Unteaching Adolescent Anxiety in School

It’s not an age-old secret that anxiety impacts the lives of children especially when it comes to school. In fact, symptoms of anxiety are extremely common in childhood and adolescence, which can negatively interfere with general well-being, social life, academic performance, and development of social skills (Mazzone et al., 2007). Today I’d like to focus on the academic piece of adolescent anxiety.

When we look at adolescent anxiety closely, we see issues with memory and cognitive functioning which could lead to poor academic performance such as bad grades, inattentiveness in class, and inability to complete assignments. School failure is more common in girls whereas boys show a more behavioral disruption in their school environment.

  1. It’s hard to watch your child struggle when they should be enjoying themselves and learning new things! However, what is absolutely vital to your child and their functioning, is having conversations with them and opening a door for you to not only strengthen the bond with your child, but it will allow them to share their experiences without fear of judgment, rebuttal, or negligence. It will be tough learning new things about your child that causes them distress, but this is part of the therapeutic process, and it allows you to grow and learn with them!

For example: Let’s say your adolescent has been having consistent stomach aches, headaches, nausea, or general discomfort when they talk about school or when they attend school. Allow them to share what they are feeling because adolescents associate anxiety with physical symptoms, not so much mental as they have not developed those tools just yet depending on their age! Ask questions about how they feel, talk about when they get those feelings, and how long they have been feeling that way. They will feel heard, and you will get more information on how to support your adolescent.

2. Another important element with helping your adolescent succeed would be to do your homework, not theirs! What I mean is for you to take the reins and do your research to understand what your adolescent is going through. Anxiety is a broad horizon that is riddled different subgroups or categories that may pertain to your child.

For example: Have you ever had any difficulty with dropping your child off at school so much so that they begin to act out behaviorally (i.e., scream, cry, throw tantrums)? If this has been going on for well over 4-6 months, there may be a concern with separation anxiety. Another example would be if a child does not participate in class (i.e., not raising their hand to answer questions, difficulty speaking with other students or the teacher), they could be experiencing social anxiety.

Anxiety comes in many different forms! It’s our job as the parents to find out what struggles the adolescent has been having and consult with the teacher(s), school nurse, or guidance counselor to gain more insight.

3. If you notice your adolescent is getting exceptionally overwhelmed, allow them time to take breaks during their work. As adults, we need time to step away from our work and allow ourselves to cool off or decompress, so why shouldn’t we do the same for our children? They go to school (whether it be virtual or in-person), they are assigned homework to complete for the next day, they eat dinner, and off to bed. When do they get time to be a kid? It’s critical to add this to their daily routine so that way they are able to decompress after a long day of school. This will help alleviate some of those anxious feelings that they have.

For example: Your child is working on a math assignment, and they become upset. They may become tearful, agitated, and seem almost unable to complete their work. Their minds are elsewhere, and the side of the brain that allows them to complete these tasks is stifled or turned off because it has become swarmed with the feelings of anxiety. Commend them for the work that they have already completed and allow them to take a break to cool off before they come back to work on it.

These are just a few ways to help support your adolescent school their own anxiety. If the anxiety continues to persist, a healthy option is to have your child meet with a therapist so that they may learn the tools and techniques that they need in order to further school their anxiety. If the anxiety continues to persist after meeting with a therapist, you may also turn to consulting your pediatrician for further recommendations.

I hope this blog helps you in understanding your adolescent a little bit more, and I hope that you continue to communicate with them, cheer them on, and, most importantly, love them!

Thank you, and take care 😊

Jill M.
Graduate Counseling Intern

Night Time Routine for People with Sleep Difficulties or Insomnia

Sleep is something that helps us to function both physically and mentally and when we are not getting enough sleep we can often feel dysregulated. Many adults, adolescents, and children have trouble getting a proper night’s sleep. This can be due to reasons such as anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, or other sleep related issues. What most individuals do at the end of the day is simply put on their pajamas, get in bed, and try to sleep. This is not always enough for some, who may end up tossing and turning throughout the night. One thing that can help us to achieve better sleep is to create a night time routine to prepare us for bed. Night time routines may seem pointless, but can actually be very helpful in improving the quality of your sleep. Some suggestions to create your own night time routine are:

