I think we can all agree that this year has been incredibly tough for everyone. Many of us are finding the events of 2020 to be overwhelming and as with any prolonged period of stress, it takes a toll on our mental health. Perhaps the most concerning thing we are seeing during this time, is the impact it is having on our children. We are receiving countless calls from concerned parents explaining that their child experienced, what they believe, to be their first panic attack. These panic attacks often mean the child is sent home from school, or is unable to go into school due to their symptoms. In a society that is quick to label children “resilient”, this eye-opening time is showing us that children are not as resilient as we would like to believe and that they are feeling every bit as anxious and unsure as we are right now. Witnessing a panic attack is a frightening thing for a parent and even more frightening for the child. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry lists the following common symptoms of panic attacks in children and youth: Intense fearfulness (feeling that something terrible is happening) Racing or pounding heartbeat Dizziness or light-headedness Shortness of breath or feeling like they are being smothered Trembling or shaking Sense of unreality Fear of dying, losing control, or losing your mind I would also like to note the other following symptoms that many parents are reporting to us: Unexplained stomach aches/pains that become extremely intense When out in public the child explains that they need to get out of somewhere immediately, to the point where they can’t breathe and need to be away from crowds of people. Life has changed so drastically for our children, and even the reintroduction of school is vastly different to what they are used to. Any big changes like this can bring anxiety and panic issues to the surface. To help families who are dealing with this, we want to first explain three different types of anxiety and then give you some tips you can try at home, and some recommended treatments for anxiety. TYPES OF ANXIETY As mentioned above, we are going to give a brief overview of three types of anxiety: Generalized Anxiety: This is when a person has an excessive amount of worry or anxiety around several different areas of their life (for example, health, finances, relationships, work etc.) Phobias: A phobia is an intense fear of a specific situation or thing/object that is out of proportion to its threat. Panic: When someone experiences “panic” they are having an extreme, anxious response. During this time the individual will experience numerous physical symptoms (as listed above in the report) and is also overwhelmed by a feeling of dread. WHAT TO DO WHEN MY CHILD IS EXPERIENCING PANIC AND ANXIETY: Many therapists will teach different grounding techniques to help their clients when they are experiencing acute anxiety or panic. These things take time to perfect [...]
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Why now? Participating in counselling can be challenging and rewarding. The “traditional” method of offering counselling has been face to face sessions with a registered therapist. COVID19 has certainly been a life altering experience for the world. On-line (virtual) counselling has been an option for many years. The pandemic has brought this resource into more prominence recently. Deciding on whether virtual counselling is a fit for you and your family is an individual choice. There are risks and benefits which likely vary from person to person. We have captured a few pros and cons below which we hope will help you to consider for yourself. We encourage to ask any questions you may have by calling our office. Currently Sharon Walker is a social work consultant working two days a week on site at a local long-term care facility. Due to pandemic regulations she cannot offer face to face sessions to other clients at this time. Her clinical passion is to provide family therapy supports; therefore, sessions are being offered using an on-line platform. (All of Brant Mental Health Solutions other therapists are offering both in person and online counselling.) What to expect? As a registered social worker (MSW RSW) it is Sharon’s goal to provide the most beneficial experience to you and your family. “It is my hope that the sessions are helpful, as such, I plan the sessions to maximize our time together. For young children I use playful techniques and conversations to enhance engagement. It is important to be mindful of the unique attention spans of younger children. Since the sessions are 50 minutes in duration, together, we set a plan for the sessions. Often this means a maximum of 30 minutes – face to face - with the child. This would be increased/decreased based on the guardian’s feedback and child’s needs and strengths. I would like to mention a comment made recently by the Dad of a 6-year-old child I am working with. Dad said he was “really happy” that his child has had the opportunity to participate in therapy using Zoom. He shared that he felt one additional benefit has been his child being better able to manage using technology to interact. He shared he felt that using technology like this is “a sign of the times” and that the sessions have helped his child to become more comfortable sharing feelings and using this technology.” Sharon Walker MSW RSW Sample Session Agenda A 50-minute session agenda would often include: First 15 minutes – “check in” with Mom/Dad 20 minutes with child Final 15 minutes- debrief with Mom/Dad What to consider… Based on current research PROS may include: Flexibility in scheduling Convenience Saving time from commuting to and from appointments Confidentiality- eliminates fears of running into others in waiting area of therapy office Comfort- the potential that one may feel more comfortable in a familiar setting Technology- skill building using the platform CONS may include: Technology challenges- difficulty with connections, using the software, poor voice/picture [...]
