How Imposter Syndrome Ends Up Costing You Money

We hear about the insidious effects of imposter syndrome all the time. How it holds us back from career progression, negates our self-worth and inhibits us from pursuing what we want to do. But according to research, it’s not just our mental health that’s impacted, but our wallets, too.

So what is imposter syndrome? “Imposter syndrome is a common mindset whereby we believe ourselves to be less competent than others perceive us to be,” explains clinical psychologist, Dr Jo Gee. The reason it tends to impact our money is that it’s so entwined with our careers. “Imposter syndrome can lead people to downplay successes, question their salary and even avoid promotions,” says Gee, adding that “it often results in symptoms of burnout from overworking, feelings of inadequacy and self-critique, a lack of satisfaction at work and a fear of asking for help.”

Alina Jaffer, financial expert at Virgin Money, explains the six key ways in which imposter syndrome works to keep us from meeting our financial potential. From the costs associated with FOMO to the FOAM (Fear Of Asking for More), we could be letting thousands slip by. Ahead, Jaffer and Dr Gee share the ways that imposter syndrome can hold us back financially, and their tips for combatting them.

Putting a blocker on pay rises and promotions

Asking for a pay rise is a tricky conversation that many don’t feel comfortable with and imposter syndrome can make this feel even more difficult,” says Jaffer. Sometimes it feels like we’re lucky to just have the job, so when faced with a conversation as tense as money and raises, the pressure to make your case can make you want to hide in the storage cupboard.

But remember, you have every right to approach the subject. If your managers make you feel audacious for asking to be paid for good work, that’s their corporate Stockholm Syndrome, not yours. All you can do is be prepared with clear reasons for your desire for a raise or promotion, and, as Jaffer advises, “try not to any feelings of inadequacy hold you back from having those difficult conversations that need to be had.”

FOMO costs

“Imposter syndrome can cause us to overcompensate in social settings, making us feel the need to prove ourselves or justify our friendships,” says Jaffer. Therefore, imposter syndrome sufferers may experience FOMO more regularly, spurring them to spend money unnecessarily for the sake of simulating a good time. What then happens is that we find ourselves without much left over to add to our savings.

Research even reveals that more than a third of people feel jealous when their friends go out without them and, on average, will spend around $628 a year on events they did not want to attend. That’s a lot of money to be shelling out when we really just want to be at home. According to Dr Gee, it’s all about getting pragmatic with your planning.“If you experience FOMO, we suggest saying ‘yes’ to a limited number of social events that you want to attend,” she suggests. “Using Likert scales where we rate our enthusiasm for a social event (from 1 ‘I don’t want to go’; to 10 ‘I really want to go’), can help to banish FOMO and guide us to what we really want to engage with.”

Buying into the trends

Women on average are spending around $1,800 to $4,800 each year on new clothing, about 27kg in weight, while throwing 23kg worth of clothing and textiles into landfills each year — and only wearing approximately 60% of these new clothes. This means you could be spending hundreds on outfits that you think will help you look the part, when in reality they’re going to waste.

Unfortunately, imposter syndrome makes it impossible for us to internalise our successes and, as a result, we can overly focus on our external facade to help us feel more confident. But as Gee notes, studies have shown that those with imposter syndrome who compensate through fashion report greater feelings of inauthenticity and lower scores in confidence. “Try ditching the catwalk for a mindfulness app… this practice has been shown to create long-lasting brain changes, which are even visible on MRI scans!”

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Overworking

Are you a perfectionist at work? “Imposter syndrome can result in individuals striving to meet impossible standards,” says Jaffer. And while we’ve been led to believe that putting in extra hours will get us noticed for the right reasons, and might even feel essential to getting a promotion.

But what we’re ultimately doing is setting an unhealthy precedent for work boundaries, and pushing ourselves to limits that could see us burn out before we even get to where want to go, as noted by Jaffer. “This immense pressure can lead to burnout and consequently, you might end up stagnating your career progression further and potentially missing out on that pay rise.”

“If you experience imposter syndrome, we suggest a two-pronged approach where you aim for 75% productivity, while seeking feedback and reassurance from colleagues regarding your work,” adds Gee. “This provides direct feedback which you can use to challenge your need to revert to your high standards.”

