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Tag Archives: Anxiety

Sometimes It Helps to Name It: Talking About Loss During a Pandemic

By Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco

In Pennsylvania, where I live, we are about a month into the ‘lockdown’ caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve noticed there is a shared feeling among family, friends and patients. It’s like someone draped a blanket full of heavy feelings over the world. It’s even affecting our sleep, as most are tossing and turning with vivid, scary dreams.

Because so many people are struggling, it is important to recognize the evidence that suggests giving a name to the feelings and speaking about them can be helpful. In short, I think what we are all feeling is Loss and the resulting Grief.

In this unstable and uncertain time, it is easier to identify the anxiety we are feeling. But as time has dragged on, for many this has turned into loss and grief.

  • Sadly, for some, it is tangible loss due to the death of a loved one at a time when it is impossible to gather and mourn. For others it is a loss of less tangible things like routine, freedom, and normalcy.
  • Others have felt the loss of special events like celebrating birthdays, graduations, proms and other important milestones.
  • Most people are feeling a loss of connection with others due to the need for social distancing.
  • Some have lost financial security and jobs.
  • For many, there is a loss of a sense of safety and knowing what the future holds. People everywhere are feeling the change that is happening in the world as a loss. Maybe they are grieving for what they thought the future would look like. In many ways, this pandemic reminds me of the change in our country after the tragic events of 9/11. We all are grappling with the knowledge that things will be different after the pandemic, though we don’t know exactly how.

After we name it, what can we do?

  • First, don’t compare your losses to the losses of others. All are real and important. Just because someone else’s loss seems bigger than yours, it doesn’t make your pain any less valid. Have self compassion and allow yourself the space and time to grieve for your losses. Keep in mind that there is no ‘right’ way to grieve. As long as it doesn’t harm yourself for others, however you or your loved ones are doing it, is ok.
  • Crying is a natural human way to cope with pain. Go ahead and cry; find privacy to do so if you need to. Keep in mind children may be crying more, too. Or sometimes they show their grief by throwing tantrums or being defiant.
  • Then express it. Say it out loud to those who support you. Write about it. Make art. However you prefer to do it, just get it out.
  • Taking time to meditate, while doing some deep belly breathing, can help us cope with challenging emotions. There are many great, free meditation videos online or apps for your phone. Aim to take a few quiet moments to breathe and meditate each day.
  • Try to stay present and focus on what is within your control. Sometimes our grief can take us down the path of ruminating on the ‘what ifs.’ When this happens, bring yourself back to the present moment. One way to do this is to look for 5 things in your surroundings and focus on each one for a moment. Another way is to use your 5 senses by finding one thing you see, one thing you smell, one thing you taste, one thing you feel, and one thing you hear.
  • Even in times of tragedy, there are positives, though we may have to search for them. Limit your exposure to negative media stories. Spend some time each day looking for the good around you, however small. Maybe there are wildflowers blooming along the path where you walk. Maybe there are news stories about people helping others. Maybe you find joy in the funny things your pets do or a special song. Search out at least one thing that makes you smile each day.
  • Lastly, if you are in need of support, reach out to a professional. Many psychologists are providing video or phone sessions. Some organizations are offering online support groups. See the resources below.

Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco is a clinical psychologist and a partner with The Center for Neuropsychology and Counseling, P.C. with offices in Warrington and Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania. To learn more about her group practice visit www.TheCenterInWarrington.com

Other helpful resources:

Tips for Caring for your Mental Health during a Pandemic – by Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco

I have to admit, I never imagined I’d ever type the words “caring for your mental health during a pandemic,” but I guess that is a big part of this. No one expected to experience this and most do not have a reference point of some experience to draw upon. We are in uncharted territory, which is leaving many unsettled, scared, sad, angry, frustrated, or just confused. Our everyday lives have been turned upside down, and we feel powerless to stop it. 

Here are some tips, born out of my 20 plus years as a psychologist, including my recent work helping my clients weather this storm. 

Focus on what you can control. Life may feel very out of control right now. Often, we get stuck ruminating on the things we can’t control. The people not practicing social distancing. The stock market ups and downs. What can you control? If you catch yourself focusing on the uncontrollable, take a deep breath and choose one thing to focus on that you can feel power over. One thing you can control is choosing to participate in activities that make you feel better. I sometimes say, “As long as it doesn’t hurt you or someone else, and is legal, I don’t care what it is, just do it.” 

Keep perspective. What is happening is scary and we must take precautions. However, it is easy to engage in catastrophic thinking. Most people who get sick will have mild symptoms. There are ways to protect yourself and your loved ones. Vaccines and medicines are being developed. 

Limit your exposure to media. Having tons of information at our fingertips is both a blessing and a curse. When we are stuck inside, it is normal to scroll through social media or have the news on the television in the background. 

  • Make an effort to only check the news once or twice a day. 
  • Get away from social media, or at the very least, consume selectively. Unfollow extremely negative sites or people. Purposely follow positive sites like Upworthy or Good News Network. 
  • Be aware that much of the information you receive from soft sites or family and friends may not even be accurate. Try to only get news about the pandemic from reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

Stay connected. While we are practicing social distancing, we may feel lonely. Being physically apart does not have to mean being disconnected. It just may require some creativity or extra effort.