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is an effective tool where one learns how to relax their muscles via two easy to follow steps. The first step involves tensing a specific muscle group in your body, such as your neck and shoulder muscles. Following this, one releases this tension and mindfully observes how their muscles now feel, once relaxed. PMR helps reduce overall feelings of stress and tension and helps one feel more calm and relaxed when experiencing stressful times and anxious moments. PMR is also useful in helping lessen the effects of physical issues such as headaches, sleeplessness and stomach aches. Those of us who feel like we are ‘more stressed’ than others and/or experience high levels of daily anxiety become so tense, so often, that we almost forget what it is like to be fully relaxed and in a ‘calm’ state. In practicing PMR, one can learn to recognize the difference between what tensed muscle groups feel like and what a FULLY relaxed muscle group feels like. Once this takes place, most people find that they can easily employ this state of relaxation right when they begin to feel their muscles tensing in response to stress and anxiety. In tensing and releasing, one learns not only what TRUE relaxation feels like, but can also identify when they are beginning to feel tense, morning, day or night. A TIP! Schedule just 15 minutes a day to complete PMR Choose a quiet place to complete PMR where you won’t be interrupted Like learning anything new, PMR takes some practice. Even practicing just twice daily will help you become a ‘PMR Pro’ J … You’ll be able to signal the ‘relaxation mode’ to take effect when needed most! Remember, practice makes perfect! Practice PMR even when you aren’t feeling stressed or anxious J Preparing First, do your best to find a quiet space to sit. Close your eyes and feel your body ‘letting loose’… like your muscles are becoming ‘jelly.’ Sitting in a comfortable chair is recommended, but a couch or carpeted floor works just fine! If you don’t think you will fall asleep, you can also lay down when doing PMR. Please do whatever it is that makes you feel ‘generally’ relaxed (E.g. taking your shoes off, wearing a comfy sweater, etc.) before starting a PMR ‘session.’ Take 5 to 10 slow and deep breaths, sucking the air through your nose, deep down into your belly, then out. How To Perform PMR The Tension-Relaxation Approach FIRST STEP: TENSION The first step is applying muscle tension to a specific muscle group in the body. Remember, this step is basically the same step you will take for each muscle group you will be focusing on. First, place your attention on the specific muscle group, for example, your feet. Now, take a deep, slow breathe and tense the muscles as hard as possible for 5 seconds. When doing this, you want to squeeze your muscles in a way that [...]
As someone who grew up in the early 90’s, I wasn’t really spoiled for choice when it came to the internet. I remember very clearly getting our first family computer around the mid 90’s, a cumbersome machine, that took up a huge area in the family living room. Internet was dial up, and connected to the home phone, so good luck trying to get online when your mom was talking to her friends! Even when you did eventually connect to the internet, there wasn’t an awful lot to do! I remember the most exciting “social media” we had was MSN messenger, and that was always closely monitored by parents. We were told of the dangers of this new online world, a place filled with chat rooms and people pretending to be someone they weren’t, but the risk seemed low given the small amount of time we were allowed to spend on the internet and the fact that there really wasn’t a lot to “explore” at that time. Now that I am raising kids of my own, one a pre-teen, I am having a hard time keeping up with the apps and social media platforms that seem way too accessible for kids of all ages. One app that has caught my attention over the last 6 months is Tik Tok. This social media platform was created to share videos of people singing and dancing and creating entertaining content from all over the world. It has been praised as a great way to share creativity, but there is a dark side to this platform that we need to be aware of as parents. There have been concerns regarding the sharing of personal information of kids under the age of 13, dangerous challenges that have gotten out of hand and most concerning of all, the ability for adults to communicate with children who are naïve and don’t stop to question who they are talking to. During this time of “lock down” my preteen (like many other kids) has been spending much more time on her tablet, part of that is for school work and keeping in contact with her friends, as well as watching NetFlix and Disney+. In the last few months, she had mentioned Tik Tok to me a few times, and said how some of her friends were using it and enjoying the different dances etc.. that it had to offer. Each time we talked, I shared that I did not want her using that platform and shared a couple of my concerns about children and social media in general. I recently discovered that she had secretly signed up for Tik Tok and was using it without my knowledge during this period of lock down. After coming across some things that scared and unsettled her, she came clean to me. This is not designed to criticize her decisions as a child, heck, I know how appealing these social media platforms are as an adult and we all want to be [...]
