Yes that magical time of the year is upon us where we frantically run about trying to get the special people in our lives that special gift or take time out of our busy schedules to serve others. In all of the madness that is the holiday season it is interesting to note that the act of gift-giving or service has some psychological benefits of better health and less stress and that is pretty neat. Dr. Michael Poulin, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo, had this to say on the topic:
You may have heard that stress is bad for health. Well, it turns out that giving to others may undo the negative effects of stress. In a recent study, my colleagues and I found that there was no link between stress and health among people who reported helping their friends and neighbors in the past year. But among people who didn’t engage in such helping, stressful life events predicted decreased odds of survival over the next five years.
When my mother began raising her family nearly 60 years ago, the conventional wisdom could be encapsulated by statements such as “Children are to be seen and not heard,” “Big boys don’t cry, ” and “If you hold a baby too much, you will spoil her.” So it should have come as no surprise to me when I was caring for my fist baby nearly 25 years ago that her advice was “You just need to let that baby cry…….it will help his lungs develop.” That counsel felt wrong in my soul and was contrary to everything that I had been taught in both my undergraduate and graduate training. Mother’s often know best, but in this case my mother was dead wrong!!! (I still love you, Mom!!!)
There was a time when the “sage advice” that my mother offered was unquestionably in line with the “best practices” in parenting; the underlying belief being that if parent’s responded to their children’s emotional outbursts that would lead to dangerous spoiling of one’s off-spring and would undermine the goal of fashioning independent and strong adults who were prepared to face the harsh realities of the world. Thanks, however, to the work of a brilliant British psychiatrist by the name of John Bowlby and a host of other “attachment based” researchers who followed, today we know that one of the primary tasks of parenthood runs contrary to that old conventional wisdom and requires that effective parents “attune to” or respond, tune in to, show empathy and understanding for their child’s ever changing emotional state and, thereby, a strong parent-child bond is formed. Countless research studies demonstrate that children who are fortunate enough to have formed a strong emotional connection to a primary care giver are more confident, secure and capable of facing that harsh world – completely contrary to the notion that responding to children’s emotionality would actually create weak and dependent adults. We now know that this strong bond creates for a child, what is known to attachment theorists and therapists, a “safe haven.” With this safe haven in place, a child can go out into the big, bad world and face whatever dangers might be lurking there with the assurance that at the end of the day, someone is at home awaiting their return – prepared to lick and bind up whatever wounds the day’s adventures may have inflicted.
Sometimes things happen in our lives that we aren’t quite prepared for and can leave us feeling empty and void emotionally. When these events occur we can incorporate a few strategies that can help us develop a sense of resiliency so that we are better prepared to face the perfect storms life has to offer. Here are a few surprisingly simple emotional coping strategies that are easy to do and cost very little money if any at all that can get you back in the saddle:
As a child, the world is full of fears and challenges, real and imaginary, that adults cannot recollect from their own childhood. Most of these childhood fears and challenges are temporary and eventually outgrown, but studies show that one in eight children suffer from an anxiety disorder and anxiety has become one of the most common mental health conditions in children. At some point in life, children will experience some form of anxiety, however, when the symptoms become distressing and interfere with normal living then the anxiety can be considered and classified as an anxiety disorder. The mind and emotions of a child are continuously changing and developing at different rates, so it may not always be easy to distinguish normal fears and challenges from those that may require additional attention. That is why it is important to important not only to assess the severity of the symptoms that obstruct daily living, but also be aware of the developmental progress of each individual child. Assessing if the fears and behaviors are appropriate on a developmental level is crucial for each child. Many situations will cause children to display anxiety; however, if they continue beyond reasonable age norms, or are intense and distressing, then it could likely be the beginning stage of an anxiety disorder. These intense or distressing anxieties can eventually cause more serious distress, destroy a family system, and interfere with a child’s development or education.
Anxiety disorders that your child could be experiencing are:
Generalized anxiety disorder. With this common anxiety disorder, children worry excessively about many things, such as school, the health or safety of family members, or the future in general. They may always think of the worst that could happen. Children with generalized anxiety tend to be very hard on themselves and strive for perfection. Children with this disorder are self-conscious, self-doubting, and excessively concerned about meeting other people’s expectations. Along with the worry and dread, kids may have physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, or tiredness. With generalized anxiety, worries can feel like a burden, making life feel overwhelming or out of control.