Avoiding financial advice

With imposter syndrome comes the belief that we’re not mentally equipped to handle big things, and, in some cases, we tend to bury our heads in the sand, preferring instead to avoid the stress of overwhelming life admin. But in news that will shock no one, your money isn’t just taking care of itself.

So if you’re not on top of your funds, not only are you going to miss out on financial opportunities, but you’re also going to fall into the trap of having to rely on banks and other institutions for everything, instead of knowing what’s happening with your money yourself. “While it’s difficult to quantify just how much money you could be losing out on,” explains Jaffer, “avoiding financial advice will ultimately have a negative impact on your finances.”

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Gee recommends asking for help, not even necessarily from professionals, but from those who know how to tell it straight. “As people with imposter syndrome fear being caught out as ‘imposters’, they rarely ask for help,” she explains. “If you suffer from imposter syndrome, set yourself a challenge to ask someone for help each month and make sure one month’s request for support revolves around your finances.”

Playing it safe

More and more people have been galvanised to become their own bosses during the pandemic. But the thing about imposter syndrome is that it can make taking this kind of plunge feel impossible and out of reach. And when we’re second-guessing ourselves, we tend to half-ass our plans or give up on them altogether, leaving it to the people who can do it. But that kind of defeatist attitude doesn’t get us far, especially when we know we’re working with great ideas and are just struggling to get started with them.

“Imposter syndrome can hold people back from starting up their own businesses as the feelings of inadequacy can trigger our freeze mechanism, leading to procrastination and downplaying of abilities,” explains Dr Gee, who suggests that establishing a solid network is the key to getting over our hangups. “Good mentors are worth their weight in gold when thinking of starting up a new business, as their ability to guide can be enough to motivate you past your self-doubt and to a plan for success.”

When you have imposter syndrome, you likely feel so lucky to have your current job that you wouldn’t dare be brave enough to go for something else – or do something riskier, like going freelance or starting your own business.

‘More than three million UK workers are looking to set up their own businesses in 2022 and almost half dream of becoming their own boss,’ says Alina. ‘However, imposter syndrome can make taking the plunge feel impossible. ‘Research reveals that side hustles can earn individuals an average of £4,500 a year, which you may miss out on should your anxiety hold you back.’ Dr Jo adds: ‘Imposter syndrome can hold people back from starting up their own businesses as the feelings of inadequacy can trigger our freeze mechanism, leading to procrastination and downplaying of abilities.’

‘In the current climate, regularly checking in on your finances can be daunting but it’s important to remember that it’s not unusual to find yourself feeling anxious or weighed down by money worries. ‘Instead of punishing yourself for any financial mishaps, focus on financial recovery and remember you can always seek professional advice if you’re not sure how to start.

‘Several financial advice services are available, whether you’re looking for guidance on managing debt, creating a budget, claiming benefits, or any other money concerns.’ We’d add a suggestion to that – if imposter syndrome is taking over your life, talk to a mental health professional. Let’s get to the root of the issue, unlearn these self-defeating thoughts, and start going for what we really want. A little extra cash will be a bonus.

Source: How Imposter Syndrome Ends Up Costing You Money

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Imposter syndrome can affect any of us, irrespective of skill or position’ 