As we continue to practice ‘social distancing’ during this difficult time in managing the fallout of COVID-19, fear and anxiety surrounding our physical health has greatly increased for many of us. Such thoughts as – What if I or someone in my family gets the virus? How am I going to pay my bills with being out of work for who knows how long? When will I be able to see my friends and family in person again? – are just some examples of what many of us have been thinking. These thoughts, coupled with the toll isolating at home alone can take on one’s mental health, can often work together to create much stress, fear, uncertainty, loneliness and anxiety that can all worsen with each passing day. My hope in writing this article is to provide clear and factual information on what ‘social distancing’ and isolation can do to one’s mental health during this time and provide useful and effective tips on how to stay mentally healthy though this situation. How Does ‘Social Distancing’ and Isolation Effect Our Mental Health? We all know how it feels to be stuck inside on a rainy Saturday. We had plans to see our friends or family, had plans to go play golf, read a book at the park, do some gardening or go to the beach, but, even if it stops raining and is just ‘gloomy’ outside, we often feel lethargic and, simply, ‘bummed out.’ We stay inside for the whole day, are upset and may even just want to be alone and watch TV in our bedroom. But what about when one ‘rainy day’ turns into ten, twenty, or thirty days ‘stuck inside’ like we have been instructed to do during the COVID-19 situation? What happens to us then? Uncertainty Perhaps the most common thought and fear surrounding the COVID-19 situation that I have heard, not only from clients, but friends and via messages on social media, is the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Questions such as - ‘When is this (I.e. ‘social distancing’ and quarantining at home) going to end!? and ‘What if this NEVER ends?’ have been asked by many (many times to oneself), producing great stress and anxiety. In my work as a counsellor specializing in stress, anxiety and low-mood, I often talk to my clients about ‘What If’s.’ Anxiety, while often acting as a healthy human feeling that motivates us to carry out the many duties daily life requires of us, can often increase above ‘healthy levels’ during stressful and uncertain times. When anxious, over such and uncertain and rare situation like COVID-19, our brain makes an attempt to calm itself by attempting to ‘figure out’ or predict the future… in other words, it tries to create certainty to rid itself of the feelings uncertainty brings… stress, fear, anxiety and low-mood. This, in turn, can cause us to take part in what are referred to, in cognitive psychology, as ‘Distorted Thinking’ or ‘Cognitive Distortions’ (more on this [...]
In this guest blog I am sharing the wisdom of Allison James, from The Grief Recovery Institute. I hope you find this blog helpful. Are you having a hard time adjusting to the change in your daily routine caused by COVID-19 safety measures? Me too. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to home school or how to work remotely, it can be overwhelming right? Many of us aren’t used to spending so much time at home or away from our normal day-to-day activities. It’s a big change. Some common things people miss are: Stopping for morning coffee Seeing other parents at school drop off Chatting with coworkers Going to the gym Seeing your favorite servers and dining out with family Church and other religious/spiritual gatherings Leisurely shopping You also might be afraid about how you’re going to pay your bills, take care of your family and if you’ll get sick. These changes and fears can cause a sense of emotional isolation. So not only are we more isolated physically, but emotionally as well. Society taught us to “put on a happy face” which means that many of us think we shouldn’t talk about negative or painful feelings. All of this means that the world is grieving! Grief is defined as the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior. Grief is reaching out for something that has always been there only to find that when you need it again it’s no longer there. All of our familiar patterns have changed and with change comes grief. So if you’re grieving the loss of your routine, and the physical isolation caused by COVID-19 shelter in place measures, we want you to know that your feelings are normal and natural. So what are some helpful things to do during this time of overwhelming grief and isolation? Remember there is nothing wrong with you. Grief can be lonely and isolating on its own. Even though the whole world is experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, you are very much unique in how it impacts you. How you feel is never the same as someone else and your feelings are normal. The antidote to emotional and physical isolation is participation. The idea that we need to grieve alone is a myth. First, practice shifting what you believe about communicating your sad and painful thoughts and feelings. Know that you should talk about them as you would happy or positive thoughts. Next, find ways to engage with other people. Video Chat. Choose your favorite video chat service and start an online meeting based on common interests like a book club, spiritual program or a trivia night. Hop on the phone. We’ve gotten so used to email and texting that many of us have stopped making phone calls. This is a good time to change that. Hearing a familiar voice can provide a tremendous amount of comfort. [...]
