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Shut Up! I’m Trying To Be Mindful!

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Mindfulness is all the rage right now. There are a million pins teaching you how to be mindful, and just about as many books or articles. The problem is trying to find the time to be mindful! I’m trying to balance three children, my husband, work, dance class, homework, preschool, nap time, volunteering, self-care, my own hobbies, and the list goes on. I could write a whole blog post about everything that I have to do, and I’m sure your list is just as long (if not longer).  The last thing on our list is to take some time to ground ourselves so we can continue to move forward with the many responsibilities we have. Here is a small but effective grounding, or mindfulness exercise to try. So put a show on for your kids or lock yourself in the bathroom and give this a try.
Take three calming breaths and look around while identifying:
5 things that you see
4 things that you feel
3 things that you hear
2 things that you smell
1 thing that you taste
Find a good time in the day and set an alarm on your phone to do this exercise. You will be surprised at how five minutes of reconnecting with yourself can help you throughout the day.

 

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ANXIETY! How Being Anxious Can Affect You

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Anxiety is a unique mental health symptom because it is something that in some way affects everyone. Yes, everyone! Anxiety does not care who you are; it can have its effect on you. Anxiety can strike at a variety of times. Many people may recognize some of the physical symptoms before they are mentally aware that they are anxious. Learning to recognize the warning signs of anxiety can help us find relief before anxiety spirals out of control.

I previously worked with a young woman who was highly ambitious, extremely successful in school, was social, seemed to have it all together, and… had anxiety. Her anxiety symptoms were primarily physical: chronic vertigo, sleeplessness, and lethargy. Because of their physical nature, she was not aware they were linked to her mental health, and they went untreated for far too long. For this young woman, the start of her treatment was learning to recognize the warning signs; which, for her consisted of worrying, angst, and over stretching herself by not being assertive with peers. Learning to recognize our warning signs can help us to manage our anxiety appropriately.

Some physical warning signs of anxiety consist of the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Feelings of numbness in limbs
  • Nausea or Diarrhea
  • Feelings of fatigue or weakness
  • Sleep disturbance

You might be asking yourself, “Well, I have some of these symptoms. What can I do to overcome them?” Thankfully, there are a number of things that we can all do to manage anxiety appropriately.

Therapy is a great way for anyone to be able to explore these symptoms and what might be causing them in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Having a therapist who you can discuss these anxious feelings with and determine possible causes can bring symptoms of relief. During a session, the mental health counselor will discuss an individual’s’ specific situations and possible solutions. A study done by Quast (2014) found that therapy has a positive effect on the reduction of symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety can also be treated at home with a few simple things. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere anytime. This technique allows individuals to bring more awareness to their current situation by assessing their thoughts, feelings, senses, and how their body feels. The more people practice mindfulness, the easier it can be to overcome anxiety. Mindfulness tool can be found in phone apps; such as, Headspace. These apps provide a great way to begin a mindful daily structured routine. Mindfulness can be as simple as yoga, meditation, coloring, or drawing.  The use of mindfulness alone has been shown to reduce worrying and helps to prevent the negative effects of anxiety (Hoge, Bui, Goetter, Robinaugh, Ojserkis, Fresco, and Simon, 2014).

Deep belly breathing can be an easy way to overcome anxiety in any situation. At times when I get frustrated or anxious, I stop what I am doing to take three deep breaths. While taking these deep breaths, make sure the amount of time you inhale, hold the breath, and exhale are five seconds or more. During these breaths, ensure that your breath is coming deep from your stomach and rather short breaths from your chest. While working with children, I recommend that they “fill their balloon” which is their diaphragm, or stomach area. If you have done yoga, this is like abdominal breathing or ujjayi breath. After completing these breaths, your body will be back in a more relaxed state.

The young woman I mentioned above could overcome many of the physical symptoms of her anxiety by seeing a therapist who helped her recognize her triggers, negative thoughts, and by building healthy habits; such as, mindfulness and deep breathing. Anxiety should not be the one in control in your life. You can take back control by utilizing the techniques mentioned above.

