How To Stop Overthinking

Need to know

If you’re an over-thinker, you’ll know exactly how it goes. A problem keeps popping up in your mind – for instance, a health worry or a dilemma at work – and you just can’t stop dwelling on it, as you desperately try to find some meaning or solution. Round and round the thoughts go but, unfortunately, the solutions rarely arrive.

In my daily work as a meta cognitive clinical psychologist, I encounter many people who, in trying to find answers or meaning, or in attempting to make the right decision, spend most of their waking hours scrutinizing their minds for solutions. Ironically, in this process of trying to figure out how to proceed in life, they come to a standstill.

When we spend too much time analyzing our problems and dilemmas, we often end up more at a loss than we were to begin with. On top of that, persistent overthinking can result in a wide range of symptoms such as insomnia, trouble concentrating and loss of energy which, in turn, often leads to further worries regarding one’s symptoms, thereby creating a vicious cycle of overthinking. In some cases, this eventually leads to chronic anxiety or depression.

When overthinking and the associated symptoms spiral and become unbearable, it’s usual for us to look for ways to calm down. Many common strategies sound reasonable or useful, but research shows that they can inadvertently cause more harm than good and typically lead to even more overthinking. You might recognize some of them in your own behavior:

Constantly looking out for threats: there’s nothing wrong with this strategy if you feel in control, but it can quickly backfire. Take health concerns. If, as a way to calm your worries, you start to excessively scan yourself or the people you care about for signs of illness, this threat monitoring will lead only to a heightened sense of danger and more health-related worries.

Another example is constantly keeping an eye out for whether people like you, trying to figure out what they think of you, which inadvertently results in you becoming more distant, non-participatory and worried, and not being able to enjoy their company.

Seeking answers and reassurance: it’s completely natural to seek reassurance from people close to you, and to look for answers as to how to cope better. However, if you come to a point where you depend on these strategies to calm you down and reduce your worries, you’re on a slippery slope.

For instance, some of my clients spend several hours a day Googling, hoping to find reassurance or, at least, an explanation as to why they’re feeling down. Yet this strategy often leads to even more worries, since Googling relatively common symptoms typically yields a wide range of search results, including diagnoses that you hadn’t even thought of.

Excessive planning: of course, there’s nothing wrong with moderate levels of planning. It’s perfectly healthy to keep a calendar or to leave notes for yourself. However, some people plan their lives down to the tiniest detail and this can become problematic. In addition to being rather time-consuming, excessive planning can have other negative effects including exacerbating worries.

For instance, when planning carefully, it’s tempting to try to predict all the things that could possibly interfere with a plan and how to potentially handle such events should they occur, thereby initiating a process of worry. Others plan meticulously because they believe that they won’t be able to cope otherwise, which can lead to excessive worries when planning isn’t possible or unexpected events arise.

Aside from these unhelpful strategies, another key factor that can perpetuate overthinking is your beliefs about thinking (the term ‘meta cognitive’ in ‘meta cognitive therapy’ – the clinical approach I use – actually refers to thinking about thinking). When my clients start meta cognitive therapy, many of them are convinced that they have no control of their thought processes.

They believe that their thoughts just appear and automatically attract attention – and that they can’t control whether these thoughts develop into hour-long ruminations about how bad things are now, or into catastrophic worries about what could go wrong in the future.

I have some good news: you don’t have to live with excessive worry. It’s an enduring myth that overthinking is an innate trait, like eye color or crooked toes, meaning that it can’t be changed and you simply have to live with it.

Adrian Wells, the clinical psychologist at the University of Manchester who founded meta cognitive therapy, discovered that overthinking – that is, worrying and rumination – is a learned strategy that we choose, consciously or unconsciously, as a way to try to deal with our difficult thoughts and feelings. It’s not a fixed trait, but a habit that we fall into, and we can learn to change it if we want.

In my first 10 years practicing as a clinical psychologist, I worked in traditional cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT teaches us that we need to spend time on our thoughts and beliefs in order to challenge them and transform them into more realistic or compassionate versions. When I was introduced to meta cognitive therapy, in which the focus is on simply letting go of your thoughts (Wells jokingly calls it ‘lazy therapy’), it radically changed my understanding of mental illnesses.

In 2020, together with Wells and other colleagues, we published the results of a large randomized trial involving 174 clients with depression. We found that those who participated in meta cognitive therapy benefited more than others allocated to receive CBT (74 per cent met the formal criteria for recovery at post-treatment, versus 52 per cent of those in the CBT group, and this was largely maintained at follow-up).

Together with my own client work and the experiences of other therapists using metacognitive therapy, this finding has convinced me that the cause of mental illnesses isn’t our negative thoughts per se, and therefore the solution is not to spend yet more time on them. On the contrary, the cause of mental illnesses is too much time spent dwelling on our negative thoughts, and so the solution is to spend less time on them.

This realization created a tsunami of thoughts within my own mind. For years, through CBT, I have helped my clients spend more time on their negative thoughts, but what if there were better ways I could have helped them? True, many of my clients felt CBT had helped them (and it certainly is beneficial to many), but I no longer believe it’s the optimal approach. For the past 10 years I have completely changed my methods and I exclusively use meta cognitive therapy to help people think less and, in so doing, cope better with their mental health problems.

Whether you just worry a little more than you’d like to, or you suffer from an anxiety disorder or depression, metacognitive strategies can help you reduce the overthinking that contributes to your symptoms. Metacognitive therapy is about discovering that you can choose whether or not you engage in a thought regardless of its content or the feelings it gives rise to.

In the following section, I’ll take you through some of the steps I use in metacognitive therapy to help my clients reduce their overthinking and learn that overthinking isn’t something that happens to us – it’s within our control.

What to do

Get to know your trigger thoughts and let them be

It is estimated that the human brain produces thousands of separate thoughts, associations and memories every single day. Most of these thoughts are without significance; they come and go without us noticing. Some thoughts, however, attract our attention. In metacognitive therapy, these thoughts are referred to as ‘trigger thoughts’. If you pay them enough attention, these thoughts can trigger an explosion of bodily sensations and feelings, and a myriad of associations.

Some trigger thoughts can activate warmth and joy about an exciting upcoming project, meeting a friend, or a holiday you’re looking forward to. These kinds of trigger thoughts are, of course, unproblematic. Other trigger thoughts, however, might activate a long series of further thoughts that can develop into worries or ruminations.

Worries typically form around hypothetical scenarios and start with ‘What if…’ statements such as: ‘What if I make the wrong decision?’ ‘What if they won’t like me?’ ‘What if I get ill?’ and so on. Typical rumination, on the other hand, starts with thoughts about what, why and how: ‘What is wrong with me?’ ‘Why am I feeling this way?’ ‘How do I get better?’

You can compare these thoughts to trains at a busy railway station. There are departures all the time to a wide array of different destinations. Each train can represent a thought or a sequence of thoughts. For instance, a thought such as ‘What if they won’t like me?’ could arrive at the mental railway platform.

You could ‘catch’ the thought and you’ll likely soon notice several other thoughts join in: ‘I won’t be able to handle it if they dislike me.’ ‘Perhaps, then, I shouldn’t go.’ Or you could dismiss the thought, similar to letting the train pass by, and turn your attention back to whatever you were doing. When you don’t expend energy on a thought, you’ll find it will either stay on the platform for later or simply pass you by.

So, it’s not the trigger thought in and of itself that will overwhelm you and lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms; nor is it the amount of trigger thoughts you have (everyone has them). The problems arise if you continuously jump on to each train – that is, if you begin to analyze the thought and engage in extensive worry or rumination – then it’s like you’re adding more and more carriages to the train, one after another; the train gets heavier and slower, and will eventually have trouble passing even the slightest hill. The same goes for your trigger thoughts: the more time you spend engaging in these thoughts, the slower and heavier you will feel.

Recognise what you can and can’t control

If you’re used to boarding most trains rather uncritically – that is, continuously engaging in trigger thoughts and starting to worry and ruminate for long periods of time – then, unfortunately, you’re well on your way to developing an unhealthy pattern. If you repeat this pattern over and over again, it might begin to feel as if it happens automatically. You might, understandably, come to believe that it’s outside your control.

It’s true, the trigger thoughts themselves are completely automatic – you don’t have any say as to what trains will arrive at your mental railway station. However, you do have a choice over which trains to board. You can choose whether or not to engage in a trigger thought. You can control whether you ‘answer’ the thought or follow it up with more questions.

In trying to understand this differently, instead of in terms of trains, you might picture your thoughts as someone calling you on the phone. Of course, you don’t decide whether the phone rings, who calls or when it rings. (Unfortunately, in this case it’s not the kind of phone you can just turn off!) But you do choose whether to answer the phone or just let it ring and turn your attention back to whatever you were doing.

The sound of the phone might be loud, annoying and attract your attention, but what happens if you just leave it be? Eventually it stops ringing. While thoughts and phones are, of course, different things, this metaphor carries a key message in metacognitive therapy: While trigger thoughts are beyond your control, you can control whether you engage with them.

Thoughts are, in principle, ephemeral, although you might not see them this way. Try asking yourself how many of the thoughts you had yesterday you can remember today. To be honest, out of the several thousand I had, I’m not sure I can recall even 10 thoughts. Why is that? Most of the thoughts we have come and go almost instantly because we don’t grant them any special attention but leave them and return to whatever we were doing. Even though you might not be aware of it, you’re already capable of choosing not to engage in a conversation with your thoughts, just as you can ignore the phone that keeps calling.

Postpone and reduce your worries and ruminations

Many chronic overthinkers struggle to change their belief that their thoughts can be brought under control, and perhaps you’re still not convinced. One way of challenging your belief further is to explore whether you’re able to postpone worries and ruminations. I recommend that my clients introduce a so-called ‘worry/rumination time’. It has to be a set time of the day, for instance 7.30pm to 8pm, where you allow yourself to worry and ruminate freely.

That way, when trigger thoughts or feelings occur during the day – for instance, you feel the need to evaluate your health or reflect upon what your friends think of you – try postponing these thoughts to your scheduled worry/rumination time (you might tell yourself: ‘I’ll deal with this later’). This set time is also useful for any planning or reassurance-seeking for which you feel the need. One note of caution: you might want to avoid scheduling your worry time within one or two hours of when you plan to go to bed, especially if you’re prone to insomnia or other sleep difficulties.

