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Coping Over The Last Year… How Did We Do It?

Online therapy has been an amazing platform. It has been a privilege walk alongside individuals and families during this time in our history.

What Tools are in Your Toolbox?

A common reason why individuals, families, and couples seek counseling is to “fix” a problem. Imagine if you only had one tool in your toolbox. Would that tool be effective?

Relationships as an Attorney

Being an attorney can be an extremely demanding job at times and can easily cause strain on your relationships with partners, families, or friends. Continue reading for some tips on how to foster those relationships.

Being a Mother with a Demanding Job

Being an attorney and a mother can be extremely difficult. Finding work-life balance may seem impossible and mother’s may begin to feel guilty for working as much as they do. Continue to read on some tips that can help next time the working mom guilt sets in.

Work-Life Balance as an Attorney

Balancing a large caseload as an attorney while still handling the responsibilities of everyday life can often lead to anxiety and depression. If you are struggling to find balance continue to read for some helpful tips on managing work-life balance as an attorney.

Depression in Attorneys

Depression can happen when work and life become overwhelming. If you are feeling some of the physical symptoms of depression treatment is available.

Holiday Tips

 

I recently saw a meme on social media that said “It’s almost time for my normal anxiety to turn into my fancy holiday anxiety.” I had to chuckle when picturing anxiety showing up in a glittery ugly sweater or draped in all things sparkly. Humor aside, it shows that during the holidays, our existing anxiety (or depression) does not just “take a holiday” but rather increases due to stress and societal pressures.

This time of year can be an incredibly stressful and frustrating time. On one hand, we fill our days to the brim with spending time with family and friends, social events, potlucks, baking, preparing meals, finding the right present within your means, and many other tasks guised in the name of the holidays.  All of this “fun” can turn to chaotic quickly. Then on the other hand, some of us may have unwelcome reminders or memories associated with the holidays or feel more alone during this time as we watch others join together and celebrate. Whatever the reason for your distress, here are some helpful strategies to help manage the rise of our fancy anxiety (or depression) in finding ways to relax during the busy time of year or help with our perspective on the season.

  • Self-soothe – Using all 5 senses, focus on what you notice. Cast any judgments away and focus on the experience in the moment. Here are some examples.
    • Taste – slowly eat and notice different flavors in a favorite holiday treat or dish
    • Smell – light a candle or smell a pine tree or cup of tea
    • Sound – listen to your favorite holiday music, point our different instruments or lyrics you might have over looked
    • Sight – watch the fireplace flicker with light or notice the holiday lights all around
    • Touch – when baking or wrapping gifts, bring attention to the different textures you feel
  • Pay it forward – doing something kind for others or contributing can make us feel good about ourselves and give perspective. This could be anything from holding a door open for someone, greeting someone with a smile, adopting a family for the holiday, or volunteering. It does not need to be a large act to bring a sense of contribution to your holiday.
  • Be intentional about breaks – Set aside 15 minutes to check in with yourself and pause from all of the holiday excitement. Read a favorite book, do a meditation, sit in silence, or snuggle up with someone you love.
  • Simplify and slow down – With your to-do list growing, it may feel like you need to be in multiple places at once; however, what we know about the brain is that it cannot think 2 things at once. So, focus your entire attention to the task at hand rather than jumping from task to task (aka multitasking).
  • Follow traditions (or make your own new ones) – Partake in something that brings you meaning for the season, whether this be a family tradition, baking Grandma’s cookies, or finding something new to do this time of year (i.e., sledding, ice skating, driving around to see holiday lights, etc).
  • Put down the phones – I know, I said it. Just hear me out. Often times social media can impact our level of stress by comparing ourselves to others, especially when those others seem to have it all together. They have the catalog ready decorations, Martha Stewarts holiday food spread, or gifts we cannot afford. This can lead us into a down spiral. So, try to limit your access to your phone and engage with those around you.
  • Reach out to someone– The holidays can be a lonely time for some. Sometimes we can still feel lonely in a room full of people, feel so far away and disconnected from others, or feel forgotten. Use all of your willingness to reach out to someone or connect. Whether that be grabbing a cup of hot cocoa with a friend, attending a service, volunteering, or making a phone call to someone you have lost touch with in the past. We are social creatures and need human connection.
  • Be real with yourself – This includes preparing to spend time with family or friends. You likely already know who is going to be the Grinch, who is going to over indulge in the holiday punch, who is going to bring up politics, and who is going to ask about your love life. Just because it is the holidays, does not mean we are going to change who we are or the roles we play. Have an action plan for how you are going to deal with the likely interactions or dynamics.
  • Life in moderation – Life is about balance. Enjoy the holidays by partaking in the indulgences and socialization. Moderation is key. Listen to your body and the signals it is giving you.
  • Gratitude– Research is growing on the importance and efficacy of practicing gratitude in daily life. Our brains are inherently negative so being intentional about shifting out of the holiday stress (and negativity) can help bring perspective and renew our enjoyment of the season.
    • Write down things you are thankful for in life. Focus on the small things (i.e., clean water, fresh air, etc). Nothing is too small to be grateful for in life.
    • Reflect one thing you believe you did well over the past year.
    • Compare yourself to a time in your past when you might have handled the holiday stress less effectively.
  • Permission grant yourself – The holidays are not always candy canes and sprinkles. Often times we hold ourselves to high expectations and forget we are in control of our own actions. Grant yourself permission to: take time outs/breaks, have fun, do things “out of order”, celebrate differently than family/friends/the past, start a project and stop, be honest with people (and yourself), or have days that are “humbug” or just okay.

