An important first step in developing emotional health is becoming more aware of your internal emotional cues. Once you learned to recognize that you’re feeling something, the next step is to give a label to the emotion you’re experiencing. Interestingly, the very act of naming your feelings helps reduce the intensity of the feeling, making it more manageable.
Use this feelings word list to help you label your feelings and increase your feeling vocabulary.
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At the beginning of November my mom sent me a text that read “I just saw my first Christmas commercial of the season…. I’m starting to feel anxious.” It was meant as a joke between us because of how early the commercial side of Christmas starts. All joking aside, Christmas can be a very stressful time for a lot of people. Personally, I can become overwhelmed at Christmas time. The shopping. The parties. The neighbor gifts. The decorating. The list goes on and on. I thought sharing some tips on how I stay peaceful and stress free during this time of year would be helpful.
1) Identify what triggers your anxiety during the holidays. This seems like a no brainer, but is so important to decreasing your stress. Is it handing out neighbor gifts? Is putting up Christmas lights going to send you over the edge? Figure out what causes so much anxiety and then…
2) Identify what causes you the most joy during this time of season. Cookie making? Decorating the tree? If it brings joy write it down. At this point you should have a list of what causes you stress and what causes you joy. Once you have that list…
3) Prioritize. This time of year is not about doing every last Christmas activity, or attending each and every party to which you received an invitation. If that is what brings you joy then by all means please enjoy those parties. If party attendance is on your list of triggers then prioritize which parties are the most important and regretfully decline the others. The idea is to bring joy into this time of year and push out the things that cause so much stress. This may change every year. One year at my house, to decrease stress, we only put up stockings and a Christmas tree. Another year we only attended select Christmas parties. We prioritized what was important to us and let the other stuff fall by the wayside.
4) Make special time for yourself and your significant other. There is so much emphasis on family this time of year. That is such a wonderful thing. I love being together with my family and close friends. Sometimes we forget that we need time for ourselves that does not include Christmas shopping or planning Christmas magic for our family. Take some time for yourself to relax and enjoy the sights and smells of the season. Take time with your spouse to be together without throngs of people around. It will make a big difference.
5) Be grateful. Being grateful always grounds me to be content and joyful. Especially at this time of year I love to keep a daily gratitude journal. It helps keep me centered on what I already have instead of what I need or want as gifts from other people. Everyday take an inventory of the blessings you have in your life. It will create a wonderful perspective for the season.
Good luck! Hopefully as you create and maintain some good boundaries this year your holiday season will be less stressful and more enjoyable.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a topic that comes up frequently throughout my week; as a school psychologist in an elementary school, teachers often refer students for suspected problems with attention and concentration, hyperactivity, and impulse control difficulties. In my outpatient practice, I’m on the ‘other side’ of this equation, meeting with families often referred from school teams for suspected problems of this nature. Typically, these referrals seem appropriate and everyone is on the same page. Occasionally, the members are not. As in, ‘my child’s teacher told me my child has ADD and needed accommodations! Now what?!’ It gave me pause and consideration for this weeks blog. Just who can and can’t diagnosis ADHD ? What might an assessment for ADHD include? Should school staff be bringing this subject up to parents to begin with? And, is it ADD or ADHD ?
For this segment of Studio 5, I wanted to change things up a bit and offer my perspective on another therapist’s work. Dr. Brené Brown has become a household name since her famous TED talk a few years ago. To say I’m a huge admirer of hers would be an understatement; the insight she offers about vulnerability, shame, and courage are transforming our culture. This week, I sat down with Brooke to talk about Brené’s new book “Rising Strong.”
This week happens to be National School Psychology Awareness Week. In an effort to promote our profession and provide an understanding of what it is that we do – because it seems to be ever evolving, changing, and growing – each year the national association designates a week in November to present a message to the public about school psychology.
Helping Students and Families Connect the Dots and Thrive in School and Beyond.
School psychologists are trained to support and help students build their strengths, skills and abilities and realize their goals. Specifically, we have the expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. We help students build upon their strengths, skills, interests, and abilities to ‘connect the dots’ and thrive. This includes helping them identify and plan ways to accomplish short and long term goals, building better relationships, and finding ways to keep going even when things get tough.
As many in our community may wrestle with high emotion and confusing thoughts and opinions related to incredibly important matters of faith, family, belief, and hope for the future, being accepting and loving towards everyone, even those that are very different from us, while challenging, may be more important than ever. Kids in school, especially as they get older, become notoriously peer focused! Who is getting the A? Who has the coolest phone? Who does the teacher call on the most? Who got asked to the dance? Etc. Etc. Supporting our kids to be true to themselves, yet accepting of others can be such a difficult task.