Introducing a set worry/rumination time serves several functions. First, it’s an experiment that challenges the belief that worries and ruminations are uncontrollable. When dedicating themselves to this experiment, most of my clients find that it is indeed possible to postpone worries or ruminations. While this might seem a hard goal, in fact it’s something you already do on a daily basis without realizing.

For instance, any time you notice an alarming newspaper headline on your way to work and start worrying, but then remember that you’re in a hurry and so turn your attention back to getting to work – that’s you controlling your thoughts. Or maybe you’re sitting in a café with a friend and you overhear a conversation at another table that triggers unpleasant memories, but instead of dwelling on them, you decide to redirect your attention back to the conversation with your friend.

Again, that’s you controlling your thoughts. In the same way, you can learn to consciously ignore your own internal trigger thoughts, thereby experiencing that you really do have a choice in whether you choose to engage in them or not.

A second function of setting worry/rumination time is that it’s a way of discovering that trigger thoughts are ephemeral and ever-changing. For instance, the thoughts that seemed highly relevant and important in the morning will often seem less important when you arrive at your worry/rumination time later in the day. You might even discover that you’re not able to recall some of the thoughts that triggered you.

All feelings, whether positive or negative, are usually ephemeral if we tolerate them and let them be. Of course, not all thoughts disappear forever when you postpone processing them – some thoughts might be about important issues that you really need to address. Regardless, as most of my clients find, it’s much more constructive to deal with these issues within a defined time of the day instead of endlessly problem-solving while you’re trying to go about your daily responsibilities.

Finally, while this might seem obvious, the worry/rumination time is a way of reducing and containing the amount of time you spend worrying and ruminating. As I explained earlier, it’s not the trigger thought in and of itself that causes unpleasant symptoms, nor is it the amount of trigger thoughts. It’s the time spent engaging in these thoughts, ruminating and worrying, that weighs us down. By allocating a set period of time for worry and rumination, you’re more likely to feel in control and prevent yourself becoming overwhelmed.

Avoid avoidance and train your attention

For people struggling under the burden of overthinking, it’s all too easy to develop a fear of one’s own trigger thoughts. After all, if you feel at their mercy, you might be tempted to avoid them occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, not only is this largely futile, it’s also counterproductive – avoidance of triggering situations will hamper your life and, moreover, to the extent that you’re at all successful in avoiding situations that prompt trigger thoughts, you won’t get the chance to practice letting go of these thoughts. After all, you can’t learn to ride a bike without a bike.

Inspired by the above, and if you feel ready, I recommend that you give yourself daily challenges that involve trigger thoughts, and that you practice instructing yourself to leave them alone until a designated worry-time. This will help you become more adept at leaving your trigger thoughts alone and to realize that you’re in control of your worries and ruminations. You won’t succeed every time but, just like learning to ride a bike, you need to get up again every time you fall and keep biking until you get the hang of it.

Some people struggle to develop this skill. In that case, in metacognitive therapy we use attention training to help clients realize that they can shift their attention regardless of inner inputs, such as trigger thoughts, and outer input, such as external stressors. I usually ask my clients to do the following 10-minute exercise. Maybe reading this will inspire you to try it out yourself:

  • Tune in to three or more environmental sounds, such as: traffic; birdsong; chatter from a nearby radio or TV; children playing; building work, or whatever. You need to find somewhere where these ambient sounds are going on. It’s helpful if some of the noises you select are nearer and louder, while others are further away and quieter.
  • Of the three or more sounds you’ve selected, practise tuning in to just one at a time for approximately 10 seconds each (you could use a digital timer to help you) and let the others fade into the background. After the 10 seconds is up, switch your focus to another of your chosen sounds.
  • After two minutes, repeat the exercise, but switching more quickly between the sounds – now focusing on each one for just two to four seconds each.
  • The aim of the exercise is to become familiar with, and adept at, shifting your attention. When you’re feeling more confident you could introduce a recording of a trigger thought into the exercise, and practise switching your attention away from and back to the sound of that thought.

Another exercise you could try that I use in my clinic is the windowpane exercise – this will further illustrate that your attention is under your control, independent of the existence of trigger thoughts in your head. I write one or two trigger thoughts in washable ink on a window (such as: ‘What if I fail my driving test?’ or ‘What if she finds me boring?’), then I ask my client to practise looking through the words to notice the scene beyond – the trees, the sky, the buildings, whatever the view is from the window.

Then I ask them to switch their attention back to the words again, now back to the details of the view. The purpose here is to familiarise clients with the sensation that we can control our attention. If you give it a try, you’ll find that, while the written thoughts remain in view, you can control whether you focus on them or whether you let them fade and enjoy the world outside instead. Please note, if you find this exercise at all difficult, I recommend that you wait and try it with a professional metacognitive clinician (see the ‘Learn More’ section to find out how)…..

By: Pia Callesen

Source: How to stop overthinking | Psyche Guides

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Blood Pressure

Why Comparing Feelings Isn’t Helpful

A woman with a sad expression looking out the window.

When you are coping with something difficult in your life, it isn’t uncommon for someone else to say “it could be worse.” You might even find yourself thinking, “Well, at least I don’t have it as bad as that person does.” Comparing your own pain and other emotions to others is common, but that doesn’t mean that it is always helpful.

Comparisons are often natural and can, in some instances, even be helpful. They can serve as a way to gauge our progress or determine what might be appropriate in a certain situation. In other cases, comparisons can stifle growth, prevent self-compassion, and even make it more difficult to empathize with other people.

Some ways that comparing feelings might be harmful are listed below.

People Experience Things Differently

Each individual has different resources and experiences that play a role in how they are affected by different emotions. Just as not all people feel joy in the same way, not everyone feels pain in the same way. There is not a hierarchy of emotion that says that one person’s feelings are better or worse, stronger or weaker than someone else’s.

For example, if you are going through an emotionally painful loss, you might be tempted to compare what you are feeling to someone else who has gone through something that seems objectively worse. It is important to remember that hurt is hurt. Comparing your pain to someone else who seems to be suffering more only serves to minimize what you are feeling.

Comparison Often Leads to Minimization

The focus of comparing your emotions is often to minimize either what you are feeling or what they are feeling. Some examples include:

  • You might think that you don’t have the right to be upset about something because someone else is going through something worse.
  • You might feel like you don’t have the right to feel lonely because you have more friends and family than another person does.

But someone else’s experiences do not negate your own. In such cases, comparing feelings is a way of minimizing your own experiences.

This is something that you might do to avoid feeling a negative emotion. Rather than face it, it is easier to dismiss it as being “not as bad as it could be.” It is a form of toxic positivity, in which people feel that they have to hide or reject any negative feelings in order to focus on a false sense of optimism.

It Keeps You From Facing Your Feelings

Even if someone else’s situation is objectively “worse” than yours, it doesn’t mean that you are not experiencing very real, very valid emotions. You are allowed to feel upset when someone hurts you or disappointed when something doesn’t work out the way that you wanted it to.

Yes, other people also have their own pain and disappointments to face, but those experiences don’t diminish or eclipse yours.

Negative feelings can increase stress when they aren’t dealt with properly.1 But even difficult emotions can be important sources of information. They can tell you that something needs to change and help motivate you to make positive changes in your life.

Everyone Deserves Help

Comparisons often lead people to think that they can just deal with problems on their own. Rather than reach out for help and support, people are often left feeling that their issues aren’t serious enough to warrant attention.

A person who is experiencing symptoms of depression, for example, might not seek out help because they think that they don’t have any “reason” to feel depressed, especially when they compare their life and experiences to other people who seem to have it worse. This means that they won’t seek out the help that they need, whether it is therapy, medication, or support.

In such cases, comparisons can lead to avoiding your problems rather than finding ways to address them. Even if you feel like your problems “aren’t that bad,” you still deserve support and help.

How to Respond Instead

The next time you are tempted to compare your feelings to someone else’s, take a step back. Will it be helpful? Or are you using it as a way to dismiss your emotions? Instead of comparing:

  • Allow yourself to sit with your emotions without judgment.
  • Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and remind yourself that your emotions are valid.
  • Lean on others but don’t feel the need to minimize your struggles or compare your problems to theirs.
  • Avoid judging other people’s emotions. Instead, focus on valuing the fact that they are willing to share what they are feeling with you.
  • Listen to what people are saying. Acknowledge what they are feeling. Simply saying that you can see how hard it must be and that you are there to listen can be a crucial way of offering validation and support.

Remember that when someone is in a vulnerable place, it is not the time to make judgments or comparisons. And that applies to your own emotions as well.

Dealing with those emotions, even when they are difficult, is what allows people the chance to learn, grow, and heal from their experiences. Sometimes sharing your emotions can help. Research also suggests that just talking about what you are feeling can help reduce the intensity of those emotions.2

When Comparison Might Be Helpful

The reality is that some degree of comparison is inevitable. People are simply wired to notice what other people are experiencing and then consider how it compares to their own situation. And in some cases, it can actually have a positive effect, including:

  • Comparisons may help you feel gratitude for your own life.
  • It may help you consider options and think about what you want.
  • It can lead to observational learning where you gain knowledge without actually having to go through that experience yourself.
  • It can help you see what you need to do in order to achieve what you want in life.
  • It may help you feel more compassion for others, which can help compel you to volunteer to help.

It is important to remember, however, that minimizing your pain is not a part of gratitude. You can be grateful for the good things in your life and still feel disappointed, sad, or upset.

A Word From Verywell

The next time you find yourself thinking “it could be worse,” think about what those types of thoughts are actually accomplishing. If it’s a way to minimize or deny your feelings, focus on your emotions without judging or shaming yourself for feeling such things.

And before you tell someone else that at least they don’t have it as bad as someone else, pause and remind yourself that such statements are rarely helpful. Instead, focus on being a supportive listener.

Kendra Cherry

 

 

Source: Why Comparing Feelings Isn’t Helpful

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Anxiety In Product Development

Last year I stumbled across an article about anxiety in men. It highlighted how it can surface in atypical symptoms such as anger. I learned to recognise and work on my own anxiety. It also lead me to recognise anxiety in others. Soon I realised this does not only affect other people but also organisations and processes. Let me introduce you to anxiety driven development.

