With 2021 upon us, I look forward to a new year, though I admit much of my thoughts continue to be around COVID. I anticipate the arrival of the COVID vaccine, look forward to seeing fewer cases, and possibly seeing more folks in-person as cases decline over this next year. I look forward to a return to normalcy and spending time doing experiences outside the home with my family. I long for a return of planning trips and vacations and seeing my kids involved in community activities.
According to dictionary.com, hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Other words to describe hope include: to expect, anticipate, look for, wait for, want, wish for, or dream of.
“This always happens to me.” “Nothing ever works out.” “I think if I try this step differently, this will work out better in the long run.” “I’m doing the best I can.”
Did you know that what you think has a powerful effect on your outlook on life, your attitude towards yourself, and others? Did you know being a pessimist or an optimist affects your health and wellbeing? Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
Increased life span
Lower rates of depression
Lower levels of distress
Greater resistance to the common cold
Better psychological and physical well-being
Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
Pessimists tend to magnify the negative aspects of a situation. They blame themselves or anticipate the worst. They tend to see things as only good or bad. Optimists, on the other hand, tend to have mostly positive thoughts. They think the best outcome is going to happen. And they look at situations in a more productive way.
Did you know that negativity and pessimism can be changed? It takes practice and little flexibility, but it can have lasting results. Here’s how.
Start the day with a positive affirmation. Set the tone for the day.
Focus on the good things, however small.
Find humor in bad situations.
Turn failures into lessons.
Turn a negative thought into positive self-talk.
Focus on the here and now.
Surround yourself with positive people. Read the entire article about 7 Practical Tips to Achieve a Positive Mindset.
With practice, you will discover less critical thoughts towards yourself, and more accepting thoughts towards yourself, others, and the world around you. If you need more support for changing your thoughts, contact me at SHCS.
While the rest of the world celebrates in socially distanced ways or gathers in small groups this holiday season, countless others around the world will be grieving the loss of loved ones this year.
The holiday music, holiday parties, and festive decorations that are meant to bring joy often trigger painful reminders of loss in those that grieve. As it is for most people experiencing loss, the holiday season is typically the most painful time of all. If you are wondering how to get through the holidays this year, the strategies outlined by Amy Morin may help.
Trust that grief is part of healing.
Set healthy boundaries
Focus on what you can control
Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions
Find a way to honor your memories. Decide which traditions to keep or change.
Create new traditions in memory of your loved one.
Do something kind for others.
Ask for help. Seek out support.
Acknowledge that the holidays will be different and they will be tough, but remind yourself there will also be love and joy. Remember it is ok to experience happiness during a time of loss. Acknowledge the the joy you do find this holiday season. For more tips see her blog or my Blog #5: Grief…Why does it hurt so much? If you need support, contact me at SHCS.
Kim is a nurse. She has been working 24-hour shifts working on a COVID floor in a local hospital. They are currently short-staffed due to the illness. She is physically and emotionally exhausted due to prolonged stress from treating COVID patients. She fears getting it herself and bringing it home to her young children. Due to the pace and stress, she has reported she feels less empathy recently towards her patients, and at home, she reports she is less understanding of her children’s daily experiences after working a full shift.
According to Psychology Today, people whose professions lead to prolonged exposure to other people’s trauma can be vulnerable to compassion fatigue. They can experience acute symptoms that put their physical and mental health at risk, making them wary of giving and caring. Symptoms of compassion fatigue can include:
A decreased sense of purpose
Difficulties with personal relationships.
Other factors can include: Poor self-care, previous unresolved trauma, Inability or refusal to control work stressors, and a lack of satisfaction for the work. When a person is continuously exposed to other people’s traumatic experiences through witnessing and/or hearing others’ stories, vicarious trauma can be experienced.
Identify events or situations that cause you to experience an unusually strong reaction.
Recognize your limits, boundaries, what you can personally handle. Know yourself.
Are you taking care of yourself?