How long has it been since you last “dated” your partner or spouse? I’m not talking about going out to eat or to the cinema, but actually doing some type of activity together to get to know them? If you’re like most couples, you’ve probably succumbed to the requisitions of life like a thriving professional career, the squatters who keep calling you “Mum” or “Dad”, or the pursuit of higher education. Let’s face it, the demands of life are all vying for your precious time and it can be difficult to maintain the balance necessary not to forget your significant other in all of it. Here are three helpful tips to enrich your relationship and remind you of why you chose your sweetheart to accompany you in the beautiful chaos that can be life. YOU’RE WELCOME.
Cindy sat in my office, seeking relief from the intense psychological anguish that she had been experiencing for the several months since having survived a fatal head on collision with an SUV. The driver of the other vehicle was intoxicated, swerved into Cindy’s lane of traffic and impacted her vehicle head on. That driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Since that time, Cindy had been experiencing insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks and difficulty functioning – classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
From a neurological stand point, her brain was essentially “stuck” in a primitive survival mechanism known as “fight or flight” – a protective measure that is designed to identify a dangerous situation and put the entire system on the defense at warp speed, all in an effort to ward off any threat to survival. Fight or flight is a mode of defense that operates on a “better safe than sorry” mentality. In Cindy’s case, even though the threat to her safety had ended months ago, her system was still stuck in that defensive posture “just in case” the threat, or anything like unto it, resurfaced. Although Cindy understood on a rational level that the threat had long since passed, her neurology was reluctant to let it’s guard down in the event that there was a mistake and the danger had not really passed. Scenes from the event were relived again and again in her mind because literally that memory had been loaded into her neurological network in a manner that caused the rewind button to be continuously pushed by anything in her environment that even slightly resembled the near fatal accident – riding in a moving vehicle, the sound of a car’s engine, sirens in the distance, flashing lights, etc….
“We need to talk.” These are possibly the most frightening words for a man to hear, but the most exciting for a woman!
Research has been done into the phenomenon: Why is this four word phrase is so difficult for men? The findings are actually quite interesting. This phrase triggers the fight or flight response in a man’s brain. Essentially, it signals DANGER! More specifically, “what have I done wrong this time?” Or, “how have I failed as a husband?” Women may think this is a little dramatic or hyperbole, but it is merely a physiological response.
This is the same reaction that a father would have when he finds out that one of his children is in danger, or there is a problem that needs to be solved at work. Metaphorically, a man is gearing up for battle when there is a perceived problem and they are wired to go and conquer the enemy. So, it becomes more understandable, that if a man can’t go and fight the problem that is presented by his wife, he will at least want to give suggestions and advice so that his wife can.
5 Tips for creating emotional security and safety for your children when they are away from home.
It is often discussed how to create a loving home that encompasses safety, love, and security. We validate, empower and create open dialogue, encouraging our children to have voices amongst other things. However, the world and especially school environments can be very different from home. There are different elements to consider and prepare for to assist in creating a feeling of safety and emotional security for our children while in these environments outside of home.
Prepare your children for various encounters, The world can be a tricky place to navigate. Even for adults, we encounter social situations that can be tough to navigate, and know how to react. Helping your children to understand the various encounters they may have while outside your home can help reduce anxiety, and prepare them to handle these encounters with confidence. How to interact with the bus driver, the teacher who may scold you, the children in the class who may have buddied up, the adults at church that say hello, are all wonderful encounters to prepare your child for. Help them with ideas for these types of scenarios based on your families ideals and personal values.
Role Play. Don’t let the classic “What would you do if?” questions disappear into he closet with your past! These are still present and relevant questions to present to your child. What would do if you were left out at school? What would you do if you were being treated unkindly? What would you do if you saw someone being unkind? Role play situations like these and others with your child. It will not guarantee your child handles every situation perfectly, but it will offer them some experience and ideas to better handle situations that may present themselves when they are away from home.
The way you talk to yourself matters. The thoughts we indulge in dictate how we feel. When your mind is spinning in negative self-talk and pessimistic views of life events, it makes perfect sense that you would feel defeated, depressed, or anxious. Trouble is, negative or critical thinking is a powerful habit that feels to happen TO us. That is actually not true, we have power over what we think. But, the thoughts can become automatic and difficult to avoid when it’s been our way of viewing the world for a long time. It’s often been taught to us in our family of origin since we were very little, and we may not have ever known how to have a positive or optimistic thought!
But research has shown again and again that happy people have inner dialogues that are optimistic and self-compassionate, even in difficult or embarrassing circumstances. Research has also shown that we have power to improve the quality of our thoughts. I believe it is a fight worth under-taking. It is never to late to work on your thinking and improve your base level of happiness day to day.
We can pretend our painful feelings don’t exist. We can ignore them. And so many of us do, because we think that this will soften the blow. This will help us bypass the discomfort of our hurt, sorrow, agony, anger, anxiety. We assume the feelings will just go away (and they might, but only temporarily).
Click the link below to read what Monette Cash, LCSW has to say about handling painful emotions.