Back to School Blitz: Managing the Chaos

You made it through day one of cute outfits, school supplies, and back to school pictures. Now the reality of the season hits you in full force: parent-teacher nights, bagged lunches, extracurricular activities galore!  How can it be that just last week you were wiping the sand from your summer flip flops? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a parent, and your kids might also be experiencing huge spikes in their levels of anxiety.  Remember these tips to make the transition smoother for the entire family.

Bedtime schedule

It is important to introduce healthy sleep patterns and keep those patterns throughout the entire week. During the summer our kids might have gotten used to late nights and sleeping in, and it is a shock to their system to suddenly wake up earlier than usual- while it is still dark outside, no less! Remind your kids that going to bed early is not a punishment, but instead it sets the stage for success by improving their attention, memory and general positive attitude the next day.

 Be prepared!

 Arm yourself over the weekend with healthy snacks and easy to assemble lunch options. This will save you a frantic trip to Kroger at 10:00pm on a school night. Take the time each evening (and have your kids help) to prepare lunch, book bags and next day’s clothes. This will save you time and energy in the morning to deal with those frantic searches for favorite hair bands, glasses and missing shoes.

 Visual calendar

 With all the apps and reminders on our electronic devices, you might think the old magnetic white board has outgrown its purpose. Don’t underestimate the power of having a constant visual reminder somewhere in the house of all family members’ different commitments and To Do’s. It gives your child a sense of ownership to make “add ons” to their schedule themselves and lessens your load by giving them ownership to fill their own water bottle or find their mud clogged cleats in the garage before practice.

Avalanche of change

Our kids are having to adjust to new schools, classes, teachers and schoolwork. Old friendships might have ended, new ones are forming, and our kids must constantly negotiate their ever-changing environment to find what makes them feel stable and safe. This can spike a child’s anxiety levels and increase feelings of loneliness and isolation. Switch off your device and take the time to listen to your child. Our own anxiety and need for them to be “ok” can make us want to jump in too quick and fix it, or get angry and impatient if they continuously come back from school being “overly emotional” and complaining. Take a deep breath and know this: You being there to listen in that moment makes it feel as if you are sharing the load. Ask them what they need. Sometimes your child needs you to brainstorm with them and find a couple of solutions, but most often you are their sounding board and all they need is a “I can see this is hard for you” or a hug. And yes, even those stubborn middle schoolers still need a comforting touch. 

System overload

 It might be tempting to say yes to ballet, soccer, volleyball and cheer at the same time, and to never miss a party invitation. Our own need to please others and say yes to everything might lead to overloaded schedules, worn out kids, and unnecessary resentment. Be honest with yourself and your children as to what is truly do-able and commit to things that make sense and contribute to health, happiness, and balance. Sometimes this means committing to say NO.

 And finally, there is help out there! Sharing your thoughts and feelings with other parents, your partner or a mental health professional might just put things into perspective. Take care of yourself. Sit down and enjoy that cup of coffee and be in the moment. You’ve got this!

Ingrid Krynauw, M.A.
Psychotherapist, Hello Mental Health
Supervised by Dr. Bailey Bryant OH Lic #7373

This publication is designed to provide general information prepared by a professional in regard to the subject matter covered.  It is not intended to provide psychological or clinical advice.  Although prepared by a professional, this publication should not be utilized as a substitute for professional service in specific situations.  If mental health advice or other expert assistance is required, the service of a professional should be sought.

 

I See a Dark Cloud Coming…

For those of you who have experienced depression before, you start to learn the signs that a storm is brewing. First the temperature in the air drops: You feel sluggish, blah, things that used to come easy start to feel effortful, “peopling” feels like more hassle than its worth. Then the winds pick up: Activities like exercise, socializing, eating well used to seem rewarding but now feel mundane. The rain starts: You begin avoiding activities and responsibilities. You isolate from family and friends, or worse- start to snap at and resent family and friends. The lightening strikes: Thoughts of self-doubt, self-hatred, hopelessness, and feeling like a burden plague your mind. Your sleep is out of whack, your eating is all off-kilter, your responsibilities have piled up, and your relationships are strained. Now you are in the middle of the storm and see no sunshine on the horizon.

Sometimes the storm is inevitable, but there are some things you can do to seek refuge while the storm passes. Early intervention is key to try to mitigate the damage or even bypass the storm all together.

Depression cloud

#1: Balanced sleep is critical! Our bodies and brains require sleep to function well, and significant damage is done when we operate on a sleep deficit. Honestly assess how many hours your body needs (approximately 7-9 hours) and make it your number one priority to get that sleep.

#2: Get outside. Natural sunlight early in the morning helps balance your circadian rhythm and give your body necessary nutrients. Step outside first thing in the morning and soak up 20-30 minutes of fresh air and sunlight.

