.
Once you’ve calmed down somewhat, and you’re thinking clearly again, it’s helpful to try to infuse some positive emotions into the situation to help beat back those negative feelings. One way to do this is to look for the silver linings in whatever it is that’s bothering you. For example, did your boss tell you that you must redo the work you just did? A silver lining might be that this experience will help you become better at your job in the future. Or, are you upset about something your romantic partner did? This might be an opportunity to improve your communication skills and advocate for your needs in your relationship. It’s not always easy to find a silver lining, but if you can, it’s a good way to generate positive emotions.
Another way to infuse some positive emotions into the moment is with a funny video or inspiring photo. These little, positive things can help deflate even the most intense negative emotions. So if you’re feeling really down, do something that generates a little happiness, so you can start getting back to your normal self.
4. Practice acceptance.
It can seem counterintuitive to accept the things that are bothering us, but indeed, it is good advice to “accept the things you cannot change” when you want to control your emotions. No matter how upset we get, our emotions can’t change things that are unchangeable. So ask yourself: What part of this situation is unchangeable? Remind yourself to accept those things and focus your effort on the things you can change for the better.
5. Quit the coffees and soft drinks.
Caffeine gives us energy. Of course, energy is good, but caffeine can end up producing nervous energy — energy that feels very similar to feelings of anxiety or panic. So if you’re feeling extra anxious, and you can’t figure out what’s causing it, it might just be the caffeine.
If you’re already feeling stressed about something, caffeine can exacerbate these emotions, in part because caffeine can negatively affect your sleep. When we don’t sleep well, we don’t manage our emotions as well, so our feelings can get out of control more easily. So limiting caffeine is another good way to keep those emotions in check.
6. Get your heart rate up with exercise.
If you’re still feeling all riled up and can’t seem to get a handle on your negative emotions, try exercise, because it turns out that exercise is an effective way to boost your mood. Do a few sprints, lift some heavy weights, or do some other activity that gets your heart rate up, because the higher the intensity of the workout, the greater the impact on your mood. The physiological changes that happen in your body make exercise a great solution for intense emotions that you’re having a hard time handling with other strategies.
By Nina Schroder, MSW, LCSW
Smartphones have transformed modern life in more ways than anyone could have imagined. They enable 24/7 access to infinite information and tools that help us stay organized, track our fitness, express ourselves and be entertained. However, easy access to these digital devices and their habit-forming qualities has led to high screen time for both children and adults and emerging research suggests that such high screen use can have a negative impact on mental health.
Since the rise of the smartphone, indicators of mental “wellness” such as happiness, self-esteem and life satisfaction have decreased while serious mental health issues like anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicide have increased significantly, particularly among young people. A possible reason for this might be that more time on screens, particularly social media, leads to increased risks of stressors like social isolation, cyberbullying, social comparison, decreased life satisfaction, reduced productivity and distraction from personal values and goals.
Increased time on screens also means there’s less time available for positive real world experiences that promote mental health, like exercise, quiet reflection and quality, in-person social connection. With all of this in mind, it’s not surprising that research suggests that less time on social media leads to better well-being.
While more research is needed, it certainly appears that less screen time bodes well for mental health. So, consider the following tips to keep screen time in-check, leaving more room for healthy, positive real-world experiences.
Connect For Real
Despite opportunities for online “connection,” loneliness is at an all-time high. Indeed, quality face-to-face social connection is critical to mental wellness. So, make it a goal to have screen-free, in-person social connections with friends, co-workers and loved ones on a daily basis. Consider making it a standard to power down whenever there is an opportunity for conversation such as in the car, standing in line and during meals or social gatherings.
Commit To A Screen-Free Bedroom
Screen time within an hour of bedtime can negatively impact sleep, which can contribute to physical, mental and cognitive issues. However, the lure of a screen in a quiet bedroom is hard to resist. It’s difficult to ignore texts, resist a Netflix binge or mindlessly scroll through social media. Eliminate the temptation by keeping phones out of the bedroom entirely and reach for a book or magazine instead.
Put away your phone when you need to focus on a task, particularly related to school or work. Research on multitasking shows that it causes distraction, reduces productivity and increases errors. One study showed that subjects whose phones were in a different room performed better on a cognitive test compared to those whose phones were in front of them—and set on “Silent” mode. In addition to reduced productivity and cognitive impact, media multitasking also has been linked to lower wellbeing.
Notice Motives And Feelings
Ask yourself if being on your phone is what you really want to be doing at that moment. By using mindfulness, you can identify if you’re trying to avoid negative feelings or a necessary task, or whether you’re truly enjoying your digital experience. This exercise can help with getting in touch with your emotions and improve purposeful decision-making around screen use.
Pursue Healthy Interests And Activities
Making time for hobbies or activities that promote health, personal growth or connections with others can help to reduce screen use and provide a sense of meaning and purpose. Some examples are: reading books, hiking in nature, taking mindful walks, prayer or meditation, joining a club, practicing yoga, cooking, volunteering or learning to play an instrument.
Practice Reflection And Gratitude
A daily practice in quieting your mind and counting your blessings can boost positive emotion and improve psychological wellness. Research suggests that gratitude may protect against social comparison and envy—common experiences with social media. Reflect on what is good and right in your life. During quiet, screen-free time, write down five good things from each day. Savor simple pleasures like a sunny day, a good cup of coffee or a friendly exchange with someone.
Clarify Your Values
Take time to mindfully consider what you value most in life. What do you want your life to be about? Quality relationships? Physical and emotional health? Spiritual growth? Professional growth? Regularly consider whether screen use is moving you toward or away from your values. If you notice that your screen use is moving you in an unwanted direction, give yourself grace, hit the figurative “reset” button and get back on track.
Nina Schroder, MSW, LCSW is a mental health therapist at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety and depression and researches the effects of high screen use on mental health, emotional resilience, and overall wellness. Nina is passionate about helping others increase wellness and emotional resilience in the Digital Age and delivers lectures and workshops both locally and nationally. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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