  • Pick a set time that works for your schedule at which you will go to sleep Sunday – Thursday, on Friday and Saturday you can extend this time by a couple of hours if you wish. Example: Sunday-Thursday 10pm, and Friday/Saturday 12am.
  • Try to avoid screens (phone, tv, computer) for at least 30 minutes before bed.
  • Find a time to wind down before going to sleep, this can be taking warm bath/shower, reading, listening to calming music, or anything that relaxes and calms you.
  • Try to make your bed as inviting as possible by washing your bedding once a week.
  • Pick out some comfortable pajamas,
  • Keep the TV off in your bedroom as it can be too stimulating. If you feel like you must have it on try putting on something that won’t keep you awake such as a music or soundscape video, turning down the volume and brightness of your TV or wearing a sleep mask can also be helpful.
  • Avoid drinking anything right before going to bed, this can disrupt your sleep later in the night because you’re having to get up and use the bathroom.
  • Limit your caffeine intake later in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant that can interrupt your sleep if you have it to late in the day.
  • Don’t check your clock. Checking your clock to see what time it is when you can’t sleep can make it even harder to fall asleep. Try having your clock facing away from you or across the room where you can’t see it.
  • If you have trouble shutting your mind off when you go to sleep keep a notepad by your bed where you can write down the thoughts you’re having, and remind yourself to revisit them the next day.

These are just some of the things that can help you to create a successful night routine for yourself. Each person’s routine will likely be different from the next and that’s okay, it’s all about finding what works for you. Hopefully trying out these tips can aid you in creating a night time routine that will help to get a better night’s sleep.

Written by Michelle Brown

Graduate Counseling Intern at Step by Step Counseling LLC

Parenting One Day at a Time

You did it… you brought a beautiful baby into this world. For 9 months, you suffered aches and pains. You heard endless badgering on what to do and what not do regarding your baby. You became vulnerable and hypervigilant to yourself and the world around you. Take a moment and be proud of yourself – relish in the knowledge that you took pregnancy day by day, fighting the challenges it brings, and you made it here.

I think as new mothers we tend to get lost in the thoughts of others and their opinions rather than our own. This brings us back to the badgering from others about what you ought to be doing. Not only do you hear this on a regular basis, but when you get those few moments to yourself to look on social media and you see a mother on Instagram with her baby in their stroller with a fit and toned body after having a baby two months ago, you may think to yourself, “How do they do it? Am I doing something wrong?”. Momma, I’m here to tell you right now that you are perfectly fine where you are. Instagram shows the highlight reel of the mother, but they don’t show the trials they go through much like the trials you are going through. In fact, authors Alison Rogers and Erin White of Breathing Space for New Mothers: Rest, Stretch, and Smile – One Yoga Minute at a Time say, “the comparison game is the only game we play to lose”. It’s time to take a moment and read these few tips or words of advice:

Do not compare yourself to other women

Again, this goes back to the quote mentioned earlier. It’s hard for us to not compare ourselves to other women and become upset with ourselves because we aren’t in the same position as them. Momma, you’re doing it too. You’re raising your baby to the absolute best of your ability – you do not need Instagram or social media to prove that to others. 9 times out of 10, a lot of the celebrity women that you follow on social media that have children, have additional support from a nanny, a personal trainer, or maybe even a personal chef. Not all of us can sit in the lap of luxury, and that’s OK! Each journey is different for each mother. Don’t allow yourself time to compare your journey or tweak your journey to make it look more like the ones you see on social media. Focus on taking care of yourself and your precious baby.

Go easy on yourself.

Motherhood is complicated especially new motherhood. This is a completely different experience for you, and it is a learning experience. Please do not expect to get everything right; don’t beat yourself up when you don’t have all the answers. In fact, use this time to reach out for help. It is so important to make sure that you are taken care of so that way you can provide care to your baby. If you have family that can support you, lean on them during this time and get that additional support. If you need a break or someone to talk to, talk to your best girl friend (or guy friend!) and get all your emotions out there. To take it one step further, ask for the additional support if you need to attend therapy sessions to get back on track (post-partum depression is real, and we are here to help you). The importance of this is to not be so hard on yourself while you are learning. Your baby still loves you.

