4 Tips to Reduce Tension in Your Life

4 Tips to Reduce Tension in Your Life

written by Kelsey Schultz, Ph.D. Candidate and Tchiki Davis, M.A., Ph.D., posted on Psychology Today

Tension is typically experienced in our bodies as tightness or stiffness in our muscles. This kind of tension can be quite painful and can sometimes severely restrict your ability to move. Tense muscles may be tender to the touch and feel like a chronic cramp or spasm.

Tension is a characteristic present in a variety of physical and emotional experiences. Here are a few examples of where we might observe tension:

  • Tension and resolution in music, film, and literature
  • Balance of opposing forces created in visual art
  • Interpersonal conflict or hostility
  • Experience of conflicting desires within ourselves
  • Tension Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Anticipating an emotionally impactful event

The Role of Stress

Our fears and anxieties don’t just occur in our minds, they are expressed throughout our bodies as well. When we are stressed, the branch of our nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system is activated. Activation of the sympathetic nervous system is the physiological component of our fight or flight response. That is, our sympathetic nervous system is responsible for preparing our bodies for action when we feel as though we are in danger.

​Part of this preparation is the release of a neurotransmitter, called acetylcholine, which is responsible for making our muscles contract. Thus, when we are stressed out, our bodies interpret that stress as danger and activate our sympathetic nervous system, which promotes the release of acetylcholine, and ultimately leads to the contraction of muscles, even when we don’t want it to.

Social Anxiety Disorder

You’re Not Shy or Stuck Up. You Have Social Anxiety Disorder.

written by Eileen Bailey, posted on ADDitude Magazine

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Some people believe social anxiety disorder (SAD) is synonymous with shyness. Others, including some physicians, don’t believe it exists at all. But for those living with SAD, it’s very real.

If you have SAD, you constantly worry about being negatively judged by others. You might find it difficult to eat or talk in public, or to use public bathrooms. You might find it impossible to attend social events. As with other anxiety disorders, you might know your fear is irrational but feel powerless to stop it.

How Common is Social Anxiety?

Studies show that 2 to 13 percent of the U.S. population experiences social anxiety, at some point in their lives, to the degree that it would be considered SAD. It is the most common type of anxiety disorder in teenagers. It is more common in women and often starts in childhood or early adolescence. Some evidence suggests that, like other anxiety disorders, it occurs more frequently in children and adults with ADHD.

Is Social Anxiety a Personality Trait?

SAD and shyness are not the same. Shyness is considered a personality trait. People who are shy experience nervousness or anxiety when faced with a social or interpersonal situation but accept that being shy is part of who they are. Those with social anxiety might be shy or might be extroverts, but they view SAD as a negative and often are hard on themselves for feeling the way they do.

How Undiagnosed ADHD Triggers Depression and Anxiety

How Undiagnosed ADHD Triggers Depression and Anxiety

written by Nelson M. Handal, M.D., DFAPA, posted on Attitude Magazine

Depression and anxiety disorders occur with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at significant rates. While figures vary across studies, it’s estimated that 18% of adults with ADHD also have major depressive disorder, and about half of adults with ADHD have anxiety.1 What explains these high comorbidity rates?

Many factors may explain the overlap, and one of them I can’t stress enough: ADHD does not happen in a vacuum, and its effects are far more impairing when the condition goes undiagnosed, untreated, or improperly treated.

Untreated ADHD Causes Feelings of Inadequacy

Undiagnosed and/or untreated ADHD makes children, teens, and adults who are otherwise bright and competent feel severely inadequate. It’s not difficult to see how; untreated symptoms of ADHD, from impulsivity and emotional instability to poor planning and execution skills compromise one’s ability to find success in school, work, relationships, and other parts of life. Ongoing challenges and failures, especially when the root cause is neither identified nor treated, makes these individuals feel like failures — like they aren’t trying hard enough. Self-esteem, as a result, plummets.

Other emotions — like anger, resentment, and feelings of worthlessness — often come up as a result of experiencing challenges related to undiagnosed and/or untreated ADHD. Emotional sensitivity and reactivity are not uncommon, especially strong emotional responses to failure. These emotions cause depression and anxiety to develop. Irritability and feelings of worthlessness, after all, are symptoms of depression.

Answering Your Child’s Questions

Answering Your Child’s Questions

written by Dr. Liz Nissim-Matheis, posted on Psychology Today

Children and teenagers are curious creatures. They also hear and see things that they don’t always understand. They pick up on the emotions around them and can feel overwhelmed or confused. The natural next step is for a child or teen to approach his or her parent.

As parents, sometimes we feel the need to tell our child or teen everything we know on a particular topic as a way of giving background. However, what we may not realize is that when our children ask us a question, they often are seeking a simple answer, and that’s it.

Depending on your child’s age and disability, as parents, we make tough decisions about sharing information about current events such as natural disasters or school shootings. Sadly, that is the world we live in, and with social media and access to the internet, our children are more informed today than we ever were when we were their age. In that sense, our world is a scarier place for our children today. Pre-internet, our generation found out about current events through our teachers, parents, or other family members.

