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Using Music to Move Us, Out of Our Heads, and into Our Hearts

Posted on: December 20th, 2021

Trauma and loss can be debilitating and cause us to become stuck.  However, grief is action-oriented.  It requires movement, to turn inward, and face our pain.  Essentially one must “feel it” to “heal it.”  Our journeys are individually unique, personal, similar to that of a fingerprint.

Music Helps to Cope During a Crisis

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy provides “second wave” relief in helping to cope with events surrounding a crisis and its aftermath. The directed use of music and music therapy is highly effective in developing coping strategies, including understanding and expressing feelings of anxiety and helplessness, supporting feelings of self-confidence and security, and providing a safe or neutral environment for relaxation.

Research results and clinical experiences attest to the viability of music therapy even in situations outside of traditional therapeutic settings. Music is a form of sensory stimulation, which provokes responses due to the familiarity, predictability, and feelings of security associated with it.

Feedback from relief workers and caregivers indicates that music therapy sessions helped to develop a stronger sense of readiness to cope with day-to-day stressors and potential future crisis situations.

Music Reduces Stress

Music therapy has been shown to have a significant effect on an individual’s relaxation, respiration rate, self-reported pain reduction, and behaviorally observed and self-reported anxiety levels.

A coordinated program of music and music therapy interventions in response to crisis or trauma, designed and implemented by a qualified music therapist, provides opportunities for:

  • Non-verbal outlets for emotions associated with traumatic experiences
  • Anxiety and stress reduction
  • Positive changes in mood and emotional states
  • Active and positive participant involvement in treatment
  • Enhanced feelings of control, confidence, and empowerment
  • Positive physiological changes, such as lower blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and relaxed muscle tension

Music Connects

In addition, music therapy may improve

  • Emotional intimacy with peers, families, caregivers
  • Relaxation for family groups or other community and peer groups
  • Meaningful time spent together in a positive, creative way

Music gets us out of heads and provides an avenue for expressing what perhaps cannot be said, but felt. Consider connecting with a music therapist.  Contact me at SHCS.

Trauma, Grief, and Loss in the Pandemic Recovery

Posted on: November 23rd, 2021

All of us have experienced a sense of loss during the COVID19 pandemic, some more than others. Grief is a normal response to loss after a disaster or other traumatic event. Grief can occur after the loss of life, as well as to sudden changes to daily routines and ways of life that usually bring us comfort and a feeling of stability.

Common grief reactions include:

  • Shock, disbelief, or denial
  • Anxiety
  • Distress
  • Anger
  • Periods of sadness
  • Loss of sleep and loss of appetite

Some people may experience multiple losses during a large-scale emergency event. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be unable to be with a loved one when they die, or unable to mourn someone’s death in-person with friends and family.

According to the CDC, Other types of loss include unemployment, not making enough money, loss or reduction in support services, and other changes in your lifestyle. These losses can happen at the same time, which can complicate or prolong grief and delay a person’s ability to adapt, heal, and recover.

People cope with losses in different ways. Grieving the loss of a loved one while coping with the fear and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic can be especially overwhelming.  Social distancing, “stay-at home-orders,” and limits on the size of in-person gatherings have changed the way friends and family can gather and grieve, including holding traditional funeral services, regardless of whether or not the person’s death was due to COVID-19.

Actions you can take, include:

  • Connecting with other people
  • Creating memories or rituals
  • Asking for help from others

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the family and close friends of a person who died of COVID-19 may experience stigma such as social avoidance or rejection. Stigma hurts everyone by creating fear or anger towards other people. Some people may avoid contacting you, your family members, and friends when they would normally reach out to you.  Stigma related to COVID-19 is less likely to occur when people know the facts and share them with extended family, friends, and others in your community.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may feel grief due to loss of a job; inability to connect in-person with friends, family or religious organizations; missing special events and milestones (such as graduations, weddings, vacations); and experiencing drastic changes to daily routines and ways of life that bring comfort. You may also feel a sense of guilt for grieving over losses that seem less important than loss of life. Grief is a universal emotion; there is no right or wrong way to experience it, and all losses are significant.