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سندرم ایمپاستر یا نشانگان خودویرانگری[۱] (به انگلیسی: impostor syndrome) یک پدیده روانی است که در آن افراد نمی‌توانند موفقیت‌هایشان را بپذیرند. بر خلاف آنچه شواهد بیرونی نشان می‌دهد که فرد با رقابت و تلاش به موفقیت رسیده، خود فرد تصور می‌کند که لیاقت موفقیت را ندارد و فریب‌کار است. فرد مبتلا به این نشانگان، موفقیت خودش را در نتیجهٔ خوش‌شانسی، زمان‌بندی خوب یا فریب دادن دیگران می‌داند و این موضوع که فرد باهوش یا تلاش‌گر است توسط خودش مورد پذیرش قرار نمی‌گیرد. این عبارت برای اولین بار توسط روانشناسان در مقاله ۱۹۷۸ عنوان شد و در آن برآورد شد که حدود ۷۰ درصد از انسان‌ها، نشانه‌هایی از این سندرم را در خود دارند. محققین از آن به عنوان مسئلهٔ مؤثر بر زنانی یاد می‌کنند که علی‌رغم داشتن جایگاهی برجسته در تحصیل و حرفه‌ٔ خود، پافشاری می‌کنند که هیچ استعدادی ندارند و هر کسی را که غیرِ این بیندیشد، نادان می‌پندارند. اما بسیاری از زنان موفق نسبت به اجرای خوب کار خود اضطراب دارند. دکتر سندی مان، استاد روان‌شناسی دانشگاه مرکزی لنکشر در بریتانیا، سه ویژگی اصلی سندرم ایمپاستر یا نشانگان خود‌ویرانگری افراد موفق را چنین بیان می‌کند:[۲] اولین ویژگی آن این است که افراد فکر می‌کنند دیگران تصوری اغراق‌شده و بیش‌از اندازه از توانایی‌ها و مهارت‌های آنها دارند، تصوری بسیار بزرگ‌تر از آنچه خود فرد از خودش دارد دومین ویژگی این است که شما در هراس شدیدی هستید که دست‌تان رو شود و دیگران فکر کنند در مورد توانایی‌های خود آنها را فریب داده‌اید. سومین ویژگی این است که به طور مداوم موفقیت‌های خود را با عوامل بیرون از توانایی و مهارت خودتان مقایسه و اندازه‌گیری می‌کنید و می‌سنجید …هانی لنکستر جیمز، روان‌شناس می‌گوید: «تجربهٔ داشتن سندروم ایمپاستر مانند این است که در تمام عمر با این ترس و نگرانی زندگی کنیم که دیگران ما را فریبکار بدانند و روزی بفهمند که در حد انتظارات و توقعات آنها نبوده‌ایم»

The Effects of Self-Centered Parenting on Children

Many children suffer grave emotional problems from living with a self-absorbed parent. The child is disregarded and used as an extension of the parent. Often, this means the child’s physical wants and needs, points of view, and emotional needs go unmet.

The Role-Reversal Relationship

Everything revolves around the self-absorbed parent. The relationship is one-sided and directed by the parent. Such a parent enlists the child in caring for and catering to him or her. This creates a role-reversal relationship that is inappropriate for the child’s growth, development, and welfare.

Self-absorbed parents have many characteristics in the ways they relate with their children These relationship traits are well summarized by both Nina W. Brown, EdD, LPC, in Children of the Self-Absorbed and by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD. in Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. Such parents manipulate the child to ensure the spotlight of admiration stays on the parent. They lack empathy for the child’s emotional needs. They may show jealousy with any steps the child takes toward individuation––being his or her own person.

Children’s Emotional Responses

Children are affected by growing up with a self-focused parent. When a child is not related to as an individual, a separate person from a parent, there are many emotional and psychological consequences for the child. When a child’s individuality is disregarded, it affects self-esteem and confidence. Low self-esteem in turn can create anxieties and depressions, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and runaway behaviors.

There are a wide variety of consequences children suffer in growing up with a selfish parent. Are there discernible patterns to their suffering? Homer B. Martin. M.D., and I found that there are. Children respond to self-centered parents differently based on the child’s personality style. This style is created by how a child is emotionally conditioned within the family. We discovered personality styles form into two types––omnipotent and impotent.

Effects on Omnipotent Children

Omnipotent children try hard to satisfy selfish parents. The omnipotent label comes from the child’s unconscious belief that he or she is psychologically strong and able to fulfill the parent’s needs and requests, no matter how inappropriate. Such children are trained to be emotionally attuned to what the parent needs and wants. It’s a tall order and an impossible job for adults, much less a small child.

A child with an omnipotent personality acts as a complement to a self-focused parent. The omnipotent child will attempt to care for and meet a selfish parent’s needs and desires. Since omnipotent children strive to do what Dad wants or be what Mom demands, they fall short. Selfish parents ask too much and are capricious, readily changing their demands. When these children fail to please selfish parents, they feel guilty, berate themselves, and lose self-esteem and confidence.

Omnipotent-role children feel anxious, get depressed, and believe they are of little value for failing the selfish parent’s demands. This puts them at risk for emotional illnesses of depression, academic failure, social withdrawal from friends, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and eating disorders.

Effects on Impotent Children

The other emotionally conditioned role for children in families is the impotent role. These children are raised differently from omnipotent children. Impotent refers to their unaware belief and actions of helplessness in their relationships. They are raised to be self-absorbed, like the self-centered parent. In this situation there are two peas in a pod. Parent and child are alike in personality.