#3: Move your body. Activity breeds activity and being sedentary breeds more sedation. Go for a walk, stretch your body, run, lift, garden. Your body was designed to move and when you neglect your body it takes a toll on your mind. It is especially important to move when you start to feel depression set in. The longer you wait to start, the harder it will be to get going.

#4: Eat whole foods. Your appetite might be increasing, decreasing, or your cravings may shift to simple carbs and comfort foods. This is not a time to ditch healthy habits. Quite the opposite, this is the time to give your body all the good fuel it needs to fight off that nasty storm that’s a-brewing.

#5: Reach out for support. Your brain might be telling you that you need to handle this on your own. That is a lie. You need support and lots of it. Reach out to a supportive family member, an old friend, go to a group class or function. You would be surprised at how many people can understand what you are going through and are willing to help if you just give them a chance.

Following these five steps can help you weather the storm more effectively. You may also benefit from seeking out professional help to provide support and guidance as you navigate your own journey to wellness. Please know that none of us are meant to suffer alone. We can move through this together!

Bailey C. Bryant, Psy.D., Owner of Hello Mental Health

This publication is designed to provide general information prepared by a professional in regard to the subject matter covered.  It is not intended to provide psychological or clinical advice.  Although prepared by a professional, this publication should not be utilized as a substitute for professional service in specific situations.  If mental health advice or other expert assistance is required, the service of a professional should be sought.

My Doctor Told Me To Do Yoga

Ah yoga. You see the Lululemon ads, your doctor tells you it’s “healthy,” your best friend swears by it. You are willing to concede that it could be good for you, but you are not ready to take the step onto your mat. Perhaps the idea of wearing yoga pants and doing “downward dog” in a room full of strangers sounds like the stuff of nightmares. We are here to shed some light on what yoga is, what it is not, and why your doctor keeps telling you to try it.

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What Yoga Is

Yoga originated in India and dates back to 3000 B.C. The ancient practice of yoga is meant to bring harmony between mind and body with the ultimate goal of self liberation/enlightenment.

There are 8 limbs of yoga according to The Sutras (writings) of Patanjali, and when practiced each of these branches are designed to help you live a more balanced, disciplined life.

Here’s a brief overview of the 8 branches:

  • Yamas- Moral vows, restraints

  • Niyamas- Positive personal behavior

  • Asana- Posture (in ancient practice this meant mastering the body to still for meditation)

  • Pranayama- Breathing techniques

  • Pratyahara- Sense withdraw (allows your mind to focus and not wonder when meditating)

  • Dharana- Focused concentration

  • Dhyana- Meditative absorption

  • Samadhi- Enlightenment

What Yoga Is Not

Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not all about exercise. In the West we frequently equate the word “yoga” to mean “super bendy poses.”  While many yoga classes do center around physical postures, it is important to remember that the postures are just one of many tools to help you develop a lifestyle of balance and discipline.

To take a yoga class you do not have to be thin, flexible, or young (but you can be). You do not have to wear skin tight pants (but you might choose to). You can do yoga on the ground, on a chair, even hanging from the ceiling. When you first start yoga you might find yourself looking around and comparing yourself to the person in the corner folded into a pretzel; but you will soon find that each person in the room is on their own journey and that journey is not about how you match up to your neighbor. What is important is that you turn your focus inward with a goal of increasing balance and presence in your everyday life. You don’t have to be able to smell your kneecaps to do that.

Not all yoga classes are created equal. Some classes are comparable to sweaty bootcamp sessions; while others are slow meditative classes.  Below is a brief outline of some of the classes you might see advertised near you.

    • Ashtanga- A physically demanding and fast-paced style of yoga derived from ancient yoga teachings that is centered around a progressive series of the same sequence of postures linked with breathing techniques.

    • Anusara- A less physically demanding and more spiritual style of yoga focused on community, movement, breathing, and Tantric Philosophy.

    • Bikram- In a Bikram class you can expect for the room to be heated to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. You will move through the same sequence of 26 postures each class. This type of yoga is good for flushing out toxins and the heat allows you to go deeper into physical poses.

    • Hatha- Hatha yoga is a term that applies to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures which applies to most yoga taught in the West.

    • Restorative- The focus is relaxation and unwinding after a long, stressful day. It is less physically demanding as you are able to use blocks or bolsters to assist you in poses; allowing you to gain the benefits of a pose while not exerting much effort.

    • Vinyasa- In vinyasa you will flow through a sequence of poses and coordinate your breath with movement. There is not a set sequence of poses for the teacher to follow so you can explore and test your limits learning new poses and postures.