Here are some ways to cope with feelings of grief:

  • Acknowledge your losses and your feelings of grief.  Find ways to express it.
  • Consider developing new rituals in your daily routine to stay connected with your loved ones to replace those that have been lost.
  • Try to stay in the present and focus on aspects of your life that you have control over right now.

What about kids? Children may show grief differently than adults. They may have a particularly hard time understanding and coping with the loss of a loved one. Sometimes children appear sad and talk about missing the person or act out. Other times, they play, interact with friends, and do their usual activities. As a result of COVID-19safety measure, they may also grieve over loss of routines such as going to school and playing with friends. Parents and other caregivers play an important role in helping children process their grief.

To support a child who may be experiencing grief:

  • Ask questions to determine the child’s emotional state and better understand their perceptions of the event.
  • Give children permission to grieve by allowing time for children to talk or to express thoughts or feelings in creative ways.
  • Provide age and developmentally appropriate answers.
  • Practice calming or coping strategies with your child.
  • Take care of yourself and model coping strategies for your child.
  • Maintain routines as much as possible.
  • Spend time with your child, reading, coloring, or doing other activities they enjoy.

Signs that children may need additional assistance include changes in their behavior (such as acting out, not interested in daily activities, changes in eating and sleeping habits, persistent anxiety, sadness, or depression).

Speak to your child’s healthcare provider if troubling reactions seem to go on too long, interfere with school or relationships with friends or family, or if you are unsure of or concerned about how your child is doing.  Need a therapist? Contact me at SHCS.

Managing Adult ADHD and Anger

Posted on: November 8th, 2021

Have a short fuse?  Feel like you could explode within a few seconds?  Anger and ADHD involve quick reactions to what appears to be insignificant things, and when it boils over, all perspective can be lost.  Attempts to de-escalate or to reason can make the situation worse.

According to healthyplace.com, adults with ADHD and anger frequently report feeling as though they have no control, and feel powerless to do anything about their anger.  Studies show that these adults have less emotional control, are quicker to anger, and become easily frustrated.  They also report a less stable sense of wellbeing as compared to adults without ADHD.

The intensity of anger outbursts happen largely in part due to difficulties being still, paying attention, focusing, concentrating, organizing, planning, and following through.  This creates frustration, misperceptions, and misunderstandings leading to explosions of anger.  Further, people with ADHD tend to have lower self-esteem.  They appear to be more sensitive to critical remarks or “personal attacks” that often result in anger.

Strategies proven to work include the following:

  1. Separate yourself from your ADHD symptoms.
  2. Look for constructive ways to channel the anger (less destructive).
  3. Plan ahead for the next time…”break the show”-  have someone do something to break you from the rage (i.e. blow a whistle).
  4. Give yourself permission to walk away if you feel emotions rising (Take a time out and leave the situation).
  5. During an interaction, focus on the facts and avoid judgmental thoughts.
  6. Practice mindfulness.
  7. Practice deep breathing.
  8. Eat healthy, drink water, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep.
  9. Create a visual cue to keep with you to remind you to be calm.
  10. Pause before communicating.  (Breathe before you speak, send a text, or email.  Give yourself space to calm down first.)
  11. Notice your triggers and consider new ways to respond to them.
  12. Laugh often. Humor defuses anger, reduces stress, and is good for you.

Consider working with a therapist to build your self-regulating skills, or take an anger management class.  Talk openly to people in your life and ask them for help in managing your anger.  Learn more about how to set and keep healthy boundaries.  Talk to your healthcare provider about what treatments might be right for you. 

Last, remember you are not your ADHD.  ADHD causes angry outbursts.  You can have control over this by working on strategies to better manage it.  Need more support? Contact me at SHCS.

Managing an ADHD Meltdown: Part II

Posted on: October 25th, 2021

Part of the mystery of meltdowns is figuring out the clues that lead to them in the first place.  Was my child hungry?  Did she get enough sleep? Was the school work too much?  Did something happen earlier in the day? Learning to recognize the first signs can make adjusting the intervention all that easier and help to lengthen your child’s fuse. 

