5 Ways to Cope with Anxiety as a Parent

5 Ways to Cope with Anxiety as a Parent

The hard work and unpredictability that makes parenting so rewarding can also cause a great deal of anxiety. Here are some simple ways to bring yourself to a place of calm.

 

Make a To-Do List
Ruminating on worries can cause lots of stress. Clear your mind by making a to-do list. Put down everything that needs to be done into your phone or onto a sheet of paper, and as you write them down, visualize yourself removing this task from your mind onto the list.

 

Watch Your Language
Many times parents believe things will get better when their children move on to the next phase of their maturity. However, the truth is that the worry will continue until you change your pattern of thought. To do this, watch the language you use to describe things. Don’t use phrases such as, “this will be a disaster if I don’t get it done on time” or “I’ll die of embarrassment if I forget.”

Also change thoughts of “I have to” to “I want to”. For example, instead of saying “I have to sign the kids up for karate” say, “I want to sign the kids up for karate because I know they’ll love it.”

 

Get Some Fresh Air
There’s nothing like some fresh air and sunlight to ease anxiety. Put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk around the block, to a neighbor’s house, or a local park. Take your kids to an outdoor mall or sit on the patio of a frozen yogurt shop and share a frozen treat. You can also try your local library. Some libraries also have outdoor patio areas where you can read with your kids.

 

Practice Mindfulness Exercises
If your anxiety is difficult to control, try deep-breathing from your belly. While you do this, concentrate on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This can help calm you when you’re feeling a panic or anxiety attack start to arise.

 

Use Your Support Network
Call your friends or family to chat or ask for advice. It may also help to vent with a Facebook parenting group or other online message board. You can also call your therapist and make an appointment and work through your challenges.

 

Try these tips to control and cope with your anxiety, and enjoy the time with your children free from worry.

If you find your anxiety to be impacting your ability to be a happy, successful parent, it might be time to speak with a professional counselor who can help. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment.

10 Awesome Mental Health Apps

10 Awesome Mental Health Apps

According to statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, each year about 1 out of every 5 Americans adults suffer from one form of mental illness or the other. Mathematically, that works out to 48.3 million of the total American adult population, and with a figure that high, it’s easy to see that you are not alone.

If you are presently living with any mental illness, there is hope. With the proliferation of tech (in the form of mental health apps), each and everyone living with depression, anxiety, or life stress can now access low cost support that can augment their work in individual counseling.

These apps strive to improve mental health by harnessing therapeutic processes and activities such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), meditation, relaxation, etc. They can be a great supplement to the work you are doing with your counselor!

There are countless types of these mental health apps that you can easily download from Google Play store or Apple Store, but being that variety also comes with the attendant issue of difficulty in making a choice, with this article, we have stepped in to take away the pain and confusion by helping you handpick the top 10 mental health apps from around the internet.

For each app listed below, we have gone ahead to explain the notable features and benefits, state the price (where applicable) and also provide you with download links.

Please note that the under listed apps are, in no way, purported to be replacements for professional treatment. They are meant to provide aid and support.

With that out of the way, here are our top 10 mental health apps for Android and iOS.

  1. Gottman Card Decks

 This app is specifically designed to soothe those going through relationship stress. Designed by the popular Gottman Institute, just as the name suggests, the app comes in the form of a deck of cards which contains questions you can ask your spouse concerning your relationship. The Gottman approach to couple’s counseling is world renowned and now you can have access to Gottman’s relationship and communication skills in app format!  This app also suggests fun things to do and say to keep the fire ever blazing in your relationship.

With a rating of 4.7 and 4.8 stars on Play Store and iTunes respectively and tens of thousands of downloads, you can’t go wrong with this app when it comes to easing relationship stress.

The app is free on both iTunes and Play Store. Download from iTunes here and download from Play Store here.

  1. Insight Timer

Insight Timer is a multiple award-winning app for meditation, anxiety, sleep, and mindfulness. If you are looking for a way to reduce anxiety, manage stress, calm the mind, sleep deeply and improve happiness, then this is the app for you.

With upwards of 10 new guided meditations added for free every day, coupled with awesome music tracks from renowned artists available on the app to use in your sessions, it will be an awesome experience joining millions of other users in trying out this app.

Presently, the app has been downloaded over 1 million times on Play Store, and it is free to download with in-app purchases as a means for the developers to make their income. You can download the app on Play Store here and on iTunes here

  1. SuperBetter

Looking to improve your motivation and drive? SuperBetter is an all-rounder app that aims to help users build strength and resilience to overcome tough obstacles and challenges in life. Are you going through a stressful relationship, wanting to beat depression, overcome anxiety, survive a divorce, or get a job? SuperBetter is a good motivator to try.

