The Mood & Mind Centre
|Posted on 6 May, 2020 at 21:25|
Written by Jessica Parker (May 2020) Covid19 or Corona Virus have become common words that can be heard in all households over the last few months. Our worlds have been turned upside down by this global pandemic. And this can be particularly scary for children! It’s important to know that children experience complex feelings just like adults, however, young children usually don’t have the vocabulary to talk about how they are feeling. Imagine for a moment how worried or anxious you may have been feeling lately, now try and describe it without using any feeling words like scared, anxious or worried. Yup, this may be how your child is feeling, all mixed up and overwhelmed and this often leads to behaviour that we see as ‘playing up’ or ‘acting out’.
Here are 5 ways that you can help your child deal with these big emotions:
1. Bibliotherapy: Bibliotherapy which is also sometimes called “book therapy" is a fancy way of saying that we use storytelling or the reading of specific texts with the purpose of healing. This is such a wonderful tool as it gives children the opportunity to step back from her/his problem which allows them a safe avenue to investigate their feelings. There are so many wonderful books available for children and of course heaps of free books available online, all you need to do is google free stories for kids about x (feelings, anger, sadness or whatever you would like to focus on). Or my personal favourite is to look up ‘kids stories read aloud’ on youtube. You could even help your child come up with their own story, which can be a lot of fun drawing and putting together.
2. Get Active: Research shows that keeping physically active is critical to boosting mood. Boredom and pent up physical energy can quickly turn to frustration and meltdowns. Avoid this by making sure that regular physical activity is a part of your family's routine. 'Activity' can include anything from games of Simon Says to kids yoga. Again, YouTube has some fun follow along videos and websites such as Go Noodle which have plenty of exercises and activities to keep your little ones busy for ages.
3. Breathing: Breathing is one of the most useful tools we can teach our child. Teaching children to breathe provides them with a simple but effective strategy for slowing down, both mentally and physically, helping them to take notice of how they’re feeling and to relax or calm down in the face of overwhelming emotions. Deep breaths send oxygen to the brain, soothing the amygdala, a small area in the middle that acts as the brain’s alarm system. There are so many fun ways to teach relaxed breathing. Here is one called Elephant Breathing: Stand with your feet wide apart and your arms dangling in front of your body like an elephant’s trunk. As you breathe in deeply through your nose, raise your arms up high above your head. Then slowly swing your arms down again as you breathe out through your mouth.
4. Routine: Routine gives children a sense of security and helps them to feel like they have some control over their world. Maintaining this routine doesn't need to be super strict and should allow for flexibility, aim to keep things like bedtimes and bath times similar each day.
5. Play: Not only is play an important part of development, but it is also a natural stress reliever for children. You can help facilitate your child’s play by arranging safe places for play, providing some playthings that allow for creativity and imagination such as building blocks or play dough and join in when invited, following the child’s lead and resisting the urge to direct, criticise or turn play into a lesson. It is important to remember that while your child may be allowed some ‘screen time’ to play video games, this does not replace the active, creative and imaginative ‘playtime’.
|Posted on 14 March, 2020 at 22:45|
Written by Dirk Vermooten (March 2020) In October 2006, after a long shift at the fire department, 20-year-old Matt Swatzell fell asleep while driving and crashed into June Fitzgerald, who was pregnant and had her 19-month old daughter, Faith with her in the car. Faith survived the crash, but June and her unborn child did not. It is hard to imagine how devastating this must have been for her husband. Still, we could probably put ourselves in his shoes and find it in your heart to forgive Matt – it was an accident after all. And, that is exactly how it played out. June’s husband did indeed forgive the person who killed his wife and child and continues to have contact with him many years later.
But, what if it if the wrong-doing was not an accident? According to the book:”Why Forgive?”, Steven McDonald was a young police officer in 1986 when he was shot by a teenager in New York’s Central Park, an incident that left him paralysed. “I forgave him because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart,” McDonald wrote.
If these people can forgive in the most horrific of circumstances, surely, we too can forgive those that have wronged us. But, let’s face it, it is not an easy process, and, in most cases, we have to forgive many times before it truly sets us free. You see, forgiveness (or unforgiveness if we choose it), has everything to do with the forgiver, and very little with the person that is being forgiven (or not).
In fact, according to Harvard Medical School, forgiveness can have powerful health benefits. Research shows that forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility; reduced substance abuse; higher self-esteem; and greater life satisfaction – all this to the benefit of the forgiver. In stark contrast, unforgiveness leads to high blood pressure, digestive problems, poor quality sleep, increased stress, chronic back pain, anxiety and depression.