If you continue to struggle with managing your stress or anxiety, do not hesitate to contact us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555.  Together, we can learn further tools to help you through your specific challenges.

Quast, A. (2014). Yogerapy: An Integrated Yoga and Cognitive-Behavioral, Family-Based Intervention for Children with Anxiety Disorders in High Achieving Environments. Ph.D. of Pyschology. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 2014. Print.

Hoge, E., Bui, E., Goetter, E., Robinaugh, D., Ojserkis, R., Fresco, D., & Simon, N. (2014). Change in Decentering Mediates Improvement in Anxiety in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research Cogn Ther Res, 228-235.

Nathan Watkins, MFT INTERN

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Finding “ME” in Meditation

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In a society where we are all required to do more, sleep less, perform better, get richer, and find room for others, it’s hard to find the “me” in much of anything. So much of daily living is performing where our minds are constantly racing to the next thing. Sleep is interrupted by alarm clocks and delayed by late nights. No matter what the reason, whether it’s family, work, or school, it seems there is never enough time in the day.

Reports of declining mental health is increasing in depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and addiction. The big question is: How to cope? Is it really possible to find time for you? To build a way to relax, think, and rejuvenate without any artificial replacements?

I say, absolutely! The way to finding “me” is through ME-ditation.

Meditation means different things to different people. Renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan defines mediation as the ability to open the mind and acknowledge thoughts and senses, without showing judgment or analyzing, while embracing the unknown, through daily practice.

The benefits of meditation far outweigh any screen time on a smart phone. These include reduced depression, lowered anxiety, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, improved relaxation and sleep, and the ability to find spiritual connection. Meditation is also used in addiction recovery. Perhaps the biggest evidence of the benefits of meditation is that it improves emotional intelligence!

John Cabot Zin outlines the ABC’s:

A-Awareness: Becoming more aware of the mind and body. Thinking and doing.

B- Breathe: Allowing yourself to be with your experience. Create your story without reacting or responding. This can create compassion for yourself and others.

C- Compassion: By creating a pause between the experience and our reaction, we can make wiser choices.

Research is beginning to show that mindfulness and meditation increase our emotional intelligence and the way we monitor the emotions in others and ourselves.

Here Are Some Tips For Your Meditation Practice:

*Acknowledge you need “me” time.

*Slow down

*Find a quiet space

*Sit or Lay down

*Put your hand by your side

*Relax

*Clear your mind

*Listen

*Close your eyes, or try a sleepy gaze

*Breathe in through your nose for 5 counts

*Pause or hold for 5 counts

*Exhale through your mouth for 5 counts.

*Repeat

*Practice Daily

If thoughts come into your mind during your exercise, sweep them from your mind. Be aware of your body and sensations. Focus on your breath. Feel the air in your nose or mouth as you inhale and exhale. Acknowledge what you hear or smell. Feel your body relaxing. And breathe. Start with 5-10 minutes daily. The key to prolonged benefits, is to practice, practice, practice. If you fall asleep during your exercise, that’s good! You need it!

If you enjoy this simple meditation, seek out our trained therapists to deepen meditation skills and other powerful approaches to mindfulness.

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Teaching Kids Emotional Intelligence