An impotent parent and impotent child robustly compete with one another. Each wants to be the top dog in the relationship. Each wants his or her way. Young impotent children are often bullied by their selfish parent with put-downs and name-calling. At other times they may be favored children, regarded by selfish parents as special. This happens because the parents project their own specialness and self-centered view onto the child. It is like looking in a mirror.

Older impotent children and teenagers bully and fight back with their impotent parent. This can create verbal and even physical conflict, as they both erupt with demands to gain their way in the relationship. Impotent personality teens may run away from home, self-mutilate, abuse substances, or become involved in legal troubles. They are more likely to be outwardly volatile in their reactions to a self-absorbed parent than are omnipotent personality children, who curtail their emotional reactions.

Difficulties Follow into Adult Life

Unfortunately, the effects of living with a self-absorbed parent do not vanish at the end of childhood. As children grow to adulthood, they continue to relate to other selfish people the same way they were emotionally conditioned to do as a child. We discovered that omnipotent personality children often marry self-focused mates. They focus on pleasing and caring for their partner. They neglect themselves in the relationship. Often, they walk on emotional eggshells, striving to never upset their mates.

Impotent children may form the same high-conflict relationships with other selfish people. They will always be in a contest to get their way in the relationship. They may have frequent emotional blowups and even physical altercations.

A Way Out

Hopefully, self-absorbed people will want to improve themselves before they become parents. They can do this by taking honest stock of their own emotional conditioning style.How were you raised? Were you indulged and allowed to have your way a great deal? Did other family members give in to your requests, demands, or tantrums, no matter how unreasonable they were? Do you expect others to meet your desires and never thwart you?

If answers to these questions are positive for you, then you were likely raised in an impotent role. Your job before becoming a parent is to undo some of your emotional conditioning. Seek out psychotherapy and work with a therapist. By so doing you can be prepared to raise your children in a reasonable way, listening to their needs and viewpoints and imposing judicious guidance and discipline. By undertaking the job of changing yourself, their childhoods will not be all about you.

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12 Questions to Test Your Level of Self-Connection

We often try hard to stay connected to others (e.g., to friends and family). But how do we stay connected to ourselves? Self-connection is a new, important concept, one which I will discuss in the rest of this post. To do so, I describe a recent study by Klussman and colleagues on the development and validation of a new measure called the self-connection scale.

What is self-connection?

Self-connection has three components. These consist of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-alignment.

  • Self-awareness: Awareness of one’s internal experiences, thoughts, emotions, sensations, preferences, values, intuitions, resources, goals, etc.
  • Self-acceptance: Full acknowledgment and acceptance, without judgment, of self-relevant characteristics and experiences. And seeing them as part of us and belonging to us.
  • Self-alignment: Using self-knowledge to behave in ways that authentically reflect oneself and fulfill one’s psychological needs (e.g., autonomy).

All three components are required for self-connection. For instance, awareness without acceptance may result in self-loathing and self-harm.

Before we continue, let me note that self-connection is different from similar concepts such as authenticity and mindfulness. Authenticity is only one element of it (i.e., self-alignment).

And mindfulness is closer in meaning to a combination of self-awareness and self-acceptance, but not self-alignment. Let us take a brief look at the research by Klussman and colleagues on the measurement of self-connection.

Investigating the validity and reliability of the self-connection scale

Study 1

Sample: 308 participants; 49 percent female; average age of 38 years old; 80 percent white; 45 percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Measures

  • Self-connection: A pool of 29 items
  • Authenticity: Authenticity Scale
  • Mindfulness: Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale-Revised
  • Self-concept clarity: Self-Concept Clarity Scale
  • Flourishing: Flourishing Scale
  • Meaning: Presence of Meaning subscale of the Meaning in Life Questionnaire

Study 2

Sample: 164 participants; 39 percent female; average age of 36 years old; 77 percent white; 47 percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Measures

  • Self-connection: The Self-Connection Scale developed in the previous investigation
  • Life satisfaction: “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?”
  • Positive and negative affect: Positive and Negative Affect Schedule
  • Anxiety and depression: Patient Health Questionnaire for Depression and Anxiety (PHQ-4)
  • CDC health measures: CDC Healthy Days Questionnaire
  • Health behaviors: Preventive Health Behaviors Scale

