What Is Restorative Yoga?

What Is Restorative Yoga?

Sometimes we think of the body, mind, and soul as separate entities, but in reality, they are interconnected as a whole. The interactions between the parts and how they influence us, guide us, and support us are much like a dance. Similarly, the way we do asana, the poses we use in our yoga practice, is the way we do life. We often dance between loving our practice, resenting it, using it as an escape, and so on. What is important to remember is that our practice is neutral, it simply mirrors who we are, our emotional state, and how we are in the world.

Being present in this day and age is often a challenge with all of the distractions within, and around us. One single breath of gratitude can change that. Restorative Yoga uses physical props and at the same time, your body is a prop for your soul. Some of the important questions to ask in Restorative Yoga are, “Who are you bringing to the mat today, what do you need, and what will you give? Where are you allowing your attention to go right now?”  Being present is essential to the practice of Restorative Yoga, otherwise, it’s just an exercise.

 

What Restorative Yoga is Not

 

Restorative Yoga is not simply stretching, it’s about opening oneself and one’s body. In fact, the emphasis is not on the pose, but on the opening. Who you are and what you bring to your practice is as important as the particular poses and postures used. We all bring a container, or vessel, ready to be filled with our practice. It’s different than Yin Yoga, which focuses on active asana, versus the emphasis in Restorative Yoga on holding and being still. Our focus is not on striving; we know you can do more, but Restorative Yoga asks the question, “Can you do less?” It is not about ambition, which is the opposite of relaxation; we do not need to do more.

 

What Restorative Yoga Is

 

In Restorative Yoga, we focus on the truth that we do not need to go anywhere else, do anything else, or be any different than who and where we are now, and what we are presently doing. We focus on the fact that what we seek is already here – the pose is right here, right now, as we’re present with it.

To be relaxed we need to be still, quiet, dark and warm.  Restorative Yoga takes us toward sleep. To be still where we are, our body sleeps and our mind watches. As we practice, we learn to relax enough, without falling asleep. This is valuable because our bodies are used to moving around constantly and therefore, stillness is a radical thing. It’s something we’re not used to pursuing in our hectic lives. This is why Restorative Yoga emphasizes spending time finding a comfortable shape where we can be still. We find quietness, without music; pursuing darkness, which is difficult because even if you close your eyes, light filters in. Darkness is good for the organs below the diaphragm, irregular periods, our livers and our digestion. Finally, we pursue warmth, even using swaddling blankets around our hands, feet, belly, back, or anywhere! There is a reason this is comforting to babies as they enter a new, seemingly chaotic world – we can receive the same comfort as we pursue stillness in our active environment.

 

Why Is Restorative Yoga Important To Do?

 

The reality is that most of our nervous systems are hyper-stimulated as we suffer from a lack of sleep, improper diet, and stress. The intention is what makes Restorative Yoga different. Our bodies sleep while our mind watches as we sense our way through our practice, without thought. The use of props is to support our bodies in positions of comfort and ease; that is, to facilitate the relaxation response, which is where healing begins.

Restorative poses work with the rhythm of the body. They are powerful for removing blockages, to allow our body to heal. Restorative poses are often helpful in recovery from cancer, and poses like legs up the wall can even aid lymphatic drainage. Back bending is helpful in opening the front body for digestion, posture, and breathing. Semi-inversions like legs up the wall are effective for relief of jet lag, restless leg syndrome, and jobs where you stand a lot. Gentle forward folds are great to initiate the relaxation response. The focus of Restorative Yoga can be summed up as, “Heart up, brain down.”  As we let go of our thoughts, we will begin to notice changes in our breathing and a more relaxed state, as we drift toward the present moment.

 

How Can We Start A Restorative Yoga Practice?

 

Doing Restorative Yoga 20 minutes per day releases tension and lets us gently sink into the present, without judgment, ambition or needing to do anything. In our practice, we are truly with ourselves, for ourselves – we are just simply being.

Restorative Yoga is what our hearts and our souls cry out for in our busy lives. When there are fewer choices, we have more time. We pursue meaning based upon our presence, versus our busyness. Through our practice, we not only relax our bodies, we learn to relax and create space in our lives.  As we develop our deep relaxation practices, we gently manipulate our nervous system into the relaxation response, putting it into a place of comfort whereby healing and restoration can take place. Through our practice, we can live with peace and rest, even in the midst of the busyness and turmoil of our daily lives.

 

May we live like a lotus at home in the muddy water.

 

I hope this article helps explain what Restorative Yoga is, and how it might be helpful to you. I’m excited to announce that we will be starting a regular Restorative Yoga class at Alongside You in January 2019. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, please click below to check it out on our website. We’re taking pre-registrations now and we’d love to have you!

Click here for more information about our Restorative Yoga class!

How Can I Support Someone Who Is Grieving?

How Can I Support Someone Who Is Grieving?

It can be difficult to know what to say or do when someone has experienced a loss. It is a delicate subject to approach since we do not want to say the wrong thing or come off as intruding or prying towards someone who is grieving. We don’t want to add to anyone’s pain, so sometimes we go back and forth between being present and supportive, to taking a step back and giving a person their space to cope. Both of these can be beneficial for the other person, but our uncertainty about how to respond can make us feel unhelpful or that we are adding to their pain. When it comes to offering support, however, being present and available to help or spending time with them can be healing.

What else can we do to be supportive during this difficult time? Here are a few practical ideas of how to help a friend or family member who is grieving:

 

  1. Know what “normal” grief is and how to respond check out my last article for a primer
    • Know that there is no one right way to grieve, every response and emotion is valid; people who are grieving may feel relief, guilt, anger, emptiness, sadness, etc. These emotions may be intense or extreme or they may be more mild. Be prepared for any reaction, and know that the reaction isn’t about you, it’s a response to pain.
    • There is no timeline or linear process to grief; each grief process is unique. People will cope in whatever way feels right for them and will take as long as they need.