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Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions effectively and positively.  Kids who understand their emotions, can name them, and can manage them are better able to cope with stress, manage relationships with others, and communicate more effectively.
There are four main characteristics of emotional intelligence.
  • Emotionally intelligent people are self aware.  They recognize their own emotions.
  • Emotionally intelligent people can self-regulate.  They can control how they react to their emotions instead of letting their emotions control them.
  • Emotionally intelligent people are empathetic.  They understand other people’s emotions.
  • Emotionally intelligent people have social skills. They can build connections with others.
The best way to teach children emotional intelligence is through modeling.  Parents who take time to develop these characteristics in themselves will gain the benefits of emotional intelligence in their own lives, but will also pass these traits on to their children.  To help learn these skills AND pass them on to your child here are some activities to do together:
1.  In order to be aware of emotions children need to be able to name them.  Younger children can look at flash cards depicting various feelings and copy the faces as parents tell them the name for that emotion.  Older children can identify times they felt that emotion and what they did about it. (Flash cards can be found by googling “emotion flash cards”, or you can make your own.)
2.  Using an emotion thermometer (again, google is your friend), you can teach children how to recognize what it feels like when they are experiencing strong emotions, and provide them tools for “cooling down the thermometer”.  These skills can include: talking to a friend or adult, asking for help, counting to ten, taking five deep breaths, or practicing some mindfulness.  There are lots of mindfulness for kids clips on youtube or available as apps on a smart phone.
3.  One great way to instill empathy in children is to get them involved in regular acts of service.  Afterward, listen to your child share with you how the act of service made them feel?  Discuss how the service made the recipient feel.
4.  Social skills are best developed by lots of practice.  Create plenty of opportunities for your child to interact with other children.  Go to parks or children’s museums, set up play dates, get to know the kids in the neighborhood.  Give your child space to explore and interact with other children.  Give them opportunities to work out problems themselves, and step in with guidance when they need it. If your child needs extra help developing social skills, contact our office at  (801) 944-4555 for information on the next available social skills group for kids.
There are lots of ways to develop theses characteristics, the important thing is to regularly incorporate these kinds of activities into your child’s life.  Doing so will help them (and you) manage stress and anxiety, communicate more effectively, and build stronger relationships with those around them.

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6 Tips for dealing with Holiday Anxiety and Depression

6 Tips for dealing with Holiday Anxiety and Depression

With our recent snowstorm, my ability to pretend winter isn’t a thing, has quickly evaporated.  On sunny days I get through the winter by making sure I spend plenty of time standing in front of my south facing windows soaking up the warmth that shines through.  On overcast days it can be more of a challenge.  Add in the stress of holiday shopping and parties and expectations, and winter can be a bit of a downer (to say the least).  Here are a few suggestions to help cope with winter blues:

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30 Day Challenge for Overscheduled / Overstressed Adults

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Much publicity has been made in recent years about the dangers of overscheduling (and the resulting overstressing) of our children. Books such as “The Over-Scheduled Child” (2001) by Dr. Alvin Rosenfield, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist and former Head of Child Psychiatry at Stanford University; “The Pressured Child” (2005) by Dr. Michael Thompson, clinical psychologist; and “The Hurried Child” (2001) written by David Elkind, PhD, professor of Child Development at Tufts University, all document the issues surrounding the phenomenon of this generation of parents and their children who have become “more frenzied than ever”, so much so that some areas of the country are now offering Yoga classes and structured stress-reduction classes for children as young as three (3) years old to help them deal with all their stress from their crazy schedules! (Kirchheimer, 2004)
If it’s bad for our children, it cannot be good for us adults! In her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” (2010), Brene’ Brown states, “We are a nation of exhausted and over stress adults raising over-scheduled children.” We use our spare time to desperately search for joy and meaning in our lives. We think accomplishments and acquisitions will bring joy and meaning, but that pursuit could be the very thing that’s keeping us so tired and afraid to slow down”. Many even wear their busyness like a badge of honor, you probably know someone like this: who has-to-tell-you-everything-they-have-to-do-today-and-how-important-it-is-and-how-exhausted-they-are-and-how-late-they-have-to-work-after-all-the-important-errands-they-will-run-and-they-are-soooo-tired and then, add a big yawn for emphasis at the end of their monologue.
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3 MYTHS of Self Compassion