Study 3

Sample: 992 participants; 56 percent female; average age of 34 years old; 72 percent white; 52 percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Measures

  • Anxiety and depression: PHQ-4
  • Eudaimonic well-being: Flourishing Scale and Presence of Meaning subscale of the Meaning in Life Questionnaire
  • Hedonic well-being: Positive and Negative Affect Schedule
  • Self-connection: The Self-Connection Scale
  • Self-acceptance: The self-acceptance subscale of Ryff’s Psychological Well-Being Scale
  • Self-compassion: The Self-Compassion Scale-Short Form

Results

The Self-Connection Scale demonstrated good reliability and validity. For instance, analysis of data showed it was related to similar constructs—authenticity, mindfulness, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-concept clarity, hedonic and eudaimonic well-being—yet distinct from them.

In addition, the factor structure of the scale was confirmed.

Testing your self-connection

To determine your level of self-connection using the scale developed in the study, follow the instructions below.

Indicate your agreement with the items from the Self-Connection Scale—whether you strongly disagree (1), disagree (2), somewhat disagree (3), neither agree nor disagree (4), somewhat agree (5), agree (6), or strongly agree (7). The numbers in parentheses are the scores associated with each response. Note, Item 4 should be reverse-scored.

  1. I have a deep understanding of myself.
  2. It is easy for me to identify and understand how I am feeling in any given moment.
  3. I know myself well.
  4. I am often surprised by how little I understand myself.
  5. I try not to judge myself.
  6. When I find out things about myself that I don’t necessarily like, I try to accept those things.
  7. Even when I don’t like a feeling or belief that I have, I try to accept it as a part of myself.
  8. I can easily forgive myself for mistakes I have made.
  9. I find small ways to ensure that my life truly reflects the things that are important to me.
  10. I spend time making sure that I am acting in a way that is a reflection of my true self.
  11. I try to make sure that my actions are consistent with my values.
  12. I try to make sure that my relationships with other people reflect my values.

So, how did you do? Note: The first four scale items are related to self-awareness, the next four to self-acceptance, and the last four to self-alignment.

A high score suggests a high level of self-connection. A low score suggests you are either not self-aware, not accepting of yourself, or do not act in concert with your feelings, beliefs, values, goals, etc.

Needless to say, a high score is desirable. Indeed, research by the authors shows that self-connection is associated with a number of positive outcomes. These include positive emotions, life satisfaction, flourishing, clarity in life, and meaning in life.

People who are disconnected from themselves are more likely to experience negative emotions (e.g., sadness, anger, confusion, stress) and feel their life is unsatisfactory and has no purpose.

Takeaway

Many of us commit to staying in touch with friends and coworkers, current events, the newest trends, and the latest cutting-edge technology, but rarely commit to staying in touch with ourselves—our changing feelings, sensations, thoughts, inner resources, goals, etc.

If you belong to this group and are disconnected from yourself, there are ways to remedy the situation. Simply pause a few times during the day and check how self-connected you feel. Ask: In the last little while…

  • Have I been self-aware?
  • Have I been self-accepting?
  • Has my behavior reflected my true self?

Commit to getting to know yourself better and becoming your best friend. It may change your life.

By: Arash Emamzadeh

Arash Emamzadeh attended the University of British Columbia in Canada, where he studied genetics and psychology. He has also done graduate work in clinical psychology and neuropsychology in U.S.

Source: 12 Questions to Test Your Level of Self-Connection | Psychology Today

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This Is Your Child’s Brain on Video Games

The following is a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how gaming impacts a child’s nervous system.

On the eve of his big sister Liz’s high school graduation, nine-year-old Aiden sits with his parents and relatives at a celebration dinner, bored by their “adult” conversation and irritated at all the attention showered upon Liz. He can’t wait to get back to his video game!

Before dinner, Mom had (annoyingly) called him away to join the family, and then she got mad when he spent a few minutes getting to the next level and saving his game. So many people in the house make him restless; he squirms uncomfortably and drums his fingers on the table, waiting to be excused.

Finally, he is allowed to escape the dinner table, and he settles into a corner of the living room couch to play his Nintendo DS. For the next hour or so, he is completely oblivious to the company in the house. Although he’s already played much longer than his mother likes, she lets him continue, knowing these family situations are a little overwhelming for him. And besides, the game keeps him occupied. What’s the harm? she thinks. It’s just for today.