Why Your Doctor Tells You To Do It

So, why does your doctor tell you to do yoga? There have been multiple studies proving the physical and mental benefits of yoga and the overall balance it brings to people’s lives. According to an article by the American Psychological Association, yoga has been shown to improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, attention deficit, and sleep disorders such as insomnia. Researchers say it is the relaxation response that results from the mind and body practices learned through yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques. This learned response increases your self-awareness and allows you to be better equipped to handle life’s daily stresses. Yoga also proves to be physically beneficial because it lessens chronic pain such as lower back pain or arthritis, increases flexibility and muscle tone, and improves our energy and vitality.

One caveat is that yoga can bring you in touch with deep seeded and difficult emotions. While this can be quite healing for some, it can be overwhelming for others. If you have a history of trauma it is important to consider your readiness for a practice that is “opening” and perhaps you would benefit from working with a psychotherapist prior to starting a yoga practice. Therapists can help assess your readiness for such a practice, and teach you coping techniques to manage potential triggers and set healthy boundaries. You may also look for specific Trauma Sensitive or Trauma Informed yoga classes where the teachers are trained to provide an environment and practice conducive to healing.

If you have made it this far in the article, you just might be ready to take your first step. Google local studios, check out the teachers and the classes, and don’t be afraid to start with a beginner’s class. Remember that there is a class out there for everyone, and as one yoga teacher Lorraine Horine put it, “if you can breathe, you can do yoga.”

Bailey C. Bryant, Psy.D., Owner of Hello Mental Health
Jordan Wheeler, B.A., Guest Writer

This publication is designed to provide general information prepared by a professional in regard to the subject matter covered.  It is not intended to provide psychological or clinical advice.  Although prepared by a professional, this publication should not be utilized as a substitute for professional service in specific situations.  If mental health advice or other expert assistance is required, the service of a professional should be sought.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

It’s that time of year again: snowmen, twinkling lights, and Seasonal Affective Disorder is in full swing.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a syndrome linked to depression and the annual occurrence of the change of seasons and daylight.You can experience varying SAD symptoms in both the Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, although it is more common for women to experience these symptoms in the Fall/ Winter months. The lack of sunlight during the Winter months is a sure factor leading to changes in your diet as you start craving more carbohydrates and starchy foods (i.e. weight gain), overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness, along with having very low energy and an increase in sleeping (hypersomia).

You don’t have to feel in the dark and alone during this time of year. Try one, two, or all of these five tips below to counter your SAD symptoms and help you feel a little more merry all year-round!

  • Bright Light Therapy (BLT)- To combat the lack of sunlight, specifically designed light boxes may be a good supplement for you. This intervention is a powerful one and you should definitely consult your doctor before practicing BLT as it can lead to adverse effects for some individuals. These nifty boxes emit full spectrum light (10,000 lux) similar to that of sunlight. 30-90 minutes per day is the usual recommended exposure time and best to do it first thing in the morning; you can do it over your cup of coffee or as you’re getting ready for work.

  • Exercise- Daily exercise year-round is essential to both physical and mental health, and multiple studies have proven the benefits of exercising and depression as it raises the serotonin levels in our brains. Here is another fun fact: exercise does not have to feel terrible! Choose activities that work for your body and your schedule. Maybe you dance, maybe you walk, maybe you swim or even run marathons. Just get moving! Trouble with motivation? Enlist a workout partner to keep you accountable or attend a class at your local gym.

  • Proper nutrition- Although those delicious carbs and starches give you a quick boost of energy, they eventually rebound and leave you craving more of those tempting treats. Try to limit these foods when you are grocery shopping so they won’t be in the house for you to over-indulge when you are bored and stuck at home on a snowy day. Hey, why not start the “New Year, New You” sooner?

  • Get outside- With the lack of sunlight available during the day, the serotonin levels in your brain drop which negatively affects your mood. Studies have shown a 30 minute walk outside decreases the cortisol levels in your brain and increases those happy hormones. Nature, fresh air, and some sunshine will do your mood some good, not to mention starting your day with the sun rising and some exercise will mentally put you on the path for a good day. :)

  • Therapist/ Medication- In combination with the helpful techniques listed above; speaking to a therapist or being introduced to CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) can be a positive outlet and allows you to speak freely of your obstacles to find ways to overcome them. Medication is also an option to those who suffer from SAD and should be discussed with your doctor.

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Bailey C. Bryant, Psy.D., Owner of Hello Mental Health
Jordan Wheeler, B.A., Guest Writer

This publication is designed to provide general information prepared by a professional in regard to the subject matter covered.  It is not intended to provide psychological or clinical advice.  Although prepared by a professional, this publication should not be utilized as a substitute for professional service in specific situations.  If mental health advice or other expert assistance is required, the service of a professional should be sought.