 

Feel free to make these tips your own by adding your own personal flair to them. It is important to find what works for you and your fancy holiday distress.

 

Happy holidays,

Dr. Alison Dolan

7 Ways to Help an Angry Child

It’s tough to know how to help an angry child. But some children—despite their small size—seem to have an endless supply of anger buried inside them.

They grow frustrated easily. They yell. They might even become aggressive. But, they usually blow up over seemingly minor events.

If you’re raising a child whose angry outbursts have become a problem, it’s important to teach him the skills he needs to deal with his feelings in a healthy way. Here are seven ways to help with anger:

1. Teach Your Child About Feelings

Kids are more likely to lash out when they don’t understand their feelings or they’re not able to verbalize them. A child who can’t say, “I’m mad,” may try to show you he’s angry by lashing out. Or a child who isn’t able to explain that he’s sad may misbehave to get your attention.

Help your child learn to identify and label feelings.

Begin teaching your child basic feeling words such as mad, sad, happy, and scared. Label your child’s feelings for him by saying, “It looks like you feel really angry right now.” Over time, he’ll learn to label his emotions himself.

As your child develops a better understanding of his emotions and how to describe them, teach him more sophisticated words such as frustrated, disappointed, worried, and lonely.

2. Create an Anger Thermometer

Anger thermometers are tools that help kids recognize the warning signs that their anger is rising. Draw a large thermometer on a piece of paper. Start at the bottom with a 0 and fill in the numbers up until 10, which should land at the top of the thermometer.

Explain that zero means “no anger at all.” A 5 means “a medium amount of anger,” and 10 means “the most anger ever.”

Talk about what happens to your child’s body at each number on the thermometer. Your child might say he’s smiling when he’s at a level 0 but has a mad face when he reaches level 5 and by the time his anger gets to a level 10, he may describe himself as an angry monster.

Talk about how his body feels when he grows angry. He might feel his face get hot when he’s a level two and he might make fists with his hands when he’s a level seven.

When kids learn to recognize their warning signs, it will help them understand the need to take a break, before their anger explodes at a level 10. Hang the anger thermometer in a prominent location and refer to it by asking, “What level is your anger today?”

3. Develop a Plan to Help Your Child Calm Down

Teach children what to do when they begin to feel angry. Rather than throw blocks when they’re frustrated or hit their sister when they’re annoyed, teach them healthier strategies that help with anger.

Encourage children to put themselves in a time-out when they’re upset. Show them that they don’t need to wait until they make a mistake to go to time-out.

Instead, they can go to their room for a few minutes to calm down when they begin to feel angry.

Encourage them to color, read a book, or engage in another calming activity until they’re calm enough to resume their activity.

You might even create a calm down kit. A kit could include your child’s favorite coloring books and some crayons, a fun book to read, stickers, a favorite toy, or lotion that smells good.

When they’re upset, you can say, “Go get your calm down kit,” and encourage them to take responsibility for calming themselves down.

4. Teach Specific Anger Management Techniques

One of the best ways to help an angry child is to teach specific anger management techniques. Taking deep breaths, for example, can calm your child’s mind and his body when he’s upset. Going for a quick walk, counting to 10, or repeating a helpful phrase might also help.

Teach a variety of other skills, such as impulse control skills and self-discipline. Angry kids need a fair amount of coaching to help them practice those skills when they’re upset.