However, in the meantime, a perfect storm is brewing. As the play continues, Aiden’s brain and psyche become overstimulated and excited — on fire! His nervous system shifts into high gear and settles there while he attempts to master different situations, strategizing, surviving, accumulating weapons, and defending his turf. His heart rate increases from 80 to over 100 beats per minute, and his blood pressure rises from a normal 90/60 to 140/90 — he’s ready to do battle, except that he’s just sitting on the couch, not moving much more than his eyes and thumbs.

The DS screen virtually locks his eyes into position and sends signal after signal: “It’s bright daylight out, nowhere near time for bed!” Levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine rise in his brain, sustaining his interest, keeping him focused on the task at hand, and elevating his mood. The intense visual stimulation and activity flood his brain, which adapts to the heightened level of stimulation by shutting off other parts it considers nonessential.

The visual-motor areas of his brain light up. Blood flows away from his gut, kidneys, liver, and bladder and toward his limbs and heart — he’s ready to fight or escape! The reward pathways in his brain also light up and are reinforced by the flood of dopamine. He is so absorbed in the game, he doesn’t notice when his little sister, Arianna, comes over until she puts her chubby hand on the screen, trying to get his attention.

“DooOOON’T!!” he shouts and roughly shoves her out of the way. Arianna falls backward, bursts into tears, and runs to their mother, who silently curses herself for letting Aiden play this long.

“All right, that’s it. Time to start getting ready for bed. Get your pajamas on and you can have a snack before you go to bed,” she says, pulling the DS out of Aiden’s hands and turning it off in one fell swoop. Aiden looks at his mother with rage. How dare she ruin his game because of his stupid sister!

“Fine!” he shouts, runs up the stairs, and slams his bedroom door. His primitive brain is fully engaged now, turning him into an enraged animal ready to fight off all challengers. He rips all the sheets off his bed and then throws his lamp on the floor, providing a satisfactory crash and shatter. Thinking about how wronged he’s been and filled with visions of revenge, he kicks the wall a few times and then pounds on his bedroom door, putting a big hole in it.

Downstairs, his relatives sit in quiet shock and murmur to each other how they’ve never seen him act like this. Dad runs up the stairs to contain his son. Calmly, his dad holds him in a bear hug from behind, waiting for the rage to subside.

As the dopamine in his brain and the adrenaline in his body begin to ebb, his rage loses its focus. Now, the pent-up energy takes on a disorganized, amorphous form. Aiden feels like he can’t think straight or get himself together. While he spaces out, his dad helps him put his pajamas on and they go back downstairs.

Stress hormones remain high, however, making it difficult for him to relax or think clearly. He seems a little confused, actually. His relatives look at him with a mixture of concern and love, but they also wonder why his parents let him “get away with” this kind of behavior. His mother intuitively knows that direct eye contact will overstimulate him again, so she approaches him slowly from the side, and rubs his back gently.

When his favorite aunt looks him in the face sympathetically, he immediately distrusts her intentions. Eye-to-eye interaction is interpreted by his primitive-mode brain as a challenge, and he starts getting revved up again. His mother intervenes and takes him up to his room. She lowers the light, settles him into bed, and starts to read him a soothing story. His nervous system attempts to regulate itself back to normal, but it seems to still be held hostage by his hyped-up emotions.

That night, after he does finally fall to sleep, Aiden awakens repeatedly with panic attacks — his heart races and blood pounds in his ears. He’s scared of the dark and worried that his angry outburst has upset and alienated his parents. His mother, meanwhile, confiscates the DS and decides to take it with her to work on Monday. (She really wants to throw it in the trash, but it was expensive!)

The following morning, the fight in Aiden has subsided, but the aftermath leaves him in a fog, listless, weepy, and exhausted. He experiences an increased craving for sweets while cortisol, the stress hormone, drives his blood sugar up and down erratically. It will take weeks before his body, brain, and mind return to some sense of balance. Meanwhile, his mother reaffirms her commitment “to get rid of those damn video games.”

Perceived Threat and the Fight-or-Flight Response

Does Aiden’s story sound familiar? Why would a seemingly normal, loving child become so enraged and difficult after playing video games? Though his response may seem extreme, there’s actually a completely natural explanation for Aiden’s behavior.