We already have fear driven development

Fear and anxiety produce similar responses. Fear is based on a concrete threat. Whereas anxiety is fuzzier and more vague. Fear driven development is graspable which makes it easier to talk about it.

As an engineer it could look like this: You’re afraid of pushing your code because you could break the build. Or you shy away of touching a method because you fear shipping a bug.

If you are a product manager you might try to squeeze that extra feature into a release because you fear that you won’t be able to close a new customer otherwise.

Patterns of anxiety in product development

But anxiety runs deeper than this. Anxiety becomes more of an underlying current. Here are the most common anxiety driven development patterns I have observed,

Play not to lose

Your product is driven by the fear of losing. Losing market share, customers or ratings. You are driven to keep up with whatever the competition does. So you go out of your way to get every feature built that your competitors ship.

As a product manager you might push a feature request to the top of the backlog with every release announcements of your competitors. You can even call that agile because you’re adapting to change quickly, right? Unfortunately what you’re doing is destabilising your development flow and hinder the long term success of your product. You will always be at least one step behind, always trying to close the gap. This will choke all innovation because who has time to take additional risks when you’re barely keeping pace?

Play to win

Play to win instead. The treatment for this form of anxiety is to develop a strong unique selling proposition (USP). If you can differentiate yourself from your competition you will not be reeled into the fruitless thought pattern of playing not to lose. Do not try to differentiate yourself by price alone. This is a very weak USP, just waiting for the next competitor to undercut you, speeding up the race to the bottom. Also it creates almost no customer loyality.

All that glitters is not gold

If you’re anxious your business is falling behind but you can’t quite pinpoint why you will act in a continued state of emergency. You will chase quick wins. This might calm the the anxiety for a moment but it won’t last long. It’s possible to make a team stay late or rally the whole company behind you for an initiative. Once. But the more often you cry wolf the less likely it is you get the desired response. If your body is being continuously flooded with stress hormones it will render it incapable of responding to stressful situations adequately. The same goes for your organisation.

If you push your team every quarter to add a last minute feature for the opportunity of a featuring in a prominent partner store your team will anticipate this and instead already create buffers beforehand. The emergency response will create a fatigue which will appear in the form of demotivation, inflated estimates and non-commitment. All of this hurts the true output, fuelling your anxiety even more.

Steering the ship

To break out of such a vicious circle practice saying no. Take a step back and craft an inspiring, authentic vision. Let this vision influence an actionable strategy. You can then break your strategy down into a rolling wave plan with more details of the near future. This gives you clarity on the current work while not losing the bigger picture. Ultimately you will be less swayed to jump onto every potential quick win.

Permit A 38

Anxiety can make you feel out of control. What’s a natural response to this? You try everything to regain control. But that perceived control can in truth be an overly bureaucratic process which slows down your product development, once again feeding your anxiety.

How could that look like? You might be creating or working on tickets that resemble a full-blown requirements sheet, specified to the very last detail. At the same time every idea has to go through various stages of approval (until it’s rejected). This is extremely damaging for motivation.

Cutting the red tape

To get out of such anxiety driven behaviours you need trust. Trust your own market research and strategy. And most of all trust your team. Empower the team to be the experts to achieve the product’s vision and let them self organise.

Awareness is the first step

Anxiety is widespread and on the rise, not just during a pandemic. It would be naive to believe that this does not also affect your workplace. Anxiety driven product development is hard to crack because it sustains itself. Take a step back and reflect on what you’re doing to break out of this Catch-22. Once you recognise your destructive behaviours it is much easier to change them.

Other articles:

  1. What’s wrong with traditional product ownership – Part 1 of 3
  2. Good intentions make bad roadmaps
  3. 5 steps to craft a vision for an established team
  4. Crafting a lean roadmap

By: andre.schweighofer

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Philip VanDusen

The number of people afflicted with anxiety has been steadily growing in recent years. For solo entrepreneurs, freelancers, creative professionals and consultants who work for themselves the negative affects of anxiety can be particularly acute. Here are some effective methods for reducing these emotional and psychological strains that can help you feel happier, more fulfilled and successful in your work and your business. _______________________ This video is targeted to my channel’s audience of entrepreneurs, designers, creative professionals and anyone interested in brand strategy, business planning, design, trend, marketing and communications. Philip VanDusen is the owner of Verhaal Brand Design, a brand strategy and design agency. Philip is a highly accomplished creative executive and expert in brand strategy, graphic design, marketing and creative management. Philip gives design, branding, marketing, career and business advice to creative professionals, entrepreneurs and companies on how to build successful brands for themselves or for the clients they serve. ——————————— WEBSITE: http://www.philipvandusen.com​ JOIN THE BRAND•MUSE NEWSLETTER: http://www.philipvandusen.com/muse​ FREE MINI-EBOOK DOWNLOAD: “9 Design Elements Your Brand Absolutely, Positively Needs” http://www.philipvandusen.com/direct-…​ TWITTER: https://twitter.com/philipvandusen​ YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/c/PhilipVanDusen​ PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/philipvandu…​ LIKE ME ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Verhaal-Bran…​ GET TUBEBUDDY – THE BEST TOOL FOR YOUTUBERS: https://www.tubebuddy.com/philipvandusen​ RECOMMENDED BOOKS: “Change By Design”, Tim Brown http://amzn.to/2mTFDrz​ “Imagine: How Creativity Works”, Jonah Lehrer http://amzn.to/2mJpQe9​ “Free Agent Nation” by Daniel Pink http://amzn.to/2mWlbpR​ “Orbiting the Giant Hairball” by Gordon MacKenzie http://amzn.to/2noTnIL​ “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life’s Work” by Kevin Carroll http://amzn.to/2moisCu​ The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, Al Ries + Laura Ries http://amzn.to/2noZGwd​ “Change By Design”, by Tim Brown http://amzn.to/2uaXYjX​ “How To” by Michael Beirut http://amzn.to/2u9lnnh​ “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier http://amzn.to/2CAbYZk​ “Good Design Is A Tough Job” by Kirsten Dietz, Jochen Rädeker http://amzn.to/2CAIH0r​ “The Art of Innovation” by Tom Kelley http://amzn.to/2wtAevL​ “The Edge: 50 Tips from Brands That Lead” by Allen Adamson http://amzn.to/2Ef6fse​ “Art + Design” by Rex Ray http://amzn.to/2yLMRRT​ “Expert Secrets” by Russel Brunson http://amzn.to/2zEDOBT​ “Shift Ahead” by Allen Adamson + Joel Steckel – http://amzn.to/2xLrEX4​ MY GEAR: Canon EOS 80D DLSR Camera: http://amzn.to/2nn4y4q​ Canon EOS 80D 18-55mm kit lens: http://amzn.to/2mnAAws​ Canon EOS 80D Yongnuo 35mm lens: http://amzn.to/2nniETh​ RODE NT2000 Condenser Mic: http://amzn.to/2mFoNvG​ Shure SM58 Dynamic Mic https://amzn.to/2B4CQkT​ ART Tube MP: Tube Mic PreAmp: http://amzn.to/2mFoVeE​ Rode Mic Boom: http://amzn.to/2nxNFmJ​ Sony MDR 7506 Headphones: http://amzn.to/2mFpsxa​ Screenflow 6.2: video editing software: http://amzn.to/2nxFLK3​ Neewer 2 Packs Dimmable Bi-color 480 LED Video Light http://amzn.to/2Cz8INK​ Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920: http://amzn.to/2nmX4hZ​ Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone: http://amzn.to/2n2xL7B​ HP 27er 27-in IPS LED Backlit Monitor http://amzn.to/2w29u1S​ Anker 2.4G Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Optical Mouse http://amzn.to/2iZHKts​ TubeBuddy: https://www.tubebuddy.com/philipvandusen​ Adobe Creative Suite (2019 CC)

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Scientists Show What Loneliness Looks Like In The Brain

This holiday season will be a lonely one for many people as social distancing due to COVID-19 continues, and it is important to understand how isolation affects our health. A new study shows a sort of signature in the brains of lonely people that make them distinct in fundamental ways, based on variations in the volume of different brain regions as well as based on how those regions communicate with one another across brain networks.

A team of researchers examined the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, genetics and psychological self-assessments of approximately 40,000 middle-aged and older adults who volunteered to have their information included in the UK Biobank: an open-access database available to health scientists around the world. They then compared the MRI data of participants who reported often feeling lonely with those who did not.

The researchers found several differences in the brains of lonely people. These brain manifestations were centered on what is called the default network: a set of brain regions involved in inner thoughts such as reminiscing, future planning, imagining and thinking about others.

Researchers found the default networks of lonely people were more strongly wired together and surprisingly, their grey matter volume in regions of the default network was greater. Loneliness also correlated with differences in the fornix: a bundle of nerve fibers that carries signals from the hippocampus to the default network. In lonely people, the structure of this fibre tract was better preserved.

We use the default network when remembering the past, envisioning the future or thinking about a hypothetical present. The fact the structure and function of this network is positively associated with loneliness may be because lonely people are more likely to use imagination, memories of the past or hopes for the future to overcome their social isolation.

“In the absence of desired social experiences, lonely individuals may be biased towards internally-directed thoughts such as reminiscing or imagining social experiences. We know these cognitive abilities are mediated by the default network brain regions,” says Nathan Spreng from The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) of McGill University, and the study’s lead author. “So this heightened focus on self-reflection, and possibly imagined social experiences, would naturally engage the memory-based functions of the default network.”

Loneliness is increasingly being recognized as a major health problem, and previous studies have shown older people who experience loneliness have a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Understanding how loneliness manifests itself in the brain could be key to preventing neurological disease and developing better treatments.

“We are just beginning to understand the impact of loneliness on the brain. Expanding our knowledge in this area will help us to better appreciate the urgency of reducing loneliness in today’s society,” says Danilo Bzdok, a researcher at The Neuro and the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, and the study’s senior author.

This study was published in the journal Nature Communications on Dec. 15, 2020. It was partially funded by a grant to Spreng and Bzdok from the U.S. National Institute on Aging.


