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Archive for the ‘Wellness’ Category

Trying to cope but repeating old patterns?

Posted on: October 15th, 2019

I know of a child who regularly has meltdowns when asked to do something he or she does not want to do.  Instead of using words, the child escalates to the point of disrupting property, slams doors, yells, and makes poor statements about his or herself.  The child’s coping skill….going to sleep.  Is it effective?  Maybe.  Can it be generalized to other settings?  Unlikely.  You can’t go to sleep at school if things aren’t going your way or when a teacher asks you to follow directions. “Use your coping skills,” I hear from others, time and time again.  Not only have I said these very words to my own kids, but to clients, too.

What are coping skills anyway?  According to UCLA, coping skills/strategies are “the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that one uses to adjust to the changes that occur in life.  Some are more effective than others depending on the stressful situation and the person employing them.”  How one copes can be good for you or not so good for you.  

For example, if you think to yourself, “I’ve got to take a break before I lose it” then go for a run, this can be good for you.  Running releases endorphins drives out stored up muscle tension, and can benefit your body physically and mentally.   The pros are that you are coping in a healthy way and are not giving into the distress you feel.  On the other hand, if a person thinks that nothing will ever get better and he or she needs to release the pain, self-harming behavior, such as cutting, may occur.  This, too, can also release endorphins, yet can leave permanent scarring, resulting in hospitalization, or even death.   Both sets of coping skills can become habits.

What I do know is that coping strategies require practice to become a habit.  Timing is important too.  Being aware of what causes stress, anxiety or frustration is also important.  We call these triggers, the things that “set us off.”  Ignoring the signs and waiting too long before using a coping strategy can worsen the experience.

When the intensity of one’s thoughts and emotions become too big, tantrums happen, or the individual may give into distress by self-harming.  Sometimes the escalation is so quick that there isn’t time to intervene, such as in ADHD or autism, where thoughts become stuck or inflexible, quickly leading to the behavior.  (It’s also important to note that in children with these conditions, the frontal lobe of the brain, responsible for self-regulation and executive functioning, is still immature, making it harder to access coping skills.)

Healthy coping skills can include:

  • exercise, 
  • writing in a journal
  • drawing/coloring
  • listening to music
  • playing an instrument
  • taking a shower/bath
  • playing with a pet
  • spending time outdoors in nature
  • organizing or cleaning activities

In regards to DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), coping skills can include mindful distractions and ways to soothe yourself.  They can improve the moment when you can’t make things better right away.  They can help you make more informed decisions so that you are not giving into distress.  For kids, parents/teacher/counselors can model and teach expected responses and practice calming skills with kids to assist them in the learning of new habits and behaviors.  

Being a musician, music is meaningful to me.  I sing, strum guitar, and play the piano for self-expression and to self-soothe.  If I don’t do it, I miss it.  It’s a release that I’ve come to require in my life for my own self-care.  In addition, I walk my dog daily.  It’s a time to think quietly and focus on my steps, a mindful moment.  These have become habits and routines that have made my life more balanced.  

If you are having trouble learning coping skills or would like to improve on the ones you have, contact me at SHCS!

Creating a Cheerful Back to School Mindset

Posted on: August 30th, 2019

Summer is ending and school for many has already begun.  Parents are in a whirlwind purchasing school supplies buying clothes for school, attending meetings, filling out paperwork, shuttling kids to school and community activities, and trying to establish and manage routines.  I should know.  I’m one of them!

Though I love summer and will miss the long days, one of the things I do look forward to when school returns are structure and routine.  I like a schedule, and so do my kids.

Here are 10 tips that can help families plan ahead and get organized for the school year.