You can download SuperBetter for free on Play Store here and here for iOS.

  1. Headspace

Headspace is a nicely designed app that aims to help you with meditation and mindfulness.

Apart from teaching you how to sleep mindfully, breathe and meditate, it is also designed to help you increase your focus level. There are also exercises on anxiety relief, stress management, and happiness.

The app is free with in-app purchases. Download it for Android here and for iOS here.

  1. iChill

Do you notice how anxiety or stress impacts you in both mind and body? Just as the name suggests, the iChill app is designed to help with whole-body stress management. The app is built to cut across several demographics: children, teens, adults, veterans, and more. iChill is also teaches users skills from the Trauma Resiliency Model.

The app is totally free. Download for Android here and for iOS here.

  1. Stop, breathe & think

This is a meditation and mindfulness app that breathing exercises and guided meditation to help with calming anxiety and sleeping better. It is also described to manage depression, tame anxiety and strengthen focus.

Download it for free on Play Store here and here. The app is loaded with in-app purchases.

  1. Relaxio

Relaxio is an app development company that has a consortium of apps that are all centered on meditation, and sleep.

If your stress levels are high, then you might want to consider checking out one of their apps at relaxio.net. You can download any of the apps that meet your specific needs from the site.

  1. Youper

Tagged the world’s most beloved AI assistant, the app uses quick therapeutic conversations to help you monitor your general emotional health. This is a good app to consider if your goal is to tame stress, depression, and anxiety.

The app is loaded with a beautiful mood tracker and uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and other techniques to try to get you to maintain a calm mind. The app is free with in-app purchases. Get the Android version here and the iOS version here.

  1. Mindshift

Mindshift is a free app designed by Anxiety Canada Association using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a core technology to help you tackle anxiety. The app is also designed as a tool to aid you to relax more, be more mindful and aid you build more effective ways of thinking.

Download the Android version here and the iOS version here.

  1. Calm Harm

This is an app developed by a Clinical Psychologist that is geared towards helping prevent self-harm.

The password secured app has 4 major categories (Distract, Comfort, “Express Yourself” and Release) that are strategically placed to help you progressively get out of the self-harm mindset.

The app is totally free, and you can get the Android version here. You can as well download the iOS version here.

 

Interested in reading more from our blog? Check out one of these additional blog articles:

5 Ways to Cope with Anxiety as a Parent

5 Ways to Cope with Anxiety as a Parent

The hard work and unpredictability that makes parenting so rewarding can also cause a great deal of anxiety. Here are some simple ways to bring yourself to a place of calm.   Make a To-Do List Ruminating on worries can cause lots of stress. Clear your mind by...

What Causes Insomnia? 15 Key Culprits

What Causes Insomnia? 15 Key Culprits

If you’re someone who spends most of the night tossing and turning and checking the time on the clock, you’re definitely not alone. According to the National Institute of Health, there are an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffering from some kind of...

Anxiety and Stress: How Does Our Body React?

Anxiety and Stress: How Does Our Body React?

Have you ever wondered what’s happening in your body when anxiety and stress are triggered?

Stress and Anxiety are “fight or flight” responses, which allow us to react faster and more appropriately, depending on the situation. These have been incorporated in us for centuries; they were part of what kept us alive in the face of various predators.

Today, however, we express these responses even though the “dangers” around us are entirely different. Sometimes, as in the case of anxiety, we just “assume” the “danger” and trigger this reaction, where many symptoms come to the surface.

Physiology behind Stress and Anxiety

Our brain controls many of our organism’s responses, voluntarily or involuntarily. In principle, we perceive the warning or danger signal, the initial trigger, where our brain understands that it must prepare the body to flee or fight quickly.

In order to do so, it acts through a system called the autonomic nervous system (ANS), to which it sends a signal. This ANS is in turn divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic, which regulate different responses.

The reactions that occur in stress and anxiety have to do with the release of important hormones (such as adrenaline and noradrenaline) by the sympathetic nervous system. These products travel through our body triggering a set of different reactions that will end up “activating” it.

Now, let us quickly analyze some of the effects of this hormone in the context of a real-life scenario: an imminent danger is coming towards you (for example, a person tries to grab your purse). In this case, your reaction might be to flee. What does your body need to respond appropriately?