Story Source:

Materials provided by McGill University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. Nathan Spreng, Emile Dimas, Laetitia Mwilambwe-Tshilobo, Alain Dagher, Philipp Koellinger, Gideon Nave, Anthony Ong, Julius M. Kernbach, Thomas V. Wiecki, Tian Ge, Yue Li, Avram J. Holmes, B. T. Thomas Yeo, Gary R. Turner, Robin I. M. Dunbar, Danilo Bzdok. The default network of the human brain is associated with perceived social isolation. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20039-w

Cite This Page:

McGill University. “Scientists show what loneliness looks like in the brain: Neural ‘signature’ may reflect how we respond to feelings of social isolation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201215082059.htm>.

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If you’re sick of feeling lonely and you want to know how to get rid of it, you’ve come to the right place! In this video, we will talk about the 7 steps you can take to overcome loneliness and to prevent it in the future. Check out the whole mini course here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… – – – – – – – – – Join us on Patreon and get access to our Exclusive Newsfeed, our Naturalist Lifestyle Data Bank, more Mindful Moments, Coaching Sessions and much more. Patreon is a website that allows you to join our community and support our work directly. https://bit.ly/33939FC – – – – – – – – – Click the links below to check out our other videos about loneliness: Video #1: Why do we feel lonely? – Understanding Loneliness https://youtu.be/M74gIRMSMPI Video #3: 5 Traps Of Loneliness You Must Avoid! https://youtu.be/VoL_21lM4fQ Video #4: Guided Meditation To Connect To Your Powerful Source https://youtu.be/xjxtFCPV8EA Video #5: Guided Meditation For Loneliness – Feeling Connected https://youtu.be/poRk_yJSomI Video #6: How Loneliness Impacts Your Health https://youtu.be/z34RRUkTUFk – – – – – – – – – – Subscribe To Our Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw1e… WATCH NEXT: our YouTube Shorts: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… Mindful Moments meditation playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… How To Overcome Loneliness playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…

Should You Microdose to Treat Depression

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The following article is written by . Author of the book, Unstoppable: A 90-Day Plan to Biohack Your Mind and Body for Success. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound. And be sure to order The Unstoppable Journal, the only journal of its kind based on , and biohacking to help you reach your goals.

If you asked 100 people about psychedelics, you’d most likely get 100 opinions based on their firsthand experience, strong condemnation or stories from their adventures at Woodstock in the ’60s. No matter what people might know or think they know about psychedelics, the 40-year moratorium that closed down related research in the ’70s is now coming to an end. Psychiatrists are beginning to realize that strategic, supervised use of these psychopharmacological drugs is helping people with mental disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, depression and cluster headaches. Still, are there enough scientific studies to warrant the use of these drugs in mainstream society?

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I’ll admit that talk of psychedelic therapy to treat depression makes me nervous. In researching my book, Unstoppable, I looked at other key triggers that can mimic psychological disorders like depression and , such as inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal changes, side effects from medications, gut imbalances and food sensitivities. The reality is, depression is complex. What works for one may not work for another. Any successful treatment must first identify the root cause of one’s depression successfully, which can be a complex process if not done under the right medical care. A psychedelic treatment isn’t suddenly going to fix a nutritional deficiency, for example, but it may help target other symptoms and behaviors that correspond with depression. This is why it was critical to set my own biases aside and speak to an expert.

Related: There Will Be 4 Identity Types in This Recovery. Which One Are You?

I was fortunate enough to interview Dr. Domenick J. Sportelli, who is board-certified by the American Board of Neurology and for General Psychiatry and fellowship-trained and Board Certified in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He also specializes in human behavior and psychopharmacology. I wanted to get the most current information on the use of psychedelics in treatment for depression, anxiety and PTSD, so I first asked him first to clarify what psychedelics were.

“The term ‘psychedelic substance’ refers to an exogenous substance [derived outside the body] that, when taken into the body in various ways, physiologically, neurologically and psychologically manifest an internal personal experience of altered states of consciousness,” he explains. “This includes perceptual distortions, hallucinations, synesthesia [a mixing of the senses], altered sense of time and space, as well as potentially inducing what researchers call a ‘mystical experience’ — a sense of oneness, of noetic experience and an undefinable but profoundly spiritual quality.”

Is there enough evidence to support psychedelic therapy? 

Sportelli wants to make clear that the most researched psychedelics — LSD, psilocybin (mushrooms), peyote, MDMA, DMT and ketamine — have different mechanisms of action and even induce subtle, subjective experiential differences. Although each is grouped under the term “psychedelics,” they are quite disparate.

Dr. Sportelli is cautiously optimistic about the multitudes of large-scale, university-based testing and prior research compiled decades ago, but worries about the abiliity to circumvent bureaucracy and conduct safe, credible and substantial testing today. He does add that recent testing of psilocybin, LSD, ketamine and MDMA in particular has generated cause for optimism, and that they will likely have a place not only in continued, diverse research design and protocol, but eventually in therapeutic use.

What types of depression can psychedelics treat?

If we were to look at the onset of most mental illnesses, the majority start to become evident between the ages of 11 and 24, according to the National Institute of Health. With only 42 percent of people getting treatment, most typically do not seek out assistance until a secondary mental illness occurs several years later.

When asked how broadly psychedelics might be able to help treat people with depression, Sportelli concedes that, “Unfortunately, research hasn’t determined the level of scientific data to specify the type of depression or mood disorder that psychedelic therapy will benefit.” But he does add that research and data are beginning to show statistically significant improvements in mood, reduced anxiety, change in positive personality traits over time, the possibility of reducing addictive behaviors, reduction in suicidal tendencies and increased personal insight.

Do psychedelics treat the symptoms or the cause?

According to Dr. Sportelli, depression stems from a mix of genetic, biological, neurological, psychological and sociological factors. Recent research has demonstrated how the chemical breakdown of psilocybins closely resembles that of serotonin, and indicated the promising interplay of select hormone transmission. Dr. Sportelli stresses the critical role that these drugs might offer in mood disorders is at the forefront of the pharmaceutical quest for treatment.

“We have never seen substances like these that can potentially change the way that we look at our life and change perspective with lasting results,” he says, noting that they might be able to help “supercharge psychotherapy.”

Is this ultimately a recommend treatment, and where does one turn for it?

“At this time, in the U.S., I would only recommend this treatment be a part of, and under the close supervision of, a university-based IRB [Institutional Review Board]-monitored clinical trial,” Sportelli emphasizes. Before any psychiatric treatment, Dr. Sportelli also recommends a full medical and neurological evaluation to rule out any of the multitudes of medical circumstances that can manifest as a primary mood disorder, and reiterates that significant and often profoundly adverse outcomes associated with such powerful, mind-altering chemicals need to be weighed further as well. That’s why, as part of any regulated trial, all the necessary medical workups would be completed before participation.

Is the stigma around psychedelic therapy warranted? 

Sportelli acknowledges that there is a safety concern associated with psychedelics, and does not condone their recreational or illict use. But he does believe that regulated clinical trials, judicious and ethical research methodology and the progression for therapeutic intervention should not be overlook based on previous stigma and possible misclassification.

Related: 50,000 Entrepreneurs Tell Us How to Avoid Stress and Anxiety

I’ve never been one to throw the baby out with the bathwater. After interviewing Dr. Sportelli, I hold hope for the future, but also a concern for those who may seek out this kind of treatment without an accurate medical diagnosis. My number-one hesitation remains — that is we simply do not have the studies to show which types of depression psychedelic therapy successfully treats, which may result in people attempting to use a hammer when in fact they need a nail.

Either way, if you are to venture into this arena, find someone who specializes in it. The risk of going it alone could come at too a high price.

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The 9 Best Online Therapy Programs of 2020

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Online therapy is a way to communicate with a licensed mental health professional over the phone or computer. Common means of treatment include messaging (similar to text or email), live chat, phone calls, or video chat. Online therapy differs from in-person therapy in several ways.

Online therapists typically do not provide a mental health diagnosis, like “generalized anxiety disorder” or “ADHD.” Online treatment also may not meet the requirements for “court-mandated therapy” in certain cases.Otherwise, online therapists are licensed mental health professionals, and most provide similar treatments online as they do in-person.

Online Therapy Programs

Founded in 2012, Talkspace boasts that they’ve already helped more than one million people feel happier, and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps serves as their popular spokesperson, talking about how therapy helped him become stronger.1

Here’s how it works: During the sign-up process, you’ll be asked to complete an online questionnaire. Then, a human will match you to the best therapist for your specific needs.

Once you’re matched to a therapist, you’ll continue working with that same therapist throughout treatment (unless you request to change to a different professional). You can also get matched via an AI chat system if you prefer that method.2

There are more than 3,000 licensed therapists who have been through a background check. Therapists often specialize in specific areas, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, sleep problems, trauma, LGBTQ struggles, or even veteran-related difficulties.

Basically, with so many therapists available, you’ll likely find someone who is well-equipped to help you deal with almost every issue. And some of their treatment approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and psychodynamic therapy.3

Talkspace offers three different plans:

  • Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus: $65 per week for text, video, and audio messaging. A therapist will respond to messages five days a week.
  • Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium: $79 per week for text, video, and audio messaging plus one live session per month. A therapist responds to messages daily, five days per week.
  • LiveTalk Therapy Unlimited: $99 per week for text, video and audio messaging and four live sessions per month. A therapist responds to your messages daily, five days per week.

Live video sessions can be added for $49 for additional 30-minute sessions if the therapist is agreeable. In addition to their regular services,Talkspace offers specific services for teens and for couples. Services for teens start at $65 per week and counseling for couples starts at $99 per week. All services for HIPPA compliant and are available via desktop or mobile devices.

Betterhelp has more than 4,000 licensed professionals on their site and they report they’ve helped more than one million people on their platform. All therapists have at least three years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience. Counselors are psychologists, family therapists, clinical social workers, or licensed professional counselors and they have a broad range of expertise.5

To start, you can sign up using a “nickname” as opposed to your real name, and you’ll be asked to provide emergency contact information, which is kept in the system and only used if the counselor believes you or someone else might be in danger.

Users are then matched with a licensed mental health professional based on the results of a quick assessment. It may take 24 hours or longer to connect you with a therapist, and if you are not happy with the therapist assigned to you, you can always request a new one. Therapists offer a full range of areas of expertise, ranging from career issues to life transitions.