  1. Prepare kids to return to their “school time” bedtime about 1-2 weeks before school begins.  You can do this gradually by setting back bedtime by 30 minutes a night until you reach the desired bedtime.  (Most kids need 9-11 hours of sleep a night.)
  2. At home, create and review house rules.  (We use “The three B’s,” Be respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Safe.)
  3. Establish routines (checklists, songs) and distraction-free environments for hygiene, getting dressed, homework, breaks, chores, after school or evening activities, and sleep.  Revisit timers/alarms for starting/completing tasks or remembering medications.  Designate a “launch spot” for bookbags, lunch boxes, and school materials.
  4. Find ways to keep your child active during the school year (music lessons, social groups, clubs, or sports).  Activities build your child’s confidence, helps with time management skills, and academic achievement.   (Be aware though that too much of a good thing, including screens, can increase poor behavior in children.  Kids still need downtime and 1:1 time with parents.)
  5. Create a family calendar to see everyone’s activities.  Meet weekly to review it.  Incorporate rewards, special time, and family time for honoring commitments and respecting house rules.
  6. Encourage your child to use a planner, organizer, and the school’s homework tools to help with remembering assignments.  Discuss expectations for school ahead of time. Post a school lunch calendar if desired and discuss days in which your child will eat at school.
  7. Have a positive attitude about school and model that for your child.
  8. Visit the school ahead of time.  For kids with 504 plans or IEP’s, consider scheduling a meeting with your child’s teacher, team, or counselor prior to the start of school.
  9. For younger kids, review your child’s HW daily and check the agenda for any missed assignments.  For older kids, use your school system’s tools to monitor grades and assignment completion each week.  Communicate regularly with teachers.
  10. Last…do something fun!  Take a breath, go to a museum, park, or any place as a family to unwind and de-stress.  

For other tips on managing change, visit my blog#1- Embracing Change with Confidence.  And if the school year is still overwhelming and you or your child need some assistance, contact me at SHCS!

Embracing Change with Confidence

Posted on: July 1st, 2019

I recently launched Sound Health Counseling Solutions, a private music therapy/counseling practice after 20+ years of working in a variety of mental health settings.  I learned a lot about myself in this process: what I was best at doing, whom I could best serve in my community, and a vision that supported my strengths.  It was through careful planning, a lot of learning, and a leap of faith that I decided to move toward this transition.  I chose a path that would ultimately be more rewarding, satisfying, and that fit in and around my personal life. 

Let’s face it. Change is HARD.  It’s uncomfortable.  It takes effort and work which is something most of us want to avoid.  It can be overwhelming and lead to despair.  So why do it?  

The one thing that is certain is change.  Friends and families change.  Jobs change.  Schedules change.  Health changes.  Routines change.  We change.  It’s stressful to start a new job, have parents separate or divorce, go to a different school, move to another home, meet new people, receive an unexpected diagnosis, lose a loved one, ending a relationship, or simply alter a routine that is comfortable to us.  

Next time you find yourself worrying about the choices and decisions that change brings about, try these 7 tips to change your mindset.

Realize that you have power within you

You do.  You control your response to change, and whether or not to accept it. You determine which thoughts to pay attention to, the perspective you take, the choices you make, and your attitude about it.  

Say yes to routines

It’s easy to get overwhelmed during a life transition.  Structure is good for you.  Keep a routine.  Eat well, exercise, do pleasurable things, relax, and sleep.  Stay strong in mind and in the body.  Schedule time for friends.  Say no to activities and people that are a drain on your life.

Stay in the moment

Be mindful.  Thinking too far into the future makes anxiety worse.  It’s just not helpful.  Focus on one thing and bring your mind back to the here and now.  It can be your breath, a sound, an action, or simply an object in the room.  

Be kind to yourself

Find a way to gratefully acknowledge the things in your life that are going well during this time.  Ger rid of that critical voice (you know the one I’m talking about), and treat yourself with compassion.

Prioritize your worries.

Identify your top three worries and aim to make a plan about them.  Determine how long you think it will take for them to be resolved (a few minutes, hours, days, weeks, months).  Next, plan the next steps for working through them.  If you can make a plan about them, now they are simply concerns.  

Let go.

Let go of the things beyond your control.  I like to call these the what if’s, yeah-buts, or the things that haven’t happened.  Try writing them down in a journal, share them with a good friend or therapist, or give away those thoughts to a higher power.  Prayer can be a powerful resource to “let go” of thoughts that are overwhelming, burdensome, and that takes up a lot of energy.  

Change affects everyone.  

We all share battles, indecision, and insecurities. Being aware of your responses when change happens and having a willingness to do something about it will help you be a better version of yourself, and lead to a more fulfilling life.

Need more support?  Contact me at Sound Health Counseling Solutions, LLC!