What Should I Tell My Child When There Is a Natural Disaster or School Shooting?

When your child approaches you, first, get a sense of why he is interested in the topic now. For example, if they ask you, “Mommy, what happened in XXX (insert topic of interest here)?” Start with “What did you hear about that? Where did you hear about it?” First, try to gain an understanding of where this information came from, and then ask your child to tell you what he knows about it.

Anxiety in Children and Teens: A Parent’s Guide

Anxiety in Children and Teens: A Parent’s Guide

posted on Help Guide

Understanding anxiety in children and teens

As parents, we always desire the best for our children. We want them to be healthy, happy, and resilient when faced with life’s challenges. This is often easier said than done with the daily demands and parenting responsibilities. Anxiety is a common issue in children, adolescents, and teens, often experienced at different phases of development. Anxiety disorders can be first diagnosed in children between the ages of four and eight, while a recent survey found that about 32% of adolescents in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder, a number that has substantially increased over the years. The study also revealed that one in four to five adolescents has a severe disability related to their anxiety disorder.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened anxiety in children and teens, with the disruptions in their normal routines in school, family life, and relationships with peers. It’s not always easy to recognize the difference between normal worries and anxiety disorders in children and teens, particularly in these stressful times. For example, young people often worry about their schoolwork or taking exams, but this is usually temporary once the immediate stressor has passed. However, if worrying becomes constant and interferes with a child’s daily functioning, it can negatively affect their overall quality of life.

While coping with your child’s anxiety can be a difficult situation for you as a parent, the good news is that anxiety is a highly treatable condition. There is also a great deal you can do to help your child. Rather than assume that your child will outgrow their anxiety, it’s better to start taking steps as soon as possible to help your child deal with their symptoms and regain control of how they view the world around them.

McLean’s Guide to Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays

McLean’s Guide to Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays

posted on McLean Hospital Website

Elvis once crooned about feeling blue at Christmas time—and we’re here to tell you: It’s perfectly normal to feel that way.

There are a variety of reasons why your days may not be merry and bright around the holiday season. It can be the jam-packed social calendar, deadlines at work, the loss of a loved one, sunless winter days, or all of the above.

According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. The reasons given include lack of time, financial pressure, gift-giving, and family gatherings.

To make matters worse, the National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that 64% of individuals living with a mental illness felt that their conditions worsened around the holidays.

However, there are ways in which we can prepare ourselves and hopefully deflect some of the increased stress of the holidays. It’s important to realize that we do have more control than we think we do.

However, it’s equally important to realize that even if we put these ideas into practice and continue to feel overwhelmed or depressed, professional help is available.

6 Signs You May Be Struggling Around the Holidays

We’ve identified six common issues that come up this time of year, as well as suggestions from our mental health experts for ways to address them.

1. You’re Lacking the “Holiday Spirit”

Being surrounded by cheeriness can be stigmatizing when you don’t feel the same level of enthusiasm as others.

The pressure to be social, happy, and present can make it difficult to speak up if you feel otherwise. You may also feel left out if your spiritual traditions aren’t the dominant ones on display this time of year.

Holidays with Special Needs Children

Holidays with Special Needs Children

posted on Lori Lite’s Stress Free Kids 

Tips to enjoy the Holidays With Special Needs Children

Set Up a Safe Brain Break Space

Your child can enjoy downtime when they feel over-stimulated at your house or your relatives. Set up a brain break space and be sure that the other children and guests know that this space is off-limits. Empower your special needs child to recognize when they need to go to their brain break space. Practice, practice, practice ahead of time to know when the mood is escalating. Did I say practice? Empower children by packing a relaxation bag they can go to if they are feeling anxious. Bring earphones and their special relaxation music or stories. Playdough, stress ball, music, video game, even a camera can help children relax and give them a focus if they have social anxiety.

The Indigo Dreams Series gives you stories that incorporate actual relaxation techniques. The other kids may be jealous give them their own space to de-stress. You may start a new trend!

Get Ready

Social stories, books, and movies can be a big help in preparing your child emotionally for holidays. Comfortable clothing and small dose exposures to holiday sounds can help physically. Think ahead with an eye for anxiety causing issues. If wrapping paper too loud? Use easy open bags or just decorate with a bow. Are the electronic bears with bells at Grandma’s house going to cause sensory overload? Ask her to unplug them before you get there. Let friends and family know about triggers ahead of time. If your child doesn’t like to be hugged suggest a handshake or just a wave. Your friends, family, and special needs children will be glad you did.

Prepare Your Children For Gatherings

Eliminate unnecessary anxiety associated with getting together with family members you rarely see by looking through photos of relatives prior to your event. Play memory games matching names to faces. This will help your children feel more comfortable with people they may not have seen in a while. Aunt Mary won’t seem quite so scary when she bends down to greet your child.