According to Healthline, here are some common tips for catching those warning signs:

  • Notice which events and times of day are hardest for your child
  • Act with empathy when your child is angry
  • Provide opportunities to talk about frustrations
  • Teach your child how to self-monitor feelings and walk away when necessary
  • Allow your child to have appropriate boundaries
  • Help your child plan and organize to avoid frustration
  • Talk with healthcare providers about treatment options
  • Work to regulate your own emotions when your child is angry
  • Use a calm voice and try to name for your child what he might be feeling

Managing meltdowns can be frustrating but it can get better.  Need some guidance?  Contact me at SHCS.

Managing an ADHD Meltdown: Part I

Posted on: October 18th, 2021

According to ADDitudemag.com, Nothing can make a parent feel more powerless than a child with ADHD in meltdown mode.  But meltdowns say nothing of your parenting ability.  They reflect the nature of ADHD. 

Here are 7 tips to manage an ADHD meltdown:

  • Agree on a plan.  Ask your child with ADHD what would calm him down if he gets upset. Practice this ahead of time before heading out the door.
  • Acknowledge her feelings.  Let her know you understand what she is going through using a calm voice.  Then ask your child to rate her disappointment or anger on a scale of 1-5. This gives you an idea of the severity of the problem.
  • Set the expectation.  Explain to him that the clock is running. Say, “Let’s see how fast you can calm yourself down, so we can get on with the rest of our day”
  • Model deep breathing. Practice the “hot chocolate” breath.  Bring the palms face up as if holding a mug or bowl. Blow softly on the out-breath across the palms of the hands.
  • Release muscle tension safely.  Squeeze and release the muscles, use a squeeze ball, kinetic sand, rip up cardboard, or exercise.
  • Remote Control Imagery: Pretend that she is holding a remote control in her hand. Ask her to press the button that turns down her emotions. Or use it to “change the channel” in her mind.
  • Ask for help.  If your child meltdowns aren’t responsive to interventions, work with a professional to improve the chances of avoiding them.

Though ADHD presents extra challenges, treatments and strategies are available that may make it easier to deal with meltdowns.  Need ideas?  Contact me at SHCS.

Anger in the Little Things

Posted on: October 11th, 2021

Having difficulty regulating emotions?  Do you or your child have anger outbursts over little things?

Anger outbursts are a common occurrence in children and adults with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and oppositional defiant disorder.  Being easily annoyed, sad, or stressed can cause a short, explosive temper.   Having a short fuse isn’t just due to irritability or genetics.  There are structural reasons in the brain why managing emotions is so hard. 

However, anyone can learn to manage anger in a healthy way.  According to Healthline, there are a number of treatments and strategies to reduce anger:

  1. Self-Regulation Training– concrete strategies to manage anger constructively
  • Avoid or remove yourself from situations that cause anger
  • Set clear boundaries so you prevent conflict
  • Think about how you can change a frustrating situation in advance
  • Change the way you look at upsetting situations
  • Plan and organize yourself to prevent frustration
  • Develop new responses to anger

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy– a psychotherapy approach based on identifying and changing unproductive thinking patterns.

  • Monitor your level of anger
  • Employ relaxation techniques
  • Reframe thoughts that lead to emotional excess
  • Use social skills to solve problems in ways that are appropriate to the situation

3. Child-Centered Play Therapy–  Use of play as a way to connect with the child and help them to process feelings and inner experiences

4. Parenting Training– Use of supportive methods that are positive and effective in reducing tantrums, regulating ups and downs, improving compliance, and lowering parent stress

5. Mindfulness Meditation– helps improve the ability to regulate emotion; often combined with medication and therapy

6. Exercise– helps to release anger safely, improves attention, reduces impulsivity, improves mood and thinking abilities, and social behavior

7. Medication (lowers irritability)

The bottom line is that getting angry is part of the human experience. ADHD can make anger more intense, and it can impair your ability to respond to angry feelings in healthy ways.