 

  1. Expressing support
    • Be empathetic by acknowledging the bereaved individual’s feelings (e.g. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you). Showing acceptance and support of their emotions, whether it’s anger, sadness, or otherwise, can provide a safe space for the person to experience their emotions openly.
    • Give them space to tell their story. The person may want to discuss the details of their loss repeatedly or in detail as a way to come to terms with what has happened.
    • Reach out to the person who is grieving whether it be through a phone call or an in-person visit. Remember them as time goes on and check in. Many times, people respond immediately and then support fades quickly.
    • Avoid saying things like: “Everything happens for a reason”, “They’re in a better place”, “At least…”, “It’s time to move on”, “I know how you feel”, “You can always have another child/get another job/get remarried”, “Time heals all wounds.” Avoid finding a silver lining to the loss or trying to fix what’s happened.
    • Instead, say things like: “I’m here for you.”, “I don’t know what to say, but I care.”, “I’ll call you/visit in a few days.”, “What can I do?”, “I can’t imagine what you must be going through.”
    • Saying nothing and just listen. It’s okay to listen or just be present with the other person. Sometimes there’s nothing at all that we can And certainly, whatever we say is unlikely to make the situation better.

 

  1. Providing practical support can be very helpful, such as offering to:
    • Help with arrangements related to the loss, such as funeral arrangements, packing, finding a new place to live, etc.
    • Complete household chores or run errands
    • Cook or drop off meals in non-reusable containers so they don’t have to worry about washing your dishes and getting them back to you
    • Watch their children or pets if needed, giving them time for themselves
    • Help with insurance or other paperwork
    • Answer or make phones calls or for them
    • Take them out for a meal or a movie

 

  1. Watch for signs of depressed feelings or complicated grief
    • We’ll take as long as we need to cope with our loss, but we do need to eventually come to terms with what has happened. Over time, we’ll adjust to a new normal and be able to move forward. However, sometimes we don’t move on and get stuck, which is called complicated grief which involves:
      • Being unable to move on from the loss
      • Being unable to carry out daily routines
      • Isolating ourselves
      • Having feelings of intense loneliness, numbness, or sorrow
      • Wishing to be dead with the loved one who has passed

 

Depression can also occur and is often a part of complicated grief. The challenge with depression and complicated grief is they can be hard to tease apart, and often co-exist. Both can come in waves, or be constant companions.

If you’re noticing a complexity in the grief of a loved one, or signs of depression, then it’s best to encourage your loved one to seek out mental health support such as counselling. This can provide a space for emotions and thoughts related to the loss to be processed and allow for healing to occur. It can also provide an invaluable resource for depression and trauma screening by experienced professionals who can direct care most appropriately.

A loss isn’t something that can be fixed or repaired; it is something that has to be lived with. The pain cannot be taken away, so instead, we can help others by sitting with them in their pain. It is okay not to know what to say or how to help; if we can show up, listen, and be present, then that’s enough, and is valuable!

 

 

 

References

Complications of Grief. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/aa129291

Grief and Loss Resources. (2017). Retrieved from https://livingthroughloss.ca/

Helping Someone Who’s Grieving. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/helping-someone-who-is-grieving.htm

Hold On To Your Kids: Their Mental Health Depends On It

Hold On To Your Kids: Their Mental Health Depends On It

Normally we publish articles every Thursday, pretty much like clockwork. We write articles that we hope are helpful to readers, often sharing information on different aspects of mental health, physical health, treatments, services, and more. We do this to be helpful to the community, to educate and increase awareness on different topics and clinical treatments and let’s face it, as a part of our content marketing and search engine optimization plan to make sure people know who we are and how we can help.

 

This isn’t one of those weeks. On Tuesday evening, I drove downtown for a meeting with Fred from 140 Sports and Connie from Movement With A Message. We had a wonderful time sharing dinner, brainstorming ideas, and finding ways for us to work together to do some good in the community around youth mental health and resilience. I came away excited and encouraged. I love what both of these organizations are doing, and I’m excited to partner with them going forward because I think we can do a lot of good together.

 

And then I received an email that broke my heart, again. Another youth in our community took his life. It never gets easier hearing the news. In our professional training as a Registered Clinical Counsellor, we hear over and over the importance of “keeping a professional distance,” and “not taking work home.” While I think this is an important principle, it’s also ridiculous to think that we can do this much of the time. I certainly couldn’t with this news. I sat down multiple times on Wednesday and yesterday to write an article, and I couldn’t find the words. I couldn’t decide on a topic. I couldn’t get past the first sentence.

 

The sorrow and heartache involved in losing a youth to suicide affect me deeply, even if I’ve not had any contact with the person. In a recent workshop, I stole the slogan from Point Roberts, WA to explain why I and many of my colleagues are in the field – that is, “We’re all here because we’re not all there.” I became a Registered Clinical Counsellor because I know what it’s like first hand to struggle with mental health. I also know what it’s like first hand to struggling with suicidal thoughts and wanting out.

 

This is why I can’t just keep a professional distance when I hear that yet again, we’ve lost someone in our community to mental health and ultimately, suicide. There are no perfect solutions, there is no magic pill, and no 5-step plan to prevent this. It simply isn’t that easy.

 

When I went to bed last night, still struggling to make sense of this awful situation, the words, “Parents, hold on to your kids,” came to me, and I wrote them down. Now, I’m not sure if it’s because Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Maté wrote a book together with this title, or because as a parent, I’m very aware of the important role we play in our kids’ lives. But it stuck. And this is what I want to focus on today.

 

Parents, we need to hold onto our kids. The struggle is real, and it’s not because there’s something wrong with this generation. It’s not because they don’t care, it’s not because the schools aren’t doing their jobs, it’s not because we’re terrible parents. It is, however, because the world has changed, the demands are higher, the expectations are higher, and our youth are struggling big time.

 

The truth is that there isn’t a single form of therapy, a pill, a school program, or otherwise that can replace the need for attachment between a parent and a child. This isn’t about parent blaming, or shaming, it’s about understanding the importance of our role as parents, and the powerful effect we have on our kids. Parenting is difficult. The demands on our time, our money, our energy, and more, are huge. With the housing market being what it is, most families need both parents working outside the house Monday to Friday to make ends meet. This is our reality.

 

Somehow, however, we need to make sure we find the time to invest in the attachment with our kids. Our kids will not feel safe enough to talk to us when they’re struggling if the relationship isn’t there, and to be perfectly blunt, we can’t rely on our schools, the public mental health system, or any other service to monitor our kids for us. We have to do it ourselves.

 

I get it. It’s daunting. It’s scary. We don’t feel equipped. Now, I suspect some of you may be thinking, “He doesn’t get it – he’s a mental health professional who has the education and background to make sense of this,” but I assure you, while in some areas this may help, in other areas, it’s actually worse. I may be more equipped in some instances to help my kids, but I’m also more likely to feel like a failure. If my kid is struggling, the first thought in my head is, “I’m a Registered Clinical Counsellor, with over a decade of experience and training, and I can’t help my kid.” Let me tell you, that’s not a good feeling. That’s when the helplessness sets in, which I think most of us parents have as a shared experience at one time or another.