Practice excellent self-care (exercise, eat healthily, get enough sleep, practice mindfulness, etc).
Nurture yourself. Put activities in your schedule that are sources of pleasure, joy, and diversion
Take mini-escapes from your work.
Challenge negativity. Find meaning and gratitude in the work you do.
Organize your time to concentrate on vital tasks.
Ask for help.
Talk out your stress with someone else.
Build a positive support system.
Interact with your pet. Petting your animal reduces stress.
If you find yourself experiencing compassion fatigue, know that you are not alone. Refer to the blog Burn Out? and Avoiding Burn Out for tips on avoiding burnout. Give me a call at SHCS for more information.
Ashley has trouble staying on task. She forgets to raise her hand and calls out in class. She’d much rather be daydreaming then do math. Her hand writing is sloppy and she has trouble finishing what she starts.
Damien is uncomfortable in social settings. He is easily embarrassed by being called on and fears he will say something wrong. He copes by shutting down, hiding his face, and not talking to anyone outside of his home.
Michael has difficulty following directions. He talks incessantly about Minecraft. He struggles with reading. He does not adjust well to change and struggles with transitions. When overwhelmed with his work he yells, tantrums, and elopes.
Three very different children, with a range of needs. Ashley has ADHD, an educational disability. Her fine motor skills are weak and she has poor executive functioning skills which impact her ability to effectively plan, organize, and complete her work. Damien has social anxiety and selective mutism. He is comfortable at home, but not outside it. Teachers will need to understand how to effectively communicate with him during times of high anxiety. Michael has autism and a learning disability in reading. He also escalates when frustrated and tries to avoid his work. If you can identify with any one of these children, you may have a child that may qualify for special services at school.
Did you know the school can offer tools or accommodations to lessen or compensate for your child’s needs at school? Your child may have important legal rights to receive assistance at school, under federal and state law
Whether your child qualifies for assistance depends on the nature of your child’s disability and the kind of assistance he or she needs. How do I determine if my child needs assistance? According to Jeffrey Bernstein, psychologist, and author of 10 Days to Less Distracted Child:
Talk to your child. Find out what your child likes and dislikes about school and what kind of frustrations he or she is experiencing.
Meet with your child’s team to communicate your concerns. Listen to their feedback and see if changes can be made to the existing program in place.
Take good data and keep all paperwork. Do not be afraid to question things.
Stay level-headed. Be calm, firm, and non-controlling.
If the situation does not improve, and academic or behavior struggles continue to affect education, you can request educational testing to rule out any additional learning or mental health concerns that may be impacting school.
Believe it or not parents, you are the expert on your child. You are their best advocate when it comes to education, communicating concerns, improving learning, and maximizing your child’s success at school. Working effectively with teachers and being cooperative, courteous, and responsive with the school will bring you the best chance of being heard when addressing your child’s needs.
If you’d like to talk further about how to be an advocate for your child, contact met at SHCS.
Your child may be asking, “When are we going back to school? Will we be able to ride the bus? When can I see my friends again? Will school be in-person or on-line? I have a 504 or an IEP. How will I get the help I need?”
These are not easy questions to answer. School districts are hard at work putting together risk management plans, surveying parents, and developing educational frameworks to meet this expectation. Other parents may choose alternative options such as home or cyber school to eliminate the need for exposure to the virus at school altogether.
No one knows for sure how schools will look in August/September, however there are some possibilities being talked about to ensure students receive a quality education whether in-person or on-line. Students will need to work differently and families will need to be flexible.
However, for working parents, already juggling the demands of a job, and in many cases of whom are not teachers, the mention of continued online school places additional stress on families. Not to mention the real possibility of illness and spread still lingering in the air as the idea of returning to school commences.
With such uncertainty, parents can develop a plan, script, or story for their child on what they do know. For example:
School resumes in the fall.
We will still have classes.
We will still work with teachers.
We will still have homework.
School may look different than last year. We might need to go in-person a few days or we might need to continue to do school at home on line.
