Therapy advice to put in your pocket and take with you.

Posts tagged ‘anxiety’

What Are We Doing To Our Teenagers?

We are stressing them out. And they’re going to burnout or breakdown before they even finish the journey!

My son is an excellent student. He is a unique 10th grader. He is conscientious, he has excellent time-management skills, he has good social skills, he does chores without being asked… He’s too good to be true! But this comes at a price. In addition to all of these wonderful things, he spends hours redoing school assignments to get a higher grade and stresses over what major he should choose two years from now so he can choose the right college in enough time to apply and get a great scholarship. He worries he’s not good enough or smart enough or won’t be successful enough. When I asked him what he wanted for Christmas he said nothing, just college money. Woah! Slow down mister! You have your entire life to worry about the big stuff. How about just being a kid? And yet, he’s not alone. His friends are the same way. It’s a blessing and a curse to be a smart kid, and I’m wondering if ignorance really is bliss. There are many high achieving students who are stressing themselves out. And we as a society are encouraging it.Stress

I once knew a high school student whose parent worked at a very prestigious university which would allow the student to attend for free. Even so, the student pushed herself to take multiple advanced classes and get high honors as well as volunteer hours so she could get a scholarship. Why? She didn’t need a scholarship. She said she wanted to prove to herself she could. My son’s middle school science teacher told the class what he teaches now in 7th grade is what he learned freshman year of college. 4th graders are learning geometry. Kindergartners who didn’t learn to read in preschool are behind.

Why are we doing this? Why are we pushing and pushing and insisting they know more and more? I know what you are going to say. Because we need to compete with other countries, yada yada. But at what cost? Playing a sport and pushing to win, practice and games every night of the week, a different sport every season. High academics and volunteer hours and student leadership. Plus, they have to score at certain levels so the school gets accreditation and funding. It’s building and building and building and they’re not sleeping or eating right. Pushing harder in sports but not given the right education about nutrition and what a body needs to maintain that level of intensity. Or weight training without safety training. Or pushing themselves without teaching life balance…

How do you feel every day? How stressful is your job? Are you stressed? Are you tired? I’m sure you are. We all are. As a society, the pressures we are dealing with are more intense than ever. So what do you do to unwind? To relax? Do you watch TV, read for leisure, exercise, hang with friends, drink, eat, nap? Have you learned in your life that your body needs rest and a break from the pressure? Most of us have learned that and most of us know our limits and say I’m done, I’m just gonna sit here and veg for a while. But as we are teaching our children about competition and responsibility and what it takes to succeed, are we also teaching them how to set healthy boundaries, life/ work balance and self-care? I’m afraid we are not. I’m afraid we are pushing our kids to do more and be more than they can handle.

I am not suggesting complacency or lethargy or apathy. But come on, how about some balance? There is no way any of us would tolerate the schedules and work and pressure these kids handle every day. We’d balk. But they can’t. Because we have trained them to believe they have to do this to succeed. But do they? Do they really? Is it worth it in the long run? I’m not so sure. We told our son we’d rather he be a C-student and happy than an A-student and miserable. He said, really? We said yes. When these teens are shutting down, quitting, getting injured, getting sick, pushing back, getting anxious or depressed or suicidal…at some point we have to realize that they are KIDS, and being a kid just isn’t fun anymore. I think it’s time we as parents and educators and community members encourage downtime and balance. The whole idea of putting more recess back into the school day is fundamental to helping students realize they can’t keep pushing themselves without allowing themselves some breaks. We as adults know this because we as a society have more stress and high blood pressure than ever before and wait until a crisis before addressing the problem. I’d like to see us as a community be more proactive about teaching overall physical and mental health. It’s a sad day when I have to tell my teenager to stop doing homework, that’s enough. But if I have to push him to get a B instead of an A to save his mental health, I’m not afraid to do it. Perfection is an illusion.report card

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What if???

What if I lose my job?
What if everyone laughs at me?
What if someone I love dies?
What if I trust and my heart gets broken?
What if what if what if?