Use Relaxation Techniques

Incorporate deep breathing or other coping strategies into your day. Let your children see you use techniques when you are feeling stressed. Encourage them to use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Breathing, visualizing,and positive thinking are powerful tools.

Incorporate Positive Statements Into Your Dinner

This is empowering and reflective. Each person at the table can state an attribute of their own that they are thankful for. For example, “I am thankful that I am creative.” Feeling stressed? Try, “I am thankful that I am calm.” Your special needs child can prepare ahead with a drawing or sign language if they want to participate without speaking.


Is My Child or Teen Anxious?

Is My Child or Teen Anxious?

written by Dr. Liz Matheis, posted on Psychology Today

Does my child have a gastrointestinal issue? Is he an insomniac? Why is she struggling to get to school each day?

It’s not always easy to understand or identify when your child is struggling with anxiety. Sometimes it looks like a crabby kid, a kid who is melting down because he didn’t get “his way,” or a teen who is being disrespectful.

Sometimes, it’s even easy to mistake anxiety for a learning disability or an attention deficit disorder. For example, your child may think that he’s not good at math. Each day when it’s time for the math lesson, your child may complain of a stomachache in anticipation. He may ask to go to the school nurse. He is then missing the lesson and will struggle to complete the worksheet that is now being sent home for homework. Sometimes anxiety can look like your child is struggling with that particular subject but it is the thought that he can’t do math that leads to losing out on instruction rather than a true learning disability.

Being preoccupied with thoughts can also look like a focus issue because anxiety draws our kid’s attention inward. That is, your child or teen may be internally distracted because she is worrying about her safety or your safety. He may be nervous about being called on in class and not having the right answer or not being able to produce an answer quickly enough. Your child may also be worrying about another child who excludes him or makes fun of his hair or sneakers.

Anxiety and Friendships: New School Year, Fresh Start

Anxiety and Friendships: New School Year, Fresh Start

written by Dr. Liz Matheis, posted on Psychology Today

The start of the school year can breed anxiety for parents of anxious children, teens, and young adults. Although your child may want and seek and desire friendships, this may be an area that needs some coaching with the fresh start of a new school year.

So, what are you, as the parent of an anxious child, teen, or young adult, to do in an effort to help your child learn how to connect with other same-aged peers, build the skills to manage situations that don’t go their way, and maintain friendships over time? This is a difficult task because you hurt for your child when you see conflicts, when you hear words like, “She’s being mean to me,” when you notice that your and your child’s invitations for playdates are not being answered or reciprocated, or when you find that your teen or young adult is not being included in social plans.

Keep Your Ears Open

For young children (elementary-aged), I encourage parents to invite a friend over to play and to keep a listening ear from the next room. That is, take note of how your child interacts with his peers. For example, is your child bossy? Or, is your child quickly backing down to what the other child wants to do but then voicing to you later that the playdate was not fun because they did not get to play the games they wanted?

Listen to how your child manages negotiations and compromises, if at all. Are you hearing, “If you don’t play this game with me, then you’re not my friend”? Take note of which games your child enjoys and if the other child is joining them.

All of this information gives you insight into how your child is interacting with other children when you are not within earshot. You are also gaining valuable information about your child’s preferences, conflict resolution skills, and social personality. And try to maintain a schedule of one playdate per week, as friendships are built outside of school. Although this is difficult for working parents, make it a point to organize one social plan for each of your children per week.

For older children (middle school and older), the car is a great place to get a vibe check on what’s happening in your pre-teen and teen’s social world. Volunteer to drive your child and friends around and let the conversations go. The quieter you are in the driver’s seat, the more they forget you’re there and speak openly and candidly.

Five Ways to Beat Back-to-School Jitters

Five Ways to Beat Back-to-School Jitters

written by Katie Hurley, LCSW, posted on PBS

It’s that time of year again: Summer is winding down and families are preparing for the new school year. Whether your child is headed to kindergarten for the first time or returning for another year of preschool, the transition from summer to school is packed with emotions.

It’s perfectly natural for even the most enthusiastic young learner to feel nervous and uncertain. A new school year comes with a new classroom, a new teacher and new classmates. The classroom rules and routines are likely to change, as are the behavioral and academic expectations. It’s a lot to manage when you’re young.

Many children struggle to find the words to describe how they’re feeling when under stress, so it’s important to watch for behavioral changes. You know your child’s baseline. If your child normally falls asleep easily and sleeps through the night, but begins to struggle with bedtime or has nightmares or night wakings as the school year approaches, this is a good indicator that your child is experiencing anxiety. Other signs of stress can include the following:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Mood changes
  • Clingy behavior
  • Increased frustration
  • Frequent meltdowns
  • Decreased social interactions
  • Refusal to engage in normal daily activities

While many children will enter the first day of school without a worry, it does help to spend time focusing on the emotional needs of your child as the transition approaches. Take these steps to help your child prepare for a new school year.

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