So, forgiving is good for us. Yet, most of us find it to be quite a difficult process and we need lots of practice to get it right. According to Dr. Tyler VanderWeele, co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, one of the best ways is to practice forgiveness is with the REACH method. REACH stands for Recall, Emphasize, Altruistic gift, Commit, and Hold.
Recall - The first step is to recall the wrongdoing in an objective way. The goal is not to think of the person in a negative light nor to wallow in self-pity, but to come to a clear understanding of the wrong that was done. Visualize the person and situation and all the feelings that come with it. Don't push aside anything, especially if it makes you feel angry or upset.
Empathise - Next, try to understand the other person's point of view regarding why he or she hurt you, but without minimizing or downplaying the wrong that was done. Sometimes the wrongdoing was not personal, but due to something the other person was dealing with.
Altruistic gift - This step is about addressing your own shortcomings. Recall a time when you treated someone harshly and were forgiven. How did it make you feel? Recognizing this helps you realize that forgiveness is an altruistic gift that you can give to others.
Commit - Commit yourself to forgive. For instance, write about your forgiveness in a journal or a letter that you don't send or tell a friend.
Hold - Finally, hold on to your forgiveness. This step is tough because memories of the event will often recur. "Forgiveness is not erasure," says Dr. VanderWeele. "Rather, it's about changing your reaction to those memories." When the bad feelings arise, remind yourself that you have forgiven and that ultimately you are the one that suffers in body and spirit if unforgiveness creeps back.
It is like Lewis B. Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
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|Posted on 10 December, 2019 at 20:35|
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a human emotion that occurs when you’re confronted with a possible threat, danger or negative event, particularly something over which you have little control. Our Amygdala (aka the danger detection system in our brain) scans the environment for possible threats and will trigger the Fight-Flight-Freeze Response if it detects danger. In ancient times, threats/danger were when lions were chasing us but these days threats are a lot different and it can include things like being rejected; bullied; excluded; personally attacked or your integrity could be questioned, to name just a few. Unfortunately the Amygdala cannot distinguish between lions chasing us and modern day threats and will cause the same physiological response in your body. When you feel anxious, your body becomes aroused.
You may experience muscle tension, increased heart rate, and other physical changes. Your attention also becomes more focussed on the possible source of the threat as well as on your own functioning) for example, on your feelings of arousal. This process is designed to help you prevent or avoid possible danger in the future and is called hypervigilance.
Hypervigilance makes it hard to concentrate and you might start to worry, which involves making plans to disarm the perceived threat. Finally, anxiety is often associated with avoidance. You may try to avoid situations that you perceive as threatening or your own experiences, like physical sensations or anxiety-provoking thoughts.
Anxiety vs Fear
Anxiety is focussed on some future threat and fear is an intense emotional reaction to an immediate threat or danger (like snakes)
The benefit of Anxiety
Anxiety and fear serve a useful function! Yes they are unpleasant, but you wouldn’t want to be entirely rid of them. You need them to survive! Just as you might adjust the sensitivity of the smoke detector so that it stops blaring when you are cooking, your goal here is to adjust your anxiety and fear so that they turn on only when they’re appropriate to the situation. In some way people with an Anxiety disorder has an overly sensitive smoke detector which can be adjusted through therapy.
Types of Anxiety
Generalized Anxiety: An excessive amount of anxiety or worry in several areas of life, such as job responsibilities, health, finances, or minor concerns (e.g. completing housework).
Specific Phobias: A very intense fear of a specific situation or object, which is out of proportion to its actual threat. For example, a fear of giving speeches, or of spiders, could be considered a phobia.
Panic Disorder: An extreme anxious response where a person experiences a panic attack. During a panic attack, the individual experiences numerous physical symptoms, and is overwhelmed by a feeling of dread.
Agoraphobia: Fear or avoidance of multiple situations due to thoughts that escape might be difficult or help might not be available in the event of developing panic-like symptoms.
Social Anxiety/Social Phobia: Avoidance specifically of social situations in which the person will be exposed to the scrutiny of others.
Separation Anxiety Disorder: Avoidance of situations that involve being away from major attachment figures, including refusing to go out of one’s house because of a fear of separation from your attachment figure.
Treatment of Anxiety
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a very effective treatment for anxiety. During CBT, the unhealthy thinking patterns that create anxiety are identified, and challenged by the psychologist. Oftentimes, CBT will also include components of exposure therapy and relaxation skills.
During exposure therapy, the therapist and their client create a plan to gradually face anxiety producing situations, thus breaking the cycle of avoidance. With enough exposure, the anxiety loses its power, and the symptoms diminish.