Sometimes it feels like a giant question mark is hanging over our heads, weighing us down, overwhelming us with the fear of the unknown. Feelings associated with anxiety and depression are exaggerated by a sense of powerlessness or not being in control. But WHAT IF you answered the what-if question? What if you do lose your job? What will you do? Seriously, think about it. Make a plan. Take control of it. More often than not what we fear will happen is far worse than what actually happens (Albert Ellis). We anticipate things and tell ourselves we could never handle it, it’s too much, we just couldn’t deal. And yet, truth be told, when it actually happens, we survive it. It might suck, or be painful, no fun, but we will get through it.

Remember seeing tv shows or movies with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, both telling us opposite things? Our brain does that too, with rational and irrational thoughts. Usually the negative voice is the one telling us we can’t handle it and it’s going to be horrible! (That’s called catastrophizing.) That little devil is loud and naggy and relentless, not happy until we are miserable. But if you can be your own counselor in your head you can quiet that irrational voice. Talk back to it, go ahead. Answer the what-if. What WILL I do? Make a plan, write it down, stick it in a drawer and pull it out when you need it. That way YOU are in control.
Albert Ellis also said anxiety comes from underestimating your ability to handle things. Don’t fear adversity! You are a survivor. You have been through hard stuff before. Not to say you would like to do it again. But if you have to, you will. And you will survive.
You have go through it to get beyond it.

Cutting the tags from all the clothes

He doesn’t like tags in his clothes, or long sleeve shirts. He doesn’t like itchy sweaters or jeans that are tight, and gets upset if the seams in his socks aren’t just so.

She is a very picky eater. The doctor says leave the food in front of her and she will eat eventually, but she doesn’t.  She doesn’t like most fruits or vegetables, slimy foods or grainy foods, or stringy meats.  Actually most of what she eats is yellow or white or tan like chicken nuggets, french fries, cheese pizza, pizza rolls. She will practicaly eat the same thing every day, and then act like she doesn’t like it any more at all.

Noises seem to stress him out. He is hyper in noisy restaurants, he complains if the radio is too loud in the car, and he sometimes seems to have super sonic hearing, listening to something at the other end of the house.

These are just a few examples of Sensory Processing Disorder, which has also been called Sensory Integration Disorder.  All of the information we receive from our envirnonment comes into our brain from our senses.  We see it, hear it, taste it, smell it, feel it.  If you knock hard on a wooden table a message is sent from your knuckles to your brain that says ow, that hurts and your brain sends a message back to stop doing that.  But if someone has a problem with sensory processing, how that information gets to the brain is misinterpreted. So grass on bare feet might feel painful or food in the mouth might feel like it is hitting giant oversensitive  taste buds. It is a neurological mixup that is often misdiagnosed and can cause high anxiety in kids and power struggles in families.

Diagnosis can be done through an occupational therapist’s evaluation, either through a school district, a doctor referral or private agency.  Treatment is done by an occupatuional therapist who works a “sensory diet” with a child daily and can teach the parents to do so also.  This “diet” depends on if the kiddo is oversensitive or undersensitive to physical stimuli.  For example if they dislike their skin being touched, a soft brush repetitively on the arms may help “center” the nerves.  If they are undersensitive and sensory-seeking, they might need deep pressure massage. This diet is created based on the needs of the individual and may address the mouth, the ears, the eyes, movement, or whatever sensory input is relevant to the child.

I include this topic in the blog because it is more common than it is known. Kids who seem to have behavior or anxiety issues may well be helped with this intervention instead.  While symptoms can lessen over time as the child grows up gets more educated about it, they may still recognize sensory issues in themselves even as adults.

Resources abound.  An excellent place to start is a book called The Out of Sync Child by Carole Kranowitz. But you can also google this topic and find a ton of information. If you think someone you know may have sensory issues, talk to your doctor, a school counselor, or an occupational therapist.  Intervention is not invasive and can make a world of difference.

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