1) Heart rate: It must be increased to enhance the oxygen and nutrients that reach your muscles and tissues to maintain the flight response.

2) Blood vessels: Pressure must increase in the arteries and veins to improve blood flow to the muscles. This vasoconstriction is the origin of headache under conditions of stress or anxiety.

3) Lungs: In order to give more oxygen to the blood and thus reach the lungs, the airways must be widened and the breath rate increased.

4) Sweating: This is not nervousness. Under this response, your body temperature increases to improve metabolic reactions and promote other biological reactions, all these to respond better to the “danger” that approaches. Sweating is a compensation mechanism for this increase in temperature.

5) Intestine: It is time to stop everything! It is not time to eat or digest; it is time to flee from danger. Therefore, the intestinal contents are stopped, through spasms, which can cause pain.

6) Kidney: In a fear-inducing emergency, the body produces less urine in order to preserve the liquids we have. The same goes for salivary glands. Our brain isn’t sure how long the danger will last, so it goes into conservation mode.

These, and many other responses are necessary to be able to “run away” properly, and all are mediated by the sympathetic nervous system. This is part of what you suffer when you are under stress or with anxiety. They are also limited responses that only last a few minutes – if the original “dangerous” stimulus disappears” – but that may remain a little longer in people who constantly suffer from it.


Since our body responds to perceived dangers (Ex.:  Worried thoughts about what someone is thinking about you) in the same way as it does to genuine physical dangers (Ex. Rabid animal), it’s up to you to communicate with your body to assist it in deescalating the threat.

Tips for Finding the Off-Switch for Stress and Anxiety

Here are some quick tips for sending signals to your nervous system that will help it deescalate:

  • Self-Talk: Identify the “danger” thought triggering your anxiety. See if you can talk it off the ledge. Right-size your anxiety by talking back to any over-generalization, catastrophization, mind-reading, or future-telling. Sometimes examining the facts can ease your anxiety (ex. Is the worst-case scenario really as bad as you imagine?).
  • Diaphragmatic Breathing: Your body’s diaphragm is directly connected to the Vagus nerve, which helps regulate the on and off switch for your sympathetic nervous system. If you breath deeply using that muscle in your belly, you’ll notice your system start to slow.
  • Channeling the Anxiety for the Power of Good: Anxiety gives you a big burst of energy, focused concentration, and drive. Why not use it to help you make a plan, research options, weigh pros/cons, or spur on action!

If you’d like help with stress or anxiety, a counselor with Star Meadow Counseling is available to help!

Would you like to read more of our blogs about anxiety? Check out one of the links below!

Anxiety: Your Friend?

Anxiety: Your Friend?

Anxiety and panic attacks are uncomfortable. Sometimes anxiety is so physically uncomfortable that people experience heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain, dizziness, difficulty breathing, or faintness. Sometimes anxiety symptoms worry someone so much that they call 911 or take themselves to the emergency room, only to be turned away after being assured that the problem is “just” anxiety.

In the counseling office, counselors often hear clients eager to alleviate and rid themselves entirely of anxiety. Certainly, relief would be nice, and some coping skills would be helpful. But what if honoring feelings of anxiety may help (in the end) to decrease anxiety? Before you say goodbye to your anxiety, consider the reasons why feeling anxious might be to your benefit.

Feeling anxiety may…

  • Be a catalyst for change.

People may feel persistently anxious when when something in their life needs to change. For example, if you err on the side of workaholism, burnout is a very real risk. Anxiety is your body’s way of signaling overload. It is alerting you to a need to say “no” to something on your plate. It can prompt you to challenge your list of have-to obligations.

  • Help you acclimate to new things.

Anxiety can be a sign that you are outside of your comfort zone. Anytime you do something new, anxiety is there to help you get your bearings, watch for “danger,” and minimize risk. Often, the more that you repeatedly experience being out of your comfort zone in a specific way, the more your comfort zone expands, and the less you need anxiety to help you be watchful.

  • Be self-honoring and validating.

When you tell yourself to “stop feeling anxious,” you are sending a message that there is something “bad” or wrong happening. That self-talk message can create a form of secondary anxiety– anxiety about having anxiety! These worried thoughts about the anxiety itself can increase tension (and add in guilt or shame), rather than alleviate stress. Instead, if you tell yourself that it’s okay to feel nervous or be panicked, they can begin to feel more okay with themselves and honor the good reasons why they might be anxious.

  • Ease a panic attack.