Various techniques—such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness—provide immediate relief from the symptoms of anxiety. With practice, relaxation skills will become a powerful way to manage anxiety in the moment.
Medication can help control the uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety. However, because medication does not fix the underlying problems of anxiety, it is typically used in conjunction with therapy. The need for medication varies greatly, case-by-case.
What do I do now?
Book an appointment with a psychologist and discuss your symptoms with them. Your psychologist will be able to tailor a treatment program specifically for you and your situation.
You don’t have to suffer from Anxiety for the rest of your life. It is possible to manage Anxiety effectively and live a fully functional life, so take the step and book an appointment with a Psychologist today.
Written by: Irene Vermooten Clinical Psychologist, The Mood & Mind Centre
|Posted on 31 July, 2019 at 23:25|
Coordikids uses easy-to-follow, and clinically acclaimed exercises to develop and organise the brain.
Why do some children and adults have disorganised brains?
THREE important developmental stages have to do with organising the brain:
First there is the Primitive Reflex maturity: A baby is born with reflexes to protect the child. Through the maturity of the nervous system and the brain, these reflexes become integrated. This can only happen through using the correct movements. Most children do these movements as part of normal development. However, the environment (walking rings, supportive seating for babies are to blame as well!) and some medical issues such as general illness with low energy levels, multiple ear infections or upper respiratory infections prevent the normal development and inhibit some movements.
Secondly we have Postural Reflexes: as the primitive reflexes integrate, the postural reflexes develop. Most of them are being used throughout our life. An example is to put your hands and arms out when you are falling.
Basic movement patterns are the third stage. Reflexes and basic movement patterns such as rolling over, rotation of the body, crawling, sitting, standing and walking develop while the baby and young child moves and plays. The above mentioned environmental and medical issues are to blame for some children not developing all of these movement patterns at the expected time. The result is a child that child looks a bit clumsy or awkward; it prevents optimal participation in movement activities and games. These children then often avoid some exercises and movement activities because they do not receive positive feedback from their bodies and from others. They feel they are struggling and prefer to revert to stationary games and activities such as watching TV.
Marga Grey (CoordiKids, 2017), a Paediatric Occupational Therapist explained that primitive reflexes, postural reflexes and movement patterns are controlled by the ‘lower brain’. The lower brain consists of the Brainstem, and the Midbrain. These structures organise our basic movements. The sensory pathways and structures in the brain are closely linked to the movement structures.
When primitive reflexes are retained and did not mature, when postural reflexes did not develop optimally and when basic movement patterns have been inhibited, the brain is not organised for optimal use.
These basic structures in the Brainstem and Midbrain have a major effect on the Cortex, or the thinking brain. Thus, people with learning and attention problems most often have disorganised brain stems and midbrains, according to Marga Grey (CoordiKids, 2017). Once the basic reflexes and movement patterns are developed through specific exercises and activities, the outcome is seen in organised movement and behavioural patterns.
CoordiKids calls these movements sensory motor skills. They form the foundation of an organised brain. A brain ready for learning and for paying attention to tasks.
Written by Colette Dekker, Counsellor (B.A. Hons Psych & Criminology, MA Forensic Mental Health)
|Posted on 11 July, 2019 at 6:05|
It is no secret that exercise is good for the body. But physical movement is great for the brain as well.
During movement (exercise), the brain gets flooded with important nutrients and neurotrophins. Physical movement helps the brain form neural pathways which increases cognition, improve memory and help us to acquire knowledge faster.
Efficient brains have high levels of interconnectivity – so how do we get that higher interconnectivity? It is actually easy! All we have to do is MOVE!
AND there is added benefits to getting your children to move, as the whole family can get involved and build positive family interaction and relationships.
Movement activities that the whole family can enjoy include:
- Fine motor movements - Doodling, colouring in and painting.
- I fill spray water bottles with different colour water based paint and cover one of my garden walls with old cardboard boxes or scrap paper and we have lots of fun spray painting. And they can do this from as young as 1 year old (might need to help them pull the trigger on the spray bottle though)
- Drawing on the pavement with black board chalk is fun …. And washing off is easy and fun as well.
- Gross motor movements - sitting on yoga balls – who can stay on the longest?, moving up and around chairs – playing musical chairs
- Body movements including kicking and throwing balls, balancing games, hopping – old school hop-scotch, rolling – forward, side ways
Happy moving and enjoying quality time with the whole family.
Written by Colette Dekker, Counsellor (B.A. Hons Psych & Criminology, MA Forensic Mental Health)