  •  Using virtual ways to connect can be fun. Facetime, Skype, and Zoom are great ways to see people you haven’t seen in a while. Think about organizing virtual book clubs or religious studies. Games can be played virtually like Pictionary, Heads Up, Scategories or trivia. Netflix Party is a way to watch movies with your friends.
  • Post videos of your performances if you have a talent to share.
  • Offer to tutor someone or read to someone. 
  • You are allowed to walk, run, or bike, so go meet a friend and stay 6 feet apart. 
  • Have a picnic but bring your own food and stay apart. 
  • Garden together or help a neighbor with their garden. 
  • Even writing letters and putting them in the mail can help us feel connected to others around the world who are going through this with us. 

Have good boundaries. While we need to stay connected, we may need to do it carefully. Some people in our lives, maybe including those we are stuck in the house with, may not always be good for our mental health. Respect that everyone is dealing with this in their own way. Take some physical space away from one another. Limit contact with people in your life who are very stressful, including on social media. Ask others to respect your needs. 

Appreciate what is good. Many of us are facing new challenges, but are being given the gift of time and being forced to slow down. Hopefully, soon our lives will return to normal and for many that means running from activity to activity in very busy lives. What can you do now that you don’t feel you normally have time for? 

  • Talking to someone you haven’t connected with in a while or who may be alone
  • Reading 
  • Crafting 
  • Learning something new like a language, a craft, a skill, or a recipe (now is a great time to teach life skills to kids) 
  • Cooking or baking 
  • House projects 
  • Games 
  • Home spa days 
  • Cuddling with pets 
  • Puzzles 
  • Exercise (look for free videos online) 
  • Meditation (there are many free apps or online videos) 
  • Exploring the outdoors including places a bit farther away than we’d normally go 
  • Doing something to help others, even small, can make us feel more in control 

One note of caution: comparing yourself to others can be harmful. Be careful not to fall into the trap of holding up your friends’ social media posts as examples of what you should be doing. You don’t have to run really far, repaint your house, or teach your child physics. Do what works for you and your family.

What to say to children. Answer their questions in an honest but age-appropriate manner. Keep the news off and their access to online coverage limited. Be a good role model for self care and know they will pick up cues from you on how to feel about this. Remember you have more control than you may realize over how they will experience this unusual event. I had a child say to me today, “I hope summer is like this but just with more freedom.” I was happy to hear they are enjoying this down time and hope that’s what they will remember when they look back on 2020.

Reach out for help. Notice if you are struggling to sleep or eat. If you are having a lot of physical symptoms of stress like muscle pain, headaches, stomach distress, racing heart, or shortness of breath, it may be anxiety. Crying often or having many angry outbursts may be signs you are struggling. Also using alcohol or drugs to cope may mean it’s time to reach out for help. Getting help may mean connecting to supportive people in your life. Maybe it means finding an online tutor for your child or financial support through a community agency. It could mean finding an online support group. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous is holding virtual group meetings. There are hotlines for those that need to talk and are in crisis through the National Suicide Prevention and SAMHSA with both text or phone options. 

Many psychologists are offering telepsychology sessions using HIPPA compliant video formats. Our office is supporting patients through these platforms in order to keep our patients and staff safe from the virus, while still caring for patients’ mental health. Let us know if we can help you through this challenging time.

Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco is a clinical psychologist and a partner with The Center for Neuropsychology and Counseling, P.C. with offices in Warrington and Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania. To learn more about her group practice visit 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.

June Talks at the Bucks County IU

Our talks at the Bucks County IU are winding down for the season! Below is our final topic for June. This talk is from 7pm – 8:30pm.

If you would like to register, please call our office at 215-491-1119. If you need ACT 48 Credits, also register through the Bucks County IU by calling 215-348-2940 x1341. This talk is free of charge however there is a fee for ACT 48 Credits.


June 16th Anxiety And Spectrum Disorder – Jean Ruttenberg, MA

Individuals on the Autism Spectrum often experience anxiety. In this workshop we will explore anxiety and its effect on learning and behavior.

The objectives of this workshop will be to:

  • describe and define anxiety
  • describe how anxiety effects our behavior
  • describe how anxiety effects learning
  • describe how anxiety effects social interaction(s)


For more details on this event, please feel free to contact us.

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.

Our April Talks at the Bucks County IU

We’re doing a number of talks at the Bucks County IU over the next several weeks! Below are the topics for April. All talks are from 7pm-8:30pm. If you would like to register, please call our office at 215-491-1119. If you need ACT 48 Credits, also register through the Bucks County IU by calling 215-348-2940 x1341


April 7th – The Anxious Child: How to Identify and Help – Lorna Jansen, PsyD

This workshop will include an overview of different anxiety disorders and how they can present in the classroom and at home. A brief guide to distinguishing between anxiety and other difficulties (ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder) will also be presented. Emphasis will be placed on offering tools and strategies for professionals and parents who work and live with children who are anxious. Coping strategies for children will be highlighted.


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