Most of the time, panic attacks are triggered by something stressful in your environment, then made worse by “danger” thoughts about the panic itself. Common catastrophic thoughts experienced during a panic attack include (but aren’t limited to):

  • “I shouldn’t be so anxious.”
  • “I’m having a heart attack.”
  • “Why is this happening again?”
  • “I’m going to faint.”
  • “I’m going to die.”
  • “My panic attack will never end. I can’t handle this.”

Panicked thoughts about your body’s experience of anxiety only make you more afraid. These thoughts feed your panic and make it difficult for your body to calm. In fact, how long a panic attack lasts might be somewhat in your control. If you can stop scaring yourself with catastrophic thoughts (or should-thoughts), the adrenaline from your fight-or-flight reaction will wear itself out in a few minutes.

Instead, try not to ignore what you’re feeling. Notice and feel the sensations of your anxiety or panic. Assure yourself that the feelings aren’t harmful (because they’re usually not). Don’t fight the feelings, but imagine yourself surfing them like a wave. The more you resist, the higher your anxiety; the more you accept what you’re feeling, the more quickly it can pass.

  • Increase Performance (at low to moderate levels)

Certainly high or persistent anxiety can be more of a hindrance than a help. However, at occasional low-to-moderate levels, anxiety prepares your body for action in a more productive manner. It increases drive, focus, clarity, strength, and stamina on intellectually stimulating tasks.

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that is safe (and helpful) for you to feel. Let yourself feel your feelings, but then move on. Anxiety has a tendency to take over if it becomes your primary focus. Stay engaged in practice of living life. A mental health counselor can help you build a customized tool box for coping (and making friends) with anxiety.

Want to read more about Anxiety? Check out these posts:

5 Benefits of Mindfulness

5 Benefits of Mindfulness

There are a lot of terms floating around the online world out there and it can be difficult to determine which ones to trust as the real deal and which ones are simply trigger words or click bait.  One of the up-and-coming ones is mindfulness.  As more and more experts start to discuss it in relation to its positive effects with both depression and anxiety, it’s important to understand what’s really waiting behind this term.

 

What is mindfulness?

At its most basic level, mindfulness is exactly how it sounds: the idea of knowing your mind at the minute detail level within the present moment.  Being mindful means that you are listening to your thought process, acknowledging and identifying your emotions and simply being aware of what’s going on inside of you.  This is often combined with the idea of meditation or yoga or something that can help your focus on what’s going on within yourself.

The reality is that mindfulness can be present in many forms and on its own or in combination with meditation.  Regardless of how it is present, it is a healing process that has many benefits to its name.

 

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

  1. It’s free:Maybe it’s not the first benefit you’d think of, but mindfulness is totally 100% free. You can do it as often as you need to and it won’t charge you per use or per dosage.  For those that really enjoy it and find it helpful, this is a major perk.  It is also free from addiction or dependency in an unhealthy way.

 

  1. It’s easy to do wherever you are:Whether you are in the privacy of a bedroom or meditation space, a crowded shopping mall or anywhere in between, mindfulness is something you can practice just about anywhere and it is going to be able to offer you that comfort when you need it.  It’s also discrete which is good when you need a little bit of help in a busy spot.

 

  1. It has quantifiable results with both anxiety and depression:There are proven results – with more studies being done currently – on its positive effects with anxiety and depression, both. When used in combination with other therapies or even in place of medication, there are substantial increases in quality of life for those with anxiety and/or depression.  This is particularly helpful in teens who are not looking to engage with medication right away or adults with addiction concerns.

 

  1. It treats physical symptoms as well:There are also benefits on the physical side when it comes to practicing mindfulness such as with IBS and psoriasis.  While a lot of dependable studies have still yet to come, it seems as though mindfulness can be helpful across many playing fields, offering an actual option for those who suffer from both mental and physical health concerns.

 

  1. Can be a long-term additional therapeutic option:While mindfulness may not be considered a full treatment on its own for depression, anxiety, PTSD and more, it can be used in accordance with other therapies to offer prolonged relief and help in times of crisis from common mental health illnesses.

 

Mindfulness is popular online in social and professional circles for all of the right reasons.  As it continues to enjoy an online presence, more and more quantifiable research is going into its healing effects in mental and physical health to see how it can be exercised as a professional treatment option.  Time will tell just how useful it can be long-term, but it clearly has got a lot going for it already and makes it something that you’re going to want to know about.

Workaholism: The Hidden Epidemic

Workaholism: The Hidden Epidemic

I didn’t need to use drugs because my bloodstream was manufacturing my own crystal meth.