 

But here’s the beauty of it. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to know it all. We don’t have to fix it. We can’t. I remember when I was a teen, at the worst of my depression, I was sitting on the end of my driveway in California crying my eyes out. I still remember, it was 10 pm and everything was dark. And then my father walked out, lifted me up, and held me. For an hour. Not saying a word. I imagine, mainly because he didn’t know what to say and probably felt completely helpless.

 

It’s exactly what I needed. There’s a reason I still remember that night over 15 years later. The truth was that my father couldn’t fix. There were no words that were going to make it better. There really was not anything he was going to do to “fix” my depression or the suicidal thoughts I had daily at that time. What both he and my mother did, and did well, was making sure I knew that they were there to talk to me anytime, even if they didn’t understand. They were there to hold me when there were no words to say, nothing that would make it better. The truth is, they didn’t even know how bad it was because I didn’t tell anyone and I didn’t ask for help.

 

This is why I do what I do, and why Alongside You exists. I was that kid who didn’t ask for help, and I had every advantage in the world growing up. I had two parents who loved me deeply, I had teachers who mentored me and cared for me, I played sports my entire school career, and I had music that is still one of the main things to keep me steady in life. Looking back, it would have been immensely valuable for me to see a counsellor, probably take some medication, and so many more things, but I didn’t. Not because I couldn’t have, but because I didn’t ask, and I had a very low barrier to ask for help.

 

You know what did help? My parents. They weren’t perfect, because none of us are, but they were the best parents I could have ever asked for because they tried. Because they did the best they could with what they had, and when they didn’t know, they looked to resources to find out. I still remember my Mom bringing me to a workshop by Dr. Gordon Neufeld on parenting and attachment when I was a kid. They knew how important their relationship with me was, and they were intentional about it.

 

This is something all of us can do as parents. When you look at the research, what it will tell you is that it’s not the amount of time we spend with our kids that matters, it’s the quality of the time that matters. So, if you’re having to work 60 or more hours a week, or you’re travelling a lot for work, or you’re separated or divorced and you don’t get access to your kid as much as you’d like, don’t lose hope. As far as outcomes, it doesn’t matter that you’re not with your kid as much as you think you should be. It matters how you make that time count. Be intentional, and when you’re with them, focus on them and build the relationship and the attachment.

 

As I write this, it’s Friday and the end of a long week for many of us. I hope that what I’ve written is encouraging to you as a parent – that is most certainly the intent. What you do matters, and what you do can make a difference. Be intentional this weekend about being with your kid. Spend time with them, share in their enjoyment in what they’re doing, cheer them on as they play their sports (and stop yelling at them, the coaches, and the referee), listen to their music with them no matter how awful it sounds to you. Love them, and connect with them on their terms. Put away the work, the devices, and the stress you’re carrying from the week, and be with your kids. This is the single most preventative thing you can do when it comes to their mental health, and only you can do it.

 

If you’re struggling as a parent, reach out for help for yourself. If you don’t know how to connect with your kid, or you don’t understand mental health, or you feel helpless, please ask someone for help. There are a number of resources in the community that I’ll list below, and we are certainly here for you at Alongside You. This is why we exist – to help you do your best with your kids because even if we get to work with them, we probably get an hour a week with them if we’re lucky. If we can help you do your best when you’re with them, it’ll be far more effective and powerful.

 

Remember, we don’t have to be perfect. We just have to care and do the best we can with what we have. We don’t have to be perfect parents, we just have to be good enough.

 

 

Other Youth Resources in Delta

Deltassist

Boys and Girls Club

Child and Youth Mental Health

Youth Crisis Resources

How Does Neurofeedback Training Work?

How Does Neurofeedback Training Work?

Neurofeedback is one of the most amazing technologies at our disposal for so many reasons. It’s an invaluable tool for overall resilience, cognitive flexibility, mental health management, sleep enhancement, and so much more. One of the most common questions I get, however, is how on earth does it work? I’m going to do my best to explain it here for you!

 

Dynamic Neurofeedback Training

 

The type of neurofeedback training that we use here at Alongside You is called dynamic neurofeedback. What this means is that our neurofeedback system constantly monitors the brain using electroencephalography (EEG) and provides feedback to train your brain. To put this into perspective, our system monitors the brain 256 times per second. That’s a lot of feedback!

The feedback happens through video and audio sources. During neurofeedback training, you’ll be watching a computer screen that displays a variety of moving images and listening to an audio soundtrack. The neurofeedback system monitors your brain activity through EEG, and when it senses that your brain activity on the various wavelengths is outside of the optimal range for your brain, it interrupts the video and audio signals briefly. Because this interruption is tied to your specific brain activity, your brain knows to connect the dots. This allows your brain to know what it is doing at that point in time, and adjust accordingly.

 

I Still Don’t Get How It Works Andrew!

 

Let me explain a little bit more then! One of our misconceptions is that because our brain is constantly working, it must know what it’s doing at all times. This is unfortunately not the case. It’s like when I grew around 6 inches in one year, I kept walking into door frames because I didn’t realize where my shoulders were in 3-D space! What our brain is able to do, however, is adjust itself for optimal health if it has the information it needs. Neurofeedback training is what helps provide the necessary information for the brain to change itself.

Imagine you’re driving. Anyone who has driven for any length of time knows that the mind wanders sometimes. Every once in a while, we’ll wander too far to the right and our right tires will go over the shoulder, and we’ll feel a rub strip or gravel under the tires, and hear a noise that signals to us that we are over the shoulder. What happens next is automatic – we naturally move over to the left a little bit. We generally don’t even need to think about it, we just do it. This is analogous to what happens with our brain during neurofeedback training. The interruptions in the audio and video signal to the brain where it is on the wavelengths. The brain uses this information and adjusts itself accordingly. Over time, this training helps the brain stay within the optimal range on the various wavelengths on an ongoing basis.

 

How Long Does Neurofeedback Training Take?

 

This is the million-dollar question! It’s also an understandable one. We all want to know how long something is going to take. It’s really no different than wanting to know how long counselling is going to take. Unfortunately, the answer may not be any more gratifying than the answer to how long counselling is going to take: it depends.