Perhaps your child will still ride the bus, or your child will be dropped off.
There will still be routines, chores, family time, and rewards/incentives.
We will still connect with friends (whether in person or online).
You can remember to remind your child of times he or she handled change and expectations well. Build on your child’s strengths during this time. Also remember that during this pandemic, it is okay to reassure your child about school, fears, and uncertainties associated with it.
For further support with the school transition, you can check out Blog#6 – Creating a Cheerful Back to School Mindset
Taking time to regroup, to relax, and rest is necessary for our health, our sanity, and for our families to reconnect with one another.
Choosing whether or not to travel during the pandemic is another matter. For some of you, this may not alter your choices. Perhaps you already had a vacation planned and are determined to take it no matter what. Or perhaps you are uncertain about travel and feel staying home is a safer option. Or perhaps you are just returning to work after being shut down for so long and are unable to take a vacation this summer.
Whatever your situation there are some things you can do to feel refreshed and prepared amidst the uncertainty of our present circumstances.
Be prepared. Make sure safety measure are in place wherever you go (wipes, hand sanitizer, face masks, social distancing)
Taking time for yourself whether away or at home helps you to reset. Everyone needs a break. If you are finding it hard to relax, need assistance setting boundaries between work and home, contact me at SHCS.
If you live in PA, then you are aware of the different phases of reopening affecting our state. York County recently became green in June. What does this mean?
Green is not an all clear as some would like to believe. The virus is still among us, live and well. Businesses are allowed to open under CDC guidelines to start up the economy again, but with mask-wearing and social-distancing still being reinforced.
And since pandemics have been recorded in human history, we can expect it will hang around for 18-36 months. Daunting right? It would take a lot of people to become infected to make it safe for humans to return to life as we knew it before the coronavirus began.
I cannot tell you how many folks I have seen in my area that are not taking these precautions seriously. Some are choosing to not to socially distance, nor wear masks at all. I have seen this in grocery stores, home stores, and in small shops.
At SHCS we take your health risks and our own seriously and respectfully. Here is what you can expect if you would choose to return to an in-person visit:
Telehealth is recommended whenever possible for sessions, meetings, and groups. Appointment days and times will remain the same. Operating hours will remain unchanged.
In-person visits are not recommended, however, they may occur on a case by case basis for persons that are unable to access and or struggling with telehealth, or for mental health emergencies. Please note the following:
A COVID19 signed informed consent form will be required.
The waiting room will remain closed. This means that your therapist would meet you at your car for an in-person visit.
If inside, a mask is required, along with a temperature check at the door. Clients will be asked to wash their hands before the session, and again after the session if materials were handled. Social distancing will remain in place 6-feet apart between client and therapist.
If a session is held outside (weather permitting), privacy cannot be completely guaranteed, however, you will not need a mask as long as social distancing is practiced. (Two outdoor spaces are underway.)
Limits to certain therapy materials will continue in the office due to cleaning and disinfecting required between visits. Play items will continue to be cleaned routinely and instruments wiped down. Toys used by a client will not return to the shelf or shared by another client until it has been disinfected. We ask that clients who play with toys/instruments use hand sanitizer before/after any play activity and any time they touch their faces during play. If hand sanitizer is not available, the client will be prompted to wash their hands with soap and water. Temporarily we are also going to suspend the use of puppets and soft toys at this time.
Please note for music therapy clients, that singing cannot take place during an in-person visit due to CDC guidelines. Telehealth is recommended if singing is especially necessary for your child. However, if outside (weather permitting), singing could take place if social distancing is practiced.
Should a COVID19 exposure take place, the building will be thoroughly cleaned. Clients that have been to the building during the timeframe of exposure will be notified. Temperatures of therapists and co-workers will continue to be taken before entering the building and sent home if 100.4 or higher. If sick, we will follow the CDC recommendation on home isolation. Clients will be contacted if their therapist is unable to keep appointments due to illness.