You’ll be assigned to a secure and dedicated chat room that only you and your therapist can access. Most chats are not in real-time, however. Instead, you can leave a message and your therapist will reply in a timely fashion (they usually reply to messages one or two times each day).6

As for cost, Betterhelp starts at $65 a week for the first month. Afterward, the fee ranges from $35 to $80 per week depending on the subscription length. You can schedule live chats with your therapist in advance as well, but there may be an additional fee for phone and video sessions.

Regain specializes in online counseling for couples, and they address a variety of relationship challenges, ranging from infidelity to communication problems. The sign-up process allows you to identify your goals and any preferences you have for a counselor. For example, you can state if you prefer a male or female provider or a younger or older therapist. Regain then matches therapists directly with couples.

All counselors are licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, or licensed professional counselors. All possess at least three years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience, and every counselor has a specific interest and expertise in relationship counseling.

If you sign up for Regain, you and your partner will share a joint account so you can communicate with the therapist together. All written communication will be visible to you, your partner, and your therapist. If you want to speak to the therapist privately—without your partner present—you can do so. You just have simply request to schedule a private session.

It’s important to note that the chats aren’t in real time. Instead, you can leave messages and the therapist will respond. The speed of the counselor’s response varies and the frequency of sessions is based on the interaction between you and your counselor. Sessions can also include phone calls and video.

The cost of counseling ranges from $40 to $70 each week depending on the plan. It’s a subscription service that can be canceled at any time. Since it is a subscription service, there aren’t a set number of appointments. Instead, couples can determine whether they’d like frequent short sessions or longer sessions less often.

Teen Counseling is an online platform specifically made for individuals between the ages of 13 and 19. The company’s professional therapists are equipped to discuss issues such as anxiety, stress, coping skills, self-esteem, bullying, depression, eating disorders, self-esteem and other mental health issues.

Counselors are all licensed mental health professionals. The app does not offer teens with an official diagnosis, so if you are interested in getting your child diagnosed with ADHD or another mental health condition, this app won’t do so.

If you’re a parent and interested in signing up your adolescent up for Teen Counseling, you will have to complete the sign-up paperwork. It’s here you can discuss your teen’s issues and situations with the therapist first and then they’re connected to your child.

The counseling sessions are confidential but therapists will alert the parents if there’s a safety issue that should be made known.Teens may exchange messages, chat live, speak over the phone, or use video conferencing to chat with the counselor. It is a subscription service and there are no limits on how many sessions or messages can be exchanged each week.

In fact, each teen gets their own “room” with a counselor where messages can be exchanged at any time. There is no need to schedule appointments and they will speak to the same counselor each time.The cost ranges between $40 and $70 each week depending on the plan. Teens get unlimited access to a counselor.

One thing to note is that the site/app is also clear that they don’t fulfill court orders. So if your teen has been mandated to receive counseling by a court, this won’t fulfill the requirement.

Pride Counseling offers online therapy to individuals in the LGBTQ community, and their goal is to offer discreet, affordable, and accessible treatment. Whether you have a mental health issue, like depression, or you are experiencing LGBTQ-related issues, their professional counselors can help.

They have counselors who are trained in specific issues, such as anxiety, stress, parenting, depression, grief, sleeping, trauma, family conflicts, religion, relationships, self-esteem, and eating.

Not only are the counselors on Pride Counseling either licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, or professional counselors (all with either a master’s or doctoral degree), they are all specialists in the LGBTQ community as well.

In most cases, you will be matched with your personal counselor within 24 hours. You will schedule sessions that work within your own time frame, but you can also message your counselor whenever an issue arises.

While they do their best to match you to someone you’ll connect well with, you can change counselors at any time if you’d prefer to work with someone else.You can communicate with your counselor in four different ways:

  • Exchanging messages in a secure room
  • Chatting live
  • Speaking over the phone
  • Video conferencing

The cost ranges between $40 to $70 per week (billed monthly). You can cancel your membership at any time for any reason.Pride Counseling considers your privacy and confidentiality a top priority. You can use a nickname when communicating with your counselor if you don’t want to reveal your real name.

Amwell is a comprehensive telemedicine site that offers access to doctors, therapists, and specialists. Their mobile app offers access to professionals any time of day, 365 days a year. Once you set up an account, you can choose which type of service you’d like to have (they even cover services other than therapy, including urgent care, breastfeeding support, dermatology, cardiology, etc.).

Then, you will be offered the opportunity to set up an appointment with different therapists. You can review the photograph and biography of each therapist before selecting the one you’d like to work with. The cost of each visit varies from $59 to $99 based on the experience and credentials of the therapist.

If your employer or health plan provides coverage (the company touts more than 80 million people are covered), you may be eligible for a lower price. During the pre-visit process, you can enter your insurance information to learn more about your out-of-pocket costs.

7 Cups of Tea offers something most sites don’t—the opportunity to speak to trained listeners for free. If you’re looking for emotional support but can’t afford counseling or you aren’t sure you want to see a therapist, you can speak to a trained volunteer listener via online chat. Best of all, it’s anonymous.

There are also scheduled group support sessions and chat rooms that address specific issues, such as depression, anxiety, relationships, and LGBTQ+ Another unique feature is that 7 Cups of Tea has listeners available especially for teens between 13 and 17 as well. And there are teen community forums and chat rooms available, too, for anyone looking for more support.

If you prefer to speak to a licensed therapist, you can also pay to do so. Prices start at $33 per week, and you can get a free three-day trial to test the service and see if it works for you. You are assigned a chat room where you can speak with your therapist any time of day. You and your therapist will eventually establish a routine, and they may respond back to your messages once or twice per day.

Seven Cups of Tea works on mobile as well as desktop. To ensure confidentiality, the website does not retain any data from your correspondence with your listener or your therapist.

Doctor on Demand offers a variety of physical and mental health services. They have a team of psychologists and psychiatrists who can provide emotional support and medication management. And what we like most about this company is that they offer a free mental health assessment. This free screening tool can help determine if you should speak with a mental health professional for anxiety or depression, and consists of two sets of questions and takes less than two minutes to complete.

The top issues their psychologists and psychiatrists treat include depression, anxiety and stress, trauma and loss, and addictions. Doctor on Demand is best for short-term consultations and prescriptions for emotional and mental health concerns. If you have a condition that requires close monitoring, you should see your physician.

You’ll need to schedule a live chat session with a mental health professional, and the fee for the chat depends on the type of treatment you receive. To find one, you can view a list of available licensed therapists in your state, and then read their biographies and choose who you want to work with. And, of course, you choose to work with the same therapist in subsequent visits.

MDLive allows you to meet with a counselor or psychiatrist via mobile app, video or phone to talk through common issues including anxiety, grief and loss, relationship issues, sadness, stress, sexuality, and intimacy.

For $99, you can have a single session with a therapist, and psychiatrist sessions are available for $259 for the first visit, with each follow-up being $99. And it’s worth checking to see if your insurance can help foot some of the bills.

Psychiatrists typically don’t provide therapy but they can prescribe medication to treat anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, insomnia, Trauma, PTSD, and more. This is a popular service, so you may not be able to see a therapist/psychiatrist immediately. Instead, you can schedule an appointment.

Source: https://www.verywellmind.com

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The Importance of Maintaining Structure & Routine During Stressful Times

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Some people love to have a solid daily routine, while others shudder at the thought of having a predictable schedule. During times of great stress, however, maintaining structure and routine can help you feel more organized and in control.

Having a routine can be helpful at any time, particularly if you are trying to establish healthy habits, but these routines can be particularly important when aspects of your life feel uncertain.

The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have dramatically altered many people’s normal routines, which makes it that much harder to cope with the stress that people are feeling.

A Sudden Lack of Structure

Many people are either working from home or faced with the prospect of an unknown period of unemployment. Those working at home may quickly discover that the constant isolation and lack of a normal schedule can be mentally taxing.

“When people don’t have a routine or structure to their day it can cause increased stress and anxiety, as well as overwhelming feelings, lack of concentration, and focus,” explains Dr. Rachel Goldman, psychologist and clinical assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine.

This lack of structure and routine can actually exacerbate your feelings of distress and make you pay more attention to the source of your problems. “If people don’t have structure and are sitting around with less to focus on, then they also probably will find themselves thinking about the stressful situation more, which can also lead to additional stress and anxiety,” Goldman explains.

One way to get out of this cycle that promotes ruminating over the source of your stress is to maintain some structure and routine throughout your day.

The Benefits of Having a Routine

Research has consistently shown that routines can play an important role in mental health. One study, for example, found that routines could help people better manage stress and anxiety.2

Having a regular routine can help you:

  • Lower stress levels
  • Form good daily habits
  • Take better care of your health
  • Help you feel more productive
  • Help you feel more focused

Getting necessary tasks out of the way can also help you find more time for healthy behaviors like exercise and leave you more time to enjoy fun activities and hobbies.

Some things that you can do that will help you maintain a routine when you’re stressed:

Focus on Things You Can Control

Managing your own behaviors can help you feel more in control of the situation. Goldman recommends focusing on the things that are within your power to control. “A good place to start with creating a new routine is to set wake-up and bedtimes, as well as meal and activity times,” she suggests. The key is to create a routine that adds structure and a sense of predictability to your day.

Of course, your schedule may change somewhat depending on the day of the week, but sticking to a basic structure for when you will wake, eat, work, do activities, and sleep can help you feel less stressed out and more organized.

Structuring your day also ensures that you accomplish those basic tasks that must be done, which will leave you with the time to schedule in other things that you want or need to accomplish.

You’ll feel more organized and productive with a regular routine, which will help you feel more proactive and in control in the face of a stressful situation.

Follow a Routine That Supports Your Health

There are some things that you can make a part of your daily routine to help manage stress levels. These include:

  • Staying active and getting regular daily exercise
  • Making sure that you are well-rested
  • Eating healthy meals on a regular schedule
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Trying to stay positive
  • Preparing for challenges but not ruminating on things you can’t control
  • Staying in touch with friends and family members
  • Setting aside time for activities that you enjoy

Of course, the situation you personally are coping with can also affect how easy or hard it is to stick to a daily routine. Stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 have left many people with blank schedules, which can be a daunting prospect for many people. It’s important to find things to fill your time so you don’t end up engaging in unhelpful or unhealthy behaviors.