Here’s the truth – it depends because every brain is different. It’s also challenging to predict because dynamic neurofeedback training is not a specific treatment for a specific symptom, it is a whole-brain training aimed at helping the entire brain function better. Because of this, we can’t claim that neurofeedback will cure your anxiety, depression, or otherwise. What we can say, however, is that by helping your brain to function better, symptoms that exist because your brain is not functioning at its best are likely to improve. What I can say, is that this has definitely been my experience in working with clients with neurofeedback. Symptoms of concern do improve, our ability to manage any remaining symptoms gets better, and we become more flexible and resilient, but it takes time.

It may be helpful to think of neurofeedback training as gym training for your brain. When we go to the gym, we don’t see much improvement after one workout. We see improvement over a series of workouts, and over a consistent effort to train. How fast each of us builds muscle, and get in shape depends on a whole lot of variables, so in the same way, we can’t predict how long it’s going to take for you to build the muscles you want and get in the shape you’re looking for. What we do know, however, is that if you train consistently over time, you’ll build muscle, and you’ll get in better shape.

 

How Do You Know It Works?

 

This is a great question. Monitoring brain changes can be challenging, but here’s how we do it. Before you start, we use a variety of tracking tools to track the symptoms you have concerns about, and over the course of the sessions, we repeat these tracking tools to look at improvements. In addition, we check in with you each session to see how things are going and what you’re noticing. The true indication of whether it’s helping is the answer to a very simple question: “How do you feel now versus how you felt before we started?” Sometimes it’s hard to notice the shifts, and this is where we can also help you monitor by asking the right questions to pick up on shifts.

I have noticed significant positive results in my clients who have done neurofeedback training. In fact, it’s uncanny how positive it has been. I hope this article has helped explain a bit more about neurofeedback, how it works, and how it might be helpful. If you have any more questions, give us a call and we’d be happy to answer them!

How Can I Improve My Social Anxiety?

How Can I Improve My Social Anxiety?

In my previous blog post, I talked a bit about what social anxiety is and the many strengths that people prone to social anxiety often show. I recommend reading that post first, but as a little re-cap, people who develop social anxiety are often highly compassionate, conscientious and creative. They tend to feel deeply which can either lead to anxiety or an ability to creatively explore their world with curiosity. What often stands in the way of the ability to creatively explore their world is an intense fear that they are not good enough. If you’re struggling with social anxiety, I’d like to offer some strategies to move past that fear while maintaining your many strengths!

 

How to Hold on to the Good Traits of Social Anxiety and Work Towards Growth

 

Get out of your own head and turn your attention outward

When we feel socially anxious, we tend to turn inward and start monitoring ourselves. Thoughts like “why did I just say that,” or “what if I just offended her,” circle around and around in our heads and take up all of our mental energy so we often then freeze and can’t think of anything to say.

 

When you notice this happening, turn your attention outward. Focus on who you’re talking to and listen closely to what they’re saying. This takes our focus away from what we think we’ve done wrong and frees up our mental capacity to be able to engage in the conversation with natural curiosity. Studies show that doing this dramatically increases a person’s likability, and also combats our fears.

 

Expose yourself to social situations and allow confidence to catch up with you

Don’t wait until you feel ready to give that toast or attend that party! Usually, when we start doing something, our mood follows – you’re more adaptable than you think. If it doesn’t go well the first time, keep practicing. If you persevere, the skill and confidence will catch up with you.

 

This allows you to refute the two lies your anxiety is telling you:

  1. The worst-case scenario will definitely happen
  2. You can’t handle what life throws at you

When we face social fears, we learn that we can live through it and it’s never as bad as we think.

 

tip: sign up for an introductory improv class. In improv, there is no script and you’re put in a situation where you’re forced to make mistakes in front of others. Sounds terrifying right? I thought so too so I tried it at the height of my social anxiety and it ended up being surprisingly safe. At first, it was embarrassing but then I realized everyone was being embarrassed too. Improv helps us to develop the skills to navigate unstructured social situations that cause anxiety in the real world.

 

If you drink at a social engagement, do it because you want to, not because you have to

A lot of people drink to make themselves feel more confident in social engagements; after all, it is called “liquid courage.” The problem is that if you do have a good time while drinking, the tendency is to give the alcohol the credit, not you. In reality, that person who was having a good time navigating an otherwise anxiety-provoking situation was you without inhibition. You have that confidence within yourself and you can access it with practice; in facing your fears, you don’t need the alcohol.

 

Dare to Be Average (Dr. David Burns)

A lot of anxiety comes from our belief that we need to be perfect in social situations. We believe that if we stumble over our words or pause in a conversation, people will see our flaws and reject us. There’s a whole list of “musts” that come with that belief:

“I must be entertaining”

“I must sound smart”

“I must carry the conversation for both of us”

Everyone pauses in conversations, loses their train of thought and says something awkward from time to time; it makes us human and it’s endearing. Dr. David Burns encourages us to “dare to be average.” He reminds us that people are attracted to people who own their averageness because most of us are average. It’s relatable, it’s honest and it’s human. As Dr. Kristin Neff says, “we’re all on this long, awkward journey together.” If you’ve experienced an embarrassing moment, a million other people have had that same embarrassing moment – you’re not alone.

 

Create a structure for yourself in social engagements

Simon Thompson and Ronald M. Rapee (2002) found that in structured social interactions, people with social anxiety showed a much higher level of social skill than in unstructured social engagements. Dealing with the unpredictable creates anxiety for many people so next time you’re in an anxiety-provoking social setting, create a structure for yourself. Dr. Hendricks suggests giving yourself little missions at parties such as taking to 3 people you don’t know and finding out as much as you can about them. This creates some predictability and some direction in the social interaction.

 

Dr. Hendrickson’s Tips for Making New friendships

a) Repetition – Show up!

It takes an average of 6 hangouts for someone to consider a person a friend. Many people with social anxiety become discouraged when they work up the courage to go to a social engagement and don’t come away with a new friend. But in reality, this almost never happens for anyone. The way to make new friends is to keep showing up and to see the same people over and over again. Some options might be joining a fitness class with consistent members, dropping the kids off at school and saying hello to the same parents each day or going to a café at the same time each day.

b) Self-disclosure

Many people with social anxiety have trouble talking about themselves for a variety of reasons that may feel really valid after past hurts. Dr. Hendrickson urges us to push through and to gradually share a bit about what you think, feel and do with a person you want to be friends with. Friendships are reciprocal, so gradually the other person will begin to share about themselves as well. People are generally interested in what the world looks like from another’s point of view.

c) Just be kind

Many people think they need to appear confident and competent in order to make friends. In reality, people are drawn to warmth, kindness and trustworthiness. You don’t have to appear confident, just be nice and curious.