Medication and psychotherapy can help you or your child manage anger more effectively. Self-regulation and parenting training can help you build a healthy toolkit for responding to anger constructively. Meditation and exercise can reduce symptoms, too.

If anger is interfering in your or your child’s relationships with others, ability to function, or is affecting self-esteem, contact me at SHCS.

Mindful Moments- Part 3

Posted on: August 30th, 2021

This summer I have been reading a lot of resources on mindfulness. During a recent vacation, I stopped
in a Five Below store and found some simple, yet helpful books on being mindful that can give you a
quick start or if you already practice, more skills to explore.
The books are called, The Mindfulness Journal by Corinne Sweet and 5-Minute Mindfulness Parenting by
Claire Gilman.
Inside are resources from starting your day, to mindful eating, walking, how to create a calm space, or
deal with those pesky racing thoughts. There are tidbits on taking a technology break, breathing

exercises, ways to clear the mind in different situations and with children, coping with loss, and how to
develop compassion for yourself and others.
Parents, the second book really places emphasis on nurturing relationships and raising your children,
with simple 5-minute exercises for the time-pressed parent. Really, they are gems. Buy one!
While many parents respond well to these stress-relieving tips or resources, managing parenting stress
can be too much at times. If you need more support, contact me at SHCS.

Mindful Moments-Part 2

Posted on: August 15th, 2021

Are you ready to take a moment to stop? Good. Notice your posture. Be aware of your breath. How
does your body feel? Is your mind racing or calm? Are you hot, cold, or just right? Are you hungry or
thirsty? Being mindful is about being completely in the now and noticing everything at the moment, in
the present time, from the growls of your stomach to the sensations in your back, or tightness in your jaw.
It is noticing everything around you, the rain on the window, the clouds in the sky, or the sounds of birds
in the distance.
While it does take practice, it can take as little as 2 minutes a day. Here are a few suggestions to try.

  1. Basic Meditation. Go to a quiet space and sit comfortably with your back supported and hands
    resting comfortably in your lap. Set a timer for up to 5m. Close your eyes and bring your
    attention to your breath. Notice your belly expand as you inhale, and release as you exhale.
    Continue breathing and notice the sounds around you. If your mind wanders bring it gently
    back to the breath. When the timer goes off, open your eyes and notice how you feel. Stretch
    and pause. Tune into your body, feelings, and mind.
  2. Try the basic meditation for 5m a day for a week. Once this is familiar, try moving up to 10
    minutes or longer.
  3. Try it while in a car, walking, when listening to a song, at a doctor’s office, when arriving to
    work, or whenever you need a moment of calm.
  4. Set aside time and stick to it. Be realistic about when and how to practice.
  5. If you find it hard to concentrate, don’t worry. New habits take time. Don’t give up! Give
    yourself time to get used to it and be patient with yourself as you learn to be mindful.
    For a guided experience check this one out on You Tube.

    Ready to learn more? Contact me at SHCS.

Mindful Moments- Part 1

Posted on: July 30th, 2021

Do you ever feel that you or others in your life could use a little calming down moment? Maybe you’ve
thought about it and didn’t know how to get started, or simply concluded you were too busy to practice
being mindful.
Whatever the reason, mindfulness really is helpful. The practice of fully being in the moment (even as
little as 5 minutes a day), has awesome health benefits. According to Positive Psychology here are some of the top reasons:

  1. Decreases stress. That’s right! Less anxiety, irritability, restlessness, headaches, and
    migraines, among many more…
  2. Enhances ability to deal with illness and helps facilitate recovery. Decreased pain,
    rumination, and fatigue are just a few benefits. While mindfulness may not take away
    symptoms completely, it does make them more manageable.
  3. Reduces depression, increases self-compassion, and emotion regulation.
  4. Improves general health. Mindfulness is linked to lower blood pressure, and improved
    cardiovascular health.

When we are mindful we can discover we have control over our mind and body through our breath. We
can also learn to move to this state of awareness anytime, anywhere.

Children who practice mindfulness are better able to self-regulate, have improved social skills, sleep
better, demonstrate higher self-esteem, and focus!
Ready to get started? Contact me at SHCS.

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