Make Your List

One helpful activity is to make a list of the things that you normally do during the day. Include everything from work to meal preparation to household chores. Once you have an idea of the basic tasks you need to accomplish, you can start creating a general outline for what you might need to accomplish each day to stay on track.

Stress can make it hard to concentrate, so outlining these daily activities can help you better focus on what’s important.

While its important to get the essentials done, be sure to find things that you can look forward to, whether it’s watching a favorite television show or calling up a friend. Making these little rewards a part of your routine can help you stay upbeat and focused when you are working on a task that you might not enjoy as much.

Find What Works for You

Is it better to have a structured daily schedule or just a general to-do list for the day? Some people might thrive with a highly structured daily schedule that outlines activities in specific blocks of time, while others might do well with a loose list of things they need to get done in the day.

How do you decide which approach is right for you? Consider your motivations as well as what you need to get done. “If it is something that is of high importance and needs to get done on a specific day, then scheduling it into your routine and carving out that time may be necessary to make sure it gets accomplished,” Goldman recommends.

In other words, deliberately schedule a specific time to take care of those high priority tasks. Knowing that you have that time set aside for those tasks will leave you free to focus on using the rest of your time effectively.

She also suggests that it may be helpful to schedule things that you may not be motivated to do. “When we don’t feel motivated to do things, it is very easy to procrastinate doing them and they will continue to get pushed for the next day and the next day,” she explains. Knowing that you need to do those tasks at a certain time on a certain day will help keep you on track and hopefully overcome the urge to just keep putting them off.

Remember It Takes Time and Practice

Just like trying to create a new habit, starting and sticking to a new routine takes some time and effort. You know yourself best, so if something doesn’t seem to be working, try tweaking your schedule to make it work for your needs.

Goldman recommends paying attention to how you feel throughout the day in order to determine what times of day you are the most productive.

“If you feel like each day you feel unmotivated and lethargic at a certain time, then that is a sign that you may need a mental break at that time,” she says.

When you find yourself in those moments, think about what you might need to feel better and get motivated. That might mean that you need to take a break, go for a walk, have a snack, or spend some time working on a hobby.

Structure your day to make the most of the natural ebb and flow of your energy levels. You’ll get more done and ensure that you’re getting what you need in terms of rest and relaxation.

While having a routine is important, give yourself some flexibility and don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble sticking to your own schedule. Everyone copes with stress differently. Having a routine can help you maintain a sense of normalcy and focus through tough times, but don’t stress yourself out more if you sometimes deviate from your plans.

 “Plans don’t always go as planned though, so remember to be kind to yourself,” says Goldman. “This is not the time to put extra pressure and expectations on yourself. It’s not easy to create new routines, or add structure to a day, when our lives feel completely disrupted and turned upside down, so it may take some time to get used to this “new” routine and be able to feel accomplished.”

Source: https://www.verywellmind.com

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Treating the Effects of Childhood Trauma

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Although adults often say things like, “He was so young when that happened. He won’t even remember it as an adult,” childhood trauma can have a lifelong effect. And while kids are resilient, they’re not made of stone.

That’s not to say your child will be emotionally scarred for life if he endures a horrific experience. With appropriate interventions, adults can help kids recover from traumatic experiences more effectively.1

But it’s important to recognize when your child may need professional help with dealing with a trauma. Early intervention could prevent your child from experiencing ongoing effects of the trauma as an adult.

If you or a loved one are struggling with childhood trauma, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

What It Is

There are many different experiences that can constitute trauma. Physical or sexual abuse, for example, can be clearly traumatic for children.

One-time events, like a car accident or a particularly severe natural disaster (like a hurricane, for example), can take a psychological toll on children as well.1

Ongoing stress, such as living in a dangerous neighborhood or being the victim of bullying, can be traumatic, even if it just feels like daily life to an adult.2 In fact, nearly any event can be considered traumatic to a child if:

  • It happened unexpectedly
  • It happened repeatedly
  • Someone was intentionally cruel
  • The child was unprepared for it

Childhood trauma also doesn’t have to occur directly to the child; for instance, watching a loved one suffer can be extremely traumatic as well. Exposure to violent media can also traumatize children.3

Just because an experience is upsetting, however, doesn’t make it traumatic. Parental divorce, for example, will likely affect a child but it isn’t necessarily traumatizing.

It’s also important to remember that just because a child endured a tragedy or a near-death experience, doesn’t mean he’ll automatically be traumatized. Some kids are much less affected by their circumstances than others.

 

When It Leads to PTSD

Many children are exposed to traumatic events at one point or another. While most of them experience distress following a traumatic event, the vast majority of them return to a normal state of functioning in a relatively short period of time.

Between 3 and 15 percent of girls and 1 to 6 percent of boys—develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic event. Children with PTSD may re-experience the trauma in their minds over and over again. They may also avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma or they may re-enact their trauma in their play.5

Sometimes children believe they missed warning signs predicting the traumatic event. In an effort to prevent future traumas, they become hyper-vigilant in looking for warning signs that something bad is going to happen again.

Children with PTSD may also have problems with:

  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger and aggression
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Difficulty trusting others

Even children who don’t develop PTSD may still exhibit emotional and behavioral issues following a traumatic experience.6 Here are some things to watch out for during the weeks and months after an upsetting event:

  • Increased thoughts about death or safety
  • Problems sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anger issues
  • Attention problems
  • School refusal
  • Somatic complaints like headaches and stomachaches
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Development of new fears

Effect on Long-Term Health

Traumatic events can affect how a child’s brain develops. And that can have lifelong consequences.

A study published in 2015 showed that the more adverse childhood experiences a person has, the higher their risk of health and wellness problems later in life. Childhood trauma may increase an individual’s risk of:

  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes

A study published in 2016 in Psychiatric Times noted that the prevalence of suicide attempts was significantly higher in adults who experienced trauma, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, and parental domestic violence, as a child.

Effect on Relationships

A child’s relationship with his caregiver—whether his parents, grandparents or otherwise—is vital to his emotional and physical health. This relationship and attachment helps the little one learn to trust others, manage emotions and interact with the world around them.

When a child experiences a trauma that teaches him that he cannot trust or rely on that caregiver, however, he’s likely to believe that the world around him is a scary place and all adults are dangerous—and that makes it incredibly difficult to form relationships throughout their childhood, including with peers their own age, and into the adult years.10

Children who struggle to maintain healthy attachments to caregivers are likely to struggle with romantic relationships during adulthood. A 2008 Australian study of more than 21,000 child abuse survivors age 60 and older reported a higher rate of failed marriages and relationships.

How to Help

Family support can be key to reducing the impact trauma has on a child. Here are some ways to support a child after an upsetting event:

  • Encourage your child to talk about his feelings and validate his emotions.
  • Answer questions honestly.
  • Reassure your child that you’ll do everything you can to keep him safe.
  • Stick to your daily routine as much as possible.

If your child has been exposed to traumatic circumstances and you’ve noticed changes in her mood or behavior, talk to her pediatrician. A physician can evaluate your child’s health and, if necessary, make a referral for mental health treatment.

Depending on your child’s age and needs, she may be referred for services such as cognitive behavioral therapy, play therapy, or family therapy. Medication may also be an option to treat your child’s symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

It’s never too late to get help. Whether you’ve adopted a teenager who was abused over a decade ago, or you’ve never received help for the traumatic experiences you endured 40 years ago, treatment can still be effective.

Source: https://www.verywellmind.com

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Judith Joseph, MD, MBA, child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, interviews Arthur Becker-Weidman, PhD, director of the Center for Family Development at the Attachment-Focused Treatment Institute in western New York, about his Grand Rounds lecture on Complex Trauma and its Effects on Child Development. Children who’ve experienced trauma need to form trusting, supportive relationships with caregivers and therapists as a key component of their recovery and treatment. Yet often these traumatic events damage children’s ability to do exactly that. Dr. Becker-Weidman discusses treatment strategies he’s developed to help traumatized children become open to forming these relationships that are an integral part of the healing process. Dr. Becker-Weidman presented at the Child Study Center’s Grand Round series on Nov. 9, 2012. For more about the Child Study Center and its Grand Rounds series, visit http://www.nyulangone.org/locations/c….

A Teacher’s Guide to Supporting Students with Anxiety

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As a teacher, you may have noticed your students seem increasingly anxious—and the evidence isn’t just anecdotal. According to child psychologist Golda Ginsburg, “anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses in children….[and they’re] underdiagnosed and undertreated.” In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, while about 18% of adults experience an anxiety disorder in a given year, that rate is a higher 25% for children ages 13–18.

This article will guide you through the definition of anxiety, its causes, how to recognize it, types of anxiety disorders, and, most importantly, how you can help as a teacher. You can also learn specific skills as they relate to anxiety and the COVID-19 crisis, as well as find resources to help you along your way.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion in which one feels irrationally tense, worried, or fearful, manifesting itself through physical or emotional symptoms, which will be further detailed below. While there is frequently a known stimulus, there may not be—some anxiety is purely existential. Like other emotions, anxiety usually lasts a short while. However, if the feeling lingers for far too long, this can indicate an anxiety disorder.

The term “anxiety” is often confused with—or casually used in place of—“stress”” or “nervousness”, but they aren’t the same things. Stress and nerves are usually caused by external, recognizable stimuli, and the responses are relatively rational and short-lived. These feelings can even be positive, indicating that a person cares about a situation’s outcome and pushing them to succeed. However, if a stressor continues over an extended period or there are multiple nerve-wracking situations on top of one another, anxiety frequently develops.

Anxiety is often connected to suicidal behavior. As of 2017, suicide was the second-highest cause of death in people ages 10–34. Parents, administrators, and teachers must learn to recognize and address anxiety in young people—not only to increase children’s academic and social success but also to potentially save their lives.

Causes of Anxiety Among Students

While not all anxiety symptoms are signs of disorders, there are three general causes of anxiety disorders among young people.

Causes of Anxiety

Biology

Neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and dopamine, aren’t functioning correctly in their brains. In short, these “happy hormones,” aren’t being produced or sent through the brain and body effectively, causing problems with mood and alertness, as well as more frightening issues with blood flow and body temperature regulation.