canstockphoto7797192To most, compassion is a commendable quality. But for some reason, this quality is limited to “others” in our culture, not often for “oneself.” Lets explore 3 possible false assumptions that may prevent us from applying compassion to oneself.
1-Self Compassion means weakness.
Susan didn’t express any painful feelings while going through her divorce. She believed she had to be “strong for the kids” and power on no matter what. This meant putting herself last and ignoring any emotional or physical needs.  When Susan fell apart 3 months after the divorce was final, she wondered why she was able to be “strong” in the beginning, but then suddenly became “weak and unable to handle even the smallest tasks”. What Susan didn’t realize is that instead of being a “weakness”,
researchers are now discovering that self-compassion is one of the most powerful influences of coping and resilience, that we have available to us.  How one relates to themselves when the going gets tough- as an enemy or ally-is often what determines ones ability to cope successfully.
2- Self compassion is narcissistic.
High self esteem requires standing out in a crowd-or being “above average” in the American culture. The problem of course is that it is impossible for us to be outstanding, all of the time. When we compare ourselves to those “better” than us, we will always feel like failures. An example of
this is teen bullying.  One teen told me “picking on wimpy nerds boosts my self esteem and makes me feel cool”. After many sessions he finally discovered he needed to focus on himself, and ways to feel more secure, rather than his demeaning behavior towards others. Narcissism usually results in exercising power over others; self compassion is the opposite-empowering oneself so there is no need to compare or put others down.
3- Self compassion is selfish.
Some confuse self care with selfishness and assume caring of oneself automatically means neglecting everyone else.  As a therapist, I am always amazed when I meet people who consider themselves to be good, generous, altruistic souls, who are perfectly awful to themselves.  Caring for oneself is actually the opposite: it’s one of the most important things you can do to have healthier relationships, and it does not mean you neglect loved ones! In reality, beating yourself up can be a paradoxical
form of self centeredness.  When we can be kind and nurturing to ourselves, however, many of our emotional needs are met, leaving us in a better position to focus on others. Therefore, having self compassion equals the ability to have more to give others, not less to give others.
These 3 myths often stand in the way of caring for ourselves. More information and even classes on ways to improve self care can be found at www.mindfulnessprograms.com or web search (name of State) i.e.. “Utah msar”.
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How to Help Your Child Learn Mindfulness

How to Help Your Child Learn Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a topic that has received a lot of attention from psychology and wellness gurus in recent years. It refers to being present in the moment and cultivating an awareness, non-judgment, and acceptance of one’s feelings, thoughts, and body. There are numerous benefits of mindfulness; those who regularly engage in meditative mindfulness practices report reduced stress, better sleep, improved productivity, lower levels of stress and bodily discomfort and pain, and even weight loss.
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With all the perks of mindfulness, it only makes sense to introduce this concept and practice to young people, particularly because adolescence can be an anxious and uncomfortable experience for many children and teenagers (this idea seems to be catching on; some are even introducing mindfulness into school curriculums, and certain gyms offer classes of yoga specifically for children!)
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By teaching them how to get in touch with their feelings, we can help them prepare for a lifetime of mental and emotional wellness. Here are some ideas to help children practice mindfulness on a daily basis:
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Daily Mindfulness For A Better Life: Studio 5

Mindfulness is becoming somewhat of a movement; mental health professionals and wellness advocates are singing its praises as a way to become more in touch with ourselves in the present moment. And it’s not just talk, either. There’s a lot of research to back up the idea that mindfulness can lead to greater happiness.

Practicing Daily MindfulnessSo what is mindfulness exactly? Some may think of practicing yoga or chanting mantras of peace and calmness. And while mindfulness may include meditation or have a spiritual component, at its core it simply refers to paying attention to ourselves on purpose. What clues is your body telling you? What emotions are you experiencing? What does your breathing sound like? We are such a distracted generation, and sometimes we need to slow down and tune in. The RAIN strategy is a simple technique to help you practice mindfulness:

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Five Real Life Skills for High Tech Kids: Dr. Julie Hanks Studio 5

We live in a technology-saturated world, and our kids are often more adept at the newest gadgets than we are! I’ve found that parents are sometimes weary about the newest developments in the tech world. But these are the times we live in, and the internet will never go away. The online world can improve our lives or it can distance us, so I invite adults to embrace the good it can bring. However, there are certain skills that our children may be (somewhat) lacking in how to function and have relationships in a non-virtual way. Here are 5 real life skills for high-tech kids.

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