With the increasing uncertainty and growing number of infected individuals around the world, I encourage you to take responsibility for yourself and your family. It’s important to take a proactive approach to minimize exposure.
If you have recently been to any airport or traveled to any state by car with a stay-at-home order, please wait 14 days before coming in for an in-person appointment. Use telehealth whenever possible.
If you’re exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness, I urge you to stay home, take care of yourself, and seek medical help when appropriate.
Please refer to the CDC website for additional information https://www.cdc.gov/, and maintain awareness by checking the official communications from our state https://www.pa.gov/ and the World Health Organization.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at SHCS. Stay safe and be well!
Collectively, our hearts are heavy for all those affected throughout the world, in our own country, and neighborhoods as a result of the coronavirus. Tragedy on this scale can be difficult for those directly and indirectly affected by the virus. Whether you have loved ones affected by it, have a personal connection to someone affected by it, or have engaged through news reports by the media, there is a chance you are dealing with stress, anxiety, and emotional strain.
An important part of coping is accepting and providing support when needed. According to Dr. Jennifer Gentile of Amwell, everyone experiences stress differently and that may be reflected in a variety of emotions, actions, and expressions. There is no right or wrong way to react to the news of a frightening event, such as the coronavirus. She describes that responses to traumatic events may include a combination of the following: https://amwell.com/cm/blog/how-to-cope-and-heal-in-the-wake-of-tragedy/
Disbelief and shock
Hypervigilance and fear about the future
Intense feeling of anger and irritability
Sadness and depression
Apathy, emotional numbness, or denial
Nightmares and recurring thoughts about the event
Difficulty sleeping or falling asleep
Increased physical complaints related to headaches, stomach cramps, back pain, rapid heart rate, nausea, and fatigue
She goes on to say that grieving is important in the days following a traumatic event, or prolonged one, such as the pandemic. Seeking assistance from a health care provider after experiencing a trauma is a reasonable response and helps prevent long-lasting effects, such as Acute Stress Disorder, PTSD, and depression.
There is no right answer or time limit for the grieving process, but if it interferes with daily life, if you start to abuse substances, or have thoughts of death or suicide, it’s time to talk to a professional or go to your nearest emergency room. Contact me at SHCS.
Working full-time, busy schedules, and parenting children can be hectic. Most parents today are working, shuttling their kids to activities, taking care of the household, and ending the evening with bombarding thoughts of the day, tomorrow, next week, etc. Kids are running from school to activities and many are feeling overextended or have a little downtime.
How best to be mindful in times like these?
Paying attention to the here and now takes as little as 5m. Be intentional. Slow down. Imagine your thoughts just floating by. Be alert to them, but don’t let them stick. Let them drift away.
Observe and describe your thoughts, but do not judge them. If you find your mind wandering, this is normal. Gently bring your mind back to the present and focus on one thing…an object, sound, color, body sensation, or your breath.
Some highlights of mindful activities are listed below, but for more info check out the Healthline Website on Tricks to Reduce Anxiety.
Try a guided meditation or app. Headspace, Insight Timer, and Calm Mind are some helpful apps to get you started. Many involve breathing deeply to help you feel centered and peaceful.
Practice breathing. Before you speak, before checking an email or messaging someone, while waiting in line, at a stop sign or traffic light, etc.
Color. Coloring is relaxing. It helps reduce anxiety and increases focus.
Take a Walk. Listen for sounds as far away as possible. Count your footsteps with your breath. Notice your surroundings. Look for soothing colors.
Eat a meal slowly and thoughtfully. Use all of your senses to experience the smell, taste, texture, or sound it makes.
Safe Place imagery. Imagine with all your senses what your scene looks like, sounds like, feels like, etc. The important part…the brain doesn’t know the difference between what you imagine and whether you are actually there.
Wish others happiness. Even those who bother or annoy you.
Turn off your phone. Turn off notifications. Give yourself a technology fast. Leave your phone in a different room. Designate a tech-free zone, or tech-free time frame.