5. Make Sure Angry Outbursts Aren’t Effective

Sometimes kids exhibit angry outbursts because it’s an effective way to get their needs met. If a child throws a temper tantrum and his parents give him a toy to keep him quiet, he’ll learn that temper tantrums are effective.

Don’t give in to your child to avoid a meltdown. Although that may be easier in the short-term, in the long run giving in will only make behavior problems and aggression worse.

6. Follow Through With Consequences When Necessary

Consistent discipline is necessary to help your child learn that aggression or disrespectful behavior isn’t acceptable. If your child breaks the rules, follow through with a consequence each time.

Time-out or taking away privileges can be effective discipline strategies. If your child breaks something when he’s angry, make him help repair it or make him do chores to help raise money for repairs. Don’t allow him to have his privileges back until he’s repaired the damage.

7. Avoid Violent Media

If your child struggles with aggressive behavior, exposing him to violent TV shows or video games isn’t going to be helpful. Prevent him from witnessing violence and instead, focus on exposing him to books, games, and shows that model healthy conflict resolution skills.

SOURCE

Three Simple Ways to Enhance Mental Health Resilience

Cultivating resilience can lead to greater confidence, autonomy and mastery.

There is a consensus among professionals that ‘mental health’ is a positive state where an individual is flourishing, thriving and meeting their full potential in life. There are many cognate terms for ‘mental health’ including subjective well-being, quality of life or simply happiness.

Another term commonly used in relation to positive mental health is ‘resilience’. This phrase is actually borrowed from engineering, where it refers to the ability of a physical material to withhold external stress. A resilient material thus has hardiness, flexibility and strength.

What is Mental Health Resilience?

In psychiatry, the phrase is used similarly, referring to the ability of an individual to handle stress and adversity. It is sometimes referred to as ‘bouncing back’ and can be particularly important after people have experienced difficult circumstances such as losing a job, divorce or bereavement.

Research on resilience indicates that it is not a fixed attribute, but can change over time. Indeed, individuals can cultivate resilience, though this can require time and effort.

In fact, the road to resilience often involves pain and struggle, as does the mastery of any new life-skill. For example, learning to ride a bike often involves falls, cuts and bruises, but results in a new-found ability and autonomy. The same can be said for the resilience-enhancing strategies described below.

Skill Acquisition

Evidence suggests that the acquisition of new skills can play a key role in enhancing resilience. Skill-acquisition helps develop a sense of competency and mastery, which can be deployed in the face of other challenges. This can also increase self-esteem and problem-solving ability.

Skills to be learnt depends very much on individual circumstances. For some, this will mean learning cognitive and emotional skills that may help everyday functioning, for example active listening. For others it may involve pursuits, hobbies, or activities that involve the mastery of new competencies.

This is explored in the insightful documentary below, detailing how the acquisition of art skills enhanced resiliency among a group of people with mental illness. Interestingly, skill-acquisition in a group setting maybe especially effective, as this gives an added benefit of social support, which also fosters resiliency.

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Goal setting

Much research indicates that the setting and meeting of goals facilitates the development of resilience. This helps develop will-power, as well as the ability to create and execute an action plan. Goals may vary in size, depending on individual circumstances, but often involve a series of short achievable steps.

For one person, it may be related to physical health, for example exercising more regularly. For another, it may be related to social or emotional goals, such as visiting family and friends more frequently. Goal setting that involves skill-acquisition, for example learning a new language, will have a double benefit.

Interestingly, some research indicates that goal-setting involving a sense of purpose and meaning beyond the individual self (e.g. volunteering or religious involvement) can be particularly useful for resiliency. This may give a deeper sense of coherence and connection, valuable in times of trouble.

Controlled exposure

This involves the slow and gradual exposure to anxiety-provoking situations, thus helping individuals overcome debilitating fears. Numerous studies indicate that controlled exposure can foster resilience. Controlled exposure can offer a triple benefit when it involves skill-acquisition and goal-setting.

For example, public speaking is a valued skill that can help people advance in life. People who are fearful of public speaking can acquire this skill through setting small goals involving controlled exposure. They can start with an audience of one or two friends, progressively expanding their audience over time.

A controlled exposure action-plan can be self-initiated, or developed in tandem with a therapist trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Again, successful efforts will result in increased self-esteem, as well as an enhanced sense of mastery and autonomy. This can be harnessed to surmount future challenges.

Conclusion

An amassed body of research suggests that resilience can be developed and cultivated over the life course through simple (though challenging) self-initiated activities. This often involves discipline, will-power and hard-work, but the results will be bountiful: greater autonomy, mastery and confidence.

Try it and see for yourself.

 

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