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Category Archives: Therapy

Increasing My Productivity, Reducing My Stress: A quick overview

By Christina Carson-Sacco, Psy.D.

I think most people would say they’d like to be more productive, but also would love to be less stressed. As we are looking at a new year, it’s a good time to think about ways we can do this.

First, I’d like you to think about the roles you play in your life. Is it as a business owner? Parent? Partner? Community activist? Friend? Now, in light of that role, answer this question, “What’s my Mission Statement?” Draft your mission statement and write it down.

  • What do I do?
  • Who do I do it for?
  • How are they better off because of me?
  • What do I want them to feel?

Why do you need a mission statement? It keeps you on track. For example, if you’re thinking of yourself in your role as an activist helping homeless families, your mission statement might be, “I will increase awareness of homelessness in our county and support organizations that are providing shelter for displaced families.” If an opportunity to assist abused animals comes up, while you think it’s a very worthy cause, it does not fit with your mission statement, so you might delegate this task to another person, but not let it dilute your resources or take up your energy. Look at the questions above when examining whether or not to do something to test whether it fits with your mission statement for a particular role. This will keep you focused and help you to say “no” to requests that might distract or detract from your goals.

Next, how do we tackle those pesky to-do lists? Having lists of your tasks is a helpful way to organize and keep track of what needs to get done. Hopefully, you’re crossing tasks off on a daily basis. What many people are challenged by are the tasks that never seem to get done. Let’s take a moment to examine those tasks, by putting them into this chart. This will help you to examine why the task is never completed.

 

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For example, a task might be “organize my financial records.” The obstacles might be “need to get files from work.” You can then choose to either get the files or maybe ask someone at work to pull them together for you. Putting tasks on this chart can help clarify the obstacles, making it easier to decide how to handle them.

Some tasks have bigger obstacles, though. Beware of the “shoulds.” Is there a task that is on your list merely because you feel you should do it? However, you don’t really want to do it; you just think you should. For example, maybe one of your never-completed tasks is “Sign up to coach my child’s soccer team.” You may not really want to do that, but you feel you should because you believe “a good parent coaches their child’s team.” Examining that belief and making a conscious decision will help you to make a choice to either do it or remove it from your list. Be careful; the “shoulds” can be draining. You don’t need to do everything you feel you should do. For example, an incomplete task could be “fix things around the house.” You may believe “it’s frivolous to pay others to do household chores” or “responsible adults take care of these things,” but you never complete these tasks. Seeing them on your list could makes you feel drained or like you’re failing. It may be beneficial to either take some of these tasks off of your list or to hire someone else to do them.

Another other reason some tasks never get done is that we have fear connected to them. Looking at your never-completed to-do items, are any of them incomplete because there is some fear holding you back? For example, one of your tasks might be “go to the gym regularly.” It’s easy to think that you’re not crossing that off your list because you don’t have enough time. However, if you pause to consider a possible fear, maybe the roadblock is really, “I’m afraid that I won’t be very strong and will embarrass myself at the gym.” Identifying and facing these fears head on can help you overcome them.

Third, being productive and reducing your stress means taking good care of yourself. Remember, while some people may boast about how much they are doing, there is no pride in being busy. Being “busy for busy’s sake” can get out of control, feel overwhelming, and at times make you feel powerless over your life. Be conscious of how you’re filling your days and when you can say “no” to tasks. Ask for help when you need it.

Self-care must be on your to-do list. If your friend said they were feeling really stressed out, what advice would you give them? Treat yourself as well as you would your best friend. Doing these things regularly will help you manage your stress:

  • Sleep 8+hours
  • Eat 3+ nutritious meals
  • Hydrate
  • Go outside a little each day
  • Unplug from technology for portions of each day by setting designated work times and space
  • Exercise or just move
  • Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol and other drugs
  • Create a good support system
  • Remember to care for yourself before caring for others; are you at the top of your priority list?

If you are struggling with any of these tasks like focusing, managing your life, overcoming fears, or any of the self-care items, a psychologist can help. While reading this may have added to your to-do list, the goal is to improve how productive you feel while keeping stress in check.

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Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco is a psychologist who has been helping children, teens, adults and families in private practice for 17 years. She specializes in anxiety, depression, parenting, school challenges, relationships, and life transitions. Learn more at www.TheCenterInWarrington.com

8 Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Many believe the holidays to be a time of joy, laughter, and good food. But, so often the reality is that you’re overwhelmed, tired, and extremely on edge. In order to successfully navigate your holiday to-do list, try these 8 steps:

  1. Take a deep breath in and out. Repeat as needed. As stressful circumstances pop up (family conflict, extra bills, bad weather), remember to take a moment for yourself to just breathe deeply. Count in through your nose to 5 and out through your mouth to 5.
  2. Consider your values. What matters most to you this time of year? Getting your shopping done early? Spending time with certain friends or families? Certain religious or spiritual observations or rituals? Whatever it is, be sure to keep your focus on the main things you value.
  3. Consider what must get done versus what “should” get done. Maybe your house does not need to look like a spread from Home and Garden, or your gifts do not need to resemble individual works of art. Figure out which things you are hoping to get to that are really just extra sources of stress, and agree to let them go.
  4. Plan. Look at your calendar. Which weeks are the busiest and when do you have time to address cards or buy gifts or help out in the community? Write down possible days on which to accomplish various activities and what you will do each day to reach your goals. Also, consider delegating some of your tasks to friends and family who can help.
  5. Talk with your loved ones. Maybe your partner’s favorite part of the holidays is watching a movie with you on New Year’s Eve. Maybe you have a fun tradition with a friend or your kids. Prioritize and plan for those things your loved ones hold especially dear this time of year.
  6. Set boundaries as needed. In order to preserve your sanity, you will have to say “no” to certain demands. Perhaps you’ll need to plan to see different friends or family members on different days or weeks. Maybe you usually host a holiday, but a new job or baby is making it difficult to do so. Give yourself the flexibility you need to do what’s best for you.
  7. Practice gratitude. Even in the messy moments of life (wine on the carpet again?), there is always something to be grateful for: food to eat, a place to gather, people with whom to share your life. Share your thankful spirit with those around you.
  8. Remember that nothing is perfect. No holiday meal, family event, or season will be picturesque and devoid of spills, tears, or melted candles. But, in the end, it is how we overcome difficult circumstances and support one other through hard times that truly matters.

Dr. Lorna Jansen

-Dr. Lorna Jansen specializes in treating children, adolescents, and families. She helps clients manage stress, deal with relationship issues, and also offers academic coaching.

Savor the Summer and Survive the School Year

Not ready for the summer to be over? Wishing the first day of school would be delayed indefinitely? Here are some quick tips to help you transition back to school as painlessly as possible.

  1. Enjoy the rest of your summer. Instead of dreading the upcoming school year, spend your time at the beach or the pool, relaxing by yourself or with friends. Read a book, watch your favorite show, or become a tourist in your own town. Determine to make the most of what’s left of summer break.
  2. Carry your love of summer into the school year. Think about why you most enjoy the summer. Perhaps it’s a sport or an activity that you can continue in the fall. Or maybe it’s more of a carefree mindset which allows for new hobbies, and fun explorations. Whenever possible, plan time to continue pursuing your “summer loves” even as the seasons change.
  3. Determine to be different. Maybe the summer—or even last school year—weren’t what you hoped they’d be. What would you change? Perhaps you wished you had spent more time with your friends or tried something new this summer. Maybe last school year was a disaster and you’re hoping that new teachers, classes, and maybe some new friends will make a difference. Focus on what you can control, like your perspective, habits, friends, and activities.
  4. Take a deep breath and relax. You have a whole year to make friends, learn algebra, and decide whether or not you like your English teacher. Prior to the first day of school, all you need to know is what kind of person you’d like to be on the first day. A pencil and notebook may be helpful, too.

These three ideas should help you to embrace the school year, despite its routines and demands. If we can help you transition to the school year or deal with any other challenges you’re currently facing, please call us here at the Center at 215.491.1119. If you would rather email us, please click here.

 

-Dr. Lorna Jansen specializes in treating children, adolescents, and families. She helps clients manage stress, deal with relationship issues, and also offers academic coaching.

My Kid Has ADHD… Now What?

My Kid Has ADHD… Now What?
By James Stone, Psy.D.

Last week, I spoke about the core features of ADHD – mostly, a decreased ability to stop from doing something. This not only explains the impulsive behavior we see, like calling out, interrupting, quick to laugh, etc. but also inattentive and distracted behaviors, when every little thing needs to be attended to, looked at, thought about.

The main take home point of the talk was to develop appropriate expectations. Medication, therapy and parenting techniques can help our children function better, but none of them take away the ADHD. Instead of saying things such as, “You’re 12 now, you should be able to do this.” or, “You have to try harder to pay attention!”, we need to expect that that they will need help getting started, staying on task and shifting from one thing to another. We should expect that they will struggle remembering things from time to time and will forget to turn in homework. The more you know about ADHD – and specifically, your child’s ADHD, the more accurate your expectations will be. Don’t be afraid that helping too much will enable these children and “spoil” them; that they will never learn to do things for themselves. It is simply not true.

If you’re wondering how much support is enough or too much – don’t worry; it’s constantly changing! Instead, my rule of thumb is to provide as little support as is necessary for them to be successful. Note the two important parts: 1) Your support must lead to success. For example, homework will be completed; trash will be taken out (all of it – all the way to the curb). If it’s not done right, you might have helped enough, and 2) Provide only what they need. Think in terms of the executive functioning demands of the task. Are they having trouble getting started, organizing their thought for a paper, turning off the video game? Although setting a timer is good idea (and nearly cliché in ADHD), don’t be afraid to actually turn the game off yourself. Just give them a warning ahead of time so they know it’s coming. Don’t make it punitive – make it helpful.