In this guest blog I am sharing the wisdom of, Allison James, from The Grief Recovery Institute. I hope you find this blog helpful. If you’re grieving the news and events surrounding Coronavirus you’re not alone. Whether you’re upset that your vacation has been cancelled or have been quarantined (mandatory or not), make no mistake about it, people all over the world are grieving. Most people associate grief with death and death alone. And while death is certainly a loss, there are many other life events that can produce feelings of grief related to COVID-19. A big one is loss of safety. It can be scary when everything we are familiar with changes. · You might be one of the tens of millions of people around the world under quarantine, so almost all of your daily habits and routines have changed. · Maybe you’re worried about the well being of your parents, children and your own health and safety. · If you’re older or have health problems, and are following Centers for Disease Control guidelines, you probably are staying indoors. · You could be socially distancing yourself from friends and family so as not to expose them or yourself. · Special vacations that you planned for have been cancelled as well as numerous concerts, business events and church. · It can be shocking to see that things that were a given in our daily lives have shut down like schools, the NBA and even Disney World. · Maybe you’re working from home and miss the camaraderie of your co-workers. · Celebrities we know and love, like Tom Hanks, have tested positive for Coronavirus. · Maybe it's causing strife in your relationship because you and your significant other don't agree on how to prepare for COVID-19. · Have you lost faith in your government, employers and even god? · Maybe you’re worried about friends in Italy, our first responders or our healthcare system. · You could be worried about the future of your job, how to take care of your kids and how you’re going to pay your bills. · There's also general sadness for our community. Many things we accept as normal have been turned upside down. This leaves many of us, myself included, feeling like there’s an uncertain future. How is this grief? · Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss of any kind. · Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior. · One way to describe grief is that it’s like reaching out for something that is familiar, only to find that when we need it one more time, it’s no longer there. · When we grieve, we grieve the loss of unmet hopes, dreams and expectations. Don't these definitions apply to at least one, if not all of the situations above? How do you know you have unresolved grief? · Are you eating more or not eating much at all? · Is it hard for you to focus on simple tasks? · Are you sleeping more or sleeping less? · Are you irritable [...]
We have been hearing a lot from nurses and other healthcare providers in recent weeks as they share what this pandemic has been doing to their mental and physical health. This is a time where an already stressful career, becomes something that most of us would not be able to handle. Healthcare workers are being asked to work even longer shifts, in bad conditions and to put their own health and the health of their families at risk. This is something that most of us take for granted. I know that right now, I could go to my local hospital for any ailment and be taken care of by a team of nurses, doctors and other support staff. But, while the healthcare providers assess and treat me, what do I really know about how they are feeling and what they are going through? One of my closest friends is a nurse, she is one of the kindest, most loving and caring people I have ever met in my life. If I was sick, or anyone I love was sick, she is exactly the kind of nurse I would want by our side. She is one of those rare people who has an enormous capacity to love and care for EVERYONE she comes into contact with, personally and professionally. But this past week when she reached out to me, I could tell she was burning out. Her stress levels are climbing, the hospitals are on high alert, the staff are worried if the supplies they have will get them through what might be coming, and she has two young kids at home to care for and protect. The sacrifice healthcare providers make to care for those they don’t even know, is something we all need to pause for a minute and appreciate. Could you do it? I don’t think I could. This got us thinking: how can we offer some small support for those men and women who are currently preparing for the unknown? Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) Sarah Potvin, has some suggestions for those working in the healthcare field during the COVID-19 outbreak. Sarah said first and foremost, we have to understand that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. You may look around and worry that you are reacting in a different way to others in your position, but that should not cause you further stress. The most important thing to be aware of, is if the fear is becoming unmanageable. By unmanageable, she means, if the fear is becoming unbearable and is no longer doing its job to “keep you alert.” Sarah encourages healthcare providers to take care of themselves during this time and offers the following suggestions: Take breaks from listening to/watching/talking about the virus/pandemic: Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly (especially when a large part of your job is related to the pandemic) can be extremely upsetting and take its toll. Make sure that in order to stay informed you use reliable sources for your information: If you [...]