Playing video games mimics the kinds of sensory assaults humans are programmed to associate with danger. When the brain senses danger, primitive survival mechanisms swiftly kick in to provide protection from harm. This response is instantaneous; it is hardwired in our genes and necessary for survival. Keep in mind that the threat does not have to be real — it only needs to be a perceived danger for the brain and body to react.

When this instinct gets triggered, our nervous system and hormones influence our state of arousal, jumping instantly to a state of hyperarousal — the fight-or-flight response. These feelings can be hard to shake off even after the provoking incident is over and the threat — real or perceived — is gone.

In medical school, our instructors referred to this state as “running from the tiger,” since during ancient times humans protected themselves from predators by literally fighting or fleeing. Today, we still need this rapid stress response for emergency situations, and on a day-to-day basis mild stress reactions help us get things done. But for the most part, repeatedly enduring fight-or-flight responses when survival is not an issue does more harm than good.

When the fight-or-flight state occurs too often, or too intensely, the brain and body have trouble regulating themselves back to a calm state, leading to a state of chronic stress. Chronic stress is also produced when there is a “mismatch” between fight-or-flight reactions and energy expenditure, as occurs with screen time. Indeed, the build-up of energy is meant to be physically discharged to allow the nervous system to re-regulate. However, research suggests screen time induces stress reactions even in children who exercise regularly.

Once chronic stress sets in, blood flow is directed away from the higher thinking part of the brain (the frontal lobe) and toward the more primitive, deeper areas necessary for survival, causing impairment in functioning. With children, whose nervous systems are still developing, this sequence of events occurs much faster than it does for adults, and the chronically stressed child soon starts to struggle.

It’s easy to imagine how an exciting video game can cause hyperarousal. But in fact, numerous mechanisms act synergistically to raise arousal levels with all types of interactive screen time. And contrary to popular belief, many of them occur irrespective of content.

Because chronic stress effectively “short circuits” the frontal lobe, a hyperaroused and mentally depleted child will have trouble paying attention, managing emotions, suppressing impulses, following directions, tolerating frustration, accessing creativity and compassion, and executing tasks.

All of these effects are compounded by screen time disrupting the body clock and hindering deep sleep. In fact, the effects on sleep alone can explain many of the mood, cognitive, and behavior issues associated with screens, and also explain how screen effects can build over time, making them easy to miss.

When people say my strict screen time recommendations—which are based not just on clinical experience and research but also on how the brain works—are “not realistic,” and that children “must learn to manage technology,” my response is this: It’s not realistic to expect the brain to adapt to intense and artificial stimulation it was never meant to handle.

It’s also not realistic to expect a child with a still-developing frontal lobe to control their screen time, whether that means managing how long they play a game, how they use or misuse social media, or how they behave afterward.

Parents need to learn the science behind how screen time overstimulates the nervous system, how this manifests as an array of symptoms and dysfunction, and what that looks like in their own child.

Learning this information can literally change the course of a child’s life; it helps parents to make informed and mindful screen management decisions and steadies them from being swayed by cultural trends and misleading headlines. It puts parents in the driver’s seat. While the world may have changed, how the brain responds to stress and what it needs to thrive has not.

By: Victoria L. Dunckley M.D.

Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D. is an integrative child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, the author of Reset Your Child’s Brain, and an expert on the effects of screen-time on the developing nervous system.  

Source: This Is Your Child’s Brain on Video Games | Psychology Today

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Coping with Grief During a Pandemic

Since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have experienced loss, sadness, anxiety, and grief. You will often hear how losing a loved one changes you for the rest of your life.

You learn to move forward in life carrying with you the cherished memories of this person and the love they brought into this world, into their relationship with you. For many, this is one of the hardest things they will ever experience in their life. It’s never easy, whether you have experienced a sudden loss of a loved one or losing a loved one due to an illness or cancer, that may have included stays in a hospital or hospice setting.

Pre-pandemic, one vital aspect of this process that helped us grieve was being surrounded by our loved ones and friends. Being present with your loved ones as they were in the hospital, being present with loved ones at a viewing or mass, being present with your family and friends at a luncheon after the funeral, just being physically present with others helped us to cope.