 

Practice self-compassion

Shame feeds social anxiety, but if you can think about yourself in the same way you’d think about another person you care about, it will help you to forgive yourself when you make a social blunder that feels so painful and isolating. Dr. Kristin Neff has an amazing website full of free exercises to help build self-compassion. My favourite is the self-compassion break which is a guided mindfulness exercise that takes only 5 minutes.

Find the exercises here: https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#exercises

 

Counselling

Social anxiety can be completely unbearable and painful and so it can be hard to take any of the above steps on your own. A counsellor can help work with you, at a pace that feels safe for you, to remove the blocks of shame and fear that are inhibiting you from living the life you want to live. If you’re struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a counsellor who can help you with this. You’re too important to deprive the world of getting to know you!

 

 

Sources

Burns, D. D. (2008). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Harper: New York.

Hendrickson, E. (2018). How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. St. Martin’s Press: New York.

Moscovitch, D. A. (2009). What Is the Core Fear in Social Phobia? A New Model to Facilitate Individualized Case Conceptualization and Treatment. Cognitive and Behavioural Practice, 16, 123-124. Available from https://uwaterloo.ca/psychology/sites/ca.psychology/files/uploads/files/moscovitch_2009.pdf

Neff, K. (2018). Self Compassion. https://self-compassion.org/

Richards, T. A. (2018). What is social anxiety? Social Anxiety Institute. Retrieved from https://socialanxietyinstitute.org/what-is-social-anxiety

Thompson, S., & Rapee, R. M. (2002). The effect of situational structure on the social performance of socially anxious and non-anxious participants. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 33(2), 91-102. DOI: 10.1016/S0005-7916(02)00021-6 · 

What is Social Anxiety?

What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is an intense fear about one or more social situations. It can be generalized to all social situations, or it can be activated in specific situations, such as having a conversation, meeting new people, being observed while eating, drinking, walking, etc., or performing in front of others, such as giving a speech or speaking in front of a class. According to the Social Anxiety Institute, social anxiety is the third largest mental health care condition in the world today. So, if you’re dealing with social anxiety and feeling alone, statistics show that you’re not; at least 7% of the population is right there with you!

 

Dr. David Moscovitch, a Clinical Psychologist at the University of Waterloo, discovered that social anxiety is more than just a fear of being embarrassed. Rather, it’s an urge to cover up a perceived flaw. People with social anxiety believe that something is fatally wrong with them that makes them socially undesirable, and they fear that this perceived flaw will be seen by others. Finally, they believe that when this flaw is discovered by others, they’ll be humiliated and rejected.

 

Here’s an example of a situation that someone with social anxiety might find themselves in, and their thought process:

 

Joe is an average guy, but he believes he’s really boring and that if people found out how boring he is, they won’t like him. One day while Joe was talking to his friend Martin there is a long pause in the conversation. Now, long pauses in conversation with people we’re comfortable with are pretty normal! In this case, however, Joe perceives the long pause as an awkward silence, and believes that the awkward silence confirms his worst suspicions that he is boring and at fault for the awkwardness. His brain became flooded with thoughts about how Martin must be noticing and judging Joe as a boring person, who he’d rather not be friends with. Joe’s mind is filled with even more anxiety, and he can’t think of what to say to Martin. It’s so overwhelming that he can’t bear the idea of being placed in this situation again where he might be judged as boring, so he proceeds to avoid social interactions as much as possible. In reality, Martin didn’t think Joe was boring, and he wasn’t judging him, he was lost in his own train of thought and didn’t think much of the “awkward” silence at all.

 

This is why Dr. Moscovitch stresses that Joe’s fatal flaw only exists in Joe’s mind. He perceives himself to be boring, and so finds information in the conversation to confirm that his perception is true. People with social anxiety are extra sensitive to social blunders, to the point where they often believe they’re the only ones who make them. The truth is that social blunders are part of what makes us human. Everyone is boring some of the time, we all trip over our words and we all have awkward moments. As Dr. Ellen Hendrickson states in her book How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, “nothing is wrong with you, it’s just the blemishes of being a person.”

 

While it’s normal for everyone to feel socially self-conscious from time to time, “social anxiety is like self-consciousness on steroids”, as Dr. Hendrickson says – it’s a big and heavy feeling, and often very tricky to work around. Because of this, people who have social anxiety are often quite distressed and unable to function as fully in their lives as they’d like. When self-consciousness reaches this level of social anxiety, most people benefit from getting help with regulating it.

 

How Does Social Anxiety Work?

 

Social anxiety works in a cycle of fear and avoidance. People begin to avoid the social interactions that make them feel anxious because the anxiety they feel is so painful and unbearable. They understandably want to protect themselves from the trauma of feeling rejected or inadequate. Unfortunately, avoiding social situations only makes things worse because when we’re not interacting with our source of fear, the fear increases and becomes much scarier. On top of that, when we avoid certain social situations we’re also unable to practice the social skills necessary to get through them and the associated anxieties. When we feel we don’t have the necessary skills for something, we continue to avoid it and the cycle of fear and avoidance continues.

 

Are There Good Things About Social Anxiety?

 

Many people with social anxiety believe there’s something wrong with them and want to change their personality altogether. They often believe that the opposite of social anxiety is confidence. In her book, Dr. Ellen Hendrickson points out that people with social anxiety tend to have a lot of desirable traits. They’re so anxious because they desperately want to connect, and so are sensitive to the needs of others to such an extreme that it becomes a fault. In fact, psychopathy; not confidence, is the opposite of social anxiety.

 

People with social anxiety tend to be very conscientious, compassionate and caring, open to new experiences and agreeable. They have all the traits that would make a person socially desirable, they merely are inhibited by fear and an excess of shame. It’s, therefore, best to work through social anxiety by removing the fear and developing confidence on top of the amazing characteristics that are already there! It’s a process of learning to be yourself without fear. Dr. Hendrickson points out that your true self is the self you are without fear. Think about the person you are when you’re most comfortable, maybe when you’re with a pet or with a person you trust or doing an activity you enjoy. That’s who your real self is, and that person is lovable and worthy of connection.