I gave the example of a boy who was having difficulty taking out the trash completely (he’d always miss something!). Instead of doing it for him (too much) or telling him what he did wrong after he was done (too little – and too late), his mother simply walked with him throughout the process, prompting only when needed. Her presence was all he needed to remind him to stay on task, think about what he needed to do and to know that he had a safety net (mom) in case he forgot. The task was successful and he felt much better about that than always forgetting some aspect of the job. Eventually, his mother faded her help, the routine he established stuck and he did great (or as great as any other teenager does when taking out the trash!).

Lastly, when supporting children with ADHD, it is important to keep in mind what is actually getting in their way? Is it some aspect of the ADHD? It might not be. While a child might have ADHD, it doesn’t define them and there is a lot going on in childhood; normal stress and worries, normal inattention, normal mood fluctuations, etc. Be careful not to define everything through the ADHD. They are not limited by their ADHD, it’s simply something that needs to be managed, much like diabetes. If treated properly and appropriate behavioral changes are made, it can be virtually invisible. However, if left untreated it can cause serious complications. The better educated parents and children with ADHD are, the more they will know what to expect, the more likely they will develop preventive behaviors and they more likely they will be successful.

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To schedule an appointment with Dr. Stone, please request an appointment.

The Anxious Child – How To Identify And Help

The Anxious Child: How to Identify and Help
By Lorna Jansen, Psy.D

Anxiety is among the most prevalent mental health concerns for children. Between 15 and 20% of children and adolescents will meet criteria for anxiety disorders before the age of 18. Anxiety affects children in many ways, including:

  • Academically—when a child has anxiety about performance situations such as tests or public speaking, or about being separated from a caregiver, which can lead to school refusal.
  • Socially – when a child struggles to read aloud in the classroom, he may not be understood by fellow peers, or he may have trouble maintaining friendships if he is constantly absent from school.
  • Emotionally – often anxious children perceive ambiguous stimuli as threatening, and they have decreased sense of self-efficacy regarding feelings of anger, sadness, etc. They are more likely to self-blame, ruminate, and/or catastrophize.

Various anxiety disorders manifest differently in children. For example, a kid with separation anxiety disorder often looks sad, she may have difficulty concentrating and a variety of fears. This child may feel homesick, may exhibit school refusal behavior, and can become aggressive when forced to separate. A child with generalized anxiety disorder is usually concerned with academics, health problems, disasters, and harm to others. For those with social anxiety disorder, their top two fears are giving formal presentations and being in unstructured social situations (which could include talking to authority figures). These children also dislike: reading aloud, performing on a stage, athletic events, attending parties, talking with strangers, ordering food in a restaurant, and answering a question in class. Obsessive-compulsive disorder includes obsessions which are repeated and persistent thoughts that cause distress and/or compulsions, which are repetitive behaviors that the child feels he must perform. A child with specific phobia has a fear of a specific object or situation, which he may express by crying, tantrums, freezing or clinging. Kids with a panic disorder experience panic attacks and may describe feeling sick, but may not know how or why.

The following is a list of strategies for parents and teachers who are helping anxious children:

  • Recognize that anxiety is the most prevalent mental health concern for children and adolescents.
  • Ask yourself: What are you seeing in the child that seems different from what you observe in other children? Or, why does this child stand out to you?
    • Where are you seeing impairment?
    • Check with the family – any recent changes to the family structure? Divorce? New jobs for the parents? Recent move? Loss of a pet?
    • Consider using the nurse’s office – some children need to call home occasionally to make sure everything is ok.
  • Write directions on the board or another visible place.
  • Try to provide opportunities for the child to answer a question—either aloud or on the board—that he or she may know, as a way of building confidence.
  • Offer the opportunity for the child to do presentations in front of smaller groups (just teacher?).
  • Help connect child to other students in the class.
  • Offer other seating options during school assemblies.
  • Prepare for change – substitute teachers, field trips, fire drills, etc.
  • Limit amount of time spent on homework.

 

If you need additional help, please contact The Center for Neuropsychology and Counseling or another mental health professional for assistance from a child psychology expert. The Coping Cat is a program designed to help treat anxious children aged 7 to 13, and it can be implemented in schools or with a therapist. Worry Wise Kids is a helpful website for parents and teachers alike.

To work with one of our child psychology Bucks County professionals, please request an appointment.

What is a Therapist?

Many people who I see for treatment refer to me as their “therapist” and I’m fine with that. They also use the word interchangeably with “counselor” and “psychologist”, which I’m also fine with, especially since I am a psychologist. But, really, is there a difference? And if so, what is it?

Certain professions are regulated by the state in order to protect the public. That way, you know that if someone says they are a doctor, accountant or psychologist, for examples, you can trust that they have met the requirements set by the state to practice that profession.

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