Currently, we are almost a year into the isolating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and unfortunately, like everyone, I have felt loss. Like others worldwide, I missed casual visits with friends and family, holiday gatherings, having my children’s education interrupted, struggling to adapt to zoom and other online video tools, fear of contracting COVID-19, etc.

The list can go on! My family also experienced two personal losses within a very short time frame. Both were my uncles; both were my mother’s brothers. One uncle contracted COVID-19 and passed away in under a month, and my other uncle lost his lengthy battle with cancer.

How the Pandemic Impacts the Grieving Process

In any time period, losing a loved one is a very difficult experience. You will hear individuals experience stages of grief and loss, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Maneuvering through these stages is often supported in part by aspects that we are missing because of the pandemic. One of the elements that are different is not being able to hug someone, to give or receive a simple embrace!

People often say that you might not remember what people say, but you will remember how they made you feel. An embrace of love, support, and I am here for you without saying a word is missing these days. Further, visitation limitations in hospitals and nursing homes due to the pandemic have strongly impacted the grieving process.

This deepens the void felt in the time with a loved one who is sick leading up to their passing. This may cause us to feel like we missed out on being there, caring for, and helping our sick loved ones feel like they are not alone. Also, some people are nervous about attending the viewing and funerals. Constraints on large gatherings impact how many people can attend, and even those who attend are spaced far apart.

The purposeful distancing helps to keep it safe in the pandemic but takes away some of the comfort in gathering together to mourn. Some wanted to attend but also wanted to make sure they were safe. In regards to my uncle, one family friend explained, “I really wanted to go, have closure, pay my respects and love to him and all of his loved ones,” but due to COVID-19 and his physical health concerns, was not able to attend.

Recommendations to Help with Loss During a Pandemic

This pandemic has had a huge impact on how we cope with grief, and it may lead us to use some new methods to help us through the tough times. If you or someone you know is dealing with a loss, the recommendations below may help to ease the pain and additional loneliness felt when losing a loved one.

Therapy. Seeing a therapist can help you process your grief and sadness.

Group Therapy (Bereavement groups). Attending a bereavement group can help you connect with others who have lost loved ones. It also may help with feeling like you are not alone and learn coping strategies from others that may better support this extremely difficult time for you.

NAMI or other support groups. Joining a group like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or other support groups such as those offered on social media platforms. This will help you broaden your scope of supportive networks. These groups and support networks are often at zero cost and can be extremely beneficial.

Support and Time. There is no specific way to mourn a loved one. For some, it may take a long time to pass through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). For those supporting someone who lost a loved one, just being present with them (virtually or physically distanced) and encouraging them to talk about their loved one is extremely beneficial.

They may not remember what you said, but surely will remember how you made them feel. This is especially true with grief – just knowing that you are there, listening, and offering comfort means so much!

Talk. Continue to talk about your thoughts and feelings related to the frustrations, anxiety, sadness, and grief due to the loss of the loved one. Shutting down, avoiding, and isolating can be an instinctual response with grief and understandable due to the significant loss.

Talk about the good times you had with the person, talk about the anger you have related to your situation, talk about the sadness that you have about the loss. The most important thing is to express yourself.

Pictures of your loved one. Looking through pictures of my uncles really helped me and my family. Remembering good times, funny moments, and speaking about their character, values, and personality was extremely beneficial to my family.

Memorialize the loved one. There are various ways you can memorialize your loved one. Some ideas are dedicating and planting a tree, flower, or garden for your loved one, contributing to a local charity, creating an online memorial, or creating a picture box.

Engage in Self-Care. Take care of yourself. Yoga, meditation, walks, music, exercise, gym, and eating right are a few things that can help you during a time of grieving.

Be kind to yourself. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest situations a person can experience. Self-compassion throughout this experience is one aspect that may help you process your grief. This is also easier said than done.

A beautiful quote by Rick Hanson from his book Just One Thing is “you can have compassion for yourself- which is not self-pity. You’re simply recognizing that ‘this is tough, this hurts,’ and bringing the same warmhearted wish for suffering to lessen or end that you would bring to any dear friend grappling with the same pain, upset, or challenges as you.”

By: Patrick McElwaine Psy.D.

Patrick McElwaine is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and also Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). He is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at Holy Family University and a faculty member at the Beck Institute.

Source: Coping with Grief During a Pandemic | Psychology Today

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