“Boundaries can be understood as processes of contact and exchange,
moments of knowing, and movement, and growth.” Judith V. Jordan
Knowing how to set healthy boundaries is an important part of living a life where you feel honest with yourself because you are able to interact honestly with others. This isn’t a skill that comes with all of us into life. This isn’t a skill we learn in our formative years either.
We learn it, oftentimes, through experiences of pain and trauma, both emotional and physical. Because of our experiences, we learn to have boundaries. Because of our experiences, we also gain the tough challenge of doing 3 life-altering things:
Learning to value ourselves;
Actively creating our identity;
Balancing the ways we share our personal space.
Often times we are expected to share our personal space without regard to personal needs because of our roles in life – such as our families, our friends, our occupations or hobbies, our roles as as parents, siblings, spouses, or relatives.
Let’s face it: young children lie. They make up stories and often exaggerate what really happened. So how can we encourage honesty in our kids?
LCSW Holly Willard gives us some insight on this topic. She says the age of the child matters. A 3-year-old doesn’t developmentally understand what it means to lie, so this is innocence and we don’t really have to worry about it. When a child is 5-6, his/her mind goes back and forth between fantasy and reality, so we can try to help him/her understand what is real and what is not. By 7-8, it’s time to hold our kids accountable for telling the truth.
Based on Dr. Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT). THE most effective couples therapy, this class will teach you and your spouse how to connect emotionally and physically and to create the relationship of your dreams! Only $400 per couple for the 8 week series!
Monday, September 29th – Holly Willard, LCSW on KSL Fresh Living
Tune in today to hear what Holly Willard has to say on the topic “Why Kids Lie”.
PsychCentral recently interviewed our very own Clair Mellenthin, the Clinical Director here at Wasatch Family Therapy. Clair was asked about how she copes with stress, the best part of her job, and her overall experiences being a therapist. Here are a few of her answers:
I feel very privileged to be an adjunct professor at Westminster and University of Utah. I really enjoy teaching, it re-energizes me. I love the student’s thirst for knowledge and dedication to their field. I remember trying to juggle school, work, practicum, and family and how difficult it is but how excited I was to start my career. I wanted to construct a blog detailing what I wished someone had told me. Although the advice is specifically for people in the counseling field, it has application for anyone in higher education.
Worry less about grades and focus more about gaining knowledge/experience. (Yes, this is coming from someone who literally freaked out when they got an A-). I have never had a client or even a job ask about my GPA. They wanted to know my skills and training.
Interview your practicum placement. If it isn’t a good fit, find somewhere else. One of my internships was amazing the other placement was horrible. I knew from the beginning that my second placement wasn’t good but I didn’t want to look like a “quitter.” I didn’t realize that the interview process needs to be mutual and that I needed to take charge of my learning experience. There is no shame in saying it isn’t what you want.
Attend as many professional trainings that you can. Most trainings have a big discount for students, take advantage of it! Even if that means using some of your student loans- trainings are a great investment. Especially if the trainings have a certification or count towards a special licensure. This will distinguish you between other graduates and help you find your specialties/passions. They also are a great place to network and become involved in professional organizations.
Find a mentor. You will need an advocate to help you navigate the field, for consultation and support. A mentor can be a professor at your school, your clinical supervisor or someone in your professional organization. A good mentor should support and challenge you at the same time.
Start a professional case portfolio. Some of the most difficult/interesting cases I worked was when I was a student. I didn’t realize at the time that I would want to refer back to details and interventions (for training or evaluation purposes). Keep notes in your personal files without identifying information. Obtain consent to video-tape sessions and interventions.
Hang in there, it will get better. Hopefully, you will look back on this experience with some fondness or at least relief that it is over.
Chronic stress causes problems in every area of life, not the least of which is physical sickness and mental exhaustion. Many people’s depression and/ or anxiety can be traced to chronic high levels of stress. We live in a face-paced and complex world with more stressors than ever. The problem is that people who are stressed out don’t feel they have the time to do anything about it- and so the stress gets worse and worse.
When you honestly have very little time to take a step back from life and take care of yourself, you need to get creative about carving out peaceful moments throughout each day. Prioritize and simplify wherever you can, because as the old adage says, if you don’t take time to be well now, you will certainly take time to be sick later. While you’re figuring out how to cut some things out (!), here are some simple strategies you can implement today to de-stress: