Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

For Caregivers ~ Do’s and Don’ts in Discussing Death with Children

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog

Sad boy

 

For children, when they experience death of a parent, grandparent, sibling or best friend, we often are ill-equipped to know how best to help them. In my work as a psychotherapist and grief/bereavement counselor, I share the following fundamental tips with caregivers.

  • Don’t use euphemisms. For example, don’t talk to the child about death as sleep. Research has found that children become afraid to go to bed, because they worry they might not wake up.
  • Don’t avoid the reality by saying the deceased has “gone away.” At ages 7/8, children can understand that death is universal, irreversible, and has a cause.
  • Don’t say God has taken the child because God could become something to fear/hate. If the family believes in an afterlife, the child needs to understand that concept for this explanation to be helpful.
  • Do understand that the child may show anxiety for some time. This may look like sadness, irritability, acting out, mentioning death in conversation at odd times, difficulties sleeping, upset stomachs or headaches. School performance may also decline for a time as children may have difficulty focusing on their work. All are normal coping patterns and part of the grief process. Show love and understanding. Have the child see a pediatrician if symptoms are not diminishing.
  • Do be honest. Don’t tell lies about how the person died and keep explanations very simple. The child may well need you to repeat them over the course of time. An exception to this would be if the child is young and will not understand the cause of death or it seems inappropriate to tell the child the cause of death, e.g. death by addiction or suicide. If you are unsure what to say because of the circumstances, speak with a grief counselor.
  • Do let your child cry. Crying is healthy and releases hormones and energy that promote healing. Telling your child to stop crying or “be strong” will only result in emotions being released in other ways – often through anger.
  • Do let your child know that family and friends are also sad. If the child is school age, do contact the school counselor and the child’s teacher and let them know what has happened so they can give the child extra support, time, and attention.
  • Do talk about the deceased person. The healing is in the talking and the memories – difficult and happy ones.
  • Do create traditions to celebrate the legacy of the deceased person. These can be simple or on a larger scale. Let the child be a part of the creation of these.
  • Do consider that a bereavement group for the child may be helpful after a sufficient amount of time has passed. Explore the options in your area.
  • Do find books to help the child process what has happened and their emotions. Your local librarian can provide you recommendations.
  • Do remember your own self care. Parents/caregivers are often so quick to get the child help. Remember, you can only help the child if you are getting the support you need to navigate this extraordinarily complex journey.

 

Can your Love Relationship be Saved?

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog

Couples - trackDoes it feel like you and your partner are competitors instead of allies? Have the small kindnesses vanished from your daily interactions? Are you walking on egg shells for fear of saying something that will cause conflict, anger, or hurt? Do you avoid each other more than seek one another out?

When couples come for counseling because their relationship is in trouble, as a therapist my main goal is to watch for and understand the patterns that inevitably show up in a couple’s interactions, so together we can understand what is going wrong despite their best efforts. It is incredibly helpful to examine arguments because they are never about what they appear to be. That bears repeating: while couples get caught up in the details, the argument is almost never about what it appears to be. There is an important theme playing out as that conflict and BOTH partners are engaged in the dance that fuels it. Identifying the theme is the critical factor.

I believe we are always doing our best in the moment with the tools we have, but many of us didn’t witness healthy relationships in our parents’ interactions, and our awareness and skills need improvement. To be emotionally close to someone as we are in the early days or years of a relationship is a magical thing. To be in conflict with the person who we deeply love causes us immense anxiety, pain, and sadness—so why would we purposely inflict those feelings on ourselves if we knew how to avoid them.

Love relationships are amazing structures that can teach us about what we didn’t get growing up. We need to figure out what that is or we’re destined to seek it, unconsciously, in this relationship, and the next, and the next—usually in ways that leave us feeling alone, misunderstood, and end up sabotaging the partnership.

The First Step

Effective counseling requires that couples come out of their corners in the boxing ring and embrace a new position with regard to the relationship—a united front of honesty, curiosity, and collaboration. Yes, I know … much more difficult than it sounds. That’s why an objective and caring intermediary—pastor, therapist or counselor—can be vital. When couples are trying to fix their problems from a place of fear—which is the source of all conflict—solutions are extremely difficult to recognize. I support clients to identify that fear and investigate it with deep compassion.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” ~ Einstein

To sleep or not to sleep — 3 Myths & Tips to leverage your chances of a good night’s sleep

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog

sleep-clock-sleeping-woman

3 Myths and Tips to Improve our Sleep:

As a psychotherapist, I am amazed by how many folks today are coming in with sleep issues. They have problems falling asleep, staying asleep, and falling back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night. During the day, this translates to increased anxiety, difficulty focusing, and lack of energy.

Sound familiar?

Sleep is a tricky thing. And it’s become trickier in our fast paced, high achieving, high tech world that is a recipe for anxiety – sleep’s enemy. The following are some tips to improve your “sleep hygiene.” That’s right. Sleep has become a huge area of study with its own fancy nomenclature.

Myth #1: I can catch up on my sleep if I don’t get much tonight.

Sorry — wrong. The body’s Circadian Rhythms work like a personal, internal 24-hour “clock.” These rhythms regulate the body’s temperature, appetite, hormonal changes, and sleep cycles. The body wants the sleep rhythm to be reasonably constant. When we miss a night’s sleep, the circadian rhythm is thrown off and we pay for it by feeling drowsy, tired, and grumpy the next day. Most likely our anxiety will be higher, too. Sadly, there is no “catching up,” rather, the body has to regulate the rhythm again which takes a few days.
Tip #1:
Schedule your Sleep. Try to go to bed and get up around the same time every night.

Myth #2: It’s so comfy that it makes sense to use my bed as a sleeping area, office area, eating area, studying area, and TV/Computer station.

Wrong, again. Psychologically, it is extremely helpful to our ability to transition to a state of deep relaxation and sleep well if our mind associates our bed with sleeping, and ONLY sleeping.
Tip #2:
Create a sacred space. Your bed and, if possible, your bedroom, should be a warm, welcoming, comfy place that is associated with nothing but rest and relaxation.

Myth #3: If I’m tired, my brain should be able to shut off the stimulation of the day and just go to sleep.

You can probably guess the answer. Yep, sorry, wrong again. It would be great if this were true, but unfortunately it’s not.
Tip #3:
Unplug. We cannot stimulate our brains with vigorous exercise, loud music, video games, television, computer trolling, and texting and think we can just turn it off and go to sleep. Our brain is highly activated by the stimulation and light involved in these activities. We need to stop these activities an hour or two before bedtime.

 

Anything else that will promote better sleep?

1. Keep your room dark when you sleep.
2. Turn your clock away from you and resist the temptation to look at the time if you wake up.
3. If you wake easily, consider getting a white noise machine.
4. Keep a notepad and pencil by your bed. If you wake up and feel you MUST remember something, write it down and “let it go” to be dealt with in the morning.
5. Make sure cold or other prescription medications aren’t interfering with your sleep.
6. Make sure caffeinated beverages are drunk several hours before you go to bed.
7. Prepare mind and body to relax. A warm bath or shower will help your body relax before sleep and soft music will nurture this state, too.
8. A glass of warm milk is helpful because it contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps induce sleep.
9. Once in bed, practice focusing on scenes or memories that are joyful/calming for you. If your attention wanders to something anxiety provoking, take 3/4 deep breaths and patiently return to those happy thoughts. You may have to practice this a lot if you’ve gotten into the habit of focusing on difficulties when you go to bed.
10. Create awareness of YOUR body’s need for sleep. It may be less or much more than someone else’s.

NOTE: Severe lack of sleep can be seriously debilitating, and we can become very depressed, suicidal at worst. If you or someone you know is dealing with severe insomnia, consult a doctor or clinician who has expertise dealing with sleep issues.