Breathe, breathe, breathe

You’re tired, you’re frustrated, you’ve been pushed to your limits. Take a few moments out of your day to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. While you are breathing, I want you to think about all that you are doing to help your baby and yourself. Understand that you are doing absolutely everything that you can – and you are doing your best. Just be with yourself for a few moments and realize that you are capable, you are relentless, you can do this.

 

I think it’s important to remember that it’s OK to not have all of the answers, and it is perfectly fine to take motherhood day by day. I just want you to know that you are not alone in this. I want you to understand that your emotions, your feelings are completely normal with everything going on around you. If you are a first-time mother, this is a totally differently worldview for you, and I want you to understand that this is a learning experience. You are doing the best that you can. If this is not your first time being a mother, you are still encouraged to practice these tips as you raise your little ones. I hope that these tips help you as you begin your journey through motherhood and immerse yourself in this beautiful opportunity as you continue to learn more and more about your baby.

Thank you, and take care!

Jill M.
Graduate Counseling Intern
Step by Step Counseling LLC

Cleaning with ADHD

Cleaning is something all of us must do in our daily lives whether it is just after yourself or others as well. When you are dealing with ADHD it can seem even more difficult at times, this could be due to restlessness, attention issues, problems staying organized, or the task requires too much mental effort. All of these things can make it more difficult for someone with ADHD to keep things clean. While people with ADHD often do have trouble with cleaning, they are not the only ones who can find it overwhelming. Individuals dealing with Anxiety, Depression and Grief can also become overwhelmed by the task of cleaning. For anyone dealing with these issues it can be hard to find the motivation to get it done. Some tips that can help make cleaning seem a bit less daunting are:

  • Try to fit it into your routine: To start try picking one or two times a week to fit cleaning into your schedule
  • Set a time limit: If you dislike feeling like you’re endlessly cleaning try to set a time limit for how long you will clean. This can be anywhere from ten minutes to an hour where clean as much as you can manage for the whole time.
  • Take Breaks: Taking a break when cleaning is feeling like it’s become too much can often help to give you more energy and put the focus back on cleaning. Try not to make your break more than a few minutes long though.
  • Start Small: If you aren’t sure where to start, start small, try picking up all of the trash in the room, picking up everything blue, or everything that goes into the kitchen.
  • Make your space functional: If cleaning an entire room is too overwhelming for you, start with cleaning enough to make that space functional, and then you can work up to cleaning everything else.
  • Set Easy Goals: If you want to make a goal of cleaning everyday try set a goal of picking up 10-30 items a day to start and then add in more items as you go, this can help you to feel like you are getting something clean everyday.
  • Take Before Photos: Having a photo to look back and see the progress you’re mak
  • Upkeep: If you’re having trouble keeping things clean throughout the week try the basket method.
    • The basket method is a simple way to help those struggling with cleaning to keep things tidy throughout the week. The way the basket method works is as follows:
      • To start get a set of baskets, enough to have one for each room in your house, and label each one with the name of the room you’d like it to go in, kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom etc.
      • Make sure your baskets stay in the room where they belong in by having a designated spot for them to go
      • When cleaning throughout the week set aside a chunk of time 10-20 minutes to do this.
      • During that time pick a room in which you will do your tidying up, if you need to, try doing one room a day or even one a week.
      • For example when cleaning the living room, take the assigned living room basket and fill it with everything that does not belong in that room
      • Once the basket is filled take it to the other rooms in your home and place each item in the basket for the room they belong in, you can repeat this step if necessary, then the next time you go into a room you can take the items from that basket and put them away.

These are just a few ways that can help those with ADHD and anyone who is struggling to find the motivation to clean keep their space in order. Figuring out what works the best for you personally is key. So hopefully these tips can help you on your journey to keeping things cleaner.

Written by: Michelle Brown

Graduate Counseling Intern at Step by Step Counseling LLC

How to Detect Depression in the Elderly

The Coronavirus pandemic has made words such as social distancing, quarantine, and masks part of our everyday language.  This new normal of doing many things virtually can be daunting for members of the older population.  Many independent living, assisted living, and nursing homes have restricted visitor access too.  This has led to many elderly individuals being isolated from friends and loved ones.  In addition, it has also led to the restriction of many activities they would regularly engage in.