 

How Can We Move Past Fear and Shame and Live the Life We Want?

 

My next blog post will detail eight strategies for working through social anxiety. In the meantime, I recommend picking up Dr. Ellen Hendrickson’s book How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. It is also a great idea to talk to a counsellor and see how you can work together to come up with a plan to work towards quieting that inner critic. For any question, feel free to contact us.

 

Sources

Burns, D. D. (2008). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Harper: New York.

 

Hendrickson, E. (2018). How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. St. Martin’s Press: New York.

 

Moscovitch, D. A. (2009). What Is the Core Fear in Social Phobia? A New Model to Facilitate Individualized Case Conceptualization and Treatment. Cognitive and Behavioural Practice, 16, 123-124. Available from https://uwaterloo.ca/psychology/sites/ca.psychology/files/uploads/files/moscovitch_2009.pdf

 

Neff, K. (2018). Self-Compassion. https://self-compassion.org/

 

Richards, T. A. (2018). What is social anxiety? Social Anxiety Institute. Retrieved from https://socialanxietyinstitute.org/what-is-social-anxiety

 

Thompson, S., & Rapee, R. M. (2002). The effect of situational structure on the social performance of socially anxious and non-anxious participants. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 33(2), 91-102. DOI: 10.1016/S0005-7916(02)00021-6 · 

What Is Grief?

What Is Grief?

Grief is a normal emotional process that happens when adjusting to a loss or change. It happens not only when someone has died, but also after things like a job loss, the ending of a relationship, or while anticipating a future loss. Grief is a complex process that has no concrete roadmap, but there are some common factors that influence the process we go through. Some of these factors are:

  • Our relationship with the individual who is gone
  • The circumstances surrounding the loss
  • Our current coping mechanisms and how past emotional distress has been handled
  • The availability of support networks while we grieve

(Living Through Loss, 2017)

No matter what we are grieving, it is difficult, painful, and exhausting.

Part of the difficulty in grief, as I alluded to above, is that the roadmap isn’t clear. What we do know, however, is that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. It is okay to feel relief, emptiness, or nothing at all when coping with a loss. It’s also okay to cry, feel physically exhausted, be angry, or struggle with feelings of guilt. Grief is a process that is unique to each person and so our bodies and our minds will respond as best they can in whatever way they feel is best for us to move on; in other words, they do the best they can at the time, with what they have to work with.

Sometimes the timeline of grief can be a challenge. Often, we expect ourselves, or even others expect us to move through the grieving process more quickly than we’re able to. It’s important to know that it’s okay to take as long or as little time as we need to move forward. Given the popularity of the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), many people believe that they need to go through these five stages linearly to move forward (Living Through Loss, 2017). That may be the case for some people, but it is not for everyone. As mentioned above, people experience a wide range of emotions and experience grief in different ways so their grieving process may not always be forward moving. Sometimes we get stuck, sometimes we go backwards, or sometimes we’re all over the place and have a mix of good days and bad days, which sometimes ends up looking like a mess.

How do we manage while all of this is happening? With how intense and exhausting grief can be, it is vital that we take care of ourselves. Often, we’re so overwhelmed we can’t even think of how to take care of ourselves. Here are some suggestions for ways you can practice self-care while going through the grieving process:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol since they may make you feel worse
  • Avoid isolating yourself and find support from a friend or counsellor
  • Get lots of rest. Grieving is exhausting, so you will likely be more tired than usual
  • Drink lots of water and try to eat the best you can, and try to avoid sugar and caffeine
  • Exercise, even if it’s only going for a walk around the neighbourhood
  • Give yourself time and permission to mourn as often as needed
  • Do things that make you feel good such as journaling, art, listening to music, reading
  • Be kind to yourself. You’re doing the best you can

(Living Through Loss, 2017)

 

After some time, we will adjust to our losses. It’s hard work and takes time, but eventually, we can come to terms with what has happened, grieve and mourn our loss, and move forward. However, some people find themselves stuck. This experience has been described as something called Complicated Grief. Some of the signs of complicated grief are:

  • Being unable to move on
  • Being unable to carry out everyday routines
  • Isolating yourself
  • Feeling intense loneliness or numbness
  • Feeling extreme sorrow, pain, or depression
  • Feeling that life has no purpose
  • Ruminating or experiencing intrusive thoughts about your loss
  • Wishing you died with your loved one

(HealthLinkBC, 2017)

If you notice that you or someone you care about are experiencing any of these symptoms, then may be time to seek out professional help such as counselling. Therapy can give you a space to talk about your loss and help you to work through your thoughts, feelings, and memories relating to your experience. Counselling can also help to identify and work through any potential trauma relating to the loss and helping you to adjust to this change.

I hope this article has been helpful if you’re experiencing grief and loss. We’ve all been there, and some of us are there right now with you. If you could use some help as you walk through this journey of grief, we would love to talk to you. Please give us a call or contact us anytime, we’re here.

 

References

Complications of Grief. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/aa129291

Grief and Loss Resources. (2017). Retrieved from https://livingthroughloss.ca/

The Importance of Hope

The Importance of Hope

I recently attended the Recovery Capital Conference of Canada 2018 with our associate, Richard Somerset. This is the second year we’ve gone to the conference, and each year I leave, reminded of one thing: the importance of hope. It’s wonderful to hear the research, discuss different topics, see old friends; but, what I enjoy most are the stories from clinicians and people from the recovery community alike – stories of recovery, rejuvenation, and hope.

 

The role of counselling in recovery is an interesting one. I remember my earlier days working on the downtown east side with youth living on the street and suffice it to say, my “office” was pretty different back then. Most of my work involved a trip to Tim Horton’s, or sitting in a local park, or even sitting on the ground in various alleys. Most of my work back then seemed less “clinical” if you will – you might even call it counselling guidance.

 

The reality was, as it still often is, that there was precious little I could do to make things better. Some of the stories I heard from these youth were devastating, horrific even, and it didn’t stop. I could help find them a place to stay at Covenant House, my employer at the time. I could talk to them about job opportunities, addiction treatment options, mental health resources. What I couldn’t do is change their past, or sometimes, their present and future.

 

So, what then? What good is counselling guidance? How does it instill hope in a life where there doesn’t seem to be any?