Family

This includes inheriting the disorder, as well as parents or guardians modeling anxious behaviors in front of their children. For example, they might share “grown-up problems” like money issues or exhibit perfectionism. Parents continually focusing on their child’s happiness or even giving excessive praise can also cause anxiety, as the child may feel they’re doing something wrong if they’re unhappy or not immediately successful at tasks.

Trauma

High-stress events that cause upheavals, like divorce or a death in the family, can cause trauma-related anxiety. Trauma may also include individual terrifying events like car accidents, as well as abuse.

However, evidence shows situations unrelated to these factors are also causing the rise in anxiety and anxiety disorders among children. While it’s easy to blame social media—and studies are mixed about whether it is or is not a major contributor—some school issues are considered partially responsible.

  • Bullying: Students who bully and those who are bullied are at risk for mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Less expectedly, seeing peers being bullied is also a significant cause of these challenges.
  • Overscheduling: Students today are busy, both in and out of school. Overscheduling—such as involvement in too many advanced classes and extensive after-school activities—can have physical and mental effects, including anxiety.
  • Pressure to succeed: Students often feel pressure to excel at everything. “When kids feel like each homework assignment is going to make or break their future or that each soccer game could determine if they get a college scholarship, that pressure will have negative consequences,” says Amy Morin, LCSW. These feelings can result in battles with anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.
  • Interpersonal relationships: At all ages, students worry about their interactions with those around them. If a child feels like their teacher “doesn’t like them,” they may dread attending class. Additionally, teachers are stressed—which can lead to anxiety for them as well. Even if they never lose their cool, a teacher’s general demeanor can model anxious behaviors for students. Also, kids want to fit in with their peers. While a Pew Research Center study showed grades were the primary stressor for students, the following two were the pressure to look good and be socially accepted.
  • School shootings: As of 2018, 57% of teenagers surveyed stated they were worried a shooting would happen at their school. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows that people become anxious and unable to self-actualize—that is, learn and grow—if they feel unsafe.

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Types of Anxiety Disorders in Young People

Knowing the most common disorders and their signs can help you to spot them. While you can’t—and shouldn’t attempt to—diagnose a child, if you notice behaviors relating to these, gently recommend a parent speak to their pediatrician. There are six common types of anxiety disorders among youths.

Common Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Excessive worry about many things, from grades to relationships to existential ideas

Panic Disorder: Experiencing a minimum of two panic or anxiety attacks in a month, with no apparent reason

Selective Mutism: Not speaking when social or academic norms require it, though they may be highly talkative at home

Separation Anxiety Disorder: Showing signs of anxiety, like crying, when separated from parents; it becomes something to worry about when the child can’t be distracted, won’t join in fun activities, or fears bad things will happen to their families

Social Anxiety Disorder: Fear of social situations, including being called on in class or speaking with classmates

Specific Phobias: Intense fear of a particular object or situation, such as dogs or the dark

Recognizing Anxiety in Students

The Boston Children’s Hospital says a certain amount of anxiety is normal in children, which can make it hard to determine whether the signs are part of typical development or evidence of a disorder. Young children operate on an evolutionary fight-or-flight level; however, as they age, many of these fears should lessen. For instance, if a teenager is exhibiting separation anxiety, it could be a red flag for a deeper problem.

Possible physical indicators of anxiety

Difficulty breathing
Shaking
Dizziness
Becoming fatigued quickly
Frequent stomachaches or headaches

Possible emotional indicators of anxiety

Perfectionism
Expressing constant fears
Attempting to not participate in school

It’s essential not to jump to conclusions, however. Any student can exhibit physical or emotional signs of anxiety, including the occasional panic or anxiety attack. Additionally, several disabilities and conditions, like ADHD, autism, and diabetes, can cause symptoms resembling anxiety. If signs show up frequently or impede academic or social activities, that is when you should become concerned.

How Teachers Can Help Students with Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are critically underdiagnosed and untreated, but those who have diagnoses may have their needs covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or the Section 504 civil rights law. If covered by IDEA, they will be considered special needs students and given Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Section 504 doesn’t typically require any special education services but allows them a 504 plan. Both types of plans provide specific, actionable steps to take when a student is experiencing anxiety.

However, for students exhibiting anxiety symptoms who have no specific plans in place, there are best practices you can follow.

Establish Norms

From day one, you need to communicate norms to your students. All children, but especially those with anxiety, need structure and an understanding of expectations. These should include not just student expectations, but also what to anticipate from you. Knowing what is coming up, what behaviors are expected from them, how you will communicate positive and constructive feedback, and even things as simple as where to turn in papers lowers opportunities for anxiety-inducing situations to arise. Remind students of expectations as the year goes on and re-establish them after breaks.

Put a Stop to Bullying

Bullying, being bullied, or witnessing bullying can lead to anxiety in students, so you must have a policy in place—and to stick to it. Get involved the moment you see bullying behavior, institute consequences mandated by your school, and follow up with the perpetrator, victim, and any witnesses, as well as with their families. The follow-ups should be about healing, not continued consequences. For more help with this topic, check out our bullying prevention guide.

Sarah Mattie, former middle school theater and language arts teacher, shares, “I was a bullied and anxious kid, and my anxiety increased because I never knew what happened to my bullies after the incidents. I assumed teachers were ignoring it. As a teacher, I always made a point to be transparent. I told kids and parents that for legal and privacy reasons, I couldn’t tell them what steps would be taken—but I did promise to everything in my power to help. If someone had told me that when I was a kid, maybe my anxiety would have been lessened!”

Build Relationships with Students

While it can seem impossible to build a relationship with every student, this is essential for decreasing their anxieties. “Getting to know you” activities are a great start, such as “about me” papers and name-learning games, and you should have some in your back pocket for when a student transfers into your class. Mattie recommends keeping the “about me” papers so you can refer to them later in the year. Casual conversations with no academic stakes are also helpful. Talking about your life humanizes you, as does piping up when you hear a student mention an interest you share.  When students see you person rather than merely an authority figure, they can better relate to you—and perhaps better trust you.

Additionally, showing you notice when something is “off” with a student, and offering help or a listening ear can ease anxieties. In an interview with NPR, a teenager named Katie stated, “I felt like every single day was a bad day. I felt like nobody wanted to help me,” informing the interviewer that no staff member had ever asked, “What’s wrong?” If they had inquired, she said she would have told them. Jon Harper, assistant principal at New Directions Learning Academy, concurs. “I think we start by asking the students what they need. I get it, we are the experts and we have our degrees but isn’t it possible that we don’t know?”

When talking to students, lead with empathy. Ensure they know you’re there for them and they aren’t in trouble for seeming anxious, sad, or showing any other negative feeling. Involve them in solutions—ask them what they think could help. You don’t have to come up with a fix immediately—you can ask them to think about it, say you will as well, and plan to talk again on a specific day.

“Many kids just wanted to know someone was there to listen,” Mattie stated. “Some asked if I could keep the conversation private, and I went back to my policy of transparency. I told them I was a mandated reporter, and I had to report things that made me worry about their health or safety or that of someone else—otherwise, this was a private safe space. Never make promises you know you can’t keep. I don’t think I ever had a student refuse to speak after that—in some cases, I think knowing I was legally obligated to help reassured them. But most didn’t have red flags to talk about; they simply wanted a grown-up who didn’t have to care about them to care.”

Proactively Lower Stress

Overscheduling in and out of the classroom can cause anxiety in students, so letting them take the occasional break from the grind is essential. Especially during high-stakes periods, like testing, consider having a games day, bringing them outside to run around (no matter how old they are), or using the old standby of popping in a movie. If you’re in a school that frowns on activities that aren’t directly related to your curriculum, find ways to integrate relaxing tasks into lessons.

Also, reframe how you talk to kids about grades, tests, and behaviors. Don’t make any single thing seem like it will ruin their futures—or make you “hate” them.

Create a Growth Mindset, Not a Fear of Failure

Kids are under a great deal of pressure to be perfect, and fear of failure can be paralyzing. Try to reframe perceived failures as opportunities to grow. Harper suggests, “Share your mistakes, blunders and weaknesses with your students. In doing so, others might be inspired to share as well. More importantly, your students will begin to feel safer and they will feel that they spend their days in an environment in which it’s okay to make mistakes.”

Mattie provides an example of this. “At the beginning of every school year, I told students my greatest weakness is remembering names. I told them about the three times I had forgotten my own name when introducing myself and insisted they publicly correct me if I ever got their names wrong—whether forgetting or mispronouncing them. Allowing them to correct me and reacting with good humor (and perhaps a facepalm) rather than annoyance let them know feedback or corrections weren’t things to fear in my classroom.”

As you teach, include formative assessments so students can get feedback in a low-stakes manner. These can include ungraded assignments, monitoring work, and providing specific feedback throughout to increase confidence for future higher-stakes activities. When a student completes a task, provide both positive and constructive responses. If a student “bombs,” discreetly call them over to find out what happened and work together to find a solution.

Make Students Feel Safe

Unfortunately, teachers can’t wave a magic wand and make school shootings stop; however, you can take steps to make sure students feel secure in their school environment. If your school has shooting drills, prep your students about what to expect and give them time to decompress and discuss their experiences and feelings afterward. Don’t force them to speak, but allow them to express their fears, ask questions, and become upset if they need to. Offer to talk to them privately as well. Provide the same opportunities after there are shootings on the news—student mental health matters more than the lesson plan.

Additionally, make sure they have all the facts—how rare these incidents are, why your school holds drills, and, most importantly, that the adults in the building are there to protect them.

While other emergency drills may cause anxiety for some students, especially those with relevant traumas, they tend to be less anxiety-causing in general. Still, be aware of students who react with fear and address those worries as discussed above.

Watch Out for Negative Interactions

Both peer and teacher relationships can affect students’ anxiety levels, so it’s crucial to keep an eye out for problems.

It can be hard to admit that something about your style or class could cause anxiety, but these things happen. This does not mean you’re a bad teacher! In fact, the best teachers reflect, adjust, and strive to improve. If you notice a student suddenly exhibiting signs of anxiety, consider the following:

  • Did you say something that could have caused the reaction?
  • Were you having a stressful day and inadvertently modeling anxious behaviors?
  • Could the topic have caused this response? For example, a situation in a book—even a seemingly innocuous one—could remind a student of a trauma. There is also math-specific anxiety, in which students assume they’ll fail because of previous experiences in the subject.
  • Did you unexpectedly redecorate the room or create a new seating chart? Changes like these can create a sense of instability.