You probably never thought you would have to explain the word “quarantine” to your children. Sitting at home last night and hearing the news that all schools in Ontario would be closed for three weeks (to include March break) was certainly something unprecedented. The absolute worst part though; seeing my 11-year old’s reaction. She has diagnosed anxiety issues, among other mental health concerns and I could visibly see the anxiety skyrocketing. There was fear, there were tears and a huge amount of uncertainty. I came to work this morning and asked one of our Psychotherapists, Sarah, “What should I say to her?” “How can I reassure in the face of so much fear and uncertainty?” Sarah spent the morning researching and compiling a list of ways parents can deal with the current situation. Her first advice, explain what the point of the quarantine is. Sarah suggests talking to your child(ren) about how the quarantine is designed to protect those in the public who have weakened immune systems. It is important that children understand that even if they, or their family members or friends, get sick, they will most likely survive the illness and recover. The problem arises if we have the virus and don’t know it and we pass it on to someone who could become very sick. Our goal is to protect the most vulnerable in our communities while the hospitals and researchers get all the resources and information needed to help those who are most at risk. When explaining this to your children, remind them that this is an act of compassion to those who need the most help from the medical system. Here are some tips for families that will be at home for the next few weeks: Keep moving: this is critical to boosting mood. The Down Dog App is free until April 1st and has yoga and other workouts to try. Another way to keep moving is to create an obstacle course in your backyard, being outdoors will also help boost mood and manage anxiety. Puzzles work well for certain people with anxiety and are a good way to spend your time. Consider purchasing workbooks online or at Walmart to keep your kids in some type of school routine, this will help with the transition back to school as well. Homemade science experiments – there are great ideas on Pinterest for easy science experiments for kids and they can be a great distraction at times of stress/anxiety. This is another good site for experiment ideas - http://www.sciencefun.org/kidszone/experiments/ Make costumes from things around the house, let your kids imaginations run wild! Have a fashion show, play music, encourage your kids to have fun and let loose! Cook or bake! There are lots of kid friendly recipes on the internet https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/easy-recipes-for-kids-to-make-by-themselves/ Pick up some new – or previously owned – books to read. Engage with your kids after the book, what did they like about it? Who was their favourite character? Stay in touch. An important [...]
Going to the dentist, doctor, massage therapist, chiropractor, and optometrist are all things many of us do often to remain healthy. Making an appointment with any of the aforementioned practitioners is generally ‘no big deal,’ for many of us. We know what to expect and how treatment will take place under the care of these practitioners and, therefore, we make and attend appointments with them, often without a second thought. For example, we know that when we go to a general dental appointment, the hygienist may take x-rays and check and clean our teeth, followed by an examination by the dentist who tells us if we have any cavities or need to make sure to floss each night. But when it comes to seeking help for our mental health, many of us have no idea what to expect when it comes to attending therapy/counselling. Talking to a stranger about our most personal, scary and painful thoughts and feelings can be incredibly frightening for a number of reasons. Unlike many of the important and highly trained healthcare professions mentioned previously, therapists and counsellors are some of the most misunderstood practitioners, both in terms of the services they provide and what they are like as people…. Both professionally and personally. Despite ‘how far the importance mental health care’ has come over the past 20 years in terms of campaigns aiming to destigmatize seeking mental health care and informing the public how to access therapy and counselling, many misconceptions and myths surrounding therapy and counselling remain. As a mental health practitioner myself, it has been shocking to me, since I began working in the field, what the general public believes, and does not know, about therapy, counselling and the practitioners themselves. I think it’s more important than ever that the general public know what the facts of therapy and counselling are and that’s what I am to do in this article! *(for the purposes of this article, I will use the term ‘therapy’ to refer to both therapy and counselling (both are basically interchangeable terms). Below are, in my opinion, the Top 8 Myths and Misconceptions about therapy: 1) Therapy is only for ‘crazy’ or ‘weak’ people This could not be further from the truth. People go to therapy for a multitude of reasons. Not everyone who seeks therapy is necessarily severely depressed, suicidal, has a personality disorder or is traumatized. While most registered therapists are skilled enough to help those experiencing such issues, they also see many people who are seeking help for such things as stress management, relationship/interpersonal issues and life transitions (E.g. looking for or starting a new career). In fact, a number of people who feel perfectly fine emotionally attend therapy for personal development, to find ways to improve their lives and to learn more about themselves as people. As many clients who visit my office say – ‘I think everyone should go to therapy at some point in their lives!’ Believe it or not, the strongest and [...]