 

What I found in the alleys of the downtown east side of Vancouver, and what I continue to find in my nice, cushy office in the suburbs, is that most of my role in the lives of others is as a guide – helping people find their way back to seeing hope in themselves. Hope in who they are. Hope in what they could become. Even if some of the circumstances don’t change.

 

This is the power of empathy and connection. While our current circumstances are important, I find that they have very little to do with hope. We can be in the worst of times and be hopeful, and we can be in the best of times and find it meaningless. This is where the guidance fits in.

 

Counselling guidance, in this case, takes the form of slowly helping clients entertain the idea that hope resides in self and others, and not in the situation. Hope resides in the idea that you are still, at your core, worthy of love and that life can be different. In the words of Marsha Linehan, life can be worth living again.

 

How, then, can we start finding hope, and even joy in the midst of emotional and/or situational turmoil? How can counselling help this process along? Here are three things to keep in mind in terms of counselling and hope:

 

  1. You are not your addiction, your depression, your borderline personality disorder, or otherwise. These are all things that love to tell you otherwise, preying on the negative thought processes and painful emotions that may be running through heart, mind, and soul.
  2. There is always hope. You may not see it right now, and you may think that what you’ve done, what you’re battling, or what you anticipate are too much for hope to conquer. What I can tell you is that in all of my experience, I’ve never seen these things evidenced in truth. There are no hopeless causes, hopeless battles, or hopeless futures if we continue to hold on.
  3. You may not be in a place where you can hold hope for yourself. You may need someone to hold if for you. This is where a counsellor comes in. Our job, in my view, is to hold hope for those that can’t hold it for themselves. I know I’ve been there. I consider it an honour to be able to hold hope for others.

 

If you see yourself in any of the above, I would encourage you to give counselling a try. Sometimes counselling is a very specific clinical intervention. Sometimes, however, it’s guidance, and guidance toward the possibility of hope.

If we have hope, we have a chance.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Over the past two decades, we have seen a steady rise in media attention covering Postpartum Depression (PPD). This is partly because the psychiatric community officially recognized PPD as a distinct condition in the mid-90s [i] and partly because of celebrities who have started to talk about their experiences with postpartum depression. And yes, you read that correctly, although there are abundant records of women talking about their experiences with maternal mental illness from the early 1800s to the present, it only started being recognized as a distinct mental illness in the 1990s[ii]. As you might imagine, the result is that the science, the literature and the media reporting are all a bit behind. Luckily, with organizations such as Postpartum Support International (PSI), the science is finally starting to catch up and hopefully, that means the media and our social perceptions of maternal mental health will too.

 

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is often used as an umbrella term for all maternal mental health conditions, but in reality, there are a number of maternal mental health conditions that are distinct and vary in terms of severity, duration and characterization. All of these conditions tend to get jumbled up together in the media which is confusing for those who have PPD, as well as their loved ones. So, let’s break it down.

The technical term for postpartum depression is a Major Depressive Episode with Peripartum Onset. What that mouthful of jargon basically means is that PPD can be understood as a depressive episode that lasts a minimum of 2 weeks and is characterized by depressed mood, insomnia or hypersomnia, fatigue, feeling worthless, low interest in pleasurable activities and having thoughts of suicide[iii]. If you read my last blog post about the Baby Blues, you might note here that PPD is very different from the Baby Blues. Baby Blues are a normal part of giving birth where most mothers experience a drop in the mood right after giving birth for a short period of time. PPD not only last longer but is more severe. About 15% of new mothers experience PPD as opposed to 85% of mothers who get the Baby Blues[iv][v]. And while this distinction is important, keep in mind that whether you have the Baby Blues or PPD, you can absolutely get treatment, you don’t have to wait and see if it’s severe enough. Every person’s experience is different, and you deserve help. Do yourself a favour and check in with your doctor, midwife and/or therapist to see how they can support you to feel like yourself again.

Men experience PPD too. A growing body of research has shown that roughly 5% of new fathers experience PPD which comes as no surprise because mothers and fathers both endure the many new stressors like lack of sleep, way more responsibilities and demands put of their plate, and feelings of failure and inadequacy often associated with bringing a baby home[vi].

I won’t go too far into the causes of PPD here but if you ever want to talk about them, my door Alongside You is always open.

I’ve spoken to a lot of mothers and fathers who were very confused about the way their PPD presented itself. Interestingly, PPD might look different from what we might think of as a typical episode of depression. A lot of people with PPD have reported either anger or anxiety as their primary symptoms[vii]. Some experience periods of elevated energy and racing thoughts where they’re unable to sleep and can’t stop cleaning. Many also report panic attacks[viii]. While these responses may feel scary at the time, they are normal and can be helped with a number of different therapies that I will get into at the end of this article.

 

Overcoming Stigmas and Getting Help

Experts agree that PPD is underdiagnosed, primarily because those who endure it often feel too ashamed to seek help. There’s a common misconception that PPD is associated with infanticide which is simply not true. Those over-reported cases of infanticide are not cases of PPD, they are cases of severe psychosis with peripartum onset. Unlike depression, psychosis is characterized by delusions and hallucinations[ix]. And even if a parent does show signs of psychosis with peripartum onset, it is incredibly rare that these delusions will lead to infanticide[x]. I can’t stress enough how rare that is.

New parents are often under a lot of stress and experience intrusive thoughts. When a person’s brain is in an anxious state, it’s common for their mind to go to the worst possible thing they could do (as if you weren’t stressed enough already…). This happens to all of us. Sometimes when I’m driving up the Sea to Sky highway, my brain imagines veering my car off the cliff. Of course, I will never do that, but my brain plays some pretty wild tricks sometimes, just like yours might when you’re under a lot of stress and your baby is still crying.

The main danger with PPD is that the stigmas that result from those sensationalized media stories keep many new parents from reaching out for help. As a result, suicide (not infanticide) is the greatest risk associated with PPD.

 

What can Help Postpartum Depression

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, science is catching up and we now have many treatments to choose from for PPD. Some find antidepressants helpful, like one woman said, “the me I was used to re-appeared after medication.” Other treatments include infant sleep interventions, massage therapy and relaxation, increasing Omega-3 intake (fish, nuts, seeds, healthy oils), spiritual practices, yoga, bright light therapy and, of course, counselling (individual and couples counselling are both helpful). For most new parents, a combination of any of these above methods works best.