Depression in the elderly can present differently than it does in younger people.  When depression in the elderly is left untreated, its symptoms can mimic other conditions like dementia.  

Here are some ways to detect depression in the elderly:

  • Loss of concentration or other cognitive abilities (not due to a medical condition)
  • Low mood
  • Loss of pleasure in activities
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

If an individual has recurring thoughts of suicide or death (or suicide attempts), that would warrant an emergency psychiatric evaluation.  A comprehensive evaluation by a mental healthcare professional will help to determine what an appropriate treatment will be.  Possible interventions may include medications, talk therapy, change in the social environment, focusing on caring for other physical disorders, or changing medications for other conditions the individual may already be prescribed.

 

Organizational Skills: Cleaning Up Your Life and How to Reap the Benefits (PART II)

Are you familiar with the movie ‘Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves’ and that scene where the kitchen is a complete mess because the daughter wants to throw a party in the parents’ absence? Luckily for them it was just a movie so they had a cleanup crew on standby (I wonder if they would be open to cleaning homes not used for movies…)

Think about your home and how it looks regularly. Any home can look “lived in”, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! I’m focusing more on clutter; clutter that seems to accumulate without any warning or notice. It just seems to show up out of nowhere, and it causes you to become overwhelmed or anxious with the state of your household. Your home is supposed to be your safe place, your comfort zone, a place where you can unwind and be away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. But how are you able to relax when your house causes you anxiety because of the mysterious clutter? Marie Kondo, star of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, says that “the objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment”.

So here are some tips and tricks to organize and declutter your home to maintain your happiness (& sanity!):

 

1) Ask yourself questions while cleaning!
If it’s clutter you are dealing with, you may be inclined to ask yourself, “Is this item of current use to me? Is there any sentimental value behind this item? Will I need this item 6 month or a year from now?”. When you ask yourself these questions, it helps you realize the use of the item you are questioning and whether or not it’s something worth keeping. It almost provides closure if you choose to discard the item. Now, if you choose to keep it, you may set it to the side and work on how to organize it with other things you choose to keep.

2) Motivate yourself
I think there are a certain percentage of people who truly enjoy the art of cleaning and we applaud those who do! If you are one that needs to be motivated to clean, hop on board with the rest of us! One way I motivate myself to clean is listening to music. I like to listen to 70s, 80s, and 90s music while I clean because I feel it gives me the energy I need, and come on… songs during those decades were pretty great. Another way I motivate myself to clean is that I promise myself a reward at the end. This reward could consist of a favorite snack, watching a good movie, reading my favorite book, or rewarding myself with takeout food for dinner (I just cleaned the kitchen, let me enjoy it!). Now if I don’t clean, I don’t get the reward, and I stick to that! Self-discipline is key with this one if you choose to do so! I challenge you to think of some ways you may motivate yourself to get active and to get those cleaning juices flowing.

3) Bins and totes and storage, oh my!
OK so earlier I mentioned asking yourself questions while cleaning which is a helpful portion of managing the clutter. Now what about the items you choose to keep? Let’s work on that! It’s very easy to keep those items piled on a table and leave them for days, weeks, months, but I want to try to avoid that here. Do you have any bins or totes that you can use to keep these additional items in? If so, great! That would be a great place to store these items and keep them away in a storage closet to prevent less clutter in your household. If you are in need of bins or totes, department stores such as Walmart or Home Depot got you covered! Or, if you check out The Container Store (https://www.containerstore.com/welcome.htm), they have neat and cheap selections too! When we act on organizing, it provides us with a sense of control that we need in order to maintain our household and its appearance thus allowing us the power to make changes where we see fit.

4) Map it out!
Think of where you would like certain things to go in your house and create a map of each room and what things can be stored in each space. This will not only help keep you organized altogether, but it provides a clearer picture on how you want your house to look and what you can do to achieve those results. You may also use this as a tool when helping your kiddos clean or giving them a chore list that involves cleaning and tidying up.