— WORKAHOLICS ANONYMOUS MEMBER

Workaholism is described by some as the “respectable addiction,” though its affects can be destructive and even deadly to those who are compulsively addicted to work.

 

  • How can you tell if you are a workaholic?
  • How do we distinguish workaholism from “hard work?”

 

In his book, “Chained to the Desk,” Bryan Robinson describes workaholism as “an obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifests itself through self-imposed demands, an inability to regulate work habits, and an over-indulgence in work to the exclusion of most other life activities. 

 

How is a person diagnosed as a workaholic?  Actually, workaholism is NOT a recognized mental health diagnosis in diagnostic manuals, though it might be a symptom of something bigger at play, as Dr. Robinson suggests. The urge to overwork can feel compulsive and anxiety provoking. A person with workaholism might not be able to clock-out mentally, even when they’d like to. It is a brand of achievement-oriented perfectionism, mixed with some rigidity, anxiety, and preoccupied thoughts.

 

The following is a checklist from Workaholics Anonymous (WA), useful for assessing workaholism.

  1. Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
  2. Are there times when you can charge through your work and other times when you can’t?
  3. Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
  4. Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?
  5. Do you work more than 40 hours a week?
  6. Do you turn your hobbies into money-making ventures?
  7. Do you take complete responsibility for the outcome of your work efforts?
  8. Have your family or friends given up expecting you on time?
  9. Do you take on extra work because you are concerned that it won’t otherwise get done?
  10. Do you underestimate how long a project will take and then rush to complete it?
  11. Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
  12. Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?
  13. Are you afraid that if you don’t work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?
  14. Is the future a constant worry for you even when things are going very well?
  15. Do you do things energetically and competitively including play?
  16. Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
  17. Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
  18. Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep or when others are talking?
  19. Do you work or read during meals?
  20. Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life?

Did you answer “yes” to 3 or more questions? According to Workaholics Anonymous, a person can be considered workaholic if they answer affirmatively to three or more of the questions.

 

Is work addiction really that dangerous?

In Japan alone, thousands people die annually from karoshi (“death by overwork”). Over-work affects people holistically. Physically, they may experience ulcers, chest pain, heart attacks, asthmatic attacks, or urges to binge eat. Psychologically, workaholism has been connected to depression, anxiety, perfectionism, stress, anger, burnout, low self-worth and low self-esteem.  Socially, workaholics may be isolated from friends, family, or co-workers. In addition, their behavior can potentially lead to marital discord, divorce, or job loss. Children of workaholics are negatively affected too; research indicates that adult children of workaholics are at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and feelings of low self-worth.

What happens in the workaholic brain? Work addiction alters the physiological and chemical nature of the brain. Workaholics attain an adrenaline high from binge-working. After the high, the person is left with a “work hangover,” which may involve heightened anxiety, irritability, or suicidal ideation. Akin to substance use disorders, workaholics often experience cognitive distortions that complicate their adrenaline addiction.

 

How is workaholism different from hard work?

The big distinctions are balance and boundaries. In order to have a balanced life, a person must be engage in healthy relationships, maintain outside interests and hobbies, and demonstrate overall self-care (ex. Slowing, family time, adequate sleep, etc.). Boundaries allow a person to distinguish their work life from their home life and social life and so forth.

Thomas Merton, in his book “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander” described workaholism and its threat to inner peace:

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

If you are feeling burned out from over-work and are ready to begin a journey toward recovery, a counselor at Star Meadow Counseling might be able to help.

 

References:

Healthyplace.com. (2018). Work Addiction Treatment | HealthyPlace. [online] Available at: http://www.healthyplace.com/addictions/work-addiction/treatment-workaholic/menu-id-54/ [Accessed 18 Sep. 2018].

Merton, T. (2014). Conjectures of a guilty bystander. Garden City, N.Y.: Image Books.

Robinson, B. (2014). Chained to the Desk. 3rd ed. NYU Press.

The Japan Times. (2018). The government’s ‘karoshi’ report | The Japan Times. [online] Available at: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/10/12/editorials/governments-karoshi-report/#.W6GQkehKiUk [Accessed 18 Sep. 2018].

Treatment4addiction.com. (2018). Work Addiction. [online] Available at: http://www.treatment4addiction.com/addiction/behavioral/work/ [Accessed 18 Sep. 2018].

Workaholics-anonymous.org. (2018). Home. [online] Available at: http://workaholics-anonymous.org/ [Accessed 18 Sep. 2018].