When you notice a reaction, talk to the student. If you’re unsure of what went wrong, ask. If you know what caused the reaction, address it head-on—and don’t be afraid to apologize if you need to. Apologizing doesn’t disallow you from issuing consequences; it’s merely admitting you made a mistake in how you handled things in the moment. “In frustration, I used ‘teacher voice’ on occasion—and sometimes it caused anxiety. If I realized my reaction was wrong, I apologized. It’s amazing how far an ‘I’m sorry’ from an adult can go,” said Mattie.

Monitoring peer relationships can be trickier. If a student appears to have trouble with peers, partner them with a kind student for projects, and seat the two near each other—many kids go out of their way to treat others well. You can speak one-on-one with the compassionate student. You don’t need to mention the student they will be helping, but tell them you have noticed and appreciate their behavior—then email their parents to express your gratitude as well. Reinforce classroom expectations regarding the treatment of others and talk to students exhibiting negative behaviors that could increase others’ anxieties. Most kids don’t enter school thinking, “I’m going to be mean today!” Their words or actions could be the result of something going on with them, including their own anxiety.

Talk to Other Teachers

When you are worried about a student, reach out to their other teachers—including elective teachers, as students may act differently in “non-traditional” classrooms. Ask if they have observed the signs you have and work together to find solutions. Stability is key for students with anxiety, so if you can find across-the-board methods—such as a subtle signal for when a student needs to take a break—students won’t have to worry about remembering different practices for each class. If the team sees that a student is especially comfortable with a particular teacher, have them check in at the beginning and/or end of each day.

Try to alert other teachers when you notice the student is having a bad day, so they can be ready to provide support.

Even if the student isn’t in a special education program, it won’t hurt to reach out to SPED teachers as well. They may have some tips or can advise on whether an IEP or 504 may be worth exploring.

Include Administrators and the Counseling Team

Since administrators and members of the counseling team, including school counselors, psychologists, and social workers, aren’t in the trenches every day, they may not know a student is struggling until a problem becomes a crisis. Reach out before things get that far.

Administrators can provide advice and insight regarding how to communicate with parents. If you’re worried about how you might come across, ask the administrator if they could look at your email before you hit “send” or practice the conversation with you before it occurs.

The counseling team members are the real experts on this topic. They can meet with the student and talk about how the year is going and address your specific concerns—usually without mentioning your name. Follow up after the meeting to see what suggestions they have.

Both administrators and members of the counseling team may have knowledge teachers don’t, such as records from previous schools, medical information, or even if child protective services are involved with the family. They may consider this information to be on a “need-to-know basis.” If you express a need to know, you may gain more understanding of what is going on and be able to adjust your practices.

Involve Parents

Parents can be your best allies in the fight against student anxiety. Be factual in your conversation—describe behaviors, relay things the child has said, and inform them of any academic effects. Make it clear their child isn’t in trouble and that you want to work together to find solutions. Parents may not have alerted you to previous challenges, so ask them if this has happened before and if any accommodations have worked. Emphasize that you care about their child and your line of communication is always open.

Some parents may resist or become upset. Don’t let that discourage you. They might be scared there is something “wrong” with their child, or perhaps these issues have arisen before and they felt no one wanted to help or thought it was over. Make sure they know you’re on “Team Student.” Keep records of all interactions. These records could help if other teachers contact them, if counselors or administration need to get involved, and may protect you if a parent complains.

COVID-19 and Student Anxiety

As mentioned, upheavals in students’ lives can cause anxiety. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students across the nation have suddenly moved from seeing their teachers and classmates in person to learning online—a massive change for most.

There are a few things you can do to help your students stave off anxiety during this time.

  • Allow for asynchronous learning. Asynchronous learning occurs on a student’s schedule. Some may have to share a device with a working parent or school-aged sibling; others might spend their days caring for younger children while guardians work. These students can become anxious about falling behind or disappointing you, and those who already have anxiety could enter a crisis state. If your school insists on frequent synchronous learning, push back and advocate for your students.
  • Check in regularly. Whether a student has anxiety or not, they need to know you haven’t disappeared. Send out whole-class messages, respond to students as quickly as you can, and reach out individually, particularly to students with anxiety or other needs. This may mean a phone call or text. Apps like Remind let you text students and parents without revealing your phone number. For phone calls, things can be a bit trickier. You can share your number, but if you aren’t comfortable doing so, talk to your administration about alternatives. Remind has a call function for premium members, and Google Voice lets you create a phone number if you have a Google account.
  • Take care of yourself. As the cliché goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” If your emotional cup is empty, you have nothing left to give your students. Check in with yourself mentally. As previously stated, your demeanor can affect student anxiety—if you seem freaked out, they might become so. Do whatever you need to do to keep yourself calm, like participating in a favorite at-home activity outside of work hours or getting digital therapy through a resource like Talkspace.
  • Learn about online education. Knowledge is power and feeling powerful can lower anxiety. EducationDegree.com provides two articles to help educators and students feel comfortable with online learning. The first article contains tips for students learning remotely. The second is an article designed especially for teachers.

Resources for Teachers of Students with Anxiety

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America: ADAA focuses on education about, treatment of, and finding cures for anxiety, depression, and related disorders. They have a wealth of information for people with these disorders, mental health professionals, family members, and educators.
  • Education Week: This publication offers a variety of articles about student anxiety. Education Week has a limit on how many pieces you can read, so if it proves valuable to you, see if your school has an account or will pay for you to have a membership.
  • National Association of School Psychologists: NASP provides resources, professional development, and policy information for school psychologists and educators who are dealing with mental health in the classroom—including anxiety.
  • Rogers Behavioral Health: Rogers Behavioral Health has information specifically regarding students with school anxiety, including a podcast series and actionable steps teachers can take to help anxious kids.
  • Understood: This website strives to ensure people with disabilities of all sorts thrive. They provide anxiety-related resources, including information about recognizing symptoms of anxiety, how-to guides, and information about the legalities surrounding IEPs and 504s.

Source: https://www.educationdegree.com

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UCLA child psychologist John Piacentini, PhD, discusses the difference between age-appropriate and problematic anxiety in children, including how to recognize the warning signs of problematic anxiety and how it is treated. Learn more at https://uclahealth.org Learn more about Dr. John Piacentini at https://uclahealth.org/JohnPiacentini

Effective Ways To Manage And Relieve Your Stress

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Whether it’s related to work, your personal life or finances, stress is a part of everyday life. According to the 2019 Stress in America Survey, “More than three-quarters of adults report physical or emotional symptoms of stress, such as headache, feeling tired or changes in sleeping habits.” The overwhelming effects of stress can take a toll on your mind, body and overall well-being. While the situation you’re in may be out of your control, how you choose to manage your stress entirely up to you. Find out how incorporating a few healthy habits can help with relieving your stress.

Prioritize Movement And Exercise For Stress Relief

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, your natural inclination may be to focus on the issue that is causing you to react. However, the best thing you can do is to get up and put your body into motion. Your mind, body and heart are interconnected. According to an article published by Harvard Health, “Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits.” Exercise reduces stress hormones by releasing endorphins. Often considered the body’s natural pain killers, endorphins can help elevate your mood, produce feelings of optimism and help your body relax. Try to incorporate as much movement in your day as possible. If you can’t make it to the gym, go for a walk during your lunch break, practice yoga at home or dance in your kitchen. Every bit of movement can help in relieving your stress.

Create Boundaries And Learn When To Switch Off Work 

Work is a major source of stress for most people. In fact, an annual survey from the American Psychological Association revealed that, “60 percent of people in the United States consider their job a major source of stress.” Before you start considering a career change, try managing your stress by setting a few boundaries. Creating a healthy work-life balance is as much in your control as it is your employer. Set a rule for yourself that your work will remain in the office. Being able to switch off work mode is an important aspect of self-care. When you’re off the clock, do things that make you feel good, like cooking, spending time with friends or watching a movie. Those hours that you spend taking care of yourself will help give your brain a much-needed break from constantly having to think about work.

Stay Hydrated

A simple solution to stress reduction is proper hydration. Amanda Carlson, director of performance at Athlete’s Performance told WebMD, “Studies have shown that being just half a liter dehydrated can increase your cortisol levels.” The National Academy of Medicine recommends that you drink one milliliter of water per each calorie of food consumed. To help reach your total daily intake, opt for a glass of water in lieu of your morning coffee or afternoon soda.

Get Quality Sleep 

Stress is one of the largest culprits of poor sleep quality. Without adequate rest, you may begin to exhibit greater agitation and impatience — especially in the face of hardship. The Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble fulfilling these daily recommendations, try implementing evening routines, like:

  • Going to bed at the same time every night
  • Turning off digital screens in the evening
  • Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon
  • Writing down your thoughts or to-do lists before bed

Reassess Your To-Do List And Set Goals

One of the most effective ways to combat stress is to address it at the source. Begin by identifying external triggers – like your career, relationship or finances – and determine ways in which you can alleviate some of the pressure. Maybe it’s asking for support on a work project or setting a monthly budget to manage your money. By creating a plan of action, you’ll be better equipped to tackle stress the next time it transpires.

Reach Out For Social Support

Confiding in a friend or family member about your hardships may not always feel easy, but it can provide you with a sense of encouragement and relief. In fact, creating an emotional support network is crucial in stress management. According to Newcastle University epidemiologist Nicole Valtorta, PhD, “loneliness has been found to raise levels of stress, impede sleep and, in turn, harm the body.” Rather than keeping stress to yourself, talk through it with a relative, phone a friend or meet with a therapist.

Incorporating these stress-relief habits into your everyday life can help you stay calm and prevent chronic stress from developing over time. Remember, stressful situations are always going to arise, but you have the power to control how you react.

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Source: Forbes.com

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Stressed out? Can’t seem to relax? Take a deep breath in… and don’t forget to breathe out. Here’s a way to relieve and manage your stress levels. This video is brought to you by Changi General Hospital. For more health tips, visit https://www.healthxchange.sg
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