 

These are just a few tips and tricks among many that are available to help with organization skills. I hope that you find these to be helpful when you are organizing and cleaning your household. And remember – a clean house is a happy house! 😊

Thank you, and take care!

Jill M.
Graduate Counseling Intern
Step by Step Counseling LLC

Organizational Skills: Cleaning Up Your Life and How to Reap the Benefits (PART I)

Think about your work station or where you complete most of your work tasks…

How does that area look? Do you enjoy working in that area? Given the opportunity, how would you improve that work area? If your responses are favorable to these questions, congratulations! It sounds like you are satisfied with your work area. If your responses were not so favorable, let’s work together to see if we can change those answers.

Marie Kondo, star of Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, states that “tidying isn’t just a physical thing, it’s an emotional thing. You face things around you, and you face your inner self”. Does your work space reflect where you are emotionally, and are you prepared to challenge yourself to essentially ‘reset’ that space and start over?

Here are some ways to improve your work space:

Invest in a calendar
Some people prefer writing information on sticky notes, but what happens to those sticky notes when they are accidentally thrown away or misplaced? We lose that information that we were wanting to keep! Having a calendar where you can write your daily events and ‘to-do’ list helps you stay on track and remained focus during the day.

Ditch the unusable or broken items in your space
Many pens, pencils, highlighters, staplers, and white out tape dispensers have served us all, and, for that, we thank them. BUT, honoring their efforts by keeping them on your desk or shoved in a drawer does not serve you and your workspace. This rule should go for any object that simply does not work anymore. Discard the items (recycling, preferred!) and clear up more of your area.

Compartmentalize your space!
When we say “compartmentalize”, we mean filing, finding places for important things, and recycling or discarding items that you no longer need. Do you have documents that you absolutely NEED to keep? OK, file those! Grab a folder (any one will do!), label it, and place those particular documents in that folder. If you want to get real fancy, you can have different folders for different documents so you don’t have to go rifling through one folder for a specific document.

What if we receive mail that tells me that I ought to think about applying for a credit card because I was pre-approved for one even though I did not ask for it? While that was very kind of that company to do that for you, we will consider that junk mail. Take those documents and either shred them or discard appropriately. This just causes more clutter that you do not need!

Ask yourself again!

Remember those three questions at the beginning of this post? Consider those changes that you made to your work area and ask yourself those questions again. Are the answers any different than what they were before? It’s important to keep asking yourself these questions as you go through physically organizing your work area. It can be hard to part with certain items as they may hold value or some emotional sentiment to you. However, it is important that you are happy in the conditions that you are working in as this will increase productivity, improve your relationships with your coworkers and supervisors, and keep you on your “A” game all day.

We hope you implement these organizational skills into your daily work routine! You spend 1/3 of your life at work, so why not make it a place that you enjoy going to daily? I will be creating more organizational skills content, so be on the lookout for future organizing posts from yours truly.

Written by Jillian Maloney a Stepping Stones Therapist

You Are Not Alone

Written by Sherine Chambers, Therapist
Have you ever felt like a square peg trying to fit onto a round hole? You know, you don’t “look right” or “talk right” or “think like everyone else”? Well, you’re not alone. Looking at our present and recent past, there are many people who’ve made a difference in our world, and they didn’t fit the mold of “normalcy” that is often touted by the majority.

Look, for instance, at Martin Luther King, jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Malala Yousazfai. And I could name many more. These are people who did not accept the status quo, the “norm.” They fought (or are still fighting) for what they believe – in some cases, against seemingly insurmountable odds.

“What does this mean for me?” you may ask. Well, think about the view of mental health. In many cultures and communities, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health disorders and seeking mental health counseling. We may be viewed as “weak” or “crazy” or “not right in the head.”

We’re told to “cheer up” when we experience clinical depression; that we need to “calm our nerves” when we experience anxiety. And so, we bear our distress in silence, not seeking the help that is becoming more readily available, leaving us feeling alone and isolated.

As of 2018, 19% of adults and 16% of children and adolescents ages 6-17 in the US experience mental health illness. You are not alone, and you don’t have to deal with mental health issues by yourself; your kids don’t have to struggle on their own.