I’ll leave you with a simple and accurate quote from a mother I recently spoke with who had PPD – “Let people help, they want to.”

We’d love to help, if you’ll let us. Give us a call at the office, or contact us through our contact page and we’ll be happy to talk to you about how we might be of help!

 

Some books that have been helpful to others:

  • Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness: Mom Stories from the Trenches: A Second Edition Monkey Star Press Anthology (What Is a Mother to Do? Adventures in Motherhood and Mayhem) – by: Lisa Nolan, et al.
  • When Postpartum Packs a Punch: Fighting Back and Finding Joy – by: Kristina Cowan
  • Tokens of Affection: Reclaiming Your Marriage After Postpartum Depression 1st Edition -by: Karen Kleiman, Amy Wenzel
  • The Birth Partner: Everything you Need to Know to Help a Woman through Childbirth – by: Penny Simkin

 

References:

 

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) VA: American Psychiatric Association

[1] Segre, L.S., & Davis, W.N. (2013). Postpartum Depression and Perinatal Mood Disorders in the DSM. Postpartum Support International. Retrieved from www.postpartum.net.

[1] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). VA: American Psychiatric Association

[1] Shapiro, G.D., Fraser, W.D., & Seguin, J.R. (2012). Emerging risk factors for postpartum depression: Serotonin transporter genotype and Omega-3 fatty acid status. CanJPsychiatry, 57(11), 704-712.

[1] Khajehei, M., Doherty, M., & Tilley, M. (2012). Assessment of Postnatal Depression Among Australian Lesbian Mothers During the First Year after Childbirth: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 27(4), 49-54

[1] Breese McCoy, S.J. (2012). Postpartum depression in men. In M. G.Rojas Castillo (Ed.) Perinatal Depression (p. 173-176.) Rijeka: InTech. Available from: : http://www.intechopen.com/books/perinatal-depression/postpartum-depression-in-men-

 

[1] APA (2013)

[1] APA (2013)

[1] Postpartum Support International (2018). Postpartum Psychosis. Retrieved from http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/postpartum-psychosis/

 

[1] APA (2013)

[1] Shapiro, et al. (2013)

[i] American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) VA: American Psychiatric Association

[ii] Segre, L.S., & Davis, W.N. (2013). Postpartum Depression and Perinatal Mood Disorders in the DSM. Postpartum Support International. Retrieved from www.postpartum.net.

[iii] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). VA: American Psychiatric Association

[iv] Shapiro, G.D., Fraser, W.D., & Seguin, J.R. (2012). Emerging risk factors for postpartum depression: Serotonin transporter genotype and Omega-3 fatty acid status. CanJPsychiatry, 57(11), 704-712.

[v] Khajehei, M., Doherty, M., & Tilley, M. (2012). Assessment of Postnatal Depression Among Australian Lesbian Mothers During the First Year after Childbirth: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 27(4), 49-54

[vi] Breese McCoy, S.J. (2012). Postpartum depression in men. In M. G.Rojas Castillo (Ed.) Perinatal Depression (p. 173-176.) Rijeka: InTech. Available from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/perinatal-depression/postpartum-depression-in-men-

[vii] APA (2013)

[viii] APA (2013)

[ix] Postpartum Support International (2018). Postpartum Psychosis. Retrieved from http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/postpartum-psychosis/

[x] APA (2013)

Kids Anxiety: What Can Parents Learn From Them

Kids Anxiety: What Can Parents Learn From Them

An interesting piece about “The big myth about teenage anxiety” ran in the New York Times this week, authored by a fairly prominent psychiatrist – which you can find here.

 

The essence of Dr. Friedman’s editorial is that much of the research showing a rise in teen anxiety is not conclusive, which from a scientific perspective is unsurprising. Many of these studies rely on self-reports, which, though scientifically imperfect, offer an important window into human experience – something we as mental health professionals consider of paramount importance. A better understanding of what we deal with internally and externally on a daily basis (and the meaning we make of it) is essential to better understanding ourselves. Dr. Friedman also encourages readers to remember that phones are not necessarily to blame for anxiety, as much as it may seem that way. He points out that anxiety is normal, and that our brains are quite well-equipped to handle it.

 

The article is nuanced, and while I would hesitate to back up many of the things Dr. Friedman says, one important distinction he makes is between actual anxiety disorders and day-to-day anxiety and worry – something most teens are virtually guaranteed to experience. Social media and the internet have indeed made the social world more complex for teens to navigate – as many have noted, there is no “escape” from the reach of the internet anymore, and it is more than understandable that teens are often glued to their phones. Teens are under a lot of stress developmentally, socially and physically, and Dr. Friedman is careful to point out that there will and should be plenty of anxiety in teenage life.

 

The crux of the matter then is not eliminating or avoiding anxiety (avoidance, of course, will actually make the anxiety seem stronger than it is), but focusing on what we can learn to do in the face of anxiety. Teens can learn that anxiety is normal, learn to notice bodily sensations that arise, learn to stay grounded, and even learn to appreciate their anxiety for protecting them.

 

Many parents are highly distressed when they learn their teen or child is struggling with anxiety, and I would encourage those parents to remember how normal that is. Your job is not to eliminate or protect from that anxiety, but rather to be with your child as far as they will let you, and creating as best you can a space of rest from it. There are many anxiety management techniques that can be learned to reduce day-to-day anxiety, but one of the best things to have is a secure relationship within which you do not need to be anxious. I can’t stress enough the impact of having someone with whom you feel safe to just be you, warts and all.

 

It’s no secret that I (along with many others here at Alongside You) am a big fan of attachment parenting, an idea propagated by Dr. Gordon Neufeld and brain researcher Daniel Siegel, among many others. I am also a big fan of parents taking care of themselves before they worry too much about taking care of their children, for several reasons. So I should mention that your anxiety about your kids’ anxiety is incredibly valuable: it tells you how important it is to you that your kids are safe and happy. This is wonderful, and you also should get to know that perfectly normal anxiety really well within your own safe relationships, because your kids will use you as a compass point to manage their own anxiety. If you have a good relationship with your anxieties, you will be very much ahead of the game in helping your child or teen with theirs. Normalizing our own experience of anxiety reduces it in our kids, and also shows them that they’re not alone.

 

Parenting is a tough job, and if you’re reading this, one that I imagine you take seriously. Best of luck, and as always, feel free to ask lots of questions and seek lots of support. If we can be a support to you, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re all in this together.