Whether it’s anxiety, depression, trauma, or “just stress,” mental health counselors are here to help you through. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. You do not have to suffer in silence, and you do not have to walk alone on your journey to mental health and wellness.

Helping the Elderly Cope with Isolation During the Pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has compelled us to change the way we conduct our daily lives.  The term “social distancing” describes a way to protect ourselves from contracting the virus.  Social distancing is a great way to keep us safe and healthy, but how does it affect our mental health?  The elderly community is a population that is at risk for the virus and safety is vital.  However, with restricted activities and less socialization than they are used to, the effect can be a feeling of isolation.

It is important for individuals in the elderly age category to have and maintain a support system.  Family and friends can be important members of an elderly individual’s support system.  If you have an elderly family member or friend, there are still things you can do to connect with them, even while being socially distant.

  • Make a date for a virtual visit: Set up a Zoom or FaceTime call, even a regular phone call will help them to feel more connected
  • Send mail: Writing a letter, sending flowers, or putting together a care package will let them know you are thinking of them
  • Be mindful of mental health: Encourage them to think positively and do activities that will be relaxing
  • Keep news to a minimum: Encourage them to limit themselves to one or two news programs per day, in order to avoid getting overwhelmed
  • Talk about happy memories: This will remind them of times when things were better.  It will give them hope and comfort about the future.
  • Help out: Let them know that they can always call you if they need anything, or even just to talk

It is important to make sure that the elderly remain safe and healthy physically.  However, it is just as important to make sure that they also remain safe and healthy mentally.  We can all help our elderly family members or friends to cope with the isolation encountered due to this pandemic while still keeping them safe.

 

LGBTQIA Considerations for College and Employment

Applying to college or getting your first job is a right of passage for most youth and young adults. LGBTQIA youth and young adults (and their families) have extra things to consider when making these big decisions. Below are some considerations, while this is not an exhaustive list, I hope you will find some helpful resources.

College Bound Youth

Considering what colleges to apply to and  ultimately where you attend is a big decision, but factoring in which college is LGBTQIA inclusive, and has protection policies for LGBTQIA students could be the difference between success or failure for some youth. The Campus Pride Index, (www.campusprideindex.org), is a great starting place in sorting out which colleges could be a good match. Information regarding inclusivity, financial assistance options, and how to find LGBTQIA inclusive college fairs are among the information provided.

Other questions and things to consider during your college search:

  • Is housing provided based on identified gender, or is there an option for non-gender based housing
  • Are gender neutral restroom available, if needed
  • How does the school handle students wanting to use their preferred name
  • Are there LGBTQIA inclusive heath care options available
  • Are there clubs and organizations that are welcoming, and accepting
  • What are the campus safety efforts, is there crime data available
  • What mental health services are offered to students
  • How will I pay for or finance college, the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) has a LGBTQIA scholarship database: Here

College and University Staff operate under FERPA, Family Education Rights Privacy Act. FERPA protects your privacy. If you decide to disclose your sexual orientation or gender identity to a school staff, they cannot share that information unless:

  • The student or parent (for individuals under 18) has signed a release of information; for the purpose of post-secondary education students under 18 are not required to have information released to their parents once they have begun attending classes
  • A health or safety emergency, disclosure is needed to protect the health or safety of the student or another individual
  • A court order or subpoena

As Always, check with your school regarding your specific situation and to discuss how they implement FERPA policies.

Entering the Workforce

Whether you are seeking your first job, entering your chosen career, or searching for a new job or career path considering an employers inclusion policies and procedures is critical. There are currently no widespread employment protections for LGBTQIA individuals in the United States. Missouri does not include Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity in its non-discrimination policy, which can be found here:  Missouri Labor (mo.gov) Federally, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has ruled that Sexual orientation and gender identity fall under the umbrella of sex discrimination laws, meaning you are able to file a complaint with the EEOC for gender identity or sexual orientation based discrimination.

Starting the job search off by seeking out companies and corporations that are LGBTQIA inclusive can be a good way to go. A great starting point to understanding laws, and non-discrimination policies, is the Gen EQ guide put out by the Human Rights Campaign, click here for PDF.